Summary:

John is content to drown.
It's been nearly three years, and though others might disagree, he is content in the fact that he will never be whole.
It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's okay to be broken. Convinced that nothing will fix him, he makes do with what he has. Tries to live on.
He almost succeeds.
What happens when Sherlock Holmes comes back, and both men realize that it's his return and not his death that might finally shatter them?

"Believe what you will. Come on, We're going home."

"No."

The detective's head snaps around, pale eyes widening in minute surprise and confusion. John however has never been more focused before in his life. His voice is unwavering, his shoulders soldier-stiff as he refuses to look away from Sherlock's face. His left hand trembles at his side.

"You have no idea what you've put me through. And I refuse, I refuse to ever let myself feel that way again"


So this fic was inspired by a fantastic video made by avididyfire:

watch?v=BaWr9FiuvAU

I really would advise watching it, although it will obviously contain spoilers to the story. :) I hope you enjoy! remember, reviews are treasured and feed the darkest souls of my plot bunnies...

also, if you have a prompt or an idea and like my writing, feel free to let me know :)


Can you keep a secret?
Will you hold your hand among the flames?
Honey, youre a shipwreck
With your heart of stone

Can I get a witness?
To the bruises and the wasted tears
You could dry a river
With your heart of stone
With your heart of stone

I can breathe
I can breathe
Water
Water
I can breathe
I can breathe
Water
Water

When youre here with me,
Youre not here with me~ Iko, Heart Of Stone

It is the sound of running water that makes John want to cringe in his seat.

The sound of it drives him to distraction, his hands curling into clenched fists slowly against the armrest of the chair. It hits him again, like a solid fist at the base of his spine. His eyes flutter closed in pained silence, but they're open again by the time his therapist comes back, now with a glass of water in one hand. He's learned by now how to stop it, before it gets out of hand. He kills the emotion, deadens it until he can assume a mask of blankness that is if not content, is at least neutral in appearance. Still, she looks at him steadily for a long moment before she sets the glass on the table between them, dark brown eyes assessing the tension in his jaw line and hands before she sat down.

John is a silent figure, and for those who hadn't known him very long they would be prone to say he forever had an exhausted look on his face. He is a thin man, too thin really, and gives the appearance of someone just a little bit lost inside his own head. His eyes would always inevitably trail away from the person's face with whom he was speaking, those blue irises lingering on a point far away, as if he was seeing something or someone that had vanished long ago. He did not look directly at people, instead opting to drift, to float and gaze at his shoes as he did now, or perhaps at the palms of his hands. Ella Thompson can count on one hand the amount of times that John has actually looked at her since the therapy sessions had started up again almost a year ago, and it is becoming clear that the number would not increase in this session either.

John's left hand trembles slightly as he runs his fingers through his hair, once again looking out the window. He refuses to look at the cup that sits innocently before him, at the cool liquid that glistens transparent and harmless. Instead he stares at Ella's folded hands, her fingers looking like a bundle of twigs knotted together, an impossible twisting puzzle to solve. The mystery of hands, how they can reveal so much in a person. At one time, he might not have noticed.

Now, he can't help it.

John finds himself noticing these kinds of things again and again, like some switch had been flipped in his mind's eye. He wonders if he can see everything, could pick up as much as he thought he did. He knows that he isn't anywhere near perfect. He'd never be able to... well... never be able to copy him. His throat tightens at the thought, and he blinks away the constricting viper tightening about his neck as he forces himself through the deductions, unsure if he is even correct. Ella has clean hands, soft from peppermint-scented hand-cream and meticulous attention. John thinks that might mean she was used to keeping up a certain appearance, which would make sense given the nature of her job. Her nails are all the exact same length, polished with dusky pink paint that matched her outfit. She had slight calluses on her forefingers- played the guitar? Or just a texting addiction?- and her fingers did not twitch in the slightest sign of agitation. He wonders what other tells might be there, what is left elusive and unknown to him. What secrets are locked away in the folds of her skin.

But such thoughts only lead down a path he doesn't want to go down, at least not here. Not with eyes he can feel boring into his hairline, and a still pen waiting for the chance to scratch every emotion that crosses his face down onto a spiral pad of paper.

"John, I'm here to help you. But I can't help you if you don't trust me."

The words come out of John's mouth, automatic. Mechanical. Words he can apply in many different situations. Impersonal.

"I'm fine. Everything's fine."

