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It's Not All Fine
John stares up at the building in horror, knowing what Sherlock intends to do but not really believing it. There is no sound despite the crowded street around John. Sherlock, arms outstretched, like a bird that’s been shot down, tumbles through the air towards the sidewalk below.
John jolts awake, trying to breathe, trying to get rid of the cold sweat that drenches his back. The nightmares which had been a common occurrence when he got back from the war had receded in Sherlock’s presence. Since Sherlock’s fall, though, the nightmares came back stronger than ever. But not about the war, no he would prefer images of the war to seeing his friend’s cold, lifeless expression looking up at him from a blood streaked face. Anything to keep from seeing the dark curly locks matted with blood that pools around in a distorted halo. John presses his hands against his face in an attempt to control the emotions he feels roiling inside of him, and fails miserably.
Ever the stoic soldier, the only indication that John is crying comes from the slight hitch in his breath and the wetness on his palms from wiping away the silent streaming tears before Mrs. Hudson can notice. Sherlock is gone, he just needs to accept that and move on. That’s what people do isn’t it? Move on. And yet, John can’t. Whether it is the nagging feeling that he is missing something or just plain denial, he isn’t sure. All John knows is, he isn’t ready to let Sherlock go yet. Every time Mrs. Hudson opens the door John catches himself looking up hoping to see Sherlock coming in. It’s unhealthy he knows, but pretending that Sherlock is still somehow alive allows him to function during the day. If the crushing reality that Sherlock’s body was lying still under a tombstone hung over him all the time, he wouldn’t have the willpower to do much more than lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. No, for the sake of his sanity, John tells himself that Sherlock can’t be dead.
The others think he’s crazy for doing so, but he doesn’t care. The same people warned John about the fact that Sherlock didn’t have friends and never would. They’re wrong. John was his friend, and he will not allow Sherlock to be dead. It just doesn’t make sense! It doesn’t make sense both logically and on a fundamentally deeper level. Sherlock was his friend, more than that really, and the overpowering sense of wrongness John feels when he thinks about Sherlock somehow betraying him makes that possibility all but impossible in John’s mind. One second he’s helping Sherlock to prove his innocence and the next he’s listening to Sherlock try and convince him that the last 18 months were a lie. That Moriarty was just a figment of Sherlock’s imagination, and Sherlock is not nearly as clever as he appears. The inexhaustible intellect that John praised in every possible way available to the English language was just the result of carefully done research. Well maybe Sherlock wasn’t as clever as he thought, because if there was one person on the planet who might be able to fool John, it was Sherlock. If that was his best shot well, it certainly wasn’t up to his usual standard of brilliance.
Think John, think! What was it that Sherlock always said to him? “You see but you do not observe.” That’s the key; he needs to think like Sherlock. A man like Sherlock never does anything without a reason. So why would it be necessary for him to publically jump off a building? If he truly wanted to kill himself, he had a gun he could’ve just shot himself in the head. He could have saved John the horror of seeing his broken body on the pavement… Sherlock had never been one to enjoy the public limelight; he hated press conferences and the annoying photographs taken of him. He enjoyed proving that he was clever but social interactions were never his forte. So for some reason, Sherlock needed to be seen jumping.
Then there is Sherlock’s attempt to defame himself to John. The change was too abrupt, too nonsensical for John to take it at face value. Not to mention, he had been living with Sherlock for over a year. And while John is sure that Sherlock had secrets, or at least that there were things going on inside his head that John will never be able to understand, a full scale alternate identity 24/7 seems quite unlikely. Especially since John took care of Sherlock’s bills and expenses, saw to all the menial tasks that Sherlock deemed boring, and was essential to keeping Sherlock’s world running smoothly. No, Sherlock needed to convince John to believe what the newspapers would tell the rest of the world. He knew John too well, John may not be a genius but he’s far cleverer than the general public, if Sherlock didn’t tell him that Moriarty was just an actor he knew that John would deny it. Only Sherlock didn’t know it was a futile attempt, since John had already ascertained how Moriarty was able to destroy Sherlock’s reputation from Mycroft. Then Sherlock cruelly forced John to watch him jump to his seeming death, why?
