Sherlock: People have died.
Moriarty: That's what people DO!
Things die. Leaves and trees. Seasons die, phones die, fires die. Conversations die, and so does light. Hair is dyed, but in a different sense of the word. (but hair is dead to begin with, so it almost but not quite fits the category.)
Sherlock's brain was making connections so fast he put his hand to his temples and rubbed, wishing for it to stop. Death of a Salesman, death knolls, power dies, aspiration dies, hope...
A hand grabbed his rubbing at his temple and a soft voice said, "Poking your brains out isn't going to help him." Sherlock ignored Molly, as he usually did.
There was a time when he was ten or eleven when a classmate died in a plane crash. He was standing with his father, who flew small private planes as a hobby, in a grassy field and he was run into by a plane. Sherlock had laughed the first time he heard this, and everyone had stared. They'd never seen Holmes laugh before, and they couldn't believe he was laughing over the death of a classmate.
There was a time when a boy tried to befriend him in school, or a boy had a crush on him and Sherlock wasn't interested, and Sebastian Snider went on to do good and great things in life only to be murdered for being a homosexual. Sherlock hadn't found this death as funny and in fact had tried looking into it, but he'd been in hiding at the time and didn't get much further than staring broodingly at daily papers, hoping for clues to be hidden in their depths.
Everything that lives dies. In a hundred years, every single person now alive on the earth will be dead, replaced with all new people to continue that constant cycle of life.
Sherlock had no problem with that cycle. For the most part people were dull and a constant recycling meant that eventually something interesting will turn up. And even when people he knew died...well, he understood the biology of it. A bullet to the head will kill a man. A heart attack will kill a man. A punctured lunch will kill a man.
Multiple organ failure will kill a man.
Because that was the heart and soul of it, of everything. Sherlock knew and understood that people had to die. But he didn't know why people had to include John. Someone who cared about people and human interactions and had been making an active difference in the world until Sherlock left him and his body rebelled and cancer spread like fire all over his body.
And Sherlock, even though he knew everything must die, was suddenly terrified at the thought of this one person, insignificant, as they all are, in the great scheme of the universe, dying. And leaving him all alone.
Eight: Lord Snow's Heart
"I'm sorry," Sherlock said, blinking. Lestrade stared at him, unused to the younger man apologizing. For anything. "Can you say that again?"
"Are you feeling all right, Sherlock? We can talk about this later."
"No, we'll do it now. John doesn't like me without cases. Says I get annoying." Sherlock smiled the thinnest of smiles, remembering when he was younger and his brother had taught him how to be charming. But why do I have to smile? I don't feel like smiling. And Mycroft had said, charismatic people run the world, Sherlock. Study their ways and you will be unstoppable.
Lestrade nodded and closed the case file. "You need to come to terms with this, Sherlock. It's not healthy to avoid the problem."
"I'm not avoiding anything. I'm merely focusing all my attentions on the case." But Sherlock could feel his heart pounding. He cursed it and imagined a block of ice encompassing the organ. He was the tin man with a lost heart. He was Lord Snow.
Lestrade shook his head and got up. "It's all right to...feel bad about this, Sherlock. He was a good man."
"He is a good man." Sherlock snarled, "He's still alive."
The detective inspector sighed, rubbed the back of his neck. Why did such a lousy job always have to fall to him. "Only...Sherlock, he's only alive in the most technical sense of the word. The thing that made John Watson...his soul or spirit or whatever...it's gone."
Sherlock turned his back on Lestrade and slunk into the hospital room he'd vacated. He didn't say goodbye. Lestrade swore, fumbled with his cell phone, dropped it, picked it up, dropped it again, and ended up sinking to the floor, remembering a man who would follow a certain consulting detective to all the crime scenes, playing journalist and Jiminy Cricket at once. Remembering when Sherlock (died/disappeared) and John would show up at the crime scenes and just stare and sometimes offer a little something, usually doctorly knowledge that on at least one occasion had solved the case. And Lestrade would go up to him and say, how you holding up, doctor? And John would shrug and smile the way people do and sometimes they'd get coffee afterwards, two ordinary men who crossed paths because of a sociopath.
He stayed on the floor for a while, listening to Sherlock in the next room, talking to a man in a coma.
