a post-Reichenbach Sherlock Fanfiction
I let it fall, my heart
And as it fell, you rose to claim it
It was dark and I was over
Until you kissed my lips and you saved me
My hands, they're strong
But my knees were far too weak
To stand in your arms
Without falling to your feet
But there's a side to you, that I never knew, never knew
All the things, you'd say, they were never true, never true
And the games you play, you would always win, always win
But I set fire to the rain
Watched it pour as I touched your face
Let it burn while I cry
'Cause I heard it screaming out your name, your name
When laying with you
I could stay there, close my eyes
Feel you here, forever
You and me together, nothing is better
'Cause there's a side to you, that I never knew, never knew
All the things, you'd say, they were never true, never true
And the games you play, you would always win, always win
I set fire to the rain
And I threw us into the flames
Where I felt somethin' die, 'cause I knew that
That was the last time, the last time
Sometimes I wake up by the door
Now that you've gone, must be waiting for you
Even now when it's already over
I can't help myself from looking for you
Adele, 'Set Fire to the Rain'
The Empty Flat
'Tell me about Sherlock,' his therapist says gently. John stares at her, his foot beating an unconscious rhythm on the worn floorboards.
'What do you want me to say?' he manages finally, his words flat as though they have been steam-rollered before exiting his mouth. She shrugs, her dark eyes fixed on his face, her notepad resting delicately on her lap.
'Whatever you want to say. What do you think of when you think of him?'
Blood. Genius. Nightmares. Falling. Blood. Eyes. Pavement. Coat. Blood. Boredom. Drugs. Blood. He mirrors her shrug and sinks deeper into his chair, his eyes now resting on the grainy wood of the floor.
'John. You have to talk about this sometime,' she presses him, her voice soft and reasonable. 'It's been two years.'
John stands up without a word and leaves, manoeuvering himself with difficulty out of the door and down the stairs. His limp has returned and it's more aggressive than ever. He feels the phantom pain in his leg every minute of the day but it is always worse in the mornings and last thing at night.
Outside the day is wintry and cold. He pulls his shabby leather jacket tighter around his body and sets off for the tube station, his cane tapping on the icy pavement. What would his regiment say if they could see him now? He left them injured and war-torn, yes, but not broken. Not this hollowed-out husk with haunted eyes and premature lines on his face.
The tube is crowded and noisy. Teenagers bleat at each other and yell into their mobile phones which seem to get tinier every month. Business men rustle papers and glance around importantly. Elderly ladies eye the teenagers and tut with disapproval every time a crude sentiment or swear word is uttered. Tinny, half-heard music from ipods, iphones and MP3 players combines to the overall din.
John stands, one hand holding tight to the pole, the other to his cane, silent. Scattered throughout the carriage he can spot people who are similarly tormented. There's a man two seats down who sits slumped in his spot, head sunk in his hands. A woman who stares vacantly at the posters just above the people sitting opposite, her eyes filled with tears. They are the walking wounded and every step hurts.
John limps off at his stop and makes his way back to the flat. Not Baker Street. It took him six months to realise that he couldn't live there without Sherlock. Mrs Hudson was sorry to see him go, but understood. In fact, she got him a good deal at the place he is currently in. The benefits of having property-owning friends. His new flat is small, quiet and completely devoid of any personality. In other words; perfect.
However if he thought moving would get rid of his ghost he was sorely mistaken. As it turns out it is not 221B which is haunted. It is him. The shadow of Sherlock clings to him like a limpet. The detective is there when he wakes up and stalks him throughout the day. He cannot even escape him in sleep.
It's a catch-22. If he attempts to rest without the aid of sleeping pills he lies awake all night glimpsing the slender detective in every dark corner of his room. If he takes the pills his rest is disturbed all night long by horrific nightmares which leave him shaking and screaming well into the dawn.
He hasn't been to the surgery in two years. Sarah, out of the goodness of her heart, still holds his position for him although they both know he will never be going back. He tried once, a thwarted attempt at normalcy a week after Sherlock's funeral. He suffered a breakdown of sorts after a patient with similar inky hair and a slender build entered his office. The day after that incident he stopped going to work and started seeing his therapist.
Deep in his heart he is convinced that this isn't normal. The concerned stares of his friends, family and psychiatrist all contribute to this theory. There is no way he should still be grieving like this two years after Sherlock's fall. The memory of Sherlock should be making him sad, yes, but there should be acceptance mixed in with the grief. He should be moving on with his life and he definitely should be able to speak the detective's name aloud without wanting to cry or hit something.
