"Because this phone call," he was not afraid. He was ready. He was not afraid, "it's my note." I am not afraid. "Goodbye, John." He said the name and he felt the explosion in his chest, felt his arm jerk involuntarily and the weight of the phone leave his hand. Before he could register the movement, he was leaning forward into empty space, weightless and wonderfully free. I am not afraid…I am not afraid…I love you. He blinked into the stinging air. Was it true? I love you. I am not afraid. SPLASH!
Sherlock thrashed around in the warm water, his billowing coat tangling around his arms and dragging him downward. A garbled voice shouted unintelligibly above him.
"Oh, for goodness sake!" a strong grip pulled at the back of his neck and Sherlock's head broke the water. He sucked in a ragged breath and felt his body go limp as he was dragged over a hard edge and onto solid ground.
"Haha!" cried a jubilant voice as Sherlock coughed up water onto the floor upon which he was pathetically sprawled. "I snatched you right out of the air! Who da man!"
Wheezing, Sherlock raised his head. The lights blinded him and he squinted up through dripping eyelashes at his savior. He was incredibly tall from this angle, and all Sherlock could make out in his disoriented state was a crimson bowtie, and suddenly Sherlock knew exactly where he was.
"Doctor," he muttered to the floor, dropping his head down again. "Hello again."
The Doctor, however, was still busy congratulating himself, and bouncing up and down. "I got it on the first try, too! And you and voom! Splash!"
Sherlock pushed himself up into a sitting position. His curly hair hung in strands into his eyes, dripping chlorine-scented water down his face. He was completely soaked and his coat was oppressively restricting the movement of his arms. He peeled it off and raised himself unsteadily to his feet.
"You shouldn't have done that," said Sherlock. The Doctor fell still, the joyous expression slipping off his face. "I was ready."
"I can do what I like," said the Doctor in a soft, almost dangerous voice. "I'm a Time Lord. I'm the Time Lord. And if I can't use that privilege to save my friends-" he cut himself off before his statement became a shout and took a deep breath, never taking his eyes from Sherlock's, "then what am I? Hmm? What?" He spun on his heel and took a few steps away, his boots squeaking on the wet floor.
"I don't have friends, Doctor," said Sherlock. His throat felt as though it had swollen to the size of an ostrich egg and he swallowed hard, to on avail.
"Well I do," snarled the Doctor, whirling about, "and this is me," he jabbed his finger at the floor, "saving them. Because that's what I do. I'm the Doctor."
Sherlock shook his head. "You can't. It's not - it was my time."
"You know," said the Doctor angrily, "that's a very selfish thing to say. When you made that decision to jump, you were thinking about your choice, about you."
"I was protecting John and Mrs. Hudson and-" began Sherlock.
"No, you were protecting yourself. People get to decide when they let go, when they shove off into the shadowy abyss?" The Doctor's voice was growing louder with every word. "How is that right? What about the people who know them, who love them and look after them? Are they ready? No!"
"No!" shouted the Doctor. "No arguing, no words from you, Sherlock Holmes, none at all, you stay put." He stormed out of the pool and into the corridor. "And change your bloody wet clothes!" came the muffled call.
Sherlock noticed as he buttoned his dry shirt and shrugged on a coat (both identical to the soaked ones on the floor - he'd forgotten the extent of the TARDIS' sentience) that his hands were shaking horribly. He stopped and forced himself to wait until they stilled. His breath still came in soft, shaking gasps, and his eyes felt inexplicably raw.
He didn't know what he should feel. He was alive. He had been ready to die and yet he was not dead. He recalled with ease the wind whipping through his hair, his coat snapping back and forth, the grey expanse beneath him. The roaring wind had not been loud enough to block out John's screams. He could still hear him echoing in the peaceful humming silence of the TARDIS, bellowing his name.
The Doctor was in the main control room, fiddling with dials and spinning wheels as he always was. It was disconcertingly normal to see him this way. Sherlock did not care to admit to himself how much the Doctor's anger had rattled him.
"I'm taking you somewhere," the Doctor said without looking at Sherlock. "And I'm not coming back for you. You can stay there and live out the life you were supposed to have and no more of this jumping off buildings nonsense. And that's an order." His eyes found Sherlock's and stared into them with a burning intensity, letting Sherlock know that he had no other option but to agree.
He simply asked, "Where?"
The TARDIS ground into existence with its comfortingly familiar grinding wail, and the Doctor opened the door. The Time Lord and the consulting detective stepped out into an expansive green lawn dotted with grey headstones, beneath the shadow of a solitary tree. The sky was an iron-colored grey, the color England was famous for. The air smelled of dew and damp bark. Like home, Sherlock found himself thinking, and wondered curiously when he had become so damned sentimental.
