Title: This Is Not A Love Song (Except That It Is): My Heart Will Go On (2/4)
Word Count: 1,800
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairing: Sherlock, John (eventual Sherlock/John)
Notes: Written for love_bingo's prompt "My Heart Will Go On." One million hearts and endless clappy hands for stellabelle, beta extraordinaire, who held my hand and cheered me on and helped me to get this little story done.
Disclaimer: Characters and universe belong to Arthur Conan Doyle, The BBC, Gatiss and Moffat. I’m just messing with them.
Summary: Moving on doesn't happen all at once.
Previous Part: Un-break My Heart
My Heart Will Go On:
John takes one last look around the room. He finds a sock under the dresser, so that’s something. He crouches down to get it, and he has to bend at the most awkward angle to make his arm fit the right way. He knows that it is time to go, but he hesitates at the door anyway.
He takes a deep breath and switches the light off. He slings his bag over his shoulder and tells Harry that he’s ready. She asks him if he’s sure, tells him that he’s welcome to say longer if he wants, but he tells her no. No, it’s time to go back home.
Mrs Hudson hugs him tightly when he arrives; the strength of her embrace surprises him, takes the air out of his lungs for a second or two. He lets her grab his arm and usher him into her flat for a cup of tea. He listens as she lunges into a mad story about a pigeon that flew in through the door as she brought in the shopping last weekend and how she had to call Mrs Turner next door to come and help.
“And wouldn’t you know,” she says, chuckling, “all we had to do in the end was open up the door again. All that fussing about for nothing.”
He feels himself smile. He knows he must have done it a few times in the weeks he’s been away. He’s smiled in job interviews and at Harry’s jokes and at strangers at the newsagent’s. But this is the first time he hasn’t thought about it first. It feels odd on him, like he’s got rusty.
Before he leaves, Mrs Hudson wraps her hand around his and squeezes. “Oh, I’m so happy you’ve come back, John,” she says, and her eyes are shining.
He clears his throat, but he can’t find the words to agree just yet. So, he squeezes her hand in return, and his face smiles for him again.
Seventeen steps. He climbs seventeen steps to the familiar door at the top, and his bag feels so heavy on his shoulder. He takes a minute with the key just resting in the palm of his hand, wonders if he shouldn’t just get a taxi back to Harry’s. Maybe it’s too soon.
He drops his head and shuts his eyes for a second, pinching the bridge of his nose. One more deep breath, and he’s ready. He’s ready now.
It surprises him, for some reason, that everything is more or less the same. Same chairs, same fireplace, same sofa, same desk. It is tidy, so that’s different; Mrs Hudson always did have a hard time sitting still. John reckons that she also must have donated all the beakers and petri dishes and droppers that no longer litter the kitchen worktop, like she said she might. Now, instead, there is a wire bowl filled to the brim with shiny red apples.
He unpacks his things, putting neatly folded shirts and socks in their drawers. It is easy because he already knows where everything is meant to go. He puts his toothbrush and razor in the bathroom, his computer on the desk. He does not open the door to the other bedroom.
Everything put away, he drops into his chair. The silence fills his ears, deafening white noise of nothing in particular. He stares at the leather one opposite, slight dip in the bottom cushion. The flat is absolutely different. It is missing the most important thing.
Sarah takes him on at the surgery again. So he gets up in the morning and gets dressed, leaves the house at half-eight in the morning, time enough to get a coffee on the way—like a normal person. He shows up on time. He gives tetanus shots and prescribes antibiotics for sinus infections and pulls bits of a foam bath toy from the nasal cavity of a two year old. His first week goes so well, he does it again the next, and then the next, and then it’s been a month, then three.
Mike Stamford has talked him into a pick-up football match at the park. He hasn’t played in ages, but if Stamford can do it, then he reckons he should be able to keep up, at any rate. The sun is warm, and John enjoys the feel of it on the back of his neck. He likes the clear mission of the task—take this ball and kick it over there, keep it away from that lot. It is simple enough, in theory, but the blokes he’s playing with have to save his bacon more than once. By the end of it, he is sweaty and tired, but happy. He can’t remember the last time.
The boys ask him to come for a pint after, and he goes. He chats about work and football and Big Brother, listens as they talk about wives and girlfriends and kids. One of the guys (Paul, was it?) asks John about his wife.
“Oh, yeah. I don’t… I’m not… I’m not married.” He doesn’t know why it was so hard to say.
