Grendel burst onto the roof, ragged-breathed, eyes roving wildly. But John stood alone on the roof. Just John.
"You ran home then?" Grendel snarled at him. "Like a fox up a tree."
John didn't comment on that. "I needed to get out. I needed to get out."
"And fix yourself? Undo the damage? Try to use my gun? My gun."
The view from the roof of St Bart's was beautiful. John looked over it; the rooftops, the grey-blue London sky. He didn't say anything. What could he be expected to say?
"If I can't figure it out, you can't figure it out. You can't figure it out. You're going to go mad, your brain's going to eat itself. Tasty, tasty, custard, pudding. You think you're so smart! You think you can win! But my broken up brain is the one that made that machine, that terrible wonder." He jammed his finger against the side of his head. "I made the plan and I put it in place, and if you hadn't ruined it, I would have won. You're always… You're always in the way. But I can win."
"Please," John said precisely, enunciating every syllable. "Remain calm."
"Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope."
John had to look away, shake his head. John could feel Grendel's madness creeping in, his madness trying to claw its way through John's eye sockets and in his ears. He still felt shaky, on vulnerable ground.
"I get to win. Just once. I get to win. It gets to be mine. I'm going to die and Moriarty, clever boy that he is, clever tractable boy, is going to descend on you and your little brats. Ravage them up nicely. And you'll go mad all alone, just like me."
"Let's just talk calmly."
Grendel laughed, laughed, and laughed. He looked at John and laughed again, holding his belly, his wide jagged mouth gaping toward the sky.
"You've seen my notes. Sometimes I'm sane, so sane that I can make everything work, it all lines up like little soldiers in my mind. Brilliance. Your last hope to go home is inside this battered shell."
"Let me-" John tried, voicing carefully measured desperation in milliliters.
"I just wanted you to know, to understand. To acknowledge I'm your only way home. That you're going to go mad."
Dr. Grendel committed suicide.
John sighed. Pressed- Pressed his fingers against his eyes, his forehead. Everything rattled inside his head, the ghost of an impulse, the shattering vibration - He told himself everything was fine. That he was fine. That was the second step down. Dr. Grendel dead. He shook himself, loosened himself up. Tried to shake loose the last of the terrible two-edged Dr. Grendel, just as deadly sane as he was frothing dead. That was done; the biggest threat to Roost and Davey at the moment. If Bailey had destroyed all the notes as he'd been directed then that was half of the problem gone.
All that was left was waiting for Mycroft. He paced, shook himself, tried to keep loose and stretched out. He needed to talk to Mycroft, arrange some things. He texted Davey quickly, Didn't have a chance to say. Good morning. I have a bit of business to take care of, you and Roost be safe. Much love. – W
Bit busy too. Finish up soon, I have other things to do today than wait for you. – BD
John didn't reply.
He could feel the awkward affection in the brusque little text as easily as if he was Davey himself. Shy, biting, and tender in parts. When his phone rang suddenly he answered without checking, absent and sorry for this, but there was nothing else he could do. There was- There was nothing else, there had to be a trade. He concentrated on Davey, razor sharp and achingly tender, heart on his sleeve and walls a mile thick covered in barbed wire. He thought on the light of curiosity Roost practically glowed with, a little bonsai lightning storm in a jar. Tim who believed and lost and trusted John. Who might never forgive John for this. But in drawing away Moriarty's dangerous, fanatical, kamikaze fascination John had put Roost and Davey at risk. He was a sinkhole of danger it seemed. Someone would find a way to ruin him one way or the other. And he was scared, he was so scared.
But the world screamed inside him head, ripped into his brain. They were all so loud, and he was so tired. He blinked himself awake out of a daze. He wasn't entirely sure how long he'd been staring.
"W, Watson. I've been looking for you."
Sherlock's voice made John's heart ache. But he was doing this in part for him, although it wouldn't seem like it at first. "Oh," he tried to keep his voice steady. "I had sudden business to attend to. How are you enjoying Italy?"
"It was a lot of busywork, and a lot of paperwork afterward. I've headed back." That would throw things a little, but John had made allowances for everything.
John was running out of time.
Sherlock appeared at the bottom of St. Bart having been told by Mycroft where W was. John tried to get him to leave but Sherlock resisted.
"It's so loud," John whispered. "It's so very loud. You can't imagine."
"Tell me where you are," Sherlock ordered, voice deep and familiar.
The alarm on John's watch went off. No choice now.
"Grendel killed himself, he's on the roof. He needs to be burned as soon as possible."
"You seem to be experiencing shock. Please remain calm. Tell me your location."
John revealed he was on the roof. Sherlock became upset.
A woman on a scooter, fiddling with her phone below, moved forward a short distance before stalling.
Sherlock and John spoke over their phones, Sherlock was distressed, John said if he had to tell anybody anything to say that W was mad, or someone else's pawn. He's the only thing left to hide.
