John saw him everywhere about the flat. Not only in the papers and the scattered debris of a once-great mind palace, but also out of the corner of his eye.
John woke up every morning to the ghost of a bow on strings. He’d lie there, perfectly still, and cling onto the mist between sleep and wakefulness. It was only there that he was able to pretend Sherlock really was composing at all hours of the day.
He heard the restored chime of Sherlock’s phone receiving a text message. John’s head automatically looked up at the fabricated noise. It took a moment for him to realize that it was his mind playing tricks on his heart.
Over the months, the chimes grew farther apart. John stopped looking up. He awoke every morning to the buzz of his alarm after a night of undisturbed sleep. He left the papers and everything non-toxic in its place; partially because he wasn’t yet ready to face a life without Sherlock in it, partially because he was in the habit of leaving Sherlock’s things in the disorganized organization that Sherlock preferred.
John stopped sleeping in their room. Rather, he moved his meager possessions back to the room upstairs. Sherlock’s suits hung unaccompanied in one half of the closet. The periodic table gathered dust. John even left Sherlock’s pile of washing in the corner. It would be pointless to wash them. It would be pointless not to.
Outside, life went on. London never stopped. The most important man ever to step into John Watson’s life passed unnoticed by the city he devoted his life to. For John though, it was as though he was starting all over again from being invalided. He was once again alone in a city made for parties.
His limp returned and he acquired new medication for his shoulder. His life was thrust into limbo - somewhere between Sherlock and humanity. It would take John a while to climb out of his newly dug hole. He would do it nevertheless. When faced with a choice as such, Sherlock never gave him room for uncertainties. Even now, Sherlock pushed him forwards.
John went back to work, this time as a trauma surgeon. He went back to having tea with Mrs. Hudson and chastising Harry for her drinking. He went back to phoning Lestrade for a pint. Though at first he painfully declined, John eventually even went back to consulting for the Yard.
He learned to live without Sherlock by his side. Still, though, there were some days when he would wake up to the scratch of a violin and John would lay still and silent - pretending his flatmate, best friend, and lover hadn’t fallen so far.