So, this makes a couple of references to my other story 'Couple' but happened completely accidentally and instead of the essay I was supposed to be writing this morning. Basically involves my head canon for the Sherlock-John sort of relationship but with added post-fall feels. The essay was supposed to be on the standardisation of English over time, so who knows how I ended up with this really.


Sherlock is gone and no one quite understands the hole in his life.

He attempts consoles himself with at least there's no severed head in the fridge and no more irritating toddler behaviour to deal with and, lastly, maybe he could actually find a girlfriend now but mostly these little positives serve as salt in the wound, reminders of all these things that Sherlock was and that John had, not grown accustomed to as people thought, but loved.

The words that he didn't say, nor ever thought of saying, now sit on the tip of his tongue haunting him because maybe it might have been different because, really, if Sherlock knew how much John depended on him, needed him, loved him, then he would never have jumped. Never have fallen.

He wouldn't have done that.

They'd talked about matters close to it and reached an understanding of the obscurity of their relationship: not like that as everyone thought, but every bit as important as had been concerned (worried, really, decoded from Sherlock speak he'd been worried) that John would leave and get married, but he'd told him… John had told him that he was never going to leave…told him that he, Sherlock, was more important and… and… he'd thought they understood that Sherlock making him a cup of tea meant I love you and John nagging him about the cigarettes and eating and sleeping meant I care about you and that dinners in Angelo's where they talked over murders was as close to romance as either of them needed or wanted.

He will be okay. Not the same, of course, and he will have to rethink everything he'd begun to think about the future (years on, nagging Sherlock and telling him he should be retire, but doggedly chasing after each thrill and each case just the same as they did now). He will probably have to start dating again. He's out of practice because Sherlock said that John not being around was inconvenient so John had dropped everything, of course he had, and he'd been glad of it too. Like dating had become a routine he felt like he should partake in when really, really, he just wanted to be in Baker Street watching daytime television with a bored Sherlock.

Everyone still asks him that question with that look, only now it's slanted with an edge John doesn't like: why is he taking this badly, unless… unless they were together? As though he has no right to feel this destroyed about Sherlock just because they weren't sleeping together. As though Sherlock couldn't have been his other half because they never shagged or snogged.

Sometimes he thinks about letting them all believe what they all so want to believe because it might be nice, for once, if they stopped asking the silent questions even now, when it's so inappropriate and irrelevant because Sherlock is dead.

He's angry. He's angry at Sherlock for not reading between the lines like he was supposed to (because, surely, the man wouldn't have killed himself over an incorrect puzzle if he believed what John had tried to tell him?) and he's angry at himself for not explicitly saying what everyone and the mother thought they knew. He's angry at Moriarty and Mycroft and Lestrade and Donovan and everyone, everyone in the world but Mrs Hudson.

And he's not really that angry at Sherlock. It's just easier to process this growing feeling of despair and detachment as anger than what it actually is because oh god Sherlock is gone and that was never supposed to happen.

John is solid and stoic. He is steady and a soldier and a doctor. And he will survive this, of course he will, but at this moment he does not want to continue being the survivor and he does not want to stare down Sherlock's gravestone knowing that he should have stopped this. He wants a miracle.

He just wants Sherlock.

He is still angry at Lestrade and they both know it, but his anger has faded to a mute hum inside his bones that he is almost able to ignore. At the moment, all his emotions seemed to have been muted slightly, as though in greyscale, and instead John is just very, very tired.

But Lestrade had invited him to the pub and John had turned up, because it is better than sitting in his new, empty flat all evening trying to convince himself that he likes how quiet it is.

"You could ask," John says when Greg returns with his drink, "everyone," John mutters, "instead of thinking it all the time, you could just ask."

He's never wanted to share any of the small things about Sherlock that makes him who he is before. He's never needed to, because Sherlock was always there in his flat and he could talk about Sherlock on his blog. The more personal details were just that, because Sherlock was – at least in part – his. And he knew him. A hundred percent.

And now he is gone and, mostly, John doesn't want to talk about it. And then sometimes he wants to talk about it until he can no longer speak.

"Okay," Greg says, in the voice that he sometimes used to use when trying appease Sherlock. "You and Sherlock?" His name out loud hurts a little bit. Like someone's prodding the wound. "You were…together?" Greg prompts.

"It's complicated." John manages, beginning to wonder whether this was such a good idea after all. But he's started now, so he reaches forwards for his drink to delay things a bit.

"Never doubted that," Greg says and John can feel the affection in his voice – Greg, always, had that what's-he-done-now affectionate uncle act down pat, and it's somewhat reassuring to know that he's not the only one who cared about him. He can do this. He can talk to Greg.

It's just, he's never explained this to anyone. He's never attempted to because it didn't need quantifying or modifying or cataloguing before now – it just was, and now it just isn't, and John's cut loose and at a loss of what to tell people.

