It’s a glimpse, nothing more. A flash of dark hair and high cheekbones and pale eyes. And John knows it’s insane, knows it’s impossible, but it looked exactly like him.
Their eyes meet for a second, and the pair on the other side of the tinted taxi window show no signs of recognition. But not for a moment does John let himself believe it could be anyone else. He simple didn’t see him in the crowd, or did not have time to react between recognising him and the car drifting smoothly around the corner.
He must believe these things, because he must believe in who it was in that cab.
There was no-one else like him. No-one else it could have been.
It was Sherlock.
It is all John can do not to drop his bags as he races around the corner, breathing that name repeatedly under his breath. For the first time since Switzerland, he runs with no limp, he runs like he only ever did with Sherlock.
But even free from psychosomatic pain, he is not as fast as a car. He knows he will never catch it. “Sherlock… Sherlock…” he pants, even as he grinds to a halt in the middle of the road. He feels the name bubbling up inside him, becoming a shout as the car disappears.
For several seconds, John just stands there, watching the point where the taxi disappeared. He is aware of people around looking at him, a car slowly pulling towards him, expecting him to move. He doesn’t care. It has just hit him, really, truly, that Sherlock Holmes is dead. He will never ride a London cab again, never look over the city with those cool, colourless eyes. No matter how hard John wishes, he will never come back.
The car behind him beeps its horn, and John limps away.
Sherlock turns and watches the figure, once he is sure it can no longer see his face. It runs after him, mouth forming his name over and over. As he watches, a burning desire grows, and he wants nothing more than to stop the taxi, jump out and gather the man in his arms. He never meant to hurt anyone. He never meant for this.
“You know that guy?” the cabbie asks, noticing what Sherlock is staring at. “You want me to stop for him?”
Sherlock turns around, catching the driver’s eye in the mirror. “No, it’s fine. Keep driving.”
He has whipped out his phone before he even knows what he’s doing.
He has already sent the message before he taps out an afterthought.
Seconds later, his phone chimes.
And before he can even draw the breath to think of a reply, it seems that his brother also has more to say.
There is anger in that message. And desperation. And remorse. And most of all—there is guilt. The words blur in his vision, and with trembling fingers, he wipes the tears that have dropped on the screen of his phone.
He never sends that last message.