The Only One in the World

Just a bit of Johnlock angst.

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1. The Only One in the World

In loving memory of Sherlock Watson-Holmes

(1985-2011)

Beloved husband, friend and detective

 

John’s hand traces the contours of the coal-coloured gravestone, his fingertips brushing the weather-inflicted fissures in the marble. Something in him twitches uncomfortably. He knows what it is, and yet he continues to deny it, continues to deny exactly what has happened. For three years, he has been able to evade the truth. But in the end, it will always be the truth that wins. Sparing the marble his touch for a few moments, he twists the golden band on his left hand between thumb and forefinger, puckering his lips. No. No, he won’t believe it. It still hasn’t sunk in, at least, not properly. Ever since Sherlock’s been gone, John hasn’t been able to... adapt into civilian life anymore. Every night, he dreams of Afghanistan. Every night, he expects to be roused from his nightmares by soft hands delicately fluttering over his face, by lingering kisses to his cheeks and lips, helping him to calm down. And then, a cup of tea to soothe his nerves before sleep took him once more. 

 

Now, he wakes abruptly with the ringing of a gunshot in his ears, his shoulder throbbing painfully, and sweat trickling down his temples. Then the tears come. He can’t help it- the grief is becoming unbearable. It’s no longer a hot cuppa that calms him down, but rather the tears of a type of sorrow that he refuses to part with. Sometimes, John wishes he were dead. But Sherlock wouldn’t have wanted that, would he? The pain gets him through his twelve-hour shifts at the clinic, from five to five, every day of the week save for Tuesday. 221B, however, remains unsold, untouched. John moved out of there a long time ago. Too many memories lie within the little flat, from John first moving in to Sherlock frying up eyeballs for the sake of it all with his bunsen burner. He is a ridiculous man. Or rather, had been. 

 

John looks down at the fresh bouquet of lilies he has just deposited before the grave, heaving a weary sigh. Often, he’d come and tell Sherlock a few stories about what‘s been happening, how things have been going. Sometimes, he’ll end up with a salty-tasting joke on how Sherlock always used to complain at how appalling John’s writing was. Every time, John tells him how much he loved- loves him, even to this day. It’s the only easy thing to say, because it’s pure, it’s simple. You’re my universe, Sherlock, he tells the stone. It’s not rare that he hears voices in his head, telling him to drop it, telling him to just move on and get himself someone else. But there is nobody else. 

 

***

 

By now, John has managed to put the pieces of his puzzle back together. He walks back through the graveyard, and pulls off his gloves to brush the snow off the top of Sherlock’s gravestone. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring you flowers, this time,” he says. “But apparently Winter and flowers don’t work too well together.” He pauses, folding his quivering hands together in front of himself, looking down at Sherlock. “Lestrade and Mycroft have been helping me get it together again. I think I’m starting to see purpose in my life again, Sherlock,” he murmurs, running a hand through his rapidly-greying hair. “No, don’t worry, it doesn’t involve me growing a moustache, no.” A little chuckle escapes him. It is here he finds his relief, as close to Sherlock as he’ll ever get so long he still lives. Perhaps he ought to start it up again, continue Sherlock’s work. He knows it will be a painful rhythm to get back into, but it’s worth a shot. He has to do it. Has to do it for Sherlock.

 

When he comes home to his little shabby flat, John starts to pack what little possessions he has that he didn’t take from Baker Street. He’ll go back tomorrow, sort things out. John falls asleep that night with a framed photograph cradled in his arms. The photo is of Sherlock and himself, together, in- Hyde Park, was it? Hyde Park, yes.

 

He can feel himself getting better, getting stronger. A small part of his feels guilty, knowing that Sherlock was helpless to do the same, but he pushes forwards. He has to do this. He would have liked to say that he shed those four years like a snake does its skin, but he can’t do that. The grief stays, the memories stay. Even if he could, he wouldn’t have wanted to ever forget Sherlock, no. Never. Slowly, John settles back into Baker Street, and he gets started again. He takes up Ella’s advice, picks up his blog. The last entry dates May 24, 2011. John calls up Sarah later on that day, and tells her he’s changing shifts, that he won’t be able to work so long at the clinic. It takes some persuading, and eventually he gets the last shift on Friday. His pay won’t be so good anymore, but the money hardly matters. 

 

Seated at his laptop with a mug of tea beside him, John starts working on his business card. He makes it the same colour as Sherlock’s, designs it the same way- black on white, name and job and address up front, accompanied with a signature on the bottom. Then, a little map of where in the area 221B was, and that was that. He has assembled it within the hour.

 

Dr. John H. Watson

Consulting Detective

221B Baker Street, NW1, London

 

John looks at it for several moments, and then shakes his head. No. Something’s missing. Sherlock’s missing. And so he changes it.

