It was two weeks after Sherlock's death that John found the first note from him.
It was folded into a small square and hidden under the television remote. It seemed Sherlock had known that John wouldn't touch the telly for quite some time yet. It said:
I do wish you'd stop watching these terrible soaps. I've subscribed to ESPN and HBO – watch cricket and James Bond instead.
John stared at it for a long time, reading it over and over again until he had it memorized – and then he collapsed on his chair and broke down in tears. That Sherlock had left notes meant that he knew he wouldn't survive their encounter with Moriarty, and John felt cheated that he had been left out of the loop. There was so much he had never told Sherlock, never thought he'd need to, because he had assumed that they would have forever, and the little things could wait.
And then Sherlock had jumped off a rooftop, leaving John all alone, with thousands of words left unsaid but never unforgotten, words that would cut into him every hour of every day that he returned home to an empty flat.
The second note was found under the skull on the mantelpiece, two days later.
He was my 'friend' once, in a manner of speaking. Maybe he can be yours too.
This time, John didn't cry – he simply pocketed the note and glanced at the skull. "Guess I'm going to have to make do, aren't I?" he asked it.
Of course, it didn't answer, but John's lips quirked in a strange smile anyway, and then he patted the top of the skull before returning to dusting the mantelpiece.
The episode with the skull proved that Sherlock had notes stashed all over the place, hidden away where John could only come upon them while doing everyday tasks. Once or twice John tried to actively search for the notes, looking in places where he thought Sherlock might have left them, but to no avail. Finally he accepted that to find the notes, all he had to do was stop languishing in his chair all day, and get up and go on with his life. It seemed to be what Sherlock wanted, at any rate.
He found the third note a week later, squashed into the toes of his work shoes. He had slipped his feet into them, ready to go back to work again (albeit reluctantly, only to appease everyone around him who said it would be good for him to get out of the flat), when his socked toe had rubbed up against something rough. He held the shoe upside-down and shook it, and out fell the note.
Don't fall asleep in the office – this time Sarah will not go out with you if you do.
John smiled wistfully. Even if she did, he would only get her into trouble again and this time there would be no Sherlock to save them from Chinese assassins. Better to keep his mouth shut and keep his tendency for danger limited to himself.
"You always did know exactly what to say, somehow," he said to the empty air. "Even if it wasn't always what I wanted to hear."
The fourth note was in his jacket pocket.
It's about time you got the jacket laundered. Nico on Crawford Street will do it for free if you mention my name.
(I helped him out on a case once by proving to Lestrade that he had nothing to do with smuggling fish. I don't understand why anyone would want to smuggle fish anyway; it smells vile and looks viler.)
John smiled, and on the way home from work he stopped by at Nico's.
And so it went on. John continued with his life, not because he wanted to but because he knew it was the only way he would be able to find more of Sherlock's notes. Sherlock had known it would be the only way to make John continue with his life, and dear God, he'd been right. As always.
Sometimes John wished that there was some way for him to reply to these notes, so that he could let Sherlock knew just how much he missed him, how much it hurt when he saw the emptiness in 221B, how much he appreciated the notes. Sometimes it got too much, the need to talk to Sherlock and to say everything he'd never said, but of course Sherlock wasn't there, just the notes and no damn way to respond.
Sherlock had told him to use the skull, but he couldn't bring himself to do it no matter how hard he tried. The skull wasn't Sherlock. So it just sat there on the mantelpiece, grinning at John while he tried his best to ignore it. There was, of course, no shortage of people to talk to, but John felt that no matter how hard they tried, people like Lestrade or Molly or Mrs Hudson or even Harry couldn't understand how he was feeling. They would simply nod and shake their heads and look sympathetic without understanding what the hell he was trying to say, and John knew it would only made everything much worse.
So all he did was collect the notes and file them away, keeping them under his pillow as he slept at night. It was a welcome change from the loneliness that night usually brought, especially without the violin chords that he had gotten used to hearing.
A month later, and the frequency with which John found the notes was decreasing, to his sorrow. His life had gotten pretty much back on tack, and that meant that he had found most of the notes that Sherlock had left. It made him feel sad that soon, there would be no more notes left to find, but at the same time he also couldn't help but marvel at how quickly Sherlock had managed to get him to return to his old life.
