18 – Epilogue
A/N – A thousand, thousand apologies for the huge wait for this epilogue. This chapter most definitely did not want to be written. Then it just kept getting longer and longer. Sorry if it seems a bit disjointed. Anyway, Enjoy! Please drop a note if you liked it. Thanks.
Shalamar House Restaurant on Cavell St. did have vegetarian vindaloo. John ate about half of the generous portion while Sherlock devoured all of his chicken tikka and rice. This came as no surprise to John. His friend often deferred eating for days on end but when he did deign to eat that usually meant he was ravenous and he would routinely out eat the ex-soldier. Over lunch John began asking the questions that had been burning in him since Sherlock first appeared on the sofa in his small flat last Thursday. Sherlock greatly enjoyed the exposition, the frailty of genius and all, but John noticed his manner was different somehow, more subdued. Occasionally he faltered a bit in the retelling like he was editing.
Lestrade came by as they were finishing their meal. He dismissed the constable outside John's room before entering. John was sitting up in the chair and gave him a quick 'come in' wave as he took a sip of water and nodded appreciatively to Sherlock as the detective finished his sentence.
"So what you're saying, or not saying, is you got lucky," John jibed.
"Luck had nothing to do with it. It was a calculated risk that paid off," Sherlock countered.
"Right." John rolled his eyes with a snort and a smile. Then he gestured to Lestrade.
"Hi Greg. Have a seat." Lestrade let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding upon seeing John animated and talking. Lestrade returned the smile, took off his coat and laid it across the foot of the bed and sat down. John offered him the rest of his vindaloo.
"This bloody vegetarian?" Lestrade asked eyeing the food suspiciously before taking an exploratory bite. "S'not bad. Not bad, at all," he said tucking in earnest. Sherlock resumed his discourse. Walking into this familiar scene of Sherlock and John exchanging banter was almost like going home again, Lestrade thought. Almost.
The three men past the next hour or so in what might best be described as amicable conversation. Sherlock regaled Lestrade and John with tales from his absence without actually providing much substance. Neither Greg nor John called him on it. The two of them occasionally slipped into sidebar conversations about their own goings on during Sherlock's absence much to the confusion of the detective. The atmosphere was not strained or awkward but it was definitely changed.
Dr. Phipps was surprised and delighted to see that his patient had not only had eaten a full meal but was also actively engaged in conversation when he came for his afternoon rounds. He was not so pleased that one of John's visitor was none other than the asocial man who he had 'met' in the conference room on the day of John's arrival. Phipps sensed that this man was somehow intricately involved in the shooting, and was wary of him for his patient's sake. That and the fact that the man had pinned him with a laser like stare from the moment he entered the room.
Hand picked by Mycroft = Top of his field, given
Married, three children, oldest just accepted at university, Cambridge not Oxford
Numerous professional honours and fellowships, likely to publish John's case
It was the older man, the inspector from Scotland Yard, who ushered the other out so Phipps could perform his examination. Lestrade was only too happy to leave. He had already seen the forensic photographs of John's injuries and had no desire to see them first hand.
Phipps again demonstrated his excellent bedside manner, talking with John in a collegial fashion whilst efficiently examining him. John noted that the large bruises on his chest, ribs and abdomen were turning into an ugly dark rainbow of purple, black and green. The 6" incision over his sternum looked good as did the smaller incision in his arm. His thigh was still swollen but the wound was healing cleanly. Breathing still hurt quite a bit but his lungs were clear, no signs of pneumonia. Phipps informed John that he was medically cleared for discharge. Also, he had conferred with a certain shadowy government official and that if John thought that he was ready he could be released the as early as the following day. John brightened and flashed a small but genuine smile.
"I'm ready," he said sitting up straighter in his chair. "Ah, no offence to the staff," he added quickly. "It's just ... well, you know." Phipps smiled back.
"No offence taken. You've had a rough week. I can understand your being anxious to go. I'll set you up with some outpatient PT." John nodded, he had expected as much "And I highly recommend you following up with Dr. Thompson." John stiffened. He hadn't expected that.
"OK," he mumbled.
"Now, do you have any support at home? Anyone who could help you out for a while?" Phipps continued mildly. John's brain was still back on Ella and the question caught him off guard. He wasn't quite sure of the answer. What would he and Sherlock do now? Did Sherlock intend to return to Baker St.? Was he expecting John to return with him? Not that Sherlock would be that helpful and Mrs. Hudson wouldn't return for another week. Then there were the seventeen steps to the flat plus the thirteen to his room. Could he manage it? Was he better off alone in his tiny basement flat? His mind flashed back to his first trip to the shops after being discharged from the army and a jar of jam slipping out of his weakened grip to smash on the floor.
