“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world,
which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime,
and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay
Author note: Part 5 of the "No Heart For Me Like Yours" series. This story contains quite a few spoilers for the rest of the series, so it would probably make much more sense to read the series in order, as it tells how John and Sherlock got to this point.
Thanks to arianedevere and the detailed transcript of “The Reichenbach Fall” at her LJ site: http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/tag/
Many thanks to my beta, Skyfullofstars. Sky, thank you for making me stop and think harder about this story. It’s better because of you.
Disclaimers: Sherlock belongs to Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock Holmes originally belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I own nothing. This makes me very, very sad.
Warnings: Sherlock/John. Slash, slash, somewhat graphic slash. Major, major spoilers for Season 2.
Trigger warnings: Suicidal ideation; references to previous abusive relationship, non-con, sexual assault.Please read and review!
Chapter 10: Suffering is Optional
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
― Buddhist proverb
The heavy silence lasts for over two hours on the long drive back to London, the tension between us almost palpable. Then, it seems to dissipate, and I risk a quick glance at Sherlock out of the corner of my eye.
More than anything else that has happened so far, this tells me how exhausted he truly is from the past weeks. Normally, Sherlock is either a whirlwind of action, or a meditative, coiled bundle of potential energy. Traveling with him can be great fun, if he’s in a talkative mood, but the restlessness that is his hallmark can make it a bit trying at times. He almost vibrates, like a greyhound anticipating the lure.
Not today. Lulled by the rhythm of the tyres on the motorway, Sherlock has sagged sideways, facing me, his right cheek resting against the back of the seat. The keen eyes are closed, and dusky lashes rest on his pale cheekbones. I resist an urge to reach over and touch his lips, so soft and childlike in their repose.
Instead, I pick up Sherlock’s iPod, plug it into the dock in the console and press play, not even bothering to check what songs are on it. I just need a distraction from the tumult of my thoughts. To my amazement, “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops rolls out of the speakers.
This is a surprise. Sherlock has always been so scornful of any music that isn’t classical, and turned his nose up at the Motown sound, my favorite musical style. When Marvin Gaye’s smooth tenor exhorts me to consider his plea in “Let’s Get It On,” I’m even more surprised. And then…
“At last…my love has come along, my lonely days are over, and life is like a song…”
When the opening strains of Etta James’ “At Last” begin, I finally reach over and flick the screen of the iPod back to see the name of the playlist.
The list is titled, “John.”
The idea that he has been listening to my favorite music, and the most romantic ones to boot, makes something squeeze painfully in my chest. Impulsively, I reach out, cover his hand with mine and relax back into my seat, as Etta’s voice surrounds me like warm honey.
“You smiled, you smiled; oh, and then the spell was cast…and here we are in heaven, for you are mine…at last…”
“She’s 75 years old, Sherlock, and her blood pressure can be bit dodgy at times. You will not give her a heart attack by springing this on her like you did to me.”
We’ve managed to find a parking space for the hire car on Malcolme Street, just around the corner from 221B Baker Street. Sherlock, finally awake and alert, leaps from the car, fully intent on revealing his status of being among the living to Mrs. Hudson as soon as possible.
“She needs to know, John! Now that I’m coming out of hiding, I fully expect to be a target for a sniper. She’ll need to take precautions if she’s to stay in the house.”
“That may be, Sherlock, but…” my brain finally catches up to what he just said. “A sniper?” I find myself glancing around sharply, scanning surrounding rooftops for the flash of light reflecting from a spotting scope or rifle sight.
“Yes, John. I was going to tell you all about our last target, who also regards me as a target. Then we…had a disagreement…so the opportunity to tell you during the drive back was lost.” Sherlock huffs in annoyance.
“Well, once we’re in the flat, and have drawn the bloody curtains, you will tell me all about it, Sherlock. Everything, do you hear?” I snatch our bags from the boot, then hustle Sherlock toward the flat, eager to get him safely indoors as soon as possible.
“But first, Sherlock, we need to break the news to Mrs. Hudson, and you are not going to frighten her to death.” I open the door, ushering him in, and drop the bags in the foyer. I nudge him toward the stairs. “Go on upstairs and close the drapes. Let me talk to her first.”
Sherlock snorts, but obediently continues up the stairs, as I knock on the door to 221A. Mrs. Hudson opens it a moment later, clutching a feather duster in one hand.
