The light was fading.

John lay on the bedspread in his jeans and shoes, watching the muted beams of an overcast day retreat from where they fell over him. The night would follow. The street-lamps would come on, one by one, and the city would light up. The tramp of feet from the footpath outside would change tenor - the slow, heavy trudge of those coming home from a day at work would be replaced with the upbeat steps of people going out to have fun.

A muffled sound drifted up the staircase, one he couldn't quite place - a high, thin sort of keening sound, like a cat or a bird or a little child. Through the fog that had wrapped itself around him, John realised that it was Mrs. Hudson. She was crying for her boy.

Sherlock Holmes was dead.

There were other sounds in his own flat, too, gradually sharpening into recognition. Low voices on the stairs, though he could only catch murmurs that seeped like smoke through the gap below the door.

"He's out of it... been sedated. He can't stay here, it'll send him out of his mind... somewhere else to live."

"He's... live with me... not going to want to... make him worse. Has he said anything yet...?"

"No. I don't even think he knows where he is right now."

A soft step fell on the landing outside. Then a two-fingered tap on the door, which eased open.

"John?" Harry was standing in the doorway, though he couldn't bring himself to turn over and face her. She came over and sat down beside him. "John, it's me." Her warm, dry hand found his, but he greeted her touch with a sort of slack-wristed acceptance, gaze still on the chink of retreating light on the floor. "Your friend called me... Inspector Lestrade. He told me what happened. I'm so sorry."

Silence, broken only by Mrs Hudson's cries, and what John now recognised as Greg Lestrade's voice as he tried to comfort her.

"Do you want to talk? I'm here if you want to talk..."

Downstairs, a door closed. At the same time the sun, already muffled by a white blanket of cloud cover, vanished behind the buildings across the street.

Drawing his hand out of Harry's, John got up and wobbled over to the window, pulling open the heavy russet-coloured curtains and pushing up the sash. The cold freshness of the spring evening flowed in, soothing the dry heat in his face and hands.

His hands...

Clinging to the windowsill, he looked down at them as if he was seeing them for the first time. Both trembling under that white-knuckled grip - the left worse than the right. Split knuckles on the right hand. Blood under the fingernails...

Not blood.


He had traces of Sherlock's brains under his fingernails.

There was barely time to turn away from the windowsill before he heaved. Sour water and Temazepam splashed onto his shoes and the surrounding floorboards.

"John -"

The second wave of vomiting he tried to stop with his hands. Eyes and nose streaming, he sank down onto the floor, palms-down in the sticky, warm puddle. Harry, now on her knees beside him, was rubbing between his shoulder blades with the ball of her hand. "It's okay. Let it happen... let it happen..."

Day drew its last weak breath, and the bitter light of streetlamps flooded the room.