Characters: Sherlock, John
Spoilers: Reichenbach Fall
Genre: Gen, friendship
Disclaimer: I don’t own, no money is being made from this
Summary: Sherlock finally comes to understand what role he plays in John’s life.
A/N: My very first Sherlock fic! Many thanks go out to my betas/britpickers ceruleanblue312 and cakewallaby. Special thanks go to morganstuart for her help with wording/phrasing and her encouragement. Quotes in italics are directly taken from “The Reichenbach Fall” transcript which was created by Ariane Devere and is located in her LJ here: http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/
Finally, after twenty-four months, he understands. Finally, he realises.
God, he's been such an idiot!
If he had known how badly this was going to affect John, if he had known how utterly devastated John would be, he wouldn’t have … But no. It had to be done. It had been the only way.
That didn't mean that Sherlock couldn't regret the necessity of it all.
Especially now. After he had seen, first hand, what this game had done to his friend.
He had known that John considered him to be his best friend. The feeling was mutual, considering that John was his only friend, despite Moriarty 's intimations to the contrary. Mrs. Hudson was more of a surrogate mother than anything, and although he and Lestrade shared a mutual respect and regard, they hadn't really been friends. But John, John had been his friend. Sherlock had never doubted that, not for one moment.
He simply had never realised how deep John's loyalty ran, how strong their bond actually was...until this very moment.
Not until this moment, as he stood in the shadows, watching John cry over his grave.
The signs had been there, almost from the very beginning. The almost instant connexion that had drawn the two men together had been indefinable, and yet undeniable. Less than forty-eight hours after meeting, John had shot a man for him. Had almost certainly saved Sherlock's life. Saved the life of a virtual stranger. Saved the life of a man who had proclaimed with his own lips that he was a high-functioning sociopath, who had acknowledged the existence of an arch-enemy but not that of a friend.
Unwavering loyalty, from the very beginning. Without Sherlock doing anything to earn that loyalty.
I was so alone, and I owe you so much.
He couldn't actually hear the words, but he could read lips. And the effect on him was absolutely devastating. Wasn’t that what Sherlock should be telling John, not the other way around? How had he so severely underestimated John’s attachment to him? How had he been so blind, that he hadn’t seen what was right in front of him? That somehow, he had garnered the affection of a man who was worth ten of himself? A man who, after knowing Sherlock for barely two months, had been willing to die so that Sherlock could live. It had taken Sherlock eighteen months to get to the point where he would do the same.
And now, Sherlock had gone and broken John’s heart.
How could this man be telling Sherlock that he owed him anything?
“It really bothers you.”
“What people say.”
“About me? I don’t understand – why would it upset you?”
He thinks that he understands now.
He had thought at the time that it had upset John because what people said about Sherlock also reflected on himself. Guilt by association. If the press turned on Sherlock, they would also turn on his closest associate, on his blogger, making both of their lives a living hell. It would make it that much harder to shake his own epithet, “confirmed bachelor”.
Now he doesn’t think that was it at all. Now, he’s pretty sure that John had only been concerned about Sherlock’s reputation and image, because that’s what friends do; they protect each other, they put the other person’s well-being above their own, they exhibit unconditional acceptance and loyalty, without regard to their own interests. Sherlock isn’t surprised that he hadn’t recognised it for what it was at the time; he had never before experienced such a friendship.
“Sherlock, I don’t want the world believing you’re ...”
“That I am what?”
“You’re worried they’re right.”
“You’re worried they’re right about me.”
“That’s why you’re so upset. You can’t even entertain the possibility that they might be right. You’re afraid that you’ve been taken in as well.”
“No I’m not.”
“Moriarty is playing with your mind too. Can’t you see what’s going on?”
“No, I know you’re for real.”
Once again, Sherlock had been wrong. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that John would be more upset on his behalf than he would be about any reflection on himself. John had been the only person... the only person... who had never once, throughout the whole smear campaign, doubted Sherlock’s integrity. Not even when confronted with almost indisputable proof by the man calling himself Richard Brook. John had stood by him, defended him to anybody who dared hint at the possibility that the accusations may be true.