An image flashes to mind of a previous encounter with Moriarty. Heart pounding against the semtex vest strapped to John’s chest as he relayed Moriarty’s words to Sherlock, he saw something in Sherlock that he hadn’t seen before. The flash of hurt in Sherlock’s eyes when he initially thought that John was Moriarty. The following panic when he realized that John was the latest in a line of bombing hostages. All the earlier puzzles had been designed especially for Sherlock, but this wasn’t a puzzle at all. This was meant to hurt Sherlock, to burn him, to strip him of everything that Sherlock thought made him superior. Except, this was Sherlock, the only consulting detective in the world and a self-proclaimed sociopath. A high-functioning sociopath to be sure, but a sociopath nonetheless. Emotions, sentiment, and caring were all terms that John wouldn’t have associated with Sherlock if it hadn’t been for the fact Moriarty had chosen to wrap him neatly in explosives like a deadly Christmas present. Sherlock had nearly torn the vest off of him in his haste to make sure John was okay. That was his first indication that the indifference of Sherlock was not as complete as it seemed.
What if, hypothetically, it was the same scenario again? Despite the fact that Sherlock doesn’t usually show much attachment to anyone, if the semtex vest event was anything to go on, Sherlock cared for John. The thought sent John’s head spinning again and loneliness threatened to overwhelm him. John had tried so hard to teach Sherlock to be human and finally when Sherlock started to show warmth, when John had finally been able to thaw his frozen heart; it was taken away from him. It shouldn’t surprise him; he’d seen how unfair things could be in Afghanistan. It just had never been so personal. He quickly stifled the impending paralytic effect; he could not afford to be uselessly emotional.
“Is everything alright dear?” Mrs. Hudson asks from the door. Not trusting his voice, John simply nods. Mrs. Hudson looks at him in concern and sighs.
“It’s almost lunchtime, how about I fix you something to eat?” she suggests in an attempt to coax John out the shell he had withdrawn into. She opens the fridge looking for something suitable for the afternoon.
“It’s strange; I keep forgetting that it’s safe to look for food in the refrigerator. No need to worry about decapitated heads or eyeballs sitting in there with the rest of the food anymore,” Mrs. Hudson comments, talking incessantly as she is apt to do. In spite of his brooding mood, John snorts remembering all the unsanitary experiments Sherlock always had going on in their kitchen. The spray painted smiley face on the bullet ridden wall leers at him, mocking John’s longing to see that smile that used to light up Sherlock’s face.
Absentmindedly munching on the sandwich that Mrs. Hudson made for him, John returns to the puzzle of Sherlock’s jump. What if it was the same scenario? If Moriarty had threatened John, perhaps Moriarty had been able to manipulate Sherlock. But John had been in cab that day, moving, not staying in one place. And the cab had driven away so it wasn’t like the cabbie was able to threaten him. There was always the possibility of a sniper, but John isn’t sure. He can’t center this solely on himself though. Sherlock once threw a man repeatedly through a window for laying a finger on Mrs. Hudson; she could have been a target as well. And Mrs. Hudson usually stays at 221B Baker Street. A stationary target.
“Mrs. Hudson!” John yells.
“Yes dearie?” she replies.
“Did you order any construction help the day that Sherlock… fell?” John asks, choking on the word died.
“Oh well now that you mention it, no! I thought that maybe one of you boys had called for it, goodness knows this flat needs some help,” Mrs. Hudson informs John, “Why do you ask?”
“Neither Sherlock or I called for construction help, and if you didn’t, who did? It didn’t seem important before, a detail lost in the chaos, but now I want to follow all these loose ends,” John says suddenly wide awake and concentrated.
“Well if you want to look into it, the man said he was from the British Electric Company. If I remember right, his name was… oh! Barton Lock. Does that help dear?” Mrs. Hudson asks.
“Certainly Mrs. Hudson! Thank you, I will look into that right away, there’s just one thing I want to do first,” John says hastily, grabbing his coat from beside the door. For the first time since Sherlock’s fall, John feels motivated, like he has a purpose of some sort. The mysterious Barton Lock is definitely going to hear from him, but first John wants to know why he got a call saying Mrs. Hudson was in the hospital when she wasn’t. Before, he had assumed that it had been a decoy from Moriarty to lure him away from Sherlock. Now he isn’t so sure.