"I can manage," he said a bit defensively. "I'll be fine." Phipps's smile faltered at the change of tone and he made an additional notation in John's chart.
"Alright then, I'll be back around this time tomorrow with your discharge orders." John nodded.
"Thanks. Thanks for everything," he said gesturing to his chest before shaking Phipps's hand.
Lestrade and Sherlock filed back into John's room after Phipps left. Both noticed that John was subdued.
"What's wrong? Why do you look concerned? No, not concerned, uncertain, anxious." Sherlock rattled.
"Uh, nothing. Good news actually. I'm being discharged tomorrow." John said quietly.
"Tomorrow? Idiots. Your mobility is still severely limited. How do they expect you to manage the stairs? Don't they consider these things?" Sherlock asked.
"It's not a big deal. They're right. I really don't need hospitalization anymore. I just need some time to heal. It'll just take some time. Besides, there's only the five stairs down to my flat." John said trying to reassure.
"You're not going to Baker St? Why not?" Sherlock looked genuinely shocked and a bit hurt.
"Sherlock, neither of us actually live on Baker St. anymore," John said patiently. "Mrs. Hudson isn't even there at the moment. She's in the Canary's until next Saturday. She doesn't even know I'm in hospital and she still thinks you're ... dead."
"Ah, well, yes, I suppose ..." Sherlock tried quip but it fell flat and the room grew silent. Lestrade could see the giant shadow of all that had happened suddenly fill the gulf between them. John turned to look at the wall, his expression blank again, while Sherlock stared at the back of his head looking utterly lost. The moment stretched on and on.
"So ... How did you know to start in Prague? Did that go back to that Ms. Wenceslas and the fake painting?" Lestrade asked cautiously into the silence.
"No," Sherlock answered after a long beat. "It was intelligence from Mycroft, actually." Sherlock picked up the lead and was off again. Lestrade noticed that it took a several more seconds for the shadow to lift from John's eyes. They past the rest of the afternoon engaged in this strange version of 'Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies'.
John gradually grew quiet letting Greg and Sherlock monopolize the conversation while he listened, struggling to keep his eyes open. Eventually he lost the battle and slumped to the side in his bed. Lestrade smiled and pointed to Sherlock to alert him that he had lost half his audience. Sherlock silently studied the sleeping man. His expression was unreadable but if Lestrade had to guess he would have said it was concern.
"He'll be alright, Sherlock," Lestrade offered.
"Do you really think so?" Lestrade was struck by the degree of vulnerability in the younger man's reply. He looked back at John.
"I think," Lestrade paused considering. "I think that John is about the strongest person I've ever met. So, yeah, I think he just might be. What about you? A lot's happened, will you be OK?"
Sherlock offered no answer. He just tented his fingers together in front of his face apparently engrossed in his silent watch over his friend.
John woke with a panicked start but his bad dream retreated quickly before he could even recognize which one it was. He looked at the clock, 4:07 am, then did the math. He had slept for almost nine hours. Not bad. Hearing a snuffle he turned toward his right. Sherlock was sound asleep in the comfortable patient chair, his long limbs twisted like a pretzel. John wondered where his friend had been lodging since his return to London if he chose to stay here and sleep in a chair. Images of some of the 'flats' that Sherlock's homeless network kept flashed through his mind. Derelict and dilapidated old buildings without heat or proper plumbing strewn with rubbish. He sincerely hoped that Sherlock had not spent the last eight and half months in places like that. He worried about all the things Sherlock had so carefully not told Lestrade and him earlier. He tried to twist to see his friend properly but he really hurt. As he straightened he noticed his evening tablets, antibiotics and ibuprofen, on the tray table. He reached forward for the small paper medicine cup and to pour himself some water. An audible hiss escaped. He really hurt. Sherlock awoke instantly at the sound.
"John?" he exclaimed untying his limbs and bolting straight up. John started in response then grimaced at the motion.
"Ahh," another involuntary complaint escaped. Well, that hurt like hell.
"John?!" Sherlock was wide-eyed and sounded almost panicked
"It's OK. I'm just getting my meds." John said resuming his stretch forward. Sherlock leaped out of the chair and quickly slid the tray table to within John's reach, sloshing the water in the plastic carafe.
