This is a simple imagining of what took place at the time of Holmes's "death". It is sidenote, or continuation, or whatever, to my other story "Only A Violet From My Mother's Grave" and there is some reference to that story that may not make sense if you haven't read it (so I guess you'll just have to go read it, won't you? This all works out splendidly for me!) I had a hard time trying to keep Holmes in character, both in reference to the canon and to my own story, so let me know what you think.
The view was magnificent. He had always had a deep desire to see the falls. He was pleased, in an almost absurd way, to be afforded the chance now, though he lay so close to the end of his life. He knew it. He had foreseen it, and quite calmly, was accepting of it.
The view really was magnificent.
Watson wasn't gone yet, he could still watch the dark form of his retreating figure, stumbling down the path, trying to keep up with the young messenger boy. Simple, trusting Watson.
He kept himself from looking after him, trained his gaze resolutely on the crushing water below his feet. It had to be this way, he knew.
Does it though? Wouldn't your chances be better with another ally nearby?
He pushed the thought aside, he knew what he was doing. He always knew what he was doing. He also knew that this would be the last time he'd see his good friend. It wasn't a knowledge borne of reason or logic. No, somewhere innermost his mind and deep within the corridor of his heart, he knew it because he felt it.
He checked himself from watching him leave.
Truth be told, though it never would, he longed to follow him. It would have been so effortless to unfurl himself from his semi-recumbent posture where he crouched to look over the cliffs, and to follow him. Back to Baker street, back to civilization, back to his world.
But what was his world now? Days spent in a disorient of cocaine? Nights spent trying to do without the drug to desensitize the pain of not being with her? A life spent fleeing from what he couldn't forget. That was all it was now.
He had changed. The insistent knocking of Mrs. Hudson on his bedroom door, her insistent demands that he eat, that he "take care of himself", were no longer looked upon with resigned annoyance, or even fond amusement. Now he had to resist the urge to push her away, to take her by the shoulders and tell her to just leave him alone. Tell her that she just didn't understand.
And worst of all, he was always bored. And when he was bored, he thought.
Moriarty had given him a objective, a distraction. But that would soon be gone. His life was a mess, and only he knew it. Watson would surely speak of his dependence on work and cocaine, would give some remark or unsolicited advice to help, but it would be ineffectual and without true comprehension. His life was past the point of redeeming now.
A strange surge of pain welled up from beneath his ribs. He was growing incapable of pushing it down. His insides were running him thin, wearing him out with their indefatigable insistence to be heard.
It served no purpose really. Emotions were a nuisance.
He felt another ache to go after Watson and was struck with the sudden truth that he cared immeasurably for him. But that was precisely why he wouldn't go after him. Watson was in possession of a fine life, a beautiful beloved and soon a beautiful child, though the Doctor didn't know it yet, and he deserved to continue it.
Holmes had always felt as if he were watching his friend from behind a plane of glass, so close to the normalcy the doctor presented, he thrived in, but separated from it in some intangible way. He resented it, more so than he could ever voice.
Watson would grieve. Holmes knew it to be true. But it would pass. How many times had Watson declared he was insufferable to be around? And who could deny that he was noticeably more relaxed once he had escaped Baker Street to the warm walls of his own home? Yes, it would pass. He had more things to take up his time, to engage his notice.
He was going to die. Watson would have to move on.
It was a strangely settling thought. Though he had to admit to a certain agitation over how it would be. He wanted it to be quick.
And, of course, he would be taking Moriarty with him.
That was a certainty.
He leaned his dark head on his palm and stared out to the bright horizon. Death didn't scare him much anymore. Not to say he wouldn't live if he had the choice, but it wasn't something he would fight for. He didn't feel like fighting for it.
He ran a steady hand through his hair. "I tried to remember when I had touched his hair. I couldn't, but it still felt as if I had only moments ago."
