“If this is redemption, why do I bother at all
There's nothing to mention, and nothing has changed
Still I'd rather be working at something, than praying for the rain
So I wander on, till someone else is saved
I moved to the coast, under a mountain
Swam in the ocean, slept on my own
At dawn I would watch the sun cut ribbons through the bay
I'd remember all the things my mother wrote”
-We Don’t Eat, James Vincent McMorrow
Until The Devil’s Turned To Dust.
A mile before the turn-off for Your Fault, in the county of Denial, about half a league beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt, lies a small beach cove named Self-Righteous, and Sally Donovan makes herself a picnic and visits it often.
She takes the Ignorance train north, connecting with the Blind Faith bus just after the town of Jealousy, at a small bus stop out the front of a corner shop where you can buy Richard Brook’s DVDs. Along the way she passes the counties of Trust, Hope and Right, but she doesn’t pay much attention because she takes old case files with her for some light reading, titled Nobody Could Be That Clever, and she doesn’t often stop to look out the window at the countryside. For her, it’s all about the destination, not the journey. Her parents live in the same town as one Mr and Mrs Anderson- a quaint little place named Gullible, which lies just off the highway some fifteen miles east of A Shadow Of A Doubt- and Sally and her lover visit them often (though not at the same time and never together).
When Greg Lestrade goes on (suggested, recommended, forced) leave, he rents out a cosy cottage on Good Man Beach, in the back corner of a large property named Responsible, just outside Betrayal. He finalises his divorce for good and phones John whenever he can to help out with the writing of the doctor’s new book, entitled I Believe. John, of course, stays at Baker Street with Mrs Hudson, after spending a short while at his sister’s place in Soul Crushing Grief immediately following the funeral.
Though she’s had little to do with the woman ever, Sally notices that, barely a month after the fall, Molly Hooper moves out of her dingy flat at the edge of the city and into a nicer place closer to town, in a little street called Quiet Acceptance, just down the road from a very nice, very expensive neighbourhood. That neighbourhood is called Accountability, and they all know that the brother lives there, in an old house with big high fences and the name Debt carved in wrought iron on the gate. Not that Sally cares what Mycroft Holmes chooses to do with himself.
Her days are quite full enough with work, her nights otherwise occupied, and every weekend she packs up her picnic and jumps on the Ignorance train, up to Self-Righteous Bay, with her files of Nobody Could Be That Clever and sometimes a novel called Don’t Dwell. She ignores the internet movement inspired by John’s book, and the rallies constantly being held all across Gratitude.
She tries to put it all behind her, until one day she falls into a day-dream while on the Blind Faith bus, and misses her stop. She shakes herself out of it in time to get off at the next town- a cold and foggy little place called Doubt, where all the houses and shops are built of weatherboard (which can’t possibly be warm enough in winter, surely). She left Don’t Dwell on the bus in her haste, and the thermos with the milk for her tea spilled in her picnic bag, and the next bus out of there leaves in four long hours and only goes as far as Regret, which is only half way back to her connection with the Ignorance train. With no novel, spilled milk, and a handful of files she’s already read, she walks aimlessly around Doubt for a couple of hours before having a drink in the pub and going out to wait for her bus. Once safely at Regret she catches another connecting service to Desperation, which should (and eventually does) take her to her train connection. She wishes she’d never left the house this weekend, and decides to actually use her car the next time she fancies a trip to the country.
It’s half dark by the time she gets home, and all she has energy for is to clean out her bag, which already smells like off dairy. She spends the rest of the evening in the dark, thinking about Sherlock Holmes for the first time in months. She remembers years ago when her father died, and the funeral had been held at the Anger church, because they’d all found out about the mistress at the will reading, and nobody wanted him buried at the Fidelity church with the rest of the relatives after that debacle. She remembered how she’d felt, hearing all these secrets coming out in his last days, to be confirmed when the man was not there to defend himself. She remembers that she’d known the mistress- had met her at a work Christmas function for father’s business. She’d seemed nice.
She remembers that time in her life very well, so she knows with startling clarity that the loss of Sherlock Holmes didn’t feel like that at all.
The next day she calls John Watson. He hangs up in her ear. After two more times he finally stays on the line, and she asks him to meet her at the Forgiveness Sandwich and Coffee Bar just down the road from the clinic. His turf, his terms. There is not much comfortable silence between them, and they don’t have much to say to each other, but when she tells him she might have been wrong, she can’t be sure, I mean you saw how unbelievable he was, it was hardly human and I’ve come to think he was probably on our side and anyway, I’m sorry John… And, well, he doesn’t get up and storm out like he planned to.
She’s a damn good cop, and knows the ins and outs of propriety and distance, but she can’t resist visiting the online forums dedicated to the I Believe movement, and writes it off as insanity when she creates a username and starts posting. Not often, not avidly, but enough to show she has an opinion. It’s enough.
Sherlock Holmes is a vain man, and so from his hotel in I Can’t Tell You, on the northern border of Resolve and Restraint, he keeps an eye on things back home, and a swell of sentiment always hits him when he hears of his supporters, whether he likes it or not.
For the first few weeks he lay low in the small town of Sorrow May Abide, before sneaking off to Work Now, and further on to Revenge. He’s in a damp motel in Indignation when he hears that the Met have been slowly turning around- that Lestrade has been reinstated without further ado, and that his name is no longer the mark of Judas. With a smile, he hides on a freight train to Focus, and manages to completely dismantle the entire High Society branch of Moriarty’s web in just a few short weeks. He rewards himself with a strong cup of tea and his first shave in three months. He misses the sound of John’s praise.
