The problem with Jim Moriarty is one always needs to expect the unexpected. Then in expecting the unexpected does that become expected? So, one expects the unexpected making it expected and negating the entire plan into a circle (loop, infinity 8) into expecting and unexpecting and the 'un' becoming 'ex.' X leads to Y which could lead to Z or lead back to X or X might have been Y all along. One has to expect and not expect everything.
Sherlock somehow though, through all his thoughts and paths and everything he knew Jim represented, did not plan enough, did not foresee, did not prepare for A.
Breakfast: eggs for John, slightly overdone; tea for them both, water poured before boiling, one sugar each, whole milk. Sherlock thinks about their last case (missing ruby ring, found again) Moriarty at the root but the man once again out of Sherlock's hands; Scotland perhaps or Bristol? Sherlock's unsure if the whole caper was a true attempt at crime or just a taunt to watch Sherlock puzzle the plot out.
Sherlock sips his tea slowly then freezes with warm liquid running down his throat; a hint of chemical lies beneath the bitter leaves and sugar and milk, a hidden addition. Sherlock's eyes tick to the kitchen – tea bags exactly like the ones John bought but with a slight change in font on the box, tick again to the new centimeter gouge in the wood around the latch to the lock of the door, tick again to the sound of a car outside idling just too long. In front of Sherlock, John picks up his mug.
"John, stop, don't!" Sherlock shouts.
John swallows a mouth full of tea and stares. "What? Stop what?"
Sherlock jumps up from the table, his head spins, gut clenches. He sways, staggers toward his phone.
"Sherlock!" John's voice is muffled and Sherlock sees him stand up then suddenly pitch over.
Sherlock's tolerance for drugs is higher, more experienced, he can hold it back. Sherlock stumbles, trips to his knees, sees John slowly slip forward into slack and unconscious on the floor. Sherlock crawls as his body fights him – mind over matter – reaches toward his phone on the chair arm then falls into a black hole.
When Sherlock wakes up, still on the floor, John is gone and a note sits propped up arms length from his nose.
Care to join us? Twenty minutes, rooftop of your second home. Don't be late!
The roof of Scotland Yarn feels just dramatic enough for a show down, for Moriarty's stage, for a last stand. However, Sherlock did not want this, did not want another stalemate with John in the middle, a gun in Jim's hand.
"Here we are, Sherlock." Jim smiles, panther teeth and raptor eyes. "Seems very familiar to the last time we saw each other."
Sherlock sneers at Jim, his own hands empty (John's gun gone – no time to find a new one – just run, taxi, ram through cops, burst onto the roof). Sherlock waves a hand to the empty surroundings. "More personal, perhaps, none of your riflemen."
Jim giggles ridiculously, winks at John to his left, and taps a finger to the end of his nose. (Sherlock watches Moriarty's other hand, finger on the trigger – tight enough to be serious yet loose enough to not pull yet.)
"Perhaps not or perhaps there are. But I really think there is only one gun right now you're worried about."
Jim shakes the gun once and smiles at John. John breathes in through his nose – nerves obviously tight, teeth clenched, fists clenched, body taut dying to do something, anything but be helpless again. Sherlock wills himself to stay calm.
"Just like old times, Dr. Watson."
"What's the plan then, Jim?" Jim turns back to Sherlock and it's about them, just the two of them. "Tired of having all your clever schemes unraveled by me?"
(Sherlock's eyes dart left then right quickly – sparse cover, just one door behind him and a few air vents, nowhere to hide another gun man and no ladder in sight for easy escape.)
Jim tips his head at Sherlock's words. "Well, I wouldn't say all my schemes but now you mention it… yes!" Jim yells the last word.
John flinches, flashing a look at Sherlock, read: 'you have a plan, right?'
"Perhaps, you should find yourself a new line of consulting work," Sherlock replies, slight smirk, mirror to Moriarty, keeping Jim's focus on him.
"Perhaps, Sherlock, you recall the penalty for meddling in my affairs."
John jumps in suddenly. "There is an entire station of police below us, you have nowhere to go."
Jim gives Sherlock a mock shocked look. "Hmm! Oh my, he's right! What am I thinking?" Jim makes a 'tsk tsk' noise at himself and frowns dramatically at John. "Well, if I'm going to be caught…" he turns his eyes back to Sherlock. "I should make it count."
Jim cocks the gun – clear intent, a further threat and maybe Jim really is willing to get his hands dirty. Sherlock steps forward reflexively. Jim gasps loudly at his movement.
"Now, dear, relax." His face turns hard. "It's what I told you would happen if you did not back off."
"Tired of the game?"
"Never was a game."
"Of course it was."
"Well, maybe." He pauses and Sherlock watches the farce slip further away. "But not any more." Jim side steps closer to John – gun closer, danger closer. "No bomb between us this time."
Sherlock keeps his face serious. "Don't want to make me run around any more fixing your messes?"
"No, I think your time is up, Sherlock Holmes."
"Really, Jim," Sherlock makes his voice steady and calm, down in the range of control in an attempt to pull Jim down with him, ease the man back. "I think you're not ready to throw the challenge away yet."
"Sherlock…" John hisses, staring at the gun.
Jim smiles, thin and long, then cocks an eyebrow. "Perhaps you should check your heart rate, my dear."
In the next ten seconds four things happen:
1, 2, 3, 4 – John's eyes shift 9.2 centimeters away from Moriarty, from the gun in his hand, to connect across the roof with Sherlock.
5, 6, 7 – Sherlock spins though his mental catalog of facial expressions, subcategory 'John Watson,' to classify John's look as 'goodbye.'
8, 9 – The realization section of Sherlock's brain lights up with fireworks because here, this one time, John knew before Sherlock. It hits Sherlock between the eyes sledge hammer hard, bullet train speed how he is too late when now is not the time, is the very worst time for him to have failed.
10 – Moriarty shoots John in the head.
Sherlock's mind blanks, no reaction, no thought, for six long seconds.
Then everything rushes at once; John jerks, arms jerk, body jerks, and falls backward in an arc, unreal.
Jim cackles, throws the gun toward Sherlock's feet and shouts, "Burned! Burned out of you!"
The door behind Sherlock snaps open – smashes against the wall, hole in the concrete, dents in the door – shouts of people coming out with a sound of confidence only meaning guns in hand. Jim waggles his fingers in a wave and steps backward off the edge of the roof to the sound of helicopter blades.
Then Sherlock shouts – when did he start shouting? "John! Get up, John! John!"