Instead he keeps himself confined to his room unless it is Tuesday, like today, and he has an appointment with Ella. The outside world holds too many reminders for him. Strangers truly are a danger for him. At the merest hint of anyone resembling Sherlock - be it dark curly hair, a tall-slender build or pale skin - all reason abandons him. He does not want a repeat of the incident in the surgery. Instead he stays at home and stares at the blinking cursor on his laptop screen. Ella has encouraged him to start writing once again and yet all he can do is read over the last sentence he ever wrote on his blog.
Sherlock Holmes was my best friend. I will never stop believing in him.
That was two years ago, near enough. He didn't write RIP because he imagines that for Sherlock there would be nothing worse than resting in peace. LIC would probably be closer to appropriate. Live in Chaos. In his calmer days he likes to picture the dark-haired detective in some parallel universe where a fiendishly clever crime is committed everyday of the week. And then he becomes angry because if such a place existed why would Sherlock ever wish to come back to boring, average John Watson, a middle-aged ex-army medic with a limp?
He gets angry because somewhere deep inside he still childishly hopes that Sherlock's suicide was all just a dreadful joke and that one day he will wake up to hear the sound of gunshots and a shouted 'BORED!' reverberating through the flat.
The sky is darkening as he lets himself in through the front-door and makes the way to his flat. Ground-floor of course. He cannot manage the stairs with his leg in the state it is. He flicks on lights automatically to banish the shadows from the corners of the rooms. Not that it will help. He will still see Sherlock at least five times before he lies down for the night.
The next day his phone rings, shattering the sombre silence of the apartment. Groaning he staggers to his feet and snatches the device up, staring down blearily at the display.
'John! How you doing?' Lestrade's eerily cheery voice echoes through the speakers. John sighs and sinks back down into his chair.
'Good,' he lies glibly. 'How are you?'
'Oh, can't complain,' the Inspector says and starts off talking about his day and all the absurd cases he's been handed. John lets him talk. He still hasn't forgiven Lestrade completely for the role he played in Sherlock's undoing. How he could even think that... but no. Going down that route would not be healthy for his state of mind. Greg has been pathetically contrite ever since the day of the Fall and at some point John has to stop blaming him for what was essentially Sherlock's fault.
Sherlock's fault. The anger courses through him once more, hot and blinding. He jumped. He fucking well threw himself off that building without even a thought for how it would affect John. Poor, foolish, slavish John Watson who came when called and was stood, rooted to the spot, to watch the culmination to Moriarty and Sherlock's dance. A prime spot, as it were. How he wished he hadn't been there. Quite apart from being saved the nightmares of watching Sherlock plummet to the unforgiving pavement over and over again, it would have made it a lot easier for him to believe that the detective would someday come back to him. It's hard to fool yourself in somebody's miraculous return when you've seen that somebody's body twisted on the pavement, a spreading pool of dark blood running between the cracks in the stone.
With a start he comes back to himself as he realises Lestrade has asked him a question.
'I said did you fancy the pub tonight? There's a great place just a few streets away from where you're at. I was thinking of going out with a couple of mates this evening.'
John's eyes flicker shut. 'I don't know...' he begins. Lestrade's voice softens.
'It'll be good for you, John. You hardly ever leave that flat.' A pause as if the Inspector is uncertain about whether he should say what is on his mind. 'He's not coming back, you know. It's been two years.'
'I know how long it's been!' John snaps and flings the phone at the wall. He watches as the flimsy device shatters and the plastic shards litter the floor. He'll have to replace that now. Still, money isn't an issue, thanks to Mycroft.
The first time he steeled himself to check his balance, about two days after Sherlock's funeral, he thought there had been some kind of mistake. Instead of the usual Insufficient Funds message or a somehow even more depressing £569 overdrawn there was a quite unexpected figure flashing. £12,002.34.
He'd blinked at the screen, thinking he'd missed the little D after the figure. But no. He was somehow, inexplicably, twelve thousand pounds in credit. He'd checked his statement online that very day, certain there had been an error. Instead he'd found that twelve thousand had been transferred by one Mycroft Holmes.
His hatred of Sherlock's elder brother does not stop him from taking the money. And he does hate Mycroft. Passionately. As much as Lestrade is to blame for Sherlock's death, Mycroft's responsibility is easily two-fold.
John's hands clench into fists. He sold out his own little brother to Moriarty. He gave him all the ammunition he needed to destroy Sherlock utterly. And what for? What for? Mycroft was unable to give him an answer when he'd asked. And so he'd shut the door in his face, much like Sherlock had done with Anderson many years ago. He'd ignored all Mycroft's calls. Nevertheless the money still trickles into his account.
