Over the edge.
He was falling.
John shot upright, throwing the covers away and gasping in ragged breaths. His top lip was coated in a sheen of moisture and he was shaking all over. He'd been dreaming that same dream for months now, though it was really a nightmare. It always started with those words: Goodbye, John, before Sherlock would step off the edge. Then, the world would blur and Sherlock would be falling, falling, falling...
Shivering at the memory, John rolled over and checked his clock: 5:30. Sleep was playing its favourite game - 'Avoiding John' - so there wasn't any point in just lying there. Instead, he quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping Mary, slipped away and headed downstairs.
The living room was still, as if it were a model room in a museum: untouched. John wasn't keen on it, if he were honest. It just wasn't...it wasn't Baker Street. There was no dark-haired sociopath lounging in the armchair, no mournful sonance of a self-composed violin sonata and no constant bustling of 'not-your-housekeeper' Mrs Hudson. The rest of the house felt needless; he could manage with just a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. And anyway, this place was just a house: 221B was a home.
Then, there was Mary. Mary Morstan. Soon to be Mary Watson. But, oh, how John wished he'd never gotten into the whole thing! It was unfair on Mary. He couldn't bear to tell her 'I love you' one more time and not mean it. He couldn't bear to lie to her any longer, to divert from the truth. Because, although he did love Mary, he loved someone else even more. And yet, the man he loved was dead.
John pressed his lips tightly together and forced his eyes shut. But when tears are meant to fall, they will always find a way to. He gave up and let the sobs rake through his lungs, crushing him one moment, then tugging him upright the next, never loosening their hold on him. Five minutes later, he found himself curled up on the sofa, exhausted and utterly drained.
"John? Oh, John, what is it?" Mary's voice was a mixture of worry and tiredness, comforting and distressing at the same time; she couldn't know the full truth...and yet, John couldn't bear to lie again. In the end, he just sat up and put his head in his hands. Mary's arms enclosed around him, protective, but it just made him think of how much he'd always wished Sherlock would do that.
Don't cry, John, not again! Not here with Mary!
Luckily, his tear glands had dried up and he allowed himself to be held, as Mary rocked him gently in the silence. He was glad to have her there, to have someone there. Maybe...maybe he would be able to love her properly. Maybe.
It was the same again the next night. The nightmare ran its course; John wept on the sofa. But Mary didn't hear, didn't come. And the more he wept for Sherlock, the more he wanted him, the more he thought about how to break it to Mary. But how would she ever understand? How could anyone comprehend that he was still in love with a dead man, instead of his live girlfriend?
And the memories came back, breaking through the dam he'd built to keep them away. Images swirled through his head: Sherlock, 221B, his jealousy of Irene Adler, meeting Mike Stamford...everything that had led him to adore the consulting detective. Just one glance from him could send tingles flooding down his spine; just one flick of his curls would render John speechless. Just one jump had left him completely and utterly alone.
The kettle whistled. John jumped. Walking into the kitchen, hologram Sherlocks flashed up, standing by the kettle, peering through microscopes and cursing Mrs Hudson. He winced at the sight, shutting his eyes and forcing them to leave. But even when they had gone, the memory burned in his retina. No cup of tea was going to solve that now.
He sat down again, his shoulders rigid. What was he going to do? His life was slowly being torn apart by one man, one dead man. But one beautiful man.
There was just one thing: John knew that something wasn't quite right. Surely, Sherlock wouldn't really commit suicide? He hadn't been a fake. John knew that for sure. But if he was still alive, why had he left John? Why, after one whole year, would he have heard nothing?
All John wanted now was to be either reunited with Sherlock or have him wiped from memory. All he wanted was to know the truth. Just once.