A couple by irregular standards. Entirely together but not sleeping together (he wasn't gay and Sherlock's only forays into anything sexual had been for drug money, for Christ's sake). More than friends but not sexually, not like that… but Sherlock was jealous of his time, and John had never known someone so well or loved someone like that, and their lives were built around each other and they were together and they would have… would have grown old together. Would have been happy, too. Nothing made him happy like Sherlock with his crimes and the holes in his heart, and his absolute humanity that only John was privy too.

"Sometimes I think," John says, taking a sip of beer, "that I should let everyone believe we were shagging if that's the only way they can understand it."

"It?"

"Us," John says, "Sherlock." and his voice catches on the word. He stops, abruptly, and takes another sip of his beer. It feels so strange. Wrong, almost, because Sherlock liked being distant and aloof and not human and suddenly John wants the whole world to know about how lovely he could be, because people look at him like he should have expected something like this to happen. Like Sherlock was a fake like… like John was just taken for a ride.

"So you weren't?"

"No," John says, "have you ever seen Sherlock show that sort of interest towards anyone?" John briefly thinks about Irene Adler, but then he pushed it out of his brain. He stopped trying to understand that a very long time ago and Sherlock was never mad keen on talking about it: whether it was the puzzle or curiosity or actually her it was over and done and nothing much actually happened.

"John," Greg says, "I've never seen Sherlock show genuine interest towards anyone who hasn't just committed homicide or is already dead before."

John smiles because that's true. He often felt upstarted by the crimes and cases, but then Sherlock always remembered him through it all and – apart from Moriarty – John always was the top priority. Sherlock would almost always remember that John required food and water and sleep, even if he didn't indulge in such activities himself.

"I don't think he could," John says, "did you read that article? Kitty Riley?"

Greg grimaces slightly. It's still a sore spot between them, even if Lestrade hadn't really believed… just a few moments of doubt… just, just Moriarty winning.

"Yeah," he admits.

"Some of it was true," John says, pressing a finger to his forehead. He wonders if that was what drove him to the rooftop – knowing that so many people were privy to those little pieces of information that John had coaxed out of him, bit by bit, whilst Mycroft had surrendered it all at a drop of a hat for some greater good. He wonders if it was Mycroft, or Moriarty, or Donovan, or the fact that he wasn't clever enough and his whole life had been undone so easily. "About the drugs and the…" John stops again.

Even when he talked about this with Sherlock (and it only came up twice, in all their hours of conversation), they never said it in so many words. It sounded crass and… it didn't seem to fit Sherlock and it didn't seem right to talk about it in those terms. John had asked about any previous sexual experience and Sherlock had said 'cocaine is expensive' and John had been mutely horrified and had dropped the issue.

"Sorry," John says, and he looks back down at his beer, "I didn't think this would be so…"

"Difficult?" Greg prompts.

"We were always just private but now…"

No one understands. It's quite possible that no one has the capacity to understand, but John wants someone to clap him on the shoulder and offer sympathies for the right reasons.

"So you weren't sleeping together?" Greg says, and John lets out a breath of air he didn't realise he'd been holding.

"No," John says, and that's easy because they weren't and they never would be.

"But you were… involved?" Greg says.

"That's… yeah," John says, finally, because he can't think of a better word and that seems to fit. They were completely and absolutely involved with each other's lives. His shoulders feel slightly lighter, now, and he idly wonders what Sherlock would think of the word: he was the one more likely to require a definition, he was the one who couldn't just accept an 'it's complicated' and leave it at that, always needing to fit people and relationships in deducible boxes. "We had an understanding," John says, "or at least, we were supposed to."

"You haven't dated for a while."

"He didn't like it," John says, and his mouth feels slightly dry. Oh God, Sherlock. What have you done? "It wasn't…. wasn't worth it. To be away from Baker Street for all that time just… pointless."

"Sally still hasn't recovered from when I walked in when you asleep on his shoulder." Greg said, taking a sip of his own drink and seeming to relax a bit. "On the day after Valentine's Day. Even after she witnessed the fact that Sherlock changed your sim card so you missed your date, she was dead certain that you'd been cuddling."

"Had she met him?" John says, "Sherlock does not cuddle."

"We all wanted to believe that he was capable of being human."

"Or inhuman," John says, "depending on which way it suits you." There are a few seconds of staunch silence in which John does feel bad, a bit, for bringing it up. But not too much. "Really though," John smiles, "Sherlock cuddling. And Donovan and that stupid betting pool – Sherlock deduced that hours after you'd started it, by the way – how the hell did she think she'd find out?"

"Maybe she thought you'd start snogging in the corner of a crime scene," Greg grins.

