Word count: 2669
[Inspired by readers’ comments on AO3 on the original standalone 221B ficlet, this longer ‘missing scene’ takes place between the second and third segments of that story, i.e. after the Fall and before Sherlock’s return.
Warnings: Unlike the first fluffy chapter, this one cranks up the angst to the max. The original story was rated G; I’ve now upped the rating to PG. The chapter incorporates brief memories of John’s phone call with Sherlock on the roof of St Bart’s, and of the Fall itself.]
John moved out of Baker Street shortly after Sherlock’s funeral. Returning home after the ceremony, he took off his jacket but then couldn’t bring himself to sit down in the living room. After pacing ceaselessly around the flat for more than fifteen minutes, clenching and unclenching his fists, he went upstairs to his bedroom, changed out of his formal suit into jeans and a jumper, packed a holdall with a few clothes and toiletries and then rang Greg Lestrade.
“John,” Greg said on answering his phone. “How are you doing?”
“I need ...” John took a shaky breath. “I need ...”
His voice broke and he couldn’t continue.
“I’m on my way,” Greg told him. “John. Keep it together, mate. I’ll be there in ten.”
Despite driving his own car and not a police vehicle with its helpful siren and flashing lights, Greg arrived within six minutes after breaking several road traffic laws en route. He pulled up at the kerb to find John sitting on the steps outside the door of 221, his head lowered and his shoulders hunched. A holdall was beside him with a jacket draped over it. Greg leaned over and opened the passenger door and John picked up his bag and trudged towards him.
“Mrs Hudson?” Greg asked after John had got in and closed the door.
“I texted Mrs Turner and asked her to come round,” John said quietly. “I know I should stay with her. She’s in such a state, but I just can’t ...”
“It’s all right,” Greg told him as John’s throat tightened. “She’ll understand better than anyone. Mrs Turner’ll take care of her tonight, and we’ll check up on her tomorrow.” He put the car in gear and pulled out into the traffic.
“I’m sorry,” John said after a couple of minutes of silence. “I didn’t even ask you ...”
“You didn’t need to ask,” Greg assured him. “You can stay at mine for as long as you like.” He smiled a little. “After a few nights on my uncomfortable sofa you’ll probably be desperate to go home.”
He glanced across to John, saw the look of devastation on his face and grimaced at his thoughtless comment.
“Stay as long as you need,” he said.
John returned only once to Baker Street. Months after he had visited Sherlock’s grave with Mrs Hudson, months after he had started moving from friend’s house to friend’s house, staying in their spare bedroom or sleeping on their couch for as long as they would tolerate him, he finally admitted to himself that he simply couldn’t live in the flat again. It had done some good to stay away, because the press found it more difficult to track him down and pester him with increasingly high offers of money for an exclusive interview. Finally the media’s interest in the fraudulent detective was beginning to die down, and at the same time Stella and Ted were starting to drop hints that it was time for John to leave their home.
Thankful that even during the worst period of his grieving process his PTSD hadn’t flared up and so neither his tremor nor the limp had returned, he finally felt ready to start working again and found a permanent GP role in a surgery in the suburbs, far away from the Baker Street area. He registered with several local estate agents, visited a few places which they offered and eventually settled on renting a small but pleasant basement flat which even had its own garden.
On the day that he was given the keys to the flat he realised that he would have no choice but to go to Baker Street and collect the rest of his possessions. The thought filled him with dread but he steeled himself and phoned Mrs Hudson. She was tearful during their conversation, especially when he told her that he had found somewhere else to live, but she said that she understood. He resisted the temptation to ask her to pack up his stuff for him and have it couriered over, and instead arranged to go there at the weekend.
John had had many terrible days since Sherlock’s death. That Saturday seemed worse than most of them. When he first got to 221 he felt fairly strong, especially after spending some time with Mrs Hudson; she was very weepy when talking about Sherlock’s and John’s time living in her house, and John went into doctor mode and was kind and sympathetic with her. When he managed to get away he went straight up to the second floor and emptied his wardrobe and chest of drawers, putting everything into the same boxes he had used to move in all that time ago and which had been stored in the spare bedroom next to his ever since.
