He had just finished another job for Moreau in the eastern Europe, delivering a simple message that he was sure the intended party had received quite clearly. Now he was in the airport,waiting for his flight to begin boarding when his cell beeped from an incoming text message. The message simply read “I have another assignment for you before you return home. Check your messages.”
He quickly shot off a text that told Damien that this job was be the last one he'd be doing for awhile before he used the phone to open up his email account. The job was in London, England and he noticed Moreau had had someone to already change his flight for one about an hour away. He couldn't miss it as it seems this job would require him to be there by a certain time tonight to meet with one of Moreau's associates: Jim Moriarty.
Upon reading the man's name, Eliot Spencer's frown deepened considerably. He had only been in the same room once with the man when Moreau had hired him to strengthen the plans for one of their bigger jobs and the man had been so clearly insane that even Eliot couldn't help but feel creeped out by him. Still the man was a mastermind criminal when it came to planning crimes and Moreau hadn't wanted to take any chances that anything would go wrong. Now Damien was sending him to meet with that psychopath again and Eliot decided that he'd be having words with him once he got back to San Lorenzo.
The flight to England was uneventful, and soon Eliot found himself at the designated meeting place that Moriarty had sent Moreau. The man who met him however was not the psychopath he had been dreading seeing but instead it was a man named Sebastian Moran, who was clearly one of Moriarty's lieutenants. He gave Eliot clear instructions to go to 221B Baker Street in central London and get into the residence by posing as a repairman. He was told he was to kill the old woman he found there if this man named Sherlock Holmes did not kill himself in a few hours.
“How am I supposed to know if this Holmes kills himself?” he had asked.
The man produced an ear bud. “I'll be watching to see if Holmes offs himself like my boss wants and if he does, I'll call you off. But if he doesn't, then kill the woman you find there. Understood?”
“Who is this woman? To Holmes I mean?”
Moran shrugged, “Not that it matters but she is his landlady.”
“Landlady? Why kill her then? What does she matter to him?”
“What does she matter to you? Eh?” the ex-solider handed him a gun with a silencer already on it.
“And don't think about backing out kill her if the order comes down because you don't want to get on my boss' bad side.”
Even though he wasn't liking the idea of killing an old woman he nodded and took the gun the hit man offered him. After checking it to see if it was sufficiently loaded he stowed it into a tool box the other man had given him and left the man to find transportation to 221B Baker Street.
Moran called out one last warning, “Just do as my boss says and kill Holmes' landlady if I tell you to or my boss will hunt you down and then he'll make you wish you'd never been born!”
Eliot didn't acknowledge the man in any way but walked until he found a street he could hail a cab from and was soon after on his way to 221B Baker Street.
The cab, he supposed, arrived on Baker Street in good time and after he paid the driver he went to the door marked 221B. He knocked on the door and was surprised how quickly it was opened. On the ride over he had decided that attempting to sound like a native Londoner was not a good idea and so when Martha Hudson appeared he gave her a friendly smile then said in a Southern gentlemanly way, “Good day, ma'am. I'm here to fix your doorbell.”
A look of puzzlement crossed the landlady's face, “You're American?”
“Yes, ma'am. I am.”
“But I didn't called for anyone to repair our bell,” she replied.
“Well you see, ma'am, I believe it was a Dr. Watson who made the repair arrangements a few days back with my boss and I'm sorry to say this is the first chance I've had to get to it.” Eliot gave her the most honest look he could give her, but the old woman didn't seem to be buying his story so he knew he'd have to move onto plan B which was tie her up while he waited for confirmation of her tenant's death.
He was about to force his way inside when a smile brightened her face and she stepped aside.
“Come in,” she ushered him in and closed the door. “I'm just surprised Dr. Watson found the time to make the arrangements as everything has been so mad around here lately with everything that is happening to Sherlock.” She lead Eliot to where he could get started on the repairs. “But I am glad John, the dear boy, was able to find the time somehow. I've been meaning to do it myself but just haven't.” She went on to say it hadn't worked for months since Sherlock shot it.
Eliot smile and started up the ladder, “Just give a few minutes, ma'am, and I'll have it working again good as new.”
The door opened at that moment and out of the corner of his eye Eliot saw a short, blonde man rush through. He knew it had to be one of the two men who lived her in the apartment upstairs but which one he wasn't sure but given Holmes was supposed to be meeting with Moriarty right at this moment he assumed it was Dr. Watson.
John stood there looking at her, relief flooding his face, hardly taking in the presence of the man up the ladder. “You're all right then, Mrs. Hudson?”
She smiled, “Of course I am, dear. And look the repairman you arranged has finally come to fix the doorbell for us!”
Eliot watched the doctor closely, waiting to see if he'd expose his deception with the landlady, laying his hand on the gun in case he needed to deal with the man. But that problem never arose as realization flashed across the man's face and he hurried back out the door yelling for a cab as soon as his feet hit the curb.
Eliot heard Mrs. Hudson ask him what was wrong.
“I've got to go find Sherlock!” was all he said before ducking into the cab and urging it to drive off.
