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A Creative-Writing House


Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog


Event Horizon: Epilog

by

Carole Manny & Lynn Walker



Friday, 30 January 2015

Sherlock raked a glance over Mycroft and the case he was carrying and said, "John's not down yet."

"Yes, the fact that he's not in the room suggested that to me, as well. How is he, by the way?"

"Fine," Sherlock said, and put up the morning paper like a wall, very eager to ignore his brother.

"And he's sharing the rent again."

"Mm."

"So this isn't just a phase you're going through."

Scowl. "A phase?"

"This affinity for-" sneering "-pain. Heartbreak. Loss."

"I haven't lost anything."

"Well, one out of three isn't bad. Oh, wait. Yes, it is."

Sherlock sniffed. "It's not an affinity," he said. "It's…"

"What?"

"A calculation."

"A calculation?"

"Yes. I calculated that…on balance…it's worth the pain."

"Did you."

"Mm."

"I don't need to ask what 'it' is, do I?"

"I suppose that depends on how thick you are." He turned to look at his brother. "Why are you even asking?"

"It's called making conversation."

"John!" Sherlock yelled.

The muffled reply floated down. "What?" John was obviously in the process of dressing, pulling on a shirt.

"Mycroft's here to see you."

"In the hamper, I think," John called.

"No, Mycroft's here. Come and see what he wants so he'll go away."

John's voice took on an edge of peevishness. "I said I think it's in the hamper."

"For God's sake," Mycroft muttered.

Moments later John padded downstairs in his slippers, wearing a robe over sweatpants and a t-shirt. "Did you find-? Oh. Mycroft," he said. "Didn't know you were here."

"Ah, John. How are you feeling?"

"Good. Thanks. You?"

"Mycroft's brought you a gift," Sherlock noted impatiently, breaking up the love-fest.

John looked accusingly at him. "You might have said. I wouldn't have come down."

"Very amusing." Mycroft held out the little wooden case. "You dropped this, I believe."

John took the case. Inside lay his Browning, cleaned and oiled and gleaming like the day it was first issued to him. There was a full magazine in the gun and a new spare, also loaded, in the case. "Why would you return this?"

"It belongs to you," Mycroft said simply.

John considered him, waiting for a fuller explanation.

"A gun is a tool, Dr. Watson," Mycroft said. "You were a soldier. You know that as well as anyone."

"Yes." Non-committal.

"This particular tool lets you accomplish a very particular task." He glanced at his brother, who wasn't attending and didn't catch the look. "To that end, your dispensation for possessing it is now quite official."

While John had never connected with Mycroft the way he did with Sherlock and likely never would, and while Mycroft's expression gave nothing away now, following as this did on the heels of their recent history they understood each other perfectly. This was Mycroft's thank you-and what it looked like when he entrusted John with the care of his little brother.

"Yeah, okay. Thanks," was all John said, however, and set the case aside. "Well. Coffee?" he asked, heading for the kitchen.

"Thank you, no," Mycroft said. "Unlimited free coffee is one of the perquisites of my position, and as I understand it we have people who clean the carafes more often than twice per annum."

"Suit yourself," John said. "Speaking of cleaning, thanks for putting the fear of God into the repair company."

Mycroft sniffed. "Ironically, I was blackmailed into it. The idea of housing the two of you in my spare rooms was…unpalatable. But I see that since the repairs were completed you've wasted no time devolving to your former level of squalor."

It was true. The flat still smelt of fresh paint and jointing compound, but much of the familiar clutter had already crept back into position, while the kitchen appeared to be hosting a laboratory supply company clearance sale.

"Squalor, comfort," John said, returning to the table with his coffee. "Thanks all the same. And listen," he added, "since you're here, could you look at the toilet? The flapper's not seating properly and-"

Sherlock snorted a laugh and Mycroft scowled. "What can be given can be taken, Doctor," he said icily.

Sherlock glanced irritably at him. "Don't you have a time card to punch?"

"As a matter of fact, I do have to be going. By the way, I've a meeting with Lord Ruffner this afternoon; it seems he and his wife are determined to thank you for prying into their personal lives, and while I've contrived to talk him out of any sort of medal ceremony he's very keen on inviting Lady Smallwood, Iffy's daughter, and the two of you for tea."

Sherlock's expression shifted at once to outrage and John's to dismay. "Can't you, I don't know, give him a ministry or something, instead?" John asked.

"That is one option," Mycroft agreed, "but I hope instead to appeal to his sense of decorum." He drew his mobile from the breast pocket of his coat and snapped a photo of the kitchen. "That should do it. Good day."

ooooo

An hour after his brother's departure Sherlock was still mulling Mycroft's repeated insinuations that John might be more troubled by having shot Mary than he'd freely confessed, and he'd been watching for signs that it was the case. People required time to 'process' their emotions, Sherlock knew, but fortunately John wasn't people. While no one could possibly describe him as habitually morose, neither was he possessed of a naturally sunny disposition, so his somewhat stolid demeanor now wasn't the least remarkable. Still, for one who knew him well it was possible to detect in his characteristic restraint an undercurrent of sadness, and Sherlock wondered whether that was what his brother meant.

John had been silent for nearly eight minutes, staring abstractedly out the window while his oatmeal congealed in its bowl. Surreptitiously Sherlock eyed him over the top of the newspaper, weighing whether or not to ask after him. For his part Sherlock preferred to be left alone to work his way out of a mood at his own pace and he knew that John did as well, but he knew further that friends asked after each other. More to the point, in John's case he cared about the answer.