Sherlock jerks, arms jerk, body jerks forward toward John lying on the cement – red halo around his head, blood still seeping out and open eyes.
"Wait! It's not clear!" Arms grab Sherlock, hold him back.
"The trajectory of the bullet may not be fatal!" Sherlock struggles against the arms – 1.80 meters tall, long coat, ring on finger: Lestrade. "The bullet could be angled to the –"
"Sherlock, he's gone, calm –"
"Let me go!"
Sherlock lashes out, tries to elbow Lestrade in the gut, hit a weak spot, because if he can just get to John then he can see what's wrong; Sherlock only needs to examine the problem, figure out the gun angle, bullet size, type of wound and he can fix it; he can solve it, he can save John.
"The situation only needs to be analyzed to find the fault and fix – "
"Sherlock!" Lestrade's voice snaps with the kind of authority so often lacking in their interactions – the chief inspector for once. "John is dead! You can't fix that!"
Sherlock stops moving abruptly as if in shut down, hard drive powered off and functionality terminated. Lestrade's hands loosen slowly before he let's Sherlock go and steps away.
People rush around Sherlock, a swirl of shouted orders, police scouring every inch of the roof searching for more enemies, staring over the edge as the sound of the helicopter fades. Two police kneel beside John – shake of the head, eyes everywhere but on Sherlock, pointed fingers and mouths moving 'call… paramedics' – John still on the ground, so very still. No others on the roof, no Moriarty henchmen, no clues, just madness.
"Sherlock, you … would you come down to…"
Sherlock steps away from Lestrade without looking at the man, steps toward John near the edge of the roof. Sherlock knows exactly how many meters – how many heavy foot steps – lie between himself and John Watson; he knows exactly how many seconds it should take to bring his feet beside John's closest arm at normal walking pace. Yet 'an eternity' would be the proper term for how he feels as he moves. The three people around John (two paramedics now and Sergeant Donovan) part as he approaches, staring at him with what could best be termed as 'shock.'
Sherlock stops beside John and gazes down. The bullet hole is almost directly in the center of John's forehead, a bull's eye. The blood circles his head like some sort of pond beginning to stain the back of his sweater though no longer flowing from the wound at the back of his skull. John's head lies tilted slightly to the left, mouth closed and eyes still stuck open. He stares up at Sherlock, gaze fixed on the man who he saw last. There is a question in those unmoving eyes.
Sherlock blinks, and the world which had narrowed to only John Watson expands again, Lestrade's hand grips his arm and Sherlock realizes he is hyperventilating. Sherlock steps backwards once, stumbling with half his weight suddenly supported by Lestrade's hold on him
"Ah…" Sherlock blinks three times and clenches his fingers. "Rapid breath, tunnel vision, tingle in the hands, weakness in the legs…" He laughs once through the heaving. "I'm having a panic attack."
Sherlock shakes and slips, legs betraying him completely, and nearly falls all the way to the ground. Lestrade latches onto both Sherlock's arms and hauls him back up, pulling him back from John.
"Come on, Sherlock." Lestrade's voice sounds softer than Sherlock has ever heard it. "Come with me."
Sherlock does not fight him as Lestrade leads him away.
Stage 1: Denial and Isolation
Sherlock goes to the morgue.
"Sherlock!" Molly gasps in surprise when he opens the door. "What are you doing here? I was just about to… I, well…"
Molly stands with a pair of trauma shears in her gloved hands, plastic protective glasses on her face, hair tied up to the side. She smiles, swallows, and smiles again at him as he stands in the doorway. John lies on the metal table in front of her. She does not even remember who John is because if she did social custom would dictate her not smile.
Molly blinks. "Excuse me?"
"Get out, now."
"Sherlock." She laughs awkwardly. "I have to prepare this bod– "
Sherlock is at her side so fast she jumps in surprise as his hand grasps hers, nearly knocking into the drawers behind her. He pulls the scissors out of her hand, takes her goggles off her face and tosses them onto the far table, knocking a set of scalpels to the floor with a crash. Molly stares at him, mouth agape.
Molly scampers around him and runs out the door, knocking it back against the wall before it swings closed in her wake. Sherlock does not bother to watch her leave; his eyes remain fixed on John.
John lies still clothed (Molly's scissors yet to be used before Sherlock took them) with his eyes closed. His features appear calm – mouth parallel and slack, arms at his sides, all straight lines and stillness. The spot on his forehead is surprisingly clean, all the blood coming from the exit wound. Sherlock notices matted blood in the back of John's dirty blond hair and on his sweater. Apart from these two indicators of mortality John could just be unconscious, even asleep. But Sherlock notices everything, sees everything, cannot look past the rigidity, the hue of John's skin slowly turning gray, the utter, complete stillness.
Sherlock reaches out and touches John's temple – cold now, cold like a corpse.
"John…" Strange that he whispers when there is no one to overhear and nothing secret to be said.
Irrational actions hover just behind Sherlock's fingers – the desire to shake John, tell him to wake up, to find a needle of pure adrenaline to stab straight into John's heart; the need to make John open his eyes, make John speak, make John just move. Sherlock presses his palm flat against John's cheek, finger tips at the edge of John's hairline.
"John." He speaks as if John will answer when Sherlock obviously knows John will never speak again. "John, I…"
Prior to this day, Sherlock Holmes had been sorry a total of three times in his life. Now the count becomes four.
A man in the doorway with a shorter woman just behind; Lestrade and Molly, the bees that keep buzzing and will not leave him alone.
"Sherlock, you have to go now."
Sherlock's eyes track down John over the bumps of his thick sweater, old jeans, and down to the gravel embedded in his shoes.
"His sister has been here." Sherlock sneers without a pause. "Everything is done. I'm sorry but you have to let the coroner do her job now."
Sherlock breathes in sharply and stares up at Lestrade. Lestrade wears his best poker face, his best bluff to make Sherlock cave. Is this a dare? Does Lestrade really think he'll leave John here?
'But the morgue is the proper place for the dead.'
Sherlock snatches his hand away from John as the thought passes through and nods curtly to Lestrade. Lestrade steps to the side in the doorway so Molly can pass. She stops in front of Sherlock and clears her throat.
"I'm sorry… I didn't… no one told me this was…" She breathes in again and looks right at him. "I'm sorry."
Sherlock frowns deeply at her. "You have met him before."
Then Sherlock stalks around her – ignores her pained expression – past Lestrade, and out into the empty hall.
Sherlock kneels on the floor of their flat – his flat – with papers spread out on the floor around him. Every scrap of evidence, every past piece, every place Moriarty has been. A map of London sits to his right with a dozen locations circled in red, a blue square around the pool.
