Sequel to "Alone Is What We Have". Sherlock had deleted John's existence from his hard-drive and now he is dead. The only things left are vague memories, unspoken words and regrets. Now Sherlock Holmes must face a life without John Watson, and some things are not always easy to atone.
Angst, mentions of dead character and dark themes such as suicide and self destruction. Also, mentions of sexual situations and drugs abuse.
Neither Sherlock (BBC) nor the respective characters belong to me.
Welcome to "Atonement", third installment which follows "Verita Liberabit Vos" and "Alone Is What We Have". Hope you like it and please, if you have the time, review!
Reckless silence, dangerous residues and life-long regrets. Empty spaces inside his mind palace, deleted folders and documents. Vague memories, unspoken and dangerous words, a memory of a fist on the air and two blue eyes silently begging for mercy. His absence on their bed, the lack of his scent on the flat, the silent kettle and the bag full of lollipops on the counter. A wrinkled white coat, a colorful and somehow warm stethoscope and the rest of their wedding picture which he saved from the floor. Dust everywhere but not on his worn armchair or on the few belongings John left before he died.
Sherlock feels John has taken his life when he died, that coldish night when he closed his blue eyes to never open them again. The detective believes his husband has gone to where he belonged, taking off his sadness and grief, leaving them with Sherlock to keep him company while the rest of John is somewhere else, being happy and finally having some rest. In the process, Sherlock also believes that when John took his damaged soul to be fixed by the god the doctor truly believed in, the doctor also took his – Sherlock's. Why would John take Sherlock's dark and poisonous soul with him? Would John repair it and send it back to him? Would John exorcise the demons in his soul and then come back to return it?
Would John come back?
It has to be said - Sherlock has to say it out loud, he has to let it go. He needs to admit John will never come back to him, because Sherlock had built a high wall and John was too short and too stubborn to climb it. That wall burns and hurts, you can die if you even try to touch it. And that's what happened to John Watson. He tried to undo that dangerous wall removing brick by brick but somehow he surrendered in the process. You can die if you try to reach Sherlock Holmes's heart; there is enough poison to make your own heart and soul rot and then die without warning. John knew it, but he had hope.
Sometimes, hope is not enough.
Sherlock is sitting in his own armchair, and he looks at John's. It is cold and unused and he has to clean it using a piece of old fabric to prevent dust from making it look different from the day John used it for the last time. Does Sherlock remember the last time John sat on that worn armchair? Well, to be honest, Sherlock does remember that day. Because that day, Sherlock signed John's death sentence with his own hand.
After the episode in which the detective had John pressed against the bookshelves, hit his sore head against one book and then raised a fist on the air, getting himself ready to beat his husband to a bloody pulp, Sherlock sat in front of John. Sherlock took a warm and perfect cup of tea John had made for him and then Sherlock looked at the doctor while he wrote his last letters, saying all the things he could not say using his own lips because he was mute, because John had gone deaf and mute after he heard Sherlock's first accusations. Sherlock had shown John his true colours when he mentioned the lovers, his lack of love, feelings and sexual desire and instantaneously, the doctor's mind locked every possible way in which John could hear and see the things Sherlock had perfectly aimed as a gun, to shoot John Watson and to then to watch him dying.
Sherlock remembers that day and closes his greyish and bloodshot sad eyes every time he recalls every single one of John's gestures, the position of his skinny legs, how he was holding the pen, the way he closed the envelopes, he remembers everything. However, what Sherlock can remember is that awful day and nothing else. He wishes he could remember their first dates as something else than friends, the day John proposed - or was it him? - their wedding day, their first night together, those nights in which he only wanted to repeat and moan his husband's name and nothing else. But no, it's not that easy for Sherlock. He had deleted those moments, those words and John's touches and kisses. Now it's too late to recover the lost data. There is nothing but white spaces, cloudy and vague memories he is relieved his mind can still map out.
But it is not enough.
