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Back to part 1




They were just lucky that it happened in the middle of the night, that was all she could say.

Rivers of blood. Usually it was a metaphor.

For all Mycroft Holmes had just been woken up at two am, he looked surprisingly refreshed. His suit was immaculate and he didn’t even have a hint of grogginess about him. If she didn’t know better, she’d think that he wasn’t human.

They were standing on the edge of the Thames and he was looking at a sample in a jar rather curiously.

“Rather biblical, isn’t it?” he said. She chuckled as expected, but didn’t look up. This was going too far – far too far – now.

The news bulletin on her phone informed her that half of India had just been covered by a plague of mosquitoes and there was a confirmed case of small pox in Brazil.

Biblical was quite a good word, really.

She looked over at Mycroft and wondered for a second, whether, if she told him what the choice was – his brother or the world – he would be able to make a decision.

But then that was what she was here for, wasn’t it?

*

Unknown Number:
He’s still alive.

John Watson:
Give me more time.

Unknown Number:
Things are beginning to unravel.


*

Life in Baker Street was the most curious combination of cosy domesticity and utter insanity that John had ever known, and he had a lot of experience. He had never connected with anyone as quickly as he had connected with Sherlock Holmes.

The world outside was breaking into pieces, but inside the flat things felt like they were somehow holding each other together.

Sherlock was infuriating, terrible and insulting. He would mock John’s intelligence one second and then fly into a tantrum, the next. But in between there were moments when he was completely different and completely amazing.

John worked around him and Sherlock learnt to work around John. And everything was human, even the middle of the night trips to crime scenes, even the all nighters examining evidence or trying to work out a puzzle. They would have conversations about everything from the mundane (which take-away did the best beef in black bean sauce) to the eccentric (whether a one legged butcher from Birmingham could possibly have kidnapped an ambassador’s cat).

And John loved every second of it, even the parts which drove him mad. Even the impromptu concertos performed at five thirty in the morning. Even the experiments and the sneers. He gave back as good as he got and he kept forgetting the thing that he really shouldn’t ever forget.

Sherlock Holmes had to die.

John knew that.

But...

His sister was right: he was getting too human, too attached. The boundaries were slipping, or perhaps they had already slipped. There had never used to be ‘but’s. There had never been anything but clarity. Mortality clouded things.

Sherlock went away to Belarus and John had time to think about things. He had time to plan. He would not do it himself, of course, but he knew how to arrange things as necessary. He could have Sherlock run over by a car any day of the week, but that death seemed wrong for Sherlock Holmes. He should go out with a bang: something amazing, something incredible, saving the world.

John tried not to think that, at this point, any death that Sherlock had would save the world.

*

London – 1665

“I guess it must be my turn,” his brother said, leaning over the bed. John – his name had been John back then too, some names never went out of fashion – tried to swallow.

“Please...” he says, the word was thick in his mouth. He was delirious. “End it.”

“Not yet, brother. You know as well as I do that these things have to run their course.”

“Please...” John had the swellings on his groin and neck. He knew what it meant. His wife died this way, he watched her through the seizures and the moans of pain. Now it was his turn. Every muscle in his body ached and he was shivering, though he knew his skin was probably burning to the touch. “I beg of you, brother...”

“You were given mortality so you would know what it is that they suffer,” the man above him said. His voice was thick with self-satisfaction. “That’s what you say, isn’t it? You are mortal so you can understand your own nature. So understand this.”

It took John three more hours to die and in the end he was crying, delirious with the agony of it. He would have been screaming, but his voice was gone. His brother watched every second of it.

*

Sherlock returned from easter Europe, irritated and irritable and that should have made things easier. It really should. But it didn’t.

It didn’t make things easier at all. It made them worse.

John could see Time fracturing. There were floods happening in a dozen different places in the world. A hurricane was about to hit the southern states of America and he knew the names of every person who had died and every person who would die and it was all his fault.

Fault. That was a new one on him. Guilt.

Responsibility, he knew it in a mortal sense, but now it was there on a metaphysical level as well.

And Hell followed with him.

Sherlock was insufferable and childish and so damn ungrateful. John saved the world for him he gave the world for him. Things were falling apart at the seams. It was collapsing.

He thought that maybe he should just take the gun and fire a shot through Sherlock’s brilliant brain. That might solve all their problems. But then again, it might not. Things had gone so far now that maybe there was no way back.

