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Title: Truly, Madly, Deeply (the Alan Rickman remix)
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Rating: Teen
Word Count: ~9000
Disclaimer: These characters were created by Arthur Conan Doyle, Steven Moffat, and Mark Gatiss. Thanks for letting me play with them!
Summary: The only truly surprising thing was that it had taken John so long to go mad. An alternative post-“Reichenbach Fall” Sherlock/John reunion.
Author’s Notes: Thanks to the lovely and talented jezziejay for beta and Britpicking. This is a remix of How John Coped by fleetwood_mouse written for Remix Redux 12. It is also my first Sherlock BBC fic. Any feedback, including constructive criticism, would be greatly appreciated!

Chapter 1

The only truly surprising thing was that it had taken John so long to go mad.

Or perhaps not so surprising. After all, his psychosomatic limp hadn’t appeared immediately, had it, not until he’d stepped off the plane in London, his knee suddenly buckling under the pain that ghosted through his thigh.

So maybe there should have been no reason to expect Sherlock to breeze back into the flat the very same evening that John had watched him plunge, greatcoat billowing, had seen his bloody jellied brains spattered over the sidewalk in front of Barts.

Or the next day.

Or the day after that.

Instead of which, this: his sudden reappearance after one year, ten months, and thirteen days, Sherlock strolling back into 221B with an obvious attempt at nonchalance belied by the way he watched keenly for John’s reaction over the edge of his upturned collar.

It’s finally happened, John thought. He had allowed himself to imagine this moment so vividly, so frequently (especially at first), that this occasion was almost offensive in its… ordinariness. Never mind that this time he could hear the faint flap of Sherlock’s coat, could actually smell him, a whiff of fresh cigarette smoke and sun-warmed wool and a sour, unexpected note of anxiety. Hallucinations came in multiple sensory modalities all the time, didn’t they? He had known this professionally, as a doctor, and now he would know it personally, first-hand and with far greater immediacy, but it was. Not. Surprising.
“John,” Sherlock uttered now in that achingly familiar, deep, throaty voice that had haunted his darkest days, taunting him with false promises of fresh crime scenes and companionship. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and spread his long, elegant fingers in a gesture disturbingly similar to supplication, the smooth ivory slightly stained with nicotine. “As you can see, I’m not-“

“Right,” John interrupted, fighting the urge to break into a demented giggle. “Not dead. Course not. Cup of tea?”

Sherlock stared. “Not just now, John. I must say, I expected… a different reaction, exactly what I couldn’t predict, which is one of the things I find most fascinating about you, but I suppose that we are Englishmen after all, and being both a doctor and a soldier, you in particular must have learned to take such things in stride-”

“Jesus, you’re exactly as I’ve imagined you,” and this time John did smile, not sure whether he felt more appalled or relieved.
Sherlock cut himself off with visible effort. “Not… good?” he asked, uncharacteristically hesitant.

“Bit not good, yeah,” John confessed to what he knew rationally to be the empty air, and made for the front door, thinking that perhaps a day at the clinic, followed by his regular appointment with his therapist, would help him to put this novel manifestation of his grief into perspective.


John did not mention Sherlock’s return to his therapist that afternoon.

Or during the dozen-odd appointments after that one.


For the first time in ages, John slept without dreams of sand and of stars that were far too close and clear. No hoarse shouts, no gunfire, no snatches of Pashto or groans of wounded men.

Instead, he dreamt of dummies on strings; of Sherlock and Moriarty, heads bent close together like mischievous schoolboys; of a greatcoat billowing around a corpse as it plunged; of a dozen different explanations that could plausibly account for his friend, alive and well and vaguely apologetic, in their flat.
Yet even asleep, he knew these fantasies for what they were, and woke weeping.


For the first few days, things were very quiet. John thought it best to ignore Sherlock as much as possible; he certainly didn’t want to humour his own hallucination by initiating conversation. As it happened, Mrs. Hudson was out of town visiting her sister the day that Sherlock reappeared. He was glad of this; he didn’t trust himself to pretend quite so soon that he was muddling along as usual.