Dr. John H. Watson-Holmes

Consulting Detective

221B Baker Street, NW1, London

 

There we go. That’s far better. Pleased with his handiwork, John  arranges for them to be made and then delivered. To conclude the evening, he lies down on the sofa, propped up against some pillows, laptop resting on his knee. For a moment, he thinks that a tall, lanky man will join him, snuggle up to him, lie on top of him and tuck his mop of black hair beneath John’s chin, but it doesn’t happen. It was at a time like that when Sherlock had told him the truth about his health. John snivels and wipes his eyes brusquely with thee back of his palm,  Opening up his blog, he starts a new entry, his eyes occasionally sliding over to certain items in the flat that had been Sherlock’s. The Stradivarius lies now in a dusty leather case, there are still unopened letters addressed to his husband on the mantelpiece.

 

John shakes the sound of Sherlock playing Bach from his head and starts to write. Now he knows what it feels like, to be the only one in the world. It doesn’t feel as grandiose as he thought it would. Now, he knows the truth- and god, how lonely Sherlock must’ve been before he met John. Frequently still, John visits his grave, but he waits, knowing that at some point, they will be reunited. They’ll have to be. John’s not as good as Sherlock was, but he tries his best to work well for Scotland Yard, analysing corpses and re-learning a chemistry major with textbooks to try and improve his knowledge. John has never felt so alone. Not even on the dry, hard ground of Afghanistan, where he lay with a bleeding shoulder, sure that he would die by suffocating in a puddle of his own blood, certain that his life would end then and there. But they had pulled him out, sent him back home to better doctors so they could dig the metal object out of his shoulder. Back then, there had been a way out. Now, there isn’t.

 

The only one in the world.

 

 

***

 

It is the first they have fought in a long time. He’s prattling on again about how everything is lost, about how he can’t do anything, about how he absolutely hates everything surrounding him. Every other time since the case, John has been able to hold himself in, to control himself, but this time, it gets to him. What bothers John most of all is that his partner has no regard whatsoever as to what this constant complaining is doing to him. 

 

John worries about him. Far too much, Sherlock likes to tell him. He says John is paranoid. But when it comes to Sherlock, there’s no such thing as worrying too much about him. John considers it his job, as both the detective’s doctor and husband. This entire, restless feud has done neither of them any good. Sherlock tries to console himself when John’s methods fail; he says: “I’m a detective, I’ve always known I won’t live long. Perhaps this was meant to happen to me. Someone decided it. It’s my destiny.”

 

Bollocks. He doesn’t believe in any higher power, doesn’t believe in the supernatural. He doesn’t think he was fated to do anything. It’s not like it’s ever mattered before, no. Not to him. Not to the great Sherlock Holmes. He sulks often, now, and for petty little things. He used to yell for cigarettes when he didn’t have an interesting case on. Now, he’s become snappish, more impatient, and colder towards the other. John doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve any of this.

 

Anger. Bitterness. Illusion. 

Fury. Resentment. Deception.

 

At last, the yelling calms down. Silence settles back down upon the flat, and it seems to stretch on for years. It is the type of silence that leaves behind a gritty dust of shattered and confused emotions upon every square inch around the two men. Both are unsure of what to say next. John looks on the verge of tears. This quarrel has left him as somewhat of a wreck, torn between despair and love. Love. What a word; indescribable, and yet John can pin every single feeling to those four letters. Christ, it hurts far too much. At last, he speaks.

 

“I’m going to bed. Text me.” 

 

Nothing more needs to be said- Sherlock knows what he means. With that, John disappears into the bedroom. He buries his face into his pillow once he slips beneath the sheets. It smells of nothing. After a moment’s hesitation, he switches their pillows over, and as he inhales next time, he smells the apple and honey shampoo Sherlock uses to wash his hair. He folds a hand beneath the pillow and stays like that for some time, his phone beside him. 

 

Half an hour later, they are both in bed. Their hands are linked beneath the covers. Sherlock grips his hand so tightly that John’s fingers begin to ache where they are laced with his husband’s. He doesn’t wince, doesn’t pull back. Pain is comfort, right now. The simple gesture speaks more to him than perhaps Sherlock has intended. He knows it’s alright between them, now. Everything is forgiven. That’s not to say it won’t happen again. John knows just as well as Sherlock does that it will happen once more at the very least.

 

One week later, and it has become an exhaustingly vicious cycle. Sherlock complains, John flares up, havoc is wreaked upon the small living space. As time goes by, more and more gritty dust piles up on every surface, until John fears he will choke if he takes one more breath. 

