For Flavia’s Triptych “All Lives End…All Hearts are Broken”
JOHN WATSON / MORTALITAS
Hyperventilating and he had to stop it. He couldn’t give in now, break, weep, scream. Not until he was sure there was no chance, no hope, and no goddamned mistake. Just like Sherlock to race off and leave such an unholy mess in his wake. Going to waltz in the door any minute, demanding tea, pens, a mobile, some obscure bit of something that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with Moriarty or Rich Brook or whatever the hell the madman was calling himself, but Sherlock would explain that it was the answer to everything. And it would be, god help him, it would be. Any minute now, it would all make some kind of sense.
It had to be something Sherlock was playing at, some plan he didn’t bother to share beforehand. The prat, always leaving him two steps behind, racing to catch up. They could fight their way through this, that’s what they did! The chases, the fights. Maybe he wasn’t bright enough to do the deductions himself but he always had Sherlock’s back. Why the hell had he left Sherlock alone?
Damn him! That was no cry for help; he had to want an ending! How dare he take himself away! Sherlock must have set up that stupid phone call, made sure he stayed away just long enough that he couldn’t interfere! He shouldn’t have stopped; he should have raced up the stairs, torn down the doors, and hauled Sherlock off that sodding ledge by force! The bastard wanted him to tell people he was a fraud. Not just people, special people. Molly, oh god, Mrs. Hudson. The only thing fraudulent about Sherlock was that he was supposed to be here! In the next jail cell maybe, but here, figuring out this nightmare, making that bastard pay!
Someone had to pay. Everything spun so badly out of control right after NSY showed up. It had to have been Donovan running her damned mouth, Anderson egging her on, which brought it all down. He should have knocked that stupid bint right on her pompous, ambitious ass, but Lestrade…he’d never forgive him. Not for one damned minute. Bloody Judas, hanging Sherlock out in the wind like that to save his own skin. No. Cold day in hell before they’d speak again. He’d always thought that if something had went horribly wrong, if something had happened to Sherlock, at least he would have Lestrade in his own corner. Never again.
And to be betrayed, sold out by his own brother! Did Sherlock have to be so bloody Shakespearean? He’d always assumed they were equally intelligent, but this showed which one had the heart. Sherlock would never have done such a thing to Mycroft, not for some stupid, empty hope of getting information from a madman. “The British Government” couldn’t have stopped publication, at least made the Yard back off? Gotten Sherlock a little running room? Useless. Maybe the trial should have told him that. Mycroft had told him he was Sherlock’s arch-enemy the first time they made contact; Sherlock said Mycroft was the most dangerous man he would meet. They didn’t both have to be right!
He should have tried harder, seen what the scrutiny was doing to Sherlock. He thought it was just him being him. Sherlock told him genius needs an audience, the spotlight, applause and the press gave him that. He thought the discomfort was Sherlock’s usual irritation, his impatience with the more ridiculous parts of dealing with others. He even tried to warn him when it was getting out of control! The only thing the press likes more than building someone up was watching them… To then have that evil bastard manipulate even that to suit his own ends burned. Oh shit, he’d done it. Moriarty burned the heart out of him.
Baskerville should have been the biggest warning that he was losing Sherlock. He said he had no friends. The stupid git had called him a friend before he could use the word in return. The word came so hard to him. He had watched friends shot, blown up, dying as he tried to patch them back together again, killed outright. No, not now. Don’t look at that tonight. It couldn’t be happening again, it just couldn’t.
Sherlock said alone was what he had; that alone protected him. He should have been protecting him. Sherlock could be alone even when they were in the same room. He should have been on that roof, talked him through it, hit him over the head, broken his damned legs, or done whatever it took to keep him from that edge.
Maybe he ought to go up on that roof tonight. Watch the sun rise. See what Sherlock saw from where he saw it. All the way down to the concrete below. They’d know; Mrs. Hudson, Molly, Mycroft, even Lestrade. He couldn’t do that to them, not now. Sherlock would have known that, wouldn’t he? Bastard had to have his one final unreasonable demand, didn’t he? Damn him. He had to come back.