Despite his best efforts, though, the morning after Sherlock’s return, John caught himself making toast for two; the plate shattered spectacularly as it hit the floor. And that evening, when Sherlock began flinging himself around dramatically and rearranging the furniture as John was trying to watch telly, he shouted at him. It. John felt a bit ill after that and went to bed early. Even with the pillow over his head, he could still hear the muffled sounds from the sitting room.

When he came downstairs the next morning, he stopped dead. Their armchairs once again faced each other as if in preparation for a companionable chat. The table was set for two, a steaming cup of tea beside John’s seat. Sherlock waited in the kitchen, a bowl in one hand and an egg in the other. “John,” he said, looking relieved. “Two minutes thirty-eight seconds later than expected, but the tea is still hot. Now, would you like your eggs scrambled, or-“

Without a word, John set to and dragged the armchairs back into place, then brushed past Sherlock to the door. He would head straight to the clinic today. Perhaps if he kept up with his morning schedule, he could leave a little early for luncheon.

On his way, it occurred to him to wonder, briefly, why this hallucinatory Sherlock seemed to be so much less of a prick than the original one. Perhaps that was what we all did, idealize the dead. Only for the two years prior, he hadn’t, not really. He’d remembered Sherlock’s gobsmacking brilliance, his infectious laugh, his courage and loyalty, his physical grace. He’d also remembered his utter tactlessness, his impatience with the bodily needs of mere mortals, his patently destructive behaviour when bored.

John supposed that he was imagining an appropriately repentant Sherlock, the greatest fantasy of all, and left it at that.


On the third day, Sherlock invited John to join him on a case.

He’d been following various news bulletins on his phone all morning with great avidity, and when Lestrade’s ringtone sounded, John didn’t miss the delight that flashed in Sherlock’s eyes before he schooled his features into a neutral expression and answered it. “Yes? Yes. I suppose so, if your dull-witted minions can’t seem to… Hmmph. The address?” A pause. “Of course.”
Sherlock turned back to John, his expression nearly that of a lanky hound inviting his beloved companion for a walk. “That was Gary.”

“Who?” John asked before he could stop himself.

An impatient wave of the pale hand. “Detective Lestrade.” John didn’t bother to correct him. “We have a case, John,” and Sherlock allowed himself a gleeful smile as he steepled his long fingers. “One of not inconsiderable interest.”

“Lestrade, sure,” John said, chuckling painfully. “A case, yeah.” He folded himself more firmly into his armchair and picked up the newspaper, using it to shield himself from the sight of Sherlock’s eager face.

“Is your leg-“

‘Damn my leg,” John retorted, but only under his breath.

After a few long, intensely awkward seconds, a slight breeze ruffled the pages of his paper, and not too much after that, the front door quietly clicked shut.


Over time, things went back almost to the way they had been before Sherlock had… died, the rational part of John’s mind said, but disappeared, another part whispered insidiously. John got up, made breakfast for himself (or, occasionally, for both of them, in which case he binned Sherlock’s share afterwards). He went to the clinic, came home, ate takeout in front of the telly, and went to bed. Sherlock slept late, then rose to hunch over his microscope, analysing fibres and ash and occasionally fragments of human flesh, but he often disappeared to Barts or went out on a case for most of the day. No heads appeared in the fridge, no ornamental bullet holes in Mrs. Hudson’s velvet-flocked wallpaper.

There was no music. Sherlock had picked up his violin occasionally at first, but the sweet, familiar sounds had caused John to go rigid all over and clench his jaw with the effort of holding back tears. Sherlock, who as always missed nothing, had faltered mid-measure and put the instrument away. After only a few abortive attempts, the violin had stayed in its case, gathering a thin rime of dust.

And there were no more evenings at the pub with Mike or Greg, no half-hearted dates with the women whose numbers had ended up in his pockets afterwards. John was quietly terrified that somehow, perhaps just by looking at him, at the bags under his eyes and the way he winced with the sudden ache that could squeeze the air out of him at unexpected moments, they would be able to tell. And then where would he be? Out of a job, perhaps out of a license, and certainly out of 221B.

