Sherlock BBC Fic: I'm Standing on a Stage of Fear and Self-Doubt
current mood: chipper
Title: I'm Standing on a Stage of Fear and Self-Doubt
Word Count:: 1,954
Rating/Warnings: PG13. Spoilers for 2.03 The Reichenbach Fall.
Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock.
Summary: “You drugged my milk? That figures,” John says, looking away from Sherlock, his eyes drifting upwards, toward the blurred and indistinct stars marred by city pollution. “Is that why I feel so sad, Sherlock?” he asks, voice soft, steady in a way that means John is only minutes from breaking (this is a fact Sherlock wishes he didn’t know, one of the few things he wants to delete, but can’t).
A/N: A (late) birthday present for the marvelous Jenny. Happy birthday, dear. <3 Fic title from My Body is a Cage by Arcade Fire, I wrote it to the Peter Gabriel cover of the same song.
When Sherlock enters 221B, he pinpoints the signs of life as easily as if he were pointing out small towns and cities on a map, cities bursting with light reduced to tiny pinpricks on a piece of paper. In this same way, he sees John’s cup of tea, half-filled, cold, probably forgotten (unusual); John’s shoes, taken, but his jacket still tucked away in the corner (not right, it’s chilly out, John wouldn’t have forgotten his jacket, he’s so practical about that sort of thing); John’s computer, open and the battery dead (not right, definitely not right, John wouldn’t be so careless with his laptop like Sherlock is). In this way, he sees that something is wrong.
“John?” Sherlock calls, sweeping across the room, scanning for more signs, because John isn’t here and that’s never right. John always laughs when Sherlock says this, but this is why Sherlock doesn’t think John should leave the flat without him, because as much as John likes danger, he always gets wrapped up in the not-fun kind of danger, the kind that gets him kidnapped by Chinese smugglers, or by consulting criminals.
“John!” Sherlock yells again, because why isn’t John answering him, when John is always supposed to be there. Especially after the Fall, especially after months and months without each other, after it’s so hard to believe they’re together again that they cry out each other’s names in the middle of the night in fear that the other has disappeared. Sherlock has cracks in him now, the sort that painfully expand if left to their own devices for too long, that kind that need constant care, need a doctor who for some reason isn’t answering to his name.
“JOHN!” Sherlock says (screams, his voice hoarse), whipping around as if John is going to be hiding in the corner. Panic is growing, filling his cracks, and where’s John, and-
“Gather the data,” he says to himself, closing his eyes for a moment and breathing deeply before snapping his eyes back open. He discards his own presence in the flat as utterly unimportant and focuses on the more subtle signs of John; he sees crime novels (the kind Sherlock absolutely hates, but he loves watching John’s expression as he reads them), a cane thrust in the corner long ago and forgotten about, filthy dishes waiting patiently for John to wash them (God knows Sherlock never will), the fridge half-open (that’s not right, John’s responsible, he doesn’t do things like that), and the almost-full carton of milk on the counter.
Oh God. The milk. Sherlock’s eyes close again of their own accord, he brings a hand up to his mouth to stop himself from screaming in frustration. It’s milk, but it also isn’t, not quite, because Sherlock has been using it for an experiment, one about the murdered woman who’d been made vulnerable by medication that caused her extreme anxiety and depression, and God, he hadn’t even told John. Sometimes Sherlock forgets to tell John things because it doesn’t occur to him that it’s necessary (a bad habit left over from his days of living alone, before he knew it was a bad habit, before John showed him it was), and he forgot to tell him not to use the milk.
“Idiot,” he whispers to himself, before raising his voice and calling, “JOHN!” again, panic rushing once more to fill his veins, ignited by realization rather than tempered by it. “Idiot, Holmes, idiot, you drugged the milk and just expected him to notice, oh, how brilliant,” he mutters, words tripping and falling over each other as he scans the room again, as he tries to think, banish the threads of doubt and worry that are creeping through his cracks and penetrating his mind and just think.
A breeze in the flat brushes against Sherlock’s face, but the windows here aren’t open; John always likes to keep them close, likes the flat comfortably warm, so that when Sherlock returns home it’s like sinking into a warm bath and he can relax, like he never can otherwise. A breeze, but no windows. Sherlock runs to John’s room, taking the steps two at a time, sees the open door, sees the window ajar, thinks, John.
Sherlock sticks his head out the window and sees John, glorious and wonderful John, and his stomach sinks in relief, before plummeting into free fall when he sees the tear tracks on John’s face, the way John’s hand is trembling like the ground before an earthquake, the way John is standing on the roof, swaying, his eyes resolutely fixed ahead of him.
“John,” Sherlock says carefully, clambering onto the roof, only meters from his friend. “John, are you okay?” Stupid question, obviously he’s not okay, but Sherlock’s words -- which normally tumble out of him at a breakneck pace that tries to meet that of his mind – falter at the sight of his friend.
John turns toward him, his eyes glassy and afraid, even when looking at Sherlock. The only time John has ever looked at Sherlock like that is when Sherlock returned from the dead, and John looked so so lost, even when Sherlock told him what happened. Sherlock never hates himself more than when John looks like that.
“Sherlock?” John says, his voice shaky.
“John, the milk you used for your tea, it was drugged, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” Sherlock says all in a rush. “Come inside,” he says, the please unspoken, always there for John.
