Title: Ego Deceptio
Character: John and Sherlock
Summary: Does Sherlock Holmes really exist?
Spoilers: Very minor ones for all 3 episodes
A/N: This was originally intended as a short sequel that took on a mind of it's own. Also huge thanks to my wonderful beta misshaunted
The Doctor smiles.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s Moran. Dr Sebastian Moran. I don’t expect you to remember me, John. That’s the whole point, isn’t it?” Dr Moran whispers, checking over his shoulder before moving closer to John’s bed.
John frowns, because he knows he’s slightly confused, right now, but this guy really isn’t making any sense.
Moran checks behind him again, as though frightened that someone’s going to burst in on them at any moment, before replying in hushed tones; “They’re lying to you. That IV in your arm - they’re drugging you John. They want to make you confused so that you’ll believe their lies.” He leans in a little closer, eyes wide and whispers, “Sherlock Holmes does exist.”
“What!?” John doesn’t know how to reply to that, he’s spent the last few days being told that his life with Sherlock was all a figment of his imagination, and that Sherlock is indeed a fictional character, and now this doctor wants him to believe something different. One thing John does know for sure, though, is that if there is any chance of Sherlock being out there then he has to find him. That’s why before his mind can fully process what he’s doing, he’s out of bed and halfway across the room to the closet that he knows contains his clothes.
“John?” He’s stopped in his tracks by the entrance of another doctor, this time, though, it’s his psychologist; Dr Matthews. John feels like a naughty child being caught out of bed in the middle of the night, but lucky for him Matthews’ attention is quickly diverted to Dr Moran. “Sebastian? What are you doing out of bed?”
John blinks, mouth falling open in surprise.
“Bed? Why would he be in bed, I thought he was a doctor?” John turns to face her, a look of defiance in his eyes, one that says ‘I dare you to tell me any different’. He now knows that she’s been lying to him, of course, and he won’t trust another word that comes out of her traitorous mouth.
“John, Sebastian is a patient here.” Dr Matthews glances back at Sebastian, this time taking in his attire with an understanding eye. “Oh dear. Sebastian’s been telling you that he’s a doctor, hasn’t he? I’m sorry John, but Sebastian is a little ... confused. He likes to think that he’s a doctor. I hope he hasn’t upset you too much.”
“But he ... he said that Sherlock exists, and that you’ve been lying to me all along.” John takes a step back, colliding with the wall as Dr Matthews steps towards him, her hand outstretched placatingly as if approaching a wounded animal. “Why should I believe you now?”
Matthews stops, sensing that John is becoming more and more agitated by the situation. “John, think about it. Logically, think about it. Why would I – not to mention all the rest of the staff here - lie to you? We just want to help you get better. You’ve been through a traumatic experience, and it will take you time to adjust to normal life. Think about it John, I saw you – I watched over your shoulder the other day, you were looking up websites. ‘The Science of Deduction’ - and it didn’t exist, did it, John? There was nothing at all relating to a real person called Sherlock Holmes. And, frankly, it would be impossible for someone to just ... just disappear like that. Please, John, please listen to me.”
John’s knees give way and he’s sinking into the corner that he seems to have backed himself into before he realises what’s happening. He’s tired, he just wants to go to sleep and for everything to be okay again. His head falls onto his knees, a slight tremor racking his body.
Sherlock has to exist – no, he does exist. The memories of their time together are so vivid, the feelings... John’s never met anyone else like him. Surely, there was no way it was all just a figment of his imagination?
And yet ... well, he has to ask himself which reality makes the most sense. And as much as he hates to admit it, Matthews is right, of course. It would be practically impossible for anyone to wipe all traces of Sherlock’s existence from the world. But then there stands Sebastian, telling him what he wants to hear, telling him what John prays is the truth. Is it possible, believable? Could Sherlock, really be out there, somewhere?
John lifts his head from his knees to find that several seconds have passed, because Sebastian is being silently lead from the room with a nurse on either side of him, and Dr Matthews is sitting next to him on the floor.
