He stood, staring at the black headstone. Staring at his best friend’s name carved so formally into the marble. Just staring. He couldn’t do anything else. He found himself unable to function properly now that Sherlock was gone.
"I was so alone and I owe you so much… One more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t be… dead." His voice cracked with pain. Asking for Sherlock back was hopeless, because nothing could bring him back, but it was the only thing he could do. "Just stop it. Stop this." John knew fine well the words wouldn’t help; knew he would never hear his friend’s voice speaking to him again, or see his face - his cheekbones. His upturned collar or the deerstalker hat Sherlock had so loathed. The man he had loved… more than he had loved anyone… he was gone. Sherlock had left him. Those words went through his head but he refused to give them weight. He couldn’t.
Staring at the sleek headstone, he thinks, for one brief moment, that he sees a familiar face behind him but he doesn’t turn to look. He’s too tired of everything and to hope that there was a possibility, however small, of Sherlock being alive was stupid; he shouldn’t torment himself like this.
And then the tears began to fall. Sherlock had given him so much. Time felt worthless without him. It was strange to comprehend how much he had actually meant to John, and how empty he now felt.
He mustn’t cry here. No, he would return to Baker Street. To the house he had shared with that brilliant man. He turned on his heel and left his best friend, like Sherlock had left John, walking away with a limp in his step towards the graveyard gates.
When he got back it was quiet. Too quiet. John stumbled into the flat and headed straight for Sherlock’s bedroom, picking up one of his shirts as he passed and burying his face into the fabric. His friend’s scent was still strong; it was everywhere. He was everywhere. Closing his eyes, John could sense Sherlock all around him, surrounding him and the aching and longing he felt was almost too much to bear. If he didn’t stop this, he’d end up going insane. The silence was driving him close to losing his mind. There wasn’t a man across the hall scrambling about for his cigarettes, shouting when he didn’t get something right, or playing his violin. He wanted to hear the violin the most.
That night he went to bed clutching Sherlock’s shirt. In Sherlock’s bed. John had often fantasised about being in this bed. With his… friend. But that was inappropriate now. He dismissed the thought from his mind and held the shirt tightly to his chest.
He was able to sleep, but he couldn’t stop the nightmares. Sherlock falling. His dead body limp and lifeless on the pavement. Blood pouring from fresh head wounds.
A lot of the time John just wanted to hear Sherlock’s voice telling him it was okay and that everything would be fine. But the only thing he remembered was his deep, calm tone, rucked with emotion as he said his last goodbye’s. And then his body plummeting to the concrete.
He always woke up screaming and sweating, entangled in the bed sheets. He couldn’t escape him, even in dreaming. But the dreams were all he had so he settled for them.
John still had nightmares about the war on occasion. He still woke up in a cold sweat, crying. But the only difference is now he had to ride them out alone. And then he cried for a different reason.
For the next few weeks, John’s mind was plagued with thoughts of his best friend – both good and awful. One of his favourites, one he constantly dwelled over, was their visit to Buckingham Palace. Mr Holmes in his sheet; the material falling off his shoulders, showing his toned muscles, his broad shoulders and the small arch, just above his bottom, in the small of his back. The snickers and giggles at how heavily inappropriate the situation was.
One day these memories would fade just like Sherlock’s scent was disappearing from his clothing. Gradually.
John would try and get over him – on with his life. He knew he must. One day… but not now.
He had started seeing his therapist again. It was tedious and quite pointless but he tried to kid himself that it would somehow help with the pain.
"Sherl-" he chokes, absent-mindedly staring at his hands through tear glazed eyes, "my best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead."
When she asks what he wanted to say to Sherlock, what he had left to tell him, he says he can’t. He knows he can’t because those words… those three small words… they were meant for Sherlock and Sherlock only. And now he could never say them. Never tell Sherlock how much he had loved him. Still loves him. The words he could never express and the things he could never confess. The nights he would now spend alone – nights he could have spent with his would-be-lover. Would-be if Sherlock had felt the same. Now John would never know.
Months passed and John’s life began to stagnate. He had given up on the blog. Had locked himself away. Cut off contact from his therapist. Most people for that matter. He still saw Mrs Hudson and Lestrade occasionally, but he refused to see Mycroft. John still hadn’t forgiven him for betraying his brother.
In the time that had passed, John had grown numb. He foolishly had allowed himself to become a pathetic recluse. He often found himself giggling at what Sherlock might’ve said to him if he found his friend so lost, and then John felt disgusted at himself for feeling anything other than utter misery. Since that day, he had only visited St Bart’s once and the blood had been washed from the pavement long ago, which John was glad for, mostly. In a way he wished it had stayed. It was a physical impression, a reminder of the greatest man he had ever known. Falling in love with Sherlock had not been the easiest. Falling out of love was impossible. He’d always be in love with Sherlock. Always.