Eliot was relieved when the good doctor left because he now only had to deal with the landlady if the time came to carry out Moriarty's orders. He need only keep up the act a little longer, and so went back to repairing the doorbell, which unfortunately was going faster than he would have guessed. He had just started to wonder how he'd delay leaving without arousing the suspicion of Mrs. Hudson when she asked him if he'd like to have tea with her.
He smiled at her. “Why yes, ma'am. I would, thank you.”
“It'll be ready in a few minutes. Go ahead and make yourself comfortable.”
Eliot nodded, and put up the last of the tool in the box. He caught sight of the gun as he set on the floor near his seat, and closed the lid. All he had to do now was wait to see if the order came down to kill the lady in the kitchen who chatted from the kitchen, trying to draw him into a conversation while she put the finishing touches on their tea.
The more he listened to her, responded to her, the less he liked this whole situation and the more angry he got with Moreau for putting him into it. He didn't really relish the idea of killing the man he had seen just a few minutes ago but right now he couldn't help but wish they'd wanted him to take out Dr. Watson instead. Killing the man with a single bullet from a sniper rifle would be far easier than doing it in close quarters and looking the older lady in the eye as he shot her in the head.
A knock suddenly echoed at the door. Eliot froze. Not willing to risk someone else's life, he quickly reached for and pulled his gun. "Don't," he said quietly. "I don't want to hurt you but I will if it becomes necessary."
"If it's money you want..."
"This isn't a robbery," Eliot said, sounding disgusted.
“Then what do you want?”
Just then a voice joined in on the knocking, “Mrs. Hudson?”
Eliot kept the gun on here and looked cautiously outside to see a man he was no familiar with standing on the steps. He moved back to her before he asked, “Who is that man?”
“He's the real man that's supposed to be fixing the doorbell.”
“Will he go away if you doesn't think you're home?”
She nodded nervously, “Y-yes, I think so.”
“Keep quiet then.” Eliot ordered.
The knocking stopped as soon as he had finished saying the word, and Eliot checked to be sure the man was leaving but before he had left earshot the kettle began to whistle in the kitchen. It was in vain to hope repairman hadn't heard the whistle because they soon heard his voice again.
“Mrs. Hudson?” The man yelled, banging on the door again and sounding even more concerned.
It quickly became clear the man was not going to go away without knowing the landlady was all right, and so Eliot motioned for her to open the door. He moved to a spot where he couldn't be seen but would still be able to act if she didn't do as he told her. “Get rid of him now, and don't let him know I'm here or that anything is wrong.”
She nodded and began to open the door.
“I don't want to hurt either of you but I will if he doesn't go away or finds out I am in here. Understand?” he said to re-emphasize his point.
“Yes, I do.”
She opened the door and to Eliot's relief acted fairly naturally telling the repairman that he'd need to come another door as she had an appointment she had forgotten about.
“Would it be all right to reschedule?” she asked.
He nodded, “Yeah, I suppose.” He gave her a date and time.
“That sounds good, dear. If I can't be here I'll ask one of the boys if they can be when you come.”
“Please try to make it Dr. Watson if you can. No offense, Mrs. Hudson but Mr. Holmes doesn't have the patience to answer the door let alone deal with anything I might need of him.”
She smiled understandably, “Of course, dear.”
“Mrs. Hudson, are you sure everything is all right?” he whispered.
To her credit the older woman didn't show any sign anything was wrong and she nodded. “I'm just a little tired, dear. Maybe coming down with a cold or something but it's nothing to worry about.”
He stared at her for a long moment before saying, “Well I guess I pop off to my next appointment then. You take care of yourself, Mrs. Hudson. And please if you do come down with something, talk to Dr. Watson, hmm?” With that he was gone and she shut the door, locking it.
Eliot stepped up behind her. “You did good.” He directed her towards the kitchen but instead of letting her shut off the kettle he did it himself then directed her to a chair. “I won't tie you up as long as you keep your hands on the table top and keep quiet.” He pulled out one of the other chairs keeping the gun on her.
They stared at each other for a long time before she asked, “Why are you doing this if you don't want money? Does it have something to do with Sherlock?” She shuddered remembering one of the more unpleasant times when someone had broken into the flat while she was there because they had business with the consulting detective. When he didn't answer her, she drew a conclusion, “It does, doesn't it? What do you want with him?”
“Quiet.” Eliot replied in a firm yet not unkind one. He was trying to listen to what was going on wherever Moriarty was meeting with Sherlock Holmes. He knew Moran was near that meeting, watching it in some way, because it would determine whether or not the man put a bullet into John Watson's head. It was an event he hoped never happened because he'd had to do the same to the woman sitting across from him.
“Will you just tell me what's going on, please?” Mrs. Hudson finally pleaded when he didn't answer her. “Why are you here?”
He looked at her, still keeping one ear to the communications tie to Moran, while trying to decide what he should tell her if anything. He was here to kill her if Holmes didn't go through with killing himself and was it a cruel thing to tell her if he didn't die by his own hand she would die in his place? However she saved him the trouble of making that decision him.
“You're here to hurt Sherlock, aren't you?”
Eliot opened his mouth to deny it.
