Title: Didn’t we almost make it
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 888
Disclaimer: Sherlock belongs to way more powerful and wealthy people than me.
Warnings: Angst, heartbreak, heartache, hope, love (not necessarily in that order). Icon says it all.
Summary: The revelation that Sherlock is alive is the first trace of hope that John has had in a long time. Now he waits in a park to meet with his best friend again.
Didn’t we almost make it
Standing in the gardens some distance away from the cedar tree, John realises that he is more calm than he ought to be. Somehow it’s as if he has always known that this moment would come. All the grief he has gone through in the last months, even when it threatened to send him insane with anguish, when the nightmares haunted him so frequently that he dreaded falling asleep – all of it has faded as if it never mattered. He feels as if his entire life has been leading to this. Nothing prior to this moment matters. Nothing ever mattered until the arrival of the anonymous text yesterday morning.
“I had no choice. You were in mortal danger. I will explain everything and I WILL make you forgive me. Friday 11 a.m., Cedrus Atlantica – you know the one.”
The Inns of Court. He and Sherlock took a short cut through the Inner Temple Gardens (“The Walks, John – they’re called the Walks”) at the Inns of Court only a couple of weeks before Sherlock’s death and John had been puzzled when Sherlock stopped at a cedar tree and repeatedly told him its Latin name while claiming that a similar tree had grown in the garden of his childhood home. It seemed like strange behaviour at the time, out of character. Now, of course, it makes sense – as does the realisation that Sherlock had been planning his disappearance for some time before the day that almost destroyed John’s sanity. But it doesn’t matter any more. Nothing matters except the approaching event. Everything is focused on the next few minutes, because now at last his life will become complete.
So he stands and waits. He has arrived early and taken a position some distance from the cedar, wanting to see Sherlock arrive, wanting one moment to himself before their lives intertwine again. He has missed his friend so much, mourned him, grieved for his loss – but more than that, Sherlock’s absence has been like a physical pain inside his body, relentless, always there, not fading with time, a permanent reminder of the missing part of his life. The knowledge that Sherlock is alive fills him with joy and hope, convinces him that the world is not as cruel as he had started to believe, shows him that there is still beauty and love and happiness to be had, encourages him to realise that he has a life to live and that it can be marvellous.
Sensing rather than seeing movement, he turns his head. And there he comes along the path, that stride so recognisable, the shape of his outline so familiar, the coat billowing around his legs in the breeze. John’s heart swells at the sight. He is almost there, almost home – just one more minute and everything will fall into place at last.
Sherlock stops beside the cedar and shoves his hands deeper into his pockets, hunching his shoulders and lowering his chin into his scarf as he stamps his feet against the cold ground. He looks older, thinner, more fragile than when John last saw him, and John aches for all that he must have gone through in their time apart. As Sherlock huffs out a long plume of breath, John watches him, remembering him, memorising him, loving him. It’s time.
He starts along the path which runs past the cedar, his certainty growing with every step. He is almost there. Almost home. And then Sherlock raises his head and their eyes meet, and the permanent clench of pain in John’s chest loosens and seems to melt out of his body. As Sherlock turns to face him, John can see the same tension beginning to drain from his friend’s face. It’s as if all the anguish they have felt while they have been apart is pouring out and meeting in the space between them, melding, blending together, each neutralising the other as all the negative feelings dissolve and dissipate until a single new entity is born – something better, more pure, perfect, which seems to swirl joyfully before it lifts into the air and allows them to really see each other, allows John to see Sherlock’s look of hope, of peace, of love. There is no more ‘almost’. Everything is now. Sherlock’s smile is calm but his eyes are full of relief and gladness and his hands twitch in his pockets as if he wants to take them out and reach towards his friend. John’s own fingers flex in response but he forces himself to keep them at his sides as he walks closer.
Now. Everything is now. John returns Sherlock’s smile, letting him see his forgiveness, his faith, his love; and Sherlock’s head lifts higher in understanding and his smile widens, becomes that grin which he only ever shared with John. John can see Sherlock’s body relax as he waits for John to reach him and to take his place by his side once more. It is one moment of pure perfection, and there can never be another like it again.
And so John ... John turns away and keeps on walking, only slowing his pace momentarily to take his phone from his pocket and drop it into a rubbish bin before raising his head and continuing onwards and out of the park. He does not look back.
Author’s Note: The story’s title is taken from a song I first heard back in the 1980s and which I suddenly remembered while thinking about writing this story. The song seemed appropriate, and although the version I have a (very bad) recording of is an a capella version by a barbershop chorus (shout-out to the Roker Peers of Harmony!), the best alternative rendition I have been able to find is this one by Frank Sinatra.
I’m not sure I should be thanking anyone for helping with this story, because they might get beaten up for assisting me to drag it out of my head where it had lurked for a very long time while muttering, “Don’t write me; don’t write me; don’t write me.” However, credit where it’s due, so I acknowledge atlinmerrick’s advice when I asked whether she had any ideas about where there’s a cedar tree near Baker Street.
There had to be a cedar. As far as I was concerned, the story could not take place anywhere other than near a cedar. Basically the core of this story is shamelessly ripped from a short story which my best friend at school wrote when we were about seventeen years old. It tore me to bits back then, and I kept a copy of it which I’m not sure she even knows I’ve got. That story also took place at a cedar tree – a real-life one in a park near where she lived and which we were both terribly fond of – and so when I realised some months ago that her story could be used as a basis for a (non-)reunion between Sherlock and John, there was no way that I could write it without the cedar. I figured that the world expert on London was Atlin and asked if there were cedars in Regent’s Park. She said that to the best of her knowledge there weren’t, and within a startlingly few minutes came back to tell me where there is a cedar within a sensible distance of Baker Street.
Whether I shall ever confess to my friend – with whom I tend to only communicate on birthdays and at Christmas – that I have plagiarised the hell out of her story, is something I need to think about for a bit longer. But then I’ll probably be killed to death with sticks by my readers shortly, so she need never know ...
Thanks also to Ki, my work colleague who wandered into my office a few days ago just as I was flailing to myself over the fact that I had finally finished the bloody thing – she was a little bemused that anyone should be so bouncy at work but when I told her what I’d done she asked to read it, and her reaction at the end made me realise that the ending wasn’t quite clear enough, so I made some revisions. So if anyone needs to be killed by my readers, it’s probably her. ;-)