Mrs Hudson had come to visit again. Her visits had become quite frequent recently. She was worried about him.
"John, we can all see you’re not getting better. You’ve shut yourself away… he wouldn’t have liked it, you know."
"I know he wouldn’t but he’s not here now, is he?"
An awkward silence.
They spent the rest of the day together, recounting old stories and John occasionally smiled and laughed without feeling overwhelming guilt, just like old times. They talked about the past for a while, and Mrs Hudson grew slightly angry at times. Of course, she had reasons to be. Yet John can tell she doesn’t really want to be angry. She just wants him back, so she could shout at him for blowing holes in her walls. As the evening drew to a close, they sat on the sofa together in silence. There are no more words, so they just sit, her hand on his leg, with her head resting on his shoulder, the tears falling onto his shirt. He sickens himself by feeling glad that someone else felt something similar to his pain. No one deserved this misery. No one. Not even Mycroft.
After Mrs Hudson’s visit, he realised he had to try and integrate himself back into society again. He couldn’t go on hurting the people he loved by being depressed beyond help so he started doing basic things again. Things like going food shopping and just stepping outside in public. Occasionally he’d bump into someone he knew and he’d have to talk about the man he’d lost, but he grew accustomed to this.
Every day he would visit the graveyard to sit with Sherlock and pass the time.
John often found himself talking to the piece of stone.
"I would have brought you flowers… I know you’re not a big fan of sentiment so you probably wouldn’t have appreciated them… I gave away the deerstalker hat too. I know, I know, I should have burnt it or something. Spared other people the horror of ever wearing it."
He paused, carefully thinking about his words.
"…You know, Sherlock, I’m trying to move on. Trying to. Moping around and sulking isn’t going to bring you back so I may as well try and get on with my life." But how could he? How could he get on with his life when he knew he was responsible for Sherlock’s death? "If it wasn’t for the attention you got, what with the blog… you know. I suppose you probably wouldn’t be here. I killed you Sherlock. I killed you and now nothing can bring you back. Whether or not I grieve, for you, for the rest of my life… it’s irrelevant, isn’t it?" His breath began to hitch and he let his unexpressed thoughts and emotions, ones that he had held back for so long, come flowing out into the cold air.
"I miss you Sherlock. I miss you every day. You and your stupid cheekbones and your… upturned collar thinking you’re all mysterious and superior." Sherlock was superior. John was just his faithful sidekick, who would have done anything Sherlock commanded him to. Like that fateful day outside St Bart’s, when Sherlock had ordered him to stay where he was, and he did. He stayed while Sherlock told him all about how he had made up Moriarty, how it was true that he had hired an actor to play the part of his arch enemy, and how he had researched John Watson and his sister. Obviously it was all a lie. John knew Sherlock better than anyone and he knew Sherlock was lying straight to his face.
"Yes, you lied to me Sherlock, you complete twat. But you saved me too. Before you I was so lonely and I just… can’t thank you enough. I can’t. I can’t… can’t be without you. I love you, Sherlock. I’d trade anything, anyone, for this. I’m so, so alone. So alone and I need you back in my life. I need you with me. Look at me I’m a mess." A smile flashed across his face as he wiped a trickle of tears from his cheek. "Sherlock, you absolute git. Just get back here now. Right now. Just… any type of contact Sherlock. I’m telling you, stop being a selfish bastard and come back to me."
"Sometimes I-" he chuckled warmly, blowing out a gust of air, trying to regain control. "Sometimes I call you. I guess I’m just hoping you pick up. It’s amazing, you know. That your blasted voicemail still makes me jump, makes me hope that you’re there, answering me… Please, please. I miss you. If anyone can evade suicide, it’s you, so just come back."
He wouldn’t be back. John had seen the body, seen the fall, seen the blood and was now standing above Sherlock’s grave. He wouldn’t be back.
"I… I- I wrote you a letter. It’s just a brief five minute thing, but since you left me your note, I thought it’s only right that I left mine to you. Goodbye, my friend. I’ll be seeing you soon."
Kneeling down, he placed the note on the base of the gravestone, straightened up again and touched the marble, as if hoping that he could contact the dead through it. Reassure Sherlock that everything would be fine. His hand lingered briefly before drawing back, and John took one last look at Mr Sherlock Holmes’ resting place before turning and heading towards the end.
And Mr Sherlock Holmes watched from the shadows, waiting until his best friend was out of sight, before walking over to the place Moriarty rested. Of course, John was completely unaware that every time he visited Sherlock’s grave he was in fact visiting the corpse of Sherlock’s greatest enemy, and was unaware that every day, Sherlock came to witness John talking to his grave; touching it, and cleaning it. Looking after it as if he could show Sherlock that he still cared.