As John considers Sebastian’s retreating back, a thought hits him, and he turns to Dr Matthews with a flicker of hope blossoming in his chest.
“How does Sebastian know about Sherlock?”
“Sorry?” It’s Dr Matthews turn to seem confused, now.
John fixes her with a piercing stare, desperately clinging to this new hope like it’s a lifeline.
“Sherlock,” he says again, nodding in the vague direction of the door through which Sebastian departed moments before. “If he doesn’t exist, then how does Sebastian know enough to come in here and tell me he’s real? The only person I’ve talked to about Sherlock ... is you.” John’s gaining more confidence in what he’s saying, now.
“John.” She sighs before continuing, her gaze pitying. “John, you dream. You’ve had several nightmares while you’ve been with us. Sebastian’s room is next to yours, not that it makes much difference, I expect half the patients on the ward know about Sherlock Holmes, by now.”
Seeing the look of confusion on his face, she continues, “you’ve been shouting his name in you sleep, over and over again. Unfortunately, Sebastian just added another element to his usual delusion that you’re all being drugged and kept here against you will.” She lets out a slight chuckle at the absurdity of the notion.
“Now please, John, just come back to bed. You’ve had a bit of an eventful day, perhaps we should talk more tomorrow.”
He shrugs non-committally, but makes no effort to push her away as she scoots closer to him. Matthews supports him as he walks gingerly back over to his bed, the sudden burst of energy he gained when he grasped desperately at the possibility that Sherlock could be alive is now all but gone. In its place, the reality of the situation sets in. It’s disconcerting, but he can clearly hear Sherlock in his head telling him to look at the facts. To notice everything, and analyse all possibilities. Even Sherlock himself is pushing John into realising that he doesn’t - nor did he ever - exist.
John spends the rest of the day lying staring at - but not actually seeing - the stark white ceiling as he converses with Sherlock about the probability or improbability of his existence. Every time it seems as though John may have stumbled upon something that will give him a glimmer of hope, he’s cut down by the scathing voice of Sherlock Holmes.
He knows then, as he slides into a fitful slumber, that there is no such person as Sherlock Holmes, and that if he were to return to 221B Baker Street, he would find no traces of his imaginary friend.
John is in the hospital for another week before he’s finally allowed to be released. Doctor Matthews had hoped to keep him in longer; she still gives him furtive looks when she thinks he’s not looking, as though he may crack up at any moment and go completely insane.
Physically, he is now recovered. Almost. There will still be minor issues to contend with once he makes it home - a severe concussion, a few bruises and not to mention the lingering trauma of being shot in the shoulder (though he’d been out of it for so long that the wound had all but healed). But physically, he’s on the mend.
Mentally? Well, that’s another story entirely. Perhaps Matthews is right to be worried - John’s still coming to terms with the fact that his best friend, a guy he can remember spending several vivid months with, is nothing more than a hallucination conjured by his injured brain.
She eyes him, dubiously.
“Where will you go?”
The question cuts harshly through John’s thoughts, jolting him back to reality. He finishes folding the jumper in his hand before placing it carefully in the bag, a carrier bag; that’s all John has to his name. One carrier bag and his phone, of course. The phone Harry gave him, though just when she’d given him it, he couldn’t quite recall. That was the problem with brain injuries; sometimes memories were lost with no hope of ever being restored.
“Did Harry come to visit me?” His tone is hopeful. He hates himself for it. It’s trivial, he knows, knowing when and where he got the phone, but he just needs to know. He hates not being able to remember things.
Matthews considers him thoughtfully, a slight frown gracing her features.
“Harry?” Her eyes widen in sudden realisation. “Oh yes, Harriet. Your sister. Yes John, yes, she did.”
Her reply is slow and careful, expressed in exactly the same way Dr Matthews has always talked to him. “She came down during your first week, here. When you were in a coma.”
