Chapter 1: Exodus
-A Sherlock Holmes fan work. The only character that is mine is Richard. The rest belong to the incomparable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Not written for money or profit-
October the 18th, 1937
Sussex Downs, Great Britain
The day had turned out terribly chilly, a cold drizzle having started sometime around midday. It was quickly turning to ice on the ground as the temperature steadily dropped. We were in for a hell of a storm within the next couple of nights, I could feel it in my old bones.
Sherlock Holmes, now grayed around the edges but not much more dulled than he ever had been, sat in an old, worn armchair in the corner of the drawing room. The angle he sat at allowed him to gaze out at our sprawling lawn through the enormous bay window. A tartan blanket was wrapped about his shoulders and he pulled it tighter around himself as I watched him.
Lately, the cold was increasingly hard for him to shake and came upon him far too easily. He had had a nasty cough for a month than only seemed to be worsening. I feared, a deep and knotting feeling in my stomach, that he was not long for the world.
He was 83 years old, far from the spry young man that used to lean out windows and wrestle with criminals, both physically and mentally. Several of his habits (smoking, morphine, and cocaine to name a few) had taken a toll on his body and he felt it worse now more than ever. It had become a chore to simply make it from one end of the room to the other.
At 85, I was only a little better off. I had not done as much damage to myself as he had, however. The old wound from where I had taken a Jezail bullet in the war had started to act up on a daily basis in the form of aggravated arthritis, though. Old age was not golden, no matter how you tried to look at it.
Holmes started to cough, an attack that could go on for minutes at a time. There was nothing I could do to help him with that, it was just the way it was now. I had tried cold remedies when he had first come down with it, but to no avail. All we could do was let it run its course.
I stood and moved toward him, my leg aching as I did. I pushed the pain to the back of my mind, allowing myself to keep going. It was not long before I stood beside his chair, my hand resting on his shoulder. I held to his shoulder tightly until his coughing had finally ceased, ten minutes later.
I leaned in. "How are you feeling, Sherlock?"
He let out a humorless chuckle. "Like a decaying, crumbling skyscraper in the dead of winter."
I frowned a little at this description. "Why do you say that?"
He gave me a very exasperated look, one that I was used to from those gray eyes by this time in my life. "At the height of my career, I was world-famous, a towering skyscraper in the metropolis of justice. If you must be poetic about it, of course. In my twilight years, my faculties have dulled drastically and I find it difficult to deduce the location of the marmalade spoon on most days. Also, I'm bloody freezing..."
"Would you like me to call Richard to make a fire? I can move your chair over by the fireplace to help you warm up in comfort..."
Holmes sighed softly. "I doubt it will do much good but...yes, that sounds fine. Go ahead and call Richard, John."
I rang the bell that summoned our manservant. Richard Lestrade was in his mid-50s and had been with us for 30 years. He was the son of our Inspector Lestrade and had wanted to follow in his father's footsteps but wanted to shake the stigma of being a dullard as was common knowledge about the good inspector. He had approached Holmes in the hope that he could learn something from the master detective so that he could some day join Scotland Yard and be a beacon of justice for them (these were his own words to Holmes when he asked for his assistance; Holmes had given him quite the dressing-down on how poetic nonsense was the bane of police work and poets did not make policemen). Despite his high intelligence level and the obvious differences (all good) between he and his father, it became clear very quickly that he could not learn Sherlock Holmes' methods and utilize them in solving crimes.
He had decided to give up on Scotland Yard and asked if he could stay on as amanuensis to Holmes and myself. Mrs Hudson, our dear landlady, had passed away during his tutelage and Richard had taken up the slack without being asked. He found he rather enjoyed it and wanted to stay.
Holmes and I had let him stay without reservation. He had taken very good care of us before it became official. When we finally left our little flat at 221B Baker Street in London, Richard had gladly moved with us to Sussex Downs. He was our blessing in our "Golden" years.
He entered the room very quietly, as was his wont. He had always been a very quiet being. "Do you need something, Dr Watson?"
"Would you kindly make a fire for Mr. Holmes? He's feeling chilled and I can't say I'm not feeling the same."
I heard Holmes mutter from his chair, "Chilled is not the word. Damn near Arctic would be more apt..."
"I'll be glad to. Perhaps you should make some hot tea, Dr Watson. It would help the cold for the both of you." His eyes were on Holmes and I could tell that there was more to this suggestion than met the eye.
