Title: What comes after, part 3/6
Summary: A look at what happens after the fall – spoiler for all of series 1 and 2
Betas: Thank so much to the wonderful justbeaqueen10 for her help and comments
Rating: PG-13 for the angst
Wordcount: Just under 12,000 in total
Disclaimer: I make no profit from this and the characters and settings belong to BBC/ACD
Notes: This story is complete, but I’m going to post a chapter each day or so, so as not to spam you all.
Sherlock was standing on the corner just under the awning of a shop. He looked over the rim of his collar and watched the man coming toward him down the street.
John looked tired. His eyes were puffy and tension radiated from every muscle as he walked.
Sherlock was used to watching people who didn’t know he was there. Since the fall he’d spent a lot of time perfecting the art. Not that John was very observant. Not when he didn’t think he needed to be.
He was careful to never be closer than 500 yards to him. Of course, he knew it was weakness that led him there. It was dangerous to be this close to him. But, he found he became restless if he didn’t see John at least once a week.
His skin started to itch and his chest felt heavy. He ignored it, concentrating on his work, on reading the papers for signs of Moriarty, of Richard Brook of... of anything at all. He found very little and so he paced his tiny room until he felt trapped. Then, he’d pull on his coat and go walking.
London wrapped itself around him like a cloak and he felt calm the moment the people in the street swarmed around him. He walked to John’s therapist’s office and waited. The walk took him two hours but he didn’t care. John didn’t arrive for another hour.
Seeing him walk down the street Sherlock felt himself relax. John wasn’t looking where he was going. His hands were thrust deep in his pockets, eyes fixed on the ground. Sherlock stared. It had been two days since he shaved, his shirt hadn’t been washed for three wears, and he was favouring his left leg again, but only slightly. Sherlock let out a long breath. He stayed there until John left again and he watched him out of sight.
He was fine. John was fine. He was alive and he was fine. Sherlock thought it over and over as he walked home.
Molly seemed annoyed when he called. An unusual reaction. He supposed asking for her help had finally demystified him for her. He was no longer unattainable and strong. He needed her. He smiled without amusement. He called her anyway. She would always help him. Would always answer. But she no longer held the infatuation she’d cultivated for so long. He supposed he was pleased for her.
“He’s not really answering the phone at the moment,” Molly said, distractedly. “I called a few times. I’ll keep trying and maybe we can go for lunch.”
“Yes,” Sherlock agreed. “Lunch. Make sure he eats something and find out if there’s been anything out of the ordinary happening.”
He thought he could hear a smile in her voice when she answered. “Out of the ordinary?”
“Anything that he can’t explain. New neighbours, strange phone calls.” A man was hovering near the phone box looking cautiously at him. Sherlock turned his back. “Do it quickly.”
“Do you need anything, Sherlock?” Molly always knew when he was about to hang up.
“No,” he said and slammed the receiver down.
Sherlock watched as Donovan left her office. She looked close to tears and judging by her shoes she’d been suspended.
Sherlock smiled. Mycroft was doing his job. Slowly, slowly he was unravelling Moriarty’s web. That look could only mean that all criminal charges against him had been cleared. His brother could be so delightfully predictable sometimes.
It would take months before Sherlock could fully unpick the web of deceit, the red herrings, and double bluffs. So far, he’d managed to discreetly tip the police off about three drug smuggling gangs, two wanted assassins and one rather ingenious murder.
He needed to keep working, though. Lestrade and Mycroft could only do so much on their own. He needed to make sure that he knew everything Moriarty had planned was either complete or fully stopped.
It had taken him two months to ensure that he was really dead. You could never be too certain. There hadn’t been time for a full examination of the body and Sherlock knew better than to trust something unless he saw it with his own eyes.
They weren’t safe yet. None of them were safe yet. So he had to keep working. He couldn’t go back. Not yet.
The next time he saw John, he was talking to Lestrade. Sherlock sat in the cafe across the street watching them talk. Lestrade looked pained and John looked tense. Sherlock was too far away to read their lips but gathered from their posture that it was nothing more than small talk.
Lestrade had called out to John as he drove passed and pulled up alongside him and gotten out of the car. Sherlock watched impassively as they struggled to find something to say to each other.
John looked angry but was trying not to. Lestrade looked a little pleading. It was rather pathetic really. John left quickly, leaving Lestrade looking after him.
The time after that John was shopping. He wasn’t taking his usual care over picking the best fruit. He was picking up apples at random and putting them in his basket. Then took microwave meals quickly off the shelves without really looking at them.