“Is that when she gave me the phone?”
“Yes, she left it with me with instruction that it should be passed on to you when you awoke.”
“Oh,” is all John says. He falls silent.
He doesn’t remember it, any of it. But then, of course he wouldn’t, considering the fact he’d been in a coma at the time. But as he stares at the phone in his hand, feeling its weight, running his hand along the side, fingers tracing the scratches where the charger is usually inserted, he’s hit with the memory of Sherlock doing the very same thing, on the first day they met.
John hates it, how this dream is such a vivid reality in his mind, and yet reality seems more like the dream.
“Where will you go, John?” Dr Matthews asks again, this time resting her hand supportively against his arm.
He hesitates, before finally answering in a quiet, pained voice.
“To London. It’s all I really know. And I guess ... well, maybe if I’m back there, I’ll be able to find myself again.”
He tells himself it’s okay to be here. It’s only logical that when the cabbie had asked him where he wanted to go, he’d promptly replied, “221B, Baker Street”. After all, there was nowhere else. His previous flat had been sold on long ago – back when he’d left for Afghanistan. Of course, Baker Street wasn’t his home either, but it was the last place he could remember living in, even if he hadn’t actually lived there.
So he hadn’t thought when he’d got into the taxi, just said it. An automatic reflex. But now they’re speeding through London, well more like crawling with the Friday afternoon rush hour, and he doesn’t want to look like an idiot by changing his mind and directing the cabbie to a completely different part of town. He reasons with himself that it’ll all be fine. He’ll get to Baker Street, hang around for five minutes and then get another taxi to wherever it is he plans to go next. Not that he’s figured that part out, yet.
“That’ll be twenty quid please, mate.”
John is pulled from his thoughts by the announcement of the cabbie. His heart sinks as he opens his wallet to find that he only has forty pounds in there. Perhaps he won’t be taking another taxi, after all. It was just second nature to him, living with Sherlock they had always taken taxis - he’d had a job and Sherlock always had money even if John didn’t. Except ... well, that isn’t his life anymore, never has been.
Dr Matthews was right. It’s going to take time to adjust to living a normal life, a life without Sherlock. If he hadn’t sounded nuts before, he sure did now. Here he was, a grown man struggling to live without his imaginary friend.
John pays the taxi driver and steps out onto the street in front of 221B. The apartment looks exactly the same in real life as it had done in his mind. All except for the addition of a ‘Tenant Required’ sign in the lower right-hand window. What could it hurt to take a look inside? He only wants to see what the real 221B looks like ... and who knows? He needs a place to live - he might even end up staying here, if he ever manages to sort himself out a new job. Without one, he won’t be staying anywhere but the streets. An army pension would hardly buy him a cardboard box let alone an apartment in one of the most desirable areas in London.
Before he has a chance to reason himself out of it, John is knocking on the door of 221B. That, in itself, feels strange. He has – had - a key (well his delusional self had a key, at any rate). The door is opened by a portly woman, about fortyish, with short red hair; John’s first thought is that she looks like she’s been around a bit.
“Can I, er, help you?” She asks falteringly in her thick cockney accent.
John can’t help but notice the slight hitch in her voice as she gets her first proper look at him, as though he has taken her by surprise. He clears his throat, and nods.
“Yes, I saw your advert for a room to rent in the window, I was wondering if I might take a look?” John isn’t completely sure about what he’s doing, but he’s come this far, he figures he may as well go all the way, and then perhaps he can finally give himself some closure on the whole ‘Sherlock Holmes’ thing, because no matter how much he wills for it to be true, all the evidence supports the fact that Sherlock was never real.
“Oh, erm, yes. Yes the room, of course.”
John doesn’t fail to notice the look of sheer panic that passes across her face at his mention of coming in. He doesn’t know why, but he has the strangest feeling she doesn’t want him to be there. As she motions for him to enter, he catches her hurriedly scanning the street out of the corner of his eye, before the door is closed behind him, and she leads him into the hallway.
