The Latin Series: Maeror by AndromedaMarine
When he opened the door of the flat he paused for a moment before going in. He felt cold. He'd avoided coming back here for as long as he could; drifting around London, staying away from St. Bart's but inexorably always finding himself near the cemetery entrance. But he couldn't go back. The cold black headstone was too much for his already-broken heart to deal with. He'd plead, unable to keep the tears at bay, for Sherlock to be alive for him…he'd plead. And never saw him looking on. Mrs. Hudson took a separate taxi home, leaving poor John to his depressed thoughts, knowing he needed to be alone…or at least alone with the new grave.
And now he was back, standing on the threshold of the one place he felt he truly belonged, the one place that actually felt like home…before the fall.
John sighed, glanced behind him, and entered the flat. He slowly ascended the stairs to the living area and mechanically made himself some tea. But when he dropped himself into Sherlock's usual spot, the teacup rattled against the saucer and he had to set it down with shaky hands. His vision blurred, and before long, war veteran John Hamish Watson had forgotten about the tea and his mind had placed Sherlock's fall on replay.
Over, and over, and over, he fell.
John had seen soldiers die in the heat of battle, he'd seen men succumb to wounds brought on by the enemy, and he'd even seen men take their own lives.
But he'd never witnessed a friend do the same, and it…was…too…much.
He cried himself to sleep in Sherlock's chair, awkwardly curled up but too depressed to care. Mrs. Hudson found him like that a few hours later, took sympathy, and covered him with the blanket from the couch, placed his untouched tea in the sink, and quietly returned downstairs.
The days went by slowly at first. John took a leave of absence from his job at the hospital and for a while considered opening a private practice, but his heart just wasn't in it. He couldn't even save his best friend. He felt like a lost child, searching for a familiar face in the midst of a nightmare, only to realize that the nightmare was reality. Soon it was two weeks since the funeral of Sherlock Holmes, and it wasn't getting any easier for John to open the flat door and walk inside. He'd left Sherlock's room untouched, and he couldn't even look at the door without his throat constricting.
He looked like a bird, his trench coat flying up behind him like a great cape as he fell… So much blood. There had been so much blood, and his eyes…the color of the ocean after a storm…unseeing…dead… In the few moments he'd been allowed to touch him he'd felt no pulse…so much blood…
He woke in a cold sweat, sheets tangled around his legs, covers thrown off. Tears had run from the corners of his eyes down to his ears. John wiped them away angrily, struggled to get the sheets in order, and walked to the kitchen to make a cup of chamomile.
The heartfelt, anguishing, grief-ridden words he'd spoken to that gravestone echoed through his mind. You told me once that you weren't a hero. There were times I didn't even think you were human, but let me tell you this: you were the best man and human… human being I've ever known, and no-one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. I was so alone, and I owe you so much. Look, please, there's just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don't. Be. Dead. Would you do that, just for me, just… stop it. Stop this!
"Don't be dead," he said aloud to the tea cup. He didn't even hear the tinkle of broken china as the cup shattered on the floor.
Lestrade stopped by a month after the fall. He'd sincerely wanted to place Donovan and Anderson on suspension, but without a reason he couldn't. He'd done the only thing he knew he could at the time, even if it had all been part of Moriarty's plans. Detective Inspector Gregory Lestrade had spent a month wondering how he could have ever doubted Sherlock Holmes. The only thing left was to check in on John, see if he wanted to come back and consult on a few cases, start trying to get back to normal.
But he knew it wouldn't happen.
John had been so attached to Sherlock, so close to the mysterious genius that nothing short of a miracle would make John Watson normal again.
Lestrade knocked on the door to 221B Baker Street and waited patiently for John to come down. He looked up, startled, when Mrs. Hudson opened the door instead.
"Why hello, Detective Inspector," she said with sad eyes but a sincere smile. "What can I do for you?"
"Uh, yes, is John in? I came to check on him, it's been a while…"
"Of course, come in," she said, standing back from the door to grant him entrance. "He's not left much since…"
Mrs. Hudson closed the door and rested a hand on Lestrade's sleeve. "Sher—Sherlock—"
"I know." He left Mrs. Hudson in the front corridor and ascended to the residence he'd last left with Sherlock in illegal custody. "John?"