"Something, there has to be," Sherlock flips open the police report for Andrew West, "has to be a way to have seen."
This cannot have happened without a sign. There has to be something he missed.
Sherlock shoves the folder away, snatches a paper from their recent drowning case – (another murder managed by Moriarty) an office supervisor suicide proven to be foul play, a ruse to gain control and send the company public then into bankruptcy. John called the company 'imitation Wall Street' and pulled Sherlock by the hand out of the way before the car with their culprit could run him down.
"Has to be something, a case? No, they were all solved perfectly. A case connected I missed? A sign in the subject's names, spelling out… No, too cliché. But he likes clichés, John."
Sherlock bites his lip and breathes slowly, crumples the paper in his hand and tosses it at the window. Sherlock jumps to his feet, grabs the fake box of tea bags from the counter in the kitchen. He opens the box and pours the tea bags inside onto the floor over his mess of papers.
"A message?" Sherlock kneels again and turns over each tea bag, nothing there, just permeable paper and dried leaves. "Something!" Sherlock shouts and takes the box apart at the glued seams, searching for words, for ink, for a clue, for anything which says 'today is the day I kill for real.'
Sherlock growls in frustration, drops the stiff paper of the box and picks up the note card left by Jim; black ink, plain white card stock like a cue card. He flips it over, blank on the reverse, no branding marker, no scribbles, nothing else but the taunt to join the fun.
"Has to be something, John," Sherlock insists, dropping the note down by his knee. "I have to have missed something, there has to be way I could have known!"
Sherlock starts drawing lines between the circles on the map, a pattern, a pattern leading back to Scotland Yard? Take the first letters of the street names, what does it spell? Last letter maybe? Some sort of pattern, some sort of indicator to warn of the coming gun shot. Just scribbles, just a mess of lines all over London leading nowhere.
"There has to be something!" Sherlock shouts, hands gripping his hair.
Sherlock breathes in slow, stares at the papers, so many white pieces of paper and writing and folders and old cases and days won which somehow over a jagged path all led to this empty place.
"Something…" Sherlock whispers.
A drop of water hits the note card on the floor next to Sherlock's knee. He stares, confused, reaches out to touch the damp spot on the bottom right corner of Jim's note. Curious. Just a drop, just water, then another drop hits the back of his hand. It's not until Sherlock slowly pulls his hands up, touches his face, that he realizes he's crying.
Sherlock does not open his eyes at Mrs. Hudson's voice. He stays still, slumped in his chair, jacket bunched up at the back. If he keeps his eyes closed then John sits in the chair across from him – newspaper up, quiet noises as he reads, occasionally chewing his bottom lip, ankle crossed over his knee.
"So, this is Sherlock Holmes."
Sherlock slowly lifts his eye lids and the chair becomes empty.
"You must be Harry Watson," Sherlock says without turning his head.
"Did you tell him I was coming?"
"No, dear, he does that."
Sherlock sighs, brain rolling with a familiar pattern – her feet on the stairs, sluggish with the sound of someone young behaving old; voice, one he's heard on the phone in John's ear, tone similar to John's, dips and falls, intonation; the smell of cheap whiskey and something more primal, something which must be just 'Watson.'
Instead he says, "What other woman would come here now with such a remark?"
Mrs. Hudson makes one of her motherly noises. "I'll make you both a cuppa."
Finally, Sherlock turns his head as Mrs. Hudson bustles out, just able to see over the arm of the chair despite how low he's slid in the cushions. Sherlock glances up and down Harry's 1.67 meter form – black pants, pale blue buttoned shirt (old stain at the collar), sleeves rolled up; hair short just above her ears, flat and straight against her head, obvious product keeping it there.
"So, are you here to collect or here to invite?"
Harry's eyes scrunch. "Am I what?"
"Well, as we've never met despite how long John lived here you're obviously not here to console or reminisce. The only reason you would seek me out would be because of John's possessions still in this flat or to invite me to a funeral."
"The funeral was yesterday."
Sherlock jolts up to crouching in his chair, an animal ready to pounce. He frowns deeply and stares at her. Harry raises her eyebrows and stares back, defiant, unapologetic. Sherlock sees her and John – polar opposites.
"Yes," she breaks the standoff first, "I'm here for his things."
"Unnecessary." Sherlock sits down properly again, feet on the floor. "He had nothing of value."
She huffs quietly, faint disbelief in the tone. "Isn't that for me to decide?"
"You hardly spoke but for meaningless comments on his blog."
"What? How can –"
"Despite your attempts to buy his affection with cast off gifts."
"How dare –"
"Now you come to rifle through his things, grave robber to the brother you barely knew?"
"Barely – That is what family does when someone dies!" Harry barks and Sherlock hears the tears crushed behind her words. "Someone has to take care of things, decide what to keep, to sell, its part of moving on!" She takes a shaky breath.
Sherlock looks at her – love for her brother on her face and regret, a twitch to her hand which broadcasts the next stop at the pub for her once she leaves the flat.
Sherlock tilts his head. "His things can stay here."
"They're his things. I'm his family. I'll take them."
"His things," Sherlock repeats, "can stay here."
Harry shakes her head, runs one hand over her hair. "Why are you making this difficult? I just want to put him to rest!"
"What could you possibly want with his shirts or sheets?" Sherlock snaps.
"What could you?" Harry shouts back.
Sherlock turns his head away. He stares at the chair – John's chair, always sitting in it as Sherlock spoke to him, explained cases, played violin for him. When Harry sits down in the chair Sherlock can see John in her clear as sunshine through glass.
"John wasn't supposed to die first," Harry says quietly. "He came back from that war somehow and… and then still dies from a gun shot." She doesn't say it out loud but her expression blames him, 'your fault.'
Sherlock cannot contradict that.
"He was always the better man," Harry whispers.
They sit in silence. Sherlock hears Mrs. Hudson on the stair, the clink of tea cups.
"So, what then?" Harry asks. "It all can't just stay where it is. Someone has to box it all up, take care of what he left."
Sherlock presses his lips together. "I will."
Harry sighs, leans back in the chair, hands resting on each arm. Her eyes search the way Sherlock's do, looking for truth in external features, fact hidden in facial expressions. Then suddenly her face softens and she leans forward over her knees.
"You loved him." It's not a question.
Sherlock opens his eyes to see dark wood above him 0.3 meters higher than the ceiling of his flat – rosewood, no, mahogany. Sherlock smells collogue, faint but professional, and wood burning. He lies on leather (couch not anything more exotic) long enough for his tall frame and to still have five extra centimeters of space. His shoes are gone.