 

Their relationship is leaking with poison. John wants this madness to stop, so he sits his husband down on a bleak Friday afternoon with a cup of tea in his hand and the teapot between them on the coffee table. He becomes conscious of his movements as Sherlock eyes him with a sharp, calculating gaze. John can see through it, however, and as he looks up, he is surprised to see a morsel of sadness lodged between the blue iris and the pupil. Something is hurting Sherlock, and John knows it isn’t him. He can’t bring himself to look down to Sherlock’s legs. He does not want his husband to notice it if he does, because he knows it will either start a fight again, or it’ll make Sherlock even more cut off from what was supposed to be his life. Either way, it would land the detective upset, and that is the last thing John wants to be doing to him. He’s having trouble forming the words. His lips are quivering, not allowing him to speak, and when he does, it sounds like a jumble of letters someone retched onto the carpet in front of them. Look, he wants to say. Look at me. Look at us. Sherlock is uncomfortable in his seat, and John can see it. It makes his heart ache. He slides his hand in Sherlock’s, allowing his thumb to slowly stroke the alabastrine skin stretched taut over the back of his hand. 

 

“Look at me, darling,” he finally says. Sherlock does. John may not be the deducing genius his husband is, but he knows when something’s wrong. It hurts so much to see Sherlock so… wounded. Usually, he would strut about the place, yelling about cases and annoying the hell out of John at five o’clock in the morning with a bunsen burner in hand. Ridiculous. But John had loved him all the same for his whimsical means of getting through life. Now, however, he is the opposite. He appears almost depressed. Several times, John has considered bringing up a therapist, but he knows it will only anger Sherlock. John places his teacup down in its saucer, and eases Sherlock’s out of his grip. Turning around somewhat to look at him on the sofa, he puts a hand to Sherlock’s cheek, his thumb brushing the cheekbone. Sherlock’s pallor appears sickly. His lips haven’t quirked up in the slightest in Lord knows how long. “Oh, baby,” he whispers, feeling the saliva stick in his throat. “Oh, my love.” John slides an arm around his husband and tugs him into his side, now running his fingers through Sherlock’s soft dark curls. “Tell me what’s wrong, love,” he urges, but Sherlock shakes his head. You know what’s wrong, he tells John. “I don’t.” That was a little lie, but John wants Sherlock to talk to him about it. I can’t do anything, not anymore, Sherlock continues. John feels his heart turn to glass. Every part of pain that Sherlock spills out, every ounce of self-loathing he expresses to John acts like a little hammer tapping at John’s now fragile heart. Slowly, he can feel it cracking up. But he wills it to stay together, not to cave in on itself just yet. “Oh no. Oh no, no, no,” he croons, pressing a kiss to Sherlock’s forehead. “No, baby. Don’t say that, please don’t.” It’s true, comes the answer. John shakes his head and places another kiss to his lover’s forehead. “No, it’s not true. You can still do so much. It’s what’s up there that counts, love. I still love you, you’re still useful to the Yard, if that’s what you mean. They need you, Sherlock. We all do,” he whispers. “I do. Most of all, I need you. I can’t live without you, love. You’re my universe. You’re my everything.” Sherlock falls silent, his face buried in John’s chest as the doctor holds him close, rocking him slightly.

 

That night, after a warm dinner, they make love to each other between the sheets. It’s passionate, quiet. John kisses sonnets on Sherlock’s skin, and Sherlock replies with heated moans and whispers of love to his husband. Every kiss John places upon Sherlock’s skin is tender, soft, lingering. They fall asleep then, pressed to each other, the sticky remnant of their evening between their bellies a reminder to how much they truly love each other. John wakes Sherlock up with soft kisses and nuzzles, and as Sherlock’s eyes open, John pecks Sherlock’s nose, pressing their foreheads together. The man beneath him giggles, and for once, the day starts off nicely. John and Sherlock stay like that for a moment, absorbing the feeling in. John leaves to get a flannel and wipes them clean from last night’s endeavours. They take a bath together, Sherlock sitting between John’s legs in the water as he lets John wash his hair.

 

Over a simple breakfast of porridge and tea, John brings up the subject of going outside together again, perhaps for a little tour of Hyde Park, he suggests. Sherlock’s face falls at the prospect, and he refuses. John tries to plead for him to agree, but it doesn’t work. When John confronts him as to why, Sherlock pushes his plate away, and stands up with the words that he’s full. Picking up his tea, he heads for the living room. John watches him make his slow way to his desk near the window, and shakes his head, rubbing his face with one hand. He decides not to push anything; he doesn’t want to ruin their otherwise perfect morning. 

 

His fingertips are holding onto the cracks in their foundation.

 

The next day, John tries to give Sherlock a little nudge out of the front door again. This time, it leads to another row. John leaves the flat to go shopping. His walk is furiously paced, movements almost military as he fights to uphold his composure. He makes it to Waitrose, buys the milk, pays the cashier and offers the lady a forced smile as she wishes him a nice day. A moment later, he is hurrying back outside, wiping his eyes dry. By the time he unlocks the front door, he feels like he is cracking.