I nodded. "That's a splendid idea. I'll do that while you make the fire. We'll be right back, Sherlock."
Richard and I left the room together and remained silent until we reached the spacious kitchen. I started the water boiling as he leaned back against the counter. He let out a long sigh and scrubbed one hand over his stubbled face.
"What's on your mind, Richard? It seems to be weighing on you rather heavily, whatever it is."
"It's Mr Holmes, Doctor... I have a terrible feeling for his health, sir. I think his time is short. Much shorter than you or I think it is. This coldness he has is what worries me so. My grandfather had the same. The cold crept up on him in the middle of June, along with a cough that would make him ache so badly that he would cry at night. At first we thought it was influenza, but it became apparent fairly quickly that it wasn't. He never had a fever, he was always cold. That summer was very hot, we were all sweltering but we kept a fire burning for him because of how cold he was. By the end of July, he had passed. The doctor said that his blood circulation was very poor which brought the cold upon him. His heart was unable to move what little blood it was getting and so it stopped. I feel that Mr Holmes has the same ailment, Dr Watson..."
I felt a lump rise in my throat at his words. The truth was, I agreed with him. I had seen this particular illness many times in elderly patients, especially those who had smoked heavily. The cough always would suggest something like bronchitis or pneumonia but it would persist in a way that was nothing like either of them and produce no phlegm or mucus. Holmes' cough was exactly that and it had persisted for a month. I knew his days were numbered.
"You may be right, Richard. I haven't said anything to him but I know it shan't be long. That's why I've been trying to simply make him as comfortable as possible..." I choked on my words. Saying them aloud made it much more real.
He laid a hand on my arm. "It's alright, Dr Watson. I know what he means to you. You have every right to be upset."
Richard was probably the only one who really did know what Sherlock Holmes meant to me. He knew that Holmes and I had been lovers for almost 40 years, that we charaded as lifelong bachelors when we had been in a completely faithful 'marriage' all this time. He knew that Holmes was my life.
"I do not know what I'll do without him, Richard. I thought I lost him once and it nearly killed me. If he does go, I fear that I won't be far behind him. I'm serious about that. I'm 85 years old and he has been my partner half my life. I cannot live without him," I replied softly, emotion welling up in my chest like a tight fist.
He said nothing, perhaps he had no real idea of what to say to me, but he hugged me gently. It had the effect it was intended to have, it calmed me and comforted me. That knot loosened a little but did not disappear completely.
"Thank you. I'm sorry... I must seem like an old, dramatic fool." I did feel a small amount of embarrassment, but I knew it was all right with him.
He chuckled gently. "No, you seem like a man who loves his partner more than anything. It's alright, Dr Watson."
I finished up the tea as he gathered up some of the lumber we had set to the side and he went back to the drawing room. It really was very difficult to imagine my life without Sherlock Holmes. He had taken up almost my entire life for about 45 years in one way or another. To suddenly not have him there would truly kill me. He was my friend, my lover, my soul mate. He was my everything.
I took a deep breath to steady myself and picked up the tea tray, carrying it to the drawing room. Richard had a good, strong fire going in the fireplace. Holmes glanced up as I came into the room.
When he spoke, his voice was slow and soft, but I could make it out. "I thought you might have gotten lost on the way back from the kitchen, John...What took you?"
"I put the wrong tea in the cups and had to remake them, love. I'm sorry."
I sat the tea tray down on the end table and went over to him. I took his hands in mine and shivered slightly. His hands felt like ice.
"You're so cold, Sherlock..."
"I'm beginning to feel numb, I'm freezing...Get me to the fire, please..." he murmured.
I turned my head, calling to Richard. "Move the love-seat to the fire and then fetch some blankets quickly!"
Richard hastened to follow my orders. He hurriedly moved the love-seat as close to the fire as he could without being far too close and then dashed to our linen closet and pulled three heavy blankets from within.
I helped Holmes to stand and we moved slowly to the love-seat. I sat with him and Richard helped me to wrap the blankets around my ailing detective. It was a very short time before we had him almost completely cocooned inside.
He laid his head against my chest and closed his eyes, coughing some from the simple exertion of moving from the armchair to the love-seat. I rubbed his back through the blankets.