He’s barely made it two steps into the hall, when it hits him.
“That was the...that was the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done.”
“And you invaded Afghanistan.”
He’s standing there, alongside Sherlock. And they’re giggling like schoolgirls.
“Mrs Hudson, Dr Watson will take the room upstairs.”
“Says the man at the door.”
That’s where it had all started, his crazy adventure with Sherlock Holmes, it was so clear, the emotions so real. He can still remember his heart pounding in his chest, the sense of excitement he felt at doing something again. And he wants it back. He needs it back.
“You alright?” The landlady eyes him, suspiciously.
“Yep, fine,” he responds a little too quickly. He clears his throat and flashes her a brief smile. “Shall we?” John gestures to the stairs in front of him.
“Hmm.” She turns towards the stairs and begins to climb them, looking back every couple of steps to check on John, as though keeping an eye on him. John doesn’t like it.
“Well, this is it.” She looks at him again, the key in the lock waiting to be turned.
John can actually feel his heart pounding as he holds his breath. What he’s actually expecting, he cannot say. But he hopes that this has all been some sort of sick joke, and hopes that when that door is opened, he will find Sherlock lying on the sofa in one of his sulks...
Of course, that doesn’t happen. Sherlock isn’t there when the door is opened. Instead, John is confronted with a dark, cold and distinctively empty room. Yet despite the emptiness, there is just ... just something about it, something that feels like home.
“This is the living room, and through there is the kitchen...”
Whatever else she wants to say to him is lost as John is hit with yet another memory;
He opens the fridge.
“Oh f... There’s a head, a severed head.”
“Just tea for me thanks,” comes the nonchalant reply from the couch.
“There’s a head in the fridge.”
“A BLOODY HEAD.”
“Where else was I supposed to put it? You don’t mind, do you?”
“The, er, the last tenant...?”
“Oh yes, dear, lovely lady. June was her name, lived her for 3 years, found herself a man, didn’t she? They got married and now they’ve gone to live together in a house in the country, somewhere.”
“Oh.” John feels his heart sinking. Every piece of evidence he finds tells him that Sherlock isn’t real - this woman, (he can’t remember asking her name, which he knows is unlike him, but with everything that’s happened, manners and etiquette are the last things on his mind) ... what possible reason could she have to lie to him? There isn’t one. She doesn’t know who he is, he’s nothing more than a stranger, who’s just walked in off the street.
“It’s just your mind seeing what it wants to see, imposing the memories of you and Sherlock, twisting them to fit the situations that you’re finding yourself in. You want him to exist, I’d say you even need him to exist, and your brain is trying to deal with the fact that he doesn’t, and it can’t. You have to let go, John, it’s been months, and you haven’t found anything because there is nothing to find. For the sake of your health and your sanity, you have got to forget about Sherlock Holmes, and start building a new life for yourself. Waiting for someone who doesn’t exist really is no way to live, John. At least think about it, okay?”
Think about it. Seriously, bloody think about it.
Sherlock Holmes was the only person he had thought about since waking up in the hospital. Every waking second, he’s wrestled with himself, over whether to give up and face reality or to keep searching, keep hoping. But she’s got a point - he has to stop this, sooner or later. He can’t remember the last time he had a decent night’s sleep, or a proper meal. He knows he’s lost weight, knows his clothes aren’t clean, and the ever-growing stubble on his chin reminds him he hasn’t shaved in days.
‘Home’ is a pokey little one-room bedsit in Barking. It’s grotty, the heating doesn’t work and there is something furry growing on the ceiling; he really doesn’t want to know what that is, and so chooses to ignore it completely. Papers collected over the past couple of months litter every available surface, all relating to Sherlock in some way or another. Well, as related as it is possible to be, considering John has collected them in the vain hope of discovering something, anything that would prove the existence of Sherlock Holmes, despite the fact he is a figment of John’s own imagination.