Or, well, whatever remained of his old life.
There is a bacteria culture in the strawberry jam.
There is fungus in the bread (an experiment).
I have poisoned the eggs to see how it affects the protein content.
There is a dead cockroach in the jar of honey.
I would not advise touching the cheese – I have added bleach.
The mayonnaise, however, is completely safe.
John spent an hour laughing hysterically at this particular note, cool because it had been tucked away under the bowl of grapes in the fridge. It was so typical of Sherlock, that the only thing safe to consume was something that could not be eaten without anything else. What was he supposed to do with the mayonnaise?
Your copy of The Two Towers was coming apart, so I had it bound. Try not to tug at the pages in frustration, though. It's not good for the spine.
(The ending is predictable but it was a good book all the same.)
It took some time to register the fact that Sherlock had read his Lord of the Rings series. Sherlock never went near a book unless it was required to do so for a case. The fact that he had read one of John's favorite book series and then had the damaged book repaired spoke volumes (no pun intended, John thought with a wry grin).
If I were you I wouldn't use that particular razor for shaving. It's rusted through (another experiment. I didn't think you'd mind). I have, however, left a brand new Gillette in the cupboard behind the mirror.
The Pantene really isn't good for your hair. It's all dry now, and smells disgusting. Use Herbal Essences.
(It smells nice, too.)
You can, however, continue using Imperial Leather.
John chose not to wonder how Sherlock knew how his hair smelled, or even whether or not it was Sherlock had paid such close attention to John's personal hygiene felt a little strange, even if they had lived together for some time.
However, every time he used Pantene he felt a strange sort of guilt (and his hair was getting dry), so in the end he switched to Sherlock's damn brand and tried not to think about how he smelled.
Use the white rag, NOT THE RED ONE, to wipe off the kitchen counters. The red one's rather bloody, I'm afraid. Bad wound, three years before I met you. Never got round to cleaning the blood off.
John didn't clean the blood off, either. He just let the rag stay where it was, as a reminder of Sherlock and his eccentric, sometimes careless habits. He'd like to believe Sherlock lived on in them.
I have replaced all of your socks with better ones. Yours had holes in them, and I am rather unskilled at domestic labor of any kind. In any case they were much too old.
I hope you're not allergic to silk.
There is a beehive outside the kitchen window. My advice would be not to open it. Can't have my blogger going to anaphylactic shock.
After this last one there were no more notes, and while John's life went on, he felt himself falling back into the overwhelming darkness that was life after Sherlock.
Five months after Sherlock's death, John finally summoned the strength to go look at his violin.
It was in its case, propped up next to the mirror on the mantelpiece, untouched for all this while. John took it down and wiped the dust off with the sleeve of his jumper, running his fingers wistfully along the polished leather. He had never before touched the case, never needed to, but now he wished he had at least asked Sherlock to teach him a little.
He clicked it open and stared at the violin nestled inside, wondering why Sherlock knew how to play it and yet when it came to guitars and pianos he was completely clueless. He supposed he must have learned sometime in his childhood, yet there was no way of knowing. There was so much about Sherlock that he had never asked, and would never know.
His heart jumped when he noticed a small corner of white paper peeking out from under the violin. Carefully he took the instrument out and set it aside, before picking up the paper and unfolding it.
It was Sherlock's last note.
If you have found this it means you have recovered your life sufficiently, and for that I am glad. I hate to see my blogger unhappy.
I am sorry, John. Sorry that it has ended, and sorry that I have no explanation to offer. All I ask is this – believe in me, one last time. Just one more time, John.
Maybe one day your wish will come true. One last miracle.
And for the first time in months, John broke down. One last miracle.
Sherlock wasn't gone, and John wasn't all alone after all.
Before anything else - this has nothing to do with the movie of the same name. I haven't even watched it. The title came to me as I wrote but I thought it seemed familiar so I Googled it and discovered the movie. Then I thought I'd name the story Letters to John, but Dear John seemed better.
Feedback is appreciated :) every time you review John finds another note from Sherlock.