But eventually he couldn’t avoid the inevitable and he slowly walked down the stairs and into the living room. It hurt being there again; Mrs Hudson had told him that after packing most of Sherlock’s scientific equipment into boxes she hadn’t been able to bring herself to start clearing the rest of his stuff, and so the living room looked almost the same as when he had last been there. There were so many memories in the room, all of them overwritten by the much stronger memory of Sherlock plummeting to the ground outside the hospital. Grimly John extracted his few possessions from the room – his medical books, some novels, DVDs and a few other bits – then he went into the kitchen and had a quick look through the cupboards. The only thing he felt like taking was his RAMC mug which he had brought with him from his lonely bedsit. Everything else in the kitchen had either been provided by Mrs Hudson or was something he and/or Sherlock had bought, and John didn’t want anything which he would always associate with his friend.
He didn’t know what made him turn and look towards the closed door of Sherlock’s bedroom. There was nothing of John’s in there; indeed he had only gone into the room on a couple of occasions the whole time he had lived here. Dismissing the need to go in there, he went to the bathroom instead and picked up a few remaining toiletries he hadn’t taken with him before, then came out in the hallway. He would never understand why he turned left instead of right, nor what made him open the bedroom door and step inside.
The room was colder than the rest of the flat and John realised that one of the windows was slightly open. Putting his toiletries onto the bed he walked across to the window and closed it, then turned and wandered idly around the room. There were no major memories to hurt him here, and he even smiled slightly when he remembered Greg helping him to haul a drugged and mumbling Sherlock into the room and dump him onto the bed after his first encounter with Irene Adler. He was about to pick up his stuff and leave when his gaze fell on the wardrobe in the corner. He grimaced. Mrs Hudson hadn’t said anything about Mycroft visiting to remove any of Sherlock’s possessions, and John assumed that Sherlock’s clothes were probably still in the wardrobe.
‘Don’t even think about it,’ he told himself silently. Looking inside could only cause him pain and it was stupid to even consider it. But there was a sudden and unreasonable yearning to see those ridiculously expensive suits one last time and, after hesitating for a very long while, John finally pulled open the door and looked inside.
“Oh, my God.” His voice came out as a whimper and he stumbled backwards, sank down onto the side of the bed and stared into the wardrobe in disbelief.
If you had said to John that one day he would buy Sherlock a teddy bear, John would have shaken his head and (if he was in a good mood) would have told you that you were mad or (if he wasn’t in such a good mood) would have told you that you were mad.
When he did find himself buying a bear for Sherlock it wasn’t intended as a joke – John would never be that unkind – but at the start of a new case he had noticed how Sherlock had been slightly distracted when the client came to Baker Street and brought her six year old daughter with her. The little girl had almost inevitably started to get fractious within a few minutes of their arrival, bored with the serious conversation going on around her. The moment she started to whine and tug on her mother’s arm, Mrs Draper reached into her large handbag, pulled out a teddy bear and handed it to her daughter, suggesting that she go and play on the sofa and let the grown-ups talk. The girl scrambled up onto the cushions and played quietly with her bear for the rest of the interview.
John would have expected Sherlock to dismiss the girl from his mind while he focussed on the client’s situation, but every time the girl shifted into a new position Sherlock’s eyes would flicker across to her. John assumed that he was irritated that her movements were breaking his concentration but there was an unusual expression on the detective’s face. He looked almost ... wistful? For a while John wasn’t sure what could be prompting such a look. It was only later when, as part of her quiet game, the girl gently tossed her teddy bear to the other end of the sofa and Sherlock’s gaze shifted accordingly that John realised that it was the bear and not the girl which Sherlock had been watching.
When John mentioned it after the mother and child had left, Sherlock shrugged off the loss of his childhood teddy bear at such a young age. However, when they visited the client’s home six days later to help her save her business by giving her the evidence that one of her partners had been siphoning funds from the company, Sherlock’s eyes swept around her living room with more than his usual speculative and deductive gaze.
“Oh, you don’t need to worry about Janet bothering us today,” Mrs Draper assured him. “She’s at school.”
If John had been a hopeless romantic, he would have thought that Sherlock looked a little disappointed. But of course he wasn’t a hopeless romantic. Not in the least.
He bought the teddy bear a week and a half later.