SHERLOCK HOLMES / RENASCENTIA
Body betraying him again; the adrenaline should be gone entirely, but the tremors continued. He snorted. Near terminal velocity must have aftereffects. Waste of time arguing it; it would flush from his system soon enough. The exhaustion was already pulling at him, but shock still held dominion. In so many ways, game over.
All he wanted was to go back to Baker Street, pick up his violin, and ignore his mobile and the papers and the news. Shut it all out, away, far from the life he’d tried to build for himself. The small circle he had just begun to call friends, even if only in his mind. He was never very good at it, but had hoped over time, John could have shown him how. He had thought the risk was his own. Moriarty proved otherwise. Maybe he should have listened to Mycroft, stayed with the skull and the silence. Hurting no one, especially himself. Instead, he’d hurt them all.
The tide had already built enough force to be unstoppable and the recovery of Turner’s Reichenbach painting had been the tipping point. The tsunami was in motion even if he hadn’t heard the roaring. The wave had grown in height and speed after that, but that had been the moment it had all turned. “Hero” and “genius” were two of the least offensive terms the press had come up with, but both made his blood run cold. He knew where those terms led to.
He knew this game well, had watched it played out repeatedly as far back as he could remember. The press would find someone; anyone that they felt would sell papers or ad time. They’d be placed on a pedestal, their so-called accomplishments screamed from banners or scrawled across screens. Hangers on would talk it all up for their own place in the spotlight. Sooner or later, reality intruded on this blissfully photogenic scene. A sportsman stumbled, a celebrity spoke out of turn, a politician got caught, and then it all crumbled away. Disgrace, embarrassment, humiliation. Endless coverage until some new shiny toy came along.
All it took was the smallest of poisons, the hint of blood in the water and the feeding frenzy would begin. The hangers on abandoned ship, the casual acquaintances saw profit in knowledge; even friends sometimes turned their backs, unable to withstand the unblinking scrutiny. He had always assumed facing that would be negligible. Far worse had been said to him directly, openly, from many quarters. It wasn’t until he found himself accepting trinkets and being posed for pictures that he realized what he’d missed: the “confirmed bachelor”. John would be caught in the center as well. The law of unintended consequences. He’d have to try to draw the fire to himself when the time came, spare John the brunt of the impact.
It wasn’t until Moriarty showed his face again that he realized how precarious a position he’d been maneuvered into. The spotlight he’d never wanted drew the ire he’d never bothered to concern himself with. It was worse than arguing with a brick wall. He’d been accused of participating in cases he’d been trying to solve before, but it had never gone beyond a handful of people. He’d had the luxury of time to prove the truth, clearing himself in the process. Now it all ran wildfire, one case casting doubt on the next, and then the next and so on. A chain reaction that might never be contained. In the meantime, the shadow casting itself across the whole, Moriarty cleaned his slate, walking free, stripping him of the one anchor he’d always clung to: the work. Burn the heart out of him, indeed.
He’d known it would be Donovan as soon as he’d watched that ridiculous “fairy tale”. She would have at least made some rational argument. With Anderson, it would be plain bald spite. Lestrade would have been pushed into action, not only to save his job, but because he would think he could still help if he were on the inside. Mycroft may have been able to intervene, but Moriarty wouldn’t allow enough time. John’s desire to protect him was astounding, but had to be stopped. The only way to keep John safe would be to keep him as far from all of it as possible. Simply ordering him away would never work. He knew that the moment they were side by side at the police car.
He took a moment, staring at the lights in the London night. Moriarty had said he was on the side of the angels. Lucifer was an angel, a fallen angel. If he was going to shake Moriarty’s hand in hell, he’d make sure he wasn’t waiting alone.
He’d never imagined the costs could go so high, that he could bring down such danger. Even with the spider dead, the web remained and all he thought he’d saved could be back imperiled in an instant. If it had only been himself, he would have simply waited until the web came for him. Not now. He may not be a hero, but the job needed doing and no one else seemed willing.
Molly’s demand still burned in his ears. Thinking of it made him want to reach out, clench, but there was only empty air. He’d had to hide from her in the end, deep inside, but she’d known. She’d leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Lie to me.” She’d whispered. “You know how.”
Everything had burned to ash around him, but somehow he had to sift for what remained and go on. Sentiment was not an advantage, but sometimes it was the only reason to go on. Being alone would protect him from ever hurting any of them again.