He thought carefully about the future, and something happened that has never happened before. Time fractured.

Usually there was a clear line, what would happen, no matter what, stretching on until the end of days and then, an eternity of nothing.

Usually he knew. This time, he saw.

He killed Sherlock, blood, brains, spattered all over the flat. Mrs Hudson crying, Mycroft angry and the city of London crumbled, crumbled down so far he couldn’t see an end to it.

He arranged Sherlock’s death, a cold body on a morgue slab, Molly crying for a little while before straightening up and cutting him open with complete professionalism. Moriarty rose and suddenly the streets were red with blood. Chaos reigned.

His sister had Sherlock killed. He disappeared never to be seen or heard from again. There was a gap in the universe that needed to be there, but the centre couldn’t stay up.

Sherlock died in something completely unpremeditated. There was grief and shock, Moriarty rose, a little mad, with no balance, no other self, no purpose. The world burned.

Sherlock lived. The world couldn’t contain him any longer and the end was there.

Sherlock lived, he died, he lived, the world died, the world survived, it burnt, it fell, it cracked and split and died again and again and again. John watched Sherlock die a thousand times and then a thousand times a thousand times.

He saw the world quake and crumble and break to bits.

The images rushed at him, so many, so much everything, all at once. They layered on top of each other, like the world’s most macabre collage. Sherlock dead, the world dead, people dead in their scores.

It was too much, he couldn’t handle every part of it, not in that body. His head felt like it might explode. It felt like he was splitting apart and like he was floating on the uncertainty.

He seized hold of one thread of future and pulled it to him, pushing all the others away.

This was the future.

Sherlock was alive. Lying on his back on the sofa, drug paraphernalia littering the room around him. Outside London was collapsing in on itself and its saviour was caught in the half-life of a man who should be dead.

This was limbo, Sherlock Holmes style, drugged up to his eyeballs, looking for a way out.

He opened his eyes, obscenely dark in the ash white face.

“John?” he asked. “I... can see you. You look like stars.”

John looked behind him, but the only version of him there was himself, past him, him who hadn’t lived this future yet (and yet he had because he was everywhere and everywhen, but linear progression was so much easier to keep in mind).

“You’re a gateway,” Sherlock sayid. His voice sounded like an echo of an echo. “I can see through you.”

“Sherlock, you’re high.” John said with as much strength as he could muster.

“People used to believe that drugs opened the eyes to see the truth,” Sherlock told him. “Are you true?”

“I think I’m the only thing left that is,” John said. The words came from all of him, not just John the man or the other part of himself, all of him together.

“I think so too...”

In the present, John let go of the future and let the shards of time slip away from him, dissolving. He couldn’t handle that and it hadn’t helped at all. It didn’t tell him what the best course of action was it just showed him grief.

The real world felt hazy and insubstantial for a while, like he was still floating. Until, that was, he opened the fridge.

“There’s a head in the fridge,” he said, and suddenly everything was real again and hell hadn’t come along just yet and there might still be time.

*

Unknown Number:
Where are you?

S. Moran:
Doing my job.

Unknown Number:
This is important.

S. Moran:
Busy.


*

Violent crime had risen in the past few weeks. Lestrade had been assigned murder cases faster than he could complete the paperwork. Most of them were small and petty. A wife battered her husband’s head in with a rolling pin because he was sleeping with his secretary. A teenager pushed his little brother down the stairs accidentally. Five muggings gone wrong, two armed robberies where ‘heroes’ found that heroism often has unpleasant side-effects (such as being shot in the head). Drugs overdoses were up too.

It was like every scumbag in the country had decided to make their way to London. Must have been a month with a vowel in.

That was, of course, when things had to go from bad to worse.

A letter showed up for Sherlock Holmes and you just knew that had to be a bad sign.

*

The world had decided that it was the apocalypse, or at least the Internet had. Or it had before Mycroft had decided that freedom of speech was really just a phrase for humanity’s inability to mind its own business.

Somehow, none of the DOOM messages seemed to be getting through. The pastor of a small church in Alabama was becoming rather irate. A young girl at a Northern English University was typing rather rude things into comment boxes and ReCaptcha questions, but they never showed up

Humanity never realised, when it put so much of itself on the Internet, how easy computers were to manipulate.