For someone who threw a man out the window for Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s apathy to the news that she was in critical condition was drastically out of character. Could Sherlock himself have planted the decoy? But Sherlock took him with him to all of his crime scenes. Why send him away now? The scene at the pool flashes into John’s mind’s eye again. Of course. Sherlock had already almost lost John to Moriarty once; he must have been trying to keep him out of harm’s way. It’s only a hunch though, it might even be wishful thinking. Now John needs to prove it.
He takes out his phone and scrolls through the history of calls back to that horrific day. John calls the number.
“Hello, this is Whittington Hospital. How may I help you?” a cool female voice says on the other end.
“Yes hello, do you have a patient under the last name Hudson at your hospital?” John asks.
“Who are you?” the secretary asks.
“John, a friend,” he replies.
“One moment.” John paces impatiently on the sidewalk outside 221B Baker Street.
“Yes I do believe we have a patient by that name. She’s in critical care for a bullet wound and being kept under for the moment. We’re open for visitors if you would like to see her,” the woman tells him.
“Oh, thank you. I might stop by later,” John says before ending the call. So there was a Mrs. Hudson who was shot and put in the hospital. Same name, wrong woman. One thing explained but many more to go.
Later that afternoon after catching a cab to the British Electric Company’s office, John is talking to the boss about Barton Lock.
“Yes, he worked here but only for a short period,” the boss explains.
“A short period? How short?” John inquires, attempting to be as thorough as possible.
“Only about a month I’d say. Just left out of the blue a few weeks ago. Don’t know why, he didn’t tell anyone that he was going,” the boss says nonchalantly, wondering why this was of any importance.
“Do you have any idea where he went after leaving?” John presses further. The boss throws his hands out in frustration.
“How would I know where he went? To me he was just another worker, I didn’t know particularly much about him while he was here and much less about him after he left. What is this all about? Are you from the police? Is he involved in something because if he is I can assure you that this company had nothing to do with it,” the boss’s tone becomes progressively less welcoming.
“With the police? In a manner of speaking,” John answers the man, but realizing more questioning would be futile, he continues,
“Well thank you for your time, you’ve been most helpful.” The boss makes a noise of disbelief but doesn’t contradict John.
The sounds of cars passing by on the street come through the open window and John crosses the flat to shut it. The sound cuts off and it’s eerily quiet in the flat. Dead end. He found out there had been a decoy, not an entirely new concept to John. He’d known it was a decoy the moment he got back and saw Mrs. Hudson was alright. Now he knew the details but he fails to see how it might be relevant at all. And his mystery construction worker seems to want to stay a mystery. How did Sherlock solve these so easily? John feels like he’s banging his head against the wall. Perhaps it’s his army training, he’s just too straight forward to look deeper into all the nuances that Sherlock saw.
Sherlock’s violin lies in its case against the mantelpiece. John retrieves it and lifts it delicately out. John has kept Sherlock’s compositions and attempted to learn how to play the violin recently. His deft fingers so used to surgery find the correct places on the strings and for a moment, he looks quite professional. Then John saws across the violin, trying to recreate the beautiful music that Sherlock used to imagine, used to play for him. Instead a harsh scream erupts from the strings and John swears, temped to throw the violin at the wall for its stubbornness. Why won’t it play for him? Does it have to remind him that Sherlock isn’t here to play it? He doesn’t have recordings of Sherlock playing and simply playing the radio on his computer to fill the void seems disrespectful. Sherlock wasn’t just filler for the void; the void exists because he isn’t here. John collapses into bed and lets fitful sleep overtake him.
Sitting in a café at a table for two by himself, John mulls over what he’s found out so far, sipping his plain black coffee. A little container of sugar sits on the table but John doesn’t use it. He smiles wistfully remembering the time that Sherlock slipped sugar into his coffee trying to see if it would make him hallucinate. It was one of the few times John could remember Sherlock getting anything wrong. The café door opens and John looks up to see who the new customer is.
“Ah! Inspector Lestrade!” John says warmly in greeting, “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” Lestrade shakes John’s hand and takes the empty seat at John’s table.
“I’m on break at the moment, not that being on duty is doing me much good,” Lestrade tells him by way of explanation, “Got another one of those weird cases and we can’t make heads or tails of it. Sergeant Donovan seems determined that we’re going to figure this one out, if only to prove to herself that we’re a capable bunch. And Anderson, well you remember how he is.”
