Author's Note:

Thank you to everyone who reviewed and favorited! Your support has meant a lot, especially as I was afraid nobody would even read this story. Thank you so much for sticking with me on this journey, and here at last is the grand finale you've been waiting for! (My apologies for the lateness—I didn't get a chance to upload before church, and then I was there half the day...)

==Chapter 6: Morning==

"Sherlock! Sherlock, wake up! C'mon—c'mon, wake up, please!" He struggled in her grip as she shook his shoulders desperately. "Sherlock Holmes!"

The grey eyes flew wide open, and another memory she would carry to her grave was the terrible mixture of horror and wild relief in his face. "Beth!"

"Oh, zed, Holmes, you scared me so badly!" she cried as she pulled him into a tight embrace. He seemed to melt in her hold, and they were both shaking. "That was some nightmare, and when you wouldn't wake up…"

He pulled away to face her, eyes raking over her as if seeing her for the first time in a long time. Whatever he'd dreamt had shaken him further than she'd ever seen before. "But it wasn't a nightmare," he murmured. "It was real—as real as you are now, I swear. I…" He covered his mouth, his eyes widening again. "You're real," he said around his hand. "You're not… oh, dear God." He fell back upon the mattress, shaking with suppressed sobs.

"I'm not… what… Sherlock, stop, stop, stop! Stop it unless you want to give me a heart-attack for scaring me like this!"

He nodded, took a deep breath, held it, expelled it slowly. "My apologies," he breathed. "I… good heavens, my room." His eyes lit with a child's delight. "It's my room again!" He sprang off the bed, alarming her once more as he rushed to the door and threw it open. "And the sitting room! Ha-ha! Beth, merry Christmas!"

"Um, merry Christmas to you, too," she said slowly as he tore off in search of who-knew-what. "Wow, that dream must've really done a number on him." She followed at a more sedate pace, watching him run all over the place.

"John! John! John? John!"


"Mr. Holmes?"

"Oh, great, you woke up the kids." She threw up her hands as Sherlock Holmes turned to find the four Irregulars crowded in the doorway.

"Wiggins!" Holmes cried happily. "Deidre, Tennyson, Amanda!" To everyone's shock, he threw his arms around each of them, one after another. "Ah, you have no idea what a sight for sore eyes you are!"

Tennyson beeped out something that Lestrade figured was akin to what the zed? Wiggins laughed self-consciously, rubbing the back of his neck; Amanda smiled uncertainly and waved. Deidre put her hands on her hips. "Mr. 'Olmes, you look awful," she said frankly. "What 'appened to you?"

Lestrade saw Holmes's grey eyes fill with pain before he pulled Deidre close again and buried his face in her red hair. "Never you mind," he murmured. "I'm all right now. We all are all right, and we're together—that's all that matters now."

"Why don't you kids go downstairs and wake up Watson?" Lestrade suggested. "Go help him with breakfast."

With a muttered chorus of reluctant assent, the kids filed back out into the hall. They were smart—at least, they know when they're being sent away so that their "parents" can talk.

She returned her attention to Holmes, who stared after the departed Irregulars, clearly lost in his own world. "Holmes?"

"Hmm?" He blinked and came back to himself. "What, Lestrade?"

"Why were you calling for Dr. Watson?"

He smiled sadly. "Never let Moriarty call you unperceptive, my dear." He took another deep breath. "John was here. Not our beloved compudroid, but the real John H. Watson. He stood right here in the middle of this room, and… 'pon my word, the things he showed me."

"Sherlock," she said carefully, taking a step forward, "it was just a dream."

He stepped back, shaking his head, his expression as earnest as she'd ever seen it. "No. No, it was real, Beth, I swear to you."

"All right, all right, don't get worked up again!" she said quickly, holding up her hands in a placating gesture. "Do you want to tell me about it?"

"No, I don… No, wait." He looked at her strangely. "I do."

She flopped down onto the couch, spreading her hands invitingly. "I'm all ears."

He chuckled half-heartedly and sat beside her. "I woke up, and the house was… barren, lifeless. I came out into the sitting room, and there was John, just standing there."

She saw a shadow settle over his face. "We quarreled about whether or not I should have been returned to life. He asked me if I'd like to see what the world would be like without me in it." Pain contorted his strong features. "Oh, Beth, it was all wrong."

"Moriarty took over, huh?" she said sympathetically, already knowing the answer.

He closed his eyes. "But there was so much more. I even saw Fenwick. He'd been cast aside into the gutter—literally. He… I believe he was dying."