Anthea could do a thousand things at once. She was not quite as good at multi-tasking as her older brother, but it was more than enough to suppress the rumours. Mycroft was otherwise occupied with heads of state. She tended to leave him alone with those conversations. He was actually quite good at them, for a mortal, just the right mix of manipulative and softly spoken.

Today she kept an ear open, though.

She had five different methods of death planned out for Sherlock Holmes, but she was at least going to give her brother a chance to put this right. She couldn’t kill the man without his consent, anyway. And she really didn’t want to find out what would happen if she killed Sherlock Holmes and he didn’t die.

Things would probably get worse.

*

Harriet Watson:
Is it just me or is the world
going to hell in a handbasket?

Unknown Number:
Not just you. Talk to him, will you?

Harriet Watson:
I’ll try.


*

Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean – 1832

There was no room to move, no light to see by, just the press of bodies around him.

He could still see it all though, every inch of the waste and the loss.

He hadn’t eaten in days. His stomach stopped rumbling a day later. There wa nothing in his head but everything.

And then his sister appeared. There wa no place for her to stand. But somehow she managed it, finding the spaces between the bodies. She was as real as the rest of them, but she was not there.

She touched his face gently. She looked like she wanted to say something, but she couldn’t. In the darkness of the ship’s hold, the white of her hurt his eyes.

His mouth was too dry to speak but she understood what he wanted anyway. Stay, he asked.

She took his hand.

The next day his body was thrown over the side. The slavers had no need for dead weight.

*

John was on his way to Sarah’s when he saw his brother.

Like his sisters, Sebastian didn’t change. He was standing on the corner of the street in a long black coat that he wore like armour. He had a beard, cut short, and perfectly styled hair. There was also a smile on his face. When people caught sight of it out of the corner of their eyes they flinched away and their footsteps quickened.

“It’s been a while”, John said, walking up to him. He was not sure what this was about. It took effort to apply his omniscience to his siblings so, in general, he tried not to. Looking into Sebastian was like looking into a bottomless pit, or an oil well.

“Did you wonder what I was doing?” Sebastian asked, his smirk growing.

“Not really.” John replied.

“Perhaps you should have done.”

He would never know how Sebastian did it. He would never know how it happened. But for a few minutes John was nowhere, nowhere at all.

It was an impossibility and that was why it had to be true.

Those few minutes were the moments of purest solitude John had ever felt, in any of his lifetimes, stretching back to the beginnings of time when he floated in the ether as a particle of something in a vast expanse of nothingness, before his siblings existed, before he himself had really been defined.

John wondered sometimes, in the moments when the world seemed to keep ticking relentlessly on, when his human side wanted to shout and hold back the tide, whether he existed because he existed. He was the first, the beginning, the start, but as soon as something existed, he had to exist because nothing lasted forever and if he was the first thing to exist then maybe he had started it all.

It made his mortal brain hurt, but his other self, his big self, his self that saw planets and stars and galaxies collapse, that self didn’t think that the question matters.

But there were no questions or answers in those few minutes after he saw Sebastian standing there. There was nothingness.

Coming back to himself (and himself) was a nightmare. The world, the universe, the multiverse, crushed in on him again and he felt, simultaneously tiny and massive.

His human body was tied to a chair opposite a man he recognised.

He didn’t even need to think about it, he just knew.

“Moriarty.”

“Oh, your friend said you were quick. Wakey-wakey, Johnny boy. Rise and Shine!”

John looked at him and saw Jim, the possibly gay man whom he had met in Barts, and then, with his other eyes, he saw Moriarty. Sebastian’s fingerprints were all over him, like burned marks on his skin. There was fire underneath his skin too, and ice, right at the core. The man looked like he was exploding constantly.

“Don’t try to leave, brother,” Sebastian said from the doorway. But he was not Sebastian here, he was darkness, with a face as pale as snow, his eyes were empty sockets. John, though, hadn’t changed. He was still in his cardigan, shirt and trousers, which were rumpled and dusty. If anyone could see them now, they would call Sebastian by John’s name. - That was how humans saw him, wasn’t it? The pale rider, a skull in a black shroud. “You’d have to fight me to do that and you know how much damage that would cause.”

John didn’t, not really. They had never done that before. None of them had ever fought another, there had never been any point. But he knew there were forty humans within two hundred yards of them and billions of other creatures too, from bacteria to bugs to cats and dogs and foxes. Life was teeming around them.

