Sherlock rolled out of bed, shaking his curls between his fingers, lazily. Taking in the sensations as his his toes touched the cold wooden floor, the contrast from his warm bed waking his senses a little more. He wriggled his toes back and forth from big toe to little and back, getting the nerve endings to register some feeling. Stretching his arms to the ceiling and feeling his rib cage expand and the vertebrae snap into place. He let out a sigh. His brain slowly taking in his surroundings, the day, the time… something at the edge of his brain felt foggy - what was he forgetting?
Throwing on his pyjamas and his dressing gown, he strolled out to the lounge room and stopped short.
“How long have you been sitting there?”
“Long enough. I was happy to wait. Didn’t want to disturb.”
Happy? When had he ever been happy? Sherlock was still waking up but he couldn’t help feeling unsettled.
“Shall we have tea?” He said it a little too brightly, “John!…” he called out to the flat before his brain finally caught up and he remembered.
“Sherlock…” Mycroft said softly.
“It’s fine,” he shrugged it off, “I can do it.” He walked to the kitchen, avoiding eye contact.
“If I’d only…”
“I don’t understand why you waited so long.”
“You were unreachable Sherlock. I told you. It took me six months to find you with all my resources.”
“Still…” He let that sit in the space between them. They both knew it didn’t require more. They were both guilty.
“You knew he was never going to take it well.”
“No. That couldn’t be helped. I just thought between you…and Molly…”
“You always did underestimate, Sherlock. You always forget the human factor in your calculations. That was what John brought to Baker Street…”
“Lestrade?” Sherlock answered the phone hesitantly.
“I have a case…if you’re interested.”
“Of course, let me just check with John….”
“Sorry, wasn’t thinking. Give me twenty minutes, I’ll come over.”
Sherlock didn’t want to see the look on Lestrade’s face as he walked in. But there it was, the pitying, the awkwardness, not knowing what to say. He made sure to enter with extra dramatic flare, a swish of the coat that said, “Please don't talk about it”.
“So, a case then?” He asked instead.
Lestrade stopped momentarily, looked at Sherlock and waited. Sherlock looked around the room nervously, hoping to gleen information from somewhere else other than Lestrade and his face. When Sherlock refused to acknowledge the obviously, he continued, “Yes. Missing person - out at Brighton. Wife with no previous indications, husband was at work - has an alibi. Just disappeared out of thin air. Police can’t make heads nor tails. I said I’d ask the best. Will you take it?”
“I’m not sure I can be away…”
“Sherlock,” he scolded, looking decidedly parental, "I think a new case, some scenery might be good for you…mate.” He placed the endearment uncomfortably, hoping to be persuasive, but realising it was unlike their usual interaction, so it didn’t ring true.
Sherlock raised his eyebrows in confusion at it before looking away again, and sighing.
“Give me the files, I’ll take a look,” he said reluctantly. He knew he wouldn't go. Not really. But he couldn't face the argument.
“Thank you. I’d be happy to come along if you need someone to…” he let that thought drift off, not wanting to finish it, unable to face the implication himself.
Sherlock reached out for the files, with renewed determination, trying to ignore it.
Lestrade looked at him for what was too much of an extended time, checking. Eventually when Sherlock gave no sense of planning to speak further, he handed over the files in frustration. Sherlock was a closed book, much more than usual.
Lestrade knew he was not that cold, that unfeeling, but it was Sherlock Holmes. What else could you say to him at a time like this?
Molly was working in the lab when Sherlock strolled quietly in. He hadn’t noticed her at all and was muttering quietly to himself. He gave a small chuckle to himself as if laughing at a joke and Molly looked around to check, surprised that he might not be alone. Was someone else there? Was he on the phone? But no. She gave him a sad look, unable to think of anything useful to say.
He startled at her voice, realising he was not alone.
“Molly. How are you?” He asked nervously, clearly not wanting human contact.
“I’m good, Sherlock, fine. How are you though?”
It was sickening. Sherlock couldn’t bear the tone in her voice. The tragic empathy that made his chest ache. He switched off that part of himself.
“Can I help you find something?” She checked, when he didn’t answer.
“No, no. I’m fine thanks,” he said formally, dismissing her, as if everything was normal, as if this day was any other day.
Molly watched him awkwardly and he sensed it, but ignored her, continuing to rifle around in the cupboards for what he needed.
“No, John. Leave it…” he said under his breath, but just loud enough that Molly overheard it. She gasped and her hands dropped from her work, as she turned to watch him more closely. The dance she made of deciding whether to walk to him or stay put was embarrassing. Sherlock didn’t acknowledge it, although he was well aware.
“Oh Sherlock…” she whispered sympathetically, head to the side.
He couldn’t stand it. He looked at her guiltily for a brief moment. “I’m fine, I’m fine Molly, I just… forget sometimes. You know how it is - force of habit.”
Molly sniffed as a tear dropped down her face. She was always so sentimental.
Sherlock left the lab in a flourish before she had time to fuss.
Lestrade tells me he has a case for you. I think that would be a great idea. MH
Leave it alone Brother. SH
Just looking out for you.
Well don’t. You know my methods.
Far too well. That’s why I’m messaging you.
I can’t leave, you know that.
Sherlock. Staying isn’t going to change anything.
I can’t leave, Mycroft. Don’t ask again.