Still, it was an awkward topic to raise. Temporizing, he strode into the kitchen and returned with two cups of coffee, one of which he set before John, but John was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn't acknowledge the unusual offering with so much as a flicker of awareness. Finally Sherlock decided 'the hell with it' and cleared his throat. Nothing. "John," he said. "John."

John blinked in surprise. "Sorry. What?"

Having won John's full attention Sherlock wasn't certain where to begin, but finally he came out with, "How are you?"

John regarded him warily. This was ground they'd already covered today. "Still good," he said carefully. "Same as an hour ago. The last time you asked."

Sherlock tried again. "I mean…How are you?"

"Are you asking me whether I can tie my own shoes yet, or how I'm coping?"

Sherlock looked embarrassed but held his gaze. "The…coping."

John sighed. "Well, you know," he began, and when Sherlock's expression made it clear that he did not he added, "I've been trying to perfect your art form." Sherlock looked quizzical. "Making my emotions align with the facts. You make it look easy, but for some of us it takes time. It's coming along, I guess. How did I misjudge her so badly? That's what I was thinking about."

"You didn't misjudge her. She misled you. There's a difference."

"I know," John agreed. "But…Here's the thing." He spoke with deliberation because he particularly wanted to be understood. "Who I loved never existed, but it seemed very real. She tried like hell to kill us, but I can't…That's the part that doesn't seem real at all. Why is that?"

"You loved who she led you to believe she was," Sherlock said. "Your reasoning wasn't invalid, just fed wrong information. Now you have facts that are at odds with the old emotions and you have to reconcile them. I'm not sure why you think that can happen instantly."

"It does for you."

"I'm a professional. Don't try it at home."

John smiled, but then his expression turned grave again.

"John," Sherlock said, peering into his face, "if you hadn't taken the shot we'd both be dead and the sniper wouldn't have missed. You gave her another chance to choose a better way."

"I know," John said. "I know she didn't have a great choice by then. For her it was no choice at all, I guess, but it was the only one she'd left herself. That wasn't my fault. I'm not beating myself up about it. What I was thinking about…It was so easy for her to kill. She liked it. You don't compile a career like hers unless you do." He paused, looking down at his hands, then said, "When you kill someone. You cross a line and you can't cross back. Everything changes. You change. I don't know if I can ever explain how, exactly. I just know that it happens and it never gets any easier. You see the faces. Images. It's always when you don't expect it, too. When you're laughing with friends, brushing your teeth, getting into a cab…I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

"Yet she liked it."

"Yes. Yes, she did." He looked up at Sherlock. "I met a guy like that once. Knew of some others. Killing turns people into animals-or, I guess I should say you have to make yourself into an animal to kill-and some people can't come back from it. They can't make themselves human again. Some don't even want to because they like the way killing makes them feel. Sometimes it can be the only right choice, but you have to stop the best part of yourself and use the animal part, and no matter how ready you think you are it's always a fight afterward. For most people. Most people can…" He groped for the right word. "…reacquire? Yeah. Reacquire their human part, especially if they've been trained for it, or if they have the right mindset, but no one comes back from killing the same as they went in. I'm sorry I can't explain it any better than that," he concluded with an apologetic smile.

Sherlock was sinfully proud of his own rationality and emotional control, but it occurred to him at that moment that in this as in so many other things John was his superior. In battle John could kill his enemies without hesitation, but afterward he was still John Watson because he'd long ago perfected the subordination of his feral instincts to his moral code, and even while he was certain of the rightness of his conduct he mourned the circumstances that required the transition. With humiliating clarity Sherlock recalled the fear and rage that turned him into a cornered, snarling savage on the Appledore patio, an animal without judgement or reason, willing to kill but incapable of projecting the consequences for himself and the friend he was trying to save.

Now, after witnessing Sherlock's greatest failure as a detective and as a man, John was sitting across the table from him. Back in Baker Street. Home. For one of the few times in his life Sherlock thought less about the existence of a fact than how he felt about it, and examining his emotions was not something made easier for him through practice.

For as long as he could remember he'd pursued with arrant intensity a solitary life of the mind, his chief solace and delight. That insistence on solitude, among other things, made him a poor choice for a companion. He'd never cared to be a friend before and he wasn't good at it now. It had not always been a comfortable adjustment, and for a long time he'd not even recognized the need to adjust, didn't understand that he needed to develop a new habit: the habit of friendship.

Arrayed against the raw exhilaration of pitting his mind against all comers, John's friendship had at first seemed subtle, restrained, staid. Now Sherlock was amazed to find that not only was it every bit as real and powerful as his reason, but that its very reliability was just as intoxicating and satisfying. It was also, it seemed, every bit as necessary: When even reason deserted him John remained, the most constant and immutable fact in his life.

Love will be harder for you, his father told him long ago, because you think there has to be a conflict between your mind and your heart. But you feel what you do because you think what you do. You've got it in the right order, Sherlock. Cause and effect. You can trust that.

He cleared his throat. It had taken almost no time at all for those thoughts to flash through his brain: The apologetic smile still lingered on John's face as Sherlock met his eyes.

"John…There's something I've meant to say…always, and never have. I meant to say it so many times…should have said it long ago." He paused, and what he thought was, As long as I am alive you will never. Be. Alone. What he said was, "Thank you."

Finis


– End Epilog –

Ch. 1    Ch. 2    Ch. 3    Ch. 4    Ch. 5    Ch. 6    Ch. 7    Ch. 8    Ch. 9    Ch. 10    Ch. 11    Ch. 12    Ch. 13    Ch. 14    Ch. 15    Ch. 16    Ch. 17    Ch. 18    Ch. 19    Ch. 20    Epilog



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