John laughs looking at Lestrade’s somewhat tired and resigned expression. Lestrade looks at him and smiles a little.
“These types of cases were never a problem before, we always had…” Lestrade breaks off before finishing his sentence and a somber mood returns to the table.
“Actually Inspector, I have a favor to ask of you, you couldn’t have come at a better time,” John says slowly, unsure of how to go about asking what he wants. Lestrade glances at him with new interest.
“A favor? Well go on, what can I do for you?” he asks. John explains his suspicions about the mysterious Barton Lock and how he thinks it relates to Sherlock.
“So if maybe you could just run a background check on him or something, which would be tremendously helpful,” John finishes.
“I don’t know John,” Lestrade passes his hand over his face, “I’m still in a lot of hot water over Sherlock, I don’t have much freedom in the department anymore. Besides, you know why Sherlock jumped.”
“Lestrade, you know that’s not true,” John says quietly. Lestrade lets out a sigh and slumps slightly in his chair.
“No you’re right, that was a terrible thing to say. Sherlock was a great man, and in the end, I think he was a good one too,” Lestrade exhales.
“Please Lestrade, I don’t know why Sherlock jumped. But I feel like I owe it to him to figure out why, as a friend. If I don’t find out why, I’ll never forgive myself,” John begs.
“You know, I knew him for five years and in all that time, I never saw him have any friends or attachments of any sort. You were the first, and believe me, it changed him,” Lestrade says sadly, “All right, I’ll see what I can do about this background check. No guarantees though. I’ll call you if I get any news okay?” John releases the tension he hadn’t even been aware he was holding.
“Thank you Lestrade, really, thank you,” John tells him.
John walks back to his flat, the café wasn’t far away, and pauses outside the door. He listens to the sound of Mrs. Hudson vacuuming for a moment then enters. John greets her briefly before going into his flat. He glances around for a moment at the organized chaos of the flat. Sherlock’s experimental equipment and the refrigerator have been cleaned up but John hadn’t been able to bring himself to touch any of the other stuff. Sherlock’s desk lies exactly as Sherlock had left it, with perhaps a thin layer of dust now covering it. John adjusts a pillow of the British flag and sinks into the armchair.
He seems to have made progress on solving the mystery of Sherlock’s jump, but as of yet, no evidence to support John’s outlandish theory that Sherlock had somehow survived. His gaze falls on the closet and John jumps up suddenly. Opening the closet, on a shelf at the top lies an unobtrusive box and yet one that is treasured by John. He carefully removes it from its place and lifts the cover.
John couldn’t say what made him take it. By all measures, he probably should’ve left it alone. And yet, some unexplainable force had driven John to take Sherlock’s scarf. The signature navy blue tasseled scarf lies folded neatly in the box. John runs his fingers over the material allowing the lines of pain that he normally smoothed out for everyone else to show. His hand stops at the lower half of the scarf discolored by a dark rust stain that understates the violence of the original blood. Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t Sherlock’s blood. It’s improbable, but John needs to try.
“Molly?” John calls. She looks up from her work in the morgue, a fresh body on the table in front of her.
“John!” she smiles in delight,
“What brings you here?”
“I was wondering if you would be willing to run a DNA test for me,” he asks and pulls out the scarf.
“Oh…” Molly’s voice trails off as she recognizes the scarf. Unconsciously she rubs one arm with her hand, like trying to ward off a bad feeling. John feels bad about asking this of her, he knows that Molly had had feelings for Sherlock for a while. It’s terrible of him to remind her, but he needs to know, and he doesn’t know who else to ask. Molly seems to make a decision because her posture straightens suddenly and becomes very businesslike.
“I’ll run a DNA test for you right now if you like; the results won’t come back until tomorrow though,” Molly says, her voice a little strained. She glances back at the body on the table and continues running the tests she had been doing previously.
“Oh,” John stands awkwardly off to the side, appreciative of her offer to run the test but unsure why the conversation came to a close so suddenly, “I guess I’ll come back tomorrow then. Thank you!” Molly looks back at John and nods then focuses on her work again. John returns home for the night, hopeful of finding answers the next day. It doesn’t ward off the nightmares.