Sherlock turns his head to the right and it is then he notices the IV hooked to his arm. He shifts his gaze down to the needle in his wrist and the tape keeping it in place. Fluids.
"I understand you are going through a set of emotions hitherto unknown to you, Sherlock, but I would hope you remember to eat despite your turmoil."
"Hmm." Sherlock stares back up at the ceiling. "I have."
"Today is Friday."
Sherlock purses his lips and thinks through the fog of returning consciousness then grunts. "Four days isn't hospital worthy."
"You are obviously not in a hospital and I think you'll find it is five days."
"I count tea as food."
Mycroft sighs. "Well, Sherlock, it's not."
Sherlock turns his head to regard his brother sitting in the matching leather chair close to the head of the couch; gray three-piece suit, pink shirt, navy blue tie with a faint cube pattern, hands clasped in his lap.
"Sherlock, this is hard for you, I am aware. You are unused to confronting personal emotions, little of them as you may have. But you cannot allow sorrow to – "
"Spare me your platitudes, Mycroft."
"Sherlock." His voice is stern, an attempt at behaving as an older brother. "You have to take care of yourself. Dr. Watson would not want you behaving this way."
Sherlock breathes through his nose. "John was accustomed to my behaviors."
"And yet you never behaved this extremely then."
Sherlock frowns and looks past Mycroft – fire burning in the grate, surveillance camera hidden in the top corner of the room, stack of reports on the desk by the wall, Russia, Pakistan, Korea. The carpet needs cleaning but the table tops appear freshly polished, glass tumblers recently used, cigar box at an acute angle to the wall.
"Sherlock, stop." Sherlock looks back at Mycroft. "Perhaps getting back to work would help? A case to take your mind off it?"
Sherlock sits up. "Where are my shoes?"
Mycroft crosses his legs and sighs again. "You haven't finished your IV."
Sherlock turns his head to the door way and sees them sitting, predictably, just inside the frame. Sherlock stands, peels off the tape and carefully pulls the needle from his arm.
"I would appreciate if you would keep your ministrations for something other than me." Sherlock sees his coat on the end of the couch and picks it up. "Topple a government or some other such subversion as you do."
"Sherlock, please…" Mycroft voice cracks in a way Sherlock has not heard since their mother died. "Don't do this to yourself."
Sherlock keeps his eyes on the door way, standing still a beat. Behind him Mycroft stops breathing – a hint, a hope – but Sherlock only tosses his hair and walks away toward his shoes.
The box holding John's gun arrives three weeks, two days, four hours, and sixteen minutes too late to save the man himself.
Sherlock finds the box at the foot of the stairs inside the front door – not because he'd gone out but because he knew, he heard or smelled or just knew something changed. He recognizes the handwriting (no postage, no address, just a name to be hand delivered) despite the fact it's changed, no longer loopy and female but now straight as razor marks. The indentation appears heavier, the paper made closer to home, and the ink of a red felt tipped pen. Every piece of the puzzle before Sherlock opens the box is completely different and unfamiliar which is why it has to be from him.
"Ah." Mrs. Hudson appears to his left, dark purple dress suiting her better than many of her outfits, as he stands at the bottom of the stairs with the box on his palms. "Sympathy gift, is it?"
"No." Sherlock turns in place and walks back up the stairs.
He can tell from the weight of the box this is no mere note, no 'ha ha,' no map to a location for Sherlock to meet. Inside the box must be something more, far heavier than paper with a non-uniform shape, the left side of the box just slightly lighter and the balance off.
"Another bomb?" Sherlock mutters.
But really, now, he does not care. He does not need to know before he opens the box because if Moriarty wanted to kill him this soon the job would have been done on the roof.
Sherlock rips open the box to see a note card, cerulean blue border and coal black ink, written in the same sharp lines as the label 'To Sherlock Holmes' on the top.
If you should want another meeting. Third time's the charm?
Underneath the card on a bed of tan tissue paper (the exact color of John's sweater, the sweater he wore so often, the one he wore on the roof top) sits John's gun. From the weight Sherlock guesses – no, not a guess, he knows – one bullet is loaded inside.
Sherlock stares at the card, an invitation.
Stage 2: Anger
Now it's a mission, a cause, a drive to find the man and bring him to justice – make him pay for what he took. When Sherlock really focuses the whole world blinks out and Jim is the pin point of Sherlock's vision.
Sherlock wallpapers the flat with maps, fills the book shelves with every case connected to Moriarty, buys text books on bomb making, chemical use, searches every website he can find on Botox and art forgery; he buys three books on the Czech Republic, travel guides for Argentina and Columbia. Sherlock scrolls through page after page of websites devoted to star charting, constellations, moon waxing and waning, the history of astronomy. He checks out every car dealer with a name related to mythology (Japanese, Greek, Aztecs, less than expected). He visits art dealers asking every one 'do you work with China' before breaking into their record books.
He deletes things like food preparation and normal sleep hours from his mental hard drive.
Sherlock becomes organized in one aspect of his life, keeps careful plotting of every little thing which is Jim Moriarty.
He researches the entire short life history of Carl Powers; tracks through birth records from Sussex for a week, 1970 through 1990 to cover age discrepancy in appearance or altered records; researches children's swim competitions from decades past. Sherlock bulk buys Clostridium botulinum and tests it for every mutation he can think of on the kitchen table – a favored poison to use again, please use again.
Sherlock's phone buzzes and he answers on the first ring. "A case?"
"Is it him?"
Sherlock emphasizes each word. "Is it him?"
Lestrade audibly clears his throat. "I don't think so, but could –"
Sherlock hangs up on Lestrade and does not pick up the phone when it rings three more times.
Sherlock stares at maps of London, maps of the underground, maps of road markers, maps of the world. If he looks hard enough he will see it, see a line, a bright blood line to follow from his front door to the feet of Jim Moriarty.
Sarah sends a card: "My condolences – Sarah."
She doesn't come, doesn't call, says nothing more; underlying anger in her clipped words of consolation, only a formality, sent months late. She blames Sherlock, furious for his life continuing – though she lost John long before Sherlock did.
The card's black border seems to mock Sherlock's position: the one everyone would comfort, the one at the center of a pool of guilt and pain but no one comes near, no one would know how to console Sherlock Holmes. (He sinks in the water regardless). He would slam the door in anyone's face if they came.
Sherlock holds the card, turns it over, spins in between two fingers, then rips it to pieces and hurls it down the stairs for Mrs. Hudson to clean up.