"Thank you for your help, Richard...You may go now," I said distractedly, only concerned for helping my lover.
"Don't hesitate to call if you need anything, Doctor. I will be close by," he replied and left the room quietly.
I bundled Holmes up against me and held him through his coughing. When he finally quieted, I looked down into his face. "Are you warmer now?"
"A bit...It's not quite so cold now..." He was silent for a long moment. "John, we need to talk about a subject you won't like..."
A small tendril of fear snaked into my stomach. I hoped it was not what had been on my mind, but felt it had to be. That was the only subject I had been actively attempting to avoid with him in the past month.
"What is that, Sherlock?"
"I'm dying, John. I feel it and I feel that it could be any moment. The cold has settled into me and refuses to let go. I can barely find my pulse anymore and there are times my heart feels as though it's skipped a few beats. I'm just so tired, John. So very, very tired. My father spoke of this kind of exhaustion on his death bed... It's the kind of exhaustion that sleep does not cure and tea will not break you from. My time is almost up, John," he replied in a thin voice.
My first instinct was to deny this, to tell him that it was just a cough or influenza and that he would get better and live several more years. I found I could not, however. He was not naive enough to believe such a lie. I held him tighter to me.
"There may be some truth in that...I've been thinking the same for the past couple of weeks." I tried to keep my voice level and calm, but that slightly higher tone of impending emotion crept in.
"It's all right. I'm ready. I've led a full, long life with the person I love, doing what I love. I have no regrets, save perhaps the 3 years I spent away from you after the Reichenbach incident. Other than that, I regret nothing. The story of Sherlock Holmes draws to a close, my Boswell..."
My eyes burned with the want to cry but still I held my emotion in check. It did bother me how resigned and accepting he was of dying, the man had always been so full of life and energy. I suppose that even the sun must eventually burn out and Holmes was the sun in my universe. I gravitated to him and bathed in the light of his very existence.
"John, I need you to do something for me. I need you to do this now, right this moment," he said, glancing up at me with dull, tired eyes.
"Anything, Sherlock..." I replied though my heart pounded uncomfortably in my chest.
He sat up a bit to look me more squarely in the eyes. "I need you to tell me it's okay to let go, to let myself pass on. I need you to tell me that." He squeezed my hands as I opened my mouth to object, an automatic reaction to such a request. "John, please. Cry if you must, hurt as I know you will... I need to hear you say it's all right."
I could not speak for several long moments, torn between wanting to argue and wanting to appease him. Of everything he had ever asked of me, this was without a doubt the hardest. How do you tell the other half of your soul that it is all right to leave you? Even when Mary had passed, I had had a hard time letting go of her. I was not nearly as devoted to her as I was to Holmes. I had been married to her only a couple of years. I had been with Holmes much longer.
As I looked at him, however, I could see in his eyes how much he needed me to tell him it was all right. He was silently begging me to say it, one hand weakly squeezing mine.
I took a shaky breath and brought his hand to my lips, kissing his cold knuckles gently. I let myself give into my emotion at last, tears finally welling up in my eyes and my voice quivering as I spoke.
"As much as it pains me to say this, as much as I don't want to...it's all right, Sherlock. It really is all right. I know how tired you are and your body has had enough. It isn't fair of me to tell you you need to live, simply because I don't want to lose you. You've been suffering these last couple of months and that's not fair. I love you and I would miss you terribly, but if it's your time to go, then please don't let me keep you from finding your peace..."
My tears had started to fall, my words thick in my throat but completely sincere. I did not want him to suffer anymore, no matter how much I wanted him to live. That kind of half-existence was not really living at all.
His eyes closed and I could sense his relief as he breathed out. He leaned into me again and nuzzled my chest gently.
"Thank you, mother hen. That's exactly what I need to hear. I love you so much..." He told me quietly, his thin voice muffled in my shirt.
"I love you too, old cock. More than you realize."
We sat together in silence for awhile, the sound of the fire crackling occupying our large drawing room. It was my lover who spoke first, dispelling the quiet.
"Do you remember the first case we worked on together, John? That very first case after you moved in with me in our flat on Baker Street?"
I chuckled softly. "How could I forget? It was the first time you amazed me with your deductive prowess and made me feel a right fool...though certainly not the last. I called it 'A Study in Scarlet'."