“Yes, you are! I can see it in your eyes! You're here to hurt him!” She swallowed hard as tears welled in her eyes, and her voice a whisper when she said, “Or kill him. That's why you're here isn't it? To kill him.” Her voice had turned angry and she swiped at a tear that ran it way down her cheek.
Eliot thought his hatred at the thought of having to kill this sweet old woman couldn't get any deeper than it was but seeing her crying at the thought the detective would be killed by him made it all that much worse. The truth might be worse, would without a doubt scare her but he decided to tell her the truth and when he did it Eliot had the nerve to look ashamed. "Not him, ma'am," he said softly. "I'm sorry..." he trailed off.
“Then who?” she asked. “It can't be John you're here for. Please not that dear, sweet man!” Then she remembered that Eliot had allowed an opportunity to do just that pass when John had shown up unexpectedly worried about. Not he wasn't sent after John Watson, “You've come for me, haven't you? It's me.”
That knowledge seemed to give her some courage and in a strange sort of way gave her comfort because it meant that neither of the two men who were more than just a source of income for her would be hurt. But if she was going to die she wanted to know something from him first. "I want the entire truth of this. Tell me the whole truth now," she said standing. "If you're going to kill me anyway, there's no reason to sit and wait, now is there?”
At her movement he raised the gun again, and ordered her to sit down.
“No, I won't until you tell me!”
She was a woman who had nothing left to lose and wasn't afraid of him, so Eliot made his decision. “All right I was sent here to kill you but only if a certain... event didn't happen.”
“And what might that be?”
There was no way to soften this. “I was sent to kill you if Sherlock Holmes does not kill himself today.”
She gasped, and sat down suddenly asking, “How do you mean if Sherlock doesn't kill himself today?”
“The man who hired me to kill you has something against Holmes, enough that he wants him not only dead but disgraced, and he wants him dead so much he's going to threatened to have anyone he cares about killed.” Eliot said with a shrug. “Two others besides you are targets too.”
The landlady didn't have to give it much thought about who one of the targeted people were. She knew by instinct John would be one of the targeted given how inseparable he had become with Sherlock since that first day they first stepped together into the flat they had now called for over a year. They had become close so fast, even when they had rows she knows they understood and cared about each other in a way went far beyond ordinary friendship.
As to who else come be on the list she briefly considered Mycroft being Sherlock's brother and all. But something made her quickly eliminate him as a possibility and it wasn't really because how much the two brothers bickered whenever they were together. It was something else in her heart that just said Mycroft wouldn't be a target by whoever wanted Sherlock dead.
Then she just knew who it was and before she could stop herself, “I know one must be John Watson because he means far too much to Sherlock for him not to be. But the other one I can't think of who unless it is his brother?”
“No, it's someone named Lestrade,” Eliot replied.
Mrs. Hudson's eyes widened, “Not Detective Inspector Lestrade!”
“Unless Holmes knows more than one man by the name of Lestrade then yes, it's him.”
Mrs. Hudson's contact with the detective inspector had been scarce over the time the boys had been living upstairs. Lestrade only came there when he needed to ask Sherlock to come help them with a difficult case. She may not know him well but also knew he didn't deserve to be murdered anymore than the other man who she knew did.
“Do you know how the man who wants Sherlock... dead is going to force him to do it?” she asked, closing her eyes again at the thought of him dead.
Eliot shook his head. “No.”
“If you did would you tell me?”
“What would be the point of telling you?”
“I want to know if he's going to be made to suffer before he finally passes.” Tears escaped her closed eyes and she looked like she was about to break down further.
“I don't know what he's got in mind for your... friend, ma'am and that's the truth.”
Unexpectedly her eyes opened, meeting his in a soul wrenching gaze, “You don't think Sherlock will kill himself for us, do you? You really think you'll have to kill me because he doesn't think enough of the three of us to take his own life?”
“Ma'am, no offense but I really hope I'm wrong and he does do it.”
"Why?" the woman asked softly.
“Because there's no honor in this," Eliot replied. "And I..." he stopped himself before he revealed more.
“And you what?”
Eliot knew he shouldn't tell her anything about his doubts but that didn't stop him. “I'm a tired of being a monster. I'm tired of having my hands dripping wet from all of the innocent blood I've spilled and I'm tired of this road I've been traveling towards hell for years.”
“Then why don't you get off that road, dear?”
Her question surprised him because there was no condemnation in her voice at all. He was saved from having to answer her by hearing Moran's voice in his ear.
“It's over. Sherlock Holmes is dead. The stupid wanker actually jumped off the hospital building to save 'em and he did it in front of dear 'ole Dr. Watson!”
Eliot yanked out the ear bud, not wanting to heat Moran's commentary any further, and put the piece in his pocket. He looked at the woman sitting across from him and he didn't know how to tell her that a man she cared about actually took his own life to save hers.
“It's over isn't it?” she asked.
“Oh please don't try to lie to me and say he didn't. Sherlock is dead... he... he killed himself.”
Seeing the old woman's pain hurt Eliot to his core but he didn't lie to her. “Yes, he's dead. I'm sorry.”
“Don't!” she replied angrily. “I don't want your sympathy! He killed himself for us but you might as well have been the one to do it!” More tears had welled up in her eyes but she refused to cry anymore in front of him. “Oh Sherlock, my dear dear boy why?”
