Sherlock went home, as Lestrade suggested, but he could not sleep. The flat felt so deeply, bone-jarringly silent that it made even thinking difficult, much less the complicated process that a body undergoes to fall asleep. So he wandered about, looking at each object, each little knickknack that had somehow been made completely, irreversibly different by John's presence and death. The whole place, the rooms and their belongings, felt soaked in his essence, as if he had been ether bottled up in flesh, and now that he had passed away, the spirit had permeated each thing he had touched.
He felt the tears coming, hot and fluid underneath his lashes: now that there was no pretense to maintain, no stoicism to cling to, he let them fall where they may. He brushed his fingers along all the places that John had touched and felt his scarf becoming moist with the saline dripping from his eyes.
As he moved along the living room, he came to John's red laptop, sitting beside his chair. It had been unused in the months leading up to his death; they had agreed that there was no point in maintaining the blog, and John had begun to lose the motor skills necessary to type quite quickly. However, Sherlock felt the need to check John's email and inform distant relatives and acquaintances of his passing. It seemed only appropriate to do this one last kindness to John's memory.
He logged on quickly, as the password had not changed since the first time he had hacked the computer: his password was "Doctor Goo", the nickname he had been given in the Army because of his love for fruit preserves. Sherlock smiled a little, glittering through his tears, at the thought of battle-hardened warriors calling out the ridiculous nickname across a windswept Afghani compound. Holmes felt it was appropriate, given John's incredible ability to turn his heart to mush with the simplest look or word.
And all of that was gone now.
Swallowing hard, Sherlock looked across the desktop, noting that John had been working on a Word document when he shut down the computer for the last time. Curious, he opened it, only to find it was a letter. To him.
I have no doubt that you will go snooping through my laptop after I die. Perhaps before, given how impatient you are. So I thought it would be a good idea to leave you something of all the things that I would have wanted to say, but didn't, or couldn't. Here goes.
I am pretty sure I knew that I loved you the first moment I stepped into that lab room at St. Bart's. You were just such a mystery that it was impossible not to want to get to know you and figure out who you are. My feelings intensified with each mission that we went on and each mystery we solved, and I always wanted to know you even more than I already did.
I used to wonder if it was possible to ever really love anyone more than you love yourself, and I found that out when I realized that I loved you. I would do anything for you: hell, I almost blew myself up to save you from Moriarty. And that's why I want to end my life the way I will, so that I can save you and the rest of London from that madman. I never want to see you come to any harm and I hope, in these last few months, that I never will. That is my only wish in the world: that you will be happy and safe and never bored for the rest of your life.
I don't want you to mourn me when I'm gone. It would be nice for you to miss me, but I don't want my passing to destroy your life. (I'm a little cocky, aren't I? I apologize.) I know I've made a big impact – Lestrade and Mycroft and everyone else has said so, or I wouldn't believe it – but I don't want this to be the end of your amazing, fantastic, brilliant career. I want you to go on solving crimes and saving lives forever, even if it's someone else standing by your side, someone else sharing 221B Baker Street with you and listening to you talk so that you don't look quite so crazy. Of course the idea makes me jealous beyond belief, but I guess I will just have to make peace with that.
Please never forget that I love you, crazy incredible mad sociopath that you are, and that you were the best thing to ever happen to me. I don't know where I would be if I hadn't met you and learned that life was too short to be bored, and that time was too precious to be anything but magnificent.
I know you told me once not to make people into heroes. But you, Sherlock, are and always will be my hero, and an unknown hero to all of London. Under that cold brave exterior is the heart of a lion, the soul of a warrior and the mind of a genius. I respect and admire you with all my heart, and I hope someday that the rest of the world will be able to see you like I do. Until then, keep your head up. Don't let the naysayers tell you that you're not magnificent. For me.
All my love,
Doctor John H. Watson.
Sherlock impatiently wiped at his eyes, shutting the laptop with a snap. He laced his fingers together and buried his head inside them, breathing deeply. The document had been dated only a few days after John had been diagnosed according to his medical records: that the doctor had sat up late at night, crafting such an emotional letter to the cold and, plainly, heartless man he shared a flat with was staggering beyond measure to the detective. He could never imagine doing such a kind thing for someone else – unless that someone were John.
Ah, thought Sherlock. There is the crux of this saga. The two of them, inseparable, would do things for each other that they would not fathom doing for anyone else. Watson had not even told his sister that he was ill, not wanting her to worry, but he had also left her nearly nothing in his will or, Sherlock realized, even spoken to her in the past few months, as if he wanted to make himself as small in her memory as possible. But for him – and for him alone – John had written letters, endured four months of misery and, in the end, blown himself up. The idea was breathtaking: a grown man suffering and sacrificing for another man he had known for only two years, but practically disregarding his sister.
And it was true that the majority of John's relatives had been disregarded. The doctor had left nearly everything to Sherlock in his will: he'd reasoned quietly that Sherlock was the one who would need guns and medical equipment and case notes and laptops, not his sister or cousins. But Sherlock knew that was not quite the point. John had wanted to leave Sherlock things to remember him by, to ground him in what had been before he made any headstrong decisions about the future. John was not a sentimental man, Sherlock knew, and he had little by the way of personal belongings. But the things he had – they were special. And to leave them to Sherlock implied he was entrusting the detective with his memory, all that would remain of him when he returned to dust. A trust that was unbreakable, deeper than the human mind could fathom, and enduring long beyond death. It unnerved Sherlock, truly, but it also touched his heart in a place that he knew no other man would ever be able to reach. For the second time in three months, Sherlock thanked the gods that John was one of a kind, because meeting another man like him would destroy the detective completely.