"Thanks?" John said slowly with a hint of sarcasm. Sherlock missed it. He was standing next to the bed scanning John from head to toe, his eyes intense and worried, no, fearful. He turned away from John as his perfect recall took over, 1234.5.6..7...8,click,click.
"What?" John asked now concerned.
"Nothing, nothing. I must have been dreaming. I ... " Sherlock stammered.
"Sherlock, it's OK. It'll all be OK." John said reassuringly, trying to placate his friend. He shifted painfully trying to sit up straighter in his bed.
"It should not need to become OK!" Sherlock roared bringing both hands to his head and running them through Deiter's short auburn hair.
Speechless, John stared at Sherlock who glared angrily back at him. Slowly John's eyes hardened and his mask descended again. He looked away and Sherlock began to pace like a caged tiger. Not at all sure why he was seething he grabbed his coat and left in fury without another word. John stared at the door for a long time, then he took his medicine, turned on the television and watched a special on the Vendee Globe around-the-world yacht race.
Mycroft made the car available for John's discharge the following afternoon. Tim carried the green pack as John slowly made his way to the car. Lestrade had been by in the morning but Sherlock was no where to be seen. Sandra offered a friendly greeting as John gingerly eased himself into the rear seat. All John could manage in reply was a terse 'hi' forced out between grit teeth. He felt absolutely every corner, bump and pothole as they crossed the city. When they arrived at his building, John allowed Tim to help him out of the car and to escort him into his flat.
"Kitchen's been stocked. Anything we can get you before we go, there, John? You might not believe it but I make a mean cuppa." Tim offered brightly. John smiled but declined.
"Ta, but no. I'm knackered." He very much wanted some privacy.
"Right, then. We're off. You've got my number in your phone, right? Just give us a shout if there's a problem."
"Thanks for everything, Tim." John shook his hand at the door. "Thank the others for me in case I don't see them." Tim let out a laugh.
"You always saw us, John, didn't you. Watch yourself, OK?" John nodded and smiled as he closed the door.
Tim Morris stared at the closed door for several seconds before returning to the car. He watched John's building grow small in the side mirror as Sandra pulled away from the curb and down street. The threat was past and he knew it. He had seen Moriarty's dead body and he had watched Moran die. Still, after nearly nine months of Level-5 surveillance, it felt oddly strange to leave John Watson alone.
John really was knackered. He limped over to the kitchen and thought about making tea but settled for a glass of tap water. He shrugged out of his oil skin coat and hung it on the hook near the door and sighed. Between the bullet holes and the medic's shears his favorite black coat had been a total loss. His phone was still on the table by the door. He plugged it into its charger as he checked the messages. Four from Simon Tate and three from Alex Capshaw, from last Monday, each a more insistent version of 'where the hell are you?'. Damn. He never meant to leave them in a lurch. He hoped he would be able to make it right, eventually. Then there was an almost apologetic, sober call from Harry on Tuesday saying she was in Toronto. A good client prospect, she hoped. There were fourteen messages from Wednesday, the day his story had hit the press. Simon and Alex, again, concerned, two from Jacob, one each from Stefan and Tom from Blackheath, Henry Knight, Sarah, Clara, and four from Bill Murray, who sounded positively frantic. John felt a stab of guilt. He had already scared Bill more than enough for one life time. He sent a quick text.
I'm fine, mate. Really.
Sorry to worry you.
E-mail you more later.
There were nine more messages from yesterday, including Bill again, and six from this morning. John sighed. He was not up to answering all these. He put the phone down and limped back to the kitchen. Maybe a cuppa would do.
John's dinner consisted of an apple, some toast and tea. He took his medicine and thumbed through his release orders. The prescription for his antibiotics and one for some pain killers, the recommendation for another consultation with Ella, an appointment for physio-therapy on Tuesday plus the number for the local visiting nurses association. Visiting nurse? Jesus, was he that pathetic? John stood painfully but resolutely, washed up his plates and made himself more tea. He limped over to settle himself in his chair with his tea and a couple of biscuits. God, he hurt.
John picked up the paper Tim had dropped on the side table and studied the headline.
'Police and Special Ops Rout Top Assassin'.
It was over. He thought of Sherlock. He thought about yesterday and early this morning, of their heated discussion, their companionable lunch and of Sherlock's angry outburst. He shook his head sadly. It was silly, he supposed, to think that things could simply revert to how they once had been? So much had happened. He should be thankful and leave it at that. Sherlock was alive. He was alive. Moriarty and Moran were dead and it was over. Maybe that was as good as it got. John gradually noticed that he was rubbing his right leg. His hand rested not over the hole in his upper quadraceps torn by the thru-shot but lower, just above the knee, where absolutely nothing was wrong. He sighed, pushed himself back up to a standing position and went to bed.