John sagged, defeated.

“You’ve let it take you, brother. You’ve forgotten what you are, forgotten who you are supposed to be, who you really are underneath that flesh and blood and bone. I bet you even think of yourself as John Watson.”

“So this is some kind of intervention?” John asked.

“No, this is some kind of a coup. We all must bow to you. You are the first and the last. You were there at the beginning and you will be at the end. Not if I end you here, you won’t. I will take your crown, I will take your power because you don’t deserve it anymore.”

“It doesn’t work like that,” John told him. “You can’t end me. It would destroy everything.”

“More than you’ve destroyed it all ready?” Sebastian asked. “I don’t have to end you, though. I just have to shut you up somewhere. Box you off so that I don’t have to put up with you and your awful humanity.”

“You can’t?”

“Can’t I?”

John turned his full attention to the mortal world again. Moriarty was smiling at him, oblivious to the other conversation.

“Now, we’re going to give Sherlock a nice surprise.”

*

John Watson’s parents died together, in a car accident, on the fifteenth of March 2005.

He didn’t cry for them.

After their death, Harry and he rewrote history, or the memory of history anyway, and she became his sister officially. She stood by his side in the funeral and she tried to understand why he was crying.

“You knew this was going to happen,” she told him. “It can’t be the shock.”

“They were my parents, Harry.”

“So were a million other people. What makes them different?”

“They just are.”

That was the day she met Clara, too, though Clara will always remember meeting Harry years before. Clara had been a friend of John’s since University, a teacher now.

“Everybody dies,” Harry said, surveying the reception buffet like a starving woman. “You know that better than anyone.”

*

“Plastic explosive,” Moriarty explained as he had John’s brother help him into the vest. John let his arms go in through the slots because he honestly couldn’t see what other choices he had. His brother, Sebastian, had cut off every possibility of his escape. He wa protecting Moriarty, he had some sort of power over John himself – enough to make him black out - and if John made a move then he’d make sure that every person within several miles of them died horribly. “It’s part of the game, after all.”

John let them dress him up like a doll. This was all his fault. If he had let Sherlock die then this would never have happened. It would never even have crossed Moriarty’s mind. But now he and Sebastian had been caught in the avalanche that John started and it was all rushing forwards with one purpose and one purpose alone.

Sherlock Holmes had to die. And if the world went with him, and the universe and every inch of time and space, then so be it.

He blacked out again, Sebastian’s smirk was the last thing he saw.

He woke up in a swimming pool. His human nose told him that almost as quickly as his other self knew. But it was his other self that could feel Sherlock near. Sherlock had always been obvious to him, but more so than ever since John had saved his life. He was an anomaly.

He could hear his brother’s voice in his head, not making any pretence at the normality the others strove for in their communications.

He’s just a human.

John didn’t even bother replying. There was a web around him, blocking him off from everything. He was trapped in his tiny little human body and stuck in semtex and fabric and life.

Another voice cmes and, for a second, John thought that Moriarty was somehow in his head too. But then he realised that he wa wearing an earpiece.

“Almost show time, John. Make me proud.”

*
Two battles, two conversations, and John was trying to keep up with them both. In the real world, Sherlock and Moriarty face each other properly for the first time.

In the other world, Sebastian’s standing right behind John’s shoulder and talking to him.

“Can you see it?” he asked, John kept his back straight and his chin as high as he could manage. “Can you see how the world will go? If Sherlock had died when he was meant to, then perhaps it would have worked out, but you made things tip, didn’t you?”

John couldn’t say anything at the moment, not really, he was searching, desperately searching for a possible future that ended well. Every strand of time he grasped hold of ended with devastation.

“The world needs villains to counter its heroes, John. Sherlock needed an opposite,” Sebastian said. “They call you the great equaliser, the balancer, don’t they? How did it escape your notice?”

Sherlock refused to call himself a hero, refused to accept the mantle. He didn’t do what he did because of morals, or purpose, or even justice. There were no noble thoughts behind his actions. John knew that really, had seen it back at the beginning when they had met and he had, just for a second, seen that Sherlock might have been as close to the edge as he himself was. Sherlock did what he did because it was what he wanted to do, because the idea of him not doing it was alien to him.

John opened his mouth to tell Sebastian that, but the words didn’t come. Because somewhere in there, Sherlock was a hero, a bloody minded, misplaced sort of a hero. He was not a hero because he wanted to be, he was a hero because he had to be, because that was what he was. And he didn’t even realise it.