Eliot knew now that it was finished, he needed to leave before anyone showed up here. Whether the police or Dr. Watson if any them came and he was still here he knew she'd tell them who he was and what he had been sent here to do. So he took out a length of rope from the toolbox and started towards her. “I'm sorry but I am going to have to tie you up now.”
The woman didn't seem to hear him or acknowledged him. Without waiting any further he started tying the rope around her as gently as he could but with enough tightness to keep her in place until after he was gone. The last thing he did, as much as he hated it, was find one of her own dish towels to serve as a gag.
He said simply, “I'm sorry.” as he moved to tie it in her mouth.
The landlady turned her head to evade the cloth. “I don't suppose promising not to scream would do any good?”
“No sorry, ma'am it wouldn't.” He knew she'd likely want him caught since she no doubt held him at least partially responsible for Sherlock's death.
“Then I want to say something to you before you put that bloody thing in my mouth. If you are as sorry as you seem to be, you at least owe me that!” In the corner of her eye she saw his hands drop.
“And come around here so I can see you!”
Eliot stepped around to the front of her seat. She looked at him for a long time like she was studying him and Eliot found it hard to not look away from her eyes as they bore into his. Eliot knew exactly what Sherlock Holmes was famous for, he knew the man could have picked him apart in less than a minute, revealing things about himself he considered secret. She might not be Sherlock Holmes but the feeling he got while under the old lady's scrutiny was what he imagined the late detective's gaze would have felt like.
“Are you going to continue being what you are right now?” she asked. “Are you going to keep killing innocent people for the money or because you're told to by another man?”
“I've already decided that this would be the last job I'd do for the man I've been working for... especially if it ended with me having to kill you.”
“Will you promise that?”
Eliot nodded, “Yes ma'am, I will. Even if the man I work for decides to kill me for wanting to break away from him I promise you I am out of this life for good.” He moved to tie the gag in place again and again she moved her head so he couldn't.
“I want one other promise out of you, love, and then you can put that awful bloody thing in my mouth.”
“All right, what is it?”
“Promise me instead of hurting people, from here on out you'll try to help them. Turns whatever skills you've used to hurt and kill to heal instead. Will you promise me that?” The landlady asked.
Eliot nodded solemnly. “I promise. But tell me how do you know I'm not lying to you right now? How do you know I'm not going back to doing what I've always done?”
“I know because I can see it in your eyes. I may not be Sherlock...” Her voice broken when she said that man's name and after a deep breath she went on, “But I can read people a little and I think you really are tired of being this horrible person you are. You want to change, to find some kind of redemption. I see something in you that says you deserve the chance to find it, and you're young enough that you can't be beyond saving.”
Eliot nodded, a knot suddenly in his throat from her belief in him. He didn't say anything else but tied the gag in finally as gently as he could, and she allowed it. He gathered up the tool box, stashing the gun back inside, and hurried out onto the street with a brief glance back at her. He walked a few streets over from Baker Street before hailing a cab straight to Heathrow airport as he knew he needed to leave England as soon as possible.
Hours later when his plane landed in San Lorenzo and after he'd been welcomed back by Moreau, he did not forget his promise to Mrs. Martha Hudson of 221B Baker Street, London.
Chapter 2: Course Correction - CODA
The immediate aftermath of that fateful day Sherlock and Moriarty had their final confrontation on St. Bartholomew's hospital.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The news of the nutter jumping from the roof of St. Bart's spread throughout London very quickly. The news it was Sherlock Holmes, the great fraud, who had been the one to take the swan dive followed it even faster than light speed. Everything was made worse by the fact the police hadn't forgotten John had assaulted the Chief Superintendent and had gone on the run with Sherlock. As soon as they were certain he wasn't in shock they'd arrested him but he had no sooner been taken to Scotland Yard's lockup when Lestrade came to let him out, saying the Chief Superintendent had suddenly dropped the charges against him.
Mycroft , he thought as he walked out of the station. He certainly had the ability to make such a thing happen, John knew. But if he thinks this will make me forgive him for what he's done to Sherlock he's got another thing coming! John knew he would never be able to forgive the man for this because he had made it possible for Moriarty to so thoroughly destroy his friend. He wasn't even sure he could forgive the man walking beside him at this moment.
Lestrade knew John really wasn't wanting to see or talk to him right at that moment but he also had a piece of information John needed to hear, “Are you headed back to Baker Street then?” he asked. When the doctor however didn't acknowledge his question in any way, he went on. “John, look I know you're angry because I had to arrest Sherlock and no doubt you're angry that I doubted him along with everyone else. I'm sorry but I had to follow the order to do that.”
John looked at him finally, his eyes blazing, “Don't you get it, Lestrade? Sherlock killed... himself today, he's gone and never coming back so right now I really don't care if you did arrest him under orders or not!”
Lestrade stopped when he heard the pure furious venom in John's voice, “All right you don't want to talk to me then but there is something you need to know before you go home. It's about Mrs. Hudson.”
Hearing his landlady's name stopped John cold in his tracks and he turned around to look at the detective inspector, pale as a sheet. “What about Mrs. Hudson?”