Without John one would think life should shift back to the way it was before John, before Sherlock had a flat mate and a partner and a colleague – a friend.
Life before John – cases to solve, murders, theft, just interesting crime to stop and puzzles to solve. Life before John – Lestrade calling with that tone of defeat, Donovan glaring every moment and throwing the word 'freak' like a knife, Anderson complaining and complaining and gaining zero ground every time. Life before John – Mycroft always a pain, living at the family estate until it drove him mad, getting out and getting free. Life should become the same as before, as if John never was, as if Sherlock always was the man alone, life back to 'normal,' shifting back to neutral.
In the kitchen, no food. Sherlock rarely eats but when he does the refrigerator is empty; old packet of crisps in the cupboard, empty coffee can, stale pretzels, a box of pasta the only edible thing.
Sherlock burns his hand when he tries to cook it, hand touching the metal pot handle – head still thinking 'John will get it; John can go buy sauce, some cheese.' He lets it sit on the stove until the bottom melts.
On a case Sherlock needs someone to talk to, tries to talk to the skull, tries to talk to himself – failure, lacking, not enough now. No one to say the easy answers so he can bounce off with the real ones, the smart ones, show his skill and his genius. No one to say 'amazing, brilliant,' beautiful face lighting up with a smile, "fantastic!"
Sherlock throws the skull out the window.
John always made the tea – knew how much sugar, how much milk, when to pour the water. He knew when Sherlock would take the tea then actually drink it and when not to bother. When Sherlock makes tea now it tastes like plain warm water, like damp paper, like sugar liquid with something bitter mixed in.
Late at night Sherlock wakes up, walks downstairs to the empty room, sits on the couch. Before if he listened he would hear the quiet sounds of John sleeping – sighs, turning in his bed, breathing slow and even – a sign that someone else existed in Sherlock's life. Now Sherlock sits on the couch, frowns at the mantel across from him and rips a pillow apart until rendered unfixable.
John watched movies, simple, pedantic, but then he'd laugh – quiet, to himself, snicker, giggle, hand to his mouth. Real laughter in their flat. Sherlock unplugs the TV instead.
No one to play the violin for, no one to run beside him, no John – nothing.
Sherlock stares at the wall, stares at the floor, watches the hole grow. "No going back."
If Sherlock can't find him in person then he'll destroy him, foil every plot, solve every crime, hit Jim the only way he knows how – do what he does best, does better than anyone.
Mrs. Claudia Blake, murdered, husband missing.
Police conclusion: husband did it.
Truth: husband dead as well but hidden to pass blame to him, both killed so sister could secure the family fortune, minus a cut for Jim Moriarty.
Sherlock posts a line to his website with a smile on his face: "Condolences to JM for loss of the family jewels of Mr. and Mrs. Blake."
Car crash, killed doctor, no mechanical failure in car.
Police conclusion: man fell asleep at the wheel, accident.
Truth: man injected with paralytic drug causing the crash and death so truth of defective chemical trial could be covered up, care of Jim Moriarty.
Sherlock smirks, types quickly, hits enter: "Good luck to JM on his new drug dependency, hope it brings him nothing but the best results."
Water damage to an art gallery, destruction of a dozen priceless paintings.
Police conclusion: smoke in kitchen of the gallery's restaurant set off the sprinkler system, mistake.
Truth: Fire started intentionally to set off sprinklers and safety protocols for paintings botched by gallery owner to drive up the price of the two remaining artist's works, with 15% consulting fee to Jim Moriarty.
Sherlock clicks the mouse, teeth tight and posts again: "Congratulations to JM for his new water color paintings."
Sherlock works diligently, works obsessively. If Jim wants to continue his business then he's going to have to try harder, try to beat Sherlock, come out of his precious shadows and down from his ivory pedestal to face Sherlock.
"You will not hide from me." Sherlock plows through police cases to find the ones with that little glimmer of light – the shine of Moriarty's vicious smile just behind the works. "You get nothing, Jim, nothing."
Sherlock will not stop, will not let up, will not let one plot he discovers go undetected because there is no way Jim can be happy, should be successful, pleased, be anything but tortured and angry, just as blindly angry.
Stage 3: Bargaining
There comes a point though when the fight is not enough, the chase weakening, when Sherlock has to try and follow the grief process like an every day normal person. For once he has to try things their way because his way is not working.
Harry arrives at the door with a bundle of flat boxes under her arm. She raises her eyebrows and does not smile as Sherlock opens the door and leads her up the stairs. He stops on the landing, glancing up the stairs to John's room.
"Well?" Harry urges. "Up and at 'em, then."
Sherlock rolls his eyes with a slight sneer and climbs the stairs, pausing only a moment before he turns the door knob and enters John's room.
The thing which hits Sherlock first is the smell. The rest of the flat smells of a combination of chemicals (all from the kitchen), old tea, dusty paper, and the personal scent Sherlock easily attributes to himself, his own clothes. This room smells exactly like John. Sherlock hasn't come up to this room since before John died. It's nearly enough to knock him over.
Just another day in the morning, John making breakfast 'most important meal of the day,' some grumble about work or…
"You know," Harry speaks from behind Sherlock, placing the cardboard on the floor, jolting Sherlock back into real time. "I was surprised you called."
"I did not call, I texted," Sherlock corrects.
"Yeah." Harry crosses her arms. "And somehow you had my number."
Sherlock turns and raises an eyebrow. "Your number in his phone; I don't see how that is surprising in the slightest."
She stares at him, makes a bothered face then walks over to the closet. "So, where to start?"
Sherlock looks around the room, sparse and clean yet just enough lived in to be real. John's watch sits on the bedside table, an empty glass and medical journal beside it. The sheets on the bed are only hurriedly made, top line of the covers and sheets uneven with the pillows off kilter. Sherlock notices the edge of a shoe lace protruding from under the bed and one of John's sweaters lies in a ball on top.
"Would you put a box together?" Harry asks as she drops a handful of shirts on hangers onto the bed. "We can put all of these in one."
Sherlock stares at the shirts, picks them up one after the other – running by the bay in the checkered shirt, mustard stain from John's hot dog craving on the pale green shirt, soaked in the rain on a stake out in the black shirt.
"You don't need them all." Sherlock grabs hangers and shoves Harry aside with his hip, out of the closet and begins to hang shirts back up. "There are certainly more pertinent items to deal with."
"What? No." Harry groans. "We're not going to leave his shirts here." She pulls two of the hangers Sherlock hung back up off the rod again and tosses them over his shoulder onto the bed. "We're here to pack it up."