"John? It's Lestrade, you okay?" He moved into the flat, looking around, observing. Almost nothing was different. Every piece of furniture was in the same place it had been a month ago. The yellow face on the wall was still there, bullet holes hadn't been repaired, and the violin…the violin was on its stand by the window, next to an open binder of unfinished compositions. John sat on the couch, hunched over, his face in his hands, a brown blanket over his shoulders. "John?"
Watson lifted his head slightly, but remained staring at the floor.
"John." Lestrade crouched in front of the old Army doctor.
"I dream of him," John whispered, almost too quietly for Greg to hear. "I see him falling. Every night. Therapy hasn't helped. This isn't right. This shouldn't have happened."
Lestrade didn't know what to say. He sat on the floor and leaned back against the chair.
"He told me he was a fake."
"Just before he jumped. He told me he was a fake. Wanted you lot to know."
"John, you know I—"
John looked him dead in the eye. "I have never doubted Sherlock Holmes. Not for one second. He didn't convince me then, and no one will ever convince me that he lied. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I do, but—"
"But what, Detective Inspector, what?" John snapped. "Sherlock is gone, he's dead, he's not coming back, he bloody JUMPED OFF A BUILDING."
Greg sighed. "Did you ever think he was protecting you?"
John stared at him. "I—he—what?"
"Look, I know he was oblivious to some things, and that people thought you two were, well, involved, but he could never hide the fact that he cared about you. You weren't some random bloke to him. I helped clean him up a while ago, you know that, but let me tell you this—I never saw him bond with anyone like he did with you."
By now John's face was covered in tears. "I was his only friend."
"He wouldn't have killed himself if it wasn't for some greater purpose. Sherlock wasn't that selfish."
Anger creased the lines of John's face again for a moment. "Don't demoralize his death, Lestrade, just don't! What greater purpose could there possibly be?"
"Maybe he wanted to save you from the image Moriarty fabricated."
John cleared his throat, wiping his face. "Then why, in his last moments, tell me he was a fraud? Why not say what he meant?"
"You knew him better than I, John."
The two men fell silent for several minutes. Greg looked around while John resumed his study of the floor.
"Why are you here?" John finally asked.
"To be honest, I want to bring you back in on some cases."
"It wasn't all Sherlock. Your input is great too, a doctor's opinion—"
John stood and pulled the brown blanket tighter around his shoulders. "No. Your people made Sherlock the suspect, they made it impossible for him to avoid going along with what Moriarty wanted. So no. I'll not go back and endure the insult to his memory." He gestured to the door. "He was never a freak. He was only human. Please leave."
Surprised at the sudden dismissal, Lestrade didn't move for a moment. "Uh, well, if you ever want someone to talk to who's not a therapist about what happened...drop me a line. You may have been Sherlock's only friend, John, but he wasn't your only friend."
"No. But he was my best one."
When the door clicked shut behind the Detective Inspector, John slumped back down on the couch. "I'm so sorry, Sherlock," he muttered. "I'm sorry I can't pull myself together. But can you believe that? Lestrade actually wants me to come back and consult, after everything that happened. I can't. It'd be too hard. I'd think of you too much and I've already spent so much time trying to figure you out."
He pinched the bridge of his nose.
"I asked you for one last miracle, Sher. And you can't even give me that."
Three months. John stood in front of Sherlock's bedroom door, his throat tight, his eyes tearing up, his fists clenched. He reached for the knob, faltered, and turned away.
John started talking to Sherlock the day Detective Inspector Lestrade tried to get him to come back as a consultant. The day after Lestrade's visit he went back to work at the hospital, masking the grief by throwing his concentration into his patients. When he came home, he always paused when opening the door, but the worst part was the limp that returned after two months without Sherlock Holmes.
John sagged into Sherlock's chair. "I still can't go into your room. I can't even touch the door without feeling like I'm going to throw up. And I won't have anyone else go in and mess with your things." He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I'm so alone, Sherlock. I'm back to where I started. I only asked for one thing…I only asked for one small miracle…one small gesture of faith. Why do you have to be dead?"