Her hands tighten together. Frustration. That much isn't hard to deduce.

Obvious John, really.

Stop.

Ella's lips are a thin line. As she shapes the next words she says out, John can see in them exasperation. Masked pity. Stony words unsaid.

If he's right at all of course. He still doesn't know. Can't ask. The ability to question things out loud has long since faded from his abilities. It died the day he asked for one more miracle, and got none.

Not even a whisper of chance.

Her voice is resigned.

"Is it, John?"

John doesn't reply. He doesn't have to.

His silence answers for him.

It rained that day. Like the world had somehow picked up on John's insurmountable grief and sympathized with him, the sky opened up and cried itself out onto all of London. It fell in sheets, threatening to drown anyone in its torrent as it washed away everything like a tidal wave. When his eyes closed, John remembered only that fact from the greyness of that week.

The rain.

How it had felt on his face.

Cold.

Colder than anything he had ever felt before, except perhaps that pale wrist when he had checked desperately for a pulse that wasn't there. It had seemed like London wept bitterly for its lost detective that day, crying for John when he had been to shocked and too numb to shed tears. It wept for the loss of something too important to accurately define, and howled the emptiness that filled the city the day one solitary dark coat stopped tearing down its alleys and streets.

Yet no matter how hard it rained, no matter how many days John spent chilled and soaking wet outside late at night, it couldn't wash the feel of Sherlock's blood from his hands.

Nothing could change the fact that every night John went to sleep with the vision of a falling figure imprinted behind his eyelids, and woke with the bitter taste of a scream dying on his lips.

No one could fix that, and perhaps it was because John didn't want them to fix it.

After all, healing would mean forgetting.

He didn't want to forget.

Didn't want to move on.

Not when his body would forever be trapped under the pressing waves of grief, even though his eyes stayed bone-dry. Not when the sky itself was allowed to mourn, and he painfully could not.

Stuck between wanting to sob until he lost his voice and never wanting to see another drop of water ever again, John closed his eyes and willed himself to fade.

And sometimes, in the quiet of the night just before the sun sets on the horizon, washing his living room with an amber glow, he thinks he hears the dying echo of a violin drifting by his ear.

He thinks he can hear a voice murmur to him softly, accusing him and yet filling him with a twisted sense of satisfaction and joy.

I expected better from you.

As long as he could imagine that voice, he could pretend he was all right.

That everything was okay and fine.

As long as he could remember that face perfectly when he closed his eyes, John Watson would let himself drown.

He walks up the stairs to the flat, and John can already tell who it is by the rhythmic tap of a metal-tipped umbrella marking Mrs. Hudson's steps. He thinks he would recognize that gait even if he were piss drunk, which admittedly he is tonight. He drinks more now than he used to, a change that doesn't always sit well with him if he stops to think too long about it. It seems to John that when he is alone, he is never without the burn of whiskey or scotch on the back of his tongue, heavy and hard. He had always been cautious with alcohol, having it rot away his sister's mind and heart until she was nothing but a dry husk. Empty. Yet a part of John wonders if he was already hollow. He wonders if someone cut him open, what they'd find.

What would they see when they'd finish peeling back layer of skin after layer of skin? Was he actually solid any more? Or was that a part of his disguise. A ghost amongst what was solid and true. It feels like that, sometimes. John feels as if he's there, but not actually present. Not like everyone else. He wonders if he ever really was, or if Sherlock...

If He made him present.

John supposes it's a strange way of looking at things.

Then again, Sherlock always used to say that out of the two of them, John was by far the stranger one. After all it was one thing to be a sociopath, it was another thing entirely to willingly live with one.

He looks older.

John thinks as he answers the door, Mycroft's lone figure poised unnecessarily in the action of knocking. The government official's eyes are no longer as clear and piercing as they had once appeared to be, dulled with stress, dulled with mourning. Mycroft leans on his umbrella as if it is the only thing that is keeping him standing, and he has lost weight in the past couple of months since John's last laid eyes on him. They stare at each other in silence, always a white noise since John so often doesn't know what to say any more. Like a blanket of snow drifting over a sleeping village, it's cold and burying.

Tranquil from an outsider's view, and crushing from an insider's.