Lestrade quickly reassured him, “She's all right, John, physically.” He watched as the other man let out the breath he'd been holding and as his coloring returned. “I'm sorry I frightened you but I thought you should know that while your were... across town she was held at gunpoint but a man who says he had been hired by you to fix the doorbell. He didn't hurt her any worse than tying her up and leaving shortly after Sherlock....” He cleared his throat, surprised at the lump he felt there at saying the other man's name. “Anyway she said she doesn't remember much about the man, not anything that will help us find him.”
John closed his eyes as he asked, “Did you tell her about him...about Sherlock?”
“No, I didn't and I made sure none of my people did either.”
“I need to get home then and pray she hasn't been watching the news!” John began walking again, doubling his pace out of Scotland Yard.
The ride to Baker Street seemed to take forever and yet it wasn't long enough. John stepped out of the taxi and after he paid the driver, he felt his heart constrict when he turned to face 221B. The memory of meeting with Sherlock outside that very door sprang up in his mind, and the thought of walking inside without him became something he wasn't sure he could do. After a full minute he pushed the grief of knowing Sherlock would never walk through that door again aside, and fished in his pocket for his key... he needed to see to Mrs. Hudson after all.
At first when he opened the door, he didn't hear anything which gave him the brief hope she was in bed, and he wouldn't have to tell her the awful news until tomorrow. But that hope was quickly dashed when he heard sniffling from her kitchen. He sighed and with a heavy heart he moved forward, calling out “Mrs. Hudson!”
She had been sitting at the table, working on a cup of tea when she heard his voice calling her name. She started to get up when John appeared at the door, then before she could say a word or blink he was standing there and had enveloped her with a comforting hug. Neither of them spoke for a few minutes as they both were too caught up in their emotions and because she had heard him sniffling too.
Dear boy , she thought, I'm so sorry !
Finally he pulled away from her, and the doctor in him compelled him to give her a once over to be sure she really was as fine as Lestrade had said she was. Unlike the time the CIA agents have broken in and held her at gunpoint while trying to get Irene's camera phone from Sherlock, she did seem to be perfectly unharmed. John was grateful that the man Moriarty had sent here to kill Mrs. Hudson had been gentle with her in the meantime, at least he had physically, because emotionally was something else altogether different.
“Let's sit down, hmm? I need to talk to you,” he said softly, already dreading what he had to say to her. Once they were seated he began, “When was the last time you saw or heard from... Sherlock?” He was certain she had heard the pause before he'd been able to say his friend's name.
“Oh would you like some tea, dear? The water should still be hot enough for a nice cup?” she asked in reply as though she hadn't heard the question.
John shook his head no. “Thank you. Please, Mrs. Hudson, when was the last time you saw or spoke with Sherlock?”
“The night the police came to arrest him.” she answered then asked, “Is everything straightened out with them now? They won't come here wanting to arrest you again will they?”
John nodded. “Yeah, it's all been straightened out and they won't be back here to arrest me.” For a moment he was grateful Mycroft had did whatever he did to get the charges dropped because John had very much wanted to be there for her when his landlady heard the tragic news. He knew he couldn't put off telling her it any longer.
“Mrs. Hudson, about Sherlock...there's really no easy way for me to say this, and I'm not certain that I can even say the words aloud. Sher... Sherlock is... gone...” To his surprised she didn't look shocked or as upset by the news as he would have expected her to.
“I know, love,” she said softly, wiping away a fresh tear.
Confusion joined the pain already on John's face. “How?” He had hoped she hadn't heard it by the news or worse yet someone from Scotland Yard like Anderson or Donovan. He could only imagine how gleeful they were at the thought of never having to deal with Sherlock again. If the news came from one of the Yarders that meant either Lestrade didn't know what his own people were doing or he had told John an outright lie. He hoped the former rather than the latter was true because he really didn't need another reason to be angry with Greg Lestrade right now.
Mrs. Hudson saw he had gotten lost in his thoughts and laid her hand on John's to draw his attention back to her. “No love, I wasn't told by Detective Inspector Lestrade or anyone from Scotland Yard... or the news.”
"But how? The only other person..." John trailed off, the realization coming to him. "Lestrade said you told them that you didn't remember anything about that man..."
She shrugged. “I don't remember anything about the way he looks and he certainly wasn't that daft enough to tell me his name. But for as long as I live I'll remember what he told me about Sherlock in the final moments that dear boy was alive.”
Goodbye John... The memory unbidden flashed through his mind, and once again he saw Sherlock falling through the air, saw his broken, bleeding body on the pavement. His once brilliant eyes staring as blankly into space as many people once stared at him following one of his magnificent deductions. Remembered trying to through the crowd of onlookers, and praying for a pulse to be there as his hand found Sherlock's wrist.
Shaking his head to clear away the memory and blinking away the tears he gently asked her, “Mrs. Hudson, do you know how... Sherlock died?” he asked gently and when she nodded. “And you know I was there when it happened?”
“Oh you dear boy, no I didn't know,” she said. “What happened? How did he...?” She immediately regretted the question as John's face contorted with grief, and he bit back a sob. She laid a hand on his arm. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked that.”
