Title: The Ghost Story
Warnings: Aftermath of character death.
Mrs. Hudson had, somewhat illogically (and who knew why she'd have kept it in the first place), returned the skull to the mantle above the fireplace. John paused his pacing long enough to stare at it. The apartment was just too empty to sleep. It'd been three days. Nothing helped.
“I guess you're my friend now,” he said. He picked the skull up and turned it over in his hands, wondering what (or who) it had been to Sherlock. If it really had been important, or just a piece of furniture or a conversation piece (literally or figuratively. Or both, knowing Sherlock).
Sometimes, John thought, he wasn't sure whether he hadn't been furniture to Sherlock. He'd had an unusual definition of 'friend.'
“Why don't you ever think,” he asked himself, moving the skull's jaw and mimicking Sherlock's voice “Talking to a skull, people'd talk, you know.”
He turned around with a start, immediately embarrassed at his apparent slip into insanity. Grateful that there'd been no witnesses, though with an unshakeable feeling of someone's disapproval, he replaced the skull on the mantle, careful to line its jaw up properly.
This action was punctuated with a classical flourish, as if his life had suddenly adopted a soundtrack. He closed his eyes and rubbed at his temples. Maybe the couch was the solution to this sleep problem. His bedroom certainly hadn't been any use nor, on the desperate third night, had Sherlock's. (Though the balance of that particular issue was the inaccessibility of Sherlock's bed due to the build-up of half-finished experiments he hadn't had the heart to remove). Unconsciously he continued his pacing.
Outside the window it drizzled faintly and a thin fog curled around the edges of the buildings and parked cars. Going on the fourth day of sleep deprivation, however, the edges of everything were starting to take on a foggy demeanor. If he watched too long he would eventually convince himself that he could see the turn of Sherlock's coat in the shadows. He didn't let himself watch any more.
With a sigh he flung himself backwards onto the couch, not bothering to check first whether anything was in the way. Without Sherlock, things in the flat tended to stay where he'd put them. His head came to rest on a leatherbound satchel of tools, one he was certain he'd moved onto the bookshelf at the far end of the room. He removed it from behind his head and gave it an accusatory look before placing it on the coffee table next to the skull.
“Stay put.” he said with groggy finality, then laid his head back down on the armrest. A moment later he sat bolt upright, glancing down at the skull out of the corner of his eye. It was most definitely on the coffee table. Just to be sure, he looked over to the fireplace. It had moved.
“I said stay put,” he said, feeling a need to say something even though he was at a loss for other words. At the outer edge of his hearing he was certain he could hear laughter.
He stood, dizzy now with exhaustion, fear and confusion. The laughter grew louder, still fuzzy at the edges but coalescing into words. Put it together John, come on now. He spun on his heel, immediately putting his hand to his side where he'd kept his gun. Finding nothing, he sat down again heavily.
“I've finally lost it,” he said. Resigning himself to another night without sleep—-the adrenaline now ensured that-—he flipped open the set of tools, running his fingers over the lock picks, magnifiers and other sundry tools that Sherlock once kept at his side.
I always favour the double-ended pick, came the voice again. It was conversational this time, not condescending and somehow, to John's surprise, seemingly inside his own head.
“Who's there?” he asked, looking around the room yet again though he knew for a fact that no one else was there. Even Mrs. Hudson had taken up different lodging in the interim. She'd been unnerved by the emptiness Sherlock had left behind. John wished he'd followed her lead, but...
No, you shouldn't have. John closed his eyes, a desperate idea racing through his mind. “What are you doing here?” he thought back.
There was the laugh again.
There you go, John, I knew you'd work it out eventually. Slowly, as always, but eventually. Now... John's hand seemed to move without his bidding, picking up the long torsion wrench. Oh. This will take some getting used to.
“What, what are you doing? How are you doing that?”
I'm going to need your help on this, John. Just trust me.
He stared down at his hand, still apparently testing the weight of the thing. He could feel it there, but his arm, and now his whole body felt curiously light and detached. Before he could finish processing the strangeness of the sensation he was surprised to find himself resting his elbows on his knees, the palms of his hands together under his chin... Sherlock's thinking pose.
“You had better be ready to explain this, Sherlock, because this is not normal.”