It was a spur-of-the-moment decision – he noticed the bear in a shop window because it had more than a passing resemblance to Janet Draper’s teddy. John stopped and looked at it for a while, weighing up whether to risk buying it. It wasn’t expensive and eventually he decided that it wouldn’t be too much of a waste of money if, as was more than likely, Sherlock was not impressed by his purchase.
“Couldn’t resist; saw it in a shop window. If you hate it, it’s no big deal. You can chuck it out.”
Knowing Sherlock’s dislike of Christmas and all its traditions, John hadn’t used Christmassy wrapping paper to cover the plain brown box he had found to put the bear into. Actually he’d thought it pointless wasting money on paper at all because it was almost inevitable that Sherlock would take one look at his present and would either throw a hissy fit at such a childish gift or be sneeringly sarcastic at John’s sentimental behaviour. In either case John wouldn’t be surprised if Sherlock promptly took the box to his bedroom and dropped it out of the window onto the top of Mrs Hudson’s bins.
It was impossible to tell what Sherlock’s reaction was when he opened the box and looked inside. There was no obvious sign of anger or annoyance; neither did he seem impressed or pleased. He seemed to have switched off completely, continuing to look down into the box but not reacting in any way. When he finally started to lift his head, John couldn’t stand it and surged to his feet and turned away before Sherlock could look at him.
“Anyway, like I said, no big deal. I’m going for a shower.”
When he came back to the living room later there was no sign of the box or its contents, and Sherlock never mentioned it. John wasn’t surprised; his instinctive purchase had been stupid.
“He kept it.” John’s voice was barely a whisper as he stared at the teddy bear sitting on the shelf inside the wardrobe.
But it was more than that. Sherlock hadn’t just kept it; hadn’t just left the bear in its box and shoved it in the bottom of the wardrobe. He had deliberately taken it out of the box and had sat it on a shelf where he would see it every time he opened the door.
Sentiment. From Sherlock. From the man who John had accused of being a machine less than half an hour before he died.
“I’m a fake.”
Sherlock’s tearful voice sounded in John’s head.
“Keep your eyes fixed on me. Please, will you do this for me?”
How could he ever have believed that Sherlock was incapable of feeling emotion? How could he have thought that Sherlock didn’t care about him? He had proved it time and time again and now, as if to show John one last time, there sat the evidence on the shelf in front of him ...
Mrs Hudson came in some time later, worried by the long silence from upstairs, and found him sitting on the side of Sherlock’s bed. He still had tears on his cheeks.
“Oh, John.” Mrs Hudson sat down beside him and took his hand. “It’s all too much for you, isn’t it?”
Sniffling, John pointed to the open door of the wardrobe. She looked over at the bear sitting on the shelf.
“Oh, that silly old thing,” she said. “I saw it a few times when we were searching for drugs. Didn’t you notice it before?”
“I never searched his bedroom,” John said quietly. “You always started in here while I did the lounge, and then we both did the kitchen.”
“Oh, yes, I remember.” She looked at the way that John was staring teary-eyed at the bear. “Do you want to take it with you?”
“No!” John’s voice cracked on the word.
She patted his hand. “It’s all right,” she said gently.
“It’ll never be all right, Mrs Hudson,” he said shakily. “I don’t understand any of it. Why did he do it? Why did he lie about making up Moriarty? I know he was lying. He must have been. Why did he kill himself instead of proving that everyone was wrong about him? Why didn’t he trust me enough to help him? And why did he keep that stupid ... bloody ... bear ...”
His voice broke again and he pulled his hand free, standing up and walking across to grab the wardrobe door. Tempted as he was to slam it shut, he stopped himself just in time and instead closed it gently. He ran his hands over his face, took in a long deep breath and blew it out again, and turned back to his former landlady and gave her a brief apologetic smile.
“I can’t stay here,” he told her. He picked up his toiletries with one hand and offered the other to her. She took it and stood up and they left the room, Mrs Hudson closing the door behind them. Leaving her to make her way back downstairs, John went back to his bedroom and packed up the last box.
Ten minutes later, after giving Mrs Hudson one last hug and promising that he would keep in touch, John piled the last of his possessions into the back of his car and drove away from 221B Baker Street for the final time.
On to Chapter 3