John shook his head, wiping away the escaped tears, and finally looking at her he said, “Unless you stay cut off from the rest of the world, you're going to find out sooner or later what happened to him. I just don't know how to say this in a way to soften it.”
“Then go on and say it, love. It may hurt to hear the answer, but I'm not as fragile as you may think I am.”
That's right, John remembered. In the briefest of seconds before he had first met her, Sherlock told him that he had helped her when her husband had landed himself on death row in the States. The man obviously had been terrible enough to get a death sentence, and it seemed Mrs. Hudson was so grateful
that Sherlock had proved the authorities with insurance for the execution that she'd given him a special rate on the flat.
“Please, just tell me what happened.”
With a deep breath, John attempted to steel himself enough to say the awful words and for how he knew she'd react as there was no denying she had loved Sherlock in a motherly way. “Sherlock... he... he stepped....off the roof of Bart's...”
Her reaction to that was the last one he had ever expected from her.
“Oh Sherlock, what were you thinking doing that to John?” Mrs. Hudson said, a hint of anger in her voice as she embraced the man beside her fighting for control. “There there dear, let it go. Don't hold it in.” She felt his arms tighten around her, and his face buried into her shoulder. She knew by his breathing he was still fighting back the tears, and so she began to rub his back gently, trying to encourage him to let go.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered brokenly against her shoulder, with what sounded like embarrassment. Or perhaps it was shame? Either way she felt a little more angry with Sherlock for doing this to his friend, his best mate, and she fought to keep it from her voice.
“You hush now, John Watson! There's no reason to feel any shame over this!”
“I knew Moriarty was trying to destroy him and I never should have left him alone...” he said, his voice breaking. Finally, John had to let it go, his sobs speaking volumes of the agony he felt inside.
She held him until she felt the sobs begin to wane, only releasing him when she heard him sniffling. Pulling away to look at him, she handed him a handkerchief to wipe his face with, and got up to put the kettle on. “How about a cup of tea, love?” Out of the corner of her eye she saw him nod numbly, staring in the direction of the floor as he finished wiping his face. Taking out a tin of biscuits when the tea was ready she resumed her seat beside him, and watched as he silently took a few sips.
“When's the last time you ate anything?” she asked in a soft voice.
John gave an exhausted shrug, “I don't know... before the police showed up to arrest Sherlock I think?”
She pushed the biscuit tin towards him then without another word got up and begin pulling out sandwich trimmings from the fridge. It wasn't a proper supper by any sense of the word but both were far too tired for any actual cooking and besides getting just a sandwich into John was better than nothing in her eyes.
After finishing their food, they were both sipping on another cup of tea when she softly said, “There's something you need to know about earlier today, something I was told by that...man.”
John frowned but said, “Go on.”
“The reason that man didn't hurt me was because he been told by the man he was working to for the only reason he was to kill me was if...” Tears pooled in her eyes again.
John reached out to touch her hand, “I know how frightening it had to be, but he's gone, and you're safe.” He made a mental note that in the near future he'd tell her where his gun was hidden and teach her how to use it if she'd let him.
Mrs. Hudson shook her head. “You don't understand, dear. The man told me he had been sent here to kill me only if Sherlock didn't kill himself.”
“What?” John gasped. “What are you saying?”
“Sherlock didn't kill himself because of the police thinking he kidnapped those children or because whatever else everyone was starting to believe about him. The man told me that he was to kill me if Sherlock hadn't... jumped off of the hospital, and he said there were two others waiting to kill you and Inspector too if... if...” She couldn't finish the sentence.
John closed his eyes to keep the newly threatening tears there. “I still should not have left him alone, wouldn't have if I hadn't received a phone call saying you'd been shot, and you were dying.” Suddenly John groaned as though he were in pain as a realization hit him.
“What's wrong, love?” The concern very apparent in the landlady's voice.
“The phone call was a trick by Sherlock to get me to leave him so he could meet with Moriarty alone!” John groaned again, and briefly buried his face in his hands.
“How do you know it was Sherlock behind the phone call and not this Moriarty character?”
“I know it was Sherlock because of how he reacted when I gave him the news you'd been shot and that you were dying. He acted so cold... so indifferent.” He watched her for her reaction as he said the words.
Mrs. Hudson shrugged it off, surprising him. “He is... was Sherlock. You know better than anyone he never reacted with the same feelings as other people would have. Besides I was just his landlady, dear.”
“No, he didn't. Half the time I wasn't sure he understood normal emotions but when it came to you, Mrs. Hudson, it was different. Do you remember the American agent he half killed because him and his men broke in here and roughed you up a bit? Everything Sherlock did to that man said he was furious that they'd kidnapped you in your own home, let alone dared to touch you. No Mrs. Hudson, you meant more to Sherlock than just being his landlady and the fact he didn't react at all proves he set the phone call up so I would leave him there.”
Stupid, stupid git, John silently berated himself for not seeing that before now. Sherlock might be alive if you had seen through his scheme and hadn't believed he was so callous as to totally disregard Mrs. Hudson!