Then he saw the figure several yards away in black jacket and pants, but a plaid flannel shirt just like he always wore at home. The familiar blonde hair, and if Sherlock squinted he could see the mouth moving. He was an expert lip reader.
One more thing. One more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don't. Be…dead. Sherlock turned back, but TARDIS was gone. There was nothing left to do but-
"John! John, wait, John. Don't leave. John. John." The name melted on his tongue, delicious and wondrous as the breath of life. He could say it until the sun burnt out, and keep going for a million million years after. "John. John. John. John."
The figure stopped and turned, and Sherlock saw his face and a fire ignited in his brain.
Sherlock always said he didn't believe in rings or ceremonies. The pomp and circumstance was pointless, the public knowledge contrite and silly. It didn't matter what they did, as long as they were together. He sounded like a bloody sap, had he really said that? Yes, he had and he wasn't ashamed either. He was as happy as was physically possible for a human to be and perhaps a bit more. He did not regret a thing, not a single moment. Not a day passed when he did not marvel at how happy he was, even when he was cranky and threw his normal tantrums, his heart was soaring. Even though he still spoke with his same monotone, still deconstructed scenes in a heartbeat, insulted everyone within earshot, behaved exactly as he always had, he was positively joyous, and John could tell. He knew John could tell. He could tell everything.
Dry, leathery skin covered John's hands, with more wrinkles than Hugh Heffner's balls. They clasped Sherlock's own hands in a firm grip, firm as the day they'd met, over 50 years ago. He smiled his soft, warm smile that makes the whole world seem brighter, and his eyes twinkled they way they had only ever done for Sherlock.
"There's something I always meant to tell you," he said in his wheezy old voice. "But I suppose you've already figured it out."
Sherlock nodded. He was seated in a chair at John's bedside, the same chair in which he'd been sitting for the past three days, reading, talking, drinking tea, or just sitting in silence. "I have."
"Well, I'm going to say it anyway," said John impatiently. "So shut up for once and listen."
Sherlock waited obediently.
"I never asked how you survived," John said. "I don't think I needed to. For awhile I thought it was because I wished hard enough, but that's nonsense."
"Yes," agreed Sherlock. "Yes, it is."
"Now I think I know. And I know why I wasn't surprised when you turned up in that cemetery."
Sherlock blinked. This was not what he had expected John to say. "It was because I found this in your pocket when you- when you fell. And I knew." He reached a trembling hand into the pocket of his stripped pajama top and withdrew a small velvet box.
"Make sure it's there," John whispered.
Sherlock accepted the box and slowly lifted the top, revealing exactly what he'd always known John to keep with him, at all times. When he looked back up at John, his eyes were closed and his chest was no longer moving gently up and down in its weak but steady rhythm.
Sherlock squeezed his John's hand one last time, then left the room, descended the stairs and went outside into the little garden to wait.
He didn't have to wait long. Only a minute later, the blue police box faded into view and the door swung open, inviting. Sherlock climbed the metal grate ramp at a shuffling pace; his legs weren't what they used to be.
The Doctor looked exactly the same, as Sherlock had known he would. Young and buoyant, but with a somber expression behind his sad smile.
"It's time," said Sherlock, and the Doctor nodded.
"Yes, I think it is."
"I'm not afraid."
He moved along to the wardrobe, and found his coat and shirt waiting for him, just like the TARDIS had kept them all along just for him.
"Thank you, old girl," Sherlock murmured. A cupboard creaked in the corner and Sherlock followed the sound to find a person-sized closet crammed behind a rack, and felt the sudden overpowering urge to step inside. The moment he pulled the door closed, a bizarre tingling sensation covered his body, as though a million tiny bugs were crawling all over him with miniature scrub brushes.
He stepped back out and caught sight of himself in the mirror. He looked 50 years younger. There was not a wrinkle to be seen on his face, his hair was thick and dark, his features once more sharp and clean. He let out a scoffing laugh. Alien tech.
The Doctor smiled a little when Sherlock reemerged in the control room after his makeover. Sherlock didn't think it was a conscious act. The TARDIS doors opened Sherlock saw clearly the grey expanse of London street.
"Goodbye old friend," he offered a hand to the Doctor, who grabbed the hand and pulled Sherlock into a rib-cracking hug.
Then, without another word, Sherlock descended the ramp and leaned forward into empty space. His eyes instinctively scanned his surroundings and fixed on a young, blonde figure across the road. He stared at it, memorizing everything.
And he fell.
I am not afraid.
I love you.