Normally, as soon as he returned home, John would start pouring through the papers, searching, hoping for something that he might have missed the first, tenth, fiftieth time he’d read through them.
But today is different. Today is the day John Watson is going to get his life back.
Before he has a chance to change his mind, John grabs a black bag from his so-called kitchen and begins filling it with the newspapers. It feels like forever, each paper ripping that little bit more out of his soul as one by one they join their fellows in the bin bag. But finally, after a few gruelling minutes, the task is completed. John throws the bag out onto the landing, ready to be taken down for the rubbish the following day. He stands, looking around the now almost empty room, all traces of Sherlock gone. It feels like a weight has been lifted.
He smiles for the first time in months.
When John wakes, it is still the middle of the night. And Sherlock Holmes is standing at the foot of his bed, staring right at him.
Of course, it’s dark. And he’s tired. But there is no mistaking the eyes - God, those eyes - as the glow from the streetlamp outside his grimy window is reflected back through them; John will always remember those piercing blue eyes, still recognises them from his dreams. His nightmares...
“Not tonight, Sherlock,” John mumbles, to himself of course; he isn’t crazy enough (yet) to believe that this hallucination of Sherlock actually is the real Sherlock Holmes.
The projection considers him, thoughtfully.
“Interesting. Do you frequently have hallucinations of me at night, John? How disturbing.”
John sighs, heavily. “I’m going to count to five and then you’re going to be gone, because you are not real.” He closes his eyes. “One...two...three...four...five.”
He opens his eyes, fully expecting to find himself alone in his poky flat, once again. As was always the case. And so imagine his surprise when John finds that Sherlock is still there, still standing right there, having not moved – not even twitched a muscle. Sherlock is simply standing there, staring right at him from just beyond the end of his bed. The projection of his former imaginary friend looks on, stunned, its eyes Bambi-wide. It’s acute, intelligent gaze is questioning. And seems almost ... hurt...
“Now really, John...”
“Stop talking, just stop. You. Are. Not. Real. This is not real. I’ve moved on. Please, Sherlock... please just ... just leave me alone.”
Far from disappearing, the ‘imaginary’ Sherlock is coming towards him, its hands outstretched. Before he has a chance to react, ice-cold hands are grabbing his face, blue eyes piercing into his own. “Does this feel real enough for you, John?”
His mind draws a blank.
“Oh,” he whispers, the colour draining from his face, a wave of confusion and disbelief gnawing away at his insides.
“This must be a dream then,” he tries to reason with himself. “No, not a dream, a nightmare.”
Sherlock’s expression changes to one of confusion. “A nightmare? Come now. Was life with me really that bad, John?”
“There was no life with you, don’t you get it? It was all just one big figment of my broken brain’s imagination! You don’t exist! Why am I even bothering to argue with you? This is just another dream, all I have to do is wake up, and everything will be okay again.”
John reaches for his bedside cabinet, fingers slipping into the top drawer where he always keeps his gun, not that he usually needs it - he hasn’t reached out for it in a long time. Not since he returned from the hospital, in fact. But nevertheless, it’s a small comfort, something familiar. He points it first at Sherlock, smiles, before turning it on himself, the muzzle connecting with his forehead.
“Do you know the only way to make sure that you wake up from a dream?” he asks the projection conversationally. Then smiles dryly. “Of course you do, you know everything. I could always just pinch myself, I suppose, but then I’ve been hurt before in dreams, and that didn’t make any difference. No, the only way to make sure that this is all just a dream is to get a jolt, and I think shooting myself in the head should be a big enough jolt, don’t you?”
“John, what the hell are you doing? You have to listen to me!” There is a note of panic in Sherlock’s voice, those intense, blue-grey eyes are wild and desperate, constantly flicking between John’s face and the gun in his hand. “This is real, I am real. Please John, I don’t know what’s happened to you over the course of the last few months, and I’m sorry. Really, I am. I should have been there. Just ... just put the gun down, please. We can fix this! Look at me John, really look at me. You pull that trigger and there’s going to be no waking up.”
