The good thing about being Sherlock Holmes’ partner when the zombie apocalypse inevitably began was that as soon as shit hit the fan, Mycroft had come in handy. After the infection started to spread across the capital, instead of fleeing to the country, as people had done in their thousands, Vin and Sherlock had moved into two rooms beneath the Tower of London. It was dark, dank and cold. They used candles and oil lamps for light, huddled together under blanket after blanket to keep warm at night. But it was impenetrable. They knew those going to the country would eventually be knocked off. It was unavoidable. And so the plan was for Mycroft’s men to find a secure, quarantined location outside of Britain where they could be flown to once it was reasonably safe to do so. They were the elite. They had a way out. They would be among the ones to begin in the New World.
The days were long. Sherlock had grown quieter. He had asked for infected tissue and was trying to understand the rapidly denaturing virus, which changed structure so quickly, the cure eluded him and hundreds of other scientists around the world who were trying so desperately for it. There were beakers and pipettes strewn about the place, and pipes with strangely coloured liquids littered the large mahogany table they’d manage to nab from upstairs. In the candle-light, reflected through glass, it almost looked magical.
The days were long, but they had what they needed. Once a week, Vin ventured out, not too far, and scavenged for food. The crows that circled the Tower were fair game. Vin left them to last, as the report from her shotgun attracted the Bitten. Sometimes, she’d capture pigeons; their meat was sweet and tasty. She cooked them over the fire in a small wrought-iron stove in the corner of one of their rooms. Fresh produce was impossible by now, but she made runs to abandoned corner stores and supermarkets in the out-of-commission Black Cab Mycroft had given them. Gun in hand, she trawled the aisles for remaining food. Sometimes, one of the Bitten stumbled into the shop. Vin would get creative if she thought she could get away with it. A broomstick through the eye. A coke bottle wedged into the soft palate. The silencer on her gun came in handy when she found herself outnumbered.
They ate lots of baked beans, beetroot, tinned potato salads, rice, pasta with sauce from the can. Invariably, she would come back to the safe-house with her haul and a few bottles of hard liquor. They had what they needed. Each night, they made sure the gate was closed, the locks bolted shut. Huddled up on their mattress by the dying embers in the stove, bellies full of tinned food, Sherlock and Vin would drink until the world was a haze, stroke each others’ skin and tell each other stories of Before. They had never known each other as intimately as they did then. They hung on to every word. Hung on to each other for sanity, for warmth, for love, as they always had. But even making love was a lot more profound when the world was ending on the other side of the wall. The apocalypse, they found, was an aphrodisiac. At the end of the world, Vin and Sherlock felt like Adam and Eve. There was a small part of Vin that hoped there’d never be a New World. As long as they could sustain this life, she would be happy to.
"Maybe we could find ourselves on a remote island somewhere," she said once, absentmindedly looping his curls around her finger. "You could finally get to raise your bees. I’d hunt for food. The water would keep us safe. You could study the indigenous flora. We’d have everything." They fell asleep to shared dreams of lush greenery and sun-drenched days.
The thought of turning didn’t cross their minds very often. They imagined their death would be different. If they did die, it would be of hypothermia, wrapped up so tightly against each other that when they were rotting, nature would not know where her body ended and where his began. “If you turn,” he said, “I want to go with you. You are not allowed to leave me like that.”
"I wouldn’t dream of it."
Weeks passed. Outside, winter turned into spring, the seasons marching on despite the death of a species. The city was dead, moss began to grow around cars and buildings. Vin had never seen so many stars in the London sky in her life.
Sherlock’s work seemed to have taken a turn for the better. Often, he’d jump up, fists in the air, muttering his approval at a chemical reaction, then frantically take down notes in his scrawl. It always made her laugh, how a man of his intellectual prowess could never have mastered cursive. She loved it anyway, the inked letters wedged against each other, vying for space. It was completely illegible, of course. Sometimes he startled her. It seemed he only cursed when he was happy or successful. Often, he jittered excitedly about RNA genomes. It was gibberish to her but she listened attentively.
As for herself, she felt she had purpose. She provided them with food and nourishment and, she couldn’t lie, using the Bitten as target practice was the best form of therapy she could think of. She was in a constant state of buzz - adrenaline from shooting or endorphins from fucking.
Holmes fucked better when he was happy or successful.
Vin had found another shop to scour. She sang softly to herself as she filled the trolley up. Paper napkins. Tea. Sugar. Soups. Corned beef. She’d hit upon a proper goldmine here, she thought, as she continued to fill the trolley. If she managed to catch a pigeon they could have a big dinner tonight. She put a bottle of wine in too. For some reason, she felt like today would be a good day. Holmes would finally get it completely right. They would eat and celebrate together.
At the Tower, Mycroft was paying his brother a visit. “Prepare your things, little brother,” he said. “We’ve found an island off the coast of Mexico. It’s small and there isn’t much, but it’s clean. We leave tomorrow.”
Sherlock, despite the cold, disapproving look on his face, reserved only for Mycroft, felt a flutter of happiness in his chest.
Vin heard a grunt from behind the shop counter. She was used to this now. Could do it in her sleep. Breaking a broomstick in two, she twirled one half around as she went over to investigate. The Bitten held a hand out toward her face. It was a man in his 40s, dressed in a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Vin drove her makeshift stake into his skull.
She didn’t hear the soft shuffling of slippers behind her. Not until the sharp, burning pain seared across her back did she notice anything was amiss. She turned around to see a little girl, pink rabbit slippers, her black tongue licking at her hands to catch the strips of Vin’s skin beneath her nails. Without a second thought, Vin shoved her away. She fell to the floor and cracked her skull open.
Vin reached to touch her own back, then looked at her hand. Ruby red blood stained her skin. She blinked once, then pushed the trolley back to the Black Cab, loading her loot into the back. She pain became sharper now. It hurt like a bitch. The scratches cut across her old scars, tore through the violin tattoo. She sat in the driver’s seat, not quite believing it.
Starting the car, she began to drive back to their hideout. He would know what to do. Surely, he would. He always. did. God, her back ached. She shifted and looked back at the seat. It was a shock to see black. Like tar, not blood. Was that really gushing out of her? She realised she was crying, but not out of sadness. Out of frustration. Out of understanding she couldn’t really go back to him and burden him with this. She tried to think about the last night they’d spent together, as she drove through the familiar streets, through her city. She thought about his lips on her lips. And she thought about his arm around her. Flesh. No. She thought about his hair and his stupid handwriting. She was so hungry. She felt cold. Clammy. Sweaty.
She reached her destination and sat in the car, thinking about him. Of course she couldn’t go back. Of course he couldn’t turn - he would possibly be the one to finally solve the puzzle of the virus. His ultimate case. His magnum opus. Nor could she make him have to be the one to put her out of her misery. He was so close, she knew, she could see the door. It took all the willpower she could muster not to go and see him a last time. She smoked a cigarette instead, doing her best to enjoy it, the smoke hitting the back of her throat, the nicotine rushing through her veins to bind with whatever sickness was now also coursing through her blood. He had to live. Even she was not that selfish.
She pulled her Glock out of her pocket, felt the weight of it in her hands. It had always served her well, had often saved her. It was almost an extension of her hand. The barrel felt cold and hard between her teeth, tongue pressed against it. She knew it would be better this way. It would be over quickly. She was so hungry.
She pulled the trigger.