John had met heroes before. They died young and bloody. He had seen wild eyes caught in the frenzy of battle still, and he had answered questions like ‘did I do it right’, ‘did I save them’ and ‘did I make a difference?’ He knew instinctively that when he collected Sherlock’s soul, there wouldn’t be any of that frenzy or frantic questioning. Sherlock wouldn’t care about what he was leaving behind other than the last piece of the puzzle.

Part of the reason John didn’t want him to die was because he didn’t want to see that moment. He wanted Sherlock to be a hero just a moment longer. Because even if he wasn’t, he was.

“I’ve got to hand it to you though, little brother,” Sebastian said, John could just make out the sickening sweet smell of his breath, like breath mints over rotten meat. “I’ve been trying to take the world to this point for centuries. I’ve stirred up genocides, meltdowns and plagues. I’ve created natural disasters and industrial revolutions and I’ve never even had a tenth of the effect you had just by caring for one man.

“Though it’s only fitting, if you think about it,” Sebastian leant right in, right next to his ear and whispered the next words like they were a wicked secret. “You are the end of all things.”

John surged forward then, there was rage in the human parts of him, though it seemed bigger than that. It was as though the human bit of him had expanded outside the human body, into the rest of him. Perhaps he was contaminated. But perhaps he didn’t care. He wrapped his arms around Moriarty and called for Sherlock to run because there were two things in this universe that he was certain of:

Sometimes Free Will was more important than Destiny.

And the whole of the sodding world could burn if Sherlock got to live one more hour.

But he was outplayed and outmanoeuvred. All those years he spent trying to fit in and separating himself out, his brother had been planning, planning and perfecting.

He thought, just for a moment, about reaching out to that sniper and taking his life. But... He stopped and stepped back.

Sebastian was laughing as Moriarty was leaving and then the world, the real world, stopped dead. Sherlock was caught mid-stare, looking at John as though he knew the world was falling apart.

And then John was elsewhere.

The throne room was dark now, huge and cavernous, and somewhere in the background there was screaming.

Only his brother’s throne was occupied. Sebastian sat on the black chair as though he was part of it and the blackness was so all encompassing it was impossible for even John to tell where his brother began and the chair ended.

“I thought I would give you the dignity to end it yourself, here and now. I still have a little respect for what you once were,” Sebastian sounded patronising.

But, if it was possible, John was now more John than he had been since he stood in the chamber of Osiris and said that he didn’t want to go mad. He looked at the wooden chair for a second in irritation. It was stark, plain and uncomfortable. He had been sitting on it for too many years and enough, as he had said, was enough.

Without even a conscious idea of what he was doing, the chair changed, mutated. There was padding and upholstery and a faded pattern that was almost worn through with use. It wasn’t a throne anymore, it was a place to sit. John smiled at it for a second and nodded to himself. If he was going to face this, then he would do it as himself, all of himself.

“But I see that you don’t agree.” Sebastian’s mouth twisted in disgust. “All the comforts of home.” He spat out the last word as though it offended him, but John just smiled and sat down in the armchair. He kept his back bolt upright, because some things would never change, but at least he was comfortable.

“Yeah, that was the idea,” he admitted. “So... what’s the plan?”

“It is too late for the world to be saved,” Sebastian told him, “you tipped it too far. A lesser person, perhaps, but Sherlock Holmes is too important to be misplaced.”

“If it’s too late then why should I do anything you ask?” John asked.

“Because it will be easier for you in the long run.”

“No.”

Sebastian blinked and looked at John, sitting in his overused armchair, sipping at a cup of tea (a cup of tea?). He looked tiny, frail and human in the vastness of the room, next to the terror of the other thrones.

“You are done,” Sebastian said, his voice rising until it almost echoed off walls so far away they might as well not exist.

“Sorry if I don’t take your word for that,” John told him, before swallowing another mouthful of tea and letting out a satisfied breath. “I really needed that. Say what you like about the British, tea is one of the things they’re right about.”

“If you resist me...”

“I can’t imagine any reason I wouldn’t,” John told him, setting down the cup and saucer on the table. They rattled ominously, like the start of an earthquake. “I am not going to sit down and take it quietly, brother. I’m not going to surrender. And I’m not going to forget this.” He stood up and for a second, it seemed like he was the tallest thing in the room, before perspective reasserted itself and he was just a shorter-than-average man in what seemed to be a giant’s dining room.