And as it is not enough, what haunts Sherlock the worst is the fact he can only remember John's last day in his life and it hurts like hell to only be able to remember all those hurtful words he addressed to him, his intention to hit John, and then his husband's last words and finally, Sherlock remembers begging twice, three times, countless times to his dead husband to come back, to stop the game and not to leave him alone. He begged, and then Sherlock asked for forgiveness and redemption, then the promises... Sherlock even remembers hitting John's lifeless and motionless body with his violin's bow. That angry feeling came over him and he did it without thinking about it.
When Sherlock sits on his armchair and faces the door of 221B, he presses John's letter against his chest and cries. And while he cries, he waits expectantly at eight p.m. every day for John to come back. Every day, every single day he sits in his armchair, presses John's letter against his chest, cries silently and waits. Sherlock sits there and waits until he realises John is not going to come back. He also asks for forgiveness. Not only about the things he did for months, almost a year or was it two? For how long he had been stabbing and ripping John's heart until he finally gave up? Sherlock would never know, because he can't remember! But he asks forgiveness for hitting his dead body and not respecting his last wish. John only asked him one thing and it was respect for his body, and he didn't fulfill that wish.
The detective reads the letter every day and now he knows it by heart. His hands are shaking every time he reads that section in which John asked him when everything started, and if he could remember the exact moment in which he stopped loving him. Sherlock never stopped, he was just blind. His brilliant, magnificent and also poisonous mind blindfolded him and now that ghostly piece of fabric that was over his eyes, covering them from reality has fallen, and now Sherlock can see clearly. Now Sherlock can see with his own eyes the damage he caused, not only to himself but to John... John died. Because of his venom, his bright mind and his stupid conception of weakness, Sherlock killed the only love of his life.
John also mentioned he wanted to talk about these things with him. That he would always regret not being able to do so face to face. Well, while Sherlock waits, he also talks alone, thinking that John is there. Sherlock tells him he feels the same way, that he wants him to come back to him, to have the kisses they should have shared, the hugs and the touches that their skins should have felt, and to talk. Sherlock tells him he regrets his silence and he admits, he painfully admits that he can't remember John's sweet and tender voice.
Big tears are rolling down his cheeks when he reads out loud that John would not go back in time and change his fate. If it was his fate, his destiny to die alone and sad, lying on a cold bed next to the same demon. Sherlock says the same, he says he would have all the cocaine of the world if that means he could have people insisting to him to get clean and then look for a flat-share, if only it would give him a chance to meet John again.
Drugs against a war. A childish sibling rivalry against a broken family. Wealth and power against poverty and lack of possibilities.
Sherlock had suffered before meeting John. His own life had been full of strict rules to follow in order to be part of the high society he hated, the heavy expectations his parents had on him and the duty of being a Holmes and acting like one. The drugs were only a way to escape, to show how strong he could be, how defiant he was, and to prove how clever he was even while as high as a kite. However, John suffered as well, differently. His life has been tougher since he was born into a very poor family, in which violence, alcohol and lost hopes were as common as beer in a pub. John had to fight his own fate to grow up and be the man he was. He had to fight for his Queen and for his country to afford medical school and finally become a surgeon and when he returned on a second campaign only to fix people; he ended up getting shot and losing any possibility of working in an operating room again. Sherlock had people to help him, a brother with an important job and enough money to afford the best rehab. John had to live on a pension and sometimes beg to his own sister to talk to him and help him to fight the demons a war always leaves with people.
Sherlock's heart twitches in pain when he thinks that John would live that pain all over again if that meant he could share a life with him again, even their worst moments.
John also confessed him he loved him until the last moment. That he would give his blood, all of it and his own heart if he needed to. But Sherlock says he exceeds him, because Sherlock is willing to give his own life to have his John back. He would sell his own soul to the Demon himself to have John back, and if it was necessary, he would kill himself if that means John could go back and have a new and better life. Even if that does not involve him.
His deceased husband also mentioned he was aware he was going to die naturally and that the one taking his life from this world was no one other than Sherlock. John wrote it, he wrote that he knew he was going to die because of Sherlock and he also wrote that he was giving up because his heart could not beat without Sherlock's love. Every time Sherlock reads this, he can't help but sob loudly. His hands stop shaking and heavy tears fall from his tired eyes every time his mind processes those lines in which John confessed him he could not remember their happy moments, only that time that Sherlock almost hit him, hours before writing that letter.