Sherlock smells the lager on her breath, about three drinks before she came here certainly not drunk for an experienced drinker.
"There are plenty of things which can be packed first." He looks around quickly then ducks to his knees and pulls items out from under the bed – a pair of shoes, an empty box, stack of papers from the army, patient folder. "Here. Box."
"Trash you mean."
Sherlock stops and sits back on his heels, frowning. "Trash?"
Harry picks up the papers. "Trash." She looks around the room for a rubbish bin, finding one by the desk and shoving the papers inside.
Sherlock stares at the bin then looks up at her. She turns back to the desk and picks up John's laptop, lays it on the bed before turning back to the closet.
"I suppose you were right though, he didn't have much."
She continues to throw articles of clothing onto the bed – jeans, black pants, blue shirt, gray sweater, worn white cotton t-shirt, more jeans, brown shoes. Sherlock watches the pieces of John hit the bed, heavy thunks in his head, details connected to each one. Then John's black jacket hits the bed – a flood, everything, every day, every word and smile and running rushing moment. Sherlock grabs the jacket so fast Harry jumps in surprise.
"What? What is it?"
"Nothing." Sherlock rubs the fabric between his fingers. Then he turns to look full at her. "Perhaps, some things should stay here. You shouldn't be burdened with all of these extra personal items."
Sherlock gives his best fake smile.
Harry tilts her head, eyes flicking down to the jacket and back up at Sherlock. "Should stay with you, you mean?"
Sherlock drops the act, frowns, "Problem?"
She gives him a searching look which he promptly ignores. Sherlock turns back to the bed - the little things, the daily life things, the laptop of his blogger. Sherlock reaches out and picks up the laptop, holds it against the jacket.
Harry puts her hands on her hips. "Oh come on, no. It's a laptop."
Sherlock tilts his head. "And why do you deserve it more than I?"
"Can I just turn that comment back around at you?"
Harry waves her arm. "No, no, not an 'impasse.' I am the next of kin that means me, it all goes to me."
"And that helps you move on?"
Harry grumbles loudly. "Oh, you are so irritating."
"The feeling is quite mutual."
Harry grabs a flat box off the floor, popping out the sides and folding the bottom together. She shakes her head and tosses the complete box on the bed.
"Do something fucking useful then, pack some clothes in the box!"
Sherlock glares at her. "You came for his things, do it yourself."
"You texted me!" Harry frowns. "And I thought you would 'take care of it.'"
"Well, the responsibility was yours. I return it."
Sherlock turns, laptop and jacket still in hand and stalks from the room, down the stairs all the way around to his own room, door slammed behind him like an angry child. He stares at the wall, his copy of "Grey's Anatomy" front and center on the shelf – a doctor's guide to life.
He clutches the jacket and laptop to his chest, safety vest, a life line to John.
Sherlock knows this is the right thing, the proper course, what 'normal' people do. Pack up, box up, save the watch, sell the books, donate the clothes. But if he holds on to one more thing, one more piece – a book, a shirt, the way John smelled still faint in the corners, an every day jacket – then it's not over. Then John still belongs to him.
Stage 4: Depression
Sherlock never found cleaning a necessity to life, boring, time consuming, pointless. Why bother when he knows where everything is, knows the last place he put anything to find it again?
"Sherlock." Mrs. Hudson bustles about the kitchen, sighing heavily. "Sherlock, there's not a space in here that's clean. You can't just leave it like this."
Sherlock lies on the couch and turns his head slightly.
Stacks of papers take up most space around the chairs (not John's chair though, that remains immaculate), books stacked up in front of the fire grate – "Art Trade," "Argentina in the Summer," "Chemicals in Modern Criminology;" three half finished mugs of tea crowd on the table beside his laptop, four boxes of historical documents from Sussex pushing them toward the edge of the table. A map of London blocks light from where it hangs taped to the window, another map of London over the mirror, a map of England fallen to the floor at the foot of the other window – Leeds, Manchester, Chiswik, Shoreham. Two more empty mugs, brown grit around the edges, sit on the coffee table beside him; two recent cases underneath them, a dirty knife, one black sock; a black jacket crumpled over the end of the couch by Sherlock's feet, shoes over turned by the door – caked mud and tracks making a circle around the doors. The book shelves over flow with manila folders, lined paper, books with broken spines. On the mantel are three mugs, one still filled with lukewarm tea, and one glass of water as a change of pace.
Mrs. Hudson, perhaps, has a point.
"Oh, Sherlock, it's filthy in here. You can't live like this."
"Hmm… filth is a matter of perspective, Mrs. Hudson."
"There is a pot melted to the stove!" She squeaks and steps out of the kitchen, throwing her hands up. "Not your house keeper, Sherlock, you can get that off."
"Adds charm to the scene."
"Your kitchen table is a chemistry set."
Sherlock smirks for one moment before falling back to neutral. "Always has been."
The flat is a mess, tornado alley, and Mycroft keeps calling.
"Sherlock, if you tell me once more about the tea you drank two days ago I will be forced to send some people over to supervise your eating."
"I most certainly ate."
"I can check to make sure of that, you know."
"I will eat."
"So, send one of your minions then." Sherlock knocks over a mug of cold tea as he jumps up from the couch in annoyance. "I'd enjoying watching them find their way in."
Mycroft huffs. "Cleaning is not beyond you, Sherlock."
"This conversation is." Sherlock hangs up the phone, turns the ringer to silent.
Maybe the mess is bad for him, bad for his health, bad for living. Too much tea, too many papers, too many cases, pushing himself too hard so he falls over, reaches the edge and careens toward the bottom.
But the tea is like John, warm and simple and reassuring, always there. The mess is like Sherlock, boxing in, everywhere, obsessive, oppressive, chaotic and the solution to mad genius – let it over flow into everywhere. Balance?
So, the tea mugs dot the apartment – hidden pieces of a missing man among the ragged remains of the one left behind.
Sleep often eludes Sherlock – not a new occurrence.
At night the mind rests, relaxes, reboots but Sherlock's mind works at a faster rate, full tilt at all times and sleep is a novelty act, a fantasy normal people indulge in. Sherlock's brain collects too much to process during waking hours. The whole progression of thinking requires every hour in the day. Sleep is for idiots.
Sherlock sits down on the couch, on a chair, in the window and plays his violin.
Violin at night has a sort of Victorian drama to it – the beggar on the street playing for money, a mournful tune drawing ears and lending mood to the starlit night. Sherlock plays to organize his thoughts, pick a path which will follow the tune and set his mind straight.