He has not been in contact with Mycroft since. If he's honest he thinks if he saw that smug face with the little half smile even one more time he would punch Mycroft's face in and not stop until the other man was bleeding on the ground in front of him. He deserved to bleed for what he'd done to Sherlock.
The hands of the clock on the wall approach two o'clock in the afternoon. Where has his day gone? How much time has he spent here in his chair just wishing and dreaming?
'It's laziness, John, that's all it is. You should be outside doing something. How many fascinating cases have passed you by while you've been in here moping?'
With a start John jolts upright. Sherlock eyes him from across the room, lounging against the mantelpiece, dark hair falling into his eyes.
'You're not real,' John croaks, his eyes watering. Sherlock quirks an enigmatical eyebrow at him and says nothing. John sits back in his chair.
'If I get up to touch you, you'll dissolve. A figment of my imagination, that's all you are.'
'If you're so sure, why don't you try?' the ghost drawls arrogantly, that well-remembered stare lasering into his face.
'Fine,' John snaps, getting up from his chair, irritated out of his usual stupor. 'I will and then we'll see who's right.' He stalks over to where the phantom Sherlock stands, surveying him with that sardonic stare. For a moment, just a moment, he pauses. He knows that as soon as he reaches out to touch the detective he will vanish and he will be alone again, bereft, incomplete. Then, summoning his courage, he sweeps his arm at where Sherlock's shoulder is. Just in case. Just in case.
Empty air. That's all the resistance his swipe meets. The figure of Sherlock wavers and then falls apart like an image glimpsed briefly in the shimmering heat haze of a summer sun. John kicks at the base of the fireplace and drops to his knees.
'I won! You see, Sherlock! I was right after all! You're dead!' His shouting turns to sobbing and he shakes on the floor in front of the chair, clutching at nothing. 'Dead!' The empty room mocks him with its silence.
'How are you getting along? Progress is made, I trust?'
'I'm getting there. His network is proving trickier than I imagined.'
'Where are you at the moment?'
'Iran. But I have sources which lead me to believe Moran has fled to Canada.'
'He is the last, am I right?'
'Why? What's wrong? Have you been keeping an eye on John as I requested?'
'Of course but I'm not sure an eye is going to be much use for much longer.'
'And what is that supposed to mean?'
'Just... come home soon.'
'I will come home as soon as all Moriarty's network are no longer a threat to John.'
'If you leave it too much longer Doctor Watson will become a threat to himself and have no need of the network's interference.'
'Well, it's been two and a half years, Sherlock. And I still think about you every single day. If you ever needed proof that you meant something to someone then I'm it. Come on, take a picture. This is what grief looks like.'
The susurration of the trees and the slight whispering of the wind is all he can hear. There is no answering response from the grave. He rests a hand on the black marble and takes in a deep breath.
'I bought you a bouquet.' He takes the flowers out and lays them on the sun-warmed earth. 'The lady at the shop explained all the meanings to me. I chose those which are appropriate.' Yellow tulips, larkspur, freesias, white carnations and some forget-me-nots. John takes a few steps back and cocks his head at the grave.
'Who would have thought I'd miss you this much after this much time? It's been two and a half years, Sherlock. Two and a half years.' He pauses and rubs his eyes, where the tell-tale tears have started gathering. Slowly he kneels down and sits on the grass in front of the headstone. 'I never stopped believing in you, Sherlock. I never stopped. Just please, one more miracle, don't be dead.'
There is no point in voicing this plea. He knows it. Dead men cannot answer the living. And there, right there, is his solution.
Dead men cannot answer the living.
'I could join you, Sherlock,' John murmurs, reaching out once more to the dark stone which remains cool to the touch despite the late summer sun. 'I could be with you. We'd be together again.'
Again, no answer. But he knows what he must do.
That night he sits alone in his empty, silent flat and places the muzzle of the gun in his mouth. The metal feels cool and alien against his tongue, he can taste the metallic odour of the steel. All he needs to do is squeeze the trigger and all his horrors and nightmares will end. His finger tightens.
His phone blares out its symphony from across the room. John freezes in place and then lets the gun drop from nerveless fingers. It's Harry. Reluctantly he answers the call.
'Hey little brother. How are you?'
The usual question. How would she like the honest answer? Oh, not bad. Just about to kill myself so I can join Sherlock in the afterlife. How are you? Maybe a little not good. Instead he falls back on the usual lie.
'Liar. You're not over him, are you?'
