There are rumors of a shop trading in wishes. Sherlock doesn't mean to seek it out, but it finds him anyway. He's on his way to see Molly, to ask her to put her career and maybe even life on the line for him. Sherlock knows what end Moriarty is trying to herd him toward. This needs to be a sure thing; his final solution to Moriarty's final problem. It's the only way to stop Moriarty for good.
Sherlock doubles back down the block. He almost missed it the first time— would have missed it if not for the insistent tugging at his mind.
Sherlock's mental map of London is impeccable. He works constantly to make sure it's up-to-date. This particular parcel of land is (is supposed to be) an empty lot, abandoned by its developer after money for new luxury condos dried up. The tall wooden fence encircling its perimeter and the opening flanked by two posts with wooden carvings of crescent moons is not supposed to be here. Nor was the two-story Edwardian-style house here the last time he passed. The lot shouldn't even be large enough to hold a house that size.
When he steps over the threshold onto the cobblestone walkway (set into a well-groomed lawn of grass and trees; not the usual upturned dirt in an abandoned lot), the sky bursts open with light. It is day on the other side of the fence. And he is no longer in London, because the large skyscrapers flanking the house on all sides are too tall and their signage in Japanese. Behind him, on the side of the fence from where he just came, is Cale Street as he has memorized it bathed in a wash of sunlight.
He needs to go to Molly. He needs to make plans.
His feet move briskly toward the front door without his permission.
"Welcome, customer!" The greeters are two school-age children (one whose hair is cotton-candy pink and the other pastel blue— sweet-looking— meant to lower your guard). But their eyes are empty of life and their grins are terrible, soulless facsimiles. Before he can protest, each of them has latched onto one of his arms and shuffled him deeper into the house.
The interiors (traditional Japanese aesthetics) are the polar opposite of its exteriors. Yet none of it clashes.
"Master! We've brought you a customer!" The two children sang in unison before a sliding door. The crescent moon motif repeats itself on the silkscreen, looming large against a dark night sky with wispy clouds. They drop Sherlock's hand and take hold of the handle on either side, simultaneously sliding the two panels open to reveal the room beyond.
Inside, a woman draped in a long kimono (overflowing— only outdone by the long locks of black hair pooling around her) sits at a table with a full tea service. Another person (male; mid- to late teens; Japanese; clad in an apron and a bandana to hold back his hair— domestic help; and there is something about him that makes Sherlock's brain itch on the inside) straightens suddenly from the act of pouring tea into an antique set of china. He gapes at Sherlock, unable to keep the surprise from his face (not surprise over Sherlock being here, but surprise over who Sherlock is).
Her red eyes flash (she's so much more dangerous than Irene and dangerous in a different way) and she beckons Sherlock over with a languid finger. (She is used to commanding and used to being obeyed). "Welcome to my shop, honored guest." While she does not mock Sherlock, her tone also lacks any note of actual deference.
The two children bounce over to her and flop down on either side of her chair. They giggle in unison. (Dolls, like the ones his Aunt Martha had collected— life-like but ultimately just imitations that fell short of the real thing).
Sherlock folds himself into the seat across from her and the boy finishes pouring the tea. He tries to read her, but there's too much. Every time he thinks he has a grasp on her, something novel or contradictory catches his attention. She is ever constant and yet ever shifting, and pressure squeezes around Sherlock's head until he forces himself to look away. He focuses on their surrounding instead.
"What is it that you sell? This doesn't look like any shop I've ever been in." Sherlock says as biscuits are served onto delicate china plates.
Her eyes twinkle with mirth (I know something you don't know— Sherlock hates not knowing). "I grant wishes. Anything your heart desires as long as you are willing to pay the price. That is why you're here. You can only enter the shop if you have a wish."
(Rumors— urban legends— he's deleted them, but references remain in his mental index.)
Any other day and Sherlock would have laughed— mocked her. But today is not like any other day.
He turns on the silent boy. Sherlock can read him in the wrinkle (or lack therefore of) in his school uniform and the bags under his eyes— his heterochromatic eyes: one blue, one gold, and each iris shaped slightly different from the other like they belonged to two different people entirely. (How had he not noticed until now? How had he missed that during his initial inspection?)
"Your parents died when you were very young. You spent your formative years being shuffled from one relative to another, but you never felt like you belonged. Survivor's guilt. You live alone now. It's the only way you'd want to. You don't want to impose on anyone and," Sherlock squinted. "Because something is chasing you— or you think something is."
The boy's jaw dropped and the woman (the shopkeeper if she is to be believed) reaches over and closes his mouth for him. The boy flits his gaze frantically between her and Sherlock before asking, "That was incredible. He didn't even ask for my name or birthday first. Is he also a magician like Yuuko-san?" The words he speak are in English, but his mouth moves in unfamiliar shapes that don't correspond.
Sherlock snaps, "Don't insult me."
Yuuko chuckles. "Mister?" At least her lips move as they should when forming words.
"Holmes, Sherlock Holmes."
The quip of her lips become sharper. "No, Watanuki," the boy jostles. "Mister Holmes is not a magician. His gifts are entirely mundane."
"How did he know all that then?" Watanuki insisted.