Sherlock read the note. Let it fall to the ground as it dawned on him. And then he set off at a sprint towards the gates.
John took a cab to St Bart’s. He couldn’t walk; his limp had returned worse than ever, but he didn’t mind because it was a constant reminder of how better Sherlock had made his life and how much being with him made life worth living. It should have ended with him and Sherlock dying together. Of old age or something like that. But this was the way it would be and John had no problem with that. Every conscious hour without Sherlock was an hour without purpose. It felt right to end it now. He hoped Mrs Hudson or Lestrade or Molly would have him buried next to Sherlock. Partners even in death. He would have written them a note too but that wouldn’t have felt right. He’d just quietly take his own life, in the same way his friend had and then he might stop being a burden. They might finally be able to get on with their life instead of worrying about John or how he was coping or what he might do.
He reached the hospital just when the sun was starting to set, the golden sky casting long shadows on the ground. Peering over to where he had felt his friend’s pulse – where he had touched him for the last time… he felt strangely calm as he made his way to the stairs and climbed up to the roof. The sky looked beautiful up here. The sun glinted on the horizon in the distance as he calculated exactly where Sherlock had stood when he jumped, hobbling to the very edge. This wouldn’t be graceful; John’s fall wouldn’t be as elegant as Sherlock’s, but no-one was watching him – he was alone so it didn’t really matter. There were people passing on the street below; they would have seen him if they made an effort to look up, but no one could stop him. John Watson stood on the rooftop of St Bartholomew’s hospital and closed his eyes, breathing in and out deeply, remembering all the good times he and Sherlock Holmes had shared. All of the murders they had solved and the time they had spent together. He felt at peace. Serenity. He wasn’t scared of the fall – it would be over quickly and painlessly. He heard birds chirping and the distant noise of London traffic. As he took one last, deep breath, he absorbed these sounds, focussed only on them – on reality – as he said his last goodbye to the world.
The tranquillity broke. John’s phone was ringing. He cursed at himself for not switching it off. He wanted his last moments to be peaceful and now this. He wouldn’t ignore it; he wanted to know which twat was ringing him at an inconvenient time like this. Looking at the phone display, he saw it was an unknown number.
Sighing, he pressed the small green button.
"Hello, John Watson speaking."
"May I ask who’s calling please?" For a moment the voice on the other end of the phone, that baritone, sounded familiar.
The voice at the other end of the line was clouded with emotion. He had been crying. “…John. Open your eyes.”
He did exactly as the voice told him… the voice of Sherlock, his best friend, the man he had always obeyed. As he looked down, he saw a silhouette of a man, with dark brown hair, dressed in a suit and a slightly worn blue scarf.
Oh god. Oh god. Christ.
The rest was all a blur as John stumbled down the stairs towards whar he thought was a figment of his imagination. Breaking out onto the street he ran towards the bastard that had left him for so long. John was scared that if he went for him, he would fall straight through onto the pavement. But no. Arms outstretched, the two men ran and caught each other in a tight embrace. Tears streamed down both their faces as they drew apart to look at each other.
"B- but you’re dead! I saw you die.”
"You saw me fall, John. Nobody saw me die."
"I felt your fucking pulse!"
"Rhododendron poison. Slows down the heart rate. I mimicked death, John. Once I was in the morgue Molly helped me escape without being seen."
"You absolute bastard, Sherlock Holmes.” John drew back a fist to punch him straight in the face.
"John," he cried in pain, "I’ll tell you why I did it but now isn’t the right time! I’m sorry."
"You want me to just accept this as your apology? That doesn’t make it better Sherlock. That doesn’t make the pain any less real."
"I know it doesn’t, John. I know. But there’s nothing more I can say."
"Well, you damn well better be sorry. Why didn’t you tell me anything? Let me know? I almost ended my life for you."
Sherlock looked deep into his eyes and sighed. “…You told me friends help friends, and so this is me helping you. I never wanted to harm you. I never thought you’d react in this way, John. I really did not see this one coming. I just needed to make sure you were safe. I have been… around. Making sure to stay out of sight. But I couldn’t go any longer without you.”
"…John," he continued, "…there’s something I need to do; something I’ve waited a long time to do."
And with those words, Sherlock leaned in close, bringing a hand up to touch John’s cheek, and kissed him on the mouth, brushing their lips gently against each other’s.
"I love you, John Watson, and I’ve waited too long to say it."
A broad smile formed on John Watson’s lips after they broke their kiss. “I love you too, Sherlock. Don’t you dare ever leave me again.”
"I won’t, darling. I promise."