So John returned any calls late – not so late as to cause alarm, just late enough to make his lack of interest clear – and put people off with vague excuses when pressed. Mike took the hint quickly and, John suspected, with some relief. Greg was more difficult to shake and pursued John doggedly for some time; John felt bad about this, knowing that he was one of the few who had shared John’s admiration for Sherlock in action and who had been sincerely concerned for his well-being, before… but he simply couldn’t take the risk.


One evening John came home from the clinic to find he’d left his laptop open again, a fairly frequent occurrence. Not so usual was the Excel spreadsheet that had popped up instead of the tax forms he’d been filling out the night before. Minutes since severed… rigidity… accessibility of prints… John drew back in horror. When had he had time to create these, these concrete accoutrements to his ridiculous fantasy life? Was there any missing time for which he could not account?

“No," John heard himself babbling as he banged the laptop shut. "No. I didn't, I can't, I'm..." On the verge of panic, he drew his feet up into the armchair and breathed as deeply and slowly as possible, eyes squeezed shut. Mind over matter, yeah? Perhaps he should try consciously banishing Sherlock and all evidence of his presence.

One… Sherlock is dead… two… Sherlock is dead… three… Sherlock is dead… four… Sherlock is dead… five… Sherlock is dead… six… so why can I hear him clearing his throat in the armchair opposite?

This would never work. John bolted for his bedroom.

Once there, he reasoned that a change of scenery might do him a great deal of good. So far, he had never seen Sherlock anywhere outside of 221B. Perhaps his hallucinations were tied to “their” space, a sort of misfiring mental association being made by his beleaguered mind. Perhaps he could move out for the weekend – it was Friday evening after all – and clear his head.


The best thing about Harry was that she didn’t ask too many questions, at least when sober. She hugged him for a few seconds longer than usual, wrapping him warmly in her wiry arms; took his duffel bag from his unresisting fingers and made up a bed for him on the sofa, with the single pillow he preferred; and brought him a cup of tea, strong and hot. As he sipped, she sat down next to him and tilted her head against his, not speaking.

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her everything, not so much out of gratitude or camaraderie as because not speaking of it to anyone, all the while certain that he was giving away his guilty secret with every shifty glance, was slowly killing him. Listen, Harry, he could say. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started seeing Sherlock again. Hearing voices? Yes, of course. No, no one is telling me to hurt myself, or anyone else. Well, he has invited me to a couple of crime scenes, but after the first few times, I stopped hallucinating that bit. He brushed at his eyes as his vision blurred unexpectedly, and Harry squeezed his biceps.
“John,” she said softly, “you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. You know that, right?”

He nodded tightly, not trusting himself to speak.

“I’d thought… you seemed better, before. But maybe it’s not so good for you to be alone.”

“’m not alone,” John managed with a wry half-smile. He patted her hand, the same false assurance he gave just before referring a patient with particularly ominous symptoms to a specialist.

“Your housekeeper doesn’t count,” she said with some asperity, and suddenly John had to fight the half-hysterical urge to laugh.

“She’s not my housekeeper, she’s my landlady, and please, Harry, just… leave it, yeah?”

“Yeah, fine,” Harry huffed, but her tone was more sad than angry. She stood up. “I’ll give you a bit of breathing space, will I?”

“Ta,” John said softly to her back, then drained his cup.


On Sunday evening, John went back to Baker Street.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love Harry; of course he did, he always had, she was his sister. He simply didn’t like her very much. Even now, with none of the usual problems attendant – because she’d been trying, she really had, and there had been no drinking, no whinging, no nagging about anti-depressants, no rows with her current partner – even so, her simple presence, the very cadence of her breathing, irritated him more than the company of perhaps the most singular and insufferable sod ever to haunt the halls of the New Scotland Yard.

The irony of this was not lost on John, but there it was.

Sitting on the tube, back straight, fists clenched in his coat, John wondered which would be worse: to find that Sherlock was gone and he was cured, or to discover the flat exactly as he had left it, with Sherlock sitting slit-eyed in his armchair and a knife transfixing fresh correspondence on the mantelpiece next to the skull.

As John limped down Baker street towards their flat, he was greeted by the faint strains of very familiar violin music, a poignant piece that he himself couldn’t attribute to any composer in particular but which had always reminded him of Sherlock in its piercing solitude and restrained intensity. John forced himself to unlock the street door, hang up his coat, and trudge steadily up the stairs.