For a moment, the ex-soldier considers offering Mycroft drink. However, he decides against it when he sees how the elder Holmes' gaze sweeps over him, lingering on the small stain of drink on his collar and the way his left hand trembles about the handle of his cane. It is still cutting to John, how much a cursory glance can leave him gasping and wanting to scream, his skin burning with the feeling of eyes that were similar and not alike to the eyes he saw in his darkest nightmares and sweetest dreams. He wants to yell, wants to shout for Mycroft to leave. To just go, because every time John sees the man he wants nothing more than to tear him to pieces and leave him bleeding on the side of the road. Yet the cry can't make its way to his lips, and his expression has long since frozen over into one emotion:

Uncaring.

Somehow, he thinks Mycroft can still see it. In any case he gives John a wide berth, waiting patiently for him to be invited in instead of just barging ahead like he would have at one point. The doctor is willing to give him that much.

The elder Holmes had learned not to push him.

Mycroft seats himself on the couch. The first time he had shown up after The Incident he had tried to sit in the empty chair that sat across from John's. Though John can't remember exactly what he did, he remembers what he said. Or rather, screamed.

The echo of "You don't get that right! You don't get to erase him!" still embarrasses him when he's sitting alone, curled up in his own spot and staring fixedly at the empty chair. He wishes he could feel guilty about spitting vitriol at the elder Holmes.

It would make it easier to look at him and realize that he's still mourning in his own way as well.

It might also make John feel perhaps less detached as he sits himself down, not bothering to offer tea. His own stomach is doing flips from drinking on an empty stomach, and Mycroft doesn't look much better. His skin is ghostly pale, almost waxen, and when he finally breaks the silence his voice is a little bit softer than it had once been. John knows what is going to be said. He's known it for a long time.

Which is why he's chosen to get particularly pissed today, despite it being barely noon.

"John... I've been informed that aside from your mandatory therapy sessions, you've barely left the flat."

Predictably, John's eyes lower to Mycroft's hands. They've tightened about the handle of his umbrella, knuckles bleached white by the force of it. It's the only sign that the elder Holmes isn't entirely in control of his emotions. His face and tone are impassive, blank and smooth. He waits for John to reply, and when he doesn't Mycroft sighs and continues on as if he never expected John to say anything at all.

"Mrs. Hudson is worried about you... As is Gregory Lestrade...The inspector's told me that you haven't answered his texts in months. He wouldn't have wanted this, John."

A fact that is purposeful. John had deliberately cut ties with the D.I only a few months after The Incident. He realised quickly that spending any length of time with the man only caused memories to flood him that made John wish he was back in a battlefield, if only to drown out the sound of his beating heart. Gunfire would be preferable any day to the deafening silence of an empty flat, and the screams of strangers would only wound, not tear like the sound of his own ragged shout of "SHERLOCK!" when he woke every night in a cold sweat.

Mycroft's steady gaze is like a solid weight on John's shoulders. Threatening to crush him with its commanding presence. However John has survived a war, and he isn't one to flinch away from anything, even a discussion clearly as private and emotionally charged as this one. His jaw firms, and gathering himself just enough to finally look up, he asks the elder Holmes the same questions he asks every time he comes over.

Every time he tries to guilt him.

"You never told the truth to begin with, so why should I start believing you now?"

Though John wouldn't have once thought of himself as cruel, it seems he's become so.

Even Mycroft can't totally hide the pained flash in his eyes for a moment before his features smooth over into a mask of serenity.

He leaves and doesn't come back.

John tries to tell himself he cares.

Since Sherlock's death, John has found himself often lingering in his past. Constantly he finds himself retracing his footsteps, lingering backwards in time like the echo of paces of a hangman's walk. Thinking about what he's done, and what he hasn't, and what he could. A lot of time goes into that one, what he could have done. Full nights, where the moon hangs heavy on his sleepless form and he stares at the emptiness of his blog, trying to decide what to say.

He hasn't been able to write a word, not a phrase or a sentence in a very long time. Every time the accusing blank page stares at him when he opens his laptop, and every time he stares back, the silence echoing inside of his own mind. How could he summarize his feelings, when he couldn't even feel them under the numbing ice that had frosted over his world? How was he expected to trace words, when it felt like it would be like shedding a skin of indifference and detachment to reality? The action of it threatens to crush him, to make him lose his mind, and so John is silent, mute as he feels the silent pair of green-blue eyes touch the back of his neck.

He feels them on him, when he thinks the detective would have disapproved.

And Sherlock, for all of his idiosyncrasies and perception, would not have been able to understand John's hesitation. His fear of losing the only piece of the detective he had left.

