A/N: This was inspired by The Niles Edge from VAST.
If he believed in faith or in predestination or in any kind of universal order, generally speaking, he would say that meeting John Watson had been an inevitable, necessary point in his life.
But he doesn't, and so it was nothing more than blissful, world-shattering coincidence. It was in his years at Uni, subjective timeline so mixed up that he'd eventually erased most of what happened. Days had been passing like hours and he could barely tell which was night and which was daylight, because any comfort that sleep might have brought had been wiped away by the constant buzz in the back of his mind, asking, demanding- tell me what good is this there is nothing that could ever be interesting enough give me interesting- this was the usual lullaby, and sometimes, when he succumbed to his pathetically unavoidable human nature under the quiet pressure of weirdo and freak and skeptical glares, it was I wish someone would get it. He remembered snippets, fragments of conversations and obsessive little details about what they were wearing, or of how their mouths twitched when they spoke, but he'd deleted the rest, reduced it to fading background noise.
That evening, though, was something that he couldn't have possibly forgotten. Didn't want to.
He'd been shooting up for a while, sinking in the cold comfort of heroin or reveling in the clarity that cocaine brought to his mind. The choice depended on his mood. Mind-numbing boredom and frustration at the endless lack of entertainment that the world provided him with equaled stimulants. The same state driven to an extreme or toned down because of isolation and rejection and equally amusing perks that came with being a genius led him to narcotics. It was acceptable, sometimes entertaining, and it kept him alive- barely, until…
It had been Victor, because everything was so easy for him, world unfolding at his feet, always so pliant, so willing- his life was painted in shades that Sherlock couldn't even dream of, didn't want to, because the world was a disaster and he was crashing down once with it, one shot at a time, while Victor was taking every moment, every high as a natural extension to himself, like his being molded perfectly with the fabric of the world.
It was hateful. What made it worse was that mostly, he was everything that Sherlock had.
It had been one of his many escapism acts from an universe that couldn't contain him, and yet demanded more- his own call of the void, found in an atavic kind of fascination for the amorphous, the all-encompassing cradle of flowing waters.
The river was flowing smoothly below the bridge that he often sat on, feet hanging in the air, a childish pretense of freedom. He remembered how Mycroft would always tell him to stay away from water- a past trauma of his own, Sherlock supposed- and how he would do the opposite each time, almost drowning for a few times when he couldn't swim yet, then diving as deep as he could after he learned to, if not to control water, then at least to keep it from controlling him- emerging at the surface right before he would remain without air, then smiling smugly at his brother's terrified expression.
It had worked until he grew old enough to be able to read something more than worry on Mycroft's face. Dread or hurt, or maybe both. He stopped.
It was different now, though- Mycroft wasn't there to save him anymore, and even if he had been, Sherlock wasn't sure he would've cared.
His mind was blurry, thoughts faded out in a haze that could have been pleasant if not for his still awake conscience of himself, of the world, of everything- lucidity as a burden, but more so because it was precise enough to go down to the root of all things, the outstretching nothingness nurturing all, both abstract and concrete, pleasant and hateful. He pretended that it had been Victor who had made him, or the drugs, or the almost sensual fascination of water and all it meant, but deep down, he knew those were lies.
Moriarty had thought Sherlock didn't understand, didn't know what he was talking about- the final problem, their final problem- but he had been wrong. Sherlock knew, alright.
So he jumped.
It wasn't anything out of place, nothing extraordinary. It was only water. In the second when his body was embraced whole by the river, Sherlock felt like he reached home.
A mindless act, perhaps. A childish revolt against everything that has ever existed, like throwing a tantrum in front of an adult knowing nothing, not caring at all. But Sherlock only saw it as a natural return to- what? He didn't know. It wasn't important. The water was cold on his skin, refreshing, yet comfortable, like a mother lulling him to sleep. He took a deep breath, and he sank.
When he opened up his eyes, his vision was blurry and dream-like in the evening sun. A figure was hovering above him, eyes wide and fearful, but the hands pressing on his chest felt determined and steady, like an anchor to reality.