"Ha," John says, "he'd have been too distracted by the corpse to give that a thought."

"God."

"Although," John says, and it's like the plug that was stopping him from talking about all these moments has been removed and there's a rush of little moments and of Sherlock spinning round his head, "you remember the Reimer case?"

"The one where Sherlock pulled out after a day and left us too it?"

"Harry had been in an accident," John says, and he can still remember the warmth of Sherlock sat next to him on the sofa, idly flicking through channels on the television offering derisive comments about all of it, not mentioning Harry at all but just being there whilst John was determinedly pretending that anything was normal and fine.

"I thought that was a bit bloody odd," Greg returns, "he always told us straight away if he didn't think the case was interesting enough."

"Of course he did," John grins, and then they exchange one of those looks. It was a given that Sherlock would make it very clear if the case was boring. Crystal clear.

"Not really a sociopath then?"

"No," John says, glancing down at his beer, "you've got to read the subtext, but really he was always… well, sometimes, thoughtful."

"Subtext?"

"Well," John says, "Grocery shopping is an apology. Coffee used to be an apology too, but then that was voided when Sherlock drugged me at Baskerville. But… it's situational, but it's all there. He just assumes you can deduce that reorganising your laptop is sentiment, not him being a git. Which he was," John says, feeling the tightness at the back of his throat again, "obviously." He finishes.

Sherlock would have a lot to say about his use of tense, he's sure, but for a while it seemed like Sherlock could be waiting back home.

It's strange because he never thought that not having his favourite TV shows spoilt for him would be that reassuring undercurrent of sentiment and affection that made him feel secure, and now continued affirmations of love and flirting and extravagant gits seem superfluous and unnecessary compared to Sherlock pretending not to have deduced what John brought him for Christmas and Sherlock heeding his talk of timing.

He doesn't want anything else but that twisted sort of affection, because he's never been in any other relationship – conventional or otherwise – that he wanted to last forever.

"John," Greg says, and John's still looking at his beer and not at Greg because he won't cry. He absolutely and completely won't cry. "For what it's worth, everyone knows that Sherlock loved you. That's why people talk."

And he can remember running away and Sherlock's 'take my hand' and how solid and okay it felt even though they'd both just been arrested and ran from the police, and Moriarty was plotting, and Lestrade had come to arrest Sherlock and everything was wrong but it was manageable because Sherlock had hold of him.

(He knows it was largely practical, but at the same time it made little difference – he is sure it was Sherlock factoring in John's panic at being arrested then being a hostage and knowing that John would be comforted by it).

"He fell." John says, but he really means jumped. And because of that there's this guilt and anger because he wants to blame someone or other and everyone is such a likely candidate that it's hard to pick who to turn into the enemy. "That's it."

Greg has no answer to that, really, and John would like to say that they were supposed to last forever and retire in the country and always just be together but it's too personal and too much and too pointless.

"Christ," Greg says, "I never thought he would have… would have done that." John shakes his head. He can't talk about it. He can't think about it in directed terms. Can't call it a suicide. It's only the euphemisms about falling and blame which twist round his head. "He wasn't… he wasn't the sort."

John wants to talk about the tortured Sherlock always fighting against the drugs and his own brain, the Sherlock who'd suffered through years of alone and dislike and who'd put up with those like that tosser Sebastian. He wants to talk about Sherlock in rehab and Sherlock and his dad and his 'mummy' and his relationship with Mycroft, but all these trains of thought stop with but it was better now because we were together and he can't think how, possibly, he could have… could have even thought about it. Not now.

He cried down the phone to him. Made him watch. Bastard till the end, Sherlock, making up all this shit about being a liar.

I can't come down so we'll have to do it like this.

"He called me," John says, and he doesn't know why he said it but it just came out, "from the rooftop. He wasn't… he wasn't making much sense." John closes his eyes. Oh God, no Sherlock, don't, don't… just come down from the roof. Take a step back from the edge, Sherlock. God, no. "Sorry," John says, "I haven't…"

"That wasn't in the report," Greg says, wining slightly, "god, John, I'm sorry."

"It's…fine," John says, even though it's not. But there's not much else to be said. Sherlock's gone, and John still here and he is, as always, trying to clear up the mess the man left behind. "I'll be all right."

"Yeah." Greg says, and that's that.

It won't be for a while, but it will happen. John is strong and solid and able to deal with just about anything the word throws at him. And he wasn't, once, because he came back from Afghanistan in pieces and broken and teetering on the edge of something he didn't want to talk about… but then there was Sherlock, and he filled in all those spaces in his life and made him believe in himself again. And now the edges of the PTSD creep up on him when he's tired, and he hears that phone conversation nightly, and he misses him like an extra limb, but he will, eventually, be just fine.

He likes the word involved and he thinks Sherlock might have liked that too.