He went to bed that night knowing what he'd see in his dreams: the great black bird falling from the rooftop, the cape his useless wings.
But this nightmare was different. It was worse. This time he saw Sherlock kill himself in a far more horrific manner: he shot himself through the temple, slumping down just as John was able to reach and gather him tightly in his arms.
He woke screaming. "SHERLOCK! NO! SHERLOCK!" He panicked for too many minutes, panting, repeating Sherlock's name, drawing quick breaths only to expel them with less-loud pleas for him to just stop being dead already, that he'd had enough of this stupid game.
John fell back asleep with the consulting detective's name on his lips and tears streaming down his temples.
Sherlock Holmes could hear and see everything John said to him in the sitting room. For purposes relating to Moriarty, Sherlock had placed a camera and microphone inside the skull that John would never touch, and the fallen hero of the Reichenbach felt unfamiliar and painful tugs in his heart whenever he watched the live stream.
But the midnight scream was the worst. It woke him from his light sleep and immediately he went to the computer where the live feed linked, and even though John was in his room Sherlock could hear his pleas and mantra all the way from the skull.
The feeling in his heart and stomach scared him. John's pleas scared him. And for the first time he wondered if the plans to stay away were really for the best.
Frustrated and worried, he ran his hands through his mop of curly hair and kicked the bedpost. He lifted a cell phone from the bedside table and tapped out a text to Mycroft, the only person who not only knew he'd faked his own death, but also helped him pull it off. He hated how dull being dead appeared. He couldn't solve cases, he couldn't walk around London, and he couldn't even go to his only friend.
The phone chirped and Sherlock read the text. He almost threw it across the room.
John woke stiff and trembling every morning, limped into the kitchen to make tea with shaky hands, and left for work with his cane tightly gripped in his palm. He did everything mechanically. He spoke to coworkers only when it was required of him, mostly kept his head down, and never stayed past his shift. Upon returning to the flat he would make another cup and crumple into Sherlock's chair, vacantly staring at the violin until the tea was cool enough to palate. His gaze would drift from the violin to the yellow grin, to the skull, and back to the violin. And he would just talk. He'd talk about how much he missed him, how hard it was to go to sleep knowing what he'd end up seeing, how nothing seemed to be worth much anymore now that Sherlock wasn't there to deduce it. John always ended his monologues telling Sherlock: "You're my best friend, Sher. Please. Don't be dead."
He'd begun to doubt if he could ever move on from Sherlock's death. The falling bird was in his dreams every night, Sherlock's blood sticky on his hands as he always saw himself cradling his head, hunched over, and crying. It felt so real in the nightmares, the grief so strong, the blood and the texture of Sherlock's hair so tangible…he would always wake in a cold sweat, speaking Sherlock's name.
John hadn't forgotten Lestrade's standing offer to talk about the fall, but just the thought of admitting how unstable he really was about it made him sick to his stomach. Mycroft had made just one appearance, but as soon as John opened the door to see Sherlock's older brother, he shut it in his face.
It was getting worse.
"I don't care, Mycroft!" Sherlock shouted into the phone. "You've done enough damage already, so give me ONE good reason why I should keep waiting."
He paused, listening to his elder brother's discourse.
"Not good enough."
"Still not good enough."
Sherlock growled when Mycroft spoke again.
"He is in more danger living like this than if—NO, Mycroft. It has been LONG enough." This time he did throw the phone across the room, satisfied when he saw it shatter against the brick wall. He shrugged his coat on, secured his scarf, and pulled the deerstalker down over his curls. As he left the flat Mycroft had secured for him, he muttered, "I have been dead for too long."
Sherlock still had the keys to the flat and quietly let himself in when he knew John would be sitting down with his after-work tea to speak to the empty room. He took each stair carefully, slowly, not making a sound. He heard the low voice of John Watson coming from the sitting room, the words parsed with continued anguish and pain. Sherlock arrived at the doorway, his heart giving a little tug when he saw John sitting in the chair, facing away from him.