When he opened the door of the flat, the music faltered almost imperceptibly but then soared on, the sweet seduction of madness itself. John blinked against sudden tears and bit his lower lip to stifle an unmanly sob (never mind that there was nobody here to witness his weakness). Nodded curtly to the non-existent man behind the curtain and stumbled up to his room.


That night, lying alone in bed, John had a revelation.

He did not actually want to be cured.

No matter how many times he told himself otherwise, he was not-so-secretly glad to come home to Sherlock every day. If madness were the price to have his friend back in Baker Street again, then John would pay it.

Pay it, hell. He would embrace it.

The next morning John made tea and toast, deliberately, for both of them. He was simultaneously disappointed and relieved to see that Sherlock’s portion remained untouched on the table when he returned from his shift at the clinic. He poured out the tepid tea and binned the bread, feeling only a slight twinge of remorse. Then he picked at his Chinese takeout, set aside the dumplings that Sherlock liked so much and stashed them in the fridge, and watched Toddlers and Tiaras for a couple of hours before going to bed.


John had a few days of leave coming to him after filling in for Joe Bell, whose daughter Vanessa’s appendix had ruptured, and he would spend it, uninterrupted, where he wished, in the company of Sherlock. He ordered in sufficient food and turned his phone off, almost disconnected the wireless as well but thought better of it. He told Mrs. Hudson that he was not, under any circumstances, to be disturbed.

So far, things had been calm – cosy and familiar, much like the old days in 221B. John spent most of the third morning doing the crossword. He could hear Sherlock puttering about in the kitchen, processing slides and slotting them into place at his microscope, making that low, self-satisfied hum like a cat who’d got the cream. Sherlock always acted happiest when John stayed in, even when they spent most of their time in separate rooms, even if they barely acknowledged each other.

Just past eleven, John stretched and massaged the back of his neck, then set the half-finished crossword aside and padded into the kitchen to refresh his tea. There was his own private Sherlock, perched at the microscope like a magnificent bird of prey, intent on the tiny slivers of god knows what (and it briefly occurred to John to wonder why his subconscious hadn’t bothered to supply him with such details).

John closed the cupboard, set a package of biscuits on the table, and regarded Sherlock for a moment.

"I suppose that's just what you do, isn't it?" he said. "Even now." His voice sounded hoarse, rusty and unused after two days without human contact, despite the sip of tea he’d just taken.

"Yes," responded Sherlock, adjusting the viewfinder.

John studied Sherlock closely. He seemed… thinner even than John remembered, and so pale that he was almost translucent. "It wouldn't make sense for you to do anything else, would it?"

"Hardly," Sherlock replied, not looking up from his specimen. His tone implied impatience and some distaste.

"Right," said John. He looked away and sipped his tea. "Right."

For the first time since Sherlock’s initial appearance, John had initiated a conversation, an actual honest-to-God exchange, however trite – and despite being completely delusional, he could still recognize that this stepped things up to the next level. It was only a matter of time now before he forgot that the man he was talking to didn’t actually exist, before a third party caught them at it and John was taken away to a place with soft walls and plastic knives.

He was still musing on this inevitability when their comfortable silence was shattered by a peremptory knock at the door.
John set down teacup and saucer and grabbed his cane, but he had only gotten to the entryway when the door swung open of its own accord.

Mycroft Holmes stood there, immaculately dressed and magisterially upright. John steeled himself to deal with this unexpected intrusion.

"Hello, Mycroft," he said in a low voice, hoping that the other man would hear the warning in it. "What is it today?"

"John." Mycroft nodded a curt acknowledgment and swiftly crossed the room to sit at the kitchen table opposite Sherlock, who continued to peer into his oculars.

"Would you like some tea, then?" offered John, the sarcasm evident to anyone but a Holmes. Mycroft politely declined and leaned back in his chair, still staring at the spot where John could see his younger brother sitting, clear as day. It was almost as if… but no. Of course not. That was impossible.