 

By the third morning, Sherlock’s skin is noticeably paler, his hair darker. This time, John doesn’t allow Sherlock to protest. He dresses him up to go outdoors. It is with a fond expression that John kneels down before Sherlock and slowly ties the blue scarf around his neck, making sure it rests there snugly. He presses a kiss to Sherlock’s lips before helping him with his belstaff. He flips the collar up and tugs gently at his lapels, straightening him up. John leans up and presses a lingering kiss to the top of Sherlock’s head, nose buried in Sherlock’s hair. 

 

“Ready?” He asks. Sherlock nods in response, and John gets him outside. It takes a bit of the usual manoeuvring to get him down the stairs, but they manage it in the end. John is simply glad his days in the military are finally paying off. He locks both doors behind them, and takes Sherlock around the block to the closest park. It’s a nicer little time out than John could have imagined. They don’t fight, don’t argue about anything, and the only thing Sherlock is complaining about is the cold. It is cold, John has to agree, but he knows what Sherlock’s game is- and he plays along. He gets them both coffee, but Sherlock is still complaining when John sits him down on a park bench and joins him. John wraps his arms around Sherlock after finishing his coffee and holds him close, pressing a kiss to his temple. Sherlock only stops his whinging after John does that, and turns to humming in content. It’s much better this way, John thinks. So much better.

 

It’s only a few weeks later, and the fighting has stopped. Sherlock instead mourns his fading speech in silent, head bowed as he sits in his armchair in the living room, a forgotten cup of tea quivering in one hand, the liquid threatening to spill. John stays by him, and he always listens to Sherlock now, never interrupts him. Visits to the hospital are frequent. The doctor prescribes medicine to Sherlock to slow down the symptoms, but Sherlock’s end is inevitable. Everyone’s is, thinks John, trying to console himself one night as he watches over his husband, one arm curled around the other’s waist, tugging him in close as he sleeps, and does so ever so peacefully. John is determined to make the most of their time before the disease finally takes him completely. He feeds him, helps him down his drinks, keeps him hydrated. Sherlock is finally more willing to go outside, but their trips are short.

 

Sherlock has made his decision by now. After all, it’s legal here, and he doesn’t see why he shouldn’t take advantage of it. Take advantage of it, John had scoffed, as Sherlock brought it up. His scorn was to hide how thin and brittle the glass of his heart has become, he did it so Sherlock needn’t worry about how he felt. John wants Sherlock to worry about him so much, but it’s stupid. It’s stupid and selfish to wish that. Leaning forwards slightly in bed, John presses his face to the back of Sherlock’s head, the thick dark locks tickling his cheeks. John closes his eyes and tries to fall asleep, but it is near impossible to fall asleep. He is always so worried someone will come and snatch Sherlock away from him.

 

***

He isn’t ready for this. He isn’t ready to lose everything, to have everything cut off. And it has come so soon. So suddenly. Too soon. John traces the veins on the back of Sherlock’s hands with his thumb, watching the alabastrine skin crease beneath his firm but gentle touch. At last, he raises his gaze to look at Sherlock. The fingers of John’s other hand are shaking as he takes a napkin from Sherlock’s bedside and reaches over to wipe the drool from the corner of his husband’s mouth. Sherlock says something, but John can barely understand him. 

 

“What’s that, love?” He asks him, squeezing his hand.

 

Sherlock makes the same noise, but John still can’t understand him, so he just leans over and presses a kiss to Sherlock’s forehead. The next time Sherlock speaks, John understands him. Sherlock’s strength is failing him, John can see it. He is so… fragile.

 

“Don’t you worry, John.” Sherlock smiles weakly as they share one last kiss. “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

 

I hope you find that adventure. I’ll join you in it, some day. John thinks to himself as Sherlock sinks back into the pillow, with half-lidded eyes.

 

***

 

“Please, Sherlock, will you do this for me?” 

 

You told me once that you weren’t a hero… um.. there were times I didn’t even think you were human, but, let me tell you this: you were the best man and human… human being I’ve ever known.

 

I was so alone, and I owe you so much.

 

Look, please, there’s just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t. Be. Dead. Would you do that, just for me, just… stop it. Stop this- pressing ah and to his mouth to stifle a sob, John sinks to his knees, palm still flat against the stone. The marble is cold to his touch, although it’s spring. 

 

Please, Sherlock. Will you do this for me? Just for me.

 

I owe you so much.

 

Sticking a hand into the pocket of his coat, John’s fingers brush against a crumpled piece of thick paper- card. John knows what it is- it’s a business card. Sherlock.

 

Please, Sherlock. Will you do this for me? Just for me.

 

At this point John knows that the only person listening to his plea is god. And even he cannot bring back a life.

 

The only one in the world.

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