It had only been a month. A month of being home. After all that work, all that sacrifice - dismantling the network, taking everything down. The theatrics, the planning. There was nothing worse than making such a well planned production, only to have the end result be such a failure. Mycroft had been right, he always made errors of judgement when it came to the human side of things. His weak spot was always…John. He had always been blind when it came to John. Moriarty had known that. How very fitting that his blind spot was his undoing. He thought that doing all of this to save him would have been all worthwhile. But he had miscalculated it to a monumental proportion. He always knew the risk of going away to destroy Moriarty from the ground up, to keep everyone safe. It had always been a possibility that he himself would not survive. But a risk he and his brother had agreed was worthwhile and important to take, for the sake of the others. He had never considered that taking that risk would have a completely other side effect. He did not factor it into his calculations at all. He and Mycroft had both missed it. With no real life experience, it had not occurred to either of them. A fact his brother was now painfully unable to accept. The constant checking in was irritating.
Neither of them had realised just how much John had cared about Sherlock because caring was something they stayed far away from. They had not considered the ramifications of leaving him out of the planning. Ensuring he witnessed the fall, and grieved it as the trusted friend, was part of the plan. To ensure he remained safe, to ensure he remained blame free and could live on. It had not occurred to them that John was not willing to live as long as Sherlock did not. It was a cost Sherlock had already decided was beyond his ability to live with. He knew what his decision was, the second he was told. The second he had returned to British soil and he was told. There had been no other option for him. He had just been waiting.
“Sherlock…” Mrs Hudson interrupted gently from the doorway.
“Yes Mrs Hudson, do come in.” Sherlock was sitting in John’s chair, legs crossed, fingertips together, deep in thought. It did irritate him how gentle and sensitive everyone was around him. It was almost comical, considering how very inconsiderate he always was of everyone else. They were all clearly concerned he might break if they behaved normally. Little did they know he was already well and truly broken.
“I only wanted to check…I made soup, so I’m just dropping some off, before I go out…to make sure you’ll eat something.” She said it so tenderly. She always looked after him.
“You know I won’t.”
“Well I’ll just pop it in the fridge then…for later.”
“Oh Sherlock, you really must eat. You shouldn’t be stuck here like this all the time… it’s not decent,” she said on a little sob.
“No need to fuss, Mrs Hudson.”
“Even your brother’s worried, and that’s saying something.”
“I went out today. To the yard, to the lab. Saw Gavin and Molly.”
“Well that’s good to hear, dear. Is there a case?”
“No. Nothing worthy of follow up.”
“Sherlock…” she stood for a moment, not sure how to say it, “he wouldn’t want you to be like this.”
“Well he doesn’t get a say now does he? He made his choice already.”
She bit her tongue, the sadness penetrated the room. She knew not to push any further.
He had been so tired. So very tired. This month had been hard. The hit he had given himself was going to be enough.
“Come and sit.” John said, tapping his hand on the couch. “Come and sit with me.”
“I’ve been waiting for you.” Sherlock said, with a sigh of relief.
“I’m here now.” John said, smiling just slightly, the way Sherlock liked it.
“Good.” Sherlock said, moving to the couch to lie down. He put his head on a cushion and bent his legs up so there was room for John, who was sitting cross legged at the other end, facing him.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to come home.” Sherlock said to John.
“It’s okay, you’re here now.” John smiled again.
“And so are you. I missed you.” Sherlock said softly.
“Everything is okay now, Sherlock.” John said gently.
“Is it?” Sherlock asked.
“Of course it is.” John said.
Sherlock wanted to look at John, but he needed to close his eyes too.
“I’m going to do it today,” Sherlock said firmly.
“Are you sure?” John asked.
“Yes. I can’t do this without you. None of this was worth it without you,” Sherlock said.
“I didn’t know. If you had only told me. I would have waited. You know that,” John said sadly.
“I wish I had known that before I went away. I would have told you,” Sherlock said.
“Life is full of unfulfilled wishes and dreams Sherlock and you were never a dreamer,” John said.
“And you were never that poetic, not even in your blogs.” Sherlock said.
“That’s because I’m not really here. This is all you,” John said. Sherlock’s heart sank as he realised of course it was true. John had been dead for months now. The loss too much to bear. The cost to them all for their plan too much for Sherlock to take any longer. His brother had taken so long to find him and bring him back but it was well and truly too late by then.
“It’s alright, I’ll take this version of you for now,” Sherlock said, “it will have to do.”
“Do you want me to stay?” John checked.
“Not for long. I’m coming to you instead. It seems only fair. I imagine you were mighty pissed off when you thought you were joining me and I wasn’t there,” Sherlock chuckled to himself at the image of a cranky John realising his mistake. If there even was an afterlife. Not that he believed in that. The joke falling flat into the empty apartment. But he couldn’t stay here, not when John was gone. Not when he had been the cause.
“Are you sure?” John asked again.
“Yes. I’ve made my decision. Will you come and lie here with me?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” John said, and he crawled down to lie against Sherlock’s chest.
“I never did get to tell you this is what I wanted all along,” Sherlock said.
“Neither did I. But now we know,” John said.
Sherlock’s senses were so dulled now, his breathing very shallow and his head becoming foggy as the drugs took hold. But he thought he could feel the warmth of John’s body, the softness of his jumper against his fingers as he curled his arm around John’s back, the smell of his shampoo near his nose. He could sense John. Of course it was all just a combination of different sensory memories and his brain playing tricks on him, but it was a pleasant way to go.
To imagine he was here with John. And they would finally be together.