'Good God,' it said from somewhere behind a veil of static. 'It's alright. I've got you.'
'Mycroft?' Sherlock blurted out before he could think, spitting out water once with the word.
'Yes, yes,' the man said in a rushed voice, slightly hoarse, obviously panicked. He lifted Sherlock up slightly, supporting his weight with one arm. His voice wasn't Mycroft's, but something smoother, yet of a deeper tone. Despite the panic ring attached to it, it made Sherlock feel strangely secure.
The image of reality gradually steadied, and comfortable numbness changed into a soaring ache in his chest and throat, accompanied by a wonderful, full-blown feeling of being alive.
He remembered having read about it- it was one of the writers that Victor had recommended him. The author had mentioned almost-drowning as an effective cure to life's dullness, in at least two doses per day, if possible. Sherlock had scoffed and called it nonsense, but it all fell into place now- his vision sharpening around the edges, bringing him forward into reality, colours exquisitely bright and alive, his body aching as an alarm signal of being present, right there and then. It was similar to cocaine, but the feeling couldn't fully compare to anything else he had ever experienced. Perhaps it felt like rain on an arid plain after a day of scorching heat, like thinkingthinkingthinking and deducing something that was worth the entire world. Like finding the meaning of life suddenly, absurdly, in death.
He should have thought of it before- it was explainable, adrenalin rising in one's body when in immediate danger, and what greater danger than death? Chemical reactions, slight distractions from the eye of the void. It was more than that, Sherlock knew now, and the realization was a wonder in itself.
He remembered smiling, and the confused look on the face of his rescuer that had only enticed him more. He looked about as young as Sherlock, his uniform said medical training, his demeanour anticipated self-control and excellent coping with stressful situations. Possibly a love for danger, but Sherlock wasn't sure about that, not quite, not by the look in his eyes. But he surely didn't know anything about life and death and their whereabouts just yet, he couldn't have understood what Sherlock had just experienced- a revelation or rebirth, almost-death, or simply life.
'Thank you,' he said, and his rescuer nodded shortly, firmly, exhaling with relief.
Of course, it had been all gone in a few days. The dull ache was back, the tediousness, the void- their presence was poignant in the back of Sherlock's mind once again, waiting for another right moment to push him over the ledge, to make him fall into place. The emptiness, the neverending dance of wanting more, of wishing for something entirely different.
Of course, it had all been gone, all except for John.
Throughout the years, Sherlock had tried to explain it to him, to describe the state of blissful pre- and post-near-death-experience, the anticipation and the aftermath, the haze and the sudden awakening, but even if John had listened and nodded in approval, Sherlock knew that he didn't truly understand. He couldn't. It wasn't something that he could explain entirely, like rain and tobacco ash and chemical reactions, and that was equally frustrating and blissful for a mind that was used to owning and dissecting every single piece of reality.
He wanted John to understand, to know just what he had done for him. Instead, he made sure to thank him as often as possible, through small scratches at the palm of his hand when no one was paying attention, through tracing erratic patterns on his shoulders in early mornings, through smiling at him for no apparent reason other than his existence, John's, theirs.
When John went to war, he finally understood.
He told Sherlock about it, on one of their phonecalls- the thrill of being on the battlefield in the middle of noise and danger and pulsing, overwhelming life, stepping on the fine line between life and death, not knowing if the next moment will bring one or the other. It was terrifying, it was amazing. He absolutely loved it.
What surprised Sherlock, though, was when John told him that war was nothing quite new for him, because roaming on the streets of London in search for criminals, shooting people for Sherlock and losing himself between his sheets, under his skin and inside his skull had been a war of its own for him, a thrill always new, always bringing him to life.
Sherlock realized it too, then, cursing himself for being so slow- living with John had come as natural to him as that evening by the water had, smooth and inevitable, like a carefully patterned ritual towards something entirely different, but quite amazingly normal in its simplicity. He had never felt the need to drown himself again, to experience the same wonder, because his life had become a wonder in itself ever since.
In the morning of his thirtieth birthday, he receives a text and the world falls, once again, into place.
Something about you finally made me wake up. Good morning.