Later that night John woke suddenly with every sense on high alert. He remained motionless listening to his silent flat but heard only the quiet hum of the refrigerator. He hadn't been having a nightmare. What had woken him? He listened for a while longer before deciding it was nothing. However, he was now wide awake and knew sleep would not return anytime soon. It was 2:23 a.m. Great. John slowly got to his feet and made his way to the kitchen in the dark. He had just removed a mug (not his RAMC mug) from the dish drainer when he caught some motion out of the corner of his eye. Lightening fast he pivoted on his good leg and hurled the heavy crockery mug across the room with as much force as he could muster. Luckily for Sherlock, John was throwing with his right arm and his aim was wide. The mug sailed past his ear and smashed against the wall.
"I suppose I should be glad I still have your gun," the detective said sounding nonplussed. John leaned back against the counter with teeth clenched in pain and his arms splinted against his aching ribs.
"Jesus, Sherlock. What the fuck ... this is my flat, you know. You can't just break in." Sherlock rolled his eyes and snorted. "Well, obviously you can but why the hell didn't you just knock? That is the usual way for friends announce their arrival," John ranted as he turned on the lights.
"I rather had my doubts as to whether you'd let me in." Sherlock had settled onto the sofa.
"Good point. Why are you here?" Sherlock sighed and John finally noticed the small black leather carry all on the floor at the end of the sofa.
"You've not got any rooms, then, have you?" he said. Sherlock gave no indication that he had heard but his dismal damp room with the lumpy bed flashed through his mind.
"Well, that's problematic. I guess you can kip on the sofa if you'd like. It actually folds out," John offered.
"How very American," Sherlock drawled without humour tenting his fingers in front of his face and staring at John with his uncanny intensity. John looked back at him annoyed.
"What?" he said. Sherlock's gaze did not waiver. John pushed ahead.
"It's 2:30 in the bloody morning, what!" After a long minute Sherlock finally asked, almost in wonder,
"How does one do it?"
John let his shoulders slump a bit, totally confused, "Do what?"
"Cope with that which defies deletion," Sherlock said plainly. John was utterly flummoxed.
"You've deleted the solar system, all of 6th form literature, much of world history and the most fundamental workings of the parliamentary system. What could possibly defy ..."
"Moran killed you, John." Sherlock said flatly. "That is not something that is easily deleted."
"And you committed suicide, yet here we are." John countered glibly but then regretted it immediately upon seeing Sherlock's raw expression. Right, he had had over eight months to process Sherlock's 'death', Sherlock had had less than a week to process his. He took a deep breath and waded in.
"I am sorry that you saw what you did, Sherlock. I truly am. That wasn't exactly the plan. You were never supposed to be there and I ... " Sherlock cut in glaring at John,
"What was the plan, John?" he snapped angrily. "For you to go off and sacrifice yourself for the greater good, to die with honour? The brave soldier." his voice absolutely dripped with condescension. John regarded his friend for a moment letting his own anger cool before answering. He understood, all too well, really, from where Sherlock's anger was coming.
"No, the plan was for me to kill Jim Moriarty before he killed me, which I did. I'll not apologize for that." John's voice was calm and even. Sherlock did not reply. John sighed and made his way over to his chair and sat with a wince.
"I wake up in the middle of the night screaming. And then I make tea." he announced to the room. Now it was Sherlock's turn to look confused.
"That's how I cope. Not exactly the poster boy for healthy post-stress reactions, am I." John dead-panned cocking his head to the side. "You knew that. Must be pretty desperate to ask me," he continued. Ah, yes, John's gallows humour, Sherlock recognized. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth then he retreated into his own thoughts leaving John to do the same.
"He won, didn't he," Sherlock said without preamble nearly twenty minutes later.
"Huh?" John questioned.
"Moriarty." Sherlock answered, noticing John's subtle flinch at the name.
"How's that?" he asked.
"He accomplished everything he'd set out to do. He burned me. Destroyed my life, my reputation. Took everything away. The Work, everything. Look at me. I'm a dead man sitting on a borrowed sofa in an ugly little flat."
"Feeling a bit sorry for ourselves, are we?" John countered sarcastically but he could appreciate his friend's sense of loss. He shared it, after all. "And lay off the comments about my flat!" he added lamely. Sherlock just continued on as if he hadn't heard any of it.