"Do you know what it feels like to lose the best possible friend you could ever have, even if you felt like you hated him at times? Do you know what it feels like to see your best friend die in front of you? To be hollow…empty…worthless…helpless, because of something you didn't understand." He gave a dark bark of laughter. "Of course you don't. You understand everything, but know nothing."
Sherlock made to speak in answer, but stopped when he saw John's head drop down into his hands. A sob escaped him.
"You're my best friend, Sher. Please. Don't be dead. I don't know if I can go on like this for much longer."
Sherlock Holmes' deep voice felt as cruel, sweet music to John Watson's ears. "You won't have to."
John stiffened in the chair. His hand grasped for the cane, closed around the handle, and he shakily stood up before even turning around to look at him. "No…bloody great, this is just bloody fantastic, now I'm HALLUCINATING about my dead friend, this is just absolutely fucking brilliant."
Although he hadn't expected this reaction from John, Sherlock wasn't surprised. "I'm not a hallucination, John, I am alive, I'm here."
"You're wearing the same coat, scarf, and you're even wearing the stupid bloody deerstalker—you're a hallucination. The real you—I saw you jump. I saw you fall. I. Saw. You. Die."
Sherlock sighed. He walked smartly forward and before John could protest, wrapped his arms around the army doctor, hugging him tightly.
John reacted by shoving Sherlock away with both hands, cane clattering to the floor. "Fuck—I—you're—real—" He made a face, pulled back, and punched Sherlock Holmes in the jaw.
"Ow, John, REALLY, what was that for?"
"You fucking jumped off a building after telling me you were a FAKE and trying to convince me that you LIED to me the whole two years we were together! Do you honestly think you can come waltzing back in here after eight months without so much as a fucking hello and expect me NOT to hit you?!" John struggled to draw even breaths as he scrambled for the cane on the floor. He picked it up and swung it at Sherlock, swearing at him in a couple different languages for emphasis. "I SAW YOU DIE!"
"MYCROFT knew?" He swung again, and Sherlock jumped backwards. John's limp had subsided a bit. "You told MYCROFT you're alive but not your ONLY friend?"
"John, Mycroft was the only one with enough resources to help me fake it."
John let out a noise that Sherlock placed between rage and frustration. "Moriarty killed himself BEFORE YOU JUMPED! Why jump at all if he was DEAD?"
Sherlock finally found it in himself to yell just as angrily as his best friend. "BECAUSE HE HAD MEN READY TO KILL YOU IF I DIDN'T!"
There was a moment where nothing in the flat moved or made a sound. But John dropping his cane from the ready position broke the silence with a loud clatter. Lestrade's guess was true. Sherlock had protected him. John swayed on the spot, prompting Sherlock to reach out and grasp his shoulders. "You put me through so much grief and pain for so long. Why didn't you come back sooner?"
"Mycroft kept me down to make sure Moriarty's men were long gone. I am sorry, John. I feared if I had not come back today..."
John looked up at Sherlock. "You think I would've tried to join you? I won't deny I thought about it…a lot more, recently."
In an uncharacteristic move, Sherlock pulled the doctor into his arms, embracing him in an effort to show John that he had always cared about him.
And whether John wanted to admit it or not, this solid, tangible, Sherlock-scented proof that he really wasn't dead was exactly what he needed after eight months of being totally alone. He didn't care anymore about hiding his emotions and trying to appear calm in front of Sherlock, so he just gripped the lapels of Sherlock's trench coat, buried his face into Sher's chest, and cried.
Sherlock let his best, only friend sob into his chest without a word, resting his cheek on the top of John's head, arms around him.
They stood like that for several minutes, John clinging to Sherlock, whose shirt steadily absorbed the tears. "I just can't believe you're alive," John sobbed. "I've missed you so much."
"I know. I have…I have missed you as well."
"Where have you been? What have you been doing?"
"Keeping an eye on you," Sherlock replied quietly. "I placed a camera and microphone inside the skull to watch for Moriarty, but it was still there after St. Bart's."
John's grip on Sherlock loosened. "You heard…you saw…everything…and you still stayed away?"
"I had no choice," Sherlock insisted as John pulled away and glared up at him, his face streaked. "Mycroft would have me wait over a year to return to you for some god-awful reason. I could see how you handled everything and if I hadn't come back you would have become a danger to yourself."
