~~We’re expecting Mycroft at ten. Sarah slips in at nine thirty. I’m surprised to see her. “Didn’t you know?” she says. “He texted me. Asked me to come.”
I’m puzzled. She and Sherlock haven’t had the most amicable of associations. I’ve had moments when I felt like the flag at the center of the tug-of-war rope. My few male acquaintances always ragged on me because Sherlock inevitably won. They didn’t understand. Sherlock always wins. He’s like a celestial body with his own gravity well, trapping me in orbit.
Sarah comes upstairs with me. Sherlock brightens to see her, and beckons her to come sit with him. He looks at me pointedly. “John, could I have some tea, please?”
I nod. He wants to talk to her alone.
I linger in the kitchen, peeking out at them, their heads close together, talking intently. They don’t talk for long, though. She stands up and I see her squeeze his hand. I pass Sherlock his tea and walk her to the door.
When she turns around there are tears in her eyes. She hugs me tightly. “What did he want?” I ask.
“What do you think?” She pulls back. “He wanted me to look after you. He said, ‘John will take it hard.’ Wanted me to see that you eat and sleep. Right after, you know.”
“Hmm. Someone’s certainly sure of his importance.” I go for levity and it falls extremely flat.
“I think it’s more that someone’s got no more time for pretenses,” she said. She meets my eyes. “John, you must do what you think is right. I can’t tell you how to feel. I can’t tell you what’s true. I can tell you that he’s dying and you’re all he’s thinking of.”
Sarah leaves and for a few minutes, we’re alone. “Are you tired?” I ask, sitting across from him, our knees almost touching.
“I’m all right.”
I take a deep breath. “Sherlock, I have to ask one more time. Are you sure about your mother?”
He meets my eyes. “I’m sure.”
He and Mycroft have decided that she isn’t to be told until it’s over. Sherlock’s thinking is that it will be less cruel, less painful to her not to know anything until it’s done. I think it’s more cruel to deny her the chance to say goodbye. But on this point they are firm and in agreement as they rarely are about anything. I make one last-ditch effort. I’m rather fond of Sherlock’s mother, and I have a feeling she’ll never forgive me for this. Not just for not telling her, but for having a whole day with him when she got nothing. “She ought to have the chance that all these other people are getting,” I say.
“Mummy despises goodbyes, she’s crap at them. She wouldn’t know what to do. No, it’s better this way. And it isn’t just for her,” Sherlock says now. His head is weaving a bit. Painkillers. He meets my eyes. “I can’t, John. I can’t do it. I can’t look in her eyes and do this.”
On impulse I reach out and grasp his hands. His long fingers twine around mine tightly, gratefully. “I understand.” I do, in a way. Sherlock has two equally horrible options. I suppose he has the right to choose the one that’ll cause him the least anguish in his last hours.
Then Mycroft is there, and I move aside to make room for him. Sherlock asks me to stay with his eyes, so I resume my perch on the arm of his chair.
I feel that small tug at my jumper again. Hanging on by his fingertips.