"Do you ever wonder why? Why me? Why us?" John knew perfectly well why he had been targeted but didn't say so.
"I gave up on the whole concept of 'why' somewhere around noon the Tuesday after I moved in to Baker St.," he said instead. Sherlock let out an annoyed sigh as if to say, 'I was being serious'. John met his eyes and leaned forward now serious himself.
"Look, Sherlock. He was a psychopath. Well and truly nutters. Psychopaths get bored, or so I've been told. Doing what you do, you caught his attention and he used you, used the both of us, to relieved his boredom. There is no deeper meaning. Lots of things happen that have no real meaning." The scientist in Sherlock bristled against John's words but the student of human nature knew they were true.
"Anyway, the game's not over yet. You're alive. He only wins if we let him." Despite the defiance of his words, John sounded weary. Still, he gave a tight military nod and pulled himself out of his chair with a slight grunt. He then went to his laptop on the kitchen table. He flipped it on and navigated to his blog's webpage and clicked 'New Entry'. He thought for just a moment before typing the title 'Greatly Exaggerated'. Sherlock regarded his bruised and battered friend and smiled, his chest suddenly tight.
"So, carpe diem. Is that it? Any other sage advice Dr. Watson?" he asked dryly.
"Yeah, loose the ginger hair," John retorted never looking away from the keyboard. Sherlock laughed. An hour and a half later, John Watson updated his blog for the first time in eight months and nineteen days.
Martha Hudson settled back in her seat after glimpsing her last view of Gran Canaria as the plane climbed above the clouds. The past fortnight has been the perfect getaway. The last time she had been some place sunny and warm was Florida and, well, the less she thought about that the better. She and Eleanor had really had a marvelous time and she actually felt a bit wistful about returning to London and Baker St. As so often happened her thoughts drifted back to Sherlock. Ah, Sherlock. Almost nine months had gone by and the memories were still too fresh. She sighed and glanced at her sister. Eleanor had her earphones on and was engrossed in the in-flight entertainment. Just as she was about to retrieve her own headphones Martha caught sight of 'the picture', the one of Sherlock in the deer stalker, in the newspaper the man across the aisle was reading. She hadn't seen anything in the papers for months. She hoped, especially for John's sake, that it was just a single article, and that the press would let it go and just leave them alone. Dear John, she would have to ask him over to tea soon. It had been to much too long and she did worry about him.
Martha hadn't expected the VIP treatment they'd enjoyed during their holiday to continue after landing at Heathrow but when they exited the Jetway there was a neatly dressed young man holding a sign that said Hudson / Baker.
"Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Hudson we've been expecting you. Could you please follow me?" He smiled and escorted the two older women to a private travel lounge. They had some tea while they waited for someone to collect their luggage. Then they made their way to Ground Transportation. Martha hugged her sister one last time before the kind young man sent her on her way in a cab with an extra 10 for the driver to help with the bags. She smiled. The airport could be such a bother, this really was so lovely.
The young man then touched her elbow directing her backwards. Expecting her own cab, Mrs. Hudson was surprised to see a sleek black private car pull in behind her and positively astounded to see John Watson emerge from the rear seat.
"Hello, Mrs Hudson. How was your holiday? " John asked with a smile but Mrs Hudson's own smile faltered at the sight of him. John looked like he'd been in hospital. He was thinner and his arm was in some sort of harness like it was broken and he was limping badly as he approached.
"Oh John, what on Earth! Are you quite alright?" she exclaimed rushing to meet him.
"It's alright. I'm alright." He put a hand up to stop her, afraid of a hug. "I'm just a bit worse for wear at the moment." He leaned in to kiss her on the cheek before gesturing to the car. "Shall we?" They got into the rear seat as Craig put Mrs. Hudson's case in the boot. Worry clouded Mrs Hudson's face as she noticed John's grimace as he settled himself and the driver pulled away from the curb.
"John, it's so kind of you to meet me but, really, in your state? What happened? Were you in an accident?" Concern was etched across her face as a hand came cautiously to her lips.
"Ah, no. It's a bit hard to explain, actually. But I'm fine." The car made a sharp turn and John stiffened grasping the ceiling strap trying to hold himself still. Mrs. Hudson reached toward him. Her heart was in her throat.
"John Watson, tell me what's wrong this instant." she demanded.
"Sorry, Mrs H, sorry. It's OK, really. And nothing is wrong. I am actually the bearer of good news." He
gave her his best smile. She looked confused and still a bit wary. He continued smiling broadly as he held a folded copy of the Times out to her.