"The nurses think I'm doing this because you're my boyfriend," Sherlock's deep, rolling voice made the words sound like just another fact in a long list. "They obviously don't know about the skull." John would smile there, even Lestrade knew that (of course Lestrade knew that, he'd known the doctor for four years. Four years! Had it been so long?) "Everyone thinks your dead. You should probably prove them wrong. You know how we love proving the world wrong." No, Lestrade thought. No, that was just Sherlock. John liked to make people happy. He was the typical middle child, the mediator, the one who sacrificed his own happiness to see others smile. That was who John Watson was, not someone in it for the prize at the end.
"But of course, the nurses think I'm infatuated with you. Their helpfulness is nauseating." A sigh, a scrape of a chair, and Lestrade pushed himself to his feet. He was a grown man. He should not be sinking to the floor like a character in a soap opera. "Only you know I'm only here because everywhere else is intensely boring." Lestrade entered the room in time to see Sherlock's hand squeeze John's dead one tight, in time to see the man bow his head just a little.
He was crumbling. Lestrade knew, because he had just done it outside. But Sherlock Holmes doesn't crack under pressure. Humans do that, not robots or tin men.
"They want to unplug him today."
"No body wants to kill him, Sherlock." Lestrade said, leaning against the door frame, remembering the first time he'd seen that long face drawn out in pain. That first time it'd been over withdrawl, over drugs, the only way to escape the tedium of life. Or the only way until an apparently mundane doctor sought out a flatmate in the mortuary of St. Barts. The Sherlock addicted to an alphabet soup of drugs wouldn't have been able to understand a friendship. He would have laughed if Lestrade had told him that one day he'd look so...lost. Lost in the face of grief and death. Lost over the loss of a friend.
"They want to take away the thing that is keeping his heart beating and his lungs breathing. They want to kill him."
"It's been five weeks."
"He's still alive!" Sherlock snapped, his hand tightening around John's limp one. "There's still a chance while he's alive!" When they pull the plug, not even the great intellect of Sherlock Holmes could save anything.
"Sherlock...would he want to live like this? Would a man who fought in a war, who had a great brain - don't look like that, no one rival's yours, he was a trauma surgeon for God's sake -"
"I didn't...of course John is smart..."
"Would he want to exist like this? It's not even living, you know. It's just...staying."
Sherlock's lips twitched. He remembered when a spider, proud of the web he'd spun, had complained about humanity's propensity to just stay alive. He didn't share that thought with Lestrade.
"I punched him once, you know. When he found me using drugs."
"I know. You called me in the very, very early hours of the morning. I was expecting you'd unearthed another massive criminal conspiracy."
"Mmm." Sherlock wasn't looking at the detective, just down at his friend. His friend! Oh, Sebastian Snider would never recognize Lord Snow now. "Once I convinced him I was dying. And I never noticed when he was hurt. I wasn't...well, he was my first friend. I don't think I was very good at it."
"Mistakes are normal. To err is human." John would have laughed that that too, at the insinuation that Sherlock Holmes was just like the lowly humans he pretended to be so detached from.
Lestrade wondered if he'd ever be able to say things around Sherlock without thinking about what a good man would have once laughed at. But he had a job to do, and to do it he had to stop thinking about that good man as being alive. "Sherlock...you have to -"
"I know what I have to do." Sherlock snapped, not looking at him, "Is it so wrong of me to want to avoid the issue as long as possible?"
"No," Lestrade said, settling in for a wait.
A doctor came by and said that there was officially no evidence of cancer. Lestrade actually did laugh at that, and when the others in the room looked at him he shrugged. "'S a bit funny, isn't it? It's not the cancer that's killing him at this point. It's bloody multiple organ failure."
"And a coma."
"Technically, the coma's not killing him." Lestrade didn't know why he was pressing the point, or why he was laughing so hard he had to hold onto a chair. He just knew this was up there on the list of worst days of his life.
Another doctor came by and tried to explain to Sherlock why he should pull the plug now. "There's a young man upstairs, twenty-seven, his whole life ahead of him. He has two little kids..."
"A young man died and gave his kidneys to John. John's body rejected those kidneys and every other organ. What makes you think John's spleen is viable?"
The young doctor took a literal step back, "It's...it's not an organ this young man needs. It's...eyes."
Sherlock threw the woman out and turned to rage at a room with one person in a coma and one person who would have given almost anything to be in one. "His eyes? They want his eyes? Can you even do eye transplants?" Sherlock was thinking about walking around London and running into a man with John's eyes. The thought made him feel violently ill. This whole day was making him feel ill.