John didn’t want the world believing that Sherlock was a fraud, because John himself didn’t believe it. He didn’t want his friend’s name dragged through the mud because he knew, with the certainty that comes with utmost faith, that it was all lies, that there wasn’t a kernel of truth in any of it, and he didn’t want to see an innocent man – his friend - ruined because of it
Unbreakable faith. Unshakeable loyalty.
He had known, when he first set his plan in motion, that he would be hurting John. He knew that he would be hurting himself as well, because he didn’t want to be separated from his only friend, for God knew how long. He didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t see any other option. Mycroft had agreed, and had promised to look after his friend while he was gone. John would be fine; there was never any doubt of that. Yes, John will be hurt, John will grieve, but John is a soldier. He has lost friends before. This will be no different. At least, that’s what Sherlock had told himself. It had allowed him to follow through with his plan without being bothered too much with the consequences. There would be no lasting repercussions; Sherlock wasn’t really going to die, nothing was being done that couldn’t be set right later.
John. Would be. Fine.
Except that he wasn’t, that much was clear.
Six months. It had been six months since Sherlock’s fall, and Mycroft’s reports were no longer enough. On the surface, John was doing as well as could reasonably be expected after having lost his best friend to violence. He had got himself a job; he had moved out of Baker Street into his own, smaller flat. (This last fact made something inside Sherlock’s chest twist painfully). He seemed to have renewed a semblance of a social life, going out with friends to the pub every now and again.
And yet, Mycroft had left little clues in his correspondences, never coming right out and saying that things weren’t quite right. John was back to seeing his therapist again, once a week. This wouldn’t have been all that unusual, just someone reaching out for help while going through a rough patch. But he was still going after six months. He had an intermittent limp, something that wasn’t noticeable most of the time, but that would flare up whenever John had had a particularly bad day. He hadn’t written one entry in his blog after the one proclaiming to the world his steadfast loyalty.
John should be moving on. The man had only known him for eighteen months. Why was he still stuck?
Although, come to think of it, Sherlock himself had grown quite attached during those eighteen months. But that was different, Sherlock had no other friends. John was outgoing, likeable, popular. He had many friends he could fall back on to help him cope with his loss. Why was he still having such a hard time?
So Sherlock had risked coming back briefly to see for himself how John was doing. And as a result, the realisation, the understanding came crashing down on him.
Sherlock had always been the one to berate people for seeing but not observing. He should have taken his own advice.
He watched John talking to his gravestone.
“You told me once that you weren’t a hero. There were times I didn’t even think you were human, but let me tell you this: you were the best man, and the most human ... human being that I’ve ever known and no-one will ever convince me that you told me a lie, and so ... There.
I was so alone, and I owe you so much.
No, please, there’s just one more thing, okay, one more thing: one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t ... be ... dead. Would you do ...? Just for me, just stop it. Stop this.”
As John unsuccessfully tried to control his weeping, Sherlock felt a lump form in his throat that he had trouble swallowing around. He nearly lost it when John switched into soldier mode, subtly giving his grave a hero’s salute, and turning with military precision to walk away.
Twenty-four months. Twenty-four months since he had first met John Watson, and he finally realised what his role in the man’s life had been. He had been the centre around which John’s entire world had revolved.
For several seconds, Sherlock’s eyes tracked John’s movement. He blinked once as he tried to bring his thoughts into some sort of order. Hurry up and finish, he told himself. Hurry up and do what you have to do, so that you can come back and fix this. The initial estimate of three years is much too long; it has to get done sooner. Make it so.
Finally clear in his mind as to what he had to do, Sherlock walked away from his grave and from John, determination speeding up his steps towards what his life was to be like for the next few months. Whipping out his phone, he texted Mycroft his new plan of action.
Stay safe, John. I’ll return as soon as I can.