“Sherlock, why are you saying this?” John asks the hurt clear in his voice.
“I’m a fake; the newspapers were right all along. I want you to tell Lestrade, I want you to tell Mrs. Hudson, and Molly. In fact, tell anyone who will listen to you, that I created Moriarty for my own purposes,” Sherlock confesses and even from this distance John can tell how difficult it is for Sherlock to say. The words, those impossible words coming from Sherlock’s mouth destroying everything that he had known for the last year and a half cut through John. And cut through Sherlock as well.
“Ok Sherlock, shut up. The first time we met, the first time we met, you knew all about my sister!” John exclaims, grasping for something to contradict what Sherlock was saying. In all the time that John knew Sherlock, he had always cherished the small moments when Sherlock became less of a superior genius and more of a human with feelings. But this, hearing the pain in Sherlock’s voice through the phone is something that John knows will haunt him.
“No one could be that clever,” Sherlock gives a short, choked laugh.
“You could,” John declares, loyal to Sherlock regardless, refusing to believe that Sherlock had lied to him all this time. John gazes up at Sherlock and for once, Sherlock, who always had to have the last word, could find nothing to say.
John buries his face in his pillow, the same question running over and over through his head. Sherlock, why are you saying this? He has to prove Sherlock’s innocence if nothing else. No matter what it takes, John would prove that Sherlock wasn’t a fake.
The ring from his mobile phone startles John and he rolls out of bed to go grab it. John glances at the name and immediately picks up.
“John, I have some news from the background check. Barton Lock doesn’t exist. It took a while, but I managed to discover that Barton Lock is a cover for a trained killer. His real name is Scott Davis. I’m not sure why he was at your house though, you said he left peacefully. Strange too, when I was looking into your mystery worker I found that there had been one in my office too. I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned the fact that you had a mysterious uncalled for construction worker. But the same day, we had a replacement office worker come in. He left the next day. Same story, cover for a killer.”
“There was one in your office too? This keeps getting stranger and stranger. This is most helpful Inspector, I’m really grateful. I hope that I didn’t get you into any trouble,” John says.
“It’s no problem. I hope you can prove his innocence too. I have to go now.”
John stares at his clenched fists, thinking about how close Mrs. Hudson escaped death, but at the same time elated to finally be getting somewhere. So Lestrade had been a target as well as Mrs. Hudson. If even Lestrade had been a target then John is certain that someone had been trailing him that day as well. Three targets. The only three people who were consistently on Sherlock’s side. Sherlock had definitely been manipulated.
Sherlock had explained to John that Moriarty’s strategy had been to destroy him from the inside out. Ruin his reputation. Now that John thinks about it, Sherlock’s jump would have been the perfect ending to Moriarty’s game. Force him to appear to admit to all lies Moriarty had weaved around him, make him take the last step into disgrace. But Moriarty couldn’t force Sherlock to jump without leverage. John grips the kitchen counter feeling like he has been punched in the gut. He was the leverage.
Finally able to make some sense out of the confusing chaos of accusatory newspaper articles and Sherlock’s own last words soothes some of the aching loss that is still all too real to John. At last he knows why Sherlock did what he did. But is Sherlock still alive? A spark of hope kindles in John and he is too anxious to sit still and have breakfast. He grabs a few biscuits from Mrs. Hudson on his way out.
“Where are you going, dashing about like you are?” Mrs. Hudson calls out the door but John is already gone in a taxi.
John forces himself to walk calmly in the room so as to not startle Molly. She is sitting in at the lab bench braiding her hair to keep it out of her face. Molly turns towards him when she hears the door open.
“Have you finished running the DNA test?” John demands slightly breathless.
“Yes,” Molly answers simply.
“And?” John’s impatience starts to show.
“It’s Sherlock’s,” Molly whispers, braiding her hair a little faster. John staggers back, the bright hope that had been burning abruptly snuffed out.
“Are you… are you sure?” he asks, his voice hoarse. John stares at Molly with something close to pleading in his eyes for a different answer. She can’t meet his eyes but stares at the floor, a hand slightly covering her mouth.
“It’s his, I’m sure. I’m so sorry John,” Molly tells him hollowly. It strikes John as odd that Molly won’t look at him, she is always so forward. But he is distracted by the fact that once again, Sherlock is irrefutably… dead.
