Author's Note: Readers of "The Slow Burn" – I tried to write some oneshots (I was not given any prompts). But this wanted to be written instead.
Story Note: This takes place during TRF, starting with and immediately following the shot of John in his chair, preceding his trip to the grave.
John sat in his chair in 221B, staring across at the empty seat in front of him.
This is wrong.
That was the only thought that crossed his mind. No justification, no stipulations, just that one, unending truth. This is wrong.
His face tightened with grief and he dropped his gaze, staring unseeingly into the floor. His therapist's words came to mind.
"There's stuff that you wanted to say…but didn't. Say it now."
He still didn't want to say it. Saying those words would make it final, more so than watching the coffin being lowered into the ground. Saying those words would mean that he, that his best friend, was well and truly gone.
But the grief wasn't getting better. John knew he had to do something, had to find some way to take away the pain, even just for a little while. He had to show himself that he would be able to move on, eventually. His gun was starting to look a little too tempting. He knew that feeling; he had been here before.
He rubbed a tired hand over his face and stood. John knew he wouldn't be able to get all the words past his lips, but maybe…maybe he didn't have to.
He searched around the flat until he found what he needed and then, pen in hand, he sat at the table and smoothed out the paper.
He paused. He'd spent so much time refusing to even think his best friend's name it was a struggle to write it now. But he did.
He wrote. Once the words started he couldn't get them to stop. All the words he wanted to say, all the words he couldn't say, they made their way onto the paper.
There was no declaration. This wasn't a love letter; far from it. This was John's grief, his pain, and his despair. He didn't consider himself a writer – blogging about cases was far different from any form of advanced prose.
But with every word, every sentence, every finished thought, John let a piece of himself go. Every part of the life he had built with this man slowly came down, brick by brick through John's pen.
He wrote for so long that he had to find more paper, because once he started he couldn't stop. He had to get it all out, had to put everything on the table. If he left any of it hidden inside it would take hold and fester, would grow until it consumed him and his life. He had to let it all go so that whatever left that was pure John would be able to help him. To save him.
There was a pitiful amount remaining.
When it was done, when the letter was finally finished, John felt exhausted. It had taken far more out of him than he'd expected. He felt empty. But empty and tired was better than grieving and broken, so he accepted the change. Welcomed it.
He folded the sheets of paper and used a single piece of tape the keep them shut. After a moment of deliberation he wrote the recipient's name on the front, even though he would never read it.
John's eyes roamed the flat in search of somewhere to put it, finally resting on the skull. A flicker of a smile crossed his face.
"That's a skull?" "Friend of mine. When I say 'friend'…"
John tucked the letter under the bone, confident it wouldn't be disturbed.
He wasn't sure if he could remain at Baker Street. It would be difficult to continue if he let himself be surrounded by memories. But at the same time he didn't want to lose all the proof of his old life.
Those words sent a shot of pain through his leg. Old life. Old, as in gone. No longer the present, but the past. And the future…the future he had tentatively painted in his mind (he'd never brought it up, of course, but he had considered it) was gone, all possibility wiped away.
He would visit the grave tomorrow, he decided, straightening his shoulders. He would speak whatever words came to mind, whatever subconscious or repressed thoughts that came out during the night, and then he would walk away. Walk away and find some way to continue in his life.
He got ready for bed slowly. It was early, but he wasn't hungry and he didn't want to go out. He brushed his teeth, making eye contact with himself in the mirror and then looking away quickly. His eyes were dead, their color muted. He would have to work on that before he met with anyone else. He didn't want their pity.
John slowly made it up the stairs, the time for rushing over. He felt old, so old, older than he'd ever felt before. The thought of running was exhausting; laughing even more so. He used to jog up these stairs with a smile on his face.
That seemed impossible, now.
He shut the door behind him and discarded his jeans and jumper for pyjamas and a t-shirt. Lying down, he pressed his head into his pillow and did the last thing he knew he needed to do before he could move on, before he could start to put this behind him.
John Watson wept for his friend, for the words he last said to him in person and the words exchanged over the phone. For the lies that caused him to take his own life, for the inability to do anything to help. John cried for what they had, what their friendship was turning into, the symbiosis the two had found together, making their way through the world. He cried for what they could have been, the future that was now a fantasy, the life he hadn't realized he'd wanted so badly until it was taken away.
John cried until there were no more tears and then, eyes still shut, he flipped his damp pillow around and let go, hoping for a dreamless sleep.