14 February, Evening
Thank god for police cars.
That’s all John can think. Thank god for police cars, and shock blankets, and Sherlock. Thank god Sherlock wasn’t hit. Thank god he wasn’t hit. Thank god…
John Watson isn’t a praying man, but every day he woke up in Afghanistan alive and intact he would think thank god. And every time someone else was hit—thank god it wasn’t me. That wasn’t always at the forefront of his mind. Sometimes if it was one of his friends, one of the men in his unit, a good man, then anguish would overwhelm anything else for a while. But always, always there, always somewhere: thank god it wasn’t me.
It wasn’t just him, either. Everyone thought it, except for the ones who thought please let it end today, please take me. But John wasn’t one of those people, and, even though his insides feel as though they’ve been scooped out and dumped elsewhere, he knows he’ll wake up tomorrow thankful to be alive.
He looks over his shoulder at Sherlock, who appears to have vacated himself entirely, and reaches over, squeezes his wrist. “You’re all right,” he says. It’s instinct. He’s had to do this a lot. He knows Sherlock isn’t really all right, but it needs to be said anyway. “Sherlock, can you hear me?”
No response. Used to that, too. John squeezes a little tighter, then pulls back, releases his grip. “We’ll be home soon.”
Sherlock says nothing.
15 February, Early Morning
They must have got up to the bathroom somehow. One second Sherlock and John are still in the car, the next they’re standing under the showerhead while John helps Sherlock out of his blood-soaked clothes. But they must have gone from point A to point B—they didn’t just skip the intermediate steps. John can picture them going through the motions: Sherlock’s limbs slow, uncooperative, his eyes unfocused, his arm draped over John’s shoulders; John supporting half his weight, helping him up the stairs; Mrs. Hudson asking them what’s wrong, are they all right, what’s all the blood—
Yes, this, it must have happened this way. It must have gone like this, but John can’t remember actually doing any of it. It’s as if his brain has switched on some bizarre autopilot, gone into army doctor mode without asking him permission to do so. But never mind that. Helping Sherlock out of his coat, his suit jacket, his shirt, his trousers.
The blood in Sherlock’s clothes hasn’t dried yet. It pools by their feet and swirls down the drain. Something comically mundane registers in John’s mind: the dry cleaners are going to have a hell of a time with this mess. No. Not now, not appropriate. Tend to Sherlock.
Once Sherlock’s free of his clothes, he sinks down to his knees, still staring out in front of him. John, who doesn’t care that his own clothes are getting soaked through, checks the water again to make sure it’s warm enough and then kneels down behind Sherlock. “I’ll help wash you off,” he says, unable to think of anything else to say. Sherlock doesn’t respond.
It’s not until John’s been scrubbing at Sherlock’s back for a bit that Sherlock opens his mouth and starts talking, still staring straight ahead. It’s as if he can’t stop himself, as if the words just avalanche out of his mouth in a monotone once it’s open. He tells John how he met Victor, what happened after, what happened after that, Victor’s dual life, dual career, how they met again October before last, what Victor must have been doing for Moriarty. John listens. He listens, but he doesn’t allow any of it to sink in just yet. Some of it’s shocking, some of it’s downright horrifying, but there will be time to sift through it later. For now, he has to make sure Sherlock stays with him.
Then: Sherlock stops talking abruptly. His eyes refuse to focus on anything. With the water from the shower running down his cheeks, John can’t tell if he’s crying. He’s still as a statue.
“Thank you,” John says at last, because it’s all he can think to say. “Thank you for telling me all of that.”
Sherlock inclines his head, just a little—whether from misplaced shame or mere acknowledgement, John doesn’t know. John shuts off the water.
When he helps Sherlock to his bedroom, Sherlock refuses to let him go. John can understand why. Vulnerable. Needs reassurance. “I’m here,” he says. “I’ll be right here, Sherlock. I just need to put on pajamas, that’s all.”
He’s good on his word. Once he’s changed, he climbs into bed next to Sherlock, who’s still naked and still damp. Sherlock curls close immediately, for warmth, for confirmation that John is here. John thinks he feels Sherlock’s lips brush against his collarbone, accidentally or on purpose. They lie awake for hours like that, together, numb with the shock of being alive.
15 February, Mid-Morning
John is the first one to wake up the next morning, which means that he is the one in the kitchen clutching a mug of coffee when the doorbell rings. When he goes downstairs, he’s not surprised to find Mycroft Holmes standing on the front stoop, his umbrella folded shut by his side. It’s sunny. John is not sure how it can be sunny, but there you are. World keeps turning.
“John,” says Mycroft. He does not sound surprised either.
“Your brother’s still asleep,” says John, his voice a bit too sharp. He doesn’t think Sherlock will be up for a brotherly chat anytime soon.
“Good,” says Mycroft. “He is not the person I came to see.”
“All right,” John replies. “Go on, say your piece.”
Mycroft glances around. He clearly expects to be invited inside. “Here?”
“Here’s as good as anywhere.”
“Very well.” Mycroft looks at him, and it seems to John that he’s taking in the terseness of John’s tone, the distinctive lines etched under his eyes, the shape of his mouth. John feels as though he’s aged ten years since last night. At last, Mycroft says, “I see Sherlock told you what Victor Trevor was.”