He does. Just for a second, he finds his confidence faltering, and so he looks at Sherlock, really looks at him. There are things there that John has never seen before. Those eyes, how could he have missed them? No longer sparkling as they once had been, now there is a haunted look underlying their intensity. Sherlock’s hair is longer, unkempt, and his clothes ... where he used to be so immaculately dressed, he’s now wearing an ill fitting suit. Tailored, yes, like all of Sherlock’s suits, so only ill fitting now, not when he bought it, which means Sherlock has lost weight. Did he even have any weight to lose?
John looks at the man’s face again; half-hidden behind that mop of curly, dark hair, his cheeks are sunken, and even in the moonlight he looks pale. Too pale.
Sherlock’s obviously heard all he needs to in the faltering question behind his name, because he is rushing forward and grabbing the gun from John’s hand before his stricken friend has a chance to change his mind. Gun safely out of reach, he sinks into the chair that resides next to John’s bed as though his legs can no longer hold him.
“How long were you...?”
“Couple of hours.” The question is answered before it can even be asked. “I didn’t want to wake you. Sorry, I should have waited until tomorrow, but when I heard I just had to see for myself. I don’t know, I’m ... I’m just glad you’re alright.”
There’s a heavy silence that fills the room, as they both look at each other, knowingly. He’s not alright, not by a long shot. Neither is Sherlock, come to think of it. But they will be.
“I’m still not one hundred percent convinced that all of this is real, but let’s say for argument’s sake that it is, where the hell have you been? What happened to you? I’ve been searching for you, everywhere, for any clue that you were real, but there was nothing. Not the slightest piece of evidence to suggest that anyone called Sherlock Holmes ever existed!”
“Mycroft.” Sherlock spits the name out, before wrinkling his nose up in disgust.
John blinks, stumped. He almost thinks he misheard the hate-filled whisper. Or perhaps just wishes he had.
“Mycroft? What the hell has he...why would he...what?!” John shakes his head in confusion.
“What do you remember, John, after our little encounter with Moriarty?” Sherlock leans forward in the chair, eager to hear his friend’s account of events that have led them up to this very moment.
“There was an explosion. Then I woke up in a hospital in Manchester. They told me I was wounded in Afghanistan and had been in a coma. Everything from me landing in England the first time was all just a fantasy. You -” he almost chokes on the words, “- were a fantasy.”
“And you believed them?” The whisper is as softly spoken as ever. As cold and detached and clinically addressed as John has come to expect from his best friend. But Sherlock’s expression turns from one of interest to one of disappointment, hurt. And John hurries to defend himself.
“No, I didn’t bloody believe them. I looked for you for six months, six months Sherlock! Six bloody months of my life, I had no life, because every waking moment all I could think about was you, and of any way that I might be able to find you. But there was nothing, no one had ever heard of you, Lestrade, Mycroft, Anderson, hell even Mrs Hudson. I searched for everyone and anyone I could remember that had any connection with you, there was no one. What the hell was I supposed to do? I gave up, accepted reality. You don’t exist.”
“And yet here I am.” Sherlock almost whispers to himself.
“Here you are. Six months too late.”
“John, I thought you were dead. After the explosion, I woke up in a hospital here in London, apparently I’d been unconscious for several weeks. They – Mycroft - told me you were dead, even took me to your grave when I was finally released from the hospital. I should have noticed that things weren’t right, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I slipped, John. Without you ... well, there was no point in continuing. I had managed to get the only true friend that I’ve ever had killed. I couldn’t afford the rent at Baker Street, not on my own. Not that I really wanted to live there any longer, anyway. It was just too empty without you. Mrs Hudson was always bustling around making tea, as though that would make everything better, it was so ... so hateful. So I moved in with Mycroft.” Seeing the look of disbelief on John’s face, Sherlock responded. “I know, I know, that - if nothing else – should at least convince you of the depths into which I have fallen. I gave up consulting, slipped back into old, unfortunate habits. Then I found out you were alive, and here we are.”