"What to play?" He still muses out loud, still forces himself to keep his small tether of humanity. "Rachmaninoff or Beethoven? Simple Mozart, perhaps?"
Now at night he plays slow tunes, bow always moving through the same patterns no matter what his lips decide – minor keys and requiems, mournful sounds of Victorian despair. The music leads his thoughts down the same lines, the same memories.
Roof of Scotland Yard Moriarty Gun Goodbye Shot
Reverse. Kettle on the stove, John stands up and picks it off just before the boil. The sound of pouring water and then two mugs between them with steeping tea. First sip and the taste of chemical, tang.
Note Card Run Hail a cab, 'faster!' Run Stairs Run Rooftop with smiling Jim and stiff John
Predictable? No. Yes. No. Maybe… case relation? Sign in the note card? John's face, John's voice – the warning tone in the way he said 'Sherlock' the last time.
Sherlock's mind rolls and tumbles and dips and falls over the same lines flowing with the notes of violin music. He thinks, 'what would John say to this plot, what idea would John have to lay the base?' He thinks, 'would John sleep at night, would John move on, would John be sad, be happy, be lost, if the places reversed?' He thinks, 'why does music lead the mind to conclusions and confusion?'
Sherlock plays on each night, moon light at his feet and mind on a rooftop, still minor keys and modes, quiet notes wrapping around which fuel the fire of thinking of John Watson.
Prior to meeting John, Sherlock Holmes was a smoker – started at twenty after a night at university with loaded courses, personal detecting cases, and annoyance at his monotonous roommate boiling over into a chemical release – but he also tried to quit. One nicotine patch every day, sometimes two, maybe three when there was a 'problem.'
The patches fed the addiction, provided the body with the joy of nicotine. Yet a plastic patch slapped to his arm lost some of the allure, some of the focus of a small cylinder rolled between his fingers, the action of breathing smoke in and blowing smoke out. The nicotine cleared his mind but the physical action always helped, removed other external stimuli and gave the tingling feeling of nicotine rush an outlet in the motion of his hands. Actually smoking was always better than the patches, superior in everything but health.
Sherlock Holmes has never been good with his own health.
He stands in front of the counter as the man behind reads labels, finger searching for the correct brand. Sherlock sighs and drums his fingers on the counter.
"Faster is better."
The man shoots Sherlock a glare and grabs the closest pack to his hand, slapping it on the counter.
Sherlock slams ten pounds down on the counter and picks up the pack. The man bangs open the cash register, yanks out bills and holds them out disdainfully to Sherlock. Sherlock takes the money, leaving two pence on the counter with a smile.
The man grunts and shakes his head.
The minute Sherlock exits the store a lighted cigarette touches his lips – inhale, sweet smoke, bitter tang, the feeling of calm already psychologically flowing in. Sherlock stands still on the street taking drag after drag. Dear God, what was the point of quitting?
He hears John's voice in his head, 'good for breathing.'
Sherlock sucks in more smoke, tips back his head, stares at the gray sky, gray like the smoke, gray like the world. Sherlock's lip quirks, he frowns.
"Breathing is boring."
Sherlock sits in the center of his couch, empty needle and LSD bottle on the coffee table (with so many new drugs in the world one has to appreciate the classics as well). Of course there are oral methods of delivery but something is just so satisfying about the feeling of needle into vein. Beside the vial rests the Porter case, another Moriarty gold turned into ash by Sherlock's persistent investigation.
"But not in my hands again," Sherlock mutters. "Never around to be caught are you, Jimmy?"
"Given him a pet name now, have you?"
Sherlock's eyes dilate and John stands on the other side of the coffee table – black coat with the odd leather patches, red shirt he looked so well in. His hair is perfect, his face is perfect, the vision is absolutely perfect.
"Ah, see, it's really kicked in now." John grins, crosses his arms, and taps a finger against the side of his head.
John laughs. "Well, of course, you're on Lysergic acid diethylamide."
"Would John know the technical name?"
"I was a doctor."
Sherlock nods, head heavy – but light, free, so much space right now. "An army doctor; how much experience would you have had with drugs or overdoses?"
John snorts. "Never were in the army, were you?"
"My hallucination can't know something I don't."
"Just what don't you know, Sherlock?"
Sherlock feels his hands, burning, tingling – his finger tips feel sensation so expanded; but his chest feels torn, shredded. He remembers what he did not know, what he failed to know in time.
John's face retracts, he sighs. "Everyone fails, Sherlock. People all die."
"Not you." Sherlock cannot move, cannot look away from John's eyes.
John clasps his hand behind his back. "Why so bothered by one more death?"
Sherlock tilts his head. "What?"
"People die all the time. You rather enjoy it in fact." John paces, moving with such grace, flowing like water around the room. "How else are you going to have exciting cases to solve?"
"You're not a case. You're my…"
"What?" John stops in the middle of the room. "I was your what?"
"The only person that mattered."
John makes an amused face and smiles. "Ah, right. Know how to turn a guy's head, don't you?"
"You can't have died for nothing!" Sherlock snaps – body coiled, wanting to jump up, grab John, make him real but he's stuck in place. "I didn't want to lose you."
"But you have." John is suddenly seated on the table, knees touching Sherlock's and he's almost real, feels like a actual person touching at two simple points. "I'm gone."
Sherlock shakes his head, wants to touch John more. "Not because of him, not because of…"
"Too late for that." John touches Sherlock's forehead. "I am only right here in your frontal lobe streaming out like film reel; nothing more but what you want to see."
"You are all I want to see."
John laughs. "Drugs do make you sentimental; should be casting you in some trashy American movie now, John Hughes? Though if you'd done this while I was alive I'd have probably had some words."
Sherlock huffs. "My subconscious is disappointed in me?"
"Don't you know part of you will always be me?"
"And always want you." Sherlock's breath is shaky, over reactive now, too much flowing in his veins.
John puts his hands on either side of Sherlock's face, the only vision in Sherlock's world, the only real thing in the glistening room. "And here I am."
John leans closer, leans in; Sherlock finally moves to meet him – just feeling, real hands, real sensation so bright and warm and John's lips (ah, bliss) firm on his. Then Sherlock's head smashes down onto the coffee table with a crack. The table flips over – needle flying, vial of liquid shattering, papers fluttering into the air – and Sherlock tumbles off the couch into a heap on the floor.
"No…" Sherlock groans, hisses, aches.