Angry, John asked, "Why would he keep you away for so long? Why for over a year?"
"He didn't think you'd react this poorly," Sherlock bit out, clearly furious with his older brother. "He didn't understand, and I tried speaking to him about it, but finally just ignored his 'orders' to come here now. He doesn't understand how much you mean to me."
"Don't ever leave me like that again," John begged just before he reached for Sherlock again in a fluster and clung to him even more desperately than before. "Promise me, Sher. I can't go through this again without losing my mind."
"I promise, John," Sherlock consented. "I promise. There is nothing on this earth that—" But he couldn't finish the sentence.
John had torn himself away from Sherlock and collapsed on the couch. "I…this…you…I have to sit."
Momentarily frozen, Sherlock simply observed his best friend.
"Please join me," John asked, his voice hushed.
But instead of seating himself next to John, Sherlock crouched in front of him, so that he had to look up to see John's face.
"I don't know why it was so hard. I was so—alone—before I met you, Sher. So alone. I owe you so much." He pinched the bridge of his nose and scrunched his eyes shut. He could feel the tears pricking at him again. "Every day was a chore just to get out of bed. I don't understand why I—" His eyes had wandered up till now. But they found Sherlock's eyes and locked on them. "Sherlock, I would have died for you."
Sherlock gazed up at him, and suddenly found himself just speaking about the rooftop. "I know. But I died for you so you wouldn't have to. Because that's how Moriarty's plan worked, John, I had to choose. I'd worked it all out, of course, before going to the rooftop. Planned everything with My. But I had to appear panicked when facing him and that choice. I knew that if he remained alive I could find a way to call off all the snipers, John, but I also knew that either way, I'd be forced to jump. It was me…or all of you. And I wouldn't've been able to live with that choice if I'd made the wrong one."
John's brow furrowed. "All of us? Who else was he targeting to get you to jump?"
"He had men placed to kill you, Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and Molly if I did not 'take my own life'."
"I didn't know you cared so much for us," John began, but was cut off by Sherlock.
"I care a great deal, John, but I never show it in a way anyone can notice. I have never felt the need before to be so…aargh!" Sherlock stood and paced, running both hands through his curls as his heels turned. "This is so foreign, so unfamiliar—what is it called, John? What do we have? What is this—emotion?"
John followed Sherlock's pacing and a small smile appeared on his lips. "I think…and I've tried to pin this down for so long, even though I've felt it since a few days after we met. But I think, Sher…I think it's love."
"Preposterous," Sherlock replied, still pacing. "I have no romantic interest in you whatsoever, and you've asserted your heterosexuality far too often to harbor any sort of romantic interest in me."
John actually laughed. "You're right, as usual, but it's not preposterous. It's platonic love. We have a deeply strong emotional relationship, Sher. But it doesn't mean we have to be sexually interested in each other. You are…my best friend. My brother. And I love you."
Sherlock stopped pacing and looked down at John. "What?"
John's cheeks tinged pink a little. "I said 'I love you'."
"I heard that. What did you say before that?"
"You're my best friend, my brother? That?" John watched Sherlock confusedly. "I don't understand; why do you find my thinking of you as a brother more interesting than my saying 'I love you'?"
"You are more than a brother, John. You have acted in a higher regard than Mycroft ever will."
John shrugged. "Well, I don't know how else to describe it. I love you, but I'm not attracted to you. Sounds like a brother to me."
Sherlock lowered himself onto the couch next to John. "You are…an enigma, John, superb, strong…loyal."
"Do you find that surprising?"
"I have never in my life felt this for or had this from anyone. Your pleas for me to come back, every nightmare you woke from, the return of your limp and tremors—I saw you and felt helpless."
John looked down at his hands. "Now you know how I felt when I saw you on that ledge. When I saw you jump."
Sherlock reacted impulsively and placed his hand over John's. "I…am…so…sorry. Please…John…forgive me."
John chuckled, twisting his hand to lace his fingers through Sherlock's. "I forgave you a long time ago, you bastard."
A/N 2: I have not and will never write slash for any fandom. But this is the only pairing I have actually thought could work in canon and out.