"You may not think I know much about love," Sherlock said suddenly. "But I know you care about me."
John took a sharp inhale, the sound of a wing through the air. The sound of someone shifting in their clothes. Fingertips against the pages of a book. "Promise me that if there's anything left over to take care of, that you'll take care of it. Not much left of the nest I built. Maybe a bit of wool."
Sherlock dropped his mobile.
The cars seemed loud this time of year.
They just were… It was loud. They were all honking their horns.
He was on the ground, rolling on the ground and people were shouting as he tried to move. Tried to stand. A woman with an Australian accent on a scooter kept getting in his way. When Sherlock looked at her he couldn't tell anything about her. There was a sock puppet that had half fallen out of her pocket. He stared at its bright blue button eyes until she stuffed it back in again. She tilted up his chin, tried to check him for a concussion. He propped himself up on her scooter, stumbled toward the pavement at the foot of St Bart's.
Sherlock made his way to the foot of St Bart's he attempted to feel W's pulse. He became very distressed. He felt alarmed at how small W looked curled up.
Some time passed. Probably.
Everything felt so strange, felt so very, very strange. Like he wasn't attached to anything.
He was somewhere new and he didn't know where. Mycroft was there, his face was very pale, and he was saying things.
"He faked his death, he must have. He must have faked his death," Sherlock said. Everyone did these days.
"I'm sorry Sherlock. I wish. With all my heart," Mycroft paused, did that ridiculous thing with his neck. "I made sure to see the body myself. I'm certain it is him. Adair is supervising a few blood tests just to be sure, he'll bring back the blood tests himself."
Someone had taken him home because he was standing in front of 221B. "Maybe you shouldn't-" Mycroft was saying. Sherlock turned around and hit him.
"No," Sherlock said. "No. This is home. I just, I just want to be home." He paused, his hands shaking as he got out his keys. "Did you know, did you have any idea that he would do this?"
Mycroft's silence drowned in consideration. Mycroft could never say one word when thinking a thousand would do. "I knew that he engineered a way to direct attention away from you by drawing attention to himself. With Moriarty and others when you started to bring attention to yourself. I had no reason to think he'd take his own life. And if I had I'd have sent you in the opposite direction."
"Did he tell you where John is?"
"I would have told you. There's still Watson's irritatingly overprotective brother. He'll know something."
The key finally went into the lock and turned.
He climbed the stairs and- and everything was- it was still straightened from W's visit. From when W had straightened his flat. He grabbed something and he threw it. It was all finished now, everything was finished. There was a sound from upstairs. A creaking of boards, a sound like a phantom limb. Sherlock ignored it.
There was a soft animal sound in response, a tiny tender murr of a breath.
Sherlock stood very still. He breathed in. He breathed out. He took very careful steps forward, stoutly facing the skull, the mantelpiece, his pale horrified face, and very carefully made turns by degrees.
"Sherlock," Mycroft said. "I am worried about you, please let me-"
"Shh," Sherlock told him, not wanting to be wrong.
He looked, slowly and carefully at the chair facing his own and let out a shocked little breath and staggered.
There was John Watson, little dearest John, curled up and asleep, face troubled but form unblemished, other than a few raggedy edges. Carefully Sherlock knelt in front of him. He felt hyper aware. The fabric of his trousers against his knees, his toes curled in his shoes. The feel of John's gentle little breaths against the skin of Sherlock's wrist, held just close enough to know. There were two envelopes tucked under the pillow John was sleeping on. One labeled Sherlock, the other John. After a moment of looking at them he turned his attention back to the boy. He'd grown just a little. But then he never would be terribly tall so Sherlock supposed that was to be expected.
Gently, he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to John's forehead.
Mycroft may have said something again, but it was more of an exclamation of surprise so Sherlock ignored him.
"John's safe now," Sherlock whispered very softly, his breath wisping up the wheat coloured strands of John's hair. "No one will bother him now that W is dead. But I don't know if John knows yet. I'd like to just sit quietly with him for a while until he wakes up."
Mycroft just stood there.
Sherlock looked down at John.
"Let's just sit quietly," Sherlock said again, delicately interlacing his fingers with the little hands curled up near a soft cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned close so he could feel John's gentle breath against his hair.
It was John.
I am sincerely sorry for this, for anything you may have ended up seeing that I wanted to spare you. I'm sure you don't believe in heroes, that you'd laugh the idea off. But let me tell you this, you were one of the best men and the most human human being I have ever known. No one could ever convince that I can't trust you with this important duty, don't doubt yourself again. He adores you. There was a way that John was alone before you that I could never fill. You are a good man, and I owe you so much. I did what was necessary to keep the people I love safe and I cannot regret it. I regret the loss, but the idea of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes together again just seems right. Thank you for all you've done for me.