So John is silent.

And his therapist continues to urge him to let go.

And he refuses again and again without saying a word.

At least, that's what it's like at first. Then he reads the comments left behind by others. The lines of hatred, claiming that Sherlock Holmes is a fake. The letters he hasn't dared to open until one night when he's half-smashed and has spent too long staring at the muzzle of his gun.

John reads all of them. Looks over every line, let's it sink in and fill him, flood the endless empty feeling in his gut. It consumes him for a moment, and he closes his eyes and writes a single response to all of them, sending it before he can stop to think.

He was my best friend and I will always believe in Sherlock Holmes.

He gets over a hundred responses in under an hour.

John doesn't read them, he goes to bed and pretends to sleep, if only so Mrs. Hudson will stop coming up to the flat every other hour and worrying over him.

Her name is Mary, and she is everything that Sherlock wasn't. She has blonde hair the colour of cornsilk on a summer's afternoon and eyes of deepest, warm blue. She enjoys home-cooked food more than takeaway and doesn't shout or play instruments at odd hours of the night. Her hands are scarred not from chemicals or experiments, but from years of natural labour, her family having grown up on a farm. She likes to read and she's got a sharp sense of humour.

And yet she is somehow exactly like him.

There is something in her eyes, something perceptive and just a little bit vulnerable when she looks to John, and he seems to sense that she knows he is broken. Yet she doesn't leave, not like Lestrade and Mycroft and even Mrs. Hudson. In fact, it seems to make her linger, looking at him with interest over the mug of her tea cup at the café they meet. Her tongue is sharp like his, though she doesn't use it to intentionally maim and injure. She uses it instead to ask him out for coffee, and strangely, John accepts.

He says yes in the end because when she catches him staring, she doesn't scowl. She merely arches a pale brow, and in a surprising mimicry asks a single question.

"Problem?"

He likes her.

He's not sure if it's love, but it's the first feeling he can stir in his chest for nearly three years now, and he clings to it like he's afraid the tiny flame will wither and die in the darkness if he doesn't clutch to it.

He thinks she knows, and that she's known from the moment she looked at him, but it doesn't matter.

It doesn't make a difference, in the end.

Because She's alone too.

Despite what Sherlock liked to assume, John did in fact, recognize and enjoy the benefits that came with music. Not that he had any experienced with stringed instruments, no he couldn't even play a simple tune on the violin. However when he was little, his Mother in an attempt to get him out of the house (and by extension away from his alcoholic Father) had gathered what little money they had and forced him to go to piano lessons. She had gotten a piano from a family friend, and though it was horribly out of tune it had sat for the remainder of Maria Watson's life proudly in the sitting room for all to see. At first, John had hated it. He had initially despised his teacher, a rather grouchy and strict woman from Czechoslovakia and had felt like a pansy sitting in front of the ivory keys, unable to play much asides from twinkle twinkle little star. Lessons had been intense, and often he had felt his knuckles aching long into the night as he came home at sunset every week and his shoulders hunched in irritation.

John at the age of eight had imagined the homicide of his music teacher in a thousand different ways, and her waspish comments had at first made him at first want to give up. He considered burning his fingers on the stove-top, if only to avoid yet another draining class. He even thought idly about burning the piano itself, once. Like an animal sitting squatly in his house it had mocked him as a child, the noises he drew from it pained and snarling and whining, grating to the ears.

Angry, he'd pound on the keys and shout abuse at them when no one else was home, and sometimes he'd even find himself rather comically trying to reason with the instrument, as if it would play a sweeter melody if he only appealed to its softer side.

This spat might have spelt the end of a younger John's already woeful musical career, if he hadn't happened to catch Harry, who was five years ahead of him in piano, playing late into the night. When John closes his eyes, he can remember the way he had felt, creeping cautiously down the steps to listen to the haunting melody twisting through the house. Mother had been asleep, and Father had been passed out again, and John had been suffering from nightmares all that week. He could taste the chill in the air, remember how his breath had stood out in wisps in front of his face and how the moon turned his eyes silver in the mirror, his young face staring back at him. He could remember how Harry had looked then, not the small and bruised-looking adult she was today but someone vibrant and cheerful and just a little bit coarse, an edge of something wild to her personality. Her blonde curls had tumbled down her back in waves, her nightgown shimmering in the light of the stars as an achingly sweet tune tumbled from her fingers like cresting waves. He had watched her, tucked away on the bottom step and listening with wide eyes, as his sister had poured her heart out into the piano and the instrument had obliged. No horrible sounds, no foul notes, just pure movement and depth into a tune that was unravelling quietly into the night and making John's heart squeeze in his chest so tightly that he hadn't been able to breathe.