He rolls to his back, presses a hand against his forehead, breathes in and out through his nose to control the pain. He stares up at the ceiling, the brown still swirling, trying out amber and copper and gold.
"Sherlock, what have…"
"Some ice, Mrs. Hudson, if you could."
Her foot steps sound like heart beats, slowly becoming normal again, the heightened sound, heightened light fading (too much of a tolerance, the high is shorter every time); the world returning to small and basic and just one big Rubik's cube only shifting parallel and perpendicular.
Sherlock squints his eyes, tries to see John's face in the color of the world but nothing grows.
"Wait yet, John."
Stage 5: Acceptance
Sherlock walks through damp grass toward the grave of Dr. John Watson.
Sherlock always felt grave yards, cemeteries, and mausoleums to be useless things. Human beings often require physical manifestations of their feelings, require physical items, places to put meaning to events. Grave yards give people somewhere to mark their own sorrow, to prove how much care they had toward a person lost – how lavish the funeral, how big the grave marker, how prominent the plot. Sherlock finds it disgusting.
Yet here he is.
A small bouquet of flowers in his hand, Sherlock walks steadily on then turns left down the appropriate isle toward the fourth head stone.
(Mrs. Hudson forced the flowers in his hands, "you can't go with nothing," forced the meaningless gesture upon him. John cannot appreciate the flowers; they will only die on the ground and slowly turn to rot unless someone comes back to remove them. Why take a living thing to a dead man's plot to let it die?)
Sherlock stops in front of the stone and stares down at the inscription – tall letters, simple font, carved less than a centimeter into the gray stone, signs of weather at the edges. Sherlock sighs, looks at the flowers in his hand then back to the grave. He can almost see John's incredulous face at the gift.
"I quite agree, John." Sherlock stoops to place the flowers in front of the stone. "But Mrs. Hudson is capable of persuasion on rare occasion."
Sherlock stands up straight again glancing around the cemetery – grass cut at least a day ago, trees at the edges, more crosses than lack thereof on graves, mostly gray stone with occasional brown or black. Sherlock's eyes shift down again. He traces each letter in his head: J – O – H – N; curves followed by lines, fluid and simple.
"Well, John, I believe it is custom or at least habit for many to talk to the dead at gravesites." Sherlock clears his throat. "Ridiculous behavior, obviously."
Sherlock shakes his head, looks away then crouches low. He reaches out, pulls off his glove and touches the stone with his bare hands. For a moment he wonders, 'did John have a military funeral? Was he buried with anything?' The detective in him wants a shovel.
Sherlock laughs suddenly imagining himself and the ghost of John digging up the coffin, examining the corpse.
"Hmmm… definitely dead, Sherlock," John says.
Sherlock nods knowingly. "Certainly explains your see through form."
"I had been wondering."
Sherlock smiles slightly and tilts forward, lets his forehead rest against the cool stone. For just one moment he understands, feels like the rest of them and knows why people come to grave yards, why they need to come. Then Sherlock leans back, moment passed, and he feels more like himself than months of solitude have allowed.
He strokes a hand slowly down the stone, perfectly flat over the word 'John.' Then Sherlock stands, glove back on and breathes out slowly. His expression streamlines – tense set to his mouth holding back more – gazes down at the stone, and sniffs. "I… I'm sorry, John. Good bye." Sherlock tilts his head up, turns, and walks away.
But this is not the end, one last thing to do, because acceptance does not necessarily mean forgetting or forgiveness.
Plus 1: Revenge
Paris: cliché, typical, expected… or maybe unexpected in its expectation.
The point though, the only point which matters, is Jim standing across from Sherlock in the alleyway. (Security guards taken care of - one chasing a patsy, another locked in his hotel room, and the third unconscious in Jim's car)
Jim grins, like he always does, the untouchable man in his own mind. "Missed me, Sherlock?"
"Found me in Paris, city of love." Jim flutters his eyelashes. "Are you trying to tell me something?"
Sherlock pulls the gun from his coat – John's gun – and points it at Jim's head, only forty-five centimeters away.
Jim raises his eyebrows. "So, you are happy to see me."
"Eight months is far too long apart."
The two stand alone in the dark, not dramatic like Scotland Yard; (not the Eiffel Tower or atop the Notre Dame; in front of the Louvre or the center of the Champs-Élysées racing toward the Arc de Triomphe). No, just an alley, ordinary, plain, dirty and dark – all that Jim Moriarty deserves.
"Well, this is it, Jim," Sherlock says.
"Ah, ending it all ready?" Jim pouts. "Didn't you say something to me about 'not ready to give up the challenge'?"
"Time passes." Sherlock frowns. "Moods change."
"Tired of me?"
Sherlock tilts the gun, brings Jim's eye to the weapon, then points with his other hand right at Jim's heart. "Done with you."
"Really? Hmm, the consulting detective changing sides?" Jim reaches up to touch a finger to the end of the gun.
Sherlock loudly cocks the trigger and Jim drops his hand. He swallows once – first sign of nerves, of fear.
"You said you would burn the heart out of me, congratulations."
Jim presses his lips together, face actually serious. "Perhaps an error in judgment."
The city around them is dark, no moon out, quiet with little people daring the 2 AM streets. Their alley is their own, no tourists, no locals, no interruptions.
"So, this is what happens to me, then?" Jim shrugs his shoulders. "Not going to attack the things I love and destroy my heart too?"
Sherlock's face twitches – John in his mind, John's last look, John on the roof with eyes saying 'goodbye' – and Sherlock lifts his chin, sneers with cold hate. "I only care that your heart stops beating."
Jim whistles once. "If your fellows at Scotland Yard could see you now."
"They would not be surprised."
"Hmm." Jim looks down at his shoes, puts his hands in his pockets. Sweat at his collar, tremor in his arm and Sherlock is winning now, finally. "Sherlock Holmes, taking the law into his own hands."
"No." Jim glances back up at Sherlock's tone. "This is revenge."
Jim breathes slowly, stares straight at Sherlock and suddenly Sherlock can see – a shadow passing, cloud falling – Moriarty believes.
Jim's jaw tightens. "For your pride?"
Sherlock shoots Jim straight in the forehead, bull's eye.
Back in London, back at the flat (if any one can dispose of a body, pull off a murder with no sign or detection it is Sherlock Holmes) Sherlock sits in his chair facing the empty chair across from him. He breathes in an out, simple rhythm to his heart, one beat after another. The flat sounds still, quiet, and completely empty, just Sherlock and his thoughts, like always.
Sherlock sighs, leans forward, fingers to his lips. "I miss you, John."