John sighs. 'No. I'm not. And I know that makes me weird, I know I should be over him by now...'
'Not neccessarily,' Harry interrupts. 'You felt more for him than just friendship.' It is a statement, not a question. John bristles.
'Not you as well, Harry. For the last time...'
'I know, you're not gay. But think about it. Who else grieves like this for a friend and flatmate?'
'He was important to me,' is all the response John can come up with.
'Anyway, I was ringing to say I'm going to be in London next Tuesday. I thought we could meet up for a drink after your session with Ella.'
'Possibly,' John responds, not willing to commit himself fully.
'Aww, go on. It seems like ages since I've seen my little brother. And I won't be drinking in case that's what you're worried about.'
'I've had a few other things on my mind, Harry. Your drinking is not at the top of my list of concerns right now.'
There is silence for a second and John thinks absently that before Sherlock's death this is exactly the sort of thing which would make Harry slam the phone down. They have always had a knack of rubbing each other up the wrong way, especially when they were children. Instead there is a soft exhalation of breath and Harry speaks again.
'I suppose so, John. Please think about it.' There is another pause. 'I'm worried about you.'
John stares at the gun lying prone on the floor near his feet and sighs deeply. 'You don't need to be. I'm fine. Text me with the details, yeah?'
'Perfect,' Harry responds, her tone brighter and more cheerful. 'And don't worry, the drinks are on me.'
'Bye Harry,' John says and hangs up. He sits motionless in his chair for a few more minutes, then carefully picks up the gun and places it back in his drawer. Not now. Not yet. He will give life one more chance.
That night he lies awake, as usual, and gazes at the figure of Sherlock who is sitting on the edge of his bed.
'Why are you doing this to me?' John whispers hoarsely, pressing the side of his face into the pillow.
'Doing what? Really, John, you do have to learn to be more clear and concise with your statements.'
'Why are you driving me mad?'
'I'm not, John. This is all you, believe me. It's your mind conjuring me up and making me talk. Which is possibly why I appear to be less intelligent and erudite than usual.'
'Well then, it's good to know my mind still thinks you're an insufferable wanker.'
The phantom Sherlock shrugs. 'Perhaps, but you love me anyway.'
Wait, what? John's mouth opens but before he can think of a reply the ghost raises a dark eyebrow, that well-remembered smirk crosses his lips and then he vanishes. John fumbles himself upright to a sitting position and swipes a hand across his sweaty brow. What the hell was that?
The next Tuesday John manages a full session with Ella, although he spends much of the time silent, and limps down the street to the pub where he's meeting Harry. The inside is noisy and crowded and John has to shoulder through several knots of people to find his way to the bar.
Once there he orders a pint of Fosters and gazes around, attempting to spot his sister and cursing the fact that he's short; not for the first time.
'John! Over here!'
He sees her at a table in the corner with what looks like a glass of coke in front of her. Probably got a double shot of vodka in it he thinks uncharitably as he begins to navigate his way over.
Harry stands up and edges her way out from behind the table as he approaches. She waits until he has put his pint down and then hugs him cautiously. Physical contact has never been a big thing with them.
'It's good to see you, Johnny,' she says, smiling at him. He smiles back, a little surprised to hear his childhood nickname.
'You too,' he replies, astonished to find that it's the truth. He gestures to her drink as they sit down. 'Coke?'
She rolls her eyes. 'Yes, a virgin Coca-Cola. No added ingredients.'
'I didn't think there were,' he lies smoothly. 'How are you doing? How's the new girlfriend?'
In one of her emails to him, which have been getting more regular since Sherlock's... since the Fall... Harry had gushed about a new employee in her office. Short, curvy and with killer legs he thinks had been the phrase. 'What was her name? Lisa?'
'Alice,' Harry replies a little shyly. 'And she's not my girlfriend. We've just had lunch together a few times, you know. Casual.'
'For now,' he quips and she grins, taking a sip of her drink.
'I don't want to go too fast,' she confesses. 'That was partly why things went wrong with Clara, you know.'
'I thought you broke up with her?' John says, confused. Harry frowns.
'It's complicated, and much too long a story to bore you with now. How did your session go?'
'Quietly,' John replies absently.
'You really do have to start making an effort to communicate with her,' Harry says reprovingly. 'She can't help you move on if you refuse to tell her what you're thinking.'
'Do we have to talk about this?' John snaps, taking a deep draught of his pint.
'No. Sorry.' She drums her fingers on the table as she evidently casts about for a less tense subject. 'Have you seen that nice DI recently? Or that girl who works in the morgue? Molly, is it?'