“Yes, how did you know that I was alive?”
“I still have connections, John. Remember, the homeless network. You were spotted, recognised. And they informed me; that’s also how I managed to find out where you were living now. Which is ... er, well yes I suppose the less said about that one, the better.”
John regards him, expression stony.
“You try living off an army pension in London. It’s not easy, you know,” He replies indignantly.
“Yes, well you don’t have to worry about that anymore, you can move back in with me.” Sherlock bounces out of the chair, before grabbing hold of John and pulling him easily from the bed. “Hurry up, go pack, I’d rather not stay here a minute longer than I have too.”
“Hang on, you can’t just come in here in the middle of the night, announce that you are in fact actually real, and expect everything to be alright again!”
“Why not?” Sherlock actually looks confused, and that is a new look for him.
“Because ... well, you just can’t. It doesn’t work that way.”
“Okay, but you have yet to give me an explanation as to why it can’t work that way. I’m real, you’re alive. That’s all we need to know right now, we can take care of the details later.”
“But...oh really, you are so exasperating.” John tries to sound indignant, but he just can’t manage it. Sherlock is back and it all just feels so right. “Fine, I’ll come with you. In the morning. Right now, I need some explanations, and I’m sure your mind has made great deductions about the events of the past six months, but unfortunately I’m still a little confused. If you’re real, then Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Anderson, Mycroft, what happened to them? You said Mycroft was behind this whole thing, but why? How?”
“Oh, come on, John, I know it’s early/late/whatever, but really, isn’t it obvious? Mycroft, being the concerned big brother that he is was worried that I’ve been putting myself in danger since I met you, so he used the whole situation with Moriarty to get rid of you. It is pretty obvious once you think about it, Mycroft is the only person I know who could possibly make so many people disappear and keep them disappeared for so long. As for Mrs Hudson, she’s on holiday in Florida, gone to stay with her sister for a few months. Lestrade, Anderson, Sgt. Donovan, all reassigned, given promotions to the secret service - MI5, if I’m not mistaken. It’s the only way that he could erase their identities completely, spies don’t exist after all.” He winks, before sweeping out of John’s room and out into the hallway. When John doesn’t immediately follow, he turns back, pokes his head around the door and beams at his bemused friend.
“Well, are you coming?”
Harry rests her hand on the glass separating her from her brother. She hates seeing him like this - doesn’t come very often, but the doctors recently informed her that there had been a change in his condition, and she has been hoping for good news. It seemed like he was getting better, the last time she had visited; he had finally started to accept the prospect of Sherlock Holmes not being real.
But now, here he is again, conversing with the famous detective, ready to go off on another one of their supposed ‘adventures’.
In reality, John has come home from Afghanistan a broken man. The IED that left him injured also killed four other men that he had been travelling with. Being the doctor that he was he had tried, desperately to save them. From what she’d heard, three of the four had died almost instantly, but John had been left with one soldier - only 19 years old - for several hours before they were found. The little sense that she’d managed to get out of John told her that they had been close, had served with each other for several months before the incident; there was nothing John could have done. But it had broken him, not being able to do what was instinctual to him; not being able to save the poor man’s life.
He’d been flown home, with the wounded, and it seemed like he was going to be okay, until one day, when she visited and he had started telling her all about his new friend, Sherlock Holmes. From there it began to spiral downhill - John had retreated into a world of fantasy, where he was the sidekick to a great detective, doing what he did best, saving lives.
And now she can only stand here and watch, staring through the glass at the broken remains of her brother as he talks animatedly to a genius – a friend - who isn’t really there.
Harry wants her brother back, of course she does. But sometimes she can’t help but wonder if it would be kinder just to leave him to his fantasies, rather than drag him back into the stark, harsh and unforgiving realities of real life.</a>