"Sherlock...you can't keep putting this off."
"Why does it have to be done today?"
"Because that's what you said yesterday!" Lestrade said, "And the day before! There's no miracle here, Sherlock. No tricks. No one waiting to jump out and yell surprise. This is just the end."
"We had a miracle before."
"Before, you had a man who believed in miracles." Lestrade said, scrubbing a hand over his face. "What do you believe in?"
"I believe in John."
Well, Lestrade had walked right into that one. He nodded, got his coat from the rack near the door, and left the room. He'd come back tomorrow. There'd be no plug pulled now.
"This is no life." Lestrade said.
"I believe in John." Sherlock said. He'd brought his violin to the hospital and was plucking the strings. A symphony was forming in his head, a soft prologue transforming into a sweeping cadenza. A title was forming, too. The Heart of the Matter. A strange name for a symphony, but it would make John smile.
"Sherlock, you need to make a decision."
But Sherlock was jotting down another note, crossing out a bar. He didn't acknowledge Lestrade and the DI had to get back to work.
Three months after the surgery, twelve weeks without cancer, after ninety-one days in a coma, John Watson's face twitched in the direction of the sun, in the direction of the music dedicated to him. In the direction of Sherlock.
Sherlock didn't notice. He was playing the violin and, anyway, there were too many tears in his eyes.
So John sank back below the sea of blackness he'd been drifting in.
COME TO HOSPITAL. JOHN AWAKE. -SH
John Watson sat in the sunlight. He'd smiled at a pretty nurse until she'd wheeled his chair towards the patch in the corner of the room, smiled at her again and asked if he could have the papers on the dresser. "That music your boyfriend's been writing? Wish my boyfriend would write me a symphony."
Too tired to correct her, he just said, "It sounds brilliant but imagine being woken up to that every morning."
"I'd love every minute of it." The girl asserted, leaving him alone with the music.
He put a hand on it, on the pages thumbed through so many times the edges were worn like cloth. He remembered coming out of the coma, the blackness lifting like a curtain before a play and suddenly the world had expanded from a little box to a sea of sound and light and at the center was music. Music that wasn't really notes on a violin but the sound of a soul, of tears cried into a pillow so no one else could hear. And he knew that the sound was Sherlock's famously absent heart breaking.
He must have moved, because the next second the music stopped. "John?" His own name a mere breath, a wish too outlandish to even be spoken aloud. And then Sherlock's hand was in his and another hand on his face and he was calling for nurses and doctors and everything was loud and John sank back into the blackness again to escape it all. The blackness had been nice, actually. He'd just popped out to listen to the music..
And now here he was two weeks later, still not out of the hospital but definitely out of a coma. And most likely out of miracles. As Sherlock had pointed out yesterday while John was reading the paper and Sherlock was composing (it was very close to being at Baker Street, except for the smell of death which permeated the hospital) they must have used up their miracles.
"I don't plan on getting cancer again," John shrugged, turning the page.
"That's what you said last time," Sherlock reminded him, changing the E to a G.
The patch of sun was shrinking. Soon, John would be in the bed again, though he'd been promised a pass home within a week. They just wanted to figure out what had brought him back from the dead. They didn't know that the answer was not in scans of the ex-soldier's brain but in the papers John was holding.
Yes, he'd come back because of the music. Music could cross language barriers and boost morale. Its power was unexplored and unimaginable. But more than that, he'd come back because of the title of the piece. Officially The Heart of the Matter, next to it, in smaller letters, was the title Sherlock knew the music by. Lord Snow's Heart.
He'd come back because if he'd died, a sociopath would revert back to a tin man. He'd come back because he was a integral part of another person. He'd come back because it had taken Sherlock years to figure out how to be someone's friend, and all that hard work couldn't just go to waste.
yeah, we're suckers who can't kill wonderful characters like john watson, who's so resilient and so strong and a soldier who will survive anything with class.
thank you, thank you for all the wonderful input and encouragement you guys have offered. you have no idea how much it means to us that there are people out there who like our writing. we've bitten the bullet and decided to go to school for creative writing, with the ultimate goal of maybe possible publishing books one day. and the kind words we've gotten from people on this website are a big motivator for that.