It was Sally Donovan who officially confirmed the identity of Sherlock Holmes' body. They knew he had a brother, but this Mycroft Holmes individual apparently could not be reached. Maybe the brother was too upset to answer the phone, of maybe he was just out of town, or maybe – knowing Sherlock – they didn't get on too well.
No one had even really considered asking John Watson to do it. He was distraught in a way that Donovan would have considered unseemly if she weren't so desensitized to the shock of grieving families.
There was that landlady of his; she had seemed to know Sherlock well enough, but they weren't going to drag an old woman down to the morgue when there were alternatives.
Sally watched Lestrade swallow heavily and widen his eyes to keep tears from falling, steeling himself for what he obviously saw as his responsibility. She knew that he had never really believed Holmes to be a fraud – and since when did she think of him as 'Holmes' instead of 'Freak'? Even in her thoughts, Donovan realized she was reluctant to speak ill of the dead, even if all the evidence pointed toward the deceased being a kidnapper, and quite likely a murderer as well.
She wasn't quite sure how to feel about this newfound hesitance to insult Sherlock Holmes.
Sally sat down next to Lestrade. "Obviously, he and I never got along, but I never…" There wasn't a good way to end that sentence. She tried again. "I know you've, you've tried to look out for him a bit, you've had an," she paused, "an affection for him. No matter how things ended. And I would imagine you don't want to see him like this."
They had both seen so many corpses identified in the course of their careers. In the name of preserving evidence, the corpse was cleaned, but all injuries were maintained in their entirety; the ID had to be made before the morticians could try to reconstruct things for the wake. The right side of Sherlock's skull had been crushed in the fall, and there was something that seemed especially wrong about that, the fact that the impact hadn't just destroyed his body, but his brain as well. His fraudulent brain, she reminded herself: he was clever, but the genius had been faked.
"You don't have to make the ID," finished Donovan. "I can do it for you." They weren't going to see eye-to-eye on Sherlock Holmes, not now, probably not ever, but it was obvious Greg was grieving. It was the least she could do.
Lestrade turned to look at her with a slight twitch, as though he had just noticed she was there. "Thank you," he said softly. Then he turned his head to face forward once more, as if she were already gone.
John Watson was comfortable with bodies. He always had been; if you couldn't stand the colors and the smells, you really didn't belong in medicine, or in the military for that matter. He had even developed a certain comfort level with dead bodies; medical school autopsies had bored him, but they hadn't particularly bothered him.
At least not until he went to Afghanistan. There, autopsies were almost never required to determine the cause of death - that was usually self-evident – but John had been called upon repeatedly to do post-mortem reconstructive work, to determine if enough bone could be reassembled that a mortician could create a recognizable face. If John couldn't wire together enough fragments, if the damage was too extensive (the ribcage was rent in two, only a sliver of head and neck remained) or major pieces could not be recovered from the combat site (a nineteen-year-old's jawbone), then the body would be cremated before repatriation.
They were required for both practical and regulatory reasons to differentiate among deaths from combat, disease or natural causes, and suicide. Most of the suicides were easily classified as such (usually gunshot wound to the head, usually could not be reconstructed), as were most combat deaths, but there were some cases which were uncertain, like when a twenty-three year old man ran into the middle of a firefight with no order, gun unfired, or when a thirty-six year old walks down side paths with no apparent goal or reason, with no bomb detectors or armor, and ends up blown up by an IED.
In these cases, they were required to perform what was known as a psychological autopsy, an investigation into whether the deceased acted with the intent to die, and what events, beliefs, or experiences led to that state. Physiological data beyond a toxicology screening were usually uninformative, but Watson had been involved in the procedure several times, on the theory that he might be aware certain stressors, pain, or neurological symptoms that might have influenced the "mortal outcome." (god, that was something he didn't miss: the military double-speak)
The psychological autopsy was its own sort of detective work – deducing thoughts instead of behavior. And now John Watson was going to apply it to Sherlock's death.
Was it somehow murder? And if it was suicide, why? Did he care about others' esteem more than he let on? Was the thought of losing to Moriarty too much to bear? Had he been lonely underneath the aloofness? It was a shock, really, to think of how little he knew about Sherlock. Mycroft had been the only family member at the funeral – were Sherlock's parents living? (Was he feuding with them, too?) Other siblings? Cousins?
God, John wanted to kill him. He wasn't going to jump to conclusions (Sherlock would disapprove), but somehow, this was most certainly the fault of Mycroft Holmes. Maybe now that Sherlock was dead, his obsessive investigative spirit had been passed on to Watson, because John now felt that he literally must find out.
It would at least keep the homicidal urges at bay. (He hoped.)
Watson scrolled through his emails, vaguely registering the subject lines but failing to open any. He could guess what they would say and he didn't particularly care.
The one from Lestrade had a video attachment. Probably a virus. Would probably delete everything on his computer.
John opened it.
Wasn't sure whether I should send this to you.
I miss him too. Maybe we should get a pint.
The still from the video was a Sherlock, glassy-eyed, drugged, and leaning against the fence outside Irene Adler's house.
John hesitated for a few moments before clicking play.
The video was shaky and grainy, clearly an inexpert recording on a smartphone. Sherlock was looking from one hand to the other, fingers pursed before spreading them wide. The gesture was rather like flicking water at someone, only in slow motion and without the water.