He'd bequeathed her memoir to Watson when he realized he may not be alive much longer. It was a rare moment of emotionalism that he was beginning to think he would regret. It panicked him to think of. It scared him beyond reasonable belief to know that Watson would soon know all. But there was nothing to be done now. He'd made up his mind and he wouldn't sway. He was usually not subject to wavering once he'd decided on something, so he merely tried not to think of it.
She was the reason he was here. For all his self-righteousness, he knew it all dwindled down to that one point. He was here for her. Everything was about her now.
He wanted to kill Moriarty, and not for any crime he'd committed in the London underworld, not for his nefarious business arrangements. No, it was because of her.
She was gone now, and Moriarty had robbed him of revenge. The one he wanted to crush was gone, and Moriarty would pay the price for taking the chance from him. Revenge was not something Holmes condoned, but he understood it. He'd let many men wander from his sitting rooms who'd committed vile acts in the name of revenge, because he understood. And now even more so. His hands burned, his chest burned, every fibre in his being wanted it, and he was denied.
And maybe even more than revenge, he wanted death. He wanted the sweet sleep of nothingness. Maybe then he could forget, could quell the unbidden memories of her face, of the last time he saw her.
He shouldn't' have gone into the room. He was a stubborn man, and though he knew as he stood outside Miller's Court that she was in there, he tried to convince himself that he was strong enough to see it. He wasn't.
It pursues him. Always.
And it wouldn't leave him alone. He knew he had to put a stop to it. He had to silence it and if death was the way to do it, then so be it. He didn't want to remember her face any longer, or the way she'd looked in the end.
There were footsteps coming up the path. He could feel it. He'd found himself being much more intuitive lately, much more sensitive to, not only facts, but to his sense of foreboding. It was time.
He stood and eased his hands into his pocket, suddenly aware that he feet were sinking into the damp earth, knowing that the unbalance would put him at a disadvantage. He stared calmly as the old man approached, that slender head and neck swivelling to and fro like some conjured serpent. It was strangely calming, deceptively hypnotic.
Holmes now knew what the Evil One must have resembled when he approached Eve.
They stared. The fall roared behind Holmes, making hearing difficult but when his enemy finally spoke, it rang out clear and sharp against the noise.
"Fancy meeting you here Mr. Holmes."
And that's how it began.
"I must say, I am surprised." He replied flatly.
"Though I should have known, seeing as you've been stalking me lately."
Moriarty set his cane against the sheer cliff. "I suppose we need to settle some questions between us, wouldn't you say?"
"What would you like to know?" His heart thumped loudly in his chest. He didn't really know if he wanted to die, not now that he was truly faced with it. He would fight. He was a fighter.
Holmes shrugged. "I don't understand what you mean."
"Why the sudden interest in my affairs?" Moriarty slipped off his gloves, shoving them into his pockets. He was readying himself for what was to come. "You've known of my dealings for years now, Mr. Holmes. Why the sudden interest? Was it the Ripper? You must have known that I didn't order that. Not quite my style."
"But he was your man."
"He was a messenger. I don't hold myself accountable for his actions."
"But you punished him."
"I did not wish him to lead anyone back to me. Lord knows you were close to catching up to him, closing your nets, and I had no trust that the lunatic wouldn't spill all about me and what he'd seen."
"You killed him." He already knew it to be true, he even knew that his arm had been fished out of the Thames river a few months before.
"I thought you would be pleased."
The water continued to scream around them and in the loud silence, Moriarty seemed to understand.
"You wanted to kill him." He hissed as his eyes took on a dangerously self-satisfied gleam. "Well, I have to say, I didn't know you had it in you Mr. Holmes. And I admit I don't quite understand it all. What great harm did this man do? Besides rid the streets of a few slags?"
"He was almost mine."
All was still. Holmes vaguely knew that they had to get on with this, if they were to finish before Watson wised up and ran back to valiantly save him.
