John was back at therapy again.
Not of his own free will, of course, but Lestrade's insistence and Mycroft's... 'doings'. He scowled at the thought of that. Perhaps Mycroft had never been informed that the best way to encourage mental well-being and recovery was not to kidnap someone and take them against their will.
John made a note to ask Sherlock if he had any insight into that sort of thing.
Ella was staring at him. Examining him. Not like how Sherlock did it, because no one does it like Sherlock, but it was somewhat unnerving nonetheless.
"How are you John?" she asked, leaning forward slightly in the chair.
"Fine... fine," he replied absentmindedly, still thinking about Sherlock.
"You look tired," she noted.
John laughed, but it was empty. "Yeah, well, Sherlock hasn't had a case in a couple of days so he was up early composing something. Something rather loud." He ran his fingers through his hair, thinking about the terrible shrieking noises that had awoken him that morning. It sounded like a cat was being tortured.
He smiled, but it died on his lips when looked over at Ella to see her pale.
"What is it?" John asked, somewhat worried.
"He's not real... you know that right?"
John continued to look at her, blankly.
"Sherlock. He's not real," she told him, gently, slowly, but it didn't make it any easier. "He's not real anymore," she corrected. "He died, remember John?"
She continued, but John wasn't listening anymore.
He was reliving it.
Things after the swimming pool were a bit vague, now that he thinks about it. They returned home to the flat, and he wrote a blog post. Many clients came calling, none of them very interesting. There were a few cases that he took. (He? Did he?) Time passed. More cases. The woman. The Woman. The hound. That's how he got in to Baskerville. His rank. Sherlock didn't need to get in because he wasn't really there. Things made more sense now...
Did they? Did they really?
How much of what happened was actually real? What was real?
That day in her office. After Sherlock fell.
("Why today?" Rhetorical question?
"D'you want to hear me say it?" Some strange therapy technique?
"Eighteen months since our last appointment." Perhaps she doesn't actually know...
"D'you read the papers?" Perhaps that was it.
"Sometimes." Was she really that daft?
"Mmm, and you watch telly? You know why I'm here. I'm here because..." He really was going to have to say it.
"What happened, John?" Really. How did she get through school?
"Sher..." No, no, he couldn't.
"You need to get it out." Can't she see I'm TRYING.
"My best friend... Sherlock Holmes... is dead." There. That was that. Over and done.)
She didn't know about it happening because it didn't. Sherlock was dead months before that. Sherlock dying, doing that to John, had never really happened because he was already dead. Oh god. Going to the grave with Mrs Hudson. That was real. Oh god. Everyone must have been so relieved, well, not really, but... that John thought Sherlock died. Because then they wouldn't have to pretend anymore. Oh god. His brain was hurting. So John's brain invented his faked death and brought him back again.
His mind was so cruel.
He thought of something Sherlock had told him once. (Was it Sherlock? He couldn't recall when it was. Before or... after.) "We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones." (After. It must have been after. So really, it was some small part of him that was trying to help him out. But he didn't see it.) Oh god...
And then he looked back at her. She was still talking, probably never stopped.
"He was real. But he died." She paused for a moment and looked at him. John wasn't sure what he was supposed to do. "He died and it was awful, but somehow in your mind he was still alive."
John nodded slowly. She was still looking at him expectantly, like he should say something, but John really had no clue what. It took him a minute, and he had to lick his lips multiple times before any sound would pass through them.
"I see..." he said slowly.
She nodded, pity in her eyes. "Same time next week, okay?" she told him as she walked him out. John nodded, numbly. He waved down a cab and told the driver where to go, and lapsed back into silence.
He's not real... you know that right? He died. He died and it was awful.
He wished Sherlock was sitting in the cab with him, because even though Sherlock and him usually travelled in silence in a cab, it was a friendly silence, not this terrible gaping hole of loss. Again, his mind told him, but since he didn't remember the first time...well... did it really matter?
John arrived home at Baker street and was relieved that Mrs Hudson was out. He adored the woman, but he really didn't feel like making conversation.
Does she know that he's dead? John wondered. Does everyone know? Did they all know and let me go on believing that he was alive? Why?
But there where no answers.
At least, none that John could come up with, and the only one who could provide them was dead.
Because although John could clearly see Sherlock sprawled on the couch, lazily playing his violin, he wasn't real, and therefore, anything that Sherlock came up with was only coming from John's brain.
"You're not real," John informed him flatly, standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Sherlock glanced over at him.
"Hmm. That explains a lot." Sherlock moved slightly to look at him. "Did you just find out about this?"
John nodded. "Interesting..." Sherlock mused.
"I've been following you to crime scenes for the last year and a half and-"
"Two years," Sherlock interrupted, not entirely focused on John's words so much as he was on his precious violin.
John rolled his eyes. "Whatever. The point is that I've been going along talking to you and doing things for you and all the while you've been dead." John voice broke at this point.
(Sherlock hoped John wouldn't cry, because he wasn't good at that sort of thing. Or really, John's idea of Sherlock hoped that John wouldn't cry, and thus it was John hoping that he wouldn't cry.)
But John carried on. "And everyone's been avoiding it, no one has said anything to me, and they've just let me go on believing it!" He was yelling by the end, and there may have been some tears mixed in, but it was hard to tell.
John collapsed into his chair, all the life gone out of him along with the anger.
"They've all been lying to me," he whispered. "For years. Bloody years!"
He was silent for a moment.
Sherlock broke the silence with a question for John. "Was it worth it?"
John glanced over at the man who wasn't really there, who wasn't really asking him that question, who was dead, dead, dead, had been for months, and yet John felt compelled to answer him anyway. (After all, it was himself.)
"Yes," and John was surprised when those words came out of his mouth. But it was like they'd been waiting there all along, just waiting for the right question to be asked.
"Yes," he said again, more confidently this time.
Sherlock nodded and returned to his violin playing.
John cried that night. And the next day. And the next night.
Then he returned to work like nothing happened.
Sherlock didn't say anything about it.
John didn't acknowledge it.
And that was that.