The headstone was plain and simple. Straightforward. Black marble with stately, somber letters; the exact opposite of the strange and mercurial man who lay beneath it. A mist hung, the last vestige of the storm that had just passed through. The earth was freshly packed, the squares of sod very nearly but not quite matching up with the grass around it. John nudged aimlessly at a corner of one, watching the grass roll up and flop back down with a dull pluff, hands shoved deep into his pockets. It was quiet here, all dusk and gloaming and loneliness.
He didn't even know why he was here. Well, he did- his therapist had pushed it as trying to find closure, since there wasn't a funeral. Not that John would have gone- he never did, not after his father's. He'd tried to explain it, and Ella had only redoubled her efforts. He was here to get her to shut up so they could talk about something else for the rest of the time he was forced to go. Her needling about this was like taking a sledgehammer to broken bones. But he wasn't going to do something as stupid as talk to a rock and new sod as a stand-in for... him. The best friend he'd have.
Sherlock. He forced himself to think his name, staring at it cut into the glossy stone by some bloke who'd never known him, except as a fraud because of fucking Jim Moriarty.
For a moment, the ice thawed, melted away in the acid of his anger as it wormed its way through him. For a moment it even swept away the barbed wire that dug into his shoulder on good days and his leg on very bad days. For a moment.
He shifted his weight to his good leg, casting about for something to say.
I dragged a lilo to 221C and still ended up on Harry's sofa that night.
If I'd had any sense, I'd have followed Jim out of the pool and shot him.
I never should have believed that Mrs Hudson was shot.
I should never have left you.
The one time you needed me, I failed you and you're dead because of it.
Instead, he heard Sherlock's voice, thick and choked, telling John that he, Sherlock, was a fraud and always had been. The click. That awful crunching thud.
He felt sick, churning bile rising in his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut and took a quick few breaths of spicy, just-rained air, trying to steady himself. Sweat formed on his face, and he felt it trickle down his back. It just kept replaying, over and over and over.
He became aware of his own ragged breaths breaking the silence, his trousers soaked from wet grass, his jacket from the damp stone of a strange grave that he found himself against. He was far way away from the grave, propped against Rebecca Lawson, Beloved Wife and Mother. He looked around, and saw a groundskeeper staring nakedly at him, although the man had enough sense to pretend he wasn't when John caught him. He stood up hastily, swaying, weak and drained. His face was hot, flushed from the humiliation of going to pieces in public. He looked down to see his hands shaking. He scrubbed at his face with the cuff of his jacket, arranging it into something approaching neutral, and savagely pleased that the rough fabric came away dry. He shoved his fists in his pockets and strode away, taking the long way out of the cemetery, gritting his teeth with every other step.