Lestrade comes back to the city once it all simmers down a bit, and finds a comfortable little one-bedder in Atonement, close enough to both his work and his kids that neither are too far away. John stayed kind to him, but never more than necessary, and never enough to be considered especially friendly. Greg sets himself the task of changing that, and shouts John a night at Repentance Bar for his birthday, where they get so very, very sickly drunk and somehow wake up at Greg’s flat, both without their shirts, John in the bath and Greg on the lounge-room floor. John is his friend once more. He comes along to Friday after-work drinks with the Met, and they stop looking at him like a traitor and start looking at him like a hero. It’s nice, if a bit lonely.
John meets Mary in the Hotel Melancholy one year and eight months after the fall, and within two months she moves into Baker Street. There was much discussion over living arrangements, but ultimately John didn’t want to leave Mrs Hudson, and Mrs Hudson refused to up the rent because of Mary, and Sherlock’s bedroom remains untouched, but Mary shares John’s room anyway. It all ends up working out. It’s wonderful. On weekends they travel down to Falling For You and spend all Saturday in bed, and for the first time in a long time John feels truly happy. Not better than what he was, but happy nonetheless. Mary has a healing effect on everyone, so it’s poetic that she’s with a doctor. They’re holidaying in Love when he asks her to marry him. She says yes.
Sherlock finishes his work- unravels the last string that Moriarty controlled- five months, one week and two days after John’s wedding. He’s travelled around the world twice over now, through Angst, past Bitter, into Focus for a second time, travelled down the Menace river, spent a brief time in Weary, saw the hills of Impossible, and was briefly lost in the Forest of Unending. But he’s finished now. He’s done. He gets on board Redemption flight 347, and arrives home on a shining summer day. He takes a deep breath and feels as light as the London air in his lungs.
Despite the pull of Baker Street, Sherlock makes his way across town, to the little street called Quiet Acceptance. Molly hugs him so long and so tight that he fears she may have bruised him, but it’s oh so worth it. Together they sit on her front stoop and have what may just be their first real, proper conversation. Within the hour a fancy suit walks towards them from the direction of Accountability, umbrella clutched tightly in his hand. He’s been fat and back to skinny again, if Sherlock is judging his tailoring correctly, which of course he is. He also looks less stressed (though currently tense), which is not surprising given it’s much easier to run several countries when you aren’t being undermined by a criminal spider web.
The brothers stand in front of each other for a short, silent moment. Sherlock holds out his hand, and his brother clasps it, and before they know it they’re giving each other a one-armed hug around the shoulders, their handshake clutched between them. Molly thinks she’s never seen anything so strange in her entire life, and she does post-mortems.
John has always had healthy lungs, so when he sees Sherlock standing in the downstairs foyer (a weeping Mrs Hudson retreating to her rooms because it’s all too much), he’s a little surprised to find his diaphragm constricted, his throat closing up, his cheat burning, and so help him he’s going to die of a spontaneous asthma attack. So he turns on his heal and walks straight back out the front door. He takes a long walk, down Furious Road, over Confusion Bridge, around Wounds Ripped Open, and eventually over to Accountability. Mycroft hardly seems surprised to see him, but John knows it’s not because of CCTV cameras. A brief chat and a slammed door, and John feels marginally better. He gets on the tube and goes to Mary’s work, and once he’s spilled his guts (and a fair few tears), they leave together on foot, and take the longer way home through Relief park. Mary holds his hand the whole way back to Baker Street.
Thanks to Molly (and a mutual understanding that texting everybody ‘LOL JK I’m not dead’ is highly inappropriate), the Met hear about Sherlock’s return on the grapevine. She calls Lestrade first. The man sheds actual tears over the phone. It’s a bit awkward. Within the week everybody knows Sherlock’s back, for better or worse. It’s been long established that Richard Brook was in fact a fake. Too many clients came forward attesting to that fact, and too much of the double-checked evidence was right for it ever to have been forged, even by a genius. They still remember that he’s an arsehole, but he’s an innocent arsehole, and that’s the point that counts.
Sally Donovan can’t stand Self-Righteous Bay anymore- ever since that disastrous trip that took up an entire day and involved at least seventy four modes of public transport. At least. Instead, she spends one rainy Saturday in Ashamed, a tiny little town just over from Betrayal, on the recommendation of Lestrade. He knows the area from the time he was on the outs, but hasn’t been back much since the dust settled. She goes alone. She plans on going alone to a lot of places in the future. It’s better that way. She sleeps fitfully that night. On the Sunday she continues east to Penitence Lake, which shimmers in the sun and hypnotises her for half the day. She comes back to London on the more scenic Humble Road and onto the Shamed motorway, and instead of going directly home she straightens her spine and goes to Baker Street. Her hands shake, but she can’t turn back, and she owes at least this much.
She calls him Freak with a smirk, and tells him she’s glad to see him. She means it. He calls her an idiot and seems to hold no grudges. Of course an idiot would fall for the ruse of a mastermind, and she’s so easy to fool, and so ready to see the worst of him, but he knows where to direct his anger. When she mentions that she’ll see him around, waltzing as he does into a crime scene to insult them all, he actually smiles, and she leaves before she does something ridiculous like hug him. She’s made a big enough fool of herself just being at Baker Street.
When she gets home, Sally sits down to plan a weekend in Trust, because she’s never been there. Apparently it’s beautiful this time of year.