John laughs, a weak and fragile sort of thing that sounds as if it could break apart any minute now. “You drugged my milk? That figures,” he says, looking away from Sherlock, his eyes drifting upwards, toward the blurred and indistinct stars marred by city pollution. “Is that why I feel so sad, Sherlock?” he asks, voice soft, steady in a way that means John is only minutes from breaking (this is a fact Sherlock wishes he didn’t know, one of the few things he wants to delete, but can’t).
Sherlock swallows hard. “Yes,” he says, trying to keep his voice as steady as John’s, as reassuring as John’s can be, though he’s sure he doesn’t succeed. No one can be as reassuring as John, no one can be that constant. “The drug causes anxiety and depression, it’s for the Muller case. We need to get you inside,” Sherlock presses, inching closer to John.
John shakes his head. “No.”
“No?” Sherlock says, raising an eyebrow in a way that won’t betray the way ice just crept into his insides, burrowing its way into his heart (yes, he has one now, he’s too far gone to not admit it).
“No, I mean…” John is clearly struggling to find the words. “Anxiety and depression,” he says. “But that doesn’t make sense. I feel so…”
Sherlock takes a step toward John, only to have John shake his head even harder. Tears are pricking at the corner of John’s eyes now, replacing the lost look with one of utter helplessness. And yet Sherlock’s sure he feels even more helpless than John, unable to do anything but just stand here and wait for John to continue.
“It’s like this all the time,” John says, voice breaking, his words interrupted by shaking shoulders, shaking hands, each part of him unsteady and cracking. “When you were gone, I felt like this all the time,” he chokes out.
Sherlock’s head shakes minutely in denial, because Sherlock has never wanted to know just how badly John had coped after the Fall, has never let himself deduce it until now. “I’m here now, John, it’s all okay.”
John laughs again, but this time it’s harsher, sharpened by grief. “Do you really think it is, Sherlock? Don’t pretend you haven’t seen how it’s been these past few months.” He looks at Sherlock again, his eyes pained and confused, and the words between them are unspoken, why does it still hurt, why is it so hard to get by even when we’re both right here?
“I’m so sorry,” Sherlock says, unable to look John in the eye.
“I get so nervous in the middle of the night because you’re not there, and I still can’t walk by St. Barts, and whenever you don’t text me back for more than an hour I start wondering where you are. I start wondering if you ever really came back,” John says, tears falling freely. His almost collapses in on himself, crumples as he sinks down to sit against the roof.
Sherlock sits down next to him, pressing his body against John’s, and for a minute, he and John just breathe together, John’s uneven and hitching, Sherlock’s tight and barely there.
“I promise you that everything will be okay,” Sherlock says, saying it mostly because it sounds good, not necessarily because he knows it’s true. He thinks it’s true. God, he hopes it is.
John can tell too, the uncertainty Sherlock feels. “You don’t know that,” John says.
“Does that matter?” Sherlock sighs. “John, this is the drugs. I know it’s been difficult, but…all that time I was away, you were the only reason I kept going. And you’re still the only reason I keep going.”
John laughs again, but it’s a bit stronger, and Sherlock presses himself even closer to John, breathing slowly against his hair. John leans his head on Sherlock, his body sagging with exhaustion. “I don’t know what kept me going,” he admits. “Sometimes I wonder how I made it.”
“It’s because you’re stronger than me,” Sherlock says, finally a bit more at ease, because he is an expert on John’s virtues and strengths, he can talk about this.
“What? No I’m not,” John says immediately, (wrongly) thinking that because he keeps a blog of Sherlock’s accomplishments that it makes him right.
“Yes, you are, don’t be an idiot.”
“I thought you said everyone was an idiot,” John says, smiling, breathing deeply into Sherlock’s shoulder.
“I said most everyone is. There’s a difference.” Sherlock smiles too, kissing John’s forehead on an impulse. John doesn’t shy away, sighing happily and curling around Sherlock. “I love you so much,” John whispers.
Sherlock’s insides tighten, and he’s unable to keep this stupid little smile from spreading further across his face (not that he tries very hard). “I think you’ll find I feel much the same. But can we please express this sentiment inside, away from the cold?”
Even though Sherlock can’t see it, he can practically feel John rolling his eyes, but John stands up, helping Sherlock up by his hand. Once they’re both standing, John doesn’t let go of Sherlock’s hand, instead rubbing his thumb along it. It feels as if Sherlock’s skin has been electrified, the smooth sensation of John’s fingers being cataloged along with the warmth of his palm. They both look at each other and smile, and it’s like their first case together, when John had shot a cabbie and they were getting Chinese and all they could do was smile, smiling so much it was both painful and exhilarating.
“I’ll never leave you again,” Sherlock promises, squeezing John’s hand.
“I know,” John says simply, smiling a bit crookedly. He sniffs, and tries to wipe his eyes, but his hand is still trembling a bit, the drugs not completely worn off. Sherlock reaches his hand up, and slowly, a bit awkwardly, wipes John’s tears, bending down to briefly kiss his lips before pulling away to see John’s face light up, his smile like a burning supernova. They go inside and spend the rest of the night curled up on the couch, the tight grasp of their hands enough to remind them that they’re together again.
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