Mycroft’s smile is pinched at the corners. “No.”
John, lacking a cleverer response, says dully, “Well, he was an assassin.”
“Ah.” Mycroft rocks forward onto the balls of his toes, just for a moment, before settling back down. “You’re conflicted.”
“Conflict—” John leans against the doorframe, regarding Mycroft steadily. He’s probably known for years and years that Victor Trevor was the one who’d assaulted Sherlock. For John, that knowledge came only on the heels of the man’s death. It’s not that John’s conflicted so much as confused. According to Sherlock, Victor’s last act of self-sacrifice was a way of trying to make it up, but can you ever make something like that up? If you could, wouldn’t paying with your life be the way to go about doing it? But that’s not the world they live in, is it? “Look, I’m not sure you’d understand, but it’s been a very long twelve hours.”
“Victor Trevor was a murderer and a rapist,” Mycroft says simply. “Don’t pity him. He was a man paying off his debts—belatedly, at that. If you must pity anyone, his wife and son are infinitely more deserving.”
John nearly jumps. He’d forgotten about the wife. Sherlock had only mentioned her briefly, in passing, just that one time, and he never said anything about a son. John would have remembered. “How old’s his son?” he asks.
“I spoke with the widow last night.” Mycroft sticks his hand in the pocket of his waistcoat and pulls out a few sheets of paper, which he offers to John. “In accordance with Trevor’s last wishes, she is still oblivious to his… second profession. We have arranged it such that she will remain so.”
“That’s very generous of you,” says John dryly, but he accepts the papers anyway.
“Sherlock insisted.” Mycroft attempts to play it off casually, but there’s a note of disgust in his voice that he can’t quite hide. “I’ve given you the new narrative. You both were chance witnesses to the killing, nothing more.”
John scans the papers quickly. Drive-by shooting. Victor wasn’t the intended target. Very neat, very clean, very dull. Something tickles the back of John’s mind, and he says, “Must have been frustrating, yeah? What with all the power you have, you still couldn’t manage to have Victor killed off before now. Was he that good at keeping you at bay? His assassin training came in handy, did it?”
Mycroft’s eyebrows shoot up. “Hardly,” he says. “You don’t know how tempted I was, John.”
“Then why not?” John asks quietly. It suddenly strikes him how absurd it is to be having this conversation on a doorstep in the middle of London, in his pajamas and dressing gown, holding a cup of lukewarm coffee. “Why didn’t you kill him?”
“You’ve seen how Sherlock’s taken his death.” There’s the resentment again. Resentment for what? Sherlock not being able to blame his rapist properly? It must be infuriating for someone as keen and objective as Mycroft Holmes that his brother can’t just see things in black and white. “Why don’t you tell me?”
John just folds the documents and puts them in the pocket of his robe with his free hand. “I’ll make sure Sherlock gets those,” he says.
“Good.” Mycroft puts more weight on his umbrella. “The funeral’s on Wednesday the twentieth. I wouldn’t have mentioned, but I know Sherlock will insist on finding out anyway. He might as well hear it from me.”
Mycroft smiles at him coldly, but only says, “Good day, John.”
John doesn’t head back inside until Mycroft’s vanished into a black car across the street. His hand is too firm on the doorknob, and he realizes that he is angry. Not at Mycroft, really. Well, yes at Mycroft, for being insufferable. But most of his anger is directed at a dead man, and what’s left over is directed at himself, because he feels like he should be angrier, and all he can think is that if he and Victor had ever met up for drinks like they were supposed to at some fuzzy future date that maybe, just maybe, Victor would have told him the truth.
15 February, Midday – 19 February, Morning
Sherlock exists. John exists. And, merely by existing, they are the lucky ones.
19 February, Midday
It’ll be the seventh or eighth time Sherlock has asked. John can tell what he’s about to do before he even opens his mouth. He reads the intent in the way Sherlock’s cheeks flush and the creases in his forehead deepen. Some bizarre side effect of living with Sherlock Holmes for too long, no doubt. Still, John sits at the table in the living room, watching Sherlock as he paces, paces, until finally he comes to a halt and begins to ask, “Do you think—”
“Do I think Victor would have wanted you at his funeral,” John finishes, no trace of a question in his voice.
Sherlock makes as if to resume pacing, then stops, stares over at him. His hands are clasped behind his back. A couple of his fingers twitch.
“Look, I’m sorry, Sherlock,” says John, immediately regretting the interruption. “You’ve just—you’re the one who knew him best, aren’t you? Don’t you think you’d be the one to know whether or not he’d want you at his funeral?”
“My judgment is—in this situation—I am not…” Sherlock looks off to the side for a moment, then fixes his eyes back on John with such a blazing intensity that John feels like he might be knocked backward out of his seat. “Do you think Victor would want me at his funeral? As I am—responsible for it.”
John is about to open his mouth to argue, also for the seventh or eighth time, that Sherlock is not responsible for what happened to Victor Trevor, but then he swallows, understands that this question is simultaneously about Victor and not about Victor at all. Thank god it wasn’t me, he remembers thinking. Thank god. But if it were, if it had been. (If it would be? If Sherlock is the death of him?)
“Yeah,” he says quietly, with conviction. “Yeah, I do.”