2014 - Epilogue
The doorbell rung for the third and final day today. I could hear John out in the corridor talking to Mycroft and Lestrade, taking their coats and asking them to leave their shoes by the door - although Mycroft didn't need to be told. He'd grown up in this house; he knew my rules on not wearing shoes on the old wooden floors.
The door opened to reveal a grave, but still smiling, Lestrade. He was wearing his best suit and with his hair was clearly cut for the occasion. He was followed by Mycroft who was wearing a dark three-piece. My brother sat in the armchair across from me, with Lestrade leaning against the back, and John crossed to mirror the stance against my chair; Lestrade smiled at me,
"It's good to finally see you. I was getting a bit worried since you haven't been answering my phone calls all week." John rolled his eyes, standing up to hang their coats in the armoire,
"You honestly think he had any say in that? I took that phone off him the second he walked through that door; I finally convinced him to take that holiday we've been talking about for a year, I'm hardly going to let you disturb him." Lestrade shrugged,
"Still, we could have used the help; it's all been piling up slightly after you went away-"
"Well, I couldn't really get internet connection where I was." Lestrade shook his head,
"It's fine, but if you could take a look at our new cases-" I nodded in agreement, though I didn't want to talk about work today,
"Leave your laptop in the kitchen. I'll check the details and give you an answer when possible." He gave me a disapproving look,
"And how exactly will you know what my password is?"
"Well, you're rather predictable and I've never had any difficulty before. John, do want to have a stab at it first?" My partner grinned, leaning against the back of my armchair again,
"Is it Charlie, by any chance?" The look on his face told us we'd got it right first go, and I shot John an approving look,
"Okay fine. Shoot me for having my son's name as my password." I was fully aware of how smug I looked, but I foun myself not particularly caring, since they were both so clearly happy - Mycroft had even allowed a small smile to cross his features. John's fingers were gently weaving through my curls and I smiled slightly, and closed my eye at the soft touch, as my partner asked,
"Where is Charlie by the way?" Mycroft was the one to respond to the question this time,
"The nanny is taking him out for lunch and a movie; he appears to have developed an infatuation with the Hobbit. Is this their fourth time seeing it this week, Gregory?" His husband nodded with a fond smile. John frowned slightly, looking perplexed,
"That's weird - Victor's just the same. Every time Bilbo comes on the screen he shouts 'dad' but I really don't see the resemblance-"
"I wouldn't say you don't look similar to him," I said over a spluttering John. He proceeded to splutter even more at the statment,
"Which is your way of saying that I look like a short, hairy, chubby man who lives in a hole and has more meals a day than anyone should-"
"You're not chubby, John, and I actually happen to find Bilbo quite handsome - or at least the actor who plays him is." John's fingers wrapped themselves up in my curls thoughtfully, and he said grumpily,
"Yeah, well, why don't you just marry him then?" I rolled my eyes, gently pulling John's fingers out of my hair so I could hold his hand instead, smiling up at him,
"Because we're already married, and I do believe there's a law against having multiple husbands." John huffed but I could see the smile rising up as he said,
"Well you didn't really want to marry me, though did you. Not like Mycroft and Greg. Honey, we need to get married so I can break into a gay guy crime ring is hardly the most romantic proposals." I debated for a second, wondering if I should just tell him the truth,
"There was never any gay guy crime ring." His jaw dropped open,
"I just told you there was so we could get married as soon as possible - without all the fuss that Mrs Hudson would have made us put into it."
"So you lied to me?"
"I wanted to get married."
"Why didn't you just ask-" Mycroft interrupted from where the two of them had been watching our argument,
"I'm going to end this particular conversation now because today's not the day to bicker, no matter how harmlessly. Who else has arrived so far?"
"Everyone else is here. Mrs Hudson and Annabelle are unpacking in mummy's old bedroom and Arthur and Sally are in the guest room at the back of the house, since your old nursery is the only room with a crib, which means that the two of you will be in your old bedroom." Greg grinned brightly,
"Am I the first boy that Mycroft's ever had up there?" Mycroft might have flushed slightly at that,
"You're the only person that Mycroft's had up there. He almost managed to get a girl back to his room once upon a time, but unfortunately he scared her off." Greg grinned, eyes practically twinkling at the thought of going to Mycroft's childhood room with his husband, but I wasn't sure if it was just that he wanted to get a bit more insight into Mycroft as a teenager. John sat on the arm of my chair with a thoughtful look,
"I thought your mother never lived with you?" Mycroft took his attention off of his gleeful husband, and looked over to mine,
"She had a spare room that she slept in when I was a baby, in case Sherlock needed help in the night because – as John will probably be able to confirm - Sherlock isn't very easily stirred from his mind palace or his experiments to deal with a crying youngster."