For the first time, he had caught a glimpse of the deep sadness hiding in his sister's heart. The way the tune was happy and yet seemed forced, painfully playing a part only to stumble back into minor key in the silences in between. A dance she had no hope of completing. A tune that apologized even while still making beautiful mistakes, twisting and curving into a swelling finale that ended with a single, solitary note alone in the darkness.

A song of desperation.

He'd find out later the name of the song, when he was older and he would find Harry leaned on the same piano, only piss-drunk and crying.

She'd name it after her own saviour as well as her own downfall. Her best friend and lover and one day, worst enemy.

Clara.

That was the night that John decided he wanted to play. That he wanted to succeed.

So like any Watson, he set to it, stubborn in heart and steadfast despite struggle. Always pressing forward, heedless of consequence.

The first time his teacher complimented him, he had managed to play his piece perfectly after only one week practising it.

John would earn many more compliments from other people as he continued on.

In fact, he played all through his teenage years, the sensation of his fingers running lovingly down polished keys a sense of gravity weighing him down to Earth. It became a comfort, a single entity in his ever-changing situation. He would play long into the evening, sometimes even during the night. John played the day before he moved out of his home at eighteen, and played the night he found out his sister had nearly hit someone while driving drunk. He had played when he heard the news of his Mother's passing, and had struck out a tune the night before he was to be sent off to Afghanistan.

That would be the last song he played for several years, seeing as pianos were scarce to come by in a war zone, and then he went ahead and got himself shot.

Music hadn't seemed important after that.

Not much had really.

Nothing except breathing and sleeping and eating and trying to survive when you felt like half of your soul had been torn out by a shrapnel-loaded bomb. Music couldn't stop the nightmares, couldn't drown out the screams of men bleeding out from under your hands and children crying in the streets over the bodies of their parents. Music became lost under the unforgiving hum of London, under the stress of trying to keep together when all John had wanted to do was blow himself to pieces.

Music had become lost the second he had lost the thrill of adventure, the taste of action and usefulness on his lips. What good were talented hands, when they couldn't save the ones you had loved most?

He had loved many of his friends in battle, and many of them hadn't ever left the desert.

And yet somehow, John did.

John Watson, of all people, managed to survive.

At the time, he had almost thought it ironic.

He thought the melody would be lost to him forever.

Then he had met Sherlock Holmes, a symphony in human form.

The detective had fixated him with bright, blue-green eyes, and said exactly eight words, and somehow...somehow John heard the music again.

And I said dangerous, and here you are.

Like a deaf man suddenly able to hear, he had felt his fingers itch with need and his mind visualize notes across staved paper. To write, to capture the melody that surrounded the strange man in the form of gunpowder and tea and flaring belstaff's and noise. Along with his blog, John began to play again, if only in secret from his flatmate at his sister's house late into weekends. He began to build, to construct Sherlock Holmes in sharp notes and flats and quavers. He took the essence of his smile and put it as the melody, the thunder in his irises and made it the bass. John took the elegance of the detective's hands and made them trills across the song, and he swept up Sherlock's height in a dizzying crescendo. He worked and he thought and he laughed at memories, their presence easing the night along when Harry wasn't doing so well and leaving a fond smile gracing his features when he came home.

His hands shake sometimes, when he looks at the sheet music that sits in the bottom of the cupboard in his room. The notes lie before him, and he can hear the sound they will make. The tune they will play out, so mournful and yet so lovely. He bites his lip and forces himself to keep the notes, keeps himself from throwing them out into the night air where they will be swallowed by the wind and carried away. He keeps his hands from tearing apart the sheets, instead only allowing them to stroke the edges, trace over the penmanship. He stops himself from playing it, because if he does, he knows what he will hear.

Knows what has been staring at him in the face all along, what he didn't see until it was too late.

The thought makes him close his eyes in agony.

John will hear what he's known all along.

I'm drowning.

That he loved the man, and that no matter what he does, he always will.

Yet even underwater, he lets me breathe.