Lestrade shivered—she couldn't help it, even if the creep irritated the living daylights out of her.

"And New London… oh, it was terrible, Beth. There was no morality—none—and yet, Moriarty was reviving Victorian culture at the heart of the city. It was as if, as long as the people went along with his cultural revival, he allowed them all the moral leeway they wanted."

"Ouch," Lestrade winced. "What about us—me, Watson, the kids?"

His face twisted further as he bowed his head. "Wiggins was a bouncer at a bar—I think to keep an eye on Deidre, who was working there as a waitress… among other things…"

Lestrade felt the color drain from her face as she took his implication. "Zed," she whispered.

"Indeed. Tennyson was an abused employee of Mycomp; Amanda was in a correctional facility for her hacking. Watson…" Holmes lifted his head, met her eyes… and the agony in his own was enough to drown a person. "Watson didn't know me. He was just a patrol 'bot in the service of the Yard—he didn't know me."

She hung back slightly, almost afraid to ask. "And… me?"

He merely looked at her, his eyes seeming to go right through her

"Sherlock," she said, grasping his right hand in both of her own and gripping it firmly. She studied his agonized features, his tense posture… "I died," she whispered. "Didn't I."

His head dropped again. "Yes," he whispered hoarsely. "You did. You died on the Fourth of July, two years ago."

She heaved a quiet sigh. No wonder he was so shaken when I woke him up… "It's okay, Sherlock; it's okay." She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. "I'm still alive—we all are, and we're okay, just like you told the kids."

He looked up then, and his eyes were as haunted and empty as they'd been the night before. "But you would not have been if—Elizabeth, I give you my word that I shall be terribly careful of my own safety from now on. As long as Moriarty remains alive and free, there is no guarantee that what I saw will not come true—it would seem that I am the dam holding back the flood."

She hung her head. "Gooolly, you just go from one extreme to another." She looked up and met his gaze squarely. "Look, Sherlock, you can't live your life in constant paranoia—that's a good way to stress yourself out to an early grave." He winced, but she ignored it. "Whatever Moriarty throws at us, we're going to take it as it comes, one day at a time."

He looked away.

"What? What is it?"

He slid his free hand over his face. "I can't get what I saw out of my head," he murmured. "What I felt. Beth, I was alone. For the first time since my return to life, I was completely and utterly alone. Even John deserted me before the end. The children were ruined, Watson was soulless, and you were…" He choked out a sob and clamped his hand over his mouth.

She shifted forward and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his thin but strong shoulder. She felt him bury his face in her hair as he circled his own arms around her, clinging to her like a drowning man. Every hitch of his breath sent a knife stabbing through her heart.

This was her hero, the man she'd looked up to her entire life. Now, he was hurting deeply, and she had no idea how to fix it.

"I believed I'd lost you," he gasped out. "I never told you how much you mean to me, and I thought I'd never have the chance to do so."

Her heart twisted—she knew that feeling; she knew it all too well. "Sherlock, I know that we're good friends." Zed, now she was crying. What a Christmas. "That's all I need."

"But that's not all that I need." He pulled away to look her in the eye. "Because, Beth, I love you. I love you as truly as—" he blushed; he actually blushed—"if I may be forgiven for quoting Watson, as truly as ever a man loved a woman."

Brain just shut down. Now rebooting. She blinked at the moisture in her eyes and lifted a hand to wipe it away. "Sherlock… do you really mean that?"

He merely watched her steadily, his grey eyes deep with honesty and affection. "I do."

"I… wow." She looked down, then just as quickly looked back up and smiled. "You… wow. Sherlock… I don't know what to say."

He held up a hand. "You don't have to say anything." Disappointment clouded his features. "Really, you don—"

He was cut off by her lips covering his. One moment was apparently all he needed to recover from the surprise, because he swiftly returned the kiss, his hand coming down to settle in the small of her back. When Beth pulled away, she grinned at him. "That means I love you, too, by the way."

"I deduced that," he breathed. He kissed her again.

Five seconds later, they heard a shout of "Oh, my gosh!" and broke off to find Amanda standing in the doorway, stunned, and an equally shocked Deidre, Tennyson, and… yep, there was Wiggins behind Mandy. Beth was sure Sherlock's face must've been as red as hers felt.

"I say, what is going on?" came a familiar computerized voice. Watson appeared, squeezing in-between Wiggins and Deidre. "Holmes?"

Sherlock cleared his throat and called, "Let the man through, children."

The Irregulars parted, and Watson bustled into the room with a tray of chocolate-chip pancakes. "Holmes, Lestrade, merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas, Watson!" Lestrade grinned.