I felt him smile against my chest. "Yes... 'A Study in Scarlet'. Do you remember when we saw the word 'Rache' on the wall in blood and you thought it was part of the name Rachel? I rather unceremoniously told you you were wrong and basically called you a fool, if I remember correctly."
I nodded, wondering where this was going. "I never told you that the thought had also crossed my mind that a female named Rachel could have been involved. It was my first thought when we walked into the crime scene. It all seemed very cut and dried on the surface, a marriage or affair gone wrong. I am not a fan of the female populace as you well know, so I dismissed the idea quickly, thinking that it was my own opinion that was trying to sway my mind. However, your idea had not been without merit at all," he said, speaking slowly so he could articulate his words for me.
I was puzzled. "Why are you telling me this now, love?"
"The image of your face when I corrected you has haunted me all this time. You looked so dreadfully upset and I hurt you, I know I did. I'm apologizing for that, John."
My heart ached from the sweetness. I did not think he even remembered that small incident back that far. It made me happy that he did remember and it did matter to him.
"It's forgiven, Sherlock. It was forgiven a long time ago, but I'm glad I can say it to you."
It stayed quiet for a few minutes between us. His breathing was a little shallow, which worried me greatly. He readjusted a little to be closer to me and let out a breath that was shaking terribly.
"I'm feeling very tired, John. I'm going to close my eyes for a little while. When I awake, I'd like some toast with marmalade," Holmes murmured softly. "Do let Mrs Hudson know."
I blinked a little at that. Mrs Hudson had been gone 28 years that August. I was not all that surprised by this, however, he had made that error several times for the past fortnight, mentioning people who had passed away.
"I'll let her know. Give me a kiss and then you can rest." Something in my heart told me that I needed to kiss him before he fell asleep and I was determined to do it.
He leaned his face up to me and I kissed him deeply, a kiss reminiscent of our much younger days and he let out a gentle gasp of surprise. When I pulled back, he looked rather dazed.
"I love you, Sherlock Holmes. Forever and always," I murmured.
"I love you too, John Watson. So much," he replied softly, leaning fully against my chest.
"Good night, love. Sleep well."
It was not long before he had fallen asleep, snoring very, very quietly. He looked so peaceful when he slept, he always had. When he was younger, sleep did not come so easily to him so he fairly passed out when he did sleep. I was glad to see him at peace.
The warmth of the fire was beginning to make me drowsy. Not only that, I had missed my mid-afternoon nap in all of the hullabaloo and was starting to feel it. I did not want to sleep, afraid of what might happen as I slumbered. Old age and habit finally won out and I sunk into a deep but fitful sleep.
When I awoke, the fire had dimmed down to glowing embers and the chill had settled back into the room. My thoughts immediately turned to my lover and I glanced down to see if he was too cold.
I knew then, as I looked down into his face, that the cold would never, could never, touch him again.
His face, already pale from illness and age, had taken on a ghostly white pallor, one I was all too familiar with. His lips, those lips that had teased me, taunted me, harassed me, and loved me, were a terrible shade of purplish-blue. His chest was not rising and falling like it had been, it was still beneath my hand.
My stomach felt like lead had been dropped into it and I reached out to touch Holmes. There was no heat under his skin and no pulse in any of the places I checked. I checked them all several times in panicked hurry. I could find no pulse whatsoever, no sign of life.
As I stood, laying him out to look him over, I knew in my heart that he had known. He had known that night would be his last. He had wanted my words to take to the grave and had wanted to say his goodbyes in his own way, as was his wont.
I felt sick. I stared down at his body, knowing he was gone and I could not breathe. Bile rose in my stomach and I could not think. I stood there, just looking down at him. Those eyes would never open again for me, those lips would never kiss mine good night again.
I felt the scream build in my chest steadily. It felt like I needed to be sick, but when it finally burst forth, it was far from it. I screamed and I screamed and I screamed, unable to stop. I dropped to my knees beside him and clutched his hand in my, pressing it to my cheek and rocking back and forth, just screaming in agony.
I prayed that he would open his eyes and smile and tell me that he fooled me again, that it was just like Reichenbach but I knew that would not happen. There was something in his pallor that only a doctor knows and there was no way he could fake that particular shade of death. My light was gone.
