The air is painfully dry as John paces through the flat, feeling the emptiness grating his skin. He gazes around at the stacks of cardboard boxes, feeling a sense of numb satisfaction as he visually measures his (Sherlock) life being boxed away. Sherlock’s library of Beekeeping books no longer haphazardly poke out from behind a neat row of cold case files Lestrade leaves for fits of boredom; the books are donated, the cases remain buried (unsolved). John settles in his armchair, watching as Hamish sifts through the collection of photo albums, stacking them inside a box.
“Have you finished packing all your stuff?” he asks Hamish. Hamish glances up from the stack of photographs in his hands. John aches as he recognizes the photos; Sherlock’s grumpy face and the dreaded deerstalker peek out from underneath a picture of Sherlock and Hamish posing awkwardly at Christmas.
Hamish stares at John. “Dad, we can’t leave Baker Street. This is home,” he says. John watches Hamish, seeing the mirrored earnest expression that Sherlock used to wear when— John pushes himself out of the chair, shaking his head at Hamish’s repeated argument.
“We can’t stay here, Hamish.” John squeezes his fist to stop the shaking in his left hand, pacing towards the kitchen. There are no more experiments on the table gathering eloquent dust; they’re in boxes now. (The unexplained scratch is still carved into the surface and John can’t stop himself from tracing the thin line and wondering what he really missed that morning with Sherlock, if it mattered, if it made a difference. What couldn’t he observe?)
Hamish pleads, “But everything in here reminds us of Father…” John’s leg muscle stabs in pain, forcing John to limp back to armchair (no cane yet). He can’t look at those piercing color-shifting eyes, not when the floral pattern on the walls threaten to turn into vines and strangle John in solitude. Hamish’s voice is young and lost and doesn’t rumble in a deep enough baritone to echo against John’s—
“Which is why I can’t be here any longer!” John slams his hands against the back of the chair, and shakes his head. “I’m going mad.” His chest contracts, grief stifling his ribcage, as he spits the hated words out. John has felt the lifeblood of strangers and acquaintances straining his hands and the dry Afghani soil in his nightmares, but Sherlock. Sherlock changes or ignores rules and made John’s worst nightmare a reality and even though it was Sherlock’s blood on that pavement that day, it was John’s heart that died, cracked open on by unforgiving concrete. John’s gaze darts to the skull on the mantlepiece, where Sherlock’s skull (”friend, well I say friend.”) emptily observes John talk (confess) to his son.
“Leaving it would be like abandoning him,” Hamish whispers. The dead air in the flat won’t stop the words from reaching John’s ears. John’s left hand trembles; John bites his lip. He levels his eyes at Hamish’s shirt; that’s neutral enough so John doesn’t need to fight off the grief that itches insides his veins, threatening to bleed everywhere every time John opens his mouth. “I don’t want to do that.”
John sees that the floorboards of 221b are solid and firm, but it feels like the ground undulates underneath his feet ever since Sherlock was buried six feet under. Hamish slides the stack of photographs into the box and tiptoes over to where John is leaning on the armchair. John opens his arms and lets Hamish slide into a jumper-covered comfort hug. John strokes Hamish’s hair as Hamish buries his face in John’s chest and begins to cry, hot tears moistening the wool. His son’s short arms cling tightly to John.
“He abandoned us first, son,” breathes John. 221b still holds two hearts, but its soul is ripped out and gone.
Can you… can you imagine Lestrade walking in to find Sherlock cradling John? Portraying the most emotion Lestrade has probably ever seen? I just…
I will not have these feels forced upon me.
God, do you think they even knew it would be their last night together Could they feel it? Did Sherlock see something in John that could warn them? So they could spend that last bit together?
Or did Sherlock’s world end in the bright hours of the morning? As he blinked weary eyes open and turned to his love, only to see the stillness of John’s chest, feel the chill of his flesh?
And hours later, after receiving no response from numerous texts and calls, Lestrade finally arrives at an eerily quiet 221b. The detective checks the sitting room, kitchen, bathroom; even hesitantly peeking in to check Sherlock’s old room.
But it’s the subtle noise of a guttural moan from upstairs that finally clues in Lestrade on the soul-wrenching scene that’s being played out. Greg climbs the stairs to the second bedroom slowly, trying to prepare himself for what’s to come.
It’s no use, nothing could prepare him for what he sees as the door swings open.
Sherlock sits with his back resting against the headboard. Head hanging down, his dark curls covering his face from Lestrade. His sleep shirt pulled off his right shoulder slightly, and his pyjama pants hiked up his long legs from his movements. Feet planted firmly on the mattress and knees spread to allow John’s body between them. Long arms wrap around John’s chest, hands fisted in the front of the doctor’s shirt.
Lestrade take a few tentative steps into the room, shoulders slumping in resignation. “Sherlock?”
Sherlock’s hands tighten, knuckles turning white with the strain. “Algor mortis would have set in immediately, obviously, but rigor mortis has been slow to start. Probably due low levels of lactic acid in Jo-,” Sherlock’s voice cracks, but he continues on, “in the body. There are still parts that are living, you know? For the next few hours some cells will continue to reproduce, bacteria will survive, possibly for days.”
“The skin dis-colorization is expected, the blood has already began to pool in the lower extremities.”
“Sherlock, please,” Lestrade says, barely above a whisper as he moves a few steps closer to the bed.
“There was a case, do you remember? Of course you do, you must. The extra body that appeared in the hospital morgue, brought in supposedly after that multi-car crash. The attendant just thought the number had been reported wrong, but no, that wasn’t the case. All the signs, all the tells from the body were all wrong. It was obvious the victim had been killed long before the others but the killer saw an opportunity he could not let pass.”
“Sherlock!” Greg finally shouts, his voice cracking momentarily as the tears begin to form in his eyes.
At that, Sherlock’s head whips up. His eyes are red and watery, and his face is contorted in pain, marked by long tear streaks down his cheeks. Sherlock’s chest begins to heave as he takes large, gasping breaths. “It’s my fault! It’s all my fault! I should have looked harder! I should have found a cure, something, anything to save him! What good am I if I can’t even save John?!” Sherlock buries his face against John’s shoulder, pulling his legs in tighter, holding on to the empty shell of his lover, his friend, his equal. “What good am I now?”
Sherlock’s loud, shuddering sobs fill the room as Lestrade can only look on in silence.