He slipped his hands out of his pockets, preparing himself for combat, ready for whatever the devious man might throw his way.
"Which one was it?" Moriarty seemed to ignore the tensing of the younger man he was faced with. He lounged on cliff wall and smirked.
"I beg your pardon?" The noise was getting too loud, and a strange sense of horror was rising in Holmes's chest and stomach. This was the end, and he just wanted to get on with it.
"Which girl? It suppose it must have been the last one, eh? I heard she was quite young and comely."
No one had remarked on her before. Not in all the three years since she'd been dead. Holmes had avoided the papers, and she became a thing only in his own mind, unimportant and forgettable to all else. He even avoided Whitechapel while on cases, had no desire to wonder if she'd stood under this lamp or that one, if she'd walked on this path, if she'd thought of him on this street.
His jaw clenched, half his mind swamped in blinding anger while sadness fought it's way through it all. He'd spent too much of his time alone thinking of her to be threatened with tears. He'd locked himself in his bedroom for three days after it all and alternated between sobbing and shooting up with his seven percent solution. He had no tears left, but he had plenty anger.
"I am ridding the streets of London of you and all your filthy subordinates. You are a plague, a subtle and deceitful disease that needs to be taken care of. Apparently I am the only one who is aware of this, so it falls on me to take care of you. That is the only reason, that is the whole reason." His words came out in a hiss of air, low and silky, the baritone that could calm as easily as it could intimidate.
"I am hardly a plague, young man. London thrives because of me, my hand is in all affairs, even governmental, as you know. You may being doing more harm in this quest of yours than you realize. London is mine."
"Ah, there you are mistaken in one thing, sir."
"And what would that be?"
"London is mine."
Moriarty bared his pistol, holding it carelessly by the handle and dangling it in the air. "Is this to be a clean fight?"
"If that is what you want." Holmes was beyond caring, politeness seemed laughable in the current circumstances. "However, I do have to object to how clean a fight can be when there is a confederate stashed away to finish me off if I emerge the victor. And no doubt there are few of your men stationed near Dr. Watson's home?"
"Well," Moriarty started, clearly amused by the younger man's clear perception, "clean is a relative term."
Holmes was none too concerned about the man that he knew was waiting above their heads to kill him, but the thought of Mrs. Watson and her child unprotected in their home; the thought of Watson returning to London to face another death of someone he loved, would not be tolerated. "I feel it my duty to warn you that I have made arrangements for some of my...acquaintances...to call upon your brother if any harm comes to anyone I know. Oh yes," he started when he saw the surprised expression on Moriarty's face, "I know all about your preacher brother in Kensington, and I know that we all have our negotiating price, and that he is yours. Do not cross my friends, and I will not cross yours."
"He is an innocent man. I would think that would betray your noble sensibilities?"
"I am past noble sensibilities, sir." Holmes meant it. He was a first-rate actor and when he desired to bluff he could be most convincing but as he uttered the words, he realized that they were true.
"You must have loved her very much."
"We were going to be married."
"I'm sorry it's come to this then." Moriarty swivelled his head slowly from side to side, and dropped his pistol into the mud next to his foot. "I will confess that I would not have desired to rankle you, sir. I was well aware of your reputation and your tenacity. I was hoping to avoid any entanglements with you. Will you drop your weapon as well?"
"I have no gun." It was a perilous thing to admit. All Moriarty had to do was reach down and grip his discarded gun, and it would all be over. He seemed to debate it for a moment and then he moved forward.
"Wait!" Holmes drew a deceivingly calm hand up in protest. "If I could just be afforded one consideration?"
"What is it?"
"May I write a letter?"
"I didn't think you so sentimental, Mr. Holmes."
He took it as assent. He pulled out his notebook and pen and froze. His hand hovered in mid-air, the pen posed to write his last words to the world. But more importantly, his last words to Watson. What to say? Nothing seemed sufficient. He could be open and honest, but that simply wouldn't do. It would only pain his good friend more. He cleared his mind and settled his emotions. He wrote firmly and clearly.
"... Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow,
Very sincerely yours,
It wasn't what he was feeling at all. He had the inexplicable urge to pour his heart out onto the paper, but he wouldn't. Watson would know everything soon enough.
He settled the note gently under his cigarette case, the one he'd had since before he ever met Watson, that fateful day at St. Bart's. That year had not been kind to him. Having just been expelled from Oxford for insubordination, finding himself adrift in a world with no one familiar, dealing with the death of his mother, his quite forced removal from his Montague street flat, and overall, missing the one person he wanted with him the most, he'd been quite at the end of his endurance. Cocaine had been a large supporter at that time...until Watson came, and amused and interested him with his naivety and obvious good-heartedness. He had never told him that he felt he'd been saved that day, and even now he couldn't find it in himself to let him know.
When he rose, Moriarty observed him, amused. And then, without warning, he lunged. His long, sinewy fingers groped instantly for the younger man's vulnerable neck and attempted to twist their way around it. Holmes, startled and caught off guard, did the only thing he could think of, he fell back, taking the older man with him and flipped him soundly to the side, making it to his feet a second before the older man rose.
The fight was dirty. And more than once Holmes had felt his heart stop as he was forced or shoved precariously close to the drop.
Moriarty was wily, though he was older, and the attempt to fight like gentleman deteriorated quickly. Holmes threw his weight into his punches, the sound of fist hitting teeth slapped out loudly in the air.
Moriarty went down and stilled. Holmes scrambled to his feet, where he had fallen after a specially hard uppercut. He only stood for a moment, breathing hard, before a blinding light burst before his eyes. He fell back against the cliff, thankful that he hadn't fallen the other way, and spit out blood. The Professor had hit him in the face with a loose branch that lay nearby.
"I thought this was going to be clean." He snarled as he rubbed his cheek.
There was no rebuttal. The sudden realization that he was fighting with a man who had nothing left to lose dawned on Holmes only then. And the force of the epiphany distracted him into allowing the older man to wrap his wiry arms about him and shove him down.
Holmes resisted. His face stung painfully and they were both soaked by mud and spray, but he willed his heart to slow, wrenched to the right, and shoved a hard elbow into the lean stomach behind him. They were close to the falls, and Moriarty slipped and went over. Holmes managed to catch him under the arms before he lost him.
They huffed, both aware of how close they were to death; to the abyss the rumbled beneath them that seemed a living thing, breathing and hungry.
And time slowed. The great mind of the detective stopped. In an almost maniacally rational way, he examined his options.
There was a warrant for the Professor's arrest. He knew he could bring him to London and hand him over to the law. He had all the proof in his rooms, secured and addressed, ready to be used in the ensuing trials.
Or...he could let go. No one would know. He wasn't a murderer, but he felt a permeating coldness that had not been present before, a carelessness for life that was borne of melancholy, of suffering.
And before he could reason with himself, before he let his conscious prevail, his pulled his arms back and watched the body tumble down into the fall with a detachment that was frightening, even to himself.
It seemed hours after the body hit the last rock that he finally pulled back and sat against the cliff wall. Shoving a hand in his mouth, he was hardly even aware that he spit out a tooth and an alarmingly large amount of blood. He stared at the midday sky.
It was all over.
It seemed anti-climatic. And Holmes was honestly unnerved that he still felt no guilt over what crime he had just committed. It was time to go back. If he started now, he could meet Watson halfway and be back at the inn right after nightfall. There apparently was really no backup for the professor, and as he sat he remained unmolested by any confederates.
All he had to do was get up.
A sob welled up but he choked it down. Coughing violently instead, he raised himself shakily to his feet. He wouldn't go back. He had accomplished nothing. It didn't bring her back, it didn't erase her, it would only make things worse.
What was there to go back to? His practice? It didn't satisfy him any longer and that was crippling, as it was all he had now.
