When he regained consciousness, he heard what sounded like distant voices calling and dismissed it. His dazed mind was merely remembering Moriarty's enraged cry as they fell into the abyss, or was hallucinating voices in the pounding of the falls.
He had been unlucky enough to fall through the spray onto a thin strip of rock bordering the torrent, or so he inferred from the unforgiving surface beneath him and the mist that continuously soaked his clothing.
He had not opened his eyes, would not open his eyes.
Where he was did not matter; he was not long for this world. He preferred to keep his mind's eye focused on the image of the one for whom he had willingly sacrificed.
Once before he had died with his gaze upon Watson and found it a pleasant way to pass, certainly more pleasant than speculating about how many of his bones remained intact.
He was sorry Watson had to see them go over--sorry for Watson but not sorry for himself. He greedily clung to that last sight of his friend.
He heard Watson's voice calling his name, coming closer and closer as if summoned, and he knew he must be near the end. Then other voices joined Watson's and his certainty faltered. His confusion was complete when he heard shuffling footsteps--the wet rock was slippery, a part of his brain supplied--and he felt someone touch him.
"Mr. Holmes?" a strange voice said nearly in his ear, and he flinched.
"No, no, let me. I'm a doctor. Go get a litter or something to carry him." Watson's voice was impatient.
More foot-shuffling, and he felt Watson gingerly take his hand. His grip was warm. Watson's other hand brought momentary warmth to the exposed side of his face then stroked over his hair, and he abruptly realized he was lying on his side.
"Holmes? Can you hear me?"
He took a breath to speak but coughed instead, tasting blood. He tried again. "Watson," he rasped.
Watson's hand cupped his cheek and turned his head. "Holmes, look at me."
"Are you alone?"
"What? Yes, we're alone."
It took a monumental effort to drag open his eyelids and when he did, his vision was blurred. He blinked to clear it a bit. "Always good to see you, Watson," he said with difficulty.
Watson's eyes were wet and his voice was strained. "You might have tried for the water, Holmes. Rock is not a good place to land."
"So I've found," he said, quirking his lips in an attempt to smile. His eyes began to close again of their own accord and he forced them open in time to see Watson's brave face begin to crumble. He managed to twitch his fingers around Watson's.
Watson was struggling with what to say next, and what came out was, "Do you need something for the pain?"
A kind question, one that recognized any other efforts would be in vain. "No. I am beyond even the capability of my adrenal extract."
Watson huffed a laugh but sobered quickly. "You've succeeded, you know. We found Moriarty's body in the river."
"Good," he said faintly. "Watch yourself, Watson. Moran--"
"Will be arrested as soon as he is located. Your brother will ensure it."
He sighed and coughed weakly against the growing heaviness in his lungs. He was fading fast. "Watson."
"Shh, don't talk. Save your strength." Watson brought their joined hands up and pressed his cheek against the back of his hand.
He straightened his fingers enough to brush them over Watson's skin. A teardrop ran over them, the warmth startling in contrast to the coolness of his skin. He shivered. "I'm sorry," he murmured, fixing his gaze on Watson's dear face one last time, staring into his eyes as his vision darkened.
The image of Watson went with him into the great beyond.