“Sherlock Holmes was the best person I ever knew,” Jane Watson says with a steady voice. It’s not the first time she’s said these words, not the first time she’s meant them either. This time, though, she won’t stand in front of Sherlock’s gravestone and beg for her to be alive, pray for one single, solitary miracle. This time, there are is no possibility of sleight of hand, no smoke and mirrors. There is just Sherlock, dead and soon to be in the ground with a bullet from Jane’s gun still in her brain.
(This funeral is very different from the first one, Jane thinks afterward. There is deja vu of course, nothing anyone can do about that, but perhaps less than Jane expected.)
The pallbearers--men who’d met Sherlock on the job, who had been young DSs and young criminals when she’d blown into their lives, down to the last--carry the casket to grave site, this one next to Mycroft’s own plot. Jane had grown fond of Mycroft over the years, as he steadfastly set about earning Sherlock’s forgiveness, and perhaps a little of her own. He’d had more than thirty years to change her mind after all.
She leans on her cane as they lower Sherlock into the ground, and misses the steady presence of Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade that kept her upright through the last one. Mrs. Hudson has been gone for years, and Lestrade will follow on Sherlock’s heel to the grave.
(After, she goes to sit by Lestrade’s bedside. She holds his hand, and he has enough strength to crack his eyes open for the slightest of moments. The book is on the nightstand, the one she and Sherlock had written with the fading memories of their lives, and so she reaches for it, and turns to the middle of the first chapter. Lestrade’s hand is cool in hers and she is exhausted, but she doesn’t want to be the last of them, doesn’t want to leave behind the adventures they had had, so she reads: “Sherlock smiled and said, ‘Want to see some more?’ I replied, ‘Oh, god, yes,’ and our partnership was born.”
She keeps reading into the night, brushing off the nurses’ half-hearted attempts to get her to take a break. Lestrade breathes his last breath just as she gets to Sherlock’s miraculous return after her swan dive off the St. Bart’s roof. Jane doesn’t stop, instead she reads until the morning light cracks through the windows, and her eyes droop. She’s reading a chase scenes, one she barely remembers participating in, when the nurses gentle the books out of her hands.)
Jane wakes, alone in bed, and is surprised to see the sunlight filtering through the window. As she’s grown older, she’s been less and less able to sleep a full night, and usually she beats the sun out of bed in the morning. Sherlock is probably already out with her bees, and so Jane pulls on a pair of battered jeans and a jumper, and heads downstairs to put on some morning tea and to hopefully convince Sherlock to partake as well.
(Sherlock left a teacup on the table. After, Jane can’t bring herself to move it for almost a week. Each morning she stares at it like it’s a clue, the last clue Sherlock ever left her.)
The gun is gone from the mantle, she notices just as her foot clears the last step and Jane is hit by a wave of grief. She knows, she’s known all along, even come to accept that this was how it was to end. Still, she is frozen for a moment, half on the stairs, half off, unwilling to go further.
Jane steels herself. This is what she’s been preparing herself for after all, this is what Sherlock has chosen. Jane might’ve wanted something different, had offered drugs to ease Sherlock along. Sherlock, of course, had wanted to go out with one last bang, and Jane has always been willing to let Sherlock have the things she really needs.
The sky is terribly blue and all too clear and Jane goes directly to where she knows she’ll find the body. Sherlock is under the big oak when Jane goes to find her. She’s peaceful there surrounded by green grass, buzzing bees and her own blood.
(The girls down the hill call it Sherlock’s tree now, and in a few year no one will remember why the tree has a name, just that it does.)
Sherlock crawls into bed with her in the middle of the night with a murmured, “Mine’s too cold.” Jane budges over to give Sherlock room. Sherlock is even less substantial now than when they first met, pointy elbows and knees that chase Jane up against the wall, and give Sherlock the expanse of the bed. She’s never been all that interested in food, and now she has an even stronger argument for her forgetfulness.
(It’s odd looking back. Jane has slept alone more often than not. Sherlock rarely had any interest in sleep, or in human contact, and Jane’s own marriage had been so brief. Still, every time she slides into bed after, it is to the thought of how empty it is.)
Jane had sent the last draft of the book to their editor before bed, this time with names changed and details obscured. The Yard is still going to pitch a fit of course, but Lestrade had given it his seal of approval and his final blessing, and so Jane can’t find it in herself to care too much. Sherlock's last task is done, and so Jane attempts to enjoy those pointy elbows.
(They’d shared a drink that night, though Jane knew Sherlock was remembering a past victory as they clinked their glasses. She still has the bottle of scotch, missing one more cup than it was that night.)