"It doesn't make him any less of a good father though-"
"No, he was never a poor guardian. I was very lucky to have him." John must have noticed my eyebrows rising into my hairline, as he immediately questioned me about it, I reluctantly admitted,
"You always pick the oddest moments to compliment my parenting skills-"
"Is it really such a strange time? We're all here as a family, to be together and remember the good times, and many of those moments happened in this house - with you as my guardian - if I remember correctly." I nodded, smiling at the memories,
"Yes, I suppose now isn't such a strange time."
"As much as I always criticised you; I was hardly blameless. I was an intolerable child - constantly bitter and unhappy - but that wasn't your fault. I've come to realise that you raising me was the optimal situation - my father would not have been a good guardian. His wife loathed me and my half-siblings never accepted me. I doubt I would have had a loving childhood filled with the opportunities or kindness you provided me and the adoration that mummy gave us both. You made me who I am and I'm very grateful for that. A testament to your kindness lies in this very room." Mycroft reached up and took Lestrade's hand, where it had been resting on the armchair beside his head, in a small and rare display of affection - but a gesture of the utmost feeling that made me certain they would never be parted.
Mycroft looked at me, and the gratitude was visible in his eyes, "If you hadn't seen the signs, and told me all those years ago that it was alright to be who I really was - as we sat in these very seats - then I doubt Gregory would be here with me today. I imagine I would be in a loveless marriage to a shrewish woman in designer clothing, and I would have biological children that I never wanted. I would have no hope of escape and no brother because, if it hadn't been for Gregory's intervention, I wouldn't be a part of your life. And I would regret that until the day I died because you are my family, Sherlock. Not those strangers I went to live after I left this house. I hate that I didn't realise that fact for so long."
"Thank you Mycroft... not just for saying that, but for everything. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't gotten that letter from your mother. You were the first prolonged human contact that I had and you were the reason why I left my medical career, and eventually – after you left – you set off into my downwards spiral." He flinched slightly but I shook my head, "I'm grateful for that Mycroft, because that led me to Greg," the detective inspector smiled, but he didn't interrupt, "and that led you to your own happiness. I have never been so happy for you as I am now you have him and Charlie. And by finding Greg I had a new chance in life, a new career and then, through that path, John. All of you in the room, all of you in this house, have made my life more rewarding and filled with happiness and caring than I could ever have imagined in those early days when Victor first left me. I have found acceptance with you all and even though we came here on a sad day, we have all found what we need for happiness."
We sat for a minute, reflecting on that had been said and then quietly, his voice thick with emotion, John asked,
"Speaking of sadness - shall we get started?" I nodded, breathing in deeply to quieten my beating heart, and crossed to the mantelpiece,
"Greg, could you ask them all to meet us in the garden in a few minutes. Mycroft, and John, help me with these." They nodded solemnly, each picking up one of the smooth ceramic pots and looking down at them with mournful looks. They breathed in deeply as they held the smooth marble against the dark fabric of their clothes - holding them as if they would never let go. I nodded and, in silence, we carried them out to where the group had gathered on the tiny patio looking out over the fields and the forest behind the house. Sally was sat at the table, gently bouncing her grizzling daughter and looking up at Arthur reassuringly. He didn't even turn as we passed; he was just looking at his freshly polished shoes, unshed tears beginning to gather in his eyes as he let out a tiny, barely audible, sigh. Annabelle stood across from them, on the other side of the table, sniffling into a handkerchief with Mrs Hudson's arm gently tucking her into her side.
I felt the soft reassuring weight of a hand on my back and looked up at John; he gave me a tiny ghost of a smile and a nod, and the expression was mirrored by Mycroft on my other side. I took a deep breath, staring down at the weight of the marble in my hands, as Victor walked unsteadily to my side and wrapped a hand in the folds of my trousers. He was holding on so tight that I thought he would rip a hole in the fabric at any second. I smiled down at my son and then, releasing the breath, I looked up to address our tiny congregation. It seemed such an unfairly small collection when we were here to honour two people who had saved thousands of lives - at the expense of their own.
"I don't think any of you need me to tell you why we're here today, but I think I should say a few words anyway. Exactly one year ago today, we lost two of our friends, and we would have lost even more - if it hadn't been for their sacrifice. A year ago today, they proved to the world that our kind deserve to live and we are not inferior to people. They showed the world that we care and love just as deeply as any human, and we are willing to fight for that. They made an unimaginable sacrifice and they did it together - because they loved each other. I know that four of us here today; myself, Victor, Arthur and Annabelle, we didn't know if we ever be able to understand love and feel it so deeply for another. But as the rest of you know, we were proved wrong by not only those two but the arrival of all of you in our lives.
"I was blessed to know these two. They proved me wrong; they showed that any lingering doubts that I had had, and every misconception that I ever had about myself in the past, were wrong. They justified our existence, they won our kind peace and I know that they proved me wrong once more because I can say without a doubt that they are together now. I didn't believe in God, I still don't, and I didn't believe that you went anywhere after you die. If I had believed it then I would have said I didn't think our kind would be welcome... but they showed me that I was a fool because of course they're together somewhere, reunited and happy and in love. I It would be wrong for them to be otherwise. They deserve to be rewarded for their sacrifice and, knowing them, the only reward they would want is to be together.