'Yes, and sort of. I mean, I've seen Lestrade a couple of times recently. Molly, not so much. I think she's avoiding me, which is understandable. I haven't exactly been the easiest person to be around lately.'
'Don't lose contact with them, John,' she warns, her eyes steady upon his. 'They've been good for you.'
'Not as good as him,' John murmurs, his eyes fixed on the bubbles rising steadily to the surface of his pint. He hears Harry sigh but she doesn't speak for awhile.
'He wouldn't want you to be like this,' she says eventually. John glares at her.
'You hardly knew him. How do you know what he would and wouldn't like?'
She shrugs. 'He was your best friend. Even though I gathered from what you told me that he could be... tricky... I'm sure he wouldn't want you torturing yourself.'
'I'm not,' John mutters obstinately.
'Johnny, I haven't seen you this upset ever before. Not even when Jenny Groves dumped you in sixth form.'
'She didn't dump me,' John replies heatedly. 'It was a mutual split.'
'Is that why you spent three days crying into your pillow when you thought Mum and I couldn't hear you?' Harry says, smirking. 'Come on, John.'
John flushes a deep crimson. 'Can we please stop talking about how pathetic my love life was back when I was seventeen?'
For the next half hour they stick to "safe" subjects, such as the weather and their mother's annual Christmas party.
'She's started planning it already!' Harry says exasperatedly. 'I can't believe it! It's August! Who on earth is thinking about Christmas?'
'Supermarkets,' John says glumly. 'I swear I heard "Jingle Bells" in Tesco's the other day.' Harry groans and downs the remainder of her coke.
'Fancy another drink?' she asks, gesturing to John's empty pint glass.
'No, I should be getting on,' John says, feeling that he has done enough acting like a fully-fuctioning adult for one day. As he is getting up, Harry reaches over the table and clasps one of his hands.
'Don't be a stranger John, okay? This was nice. We should do it again sometime.'
'Yeah,' John agrees distractedly, shrugging into his jacket. 'See you soon, Harry.'
Back in the reassuring silence of his flat, John boots up his laptop and automatically logs onto his blog. He doesn't really know why he still does this. After all, he hasn't added anything new since that last post about two and a half years ago. But sometimes people leave comments and even though they usually end up angering and upsetting him, he cannot bear to leave them unread. It is comforting to know that people still think about Sherlock, even after over two years have passed.
USER-ATARI4 posted at 13:16 just read this blog after a friend recommended it to me. dont take this the wrong way but dont you think he was playing you all along? nobody could figure out all that stuff without being involved somehow.
USER-MobillDray19 posted at 16:06 Wow, way to be insensitive Atari4. I can't help agreeing but don't forget that John lost his best friend. I'm sorry for his loss.
USER-DreamingForever posted at 16:53 i agree with u MobillDray19. cnt help tinking tht Sherlock Holmes was 2 good 2 b true bt that dsnt lessen the tragedy of his death.
USER-Brant10 posted at 17:35 Sherlock Holmes was a fake, they've got tonnes of evidence which says so. What kind of a person pays an actor to be his nemesis? Move on John, you're better without him.
USER-ShoneNanashi posted at 18:14 You guys should be ashamed of yourselves. Surely nobody would know the truth of the matter better than John Watson? I for one have always been incredibly suspicious of the rubbish printed in the papers both before and after his death. You can't always believe everything you read. Forgive me if I take John Watson's word over those of some faceless hack. John – don't forget there are people out there who believe in Sherlock Holmes, just like you.
John rereads the last comment perhaps twenty times, aware that his eyes are growing dangerously wet. He brushes the tears away and flips his laptop shut, sighing deeply. He should really have got used to reading poisonous messages about Sherlock by now but every so often an offer of support comes from the anonymous void which restores his faith slightly. There are people out there who don't believe the vile lies printed by Kitty Riley and her colleagues. That is worth holding onto. If he can help clear Sherlock's name even a little, he will do as much as he can.
January has the whole of the United Kingdom in its grip. It has snowed a few times, in fits and starts, but mostly remains merely miserable with constant rain and freezing temperatures. John Watson sits in his living room, swathed in one of his thickest jumpers, watching an Agatha Christie murder mystery on the television.
Unfortunately it happens to be one he's seen before, with Sherlock no less, but that's okay because he's not paying attention. His mind is drifting absently over the events which preceded Sherlock's Fall and a worried frown is crinkling his brow. Although he can remember exactly what happened, he cannot bring to mind a clear picture of the detective. He remembers the dark, curly hair and the slender build but anything resembling concrete details such as the exact size of his nose or the way his mouth curves in a smile is escaping him. God help him, he cannot even recall the exact shade of Sherlock's eyes. Blue? Or grey? Yet he could swear that sometimes they seemed green.