"What're you doing there, Sherlock?" Greg's voice, from behind the camera. "What's this?" A hand reached into view and mimicked the gesture Sherlock had made.
"Jazz hands!" Sherlock whispered, eyes wide and intense.
"Jazz hands? Is that so? Have you decided to become a dancer?"
"No," Sherlock shook his head, "no, I'm a consulting detective."
"I know you are." Greg's voice was warm and more than a bit patronizing. "I just wanted to know if you were becoming a dancer as well."
"I don't dance well. I dance brilliant!" On the last word, Sherlock made his jazz hands motion again.
Lestrade chuckled. "All right then. You dance brilliant. You gonna take John out some time?"
All of a sudden, Sherlock looked fearful. "Who's going to take John out?" He tried – unsuccessfully – to stand. "We've got to-"
"Relax." Greg's hand pushed Sherlock back to the ground. "I didn't mean like that, you little idiot. I meant take him out on a date. Take him out dancing."
"Oh, yes, but…well. He's not, he's…" Sherlock began making a motion with his hands that seemed to outline something roughly the size and shape of a cantaloupe before eyeing the cameraman suspiciously and making the jazz hands gesture once more.
He then tipped to the left and rested his head on a fence post, drooling slightly.
The video ended and John Watson couldn't properly tell the difference between laughing and crying.
It was easier not to be angry at Lestrade. He had always been on Sherlock's side, and even though he had arrested him, he had resisted until his superiors demanded it, always believing that Sherlock would either be proven right in the end or a mysterious phone call from Mycroft Holmes would put the whole matter to rest.
And he had been punished already.
Not for arresting Sherlock, of course, but for allowing him onto investigations in the first place. He was suspended from NSY, probably going to be fired, probably going to lose his pension.
So when John went to visit Lestrade at his temporary flat (Greg and his wife were apparently on the outs again.), he was relieved to find that he felt far more pity than ire.
He was nursing a cheap beer and sitting stiffly in a straight-backed chair. "I must've done something to my back moving in here," he explained. "It's rubbish getting old. Don't do it."
John almost said, 'Sherlock took that advice,' but he held his tongue. Sherlock was the subject of all of his sentences these days, mostly ones he kept to himself. It was rather like a ringing in his ears. "How are you holding up?"
"Eh," Greg shrugged. "Better than you, I would guess." He took another sip of his beer. "But I miss him, don't get me wrong. Even without a case, I miss his irritating little voice and creepy little eyes." He cracked a thin smile to show his complaints were affectionate.
John nodded. It suddenly occurred to him that he could have asked Greg to move in with him – money had to be tight – but that felt too much like trying to replace Sherlock. No one could replace Sherlock.
"How are you holding up?" asked Greg. "I saw you at the funeral."
"I'm…I'm…not well, I suppose," said John stiffly. "I just…" He clenched his jaw. "I can't talk about this. Sorry."
"Of course," said Greg. But what else were they going to talk about? What did they really have in common besides Sherlock? "You saw the video?"
"Yeah," John's nose twitched. "You want to know how he's-, how I've changed? I watched it and the first thing I thought was that isn't how you do jazz hands."
"I'm starting a new project. I don't know if I'll put it on the blog or not. Probably not." John paused to run a finger across his eyebrows. "I want to know how he got to where- Why he-" John couldn't say 'died', couldn't say 'jumped', couldn't say 'fell'. He let Lestrade fill in the blanks.
"Well if anyone can figure him out, it'd be you. I could never figure out what was going on in that head of his."
"You've known him longer. On that first case, you said you'd known him for five years."
"That's right, but it doesn't mean I've got a clue what he was really all about."
And damn it that didn't sting, hearing Greg use the past tense. What he was all about. John tried to shake it off. "Could you tell me about what he was like? How things were back then?"
Lestrade pursed his lips, then shrugged as if to say it couldn't do any harm now. "Yeah, yeah, I don't know if it'll really help you much, but I can tell you about that stuff. I guess you already know most of it anyway."
"All right, here's one," said Lestrade. "Here's how he ruined Simon and Garfunkel for me."
John raised an eyebrow.
"I had known him a couple of years and I was giving him a ride back from a crime scene. And, oh and you gotta know that my wife is named Cecelia, I don't know if I ever mentioned that. Anyways, their song Cecelia comes on the radio, you know that one?"
"Um, yes, I think so."
"Right, so we're listening to it, or rather I'm listening and he's staring into space all creepy-like, and then they get to this part where he's singing about making love to her and then the song goes, 'I get up to wash my face, when I get back to bed, someone's taken my place'." Lestrade paused and screwed up his face. "And Sherlock mutters that it's 'preposterous'. He's saying what would cause a man in bed with a woman to suddenly get all 'preoccupied with facial hygiene' if he's planning to get back in bed."
John almost smiled.
"Well, I slammed on the brakes right there and asked him how on earth a grown man who has not been living under a rock could possibly not understand that reference. And you know what he did?"
"He corrected my driving," said Lestrade. And then he started to giggle. Not laugh, giggle, actually giggle. Because it was funny. "He corrected my bloody driving. Told me I shouldn't stop suddenly like that. It might cause a crash."
It was silent and lasted no more than a moment, but John laughed.