~~Mycroft seems a bit broken as he leaves. I’m not sure Sherlock sees. He actually embraces his brother before he departs. He’s not totally phobic about contact like that. He hugs Mrs. Hudson all the time, and he hugs me on a fairly regular basis. But he and Mycroft just aren’t like that.
Mycroft pulls me into the hall. “I hope you know what I’m trusting you with,” he says.
I nod. “You don’t have to worry.”
“Oddly, I never have. Not where you’re concerned. Hmm. Interesting, that.”
When I come back upstairs, Sherlock is on his feet. He looks relatively steady. “I think I ought to sleep,” he says.
I grin. “There’s something I never thought I’d hear you say.”
He smiles a little. “What else does a man do when his work is finished?”
My grin falls away. Finished.
I help him into bed once he’s changed. “John, I…” He stops, his mouth open, then waves it off.
“No, what is it?”
He sighs. “I think I don’t want to be alone.”
I nod. “I’ll be right back, all right?” He just looks up at me with large eyes. His illness and medications are stripping off some of his defenses. It’s impressive he’s retained as much of himself as he has. What he’s been through, most people are reduced to blubbering shadows of their former selves.
I change into pajamas and go back down to his room. I climb into bed with him. It does not feel strange to do so. He scoots closer to my side, just so he can rest his temple against my shoulder. We lie there for awhile, not sleeping. Eventually, Sherlock drifts off. I stare down at his slack face. I can’t seem to look away. I can’t think about the fact that in twenty-four hours I will never see this face again. It is all strange angles and hollows and unearthly pallor, made worse by his condition.
I don’t sleep. I just watch him. I watch the rise and fall of his chest with his breath and I can’t stop imagining the moment that I am soon to witness, and I catch the merest glimpse of the pain that is in store for me later. I can’t allow myself to feel it now. I have to be present for him, for these last hours, I have to push it far from me until it’s over, but I know. I know what I am in for.
I hate the universe. I hate whatever forces govern it, be they deities or fates or the tides of randomness. Whoever or whatever they are, I hate them for bringing me into his orbit. I hate Mike Stamford for introducing us. I hate whoever it was who shot me and brought me home from Afghanistan. I hate Britain for the size of my pension that made me need a flatshare. I hate this flat for being charming enough that I didn’t turn round and leave the first I saw it. I hate him for being interesting and drawing me in so thoroughly that I didn’t say to hell with you, and find a boring flatmate.
A boring flatmate. Do such things exist? Could I have had one? What would my life have looked like these past two years if I had? I don’t know if I would trade life with Sherlock for anything.
Even if it meant that my heart wouldn’t be breaking now.
He seems better in the morning. A temporary reprieve, but well-timed. We don’t rush. Today is the day. His last day.
“What do you want to do?” I ask. The idea of choosing how to spend one’s last day on earth is so horrifyingly complex that I’m sure it would paralyze me, but I’m equally sure that he has a plan.
He is looking out the window, fully dressed, and for just a moment, it’s as if nothing’s happened. All is well.
I hate everything.
“I’d like to go out,” he says.
“Out? Where?” I feel that jealous pull again. I need this time, damn it all. Where does he want to go?
“Out. Into the city.”
Oh. That might be all right. “Take a tour around? Your favorite spots?”
“Just so.” He turns from the window. “There are three things in the world I really care about, so I’d like to use this time to say goodbye to each. The first is my work. I took care of that last night. The second is this city. So let’s do that now.”
I know the answer but I have to ask. Damn my insecurity. “What’s the third?”
He looks at me, vaguely scolding. “John. Surely you don’t need me to tell you that.”
We head out. We take cabs so as not to tire him. We go to Trafalgar Square. Hyde Park. We walk in silence. Sherlock’s balance is tolerable, but he holds onto my arm. He looks around, taking everything in.
We stop to rest on a bench by the river. I go to the railing and look down at the water. “Are we going to talk about it?” I finally say.
I laugh, derisive. As if there’s another topic on hand. “The fact that you’re going to die tonight.”
“What’s to say?”
“A great deal! Sherlock – I’m…I don’t…”
He grabs my sleeve and pulls me back to sit on the bench. “I’ve made my peace with it.” He meets my eyes. “I never expected to live a long life, John. Always thought I’d meet my end at an early age. Never thought it’d be like this, though. Thought I’d be shot, or blown up. Thought at the very least I’d take someone with me, someone the world needed gone. The idea never troubled me. It’s only of late that the idea of leaving this life began to be – distressing.”
“I never had anyone to leave behind. Anyone who’d miss me.” He looks at me again and there is something raw behind his eyes. “Will you miss me, John?”
My throat feels pinhole-thin. I swallow hard. “Till the end of my days, Sherlock.”