John’s lips twitch into a small smile. “No.”
Paul furrows his brow and then asks, very tentatively, “Boyfriend?”
At that, John laughs, loud and long, like it’s the funniest thing anyone’s ever said to him. He never thought that the question of his sexual orientation would have been anything at all to miss, but his laughter rings through the pub anyway, like relief.
“I’ll take that as a no,” Paul says, clapping him on the shoulder. John is doubled over, catching his breath, wiping tears from the corner of his eyes.
When he says no, the little voice in the back of his brain says not anymore. He chuckles twice as the laughter fades; the smile slides completely off his face, and he takes a long pull from his beer.
When autumn comes, it blankets the whole of London in every conceivable kind of rain; it is wet and grey always, and the wind ruined his umbrella the last time he was out. He is out of tea (and milk, and bread, and everything), so he can no longer avoid getting to Tesco. He watches the weather from the window in the sitting room, but the rain is still coming, steady and straight down. He knows there’s another umbrella in there, and it would be absolutely ridiculous to walk in the rain when there is a perfectly usable one in there, and it’s been nearly a year now anyway.
He stands at the door, puts his fingers on the cool brass of the doorknob. After a beat, he lets his fingers wrap the rest of the way around; he turns and steps inside.
Much like the flat when he first came back, it is tidy. There are four boxes against the wall in Mrs Hudson’s handwriting. Science Equipment, they say. The wardrobe door is half open, clothes lined up neatly on their hangers. The bed is made.
John has a lump in his throat, and the backs of his eyes are prickling. It smells like him, of £15 soap and his stupid posh shaving cream—mint and eucalyptus and lavender, and of the one even underneath all that—that smell that was just Sherlock. John’s head feels like it’s floating up to the ceiling while his feet feel heavy enough to sink clean through the floorboards—he’s being stretched. His heart is beating far too fast.
When his legs threaten to stop working all together, he sinks onto the bed. His head falls onto Sherlock’s pillow, and John breathes it in deep. He curls his legs up to join the top half of him, and it smells like Sherlock, and his arms suddenly weigh a ton, and his heart aches.
He doesn’t make it to Tesco.
He is bored, and it is Saturday, so he heads to the cinema. It’ll be good to watch Americans blow things up for a couple of hours. He can’t get a taxi right away, and the sun is actually shining, so he takes the Tube. When he reaches his stop, he takes the lift up just behind a woman and a boy of about five years old. The little boy is not happy, whinging and carrying on. John has seen this at the surgery; the boy is about two minutes away from a full blown tantrum. They are right in front of him, and he does his best to not stare, but it’s difficult.
She keeps trying to take his hand, but he keeps pulling away. Just before they reach the top, the boy pulls away too hard and overturns, his little heel slipping off the edge of the stair. He teeters for a moment, and she reaches for him, but the boy begins to fall.
All John does, really, is put out a hand—instinct. The child’s back falls almost exactly into the centre of his palm.
“Up you go,” John says, flashing his best Calming Doctor smile. As he rights the boy, the woman takes him up by the arms, careful, and then they are all at the top of the platform, back on solid ground.
“Thank you,” she says, and when she speaks, she looks directly into his eyes for just a second longer than necessary. Her eyes are stunning, dark blue, and when he takes a moment to notice the rest of her, he stifles a gasp. She is very pretty: blonde hair just past her shoulders, rosy cheeks, nice figure.
“No worries,” John says, trying not to stammer too much. “I think he’s going to be just fine.” He ruffles the boy’s hair, and the boy grins at him.
“I don’t know what would have happened if…” she doesn’t let herself finish the sentence, and she pulls the boy back close to her. This time he doesn’t fight it. She shakes her head. “What would I tell his parents? I’m his nanny.”
“Just a little scare,” John says. “Everyone is fine, no harm done.”
“Just,” she says. “Thank you so much,” and she holds out her hand. John takes it in his own, feels her soft skin with the pad of his thumb. She is looking at him with those eyes again, and he feels disarmed; he smiles back at her.
He finds that he needs to clear his throat a bit before he can manage, “I’m John.”
Her smile grows even brighter. “Mary,” she says.
In the end, he does not watch Americans blow things up. Instead, he watches animated zoo animals make toilet jokes and sing songs. It is the best trip to the cinema he’d had in ages.
==End Part Two==
Next Part: Love Nest