"So I thank them; for proving me wrong, for teaching me, for being my friends and for caring about me, even though it wasn't for very long. And I also thank them because if they hadn't made that sacrifice, I don't know what would have happened. I cannot bear the thought of losing my son, or Mrs Hudson her daughter, or Sally her husband, and baby Emily might have lost her father before she was even born. But none of us lost those people who are paramount to their lives because of baby Emily's namesake, and the love of that woman's life. So, we were privileged to know them both." Mrs Hudson was sniffling into her handkerchief now, clinging to her equally distraught daughter, whilst I could see Sally and Arthur were tearing up as they stared at the urns in John and Mycroft's arms.
Only Lestrade was looking at the third and final urn, the one that I was holding. There was an unspoken question in his eyes. None of them actually knew who it belonged to, except for me and John,
"And now I suppose I should say a few words about the owner of this urn." Their eyes all looked up at me in surpise, as if realising that there was indeed another urn, and I continued quietly, "These are the ashes that I have waited to hold for nearly one hundred and seventy years. In other words, ever since I made that perilous trip to the Artic. As you know, I went on a short trip a few months back, but I only told John where I was going. The truth is, I went on what I suppose you could call a pilgrimage; I returned to that spot where I left my father's remains years ago. I never thought that I wouldn't find him and I knew he wasn't there any more, not in the way I wanted him to be, but I still wanted to go there and show him what I have become. I've changed so much; I've proved him wrong about his creation, as my creations proved me wrong. Call it destiny, call it fate, but there he was. Mostly covered by snow, but almost completely preserved. So, with considerable difficulty - I brought it back to the UK and I arranged his cremation, and those are the ashes that you see before you.
"And what can I say about Victor? Not much, I will admit, he abandoned me when I was just a few minutes old, left me to my death and ran away. He was a coward and a heartless man... but he was also my father, a genius, and I could almost say a loving husband. He did after all try to save Elizabeth from me and he followed me to avenge her. He just never understood love. He had many faults but in his last few minutes I could say he repented. He apologised for the pain and tried to shoulder my burdens. It might have been due to madness, or exhaustion, or just the nearing of his death... but he showed me some kindness and I never forgot that. He was my father, he gave me life and he is the reason we all stand here today. He is the reason that Victor and my creations exist, that Mycroft was born, that baby Emily is here, and he is the reason the natural humans amongst us were brought together. So, forgetting his faults, I stand in front of his house, wearing one his suits and holding his ashes, and I say goodbye to him. We say goodbye to the three people we were able to call friends, and family, as we scatter their ashes."
Mycroft and John looked to me for confirmation and I nodded, all three of us beginning to slowly unscrew the tops. I began to think back to all of the memories of my father that I had clung to. They were few and far between, his presence in my life intermittent and his expression was never without pain or anger or fear, except that one proud moment when we met for the first time in the mountains. In that moment, he had been pleased with himself for his accomplishment, and I had revelled in that warm approval, I'd basked in it.
So, I had soaked up that moment and every moment that came before or after - regardless of how good or bad and I saved them all to think back upon now. They were hazed by age, only remembered after all these time because they had been constantly run through my head, and most were tainted by the sadness and pain he caused me, but - as I watched the wind catch the swirl of ashes and scatter them, tug them up over the grass, into the trees and over the stream - I felt it all dissipate. I finally had closure and that same feeling of relief and thankfulness, for the good memories, washed over me as I watched Ben's ashes dancing with Emily's. They were intertwining until I couldn't even see which urn they had come from. That was the way they were meant to be - together.
I was reminded of the hand on my back when John gently pressed against the reassuring weight, and whispered in my ear,
"I'm so proud of you." I realised that I was smiling through the tears and turned to pick up Victor, whispering to the silent group,
"Let's go inside."
It was as I walked into the home of so many happy memories, the home of my father and of Mycroft's childhood, the home that reminded me of mummy - and now of all of my friends and my new Victor clinging to my shirt - I felt renewed and I knew that it would only get better. I knew that this was what I was meant for. I belonged in this world and my pains, my trials and my tribulations no longer hurt because they had brought me here.
Finally, I was grateful to my father for creating me, and for the first time I was glad because I had the happiness and the love I had never thought I deserved.
And it was wonderful.
AN. You have no idea how sad I was to write those last two words, but there they are :( I'd love it if you could take some time to review and let me know what you've thought of the story, and how it's ended, and to tell me if you've enjoyed this journey as much as I have.
I hope to see you all again one day with another story, but for now I shall have to say goodbye.
(N.B. A day after this crossover finished and Benedict's on the Graham Norton Show talking about Frankenstein and Sherlock... my brain is literally exploding with the sheer amazingness of that! I just like hearing about Frankenstein again because I loved the play... which is why this story exists)