Sherlock stares at her for a moment, clearly attempting to retrieve a memory that is not cooperating.
“Jane,” Jane supplies.
“Dr. Watson,” Sherlock replies with a curt nod. It takes almost fifteen minutes of polite conversation before the fog lifts from Sherlock’s eyes, and says, “Jane,” like she has every time since Jane ran after her on that first chase.
(Even then Jane had known it was the end, that Sherlock would be dead by the end of the week. She was only holding out for the last of the edits, only holding on for a last bit of immortality.)
Jane knows they are losing ground, and she just wants Sherlock to hold on. She doesn’t want to lose her a second time. It’s strange, this process of mourning Sherlock’s death long before she actually dies. Each day Sherlock remembers less, is less herself. She tried to cover it, deducing as best she can, but even her skills can no longer cover for the gaps in her memory.
Jane spends the next day editing old blog posts into a more narrative form, enclosing comments and case notes into a story of flashing brilliance, keen deduction, and not a small amount of danger. She’s been working backwards, it seemed prudent somehow, and Sherlock had agreed. Jane’s spinning out their last case with Lestrade, which is all the more painful with yesterday’s revelations of Lestrade's own mortality.
Jane has known Lestrade almost as long as she’s known Sherlock. She not surprised that Sherlock had deduced the fatality of the cancer, nor that Lestrade had perhaps not planned on telling her.
(Lestrade’s a fighter, he fights until the very end, even after they tell him the chemo isn’t helping.)
Sherlock wanders back into the house just before dusk, and sit quietly next to Jane as she types. Sherlock has never been so quiet, but the disease and its uncertainty seem to make Sherlock cautious when she’s not railing against the frailty of the human body.
“It will be real this time,” Sherlock says suddenly, taking her eyes off the gun on the mantle to hold Jane’s gaze. Sherlock’s last suicide had been a surprise, reaching out of nowhere to slap Jane across the face.
“I know,” Jane says, and thinks of kneeling on the hard concrete of St. Barts, thinks of standing in the soft grass next to Sherlock’s grave, thinks of laying in Sherlock’s empty bed using her sheets as a handkerchief.
(Lestrade had said, in the pub they’d declare their local, that if Sherlock was a man, he’d of hit him for that stunt. Jane had considered it, but the look on Sherlock’s face when she first saw her again had stayed Jane’s hand. Sherlock is Sherlock, and she fits in all the places of Jane that were hollowed out.)
Two weeks after Sherlock moves into the house, Jane catches her staring at the pistol. It happens again through out the next month, but Sherlock doesn’t say anything and Jane doesn’t ask. It’s the same weapon Jane once used to save Sherlock’s life from a deranged cabbie. Lost to Sebastian Moran, and then to Scotland Yard’s evidence locker, and retrieved only with the combined powers of Sherlock and Lestrade, with a bit of magic from Mycroft to make the thing legal. It had been the first move in Mycroft’s campaign to earn Sherlock’s forgiveness, and Jane had bristled at the presumption. She hadn’t turned down the license though. Sherlock ran toward danger too often for Jane to refuse such a thing.
(She doesn’t regret it--keeping the gun--even now that Sherlock had put it to its final use, though Jane lets the Met keep it this time.)
“You should write a book,” Sherlock says in the sitting room of 221 B where Jane has come to visit. “I’ll come up from London, to make sure you get the details right, you understand.” Sherlock is the same as ever, even when Jane is looking for signs of the disease.
“A book?” Jane asks, and knows that’s not what they are talking about at all.
“A book,” Sherlock replies firmly. “We’ll start with the cabbie, your Study in Pink. Make sure it gets told right. In fact, we'll start now.”
Jane smiles, a little hesitantly, but the idea grows on her. While the blog had originally just been a way of getting Ella off her back, it had turned out well, and Jane had even come to enjoy it, and the way it could make Sherlock snarl in disgust or preen for days depending on Jane’s words.
“Laptop, Jane,” Sherlock snaps as inspiration strikes, and Jane just nods and grabs her computer like it’s old days and they are on a case. She feels a rush of adrenaline, of excitement, like there might just be another adventure left to have.
“I’m not sure if I ever told you this, but after the incident with the cabbie, I told Lestrade he was looking for a crack shot, a fighter. Someone with excellent aim, and strong moral character,” Sherlock tells her. “Of course, I also mentioned he was looking for a very tall man, though I don’t think he quite believed me about that bit.” Sherlock leans back in her chair as Jane types, weaving her tale as if Jane had wandered into Sherlock’s life just yesterday, as if they had all the time in the world for danger and adventure and each other.
Sherlock talks and Jane types and it feels like the beginning again.