He groans aloud, but is seemingly unaware that he has done so. 'I don't remember,' he murmurs to himself and then his eyes snap open, gazing blankly at the television screen. 'I actually don't remember.' He leaps to his feet, moving faster than he has in a long time, his eyes scan the empty room wildly. 'Come out! Come on, Sherlock! I need to see you! I need to remember!' The muscles in his neck cord as he flicks his head from side to side, attempting to see all the room at once. 'Please, Sherlock! Please, I need this.' His voice is quieter now, almost hushed. Still there is nothing. The room remains resolutely empty, there is no detective-shaped shadow in the corner. John spins around on the balls of his feet before laughing a little shrilly. For years he has considered these spectral visitations from the detective as a torment and now he actually wants Sherlock to appear and the git is nowhere to be seen.
'Bloody typical,' John mutters, finally coming to standstill. 'That's it. I've had enough.' He casts one last look around the room before he grabs his jacket and cane and limps out of the door.
The night is windy and bitterly cold. John makes his way through the eerily deserted streets of London, towards the Thames. He imagines most sensible people are closeted away indoors, not out walking. The freezing conditions do nothing to slow him down, and indeed his mind is incredibly clear and determined.
This, this actual forgetting is the last straw. He cannot live with himself, knowing that he has allowed the detective's image to fade from his mind. He knows how it will go, he has lost loved ones before. First it will be clear and precise details which will leave him. Then it will escalate until at last he will have trouble remembering exactly what colour hair Sherlock had, or how his voice sounded. John shakes his head resolutely as he rounds a corner and begins nearing Embankment. No. He will not allow Sherlock to fade away as if he had never existed. He will never permit himself to forget the detective. Such a thing is unthinkable. Therefore, he has to end this now. He has to stop his meaningless existence before Sherlock fades even further.
He doesn't know why he didn't go for the gun. Perhaps because it seems too apathetic to him now. Apathetic. Pathetic. No, in homage to Sherlock he will go out in a more dramatic fashion. Throwing himself into the frigid waters of the Thames will fit the bill marvellously. He chuckles and increases his pace until he is standing right in the middle of the Hungerford Bridge.
He glances to either side as he approaches the edge. Nobody. No trains passing over, and no pedestrians. He is utterly alone. Yes, and that is the problem.
'I miss you,' he whispers into the air. 'I'm sorry, Sherlock. I never wanted to forget you.' A steely determination fills his eyes. 'I won't forget you.'
His toes hang over the edge as he shuffles forward. The cane drops from his nerveless fingers. Below him the waters of the Thames surge and wane with the wind, the grey waves choppy and sullen.
Is this how he felt? On the edge, wanting to end it all? Briefly his mind fills with images of those who may miss him. His mother, Harry, Lestrade and perhaps Molly. A few of his old friends from his regiment. Mike Stamford. Nobody else. His hands clench at his sides as he moves a millimetre more over the edge. The wind echoes in his ears, accompanied by a throaty voice.
He starts and almost loses his balance. His arms pinwheel for a moment before he regains his equalibrium. He stares about him wildly. That was Sherlock. That was. Shuddering slightly he shakes his head and his muscles tense once more. This is it.
I'm coming, John.
This time he moves back from the edge of the bridge, once more looking about him as if expecting the detective to pop out from thin air.
'Sherlock? Where are you?'
'Where are you? Why can't I see you?'
Hold on, John.
'Come back, Sherlock! Please, come back!'
There is no responding voice on the wind. And yet those brief moments when he'd heard Sherlock's voice as clear as if the detective was standing right next to him have given him pause. He takes a long hard look at the churning waters of the Thames and shakes his head a little.
'Alright, Sherlock,' he mutters under his breath. 'You win. For now. As always.' He chuckles mirthlessly to himself and turns on his heel, heading back over the bridge. Back to his flat. Back to his existence.
'It was a white wine wasn't it?'
Molly smiles and nods, taking the glass as Lestrade sits down opposite her. 'Yes. Thank you.'
'How are you?' the Inspector asks awkwardly, drumming his fingers on the table. Molly flicks her ponytail over her shoulder and takes a sip of wine.
'I'm alright. Better than John, anyway.'
Lestrade rolls his eyes. 'Anybody would be better than John right now.' Molly nods in sombre agreement.
'He's worse, isn't he?'