And then it came. The cowardly desire to run. To start over. And he didn't fight it. He knew he couldn't go back the way he came, the footprints would give him away, and he would surely come across the doctor. He glanced up at the sheer wall, his keen eye espying a few rocks and ledges. It would be dangerous...
He started up the cliff, testing each handhold before pulling himself up with extreme effort. It was more precarious than he imagined it to be. His hand slipped more than once. When he almost lost his footing completely, he pressed himself close to the wall and dug his forehead into the soil, attempting to catch his breath.
Just go back. Tell Watson everything. Start over in London. You don't have to do this.
He let out a sound, a cross between a hiss of frustration and a sob. He couldn't start over in London. He needed to get away. He started his ascent again, slipping almost immediately.
You're just trying to kill yourself. You should have just gone over with him.
He wasn't trying to kill himself, at least, he wouldn't allow the admission into his mind. He was running, it was true. But he didn't wish to die. He wouldn't have an objection to it, but he didn't wish it.
He finally made it to a ledge, landing on the soft green moss with a grunt of relief. His body was tired and sore, his very bones felt dragged down, as if they were trying to follow Moriarty into the abyss below him. His hair was caked with mud and the unpleasant taste of grit and copper was in his mouth.
He closed his eyes and sighed. The soft grass beneath his head and the chill that seeped into his back brought back unexpected memories of a time back at home, laying by the bank of the pond with a head on his chest.
I tried to remember when I had touched his hair. I couldn't, but it still felt as if I had only moments ago.
She hadn't touched his hair. He would remember that. But he'd touched hers often, stroking his fingers through the rich coppery waves, trying to convey something unexpressible to her in that simple motion. He remembered the color vividly. Memory was a strange thing, he could see her face plainly, the gentle curve of her collarbone, the pale milk of her skin, but he wouldn't be able to tell you were her desk sat in her room on Dorset Street. Or which way her body had been turned. All he remembered was dirt and red, blood and grime. Her face in pieces.
His eyes watered, his nose burned at the bridge with bubbling tears that he squinted and held back. He told himself to move, to be on his way. He could make it to Florence in a week. He had enough money to live for a bit. If he needed anymore he could contact...his brother. Stolid and unmovable Mycroft. He could be trusted.
He would also ask to have his possessions remain in Baker street for the time being. Watson would have the truth in time, but it didn't feel right now. Not while he was still alive.
His internal clock did a quick calculation. It had been maybe 3 quarters of an hour since Moriarty had gone over. Watson would be back soon. He willed his body to move, to be on his way. But it wouldn't respond. He wanted to see Watson again, at least hear him, once more. His mind screamed that it was a foolish thing to do, that it would only make things much harder, but for once, his body didn't obey his mind.
He lay there until he heard them coming. The footsteps clomped to a stop below him and there was a frighteningly silent pause. And then his friend called out his name, long and agonizing. And the Great Detective's determination wavered and faltered. He was not a coward. He knew that he could climb down, reassure his friend and confess all.
But he also knew that nothing could help him. Watson could not console his soul for what it truly wanted. Watson could not bring her back or perhaps even understand. Watson had a wife.
Running away will not bring her back either.
He stayed on the hill as the investigation was conducted below him, listened to the painful weeping of his friend and rested his head on his knees. He fought with himself, with his options. No course of action led to what he needed, no course of action would bring him happiness, or even simple respite. Except death, but he let that opportunity escape when he twisted out of Moriarty's arms. It would have fixed it all, had he simply pushed backwards, but his instincts won out and he fought to survive. Even though he really had no desire to. And now to do what?
The falls were still there, it was true. But he was not one to take it upon himself to end his life. As much as he scorned emotionality, he felt it a sin lay hands on his own life; he felt it was not his right to do so.
Watson left finally, escorted down the path in a state of severe agitation and grief.
And Holmes let him go.