MOLLY HOOPER / SPIRITUS
The homeless girl still had some pride, her hair drawn up neatly and pinned in a bun. She asked for spare change and Molly dropped into her heartbroken half act (half far too real), saying she had none, but had given the girl the bag of pies as if she were too upset to eat. She didn’t know if the bag held anything else, or even why she was delivering it this way, but he asked and that was all she needed to know. God help her if Sherlock ever sent a pirate map; she’d be wandering all over London going “twenty seven steps north as the crow flies, turn left for ten more”.
She had the undeniable sensation that the world should have stopped with him. He wasn’t really dead, had not stopped, so it was a silly feeling. Maybe she’d use that as a signal from fate; as long as the world kept going, he must be alive somewhere. Desperation she couldn’t afford. Day was coming soon and she would lock herself into the well worn mask, the mouse, easily forgotten, scurrying beneath any radar. It would actually be a comfort, but she still willed the night to go on. Give him more time to get where he needed to be.
She would find ways to take care of the rest; she loved them all as he did, even if he hadn’t known it, couldn’t name it as such. So far from normal, neither of them had ever truly fit in anywhere, but maybe she knew the dance just a bit better than he had. Mrs. Hudson would need a warm body to talk to, someone to drink tea and maybe more with as she told the tales of the man she almost called son. Lestrade could afford to be held at arms length, and thank god for it, because what she felt for him at the moment was contempt. That would change, but for now, she had the liberty of some distance. He had told her to only risk contact with Mycroft under the direst of circumstances, but she had known no circumstances could be that dire. John would be the hardest, both to face and to lie to, but he had to be kept as far from the truth as he could be taken. He could unknowingly jeopardize Sherlock; jeopardize them all if he couldn’t be persuaded that what he had witnessed was real. It would break her heart, but she couldn’t deny him. She never could.
She had known he wasn’t telling the truth, at least the whole truth as they had prepared what he planned. She wanted explanations, assurances, but was afraid there weren’t any. Maybe there wasn’t time, but then again maybe he couldn’t lie that well. Her lip would have trembled if she hadn’t already bitten it numb.
Drawing his blood had brought it all into sharp focus. He had a case where the proof was frozen blood and it made him cautious to make this aspect as real as possible. She’d need some samples for his “autopsy”, but there were chances, like on John’s clothing, that any testing had to show the blood was clearly his. Fortunately, it wouldn’t take more than a pint to be convincing.
She could see it in his eyes as they waited for the bag to fill. He was thinking he had somehow inflicted this on them. She had tried to tell him how she had done the autopsies on the completely random people who had died in the apartment explosion Moriarty’s bomb had caused, that she had a morgue full of bodies killed by other, less interesting methods, that life itself was a terminal experience, but she knew she wasn’t getting through.
The time had evaporated so quickly, and she let it take her fears with it. Only a handful of moments left and she knew she had to say it, just this once, in case it was the only chance she’d ever have. He still sat on one of the lab stools as she stood, as close to eye to eye as they came.
“Sherlock,” her voice was breaking, but the tears didn’t escape. “I love you. I’ve never made that your problem, never asked anything of you, but I’m going to ask now.” He was staring and she had to keep going before she lost the nerve. “Do what you have to, get it as over as you can, but then come home to your family.”
He seemed confused. “Mycroft…”
“No. Not the family you were born to. The family you’ve chosen, the family that chose you. We need you and I think you need us.” She leaned in then, but realized if she kissed him as she’d intended, the finality would rip her apart. At the last second, she veered, kissing his cheek as he had kissed hers on that Christmas. A placeholder.
She stopped in the doorway. “Promise me you’ll be okay.” She turned back to him, the tears finally winning their freedom. “Lie to me. You know how.”
From anyone else, that half smile would have been a death knell. If there was no hope he would have lied, easily, readily. No answer meant there was still a chance and it would have to be enough.
She locked the door to her flat quietly behind her. Time to lay down one pretense and pick up another. No more pointless dating, her flesh could follow her heart into that glass case. The Mouse would become her full time persona. The more distant she was, the less chance of a slip. She would be alone, and alone would protect him, keep him safe.