Alright, so this is definitely a head canon for Reichenbach. Sort of based off details in "The Empty House" and definitely off details in "The Final Problem." It was actually going to be a chapter in my Sherlock fic, but I thought I might not use it, so I tweaked it and decided to post it right before the episode aired. If I decide to use it (or at least the concept, for the handful of you who have read that fic know A: how bad part one is and B:Irene tis not the Irene we know from the show) I'll probably delete this.
Either way, just because we may not see Sherlock survive doesn't mean he dies in my opinion.
Irene Adler saw it all.
She saw Sherlock leave the note for John.
She saw the struggle, and she saw Sherlock Holmes push Jim Moriarty over the falls.
She also saw Sherlock slip when he tried to scramble down the cliff.
Her vantage point wasn't great for viewing. She was at the bottom of the falls, looking up with a pair of small binoculars from the slippery rocks. They wouldn't be able to see her, but she had a great view of them.
Moriarty had sent her. If anything was to go wrong, she was immediately to call this person and that person, and say this word or that word depending on what exactly did go wrong… though she highly doubted even Jim had planned on his own death. Rather than call so-and-so, she called an ambulance. Logical reason would say wait.
Logical reason would say help them and you'll die trying.
However, there must have been some reason in the back of her head why she was leaving her cover in favor of chasing down the bodies in the river. The force of the falls would keep them underwater, or it should, but these were two strong men and their lives were in danger, and the stakes are always completely different whenever it involves one's own life. Something was bobbing above the water, like a head, or an arm here and there. She couldn't tell whose it was- they were both dark haired men in dark colored suits.
But the truth of the matter was that there was only one man. One. Which one?
"Oh, bloody…" Irene muttered, tossing off her coat and shoes. The current was too strong and the fall too hard for even a strong man to get his wind back. The water would be very cold and very deep. Their lungs would be hurting and their bodies might be in shock from the temperature and impact. Oh, well. Someone is going to survive this.
Just then she saw something above the water, a failed attempt to grab a rock while bobbing up and down. Black suit. No tie. Mess of hair.
He was less than ten feet away. She owed him her life for that execution. Penny in the air.
Irene had nothing to throw out for Sherlock to grab, to secure herself with, nothing to keep her from being swept downstream, no assurance anything could even be done. He was actively drowning, so as of now he would still be alright. As this thought crossed her mind the body sank without resurfacing. Fatigue had taken him.
Irene lowered herself into the water feet first, fighting the urge to curl into a stiff ball from the chill. The water must have been forty degrees maximum and the current was strong, but thankfully carrying her in the direction she needed to go. Without thinking she plunged underwater, reaching out for anything she could…
Irene tugged, feeling the weight of a body attempting to drag her down, but now her own life was in danger as well, and some kind of new energy fueled her enough to pull him to the surface. Her back slammed up against the rocks on the shore opposite the one she began on, forced there by the current, and she cried out in pain. Her fingers were numb by now, but she kept her grip as best she could. The water wasn't as deep here, and she could touch the bottom near the shallow edges of the pool.
Pulling Sherlock onto the rocks, she tried to ignore the shaking of her own limbs and the wind chill. Above her there were sirens, and she checked her watch as she knelt to check Sherlock's breathing. The ambulance had been four minutes. Sherlock wasn't drawing breath, but there was a very faint heartbeat. So faint.
Alright, pinch the nose, tilt the head to open the airway. Two breaths.
She checked his pulse again. None. And no reaction from the breaths. Finger sweep revealed nothing blocking the airway- he must have taken in a lot of water. She turned his head to the side and unbuttoned his coat.
Find the bottom rib, trace to sternum. Lock left hand over right. Begin compressions. Do not use arms for force.
"Come on, breathe! You stupid… bloody… idiot!" Help was coming down the side of the falls, but the climb would be slow, and her stiff limbs were beginning to catch up on her.
One round down. Two breaths.
At the end of the third round Irene only got one breath in before dirty river water rushed up into her open mouth. She gagged from the force as Sherlock rolled on his side, coughing and struggling to breathe. His eyes were closed. By the time the rescuers got to him Irene had told one them about Sherlock's near drowning and was slinking away to inform John. She knew he must be waiting somewhere.
Sure enough, she could see a silhouette walking along the clifftop that looked very familiar. If medical help was necessary in her case she'd find out from him.
Sherlock never saw her.
*NEW TEXT MESSAGE. UNKNOWN NUMBER*
Coughed up all the water yet? Let's have dinner.