John also explains he was aware of the hatred Sherlock had for him. And he also expressed that it was not for him to say who was guilty, who had the gun aimed directly at his tired heart. John only wrote that it was in the hands of God.
Sherlock is aware of the words John had used for the letter, to describe him. He is clever enough to see and feel how his husband was feeling when he was writing it and when he was sitting in front of him. John felt fear. John feared him during his last hours. And this breaks Sherlock's heart. It breaks his own heart knowing John died because of him, because of his stupid brain and because of his own blindness. Sherlock wants to kill himself, he wants to aim a gun and shot his brains out, because he blames his brain for doing this. Sherlock had let his brain rule his heart when he was not supposed to, and now the consequences are devastating. Everything Sherlock touches has to rot and die, without a second chance. That's what John wanted to change, and he died trying.
It has been days and days since John died and Mycroft took his body away from him. Sherlock wanted to bury him, he wanted to give him the grave that all his inheritance and earnings could pay for. He wanted a place in which John's soul, body and life could be respected and honored. Sherlock wanted to build a place that represented the love and the admiration he had for his husband. But that was impossible. His love for John was endless, and it was never going to die. However, John's wishes were different. He wanted to be taken away from him and from Baker Street. He wanted Mycroft to take him away to burn his body with the flag of the country he had fought for, his medals and his wedding ring. John did not want Sherlock to be part of that process, he did not wanted Sherlock to be present, and he did not want Sherlock to know where he wanted his ashes to be thrown.
After more than two hours waiting for John to come back from work, Sherlock realises he is dead and that nothing will bring him back. Waiting for him for hours on end, pressing his letter against his chest and crying will not bring him back and what finally makes his chest ache, is the fact John is resting and in peace somewhere he doesn't know about. Sherlock wants to know, he wants to be there and go every day and talk to him, say all those unspoken words that led to John's death. He wants to ask him for forgiveness and he also wants to ask him how he can survive without him, what he can do to live day after day without seeing his lovely face, without touching his soft hair, without looking into those deep blue eyes, and without kissing those soft and sweet lips.
Because without John, Sherlock has no life.
His older brother does not tell him. And Sherlock goes down and his knees meet the soft, expensive but cold carpet on Mycroft's office floor. He begs him and tells him he will do whatever he wants him to do, because he needs to know where John's ashes are. Sherlock hugs his brother's legs and asks him.
Mycroft reminds him of his promise, that he had promised John and that he is a man who keeps his word, like John always did.
"I need to know, please Mycroft tell me, please brother. I'm begging you!"
Mycroft looks down at his brother and successfully fights the tears that were threatening to escape his green eyes. His brother, his little brother Sherlock Holmes who used to claim himself a sociopath, a man without feelings or a heart, someone with pride is on the floor, on his knees and begging.
The older Holmes never encountered love, he never loved anyone, but now he can see what love does to people. And his brother is the evidence of the power love has, because his brother, who begged twice or even more times to John to come back, is now begging him. He can see how lost Sherlock is. His greyish and defiant eyes are now red, cloudy, lifeless. It looks like he has been barely been taking care of himself, his hair looks a mess, his clothes are dirty and he stinks. However, Mycroft can't smell any alcohol or traces of any drugs either. Mycroft thinks that if love was a drug, Sherlock would be addicted to it. See now how the abstinence is killing him. Maybe that is what killed John, his drug dealer forgot his best and only client.
But the older brother takes his sibling by his arms and helps him to stand up. He has been in the presence of many important and dangerous people in order to prevent his country from terrorism and destruction and to keep it high in the world, he has been present in many crucial meetings and moments, but he had decided he is not going to be part of this. Mycroft remember his promise, he had promised John he would keep his location secret, but he also remembers John made him promise he would look after Sherlock, and that he would make sure Sherlock forgot him and got on with his life. But he can't see him like this, on the floor, crying and begging. This is not Sherlock, this is not real, this shouldn't be real, this should be a dream. Mycroft wishes this was a dream, but it is not. This is as real as the fact the sky is blue, and as two plus two is four. This is not a dream from which you can wake up.