"It's about Sherlock. He's ... alive."
Mrs Hudson's expression fell to one of shock and disbelief as she gingerly opened the paper. There was 'the picture' under the headline
"Resurrection and Redemption of Reichenbach Detective".
She scanned the first paragraph and turned open mouthed to John who was still smiling.
"It's true. It really is. He turned up at my flat two weeks ago. Annoying, presumptuous git." John gave a one sided shrug. "It's a very long and involved story." He gestured to his own injuries. "And we thought it best that someone tell you in person rather than risk you seeing it first on telly or in the papers." John's smile was now a bit sheepish. Mrs Hudson remained speechless.
"Are you alright Mrs H? I know it's quite a lot to take in but it is all true."
"Oh, John. Oh, ... I ... that boy! He did this deliberately? He ... I ... he should not have done!" Tears were leaking from her eyes. Ever the gentleman, John gave her a tissue.
"Would you care to see him?" he asked gently. "I think he's quite looking forward to it, you know." John gave her another kind smile.
"Oh, I'm not sure of that. You know how he is. But, yes, I'd love to." She gave John a happy but watery smile.
"Baker St. OK?" John asked.
"That would be lovely, dear, although I won't have a thing in."
Sherlock pushed open the door to the flat with one hand. He paused in the open doorway and let his eyes take the room in. The sitting room and the kitchen were immaculate. Boxes were stacked in three neat piles by the window. He crossed to the window and gazed down at Baker St. and smiled.
This could be very nice indeed.
He shook himself mentally. Feeling sentiment for an empty set of rooms was illogical. As he walked back toward the kitchen he dragged a hand across the scarred mantle. He wondered where the knife had got to. The refrigerator was turned off with the door partially open. Of course Mrs Hudson had scrubbed it to within an inch of its life. Continuing his circuit, he pushed open the door to his bedroom. There we more piles of boxes in here and the bed was stripped but the periodic table was still on the wall. He smiled again. He stepped over to the closet. His clothes all hung in several garment bags and his shoes were in a box. Next to the box, in the far corner of the closet was his violin case. He froze at the sight of it. He removed the case from the closet and carried it to the sitting room holding it almost reverently out in front of himself. He opened the case and simply stared at the fine old instrument for a long while before lifting it from its place. He raised it to his chin and began to play, Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber.
Mrs Hudson paused on the sidewalk waiting for John to join her. As he motioned toward the door to 221B she placed a hand on his arm and pointed up. Over the noise of the street they could hear the faint strains filtering down.
Two weeks after Sherlock's resurrection Sherlock and John received their first summons to a crime scene. After exiting their cab, Sherlock swept eagerly under the blue and white tape then, obviously as an after thought, turned around to hold the tape up for John. Several members of the Met stared at Sherlock in suspicious disbelief as he extended this kindness, but then proceeded to ignored him as he began to spin about the scene in usual Freak fashion. Most of the Yarders did, however, pause to greet John as he made his way across the scene. He was still moving a bit slowly and stiffly but his smile was genuine, if a somewhat self-conscious. John was just acknowledging Mercer's welcome back when he caught sight of Sally Donovan. The detective sergeant gave him a long look before turning back to direct the team arriving from the coroner's office.
"John." Sherlock's voice cut through the night air. "Could you endeavour to return your attention, however meager, to the matter at hand."
John sighed and limped toward his flatmate and the partially dismembered corpse. He awkwardly knelt next to the corpse straightening his injured right leg out to the side to lean in more closely. The victims left arm had been cut off before death and the right after death but the victim had not exsanguinated. Sherlock looked positively gleeful at this assessment and was off in top form, rattling off obscure observations and making fantastic leaps of logic all while heaping derision upon anyone unlucky enough to enter his orbit. John was still on his knees trying to work out how to get back on to his feet. Lestrade noticed and moved to offer him a hand. Before he got there, Sherlock spun over extending his hand, never pausing in his discourse, and helped John pulled himself up. Lestrade was dumb-struck and missed the last three things Sherlock said. He asked Sherlock to repeat them but Sherlock had already grown more absorbed in the scene and had stopped talking altogether. He was merely making the odd random gesture as he stared into some middle distance. Mind palace, John recognized. He smiled apologetically to Lestrade and edged his way over toward Sally.
"Hello there, John," she said. "Well, you're looking better than the last time I saw you." She tried to say this brightly but wasn't quite able to pull it off.
