Sherlock inhaled as deeply as he could to catch the swirl of second-hand counterfeit Marlboro smoke from the table in front of him. It was stolen time, but in another world it was owed him, as a gift. Last year he supposed he had ceded it to Irene Adler and her mobile. Perhaps John had not even known; Lestrade had texted him a greeting. What a waste, Sherlock’s treacherous heart thought. With the other side of his inner dialogue, the one he trusted, he understood himself completely. Spending the time any differently would have been the waste. Though he might have taken John and Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade out to dinner. Perhaps even Molly? Or…not.
He found he was thinking of the pathologist even while he decided firmly in favour of her absence on an occasion that had never taken place. This awful hiatus thrust contemplation of the least useful kind upon him.
He had an aerogramme and a pen. He had found that ‘writing it _out_’ did silence some kinds of persistent inner chatter. _Out_ would be better. And perhaps for Molly one day as well. Perhaps.
I've no idea when you'll receive this, if ever. I’ll either be alive or dead when you get it, instead of this position like Schrödinger’s cat. But it comes to you with all my good wishes for a Happy New Year, whatever year it will be.
I am learning not to say horrible things all the time; it might amuse you to know I'm learning that by learning not to say anything at all, which I have always been told was a traditional alternative. But you're not unkind that way, though I have deserved far worse of you.
It was Christmas again, twelve days back. I think of that evening last year and I am reasonably certain I feel worse about it now than you; I hope so.
I said ‘you have always counted’: I want you to know I was speaking no more than the truth.
Not ‘counting’ to me the way you wanted, I know; but I would have been as bad a mate for you as Jim from IT, equally unsuitable and likely more painful because I could never have lied to you as freely as he did.
Not many people want to hold something so sharp it cuts them whether it wants to or not; and, I assure you, none of the times I have hurt you were ill-intentioned. It’s much easier for me to admit when I’ve been malicious than when I’ve been thoughtless; I’d much rather have aimed to cause pain than caused it unintentionally, and I know I hurt you more than once in my haste to do something else [“Showing off,” John’s voice said, relentlessly. Yeah, very well. It was hard to resist pouncing on the toy, when Molly twitched it so enticingly on the carpet. Sherlock knew he had a lot in common with Toby-cat. Claws.] Harder for you to excuse and harder for me to prevent.
Most of them were times I wasn’t even being manipulative—well, no, perhaps 'most' is going too far; but you made it much too easy for me to take advantage of you. Being admired so blindly isn’t good for the object of your admiration, or for the person admiring. If you find someone attractive, enjoy the view but let their other qualities speak for themselves; don’t overwrite them with your desires. Don’t be so mastered by your desires as to ignore your perceptions. I hope, if we ever meet again, that both of us will expect and find better in us both.
Again, trust your perceptions: you are a scientist, a good one. I preferred, prefer, will prefer you to the rest of the local pathologists not simply because you permit my investigations, but because your own results have always been carefully-researched, soundly-reasoned and well-documented. I know these aren’t the compliments you wanted [Sherlock paused to consider the tense. Present? He hoped not. Past would encourage her to think of it that way] from me, but they are sincere, and harder to earn than what I think most men say to most women most of the time.
There are far more so-called pretty faces than intelligent, disciplined minds. I hope you will hold out for a man who values the second more than the first. I can’t tell you such a man will be easy to find. I’ve found loneliness much easier to bear than being valued by fools.
I am doing good (and reasonably well, though it’s not a very comfortable box) and getting done what I need to accomplish. What you did for me made that more possible than anything I could have arranged on my own. I am grateful to you for my friends’ lives as well as for my own. I hope saving them has not cost you more than you can bear. I trust my brother’s ability to keep your public profile untainted, but I know your personal honesty is important to you and you will not find it easy to excuse lying to our friends. I can’t really help you, there. I never understood why people made so much of the virtue of forgiveness, but that was before it mattered to me whether I received it.
Perhaps you can put the blame on me, tell them once more how a scheming self-centred maniac took advantage of your sweet nature. True enough.
I do hope we shall have the chance once again to investigate pathologies and poisonings as well as enjoying the lunches I rashly promised. We can publish something about that series of East London kidneys. You can be the lead author if you insist; that will look more legal.
Out of room on the aerogramme. Folded, sealed, addressed — Sherlock thrust the letter and money at the waiter, with an inquiring look. The waiter nodded. Out of time; he was the game and he must be afoot.