I only vaguely remember a few things after that. Richard had come in and pulled me back, away from Holmes. I had fought him tooth and nail and got nowhere fast. A strange man I had never seen before came in and a burly assistant of his had followed. I watched them lower my detective onto a stretcher and he was carried from our home. I could do nothing but watch in numb silence.
Richard told me when it was just the two of us that I had screamed for a half-hour straight and then had fallen deathly silent. The man I did not recognize was the coroner and they took Holmes to the morgue to be prepared for burial.
We had picked out a place on the grounds where we wanted to be interred and Richard had walked me through the steps of choosing a casket, having a headstone made, and preparing for the funeral.
That was three days ago. Three days ago, I placed my soulmate in the earth and I immediately locked myself in my study afterwards. I have taken no food, no drink, and I have not slept. I have spent three days telling the last chapter of Sherlock Holmes' saga in memory of him.
Upon the closing of this chapter, I shall write no more. The subject of my writing, of my passion, is now gone and I do not feel the desire to write as I once did. I am barely able to put pen to paper to finish this.
Before me sits a letter from my detective, one that I have no idea what it holds. Richard slipped it under the door yesterday and I have been staring at it for the past 24 hours. That neat slant of Holmes' writing stares back up at me. I have not been able to bring myself to open the envelope. The front simply reads: To John Watson In the Event of My Death.
I do not plan to tell the public the contents of this letter. It is a last correspondence between myself and my lover. Thank you, my loyal reads who have loved the master detective as I have. This last chapter is dedicated to all of you with the hope that you will remember him as dearly and fondly as I.
John Watson M.D.
October 21st, 1937
Post Note: I have taken it upon myself to print this last chapter, as I know that the doctor would have wanted you to see it as his epilogue states. I also wish to inform you that the doctor too, has passed. On the fifth day of his self-imposed solitary confinement, I began to worry about him and broke down the study door. As I feared, he was no longer with us. It appears that he did not kill himself by traditional means, though I know he died of grief. When you have been with someone as long as the doctor and Mr Holmes had been, it is extremely difficult to move on when one passes. This comes as no surprise to me. My only wish is that you remember the two rogues of justice who saved London (and the world) countless times as they were in their youth. Thank you for taking the time to read this in memory of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson
By my hand
November 07th, 1937
Chapter 2: Chapter 2 - The Letter
The letter written to John Watson from Sherlock Holmes
Twilight Exodus: The Letter
My dearest John~
If you hold this letter in your hands, it means that I am no longer with you. The idea grieves me so, to think that I might once more be leaving you behind because of death. Before, it was to protect you and Mary, to give you the chance at a family, something I could never offer you. Now, it is because my own blatant disregard for my body has finally caught up with me.
Darling, I have lived the most glorious, wonderful life and it all comes back to you. You have helped to shape my life and my identity, giving me more than anyone could ask for. Before I met you, I was a brilliant detective, solving the most impossible crimes and taking down some of the most evil masterminds the world has ever known. That never changed. Something much more important did.
You made me human. You showed me love and compassion and what it means to be a human being. I came to understand what solving crimes was truly about. I saw the happiness in a mother’s face, I saw closure in a daughter’s eyes, the resignation in a son’s grimace. I saw what good in really did. All because of you, John.
I still regret leaving you for three years, though the last 40 have more than made up for it. My heart finally knew happiness, knows peace. You have been my guiding star all these years.
I don’t believe in theology, as you well know. However, should there be a God and a heaven, I hope to be waiting for you to join me. I cannot live in an eternal paradise without you, my dearest. That would be hell.
Always remember that my love for you is unrivaled. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me, but I like to think that our love story is the greatest ever told. First and foremost, we were partners, and now we are forever entwined by this beautiful circle of life, love, and death. I have no regrets about how I lived my life.
Forever and always
P.S. I am certain you will have too much on your mind with my passing so I made our final arrangements. I know you will agree with my decisions. The house and grounds, including the apiary, will go to Richard to repay him for his care. I have also left him a trust fund of 1,000,000 pounds. He will want for nothing. I have set aside funds to go to Simza in France for, well… you know who. I imagine she may faint at the sum. The last arrangement I have made is for 750,000 pounds to be donated to Scotland Yard so that the fresh faces of the force may receive proper tutelage. My only wish is for justice to always prevail.
My legend will always begin and end with you. There is no Sherlock Holmes without John Watson. Until we meet again in some different time and place, I love you and I will always be with you.