Lestrade barks out a laugh. 'That's an understatement. I thought he was finally beginning to shake himself out of this fugue. But I dropped round to see him just last week and when he opened the door to me I don't think I've ever seen him look worse. He didn't even speak. Just sat in his chair gazing into space while I talked to myself.'
Molly drops her gaze down to the table. 'I can't even meet up with him now. Not when I know...' she trails off and her face flushes. Lestrade frowns bemusedly.
'When you know?' he prompts.
'How... how much he's hurting,' Molly finishes, still not raising her eyes from the table. Lestrade sits silent for a moment and then nods to himself.
'I never thought losing Sherlock would affect him like this. I knew they were close, hell, they were hardly ever apart but... this is extreme. His reaction, I mean. It's been over three years now. He should be getting over it.'
'Do you think they...' Molly doesn't finish the sentence but makes an obscure gesture with her hands. Nevertheless, Lestrade grasps her meaning.
'No,' he says, laughing a little. 'I know there were bets around the Yard about how,' he coughs, 'involved they really were but I don't think there was anything like that between them.' He pauses and worries at his lip meditatively. 'Although if Sherlock was going to be in a relationship with anybody it would have been John.' He glances at Molly suddenly. 'Sorry if that was insensitive. I know you, erm, liked Sherlock.'
Molly rolls her eyes and leans back in her chair. 'I did. And for awhile I nursed this incredible crush on him. But just before he died I'd started to see him more as a brother. Plus, I'd seen the way he looked at John.'
Lestrade raises his eyebrows quizzically and takes a deep gulp of his beer. 'Oh yes? And how was that?'
'Like John was his whole world,' Molly replies simply. 'I could never compete with that. And I didn't want to. Whatever they had, it was something special.'
Lestrade nods in agreement. 'We have to do something to help John. He is literally tearing himself to pieces over this.'
Molly shrugs helplessly. 'What can we do? If he doesn't want to be helped? We've all tried to get through to him, but it's no good.'
'Just keep trying, I suppose.' He gestures at her empty glass. 'Shall I get the next round in?' She looks indecided. 'Or we could, I don't know, head back to mine?' As soon as the words are out, he regrets them. He can feel the flush spreading up from his neck. Why on earth had he said that? He'd liked Molly Hooper for a long time but he'd never meant the invitation to sound quite so... blatant. 'Not for... I mean, I have coffee and tea and things. I just meant if you didn't want to, erm, stay here. Just keep talking, is what I meant. Just talking.'
Molly smiles and Lestrade is struck by the way it lights up her whole face. She catches one of his fluttering hands with her own and holds it firmly. 'That sounds good, Greg. I'd like that.'
'How are things going?'
'Very well. I believe I shall be returning to London next week.' Even over the phone Sherlock cannot quite hide his excitement. For three long years he has pursued Moriaty's network over a variety of continents. All for one purpose, to keep the most important person in his life safe.
'Not a minute too soon.'
'Why? What's happened?'
There is a deep sigh on the other end of the line. 'Keeping an eye on John is one thing, Sherlock. But he has been displaying worrying behaviour and as he will not even talk to me on the phone I find myself powerless to help him.'
'Worrying behaviour? What sort of behaviour, Mycroft?' Sherlock's voice is strained and tense. In his London office Mycroft rubs at his temples.
'Suffice to say John Watson has not been adapting to life without you particularly well.'
'I need details, Mycroft,' Sherlock snaps.
'That is not for me to say.' The elder Holmes's voice softens slightly. 'Just come home, Sherlock. And quickly. John needs you.'
The last one has finally been done. John smiles and collapses back into his armchair, gazing about the living room. Little post-it notes dot every surface, each one scrawled over with black marker pen. Dark brown hair proclaims one. Curly almost to ringlets announces another right below it. Others bear different messages such as Eyes subject to change: main colours are Green, Blue and Grey. Slender build. Purple shirt. Full lips (cubid-bow?) Large, straight nose. Cheekbones. Coat with collar. Scarf. Deep, baritone voice. Violinist. Long, elegant fingers. Long neck. Shoe size: 10. 34 years of age. Genius. Madman. Mine.
'Let's see me try and forget you now, eh Sherlock?' John murmurs, taking a sip of his tea. In addition to the post-its he has also dug out a number of photographs which have been displayed in prominent positions around the room. Due to the fact that Sherlock absolutely hated having his photo taken, the majority of the snapshots are taken from newspapers where the cameraman managed to get a sneak shot, or photos from press events. However there is one which occupies pride of place on John's mantelpiece. He's even framed it.