"Thanks." John's reply was followed by an awkward silence which he eventually broke.
"Are we OK, Sgt. Donovan?" John gestured between the two of them. Sally regarded him thoughtfully. She knew the man before her was dangerous. She had seen him subdue a thug twice his size in the blink of an eye. She had him seen put the chief superintendent on his arse with one punch. She knew he had put two rounds through a man's heart from 31 metres away with a hand gun. He was dangerous and she knew it. John shifted a bit like he was trying to rid himself of a chill. His new jacket, a newer version of the same black jacket he'd always worn, didn't quite close all the way over his arm in its harness.
"John, come take a look at this," Sherlock suddenly bellowed from the far end of the scene.
John gave Sherlock a quick 'one minute' gesture and turned back to Sally. He flashed her a small, honest smile while he waited intently for her answer.
"John?" Sherlock called again impatiently. John sighed and rolled his eyes. Sally shook her head, the Freak, then she looked straight into John's eyes. Sally Donovan prided herself on being a good cop and having good cop instincts and she knew that she had absolutely no concerns whatsoever about John Watson. Dangerous, yes, but a danger, no.
"Yeah, John, we're good."
"Good, I'm glad," he said with a slight nod and another small smile before making his way back over to Sherlock.
Several days later Tim walked up to John with two cups of coffee just as John left the flat. They walked to the corner to where the sleek black sedan waited. Edwin was driving. He gave John a curt nod as he and Tim got into the rear seat. Tim and John conversed amicably and enjoyed their coffee as Edwin made his way across the city. Eventually they turned down an exclusive, posh street in Kensington and pulled into a gated drive. Edwin parked the car before the impressive main entrance of a large and very impressive house. Tim got out first and offered John a hand which he shook off.
"He's waiting for you," Tim said nodding toward the house. John rolled his eyes and sighed giving Tim a weak smile and a parting handshake before limping up to the grand door. He had barely knocked once when the door was opened.
"Dr. Watson, Mr. Holmes will see you in the library. If you'll please follow me." John followed the man, the butler he supposed, through the stone-floored foyer and down a hallway toward the rear of the house. The butler pushed open a set of heavy double doors then stood to the side allowing John to enter. The servant offered John tea but he declined. The man nodded and pulled the doors closed as he withdrew. The room John found himself in was impressive, quite impressive indeed. He strolled around its perimeter taking it all in. The walls, at least those not covered by shelves of books, were paneled in a rich-looking exotic wood. On the wall across from the double doors was a set of large french doors that opened on to a very English garden. He would have wagered a months pay that the rug was an authentic oriental and at lease 100 years old. Everything emanated an air of wealth, entitlement, and privilege, things quite foreign to John but that he had, nonetheless, learned to recognize. The room was very, very ... Mycroft. He stopped to peer into a glass display case. A old book lay open to a middle page. John smiled thoughtfully as he scanned it.
"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but -I hope - into a better shape."
John was startled by the sound of the door and turned his head to see Mycroft striding into the room. He was dressed, as always, in a well tailored three-piece suit and held a thin cardboard box in one hand.
"Hello, John. You're looking well." Mycroft said.
"Hello." John replied politely. "Is this a first edition?" he tapped the glass.
Mycroft beamed. "Well spotted."
"But it's Great Expectations. Forgive me for being indelicate but how the hell did it end up in a private collection.
"Fine old books are a passion I inherited from my father and his father. This library holds 78 first edition that I'm very proud of. Well, shortly to be 79, I hope." Mycroft gestured to the box as he placed it on a side table next to a pair of leather wingback chairs. John nodded genuinely impressed. He had always appreciated books even though his personal "library" consisted mostly of medical texts and paperbacks and could fit in a single book case.
"Do have a seat, John. Can I help you with your coat?" Mycroft continued.
John straightened, slightly rankled, a reaction Mycroft seemed so adept at causing.
"No. Thanks." John replied as he slid out of his jacket one-handed and neatly laid the coat across the arm of the sofa. He then walked over the proffered chair trying his damnedest not to limp too much.
"Why am I here?" he asked as he sat.
"I'm afraid I've been remiss in visiting during your convalescence. How's the leg?" Mycroft asked, ignoring John's question, as he arranged himself in his own chair.
John met his eyes and held them for a beat, "Fine."
"That's good. And the the ribs?" the older man continued genially.
"Hurt like a bastard." John fired back and Mycroft's pleasant expression faltered slightly.
