John opened the door to 221B and stood silently aside as he waited for Mrs. Hudson to go in before him. The housekeeper entered the dwelling as if it was a strange, unfamiliar place. He followed her in, closing the door behind him. He walked slowly up the stairs behind Mrs. Hudson. His leg ached and his left hand held onto the wall as he ascended, his cane propping him up on the other side. He reached the top of the stairs and drew a deep breath. He didn’t want to enter that room. It would be empty, bleak and desolate –like his heart. But he was a bloody soldier damn it and he could do this. His friend would have expected him to. He could hear Sherlock’s sarcastic words ringing in his ears.
“Christ, John, I’m sure you’ve been through much worse than being at my bloody funeral! Stop being such a cry baby. “
But John didn’t think he’d ever been through anything worse that what he felt now, war or no war. Mrs. Hudson pushed open the door and he followed her. Mrs. Hudson’s eyes looked everywhere, as if she expected to see something or someone. When she didn’t, she heaved a heavy sigh and turned to him.
“Cup of tea, John,” she said quietly. Her eyes were red rimmed from tears. The sodden handkerchief in her hands twisted around and around and John’s eyes were drawn to it. “He would have said that would’ve been the first thing I did when I got home after such a terrible day.”
John nodded, not trusting himself to speak. His body was cold. His mind was still numb from standing over a grave that he’d simply wished would swallow him too up into its dank, earthy depths. He didn’t think his mind had quite processed everything yet. It was too stuffed with what seemed like cotton wool, making his thoughts muggy. She immediately bustled off to the kitchen. John stood in the quiet of the room, his eyes gritty and prickling. He’d not cried yet. He knew he would, but he’d been damned if he was going to do at Sherlock’s funeral. He’d had Mrs. Hudson to support. He’d needed to be strong for her.
She’d leaned into him at one stage and whispered, “You can let go, John. He’d not mind. If he was anywhere now watching you, it might even raise a tear from his own eyes. It would be a miracle indeed seeing as how he was what he was but I think he might shed a small tear.”
John had gritted his teeth, shaking his head. “I wouldn’t give the miserable bastard that satisfaction,” he’d whispered softly, the smile on his face belying the insult in his words. “He’d never let me live it down. Perhaps he’d even come back to haunt me and tease me about it.”
But his throat had closed up and it had taken all his strength not to simply sink down to the ground and weep. The room had a sense of stillness. John was so used to Sherlock’s frenetic activity, his boundless energy that reverberated off the walls and made John tired just watching it. This complete lack of his friend’s manic presence made the air heavy and claustrophobic. He walked over to the arm chair and lowered himself into it with a sigh of relief. His leg had really been playing up today. He imagined it had been due to when he’d run blindly towards Sherlock’s body lying smashed and broken on the pavement-
Stop it. You don’t need that memory now. You need the other ones. The one where Sherlock stood playing that awful violin of his. The one where he sat moodily in his chair waiting for the phone to ring. The sight of his back wrapped in his favourite robe as he lay sulkily on the divan ignoring everyone. And the one where he smiled at John, that wide, open grin that said ‘The game , Mrs. Hudson, is on!” That was the one he treasured the most. It was when Sherlock had been at his happiest.
Mrs. Hudson came back in proffering a steaming cup of tea. John took it with a slight smile and set it down on the side table. "I can make you a sandwich if you’d like?” she offered. “You haven’t eaten properly in days, John.”
John had been about to say he really wasn’t hungry but he saw the slight hope in Mrs. Hudson’s eyes that this small gesture would give her something to do, take her mind off things. He nodded. “That would be very nice, thank you.”
The housekeeper patted his shoulder and bustled off back to the kitchen. John stared with blank eyes around the room. It just seemed so- empty. He thought back to his words at the cemetery when he’d finally had a quiet moment to be by himself with Sherlock.
You... you told me once... that you weren't a hero. Umm... There were times I didn't even think you were human, but let me tell you this. You were the best man, the most human... human being that I've ever known and no one will ever convince me that you told me a lie, so... there. I was so alone... and I owe you so much. But please, there's just one more thing, one more miracle Sherlock, for me, don't be... dead. Would you do that just for me? Just stop it. Stop this...
He’d known in his bones that saying the words wouldn’t make it so. John’s eyes wandered the room, looking at the familiar as if by doing so it might conjure up the man who had been so much a part of his life. The music stand, the chaos of paperwork, maps, random items of who knew what, the violin sprawled untidily in the corner – they were all reminders that once there had once been another in this room. His chest ached, his eyes smarting with unshed tears, his throat tight. He looked down at his hands, hands that started to tremble and he clenched them fiercely. An overwhelming sense of grief pervaded his body like rising steam, leaking right from the core of him and exiting via his skin, skin that was cold and clammy.
John closed his eyes as the dam within finally broke its walls, the incredible sense of loss that he felt washing over him like a tidal wave. He vaguely heard Mrs. Hudson placing his sandwich on the table, as she perched her bottom on the arm of the chair he sat in. Her warm arms braced his shoulders as the first shudders shook his body. He raised his hands to his face and covered his eyes as the first hot and salty tears fell. John’s own groan of sheer despair echoed in the still room as he gave vent to the emotions that he had suppressed for so long. Mrs. Hudson made comforting noises, rubbing his back as he wept for their loss and a future that no longer seemed so bright.
There was no more music in the air.