It shows John and Sherlock standing just outside a crime-scene, the police tape is fluttering in the background. Although officers are milling around, the two of them are clearly in shot. John is leaning up to say something into Sherlock ear, his back is to the camera. Sherlock is standing side-on to John but he has twisted his head so as to hear what John is saying and therefore his face is captured clearly. He has a beaming smile on his face and his eyes are crinkled at the corners. John can recognise Sherlock's genuine happiness and feels proud when he knows that it was what he was saying which put that expression on Sherlock's face. As far as he knows, nobody else has ever managed to coax such uninibited joy from the detective. That privilege was reserved for him, and him alone.
He picks up his mug and is about to take another sip when he realises it's empty. He scowls deeply and then gets to his feet. His flat is tiny so it only takes him a few seconds to shuffle out to the kitchen and flick on the kettle. On reflection he may be drinking a little too much tea, but surely it is better than losing himself in alcohol? He has no wish to turn into his sister and knows that in his current state of mind, the state of mind he has held for the past three years, beginning to drink to excess would be a very bad idea. He flips a teabag into his mug and then heaves open the fridge door. The milk carton is empty. He frowns again and grabs it to give it an experimental shake. Yes, empty. Why on earth had he put an empty carton back in the fridge?
'Tesco it is,' he mutters to himself, glancing out of the window at the lowering grey skies and really not relishing the admittedly short but still somehow exhausting walk to the local shop. Still, it can't be avoided. He cannot go the rest of the day without tea.
Inside the supermarket John heads straight to the cold section and plops four pints of milk into his basket. Overdoing it, perhaps, but he'd rather not be caught short again. Automatically he begins running through the contents of the cupboards back at the flat and decides he should probably pick up a few other items as well. He's running low on cereals, which is virtually the only thing he can now force himself to eat in the mornings.
He heads to the appropriate aisle and about halfway along he finds what he is looking for, only it's situated on the very top shelf.
'For fu...' he begins, trailing off and clenching his fists. Absently he glances around hoping for the presence of a handily tall Tesco employee but has no luck. Although he knows it won't be any good, he makes an effort to reach. Almost immediately he realises it's a bad idea. His head swims with the exertion and he sinks back onto his heels, reaching out a hand to steady himself against the shelves.
'Need some help?'
He turns to see a man in frayed, baggy jeans and a grey quicksilver hoodie approaching up the aisle. He makes an attempt at a smile, well aware that it probably looks more like a grimace.
'Cheers. It's the muesli just up on the top shelf there.'
The stranger stretches up easily, he has at least half a foot on John, snatches the box and hands it to John who places it in his basket.
'Thanks.' He nods to the man and turns away towards the checkout, already anticipating an evening with his feet up, mindless television and a hot mug of tea. If he's lucky, perhaps his ghost might visit.
Sherlock watches him go, his expression darkening with anxiety and pain as soon as John turns away. He'd had to pause before approaching John to let his exhilaration at seeing the doctor again fade. As he'd got close, however, he noticed how absolutely shattered John looked and recalls Mycroft's warnings that John hadn't been coping well. This hadn't been his intention. John was never supposed to have been this affected. Because it is clear to him now, oh so clear, just how his death has torn apart the one person he cares the most about.
Caring. Caring is not an advantage. However, very much against his will, he does care for John. And that left him with a choice. Either he could spend a lot of energy and time trying to expunge any sentiment connected with John from his mind, or he could just accept it and move on. Well. Sherlock Holmes is a genius. His regard for John Watson, therefore, lies contentedly in his mind, not making many demands, only occasionally rearing its head. This is most definitely one of these times.
He feels something twinge in his chest as he takes in the slumped posture, the slightly emaciated frame, the grey hair. John is diminished. And it is his fault.
Suddenly angry he whips out his phone and fires off a text to Mycroft.
Why didn't you tell me? SH
In a couple of seconds the device chimes and he stares down at the reply.
Would it have made a difference?
Now there's a question. Sherlock frowns and begins to follow John towards the checkout. Would he have come back earlier, leaving Moriarty's web intact, if he'd known John was suffering this much? He cannot answer himself and so he continues following John from a distance, all the way out of the supermarket and back to the tiny flat the doctor is calling home now.
He stands on the corner of the street and watches as John twists his key in the lock, slips over the threshold and shuts the door.
It's now or never. This is when he has to summon up what remaining energy he has and be strong once more. And although he has crossed a multitude of continents and faced down hundreds of assailants, somehow the few metres from where he is to John's front door seem more daunting than any of it.