"Yes, well, I guess that is to be expected." he said. "How's Mrs. Hudson getting on? Not too put out by my brother's return, I hope?"
"She's fine. Had the time of her life in the Canary Islands. Thanks for that, by the way," John returned with a nod. Where was this verbal boxing match of excessive politeness going? Mycroft Holmes did not engage in idle chat.
"Think nothing of it. And your sister, Harriet, she is well?"
"Yes. Good. Her firm landed the Toronto customer. But, then, you knew that." Mycroft's smile grew sly.
"Why am I here?" John pressed.
Mycroft fished into the pocket of his waistcoat and withdrew the USB memory stick John had given him several weeks earlier.
"I wanted to return this to you." He handed the device over to the ex-soldier. John took it slowly then sat back. In that one moment everything came flooding back, the grief and the hurt, the fear and the desperation, the anger and the hate. He quickly turned away choosing to stare at the shelves of fine old books.
"I owe you a great debt, John. One I fear I shall never be able to repay." Mycroft said solemnly. For once, his voice held no pretense. "You willingly took a tremendous risk and you paid for it most dearly. I am sorry for that." John didn't know how to respond. He drew in a deep breath still focused on the wall.
"I would, however, ask one more favor of you." John slowly looked back at Mycroft wondering what the powerful man could possibly want from him now.
"I ask that you indulge me and my love of good books." Mycroft opened the thin cardboard box. "I hope you forgive me but took the liberty of having these bound without asking your permission," he handed John a thin volume wrapped in a black leather cover. On the front, the title was struck in gold letters.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
by John H. Watson, MD
John was speechless. He opened the book. On the overleaf there was a profile silhouette of Sherlock wearing the deer stalker. He scanned the table of contents, A Study in Pink, The Blind Banker, The Naval Treatment, The Hounds of Baskerville, plus several others. He flipped through the first several chapters. These were the detailed case stories. The ones he had written up but never bothered doing anything with. Sherlock gave him enough grief about the blog already.
"Mycroft, I don't understand? Why ..." John looked up, speechless again.
"They really are quite good, you know. The stories. And I am not alone in my assessment. An old university classmate of mine is a principal at Knight's Bridge Publishing. If you are amenable he believes a first printing of ten thousand copies would be in order." Mycroft reached inside his jacket and withdrew an embossed envelope and handed it to John. John examined the contents, his mouth still half open in disbelief. Inside the envelope was a publishing contract, a substantial publishing contract. John's expression grew suspicious. He shook his head and sighed.
"Mycroft, you don't have to do this. It's very flattering and all, and I know you probably mean well but you don't need to pay to have this published just to say thanks, or whatever."
"I didn't, John. All I did was provided the stories to my associate. The contract is quite genuine and entirely based on the merits of your work. My only request is that you gift to me a signed copy of this special first edition." Mycroft pointed at the book and handed John his fountain pen. John settled back in the chair and regarded the elder Holmes with his head cocked slightly as if to say 'Really?'. Then he smiled and huffed out a breath.
"You know he'll be annoyed and probably insufferable. I mean, even more annoying and insufferable." John said dryly with faux concern. A wicked grinned spread across Mycroft's face.
"No doubt," he replied.
John returned the conspiratorial grin and signed the overleaf.
AN – And that's it! Thanks to all of you who read, followed, favorited and/or reviewed. You are the best! A special shout out to the anonymous and guest reviewers, to whom I couldn't reply. The comments and feedback are unbelievably encouraging and really help keep a writer going. Lots of writers say that and it's absolutely true! Posting to the internet is a bit like throwing your work into a black hole. You have no idea, really, where it goes. So, there is nothing more encouraging than to see the reviews and the favs and follows.
I have no beta and I am always going back and reviewing and correcting my chapters & stories. Keep an eye out for theses updates as well as for a few new story ideas I have kicking around. If anyone has a prompt idea please send it. The new stories will probably be one shots! Writing mutli-chaptered stuff is hard and very time consuming. I have to make an appearance back in real life once in a while.
Not beta'd or Brit picked.
I make no claims to any of these wonderful characters. Any quoted dialog or plot references that you recognize are not mine. The title of the blog entry is, of course, a nod to the famous quote by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." The quote in the last scene in Mycroft's library is from Dicken's Great Expectations. Finally, the bit about John giving up on the concept of 'why' was inspired by on of my all-time favorite Sherlock fanfics 'Adequacies' by A.J. Hall.
I have made no money from this work. It has been a blast, 'though. Does that count as profit?