~~We finish the case. Sherlock hangs on to me as we climb the stairs to our flat. His balance has become alarmingly worse just in the last day.
I sit him down and take his blood pressure. It’s high. His pulse is racing. He has a temperature. His pupil response is uneven. He can read the results on my face. I start to get up and he holds me back. “John,” he says, and I know what’s coming.
“Not yet,” I murmur.
I meet his eyes. “Please, Sherlock.”
“It’s Wednesday, isn’t it?”
He sighs. “Friday night, then.”
This is the plan. Two days’ notice. The first day will be for the people in his life to just happen to drop by to ask him a question or give him something. The second day is for us.
The pills feel very heavy in my pocket.
The next morning, Sherlock’s headache is so bad he can barely withstand light. I’ve laid in some stronger analgesics for this, and they help. He insists on wearing his normal clothes. He pretends that he isn’t planning on seeing anyone today, but he knows what’s coming.
Our first order of business is the one we dread the most. It’s time to tell Mrs. Hudson. We go downstairs to her flat and sit her down.
She weeps and clings to him. Sherlock hugs her back and assures her that he isn’t in pain, that it’ll all be very peaceful. She hugs me, too. She wants to come upstairs with us and look after us but Sherlock is insistent. We promise to call on her again tomorrow. She deserves an exception to Sherlock’s “alone” stipulation.
Molly is our first visitor. She’s making an extra-special effort to be cheerful and pretend that she’s totally ignorant of everything she’s not supposed to know. “I’ve been collecting some more tattoos for you,” she says, handing him a stack of photographs.
“Thank you,” he says.
“I’ve made notes on the back with the information you always take, so you can file them.”
“How thoughtful. I’m sure these will come in handy.”
Molly is biting her lip. “So – I’ve got a John Doe in. If he isn’t claimed, you can come do that experiment with the kneecaps if you like.”
“Grand. When will that be?”
“We have to wait a week.” She knows what she’s saying.
Sherlock smiles. “I’ll see you then.”
Her face crumples a bit, but she recovers quickly. “I must be off,” she says, jumping up. She looks down at him for a moment, then bends and kisses his cheek. “Goodbye, Sherlock,” she manages.
He seems a little touched. “Best of luck, Molly.”
She turns and flees with barely a look at me. I hear her start to cry as she reaches the door. Sherlock fetches a deep sigh.
“I hope the others put up a better front,” he says.
Unfortunately, Sally Donovan is our next visitor, and she’s a terrible actress. She’s far too cheerful and can’t seem to bring herself to insult him as she normally would. It’s unnerving. She leaves after only a few minutes, looking disgusted with herself. I corner her at the door. “You could have made an effort,” I say, under my breath.
“He doesn’t deserve this,” she says.
“All the more reason. I made it very clear that you all were to treat him normally. That wasn’t normal.”
“How’m I supposed to call him ‘freak’ and insult him when I know that tomorrow night…” She trails off. “I don’t know how you’re doing this.”
“I’ll do what I have to.”
She snorts. “Some things don’t change. Goodbye, John.”
Anderson shows up just after lunch. “Here,” he snarls, tossing a paper bag at Sherlock. “The fiber samples you wanted. You’d better work some kind of miracle of deduction on them, too, because it’s all we’ve got.”
Sherlock smirks. “I’m sure it’ll be more than enough evidence even for you, Anderson.”
“It boggles the mind that you’re allowed anywhere near an official inquiry.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth.”
“I’ll not stand here and be insulted by you!” Anderson snaps.
“Then take a seat, you’ll be more comfortable!” Sherlock snaps back, looking almost gleeful.
“I don’t have time for this.” He stabs his hands back into his gloves. “You are an insufferable bastard.”
“And you’re a walking redefinition of ignorance.”
“Have a nice life.” Anderson stalks out of the room. I follow him to the door.
“Thanks,” I murmur.
He looks at me and I swear he looks almost regretful. “Take care of him.”
We barely have a moment’s peace that day. Sherlock is glad for it. I’m less so. I’m jealous of the time he has left, every precious minute that goes by is one I don’t get to spend with him, not as long as there are other people trooping through, one right after another. Some people he’s helped stop by, just to bring him some pastries, no reason, just thought you might like these, oh I was just passing a florist and saw this bouquet and thought it might brighten things up in here, oh, these silly chocolates, I was taking them to my sister, you don’t happen to want them, do you?
Night falls. Sherlock hasn’t been out of the chair much today. I need to see how his balance is, so during an intermission I get him up and watch him walk about. He seems more or less steady. I make him tea.
Lestrade shows up just past eight. With him, we can’t keep up the front, because there is some level of official business we must attend to.
“I’ll do what I can to make sure there isn’t an inquiry.”
“I’ll take the pills myself, of my own free will. But John could still be blamed for not stopping me. He’s a medical professional, he has an affirmative obligation to prevent others from doing themselves harm.”
“All he has to do is say that he was out of the room and didn’t know you’d taken anything until it was too late.
Sherlock nods. “I suppose that’ll have to do.”
“I’ll take the risk, Sherlock.” Good Lord, I’ve thrown myself in front of bombs and bullets and rampaging Vikings for this man, now he’s worried about the risk to me?
“No,” he says, sharply. “I won’t have you risk anything.”
“Look,” Lestrade says, “I’m about 98% that I can quash any kind of investigation. It’s illegal, yeah, but in cases like this – most of us would just as soon look the other way, anyhow.”
Sherlock doesn’t look satisfied by this. “I want your assurance that John won’t come under any suspicion.”
Lestrade nods. “You have it, to the best of my ability.” He gives us a slantwise smile. “Mind if I run a few things by you?”
Sherlock perks up. “By all means.”
Lestrade spends the next half hour outlining clues, circumstances, situations, and taking down Sherlock’s thoughts. I sit on the arm of Sherlock’s chair, interjecting when warranted, mostly just listening to the sound of his voice. At one point I look down to see that Sherlock is holding onto my jumper, just a slight pinch of my sleeve between two fingers on his right hand, as if he’s just reassuring himself that I’m there – or perhaps that he’s still here.
I pick up from contextual clues that many of the cases Lestrade is mentioning are very cold ones. Years back, even decades. I realize that it’s his last chance. It’s Sherlock’s, too. I wonder if it’s going to be harder for him to leave life, or leave his work. Is there any distinction between the two in his mind?