Mycroft will have to choose his side.
He asks Sherlock for time, and he agrees. Of course Sherlock agrees, the only thing he wants is to know where his husband is, and he is willing to give and do anything for that information.
When his brother asks him if he needs anything else, Sherlock doesn't think twice and replies with the first and the only thing he has on his mind and within his heart.
Sherlock Holmes is devoted and, in his search for answers, he looks for things that help him to remember. A man in his early forties should not be doing this, he should be able to remember, to recall all those moments with his husband, their laughs, their public moments on cases, their dinners, their kisses and the most private moments between them. Sherlock is young, he is forty two and he should be able to remember John's exact eye colour, John's soft hair, John's sweet and tender voice and John's contagious laugh. He is a healthy man, he should remember what his husband's lips tasted like, how warm and soft his skin was, how caring his touches were and how painfully seductive his voice was when John used to whisper in his ear.
Sherlock can't remember and this is making him lose his own sanity. Or what remains of it.
He thinks he sees John everywhere round the flat. When he comes in, he immediately looks at the kitchen, but it is bleak and the kettle is abandoned. John is not there and there is no hot and perfect tea. When he goes to the loo and looks at himself in the mirror, he sees John standing behind him, looking at him sadly in the eye. When Sherlock goes to their room, he sees John lying on his back, with his eyes closed, but breathing. Sherlock can see the ribcage going up and down, John is breathing. As soon as Sherlock sees John everywhere, and as soon as he tries to talk to him and touch him, John disappears. He vanishes and Sherlock is alone again.
Sherlock wonders if John is playing with him. He asks himself if John has not reached wherever he was meant to be (probably somewhere where he can finally get some rest and peace) and he is just there, in the world of the livings walking lifeless and soulless without any place to go, just walking round and haunting Sherlock's soul forever.
He never believed in ghosts, though. To the great detective in the funny hat , ghosts were something people hold on to believe in something because they could not believe the evidence of their own eyes.
At times, he lies in bed and sees a ghostly form of John. This shadow lies next to him, but his eyes are closed. Sherlock can't figure out how to make this shadow that looks like his husband open his eyes. God, he needs to see those eyes. Something inside him craves for a glimpse of John's blue eyes. He loved and he still loves those blue orbs that enchanted him once, the first time they met. Sherlock never knows if this ghostly figure is a product of his own imagination and resulting from the intensive search he has been doing inside his mind palace, or if it is indeed John, who is still in this world, going nowhere.
He asks God if he has already taken John's soul, because he wants a second chance. Sherlock wants to talk to John, he must talk to him once again, just one more time, but no one is going to tell him where he is, where his ashes are, why he wanted to be there... he must know, or he is going to go crazy.
Sherlock turns to face John's side, but the shadow is gone. John's smell is faint now, he can hardly smell it and this makes his heart ache. He needs more John, more of his scent, more of his tea, more of his sweet and worn clothes. Sherlock needs John. This also leads him to talk to himself. On one of those days of waiting for John to come back after work, Sherlock asks questions and waits for John to answer them, but there is only silence.
Sherlock asks if this grief and sadness are the same feelings John had on his chest when he died. He asks if there is any possible way to take the guilt off his shoulders, if there is a possible way to meet him again.
Oh Sherlock, you already know the answer!
You have done far too many things to the poor soldier. You have stabbed, kicked and spit on John's heart far too many times to go back in time and fix this mess. You still have blood stains on your hands. You are covered in John's red blood and it is unbearable, isn't it?
Guess what, Sherlock?
Sometimes you have to reach your own limits to understand how far you can go.
Sometimes you have to make the same mistake more than once or twice to finally learn the lesson.
Sometimes you have to experience the pain to understand how it much it hurts.
Sometimes you have to kill the one you love to understand what you have lost.
Sometimes you have to see before you understand and then you will believe.
Sherlock, if everything you touch rots and dies, be careful. Some day, you will have to aim a gun to your head and press the trigger if you want to see John again.
And some things are not easy to atone.