"Merry Christmas, my dear fellow," Holmes said warmly, rising to embrace his robotic partner.

"Oh my." The poor compudroid looked perplexed at Holmes's uncharacteristic display of affection. "Holmes, are you feeling well?"

"After liplockin' with Inspector Lestrade, I should jolly well think so!" Deidre chimed.

Both detectives blushed once more, and Beth made a mental note to kill that girl. Especially when Watson's amber eyes went wide—okay, honestly, that elastomask was just a bit too detailed sometimes. "Lip… lock?"

Beth could have crawled underneath the couch and died—then inspiration hit. "Mistletoe," she said simply.

"I didn't see any!" Amanda protested.

Tennyson beeped something, and Wiggins said, "Yeah, there's no mistletoe around. So why—"

"All right, everyone out," Watson ordered in his best crowd-control voice.

"No, wait, Watson." Holmes held up a hand, and the Irregulars halted. "What say we attack the pile of gifts beneath the tree, eh?"

Tennyson beeped again.

"We'll discuss that later," Holmes said, his tone brooking no argument.

"Holmes…?" Watson cocked a curious eyebrow at his friend as the kids proceeded to "attack" the presents.

"Later, Watson." Sherlock's hand ended up finding Beth's, and their fingers meshed together. He barked a short laugh. "It's a long story."

Watson's other eyebrow joined its counterpart. "I see."

"Hey, Mr. Holmes," Wiggins called from the tree. "Package for you, but no 'from' name." He padded over and handed his employer the gift.

Sherlock frowned. "Was this from either of you?" he asked Beth and Watson, who both shook their heads. "I can't imagine…" He tore open the wrapping and held up a one-volume The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

Beth whistled. "Beautiful binding."

"Quite…" Sherlock opened the book and froze at the front page. He looked up with a fond smile and allowed Beth to read the dedication:


Remember: no man is a failure who has friends.


Your Boswell

"Wow," she breathed. Whatever Holmes saw was somehow real.

"No man is a failure who…" Sherlock sprang from the couch, eyes alight, and tore through the nearest bookcase. He grabbed one book and flipped it open to the end. Beth could see his eyes flitting over the pages, and then he looked up with a brilliant smile. He flopped back down on the couch and handed her the book. "Lestrade, look."

"Oh, man," she whispered. The novelization of one of her favorite Christmas flicks—It's a Wonderful Life. She flipped back through the book, recalling points to the story that paralleled what Sherlock had experienced.

She heard him whisper, "Thank you, John," and looked up. He grinned at her, and she shook her head. I can't believe this. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and said, "Merry Christmas, Beth. Merry Christmas, Watson."

"Merry Christmas, Sherlock," Beth smiled. "Merry Christmas, Deidre."

"Merry Christmas, Holmes," Watson beamed. "Merry Christmas, Wiggins."

"Merry Christmas, everybody!" the kids chorused, then laughed.

Wiggins snapped his fingers. "I never got to play my accordion for all of us! Can I do that now, Mr. Holmes?"


"Oh, goodie!" Amanda grinned, scooting closer to Deidre.

Holmes rose to pick up his syntholin and returned to the couch, preparing to follow the boy's lead. Wiggins shot him a self-conscious grin and began.

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!


Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!


Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace;
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness;

Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings,
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

What had begun as the worst Christmas I'd ever known turned into one of the best Christmases of my life. In the difficult days to come, it gave us something to look back on and remember with fondness. It allowed us to hope for the best.

John was right: I was needed. Never did that become clearer than during the events that followed. But even in the darkest hours, I knew that he was right: I did have a wonderful life.


Author's Note:

The original conversation between Holmes and Lestrade was much different. But that was me acting out both their parts, and with no access to my laptop. So the original scene was indeed better, but I didn't even try to reconstruct it—I simply followed the new flow in my head. Sadly, one of the lines that was lost was one that I really liked, from Lestrade: "Holmes, you're talking to the woman who had you brought back from the dead. I can believe a lot these days."

*sigh* Oh, well.

So, I hope you enjoyed the long and pretty-much happy ending! Yes, there's the little appendix by Holmes at the end, and that's hinting at an epic that I'll type out someday when I have the time and the story better figured-out. But for now, suffice to say that this story does actually exist in the same "universe" as the Eyes and Hearts collection.

I hope you enjoyed this journey with Sherlock Holmes, and I pray that God blesses you this day with the best Christmas you've ever had. Thank you all, and Merry Christmas!