There was nothing that Sherlock Holmes could have possibly done that could have changed that.

Until suddenly, there is.

It isn't real.

This isn't real.

All an illusion, round and round the garden like a teddy bear.

But it has to be, or John's lost his mind. Truly, and finally. His stomach is rolling painfully inside of him, and he thinks he might sick up right there, all over the polished floor of Mycroft's Diogenes, Club. He grits his teeth, his hands curling against his knees as he looks at the man before him, the one who's about to end his world, destroy it completely. Tear it into shards and watch them scatter. A spider's web falling apart.

The elder Holmes watches him carefully, and John knows that in that moment he's no longer numb, because something is twisting painfully inside of his chest, and he cannot get enough air to breathe. It hurts, it is a knife stabbing him again and again and gasoline being poured over an open flame.

It is impossible, and yet Mycroft Holmes has the audacity to sit in his chair, fiddling with his umbrella handle and look him in the eye. Those pale blue eyes are calm and fucking regal as they address him, and there isn't even the hint of an apology as the words pass his lips again.

John's voice cuts over whatever he is about to say, whatever excuse. Whatever statement that is supposed to deflect the blame. The heavy, crushing blame that must land on someone but still floats up in the air.

"So... it's all been one big lie."

The silence after his words drips like liquid mercury into both of their veins, something flickering in the elder Holmes' steely eyes. He reads the words unsaid between the lines, the words that make his fingers stop fiddling with his umbrella and his spine to hunch slightly as if expecting a blow. Suddenly, the great man appears much smaller, and much more tired than he has before. The words that John is screaming, shouting in his head.

He opens his mouth, actually starts, then stops.

Starts again.

"I never dreamt... I never intended..."

Something in John's glare makes the man freeze in place, seeming to think better of the deflection he is just about to let pass his lips. To John's distant amusement, Mycroft's cheeks for just an instant flush with the barest hint of shame before he blinks and gathers himself solemnly.

"I'm Sorry.."

At one time, John might have believed it. Instead, he is left with only the taste of iron on his lips as he laughs in disbelief, standing as if to go. He resolves that it's not real. That this conversation can be deleted, like Sherlock himself would say. It never happened, because John is not prepared to deal with the repercussions if it's true. He does not believe, cannot believe, because he can feel the numbness fading away, and it's fast being replaced by something that cannot be allowed to exist.

Mycroft calls out to him, and though John doesn't stop, he hears the words addressed to him as clearly as if the man was standing right next to him.

"He wants to meet you, he's always wanted to... I asked him to give you time. If you want to see him...there will be a car waiting for you outside the flat every day for a month... You have until then to decide..."

The only response the elder Holmes receives is the sound of John's footsteps matching resolutely away.

Until now, the title of the piece has remained stubbornly blank. No matter how hard John tried, he could never come up with a name for the piece that took up so much of his life, filling it with so much liveliness and colour.

A blank page.

John goes home and stares at the sheet music for a long time, a cup of tea in his hands turning cold as he becomes lost in memories that hurt so much that he wants to scream.

Instead he covers his mouth with the palm of his hand, curling into his chair until he's in a fetal position in the dark of the living room. Shaking apart; John finally, finally feels the tears that have been denied to him for so long begin to streak down his cheeks. Once they start, they can't be stopped. He bites the inside of his hand to muffle the loud, racking sobs that leave him quaking apart. The tears are salty, painful and very much real.

John can't pretend when he tastes them on his tongue, and instead he cries harder.

He cries until it feels like his insides have liquefied, sobs until his eyes burn and he's sure Mrs. Hudson must have to be turning up her telly, to not hear him. John cries and cries, feeling the last, small part of his composure that has been keeping him from becoming an utter mess cracking and turning into sand.

When finally he falls into an exhausted sleep, he dreams of that night. The Fall. The funeral.

And the flat feels empty and cold, a home abandoned even though its owner rests in its centre. Neglected.

John's almost sure he's not imagining it the next morning when he looks outside and sees the black car waiting for him patiently on the kerb.

Setting his jaw, he ignores its presence, texting Mary.

Keep your head above water, keep swimming. It's what you do best.

She replies immediately, agreeing to his proposition to go to the movies on saturday.

John tries to pretend he's not spending his entire morning before he goes off to his job staring at the window, sipping his cuppa, his fingers tapping distractedly against the table in a soundless rhythm.

Ignore the water filling your lungs with lead.