“John!” Her cry of delight at my unexpected appearance sends a pang through me – if I hadn’t found that postcard a few days ago, this kind woman would have been one of the few people likely to attend my funeral. Guilt surges through me for condemning Sherlock for putting me through his “suicide,” when I had intended to do the same thing to Mrs. Hudson. I return her eager hug, and follow her into her sitting room. (I’m relieved to note that all of her draperies are already closed.)
“What brings you back to the flat, John? Are you considering moving back in?”
“Mrs. Hudson…” I break off, unsure of how to break the news gently. I gesture toward the flowered settee. “Would you mind? I really think you need to sit down for this.”
Wearing a perplexed expression, she sits down, pulling me down beside her.
“John, dear, what’s this about?”
“Mrs. Hudson…I don’t even know how to…” I trail off, looking at her kindly, puzzled smile, take a deep breath, and blurt out, “Sherlock’s not dead.”
Her face falls and her shoulders sag a bit. “Oh, John.” She reaches out to give me the usual, comforting, motherly pats that she has bestowed on me for the last 10 weeks.
She doesn’t believe me.
“It’s true, Mrs. Hudson, I haven’t gone ‘round the bend. Sherlock is alive.” I rush on, pushing past her obvious disbelief. “He faked his death, so that he could go underground and take out Moriarty’s network.”
Her face slowly changes, becoming crushed and betrayed.
“And you…you knew this, John? How could you – ”
“No. No. I…” I swallow hard around the lump in my throat. “I thought it was true. I fell for it. No, I swear I would have told you if I’d known. I would never have done that to you.”
“But he did it to you.” Her expression darkens, her knuckles tightening on the handle of the forgotten feather duster, still clutched in her hand.
“Where is he now?”
“Upstairs, but maybe you should…wait until you’ve had…some time…” I trail off. She’s long gone, rushing upstairs at an impressive rate for a 75-year-old with a dodgy hip. I scramble to my feet and follow her up the stairs.
When I arrive on the landing, I see Sherlock standing, his ridiculous ginger hair glowing under the main light of the sitting room, his arms awkwardly wrapped around the tiny form of our landlady. She is mumbling something unintelligible into his chest, squeezing him so tightly that he winces.
Then she pulls back from the embrace, and whacks him hard across the side of his head with the feather duster that is still clutched in her hand.
Sherlock recoils a step, looking as though he has suddenly been bitten to death by a fluffy, baby bunny. Mrs. Hudson strikes him again and again, across the ear, around his head and shoulders. She is shouting at him, her face flushed with rage.
“How could you do that to us, Sherlock? How could you do that to John? Do you have any idea what the poor boy has been through because of you? If you knew how many times I worried that the next time I walked into this flat I’d be finding John’s body, dead by his own hand? You absolutely destroyed him, Sherlock! How could you do such a thing?”
Whack! Whack! Whack!
Sherlock reels back, trying to escape the unexpected, feathery assault. She has driven him backward across the room, and so he doesn’t see the round side table by my chair. His legs have no trouble finding it, though.
Arms pinwheeling wildly, he falls backward over the table and into the cupboards behind it, taking out the standing lamp, the table, and the lucky cat statue I gave him for Christmas. He lies there amidst the wreckage, blinking, and Mrs. Hudson and I are both frozen, almost as stunned as he is. There is a moment of silence, then Mrs. Hudson bursts into tears and storms out of the flat.
I’m finally snapped out of my shock, and I hurry over to check him for injuries. He has quite a goose-egg on the back of his head, but he seems to be all right. The lucky cat is a write-off, though.
“Are you okay, Sherlock?”
He shakes his head in amazement, saying, “I’ve just spent more than two months chasing down some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. I’ve fought violent thugs and assassins, and brought down megalomaniacs. And I get taken out by septuagenarian wielding a feather duster.” He rubs his head ruefully. “Why a feather duster? Not a conventional choice for dishing out violence.”
“Yeah, she was dusting when I came in and told her. I think she forgot that she was holding it.”
“Hmm.” He huffs out a soft laugh. “I guess it’s a damn good thing she wasn’t ironing, then.”
Our eyes meet, and there’s a flash of that marvelous, perfectly synchronised camaraderie that I’ve never felt with anyone else. We begin to giggle, then laugh, and finally we’re both stretched out on the sitting room floor, roaring with laughter.
Hell. I’ve missed this laughter, this bond, so much. Am I really willing to give it up, on principle?
I’m not nearly as certain of my position on the issue as I was this morning.
oOoOoRead Chapter 11