John took out his phone and peered at the screen. Sherlock couldn’t make out the name of the caller. John put it back in his pocket unanswered.
He only went to the flat once. It was probably the most wilfully stupid thing he’d ever done. John had left hours before, going to his parents’ house judging by his pockets. He’d waited until the house had been in complete darkness for two hours before he let himself in.
He walked around the rooms in the dark. He noted that his things hadn’t been touched. He ran a hand over a book left open on the table. This life seemed alien to him, now. He closed his eyes and imagined staying in the flat. Waiting for John to return home to find him sitting in his usual chair reading. He smiled as he calculated what John would do. Stammer, possibly a punch, perhaps a hug.
Sherlock only let himself imagine it for a moment. It wouldn’t help. He opened his eyes and continued to make his way around the room.
He frowned. Something was different. Something wasn’t quite right.
Mycroft. Mycroft had been here. Sherlock spun around, his eyes darting over everything. More than once. Possibly even a dozen times. He swallowed heavily. What was his brother doing here? Several possibilities ran through his mind. He moved to the kitchen.
He’d been having tea with John. Tea and sympathy? His eyes narrowed, his temper flaring for reasons he couldn’t quite work out. He was never one for introspection. There was no challenge. Besides, once he began working everything else was background. He clenched and unclenched his fists. Mycroft sitting with John. Talking to him. It wasn’t fair.
His temper subsided when he entered John’s bedroom. It was still and quiet and no one else but John had been in there for months. Sherlock considered sitting on the bed. He held himself tight, wrestling with the impulse. His hand twitched towards the bed. He held it there for a moment before pulling it back and balling his hand into a tight fist. He stood completely still and breathed the scent of John for a just a few moments before turning and leaving the flat.
Mycroft was smiling when he left 221B Baker Street. Sherlock glared at him as he turned to look up at the window. The light was still on, glowing warmly in the dark night. Sherlock didn’t move as he watched the car drive away.
He couldn’t remember ever seeing his brother smile like that before. He wondered what it meant. He wondered what John had done to make him smile like that. He stared up at 221B until all the lights went out.
It wasn’t until months afterwards that he started to wonder if he’d made a terrible mistake. On a Monday afternoon he was standing surrounded by a group of German tourists watching John walk to the shops. Something had made him uncomfortable about the scene.
He went back to his flat and paced. Something was out of place. Had someone else been watching John? No, he’d have noticed right away. Was John ill? Sherlock stopped pacing with a start. No. No, John hadn’t looked ill. He’d looked decidedly well. He’d started sleeping again.
Sherlock shrugged. That was good. That was a good thing. But he didn’t believe himself.
He started working faster. The threads all seemed to be coming loose. Even the police were managing to make some arrests on their own.
In one week he managed to bring in eight criminal gangs connected to everything from drugs to selling dodgy TVs on stalls in Camden. He was getting close. He could feel that he was getting close. Maybe even just a few more months.
He could go back.
He watched as John went to see Lestrade. They went to the pub. Sherlock noticed that John smiled at the Detective’s attempts at humour.
He started following John more often. He was looking for work. It made Sherlock’s palms itchy.
The worst was Mycroft. He was still coming to 221B. John smiled when he opened the door. Sherlock couldn’t risk being there too often. He certainly couldn’t risk following his brother. Even his skills of blending into this background would only work for so long on Mycroft. Better to keep his distance.
But, he couldn’t understand it. Why was Mycroft visiting John? Surely they had nothing to talk about. Surely they couldn’t actually be enjoying each others’ company?
“You’re not helping,” he snapped at Molly.
She sighed. “Sherlock, this is what you wanted. John’s actually starting to heal. He’s seeing people again. He’s sleeping. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Sherlock slammed the phone down.
He hadn’t planned for this. “Stupid, stupid,” he berated himself.
He’d always planned to reveal himself to John in the midst of the other man’s grief, when he would be too happy and relieved that he was really alive, to be truly angry.
He’d never imagined the possibility that John would move on. That he might begin to forget about him. That would be unacceptable. If he had moved on, there would be no guarantee that if Sherlock was able to contact him again, that he would want to be contacted.
They may never be able to go back to what they had before. He may never be able to go back. Sherlock lay awake that night watching the shadows move across the ceiling and thinking about what John was doing.
Then he wondered what Mrs Hudson was doing. Would she be suggesting that John get another flatmate? Maybe she’d finally move out of London to be closer to her sister.
And what about Lestrade? Would he take a comfortable promotion and forget about the chase completely?
Sherlock hadn’t noticed that his bed was so uncomfortable before. Or how cold his room was. He needed to work faster.
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