“Ahem,” John tries to clear his throat, “Well thank you for checking anyway.” He turns to walk out the door and he does not look back.
John stops by at the graveyard late in the afternoon as has become his weekly custom. Sherlock’s cold black tombstone is hard and cynical, matching the misconception of Sherlock. But John knew better.
“I solved it, the mystery of your death. It’s a bit strange solving anything, normally deducing is your job but uh, since you weren’t there I did it for you.”
John replaces the flowers in the vase at the base of the grave, with roses in an alarming shade of pink. A memory of their first case together.
“You did what I offered to do for you once,” John stops to breathe, “And I’m glad that you cared enough for me to do that. You really were a hero.” John has to wipe his eyes before he can continue.
“But I guess I’m not going to get that miracle. It’s not the same without you Sherlock. The flat is too empty, too quiet. I miss solving cases and running across London after criminals, the adrenaline and the mystery. Life is boring with you,” John pauses, “I miss you Sherlock.” He sits quietly by the graveside for a few moments remembering happier times with Sherlock. John stands to leave.
“I have to go to get some groceries now Sherlock. Remember how I always used to do that for you? Now I only have to buy for one person though,” John looks at the list of needed items and reads them to Sherlock’s grave if only to prolong his visit, not wanting to leave, “I’m running low on milk, maybe get some more biscuits, I need ingredients to make risotto, and I think I’ll grab some apples too.” John checks the low sun in the sky and knows that he has to go to get to the store on time. He sighs, reluctant to leave, but walks out the graveyard gate that has become so familiar.
Sitting in the cab, John realizes that he just isn’t in the mood to go to the store and directs the cabbie to go to 221B Baker Street. He makes a mental note to go tomorrow, but right now John wants to be left alone to his thoughts. Mrs. Hudson doesn’t bother him on the way in, seeing his need to be alone. The flat door opens with a slight squeak and John resigns himself to another nightmare filled night. He turns on the light to the kitchen and goes to the refrigerator. John remembers that there’s some leftover pizza he can heat up for dinner. Upon opening the door however, he stares in confusion at the unopened milk carton sitting on the shelf.
He could have sworn that he finished the milk only that morning. Yes look! There it was sitting on the top of the trash bin.
“Mrs. Hudson! Did you get groceries while I was out?” John calls out.
“Now why would I do that? I’m your landlady not your housekeeper!” Mrs. Hudson replies irritably.
“Never mind then!” John yells back. He turns back to the milk carton. How…? He turns to the right, on the refrigerator door are ingredients for risotto, except they’ve all been opened already which is even stranger. He closes the refrigerator and checks the kitchen counter and finds the fruit bowl full of apples sitting next to a refilled biscuit tin.
“I took the liberty of getting your groceries for you, I hope you don’t mind. Also, I’m not exactly sure if I made it right, I attempted to make risotto but you’ll have to try it and tell me if it tastes okay,” a familiar deep voice says behind him.
“Sherlock…” John asks in disbelief, wondering if he’s hallucinating and his eyes are lying to him.
“It took you a while to solve it, but really you did a wonderful job John. Spot on in all the details. I do apologize for any pain caused you by Molly. She promised to help me keep it a secret. She is the one after all, who helped me fake my death,” Sherlock continues. There he is, standing in the middle of the kitchen in his slim purple buttoned shirt. The angular cheekbones John is so accustomed to have no trace of the brutal fall and the dark curly locks are not matted with blood. But it is the eyes that undo John, the clear blue eyes that look at him with such concern. John’s eyes tear up at seeing his friend alive and well in front of him.
“I thought… I thought that…” John isn’t even able to articulate full sentences.
“I know, I know John. But really, I never left. I’ve been there all this time, hiding in plain sight. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, being able to see you but not able to tell you I’m alive. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” Sherlock apologizes and takes a step towards John. John steps toward Sherlock and then almost falls into him, so weak from relief. Sherlock catches John and allows John to lean against him for support.
“You’re alive, you’re alive…” John murmurs into Sherlock’s shoulder, still not quite sure that it’s not just an illusion. Sherlock gestures toward the table he’s already served with risotto.
“I’m not dead. Let’s have dinner.”