"I simply observe." Sherlock forces his gaze away from the boy's illogical mouth to lock eyes with Yuuko. "And you—"
"Watanuki, go make sure the chawanmushi will be ready for dinner tonight," she barks.
The boy trudges out of the room while grumbling.
Sherlock waits until he's gone before finishing his deduction. "You're dying." He knows that look, recognizes it from when he's looked into the mirror in recent days. She's just worn it for longer (much, much longer).
She arches a finely trimmed eyebrow. "Aren't we all, Mister Holmes?"
"Your English is impeccable."
"Thank you, an old friend taught me long ago."
"He, Watanuki, was not speaking English, even though I heard him that way. A translation apparatus?"
"Very astute." Her attention flickers briefly to the black stuffed rabbit in the corner. It twitches minutely. "Now about your wish."
Anger thrums through his blood and he pushes it down. "I don't have one."
She tilts her head, slipping her hair and the folds of her kimono off one pale shoulder. "Then why are you here? You're still here, losing time and traction as the spider weaves his web."
"What do you know about Jim Moriarty?"
She leans forward across the table and the movement accentuates her cleavage. She's not doing it to attract him or tempt him in any way. Sherlock is not inclined that way (toward anyone really) and she seems to know. "I know it is inevitable— the end that you both are hurtling and plummeting towards. Your fates have been intertwined for far longer than you realize. The fact you two share a common root is no coincidence. Nothing in the world is coincidence, everything is inevitable."
Hitzusen, something whispers in the undercurrent of her voice. And Sherlock thinks of Carl Powers and the pool— the point of origin shared between Moriarty and himself.
"You said you could grant any wish. Can I wish for Moriarty's death then?" Because that would be a clean and simple resolution to all his problems.
Moriarty deserves death.
For the first time, her placid composure cracks just a little and her expression shutters. "No, anything but that. It is the one sort of wish I will not grant. You do not realize the sort of burden the act of taking a life places on your soul. The price would crush you. You are not prepared for those consequences."
"Then what good are you?!" Sherlock springs up from his chair and paces back and forth. He feels claustrophobic, and the dimension of the room widens and diminishes like the tide. It's maddening (because magic doesn't make sense, it bends the laws of reality and can whisk you from London to Japan in the span of steps). Sherlock pulls on his hair. "I must beat Moriarty at his own game. He means to push me to take my own life. I can only defeat him by fooling him into believing I've done so."
Sherlock hates that there's no guarantee he will survive.
"Your wish to fool Moriarty with a faked death, that I can grant. I have something that you can use to complete your magic trick. Maru, Moro, go get it."
The two children scamper out of the room, leaving them alone at last.
Sherlock should not dare to hope, but a part of him persists in doing so. "You said there was a price."
"For everything you wish, you have to pay an equal price in return. You cannot get more or give more. You cannot get less or give less. It must be in balance, or else there will be chaos."
The spiritual nonsense grates Sherlock teeth. He bares it because she has power (he knows because he can feel it humming in the air like a static charge, like the moment immediately before lightning strikes twice in the same place). "The price," he says impatiently.
"To sever an unwanted connection, the only fair price is for you to forfeit the one connection you treasure."
Sherlock's blood runs cold. "John."
"Yes, if you choose to pay this price, Sherlock Holmes, you will never meet this man again for the rest of your natural life. Your lives will become two parallel lines running alongside each other on separate planes and never to intersect. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to see or contact him again because events will always conspire against you otherwise."
"Will remain untouched. This is your price, not his. His life will run its course as it always would have, but without you." She smiles again, soft and sad (as if she understands). "He will mourn you. But he will move on and he will be okay."
The room around him pulses with each shallow breath. They (two dying people) stare silently at each other over a gulf of Earl Grey and chocolate biscuits. Sherlock sips the tea to fill the disconcerting space. It's perfect, just the way he prefers to take it. Somehow, it tastes even better than how John prepares it for him (and no one in the world can do it better than John). The milky sweetness turns quickly to bile and the liquid shudders in the delicate cup when he places it down on the table, sloshing into the saucer. He thinks this may be the singularly worst moment of his life.
At least up to this point.
Maru and Moro return minutes later with a trinket, and she teaches him how to use it (Names are important. Names have power. It doesn't matter whether it's living or not. Once you have given something a name, you have embodied it with that same amount of power. Imbue it with yours, and it can die in your stead. But beware, if it does, you will never be able to reclaim your name).
When he crosses back into London (it's night again), the space next to his heart in his chest feels empty. He chances a look back, and the abandoned lot is once again just that.
Sherlock does not despair and he puts his contingency plan into motion. There may still be a chance he won't have to take that last drastic step.
For one shining moment, he dares to believe that he has already beaten Moriarty.
But bang! The bullet pierces through Moriarty's skull and and shatters that hope into a million pieces.
On the edge of the roof, Sherlock calls John (loyal John who came back for some reason) and says his goodbye. He lies (I'm a fraud— I researched you) because it will make it easier for his friend in the long run. Sherlock regrets having to leave this life behind (so close to almost being content with his lot). But this is a price he is willing to pay (to save John and Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson— because they will never be truly safe until he dismantles Moriarty's web completely). He throws his phone onto the rooftop, lifts the trinket to his lips, and whispers to it.
(It's time to leave.)
Then he sheds his name, like molting feathers, and falls.