John's funeral was quiet but well attended. Lestrade and the majority of Scotland Yard was there, making Sherlock wonder who was guarding and city, and if anyone even noticed that the bobbies were absent.
Lestrade walked quietly up to the detective, touched his shoulder gently, and then walked away. It seemed fitting, and Sherlock nodded. There was no need for theatrics.
Harry Watson was also in attendance, haven been shoved roughly off the wagon by her brother's death. Her face was bloated with intoxication and tearful as she clung to Sherlock, weeping stolidly about how much she missed her brother. Holmes endured the unwanted attention stoically, until she began to blow her nose on his treasured scarf; then she was firmly pushed away, into the arms of a surprised Anthea.
Mycroft walked up to Sherlock and murmured softly, "The lab reports returned. Your surveillance level has been lowered to 4." Both brothers nodded; it was a confirmation that Moriarty's terror was over, and Sherlock could return to his work relatively unhindered by the psychotic man who so closely matched his intellect. Somehow, the conclusion to the saga seemed anticlimactic, unfair. He thought he would be happy, beaming at his victory, but he only felt empty inside. The price had been much too steep for the death of one madman. He had traded in his soul for justice, and he'd do anything to rescind his offer.
Mrs. Hudson found Sherlock as well, and wrapped him in a warm and comforting hug, the kind that only she could deliver. "Let me know if you need any help tidying up the flat," she said. "And don't worry about his portion of the rent."
"Thank you, Mrs. Hudson," Sherlock replied stiffly, patting her gently on the back.
The priest began to speak when everyone had been seated. Sherlock noted suddenly that he'd been ushered to the front row, the position usually reserved for close family and friends. Only Harry sat beside him. Sherlock assumed this was because other than his sister, John had had no one in the world beyond Sherlock. The detective had truly become John's family. The thought made him a little dizzy with emotion.
Sherlock had been asked to speak, and he did so, standing up stiffly in his black suit and customary scarf. He shuffled his notes, looking at them carefully, and realized that he couldn't decipher a damn piece of them – it was as if they were in a foreign language. Clearing his throat, he decided that grief was making him delusional, flipped the notes upside down, and spoke from his heart.
"When I first met John Watson, I knew in an instant that there was something about him that made him different from every Army doctor, every ex-soldier or surgeon I'd ever met. He was special in a way that few men are. He was a true hero, born for greatness and self-sacrifice in the noblest form. Brave, loyal, honest, loving, kind, patient, and above all deeply empathic. I couldn't have asked for a better assistant," Sherlock took a deep breath, willing himself not to stutter, "or a better friend.
"We solved many cases together in the two years that we were a detective team. He risked his life for me many times, and I for him. But there was something about him that transcended mere good chemistry and intellectual compatibility. It was as if we knew each other, heart and soul. He could sense my irritation and would do anything to combat it, and I always recognized his emotions before he mentioned them. He was the first person to teach me how to truly feel, and I will be forever in his debt for that lesson. He has made me a better man and a better detective. He made me a hero in his eyes and forced me to live up to that image, every single day. Sometimes I could become resentful of the pressure, but I see now that it is that unshakeable faith he had in me that compelled me to work harder at being a better man instead of just a better detective.
"I told a colleague once," Sherlock looked over to Lestrade, who nodded slightly, "that I didn't believe it was possible to truly know a person unless you were that person. I was ignorant and wrong." Sally Donovan and Mrs. Hudson smiled a little through their tears; Sherlock admitting he had been wrong was a rare occurrence indeed. "I knew John Watson, every piece of his heart and his mind and soul, even if I didn't realize it. I knew that he was more courageous than any man I had ever met. I knew that even though he was afraid, he walked bravely to his death with his head held high. I knew that he had a deep affection for his family, and that he trusted me completely. And I . . . " Sherlock paused for a minute, to compose himself. "I know that he loved me, and that if a fragment of his consciousness remains, in whatever form that may be, he loves me still. And I will cherish that fact forever.
"I have been told that it is customary for grieving loved ones to say that the deceased would not have wanted us to grieve. In John's case, I feel that is true. But he would want us to be happy that he could save us, and that his dying wish of protecting London has been fulfilled. We can do honor to his memory by keeping that wish alive every day, saving the citizens of this dreary city from the madmen that would do injustice within its walls. Thank you." Sherlock realized with a start that tears were dripping down his face, and he wiped them away as he left the pulpit.
John's grave site was simple and modest, like the man whose cremains it contained. Sherlock stood beside it long after the rest of the mourners had gone, looking carefully at the headstone, memorizing its dates and epitaph, when suddenly he felt a vibration in his pocket. Curious, he pulled out his phone and checked his messages. His stomach dropped and his skin felt cold, colder than the corpses he spent so much time with.
"The game isn't over, sexy. It's just begun. – M xxx"
Leaning down to the headstone, he pressed a kiss to its cold contours, and with that, he was gone, running through the cemetery and hailing a cab.
John would have wanted it this way, he reasoned. And that's how it will be.