Or at the very least, Sherlock’s voice rebuked, not from the stiff figure at the kitchen table but from inside John’s fragile skull, highly improbable.

And when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

He was still staring uncertainly at the scene before him, his gaze shifting from one brother to the other, from the memory to the flesh, when Mycroft broke the silence. "If I didn't know better, I'd be concerned." His comment was clearly directed towards the spot where Sherlock sat, deliberately ignoring him. John felt a sudden flush, perspiration beginning to bead on his brow, and clutched convulsively at his cane as his hands started to shake. "It's unusual for you to ignore my messages for so long."

"I'm sorry, what messages?" John asked, his tremulous voice overlapping with Sherlock's simultaneous retort, "Why should I respond to something so deathly boring?"

Mycroft slammed his palms down on the kitchen table and thrust his head forward. "This is a matter of national importance," he hissed, "and you know that very well. I cannot see how your… experiments," and Mycroft spit this word out contemptuously, "could possibly keep you –"

There was a loud thud and a near-simultaneous dull burst of pain in John’s lower back, both of which, he shortly discovered, were due to the fact that his knees had collapsed under him, causing him to collide ungracefully with the refrigerator. Dimly he heard Sherlock call his name, but right now he only had eyes for Mycroft, who quite clearly was carrying on a conversation with a dead man.

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable…

“You…” John couldn’t catch his breath, was afraid for a moment that he was actually going to faint. Up till now, his hallucinations of Sherlock had been self-contained; he had imagined no interactions except here, at home, with John himself. That they were now spiraling outward to include other individuals of their acquaintance could only mean that his condition had progressed to full-blown psychosis. Either that, or… or…

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains…

He closed his mouth, swallowed, and parted his lips to try again, imparting the same authority to his voice that he would have used with one of his men. "Who... are you talking to... Mycroft."

Mycroft didn't seem sure of the proper response. His eyes darted to Sherlock – he parted his lips and blinked – and then quickly back to John.

When you have eliminated the impossible…

John crumpled to the floor.

His heart was pounding in his ears, his vision dark, and he felt as though he might be about to vomit. He pulled up his knees and thrust his head between them, sternly ordering himself to breathe. Almost immediately, a presence he knew to be Sherlock appeared by his side, solid and warm but not quite in contact.

John gasped and shuddered, and the spots swimming before his eyes receded a little.

“John," Sherlock ventured, sounding as remorseful as John had ever heard him. He drew in a ragged breath and let it out, willing himself fiercely not to burst into sobs.

Then, gently and carefully, Sherlock touched John's shoulder, avoiding the sensitive tissue surrounding his scar.

It occurred to John that he wanted desperately to grasp that hand with his own and hold onto it for dear life like a drowning man. He wanted to turn it palm-up and trace their intertwined destinies in the fine creases. He wanted to hold it against his hot cheek so that Sherlock could lick it later, delicately, and taste John’s tears. He wanted to grip it with all of the strength he could summon and crush Sherlock’s bones to powder.

Of course, he did none of these things.

John drew in another quivering breath and spoke, voice surprisingly even. "Just to be clear..." he began, and stopped himself there, unable for the moment to continue without tears, or possibly hysterics. Just to be clear, you let me believe for two years, almost two bloody years, you bastards, that the man who stopped me from swallowing my gun when I got back from Afghanistan had given his life for mine.

"John, I am so sorry," a voice whispered, but this was Mycroft, his usual arrogance softened by what sounded like sincere shame. "If I had known..."

John couldn’t make himself raise his head, but he dismissed the apology by waving his hand. "No… it's… it'll be all right. I'll be…"

"I'll leave you two, then," Mycroft offered, the coward, and the footsteps of a habitually much heavier man made their way hastily to the door.

One more breath. Another. Any second now, he would be able to look up, to catch Sherlock’s – the actual Sherlock’s – eye, to allow his friend to witness the full force of his fury… and of his forgiveness.

Suddenly Sherlock withdrew the warmth of his hand from John’s shoulder. John heard him suck in one deep, harsh breath, then another. A violent, almost convulsive movement and a crash were swiftly followed by the clatter of uneven footsteps and the slam of the front door.

Go to Chapter 2



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