Had this idea in my head for almost two months now—maybe I can actually get this all churned out before Christmas, in-between working on the advent calendar challenge for the Sherlockian fandom proper. (Check out Have Yourself a Chaotic Little Christmas on my profile!)
This is written in the Skyfire!sad/serious style, so you have been warned. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: All that belongs to me in this story are the backstories of various characters. The story concept itself is so obviously not mine.
==It's a Wonderful Life, Sherlock Holmes==
When Moriarty deals a bitter blow on Christmas Eve, Holmes sinks into serious depression. The Great Detective is about to see what the modern world would be like without him...
==Chapter 1: Failure==
Beyond the police cruiser, it was cold and snowy, but, inside, Beth Lestrade felt colder.
Moriarty was finally racking up a score for himself, and this latest victory was the worst. A computer cryptologist and his wife had died because of Moriarty—not that he'd killed them directly, but they had fled him in their own cruiser and had crashed. They were the first casualties in the longstanding war between Moriarty and New Scotland Yard, and Lestrade had the terrible feeling that they wouldn't be the last.
Holmes had not said a word since they'd left the crash site. He'd stayed motionless in the passenger seat, eyes staring straight ahead. If Lestrade didn't know better, she would have thought him catatonic. As it was, she knew he was taking these deaths harder than she was herself, because, as far as she pushed herself to avoid failure, he pushed himself further. If failure was an unknown word in her vocabulary, it was profanity to Sherlock Holmes. He had no reservations in sharing victory, but he had the self-destructive trait of taking sole, crushing responsibility for defeat.
Apparently, Moriarty understood this as well as Lestrade did. For as long as she lived, she didn't think she'd ever be able to forget the malice in his cruel blue eyes, in his sardonic voice, as he mocked Holmes. ("How ironic—the hero who returns from death can't always stop others from dying.") The Victorian detective simply stood there in silence, his gaze fixed firmly on the smoking wreckage. Lestrade didn't think Moriarty saw it—and thank heaven for small favors—but she would have sworn she saw a lone tear slip down Holmes's cheek.
Moriarty'd had his cruiser's guns trained on them, but, if Lestrade's ionizer remained silent, her voice did not. Unable to bear his taunts any longer, she'd shouted hoarsely at him, ordering him to stop, to shut up, to just go…
The loss was made all the bitterer when they learned later that the wife had been pregnant. Another memory Lestrade would carry to her grave: the way Holmes's face had twisted in pain upon hearing that.
Lestrade herself had wanted to break down right then and there. She was the oldest of her mother's seven children; the youngest had actually been born just a few months before Holmes had returned to life. If she was ever harsh with the Irregulars, it was because she felt an older sister's responsibility towards them. And if any one of them ever gets hurt on a case, I'll probably bawl Holmes out so bad he won't speak to me for the next month.
So now here they were, sitting in a humming police cruiser on the edge of Hyde's Park on Christmas Eve. What a way to spend the day.
"Okay," Lestrade said at last, quietly. "Sherlock, are you okay?"
"I am quite obviously not," came the low, acerbic reply.
"I know, it was bad," she murmured. "But, zed, Holmes, you can't beat yourself up like this over it."
"Lestrade," he said in a tone of longsuffering, "you are not my psychiatrist."
"No, you're right. I'm your supervisor, and, as such, I do have the right to talk with you about this whether you like it or not."
But she had gotten started, and, by golly, she was not to be deterred. "Holmes, you're already letting this eat you alive. What happened tonight was not your fault. Quit trying to be God—you're human. You're fallible. You can't win every time, and, zed, you're over fifty years older than me—you should know this by now."
He gave a cold, mirthless chuckle that sent chills down her spine. "I do. I just had to relearn it." There was a gleam in his grey eyes that Lestrade could only describe as fey. He turned to her, and she shivered. "Allow me to share with you the great secret of the universe," he hissed darkly. "Everyone dies."
His voice started to rise. "Everyone dies, so what does it really matter how many cases I solve, how many people I save? In the end, they'll all die, anyway. I can only delay the Grim Reaper; I can't stop him. So what's the point of my trying in the first place? What was the point of you bringing me back? It doesn't make a difference in the long run—why did you bring me back?" His voice had gone shrill, and his large eyes were wider than ever and wild.
Scared now, Lestrade reached over and grabbed his shoulders, shaking him forcefully. "Sherlock, stop it!" she all but screamed. "Stop that now!"
She saw reason return to the grey eyes, saw the aquiline features slacken with weariness as he looked down. Is this what you looked like after experiencing the Devil's Foot? After a few moments, he murmured, "I'm sorry." He opened his door and stepped out.
But he disappeared into the swirling snow.
It was 7 o'clock when Lestrade parked in front of 221B and trudged up the stairs, physically, mentally, and emotionally tired. She opened the door to the sitting room to find Deidre petting Tiger-lily, Wiggins practicing on his accordion, and Tennyson and Amanda duking it out on Asteroid Racer. She smiled briefly at the last sight—Amanda would have joined the Irregulars right after the whole vampire incident, but her parents grounded her royally. She had only joined at last just a couple of months ago.
Watson was setting a plate of Christmas cookies down on the coffee table as Lestrade entered, and he turned to greet her. "You're back! Where is Holmes?"
Deidre looked up, alert, though the others remained focused on their own doings.
Lestrade shut the door behind her, saying, "He's taking a walk right now." She flopped down onto the couch, grateful for the plush cushions.
"Ah, one of those walks," Watson said in sympathetic understanding. Even after two and a half years, Lestrade did not cease to be amazed at Watson's unending capacity for empathy and compassion—a greater capacity than many humans she knew, she might add.
"What 'appened?" Deidre asked softly. "You look awful."
Lestrade shook her head. "Don't want to talk about it, Dee." Don't want to spoil Christmas for you.
Deidre considered this—Lestrade could see that girl's mind working. Deidre Anderson was a prodigy and no mistake—she was very nearly finished with high school—secondary school—at the tender age of fourteen. Lestrade herself had graduated at the age of fifteen, able to do so through being home-schooled and the ability to read and write far quicker than the average student. She had no doubt Deidre would go far in life, and Holmes agreed.
"Somebody died, didn't they?" Deidre whispered at last.
Lestrade closed her eyes. "Yes, Dee—somebody died."
"So Mr. Holmes is taking it really hard."
Lestrade nodded, unable to speak past the rising lump in her throat. She felt 221B's feline resident hop up onto the couch and climb onto her torso; without opening her eyes, she stroked Tiger-lily's back and was rewarded with contented purring. Cats have it so easy. They only have to worry about where their meals are coming from and where they'll sleep at night. It sounds crazy even to me, but I envy them that.
"I'm not an expert on God," Deidre said slowly, "but Mr. Holmes says that, when we hit rough times, we oughta pray."
Lestrade opened her eyes at that and found that she had to blink before she could see the teenager's concerned face clearly. "Dee, that sounds like a good idea."
I'll just say right now that this is going to get dark before it gets better. And I'm not even going to follow the movie as religiously for this story as I was trying to with It's a Wonderful Life, Doctor. We're dealing with the very serious premise of What if Sherlock had not been brought into the 22nd century to stop Moriarty? We all know what would happen, right? We at least have a good idea.
Well, you're going to see that first-hand with Sherlock, and it's not going to be pretty. Now, on that cheerful note…