“It wasn't your fault dear, trust me,” Mrs. Hudson's voice broke gently into his thoughts as though she were reading them. When he gave her a shocked look she went on. “Sherlock did what he did to save your life, and mine. There wasn't anything you could've done to stop what he had planned once he got it in his head that it was the only way to save our lives. I think you know that better than I do about how stubborn that boy could be.”
John smiled sadly, “Yeah, I do.”
“Now he never should have done it in front of you, but I think if he held as in much regard as you think he did, then he did what he did only because he loved you...” She said, quickly adding, “Loved you more like a brother than just his friend and certainly more than Mycroft I think.”
John could only nod at her words, his eyes dangerously watery again.
“So you stop blaming yourself, okay?” Silence fell over them and for a time they sat there drinking what was left of their tea, both lost in their thoughts.
“Oh look at that, it's nearly midnight!” Mrs. Hudson said after glancing at the clock. Aside from Sherlock's antics or his playing his violin at bloody two o'clock in the morning, she never stayed up to this late at night. She was unable to suppress a yawn as both the late hour, and the day's tragic events along with the raw emotions it had invoked finally caught up with her. “I'm sorry dear, but I need to head onto bed I think.”
John nodded but didn't say anything in reply.
He looked as exhausted as she felt and so she said, “Maybe you should do the same, love?”
“I'm so completely drained I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep right now,” John replied, running a hand over his face.
Truth was Mrs. Hudson felt so drained herself that she wasn't sure sleep would come easy for her either but they'd both need it for whatever happened tomorrow. She stood up, and touched his shoulder, “Please would you try to sleep for me, John?”
He touched her hand nodding, “Yeah.”
Trusting he would keep his promise, she turned to leave the kitchen, and head to her bedroom when his voice stopped her in the hallway.
She looked back at the door as his head poked out. “Yes, dear?”
He seemed a bit embarrassed again as he asked her, “Do you mind at all if I sleep on your sofa tonight? I... I don't think I can take going upstairs tonight...”
“Of course I don't mind!”
"I just can't..."
“I know dear, it's alright. I understand!” At that moment she knew she'd find it hard to go upstairs and see signs of the detective everywhere and knew it would be that much harder on him since he had been flatmates with Sherlock. Mrs. Hudson moved to retrieve a pillow and a few blankets from her linen closet, and bustled about trying to make the sofa more comfortable. Finally she looked at him. “Stay as long as you need.”
When he had laid down to sleep on Mrs. Hudson's sofa, John had fully expected to wake up screaming from seeing Sherlock's suicide replayed in a nightmare. Thankfully it seemed he had been exhausted enough for his subconscious mind to allow for a reprieve because he couldn't recall dreaming at all last night. So instead of the expected bad dream, he had been awakened slowly by the smell of breakfast coming from the kitchen and the accompanying clink dishes here and there.
For all her protests at first about being their landlady and not their housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson hadn't let that stop her from mothering them both from time to time, especially if one of them were either hurt or sick. Of course when there was a need the same could easily be said of them where she was concerned, and they both became more like sons then her tenants, especially Sherlock. John smiled sadly at that thought because he knew in spite of his friend's protests or denials, Sherlock had cared very much for Mrs. Hudson, and like himself would do anything for her.
Tears were beginning to sting his eyes and John blinked them away, determined not to start the day off this way. It was a battle he realized he would soon lose if he didn't find some other way to occupy his thoughts so he briefly considered going to see if they could use him for a shift at the surgery but then remembered today they would be closed. So he'd have to find some other way to keep his thoughts off yesterday.
From the coffee table, his mobile text alert sounded and with much dread John picked it up to see the message.
I have made the funeral arrangements. - MH
John stared at the text for a long time, uncertain how he should respond to that. A large part of him wanted to tell Mycroft exactly where he could go for what he had done to the brother he said he was so concerned for. He actually began to write the text out but stopped and deleted it since words on screen couldn't really convey every bit of the anger he felt towards Mycroft.
Maybe it was fitting then that Sherlock died to protect Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson and himself... but not Mycroft. He pondered telling Mycroft that little tidbit before dismissing that thought completely. As much as he may want to hurt Mycroft by giving him that information, he also knew the elder Holmes didn't deserve to know about Sherlock's sacrifice for his friends either.
Instead he settled on a simple, short message: Where? When? - JW
Mycroft's answer came a few seconds after John had hit the SEND button and borrowing a sheet from one of Mrs. Hudson's notepad, he wrote down the information before deleting the text. The funeral would be held in three days, and from the look of it Mycroft had elected to have the burial serve as Sherlock's funeral as the place he'd sent John was the same address as the cemetery.
Will this be a private burial? - JW
Yes, only a few are to be told the specifics. - MH
So it was to be a private service then with only him and Mycroft present? That didn't sit well with John and he was about to text the man saying as much when his phone beeped again.
Please give Mrs Hudson the funeral information. - MH
As well as anyone you feel is appropriate. - MH
The only other two people John thought of immediately were Lestrade and Molly Hooper. He sent them both a text with the information with emphasis on the request that they keep it to themselves, because the last two people he wanted to see at Sherlock's funeral were Donovan and Anderson's smirking faces.
