Anderson honestly never meant to become the guardian of the Tree of Life. He's never had any ambition to become the guardian of anything – hence no children – let alone anything holy, and certainly not to the threshold of life and death.
Yes, he is freaking out here, thank you very much.
Backing up a bit. When Anderson was little – all right, so backing up a lot – his mum had a garden. Only it wasn't a garden as much as a jungle because if anyone ever had a green thumb, it was Anderson's mum. She grew trees, she grew bushes, she grew a vegetable patch. The beds were a wild mess of flowers and creepers and herbs, so that something was always green, something was always in bloom, even in winter. Potted plants stood in every room of the house, cactus and dracaena and cyclamen next to yucca and pineapple and philodendron. Anderson grew up with the smell of damp earth and fresh green and the snip-snip of his mum's pruners. And she taught him, despite his dad's grumbling about a boy needing a real hobby, where to cut and where to let grow, and when, and why.
If Anderson ever gives up forensics, he can always become a landscape architect.
The thing is, though, forensics is what he does. He's a criminalist, and not even the sort who deals in seeds and soil. He's a forensic pathologist, not a botanist, and it's exactly what he's always wanted to be. He's worked hard to get where he is and he's good at what he does, whatever Sherlock bloody Holmes might have to say about it. It's been Anderson, for years, who's attention to detail got the murderer or explained the suicide. He's brought more people behind bars than Holmes ever will, and he's not doing it by sweeping in and out of a crime scene. He's doing it by examining the evidence and pulling it apart and then lining it up in a simple depiction of cause and effect. And if he were the idiot Holmes likes to call him, he wouldn't be working for the Met.
The point is, these days his tools are evidence bags and luminol, not a wheelbarrow and Miracle-Gro. He has no garden. The only potted plant in the flat is the basil his wife Joanne keeps in the kitchen.
Well. And the Tree of Life they keep in the bay window in the living room.
It's a sycamore fig. It's not an inside tree but, true to its name, it flourishes and very much refuses to die, although it did emit a terrible stench the one time Anderson tried to see what would happen if he stopped watering it. It's waist-high by now, all sprawling branches and dense crown, heart-shaped leaves spiralling around the twigs. It's pretty.
"It's sacred," the High Priest of Isis – no, really – had declared when he'd handed Anderson the pot. The tree had been a lot smaller then. "You must guard it always, and guard it well, for the Tree of Life stands on the threshold of life and death and its fruit bears the gift of life."
"Right," Anderson had said. It had been one of his first crime scenes, and even if ritual murder in Bromley hadn't been bad enough, babbling suspects were still enough to unnerve him.
"Every ten years," the High Priest of Isis had droned on, and that was about as far as he'd gotten before Constable Simons pushed him into the waiting car and they drove off.
"Uh," Anderson had said.
"Just put it in evidence, Anderson," the DI – Gregson, back then – had said, and that's what Anderson had done, right up until the point where the High Priest's lawyer had threatened a lawsuit for invalidating his client's religion or something. Then it had been, "Just take it home, Anderson," and, well. You can say no to Lestrade. Lestrade is human. Gregson, not so much.
So he'd taken it home.
"At least it's edible?" he'd said when Joanne had given him a Look. That was when he'd still thought the little tree would wither and die within weeks, so far removed from its natural habitat.
But it hadn't died. It had flowered; a single white blossom with long petals that looked like it was trying to climb out of the tree and into the sun. And although nothing was there to pollenise it, the blossom had grown into a dark red fig that filled the flat with its fresh, sweet scent.
"Home-grown fruit," Joanne had said. "If I wanted to be a farmer, I wouldn't be living in Shoreditch."
But she'd smiled as she said it, and later she'd served the fig with a salad, half a fruit for each of them. It had been delicious, the taste bursting on his tongue in a way that made his eyes water from sheer amazement, but all he'd been able to think about was how much he loved that smile and how she was losing a little more of it each day the chemo failed to make a difference. He'd made love to her that night, slow and gentle, and she'd clung to him like he was the only thing in her world – and he was, sort of; they hadn't met Sally yet – and maybe his eyes had watered for a different reason altogether.
The next day, she'd been more energetic than she'd been in a while, and when they'd gone for a check-up, thoroughly freaked out, every trace of cancer had been gone.
And, all right, yes, his first working theory had been magical sperm. He's a bloke; it was the obvious thought.
His second theory was the one that still holds, the one that's the reason he started giving the little sycamore lukewarm water and a regular dusting-off and a prominent place in the bay window. It's the reason he turns the pot every few days so each side of the Tree will get a decent amount of sunlight. If she could see him, he thinks his mum would be proud.
The thing is, Joanne's cancer mysteriously disappeared ten years ago.
The thing is, there's another fig hanging plump and heavy on the Tree.
The thing is, Anderson is freaking out again. Because he knows exactly what he has to do with it, but he's no idea if it'll work. And if it doesn't…
If it doesn't, he'll have to live with having killed a man. And he doesn't think that's something he could do. Never mind that Holmes was an arsehole and possibly a fraud. Anderson's not so sure about that bit anymore, actually.
He's not so sure anymore about a lot of things. One of them is Holmes. Another one is himself. Seeing Lestrade, tired and pale and looking ten years older after Holmes's suicide, he wonders what the hell he was thinking. He and Sally and Lestrade, they're a team. They're supposed to have each other's backs, not get lost in office politics and personal dislikes. He used to know that.
When did he forget that? Was it after Holmes barged his way into their lives? Did he lose track of the important things even earlier?
Does it matter? Anderson can't undo what he set in motion, but he can try to make it right.
The fig is ripe, sweet-smelling and blood-red, cool in his hand as he breaks it off the Tree. He wraps it in a plastic bag, and then another one, and another, to hide its scent. People still look at him oddly as he takes the Tube to Barbican and he's glad to get off.
St. Barts seems emptier than usual, but that's probably just his imagination. He has no trouble signing into the morgue; one of the perks of his job, he supposes. Dr. Hooper isn't in attendance today. He didn't expect her to be. He wonders if she's at Baker Street. If Dr. Watson would appreciate the company.
If he can ever look that man in the eye again.
No matter. He's here for a reason, and it's not to feel sorry for himself. He checks the list, finds Holmes's name and corresponding number, walks over to the wall of refrigerators. Pulls one open.
For a suicide by jumping, Holmes doesn't look too bad. No autopsy incisions yet, thank god; that would have been awkward.
Anderson reaches into his pocket and pulls out the bags. The morgue immediately fills with the sweet, clean scent he knows so well by now as he takes out the fig. He weighs it in his hand and stares down at Holmes, wishing he'd thought this out a little better. In the end, he just sort of mashes the fig between his fingers and lets the juice dribble into Holmes's mouth.
He's fully prepared to feel like an idiot in a minute or two.
Sherlock Holmes twitches, takes a stuttering breath.
Anderson doesn't think he'll ever be done freaking out.