That would have been the end of their communication if John hadn't thought of one last thing he wanted to ask Mycroft.
Were you the one to ID him? - JW
Of course if Molly had been the one on duty at the time Sherlock's body was brought to the mortuary, she could have confirmed his identity for the record, and would have too if procedure didn't require the identifier to be either family or a friend outside of the morgue. John had expected to be the one to be called in to identity Sherlock's remains but was grateful his phone never rang. That left Mycroft as the only other person they would have called to make the identification and John knew it had been cruel to ask but he was too angry with the elder Holmes to even care about sparing his feelings right now.
If he even feels anything over his brother's death, John thought.
Yes, Dr Watson. I was. - MH
With a nod as though Mycroft could see him, John turn off his phone, and tucked the phone away into his pocket. If anyone else wanted to contact him they'd just have to wait until he felt ready to deal with them, likely tomorrow or the next day at the earliest. He was considering how he would fill this day up when Mrs. Hudson peeked in cautiously.
“Oh, good you're awake. I've made up some breakfast...if you're hungry.”
Although he really didn't have much of an appetite this morning, John gave her a little smile and said, “Yes thank you, Mrs. Hudson.” before he followed her into the kitchen.
“Umm... you know, Sherlock once told me that heroes doesn't exist, and if they did, he was not one of them. And umm... there were times, with the way he responded to things, I questioned whether or he was even human. But I am here to tell everyone here that Sherlock Holmes was not only the most human...human being but he was also the best, most extraordinary man I have ever known in my life, and there is no one on this earth who can ever convince me he told me a lie.” John paused, taking a deep breath as his eyes fell to the elegant black coffin. “I was so alone when we met, and I owe him more than words can express.” With one final nod towards his friend, John walked back to his place beside Mrs. Hudson.
She took his hand and whispered, “That was lovely, dear.”
John could only nod in reply, afraid if he spoke the tears he was fighting would make their escape.
The priest officiating the burial stepped forward. “Are there any others who wish to speak?” He waited a moment to allow for anyone who wanted to speak could, and when no one stepped forward he added, “The service is concluded.” The small gathering began to disperse at these final words with only three people staying behind at the grave.
Lestrade had sense John would want to stay a bit longer and so he over to see about bereaved landlady. “I'll be headed towards Baker Street if you'd like for me to take you back home, Mrs. Hudson?”
She didn't answer him immediately, and when John looked torn about leaving to see her safely home, Mycroft spoke, “If she nor Dr. Watson has any objections, I'll see to it that Mrs. Hudson gets home, Detective Inspector.”
Lestrade looked at her and saw her nod her consent. “Very well then, Mr. Holmes.” Then to the other two, “Both of you take care then, and try to get some rest.” He clasped John's shoulder and nodded to Mrs. Hudson before leaving, muttering a “Goodbye, Sherlock.” as he went.
Shortly after Lestrade's department, Mrs. Hudson reached forward to touch Sherlock's coffin. “Oh my dear boy, thank you. Thank you for what you did for... us. I am grateful but I wish I would trade places with you if I could, because you were to young to be gone forever from the world. Oh, how I wish I...” When she began crying again, John wrapped his arm around her, and spoke gently into her ear until she was calmer.
“Why don't you let Mycroft take you home now, Mrs. Hudson? I promise I won't be far behind you. I just need a little time here alone.” He looked at Mycroft as he spoke, and watched as the sole remaining Holmes briefly touched his brother's coffin.
“Rest well, brother,” he murmured, staring at the box for a moment before shifting his umbrella to his other hand and offering his arm to Mrs. Hudson.
For a long time after they were gone, John could do nothing but stare at the coffin, and let the tears he'd been fighting in front of the others fall. He thought of what Mrs. Hudson right before she left, how she'd trade places with Sherlock if she could and he knew he would do the same if it were possible because being dead would be preferable to feeling the gaping wound Sherlock's death had left on his heart and his soul. He could not think of any loss in his life that he hurt him as much as Sherlock's death had... not even the loss of his parents or his friends in Afghanistan had hurt this much, and he briefly wondered if this wound would be the one that never healed.
After wiping his face and taking a deep breath, he began to quietly address his friend again. “Please there's just one more thing, mate, one more thing, just one more miracle. For me, Sherlock, don't be dead. Would you do that, just for me? Would you please just stop this? Stop this now, okay?” Although he had expected no answer of course, John still felt the wave of grief surge through him again.
Suddenly see the cemetery works out of the corner of his eye, he nodded one last time towards the coffin. “Right then.” He briefly came to attention for a few seconds, but did not salute before turning on his heel, before quickly walking away from the grave of his best friend. He did not look back, and perhaps he would not have missed a familiar shadow stepping out from behind the nearby trees, or the departure of it as he disappeared out of sight.
End Note: Before anyone can point out Mycroft signs his text with his full name... or at least he did the times he texted John in The Great Game, I'd like to point out in The Hounds of Baskerville he signed the texts he sent to Sherlock as merely M, so him signing his text in this story as MH is just a variation of that.
Lastly special thanks to my friend aricadavidson for her feed back on this story... I very much doubt it ever would've gotten finished without her cheering me on over IM and email!