“I’m never going to forget this,” he said calmly. “Now let’s go back and see how it ends, then. Shall we?”

“Fine,” Sebastian said, getting to his own feet. He glared at the teacup for a moment before reaching out. The air formed into something solid, a ring of metal – barbed wire – and he placed it on his head. “The endgame then.”

*

Time hurtled back into existence, and Sherlock was suddenly running at John, tearing off the bomb and the coat, throwing them away. John was trying to work out what came next, but the entire world was suddenly up in the air. There was no future marked out.

Somewhere out there, he was sure his sister was having a field day.

Sebastian hadn’t come at him yet, and he couldn’t quite help the way his legs buckled. Human frailty could be his end here. It could be the end of all of it.

Sherlock paced, paced, backwards and forwards, like he did when his thoughts were too big for his head. His body couldn’t keep up with the pace of his mind, but it tried its hardest. John was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. He and his brother just declared war and there was a mad psychopath tying bombs to people, but nothing happened.

He joked, just a bit. There was hope, because there was always hope, and so he joked. Sherlock laughed and it was like that first evening when John had upset the balance of the whole universe and he didn’t quite understand what was happening. Chinese and giggles.

Then it crashed down again. The ultimate cruelty was the illusion of escape, the illusion of hope.

Sebastian was there, Moriarty wa’s there, and so were Sherlock and John.

“One move,” Sebastian said. Neither of them expected Sherlock to be the one who made it.

The gun came down to point at the bomb on the tiled floor. Sherlock glanced at John and there was a moment where John just thought to hell with it all, and nodded.

Sherlock might die, Sebastian might win, but the world was broken and there was nothing he could bloody well do to fix it anyway.

The world exploded on both planes. In reality the swimming pool was crashing around them and on the other side, John was suddenly aware of parts of himself that he had never been aware of before, not in this life time anyway.

Sight was lost, this far in. Sebastian was a feeling around him, through him. Poison in his veins, dirt clinging to his skin, the darkness of his shadow.

The battle of wills might have gone on for an eternity or it might have gone on for the blink of an eye, the space between thoughts. It did both, because that was always how these things worked, and then John, for a split second, was everything.

He was every planet, every star, every black hole. He was every thought, every grain of sand, every bacterium. He was tiny and huge and everything.

And Sebastian was always there, wherever he lookeds, but he was not everything. Sebastian was a tiny part of the whole, and John saw it for that instant, that blink of an eye, long enough to get the gist, but not quite long enough to burn him into madness.

He saw the whole of time, and briefly, he understood.

He pulled Sebastian back into human form and he stood over him, looking down at his brother where he lay on the floor, panting for air that he had never needed.

“No,” he said, because that was one word that bore repeating (and he was going to need all the practice he could get if he was going to use it on Sherlock more often – which he would be doing). “That is not what you are.” He leant down and he took the coil of wire from his brother’s head and held it up. It changed, flattened into a broad circle, lightened until it was the white of bone china, with a rather ugly flower pattern marring its surface.

As an afterthought, a pile of biscuits appeared on it. A selection, because variety was important in these things, and while John had always liked rich tea biscuits, everyone liked a change now and then.

He offered them to Sebastian, who stared at him like he’s mad.

“Right.” John was not quite certain what was going to come next, the knowledge was fading already and all he really knew was that he had to go and fix things. Really had to fix things because one little world in one little corner of the universe was only the beginning. If he didn’t work things out properly, it was all going to unravel. “Stay here then, I’ll be back when I’ve worked everything out with Sherlock. Try not to make too much of a mess.”

Then, as easy as breathing, he was back in reality again, with things crashing about him, and it was all on him now.

There were three ways in which this could work.

In the first, Sherlock died, and John fixed everything so that it tipped back from the edge.

That was the simplest way, the way most people would expect it to work. But occasionally it was possible, in extreme circumstances, to swap lives – one for another.

People made bargains with death all the time, they said ‘please’ and begged ‘my life for hers’. But for something like that to work (and sometimes it did) the connection between the two people needed to be profound, deep. Usually it was a blood relative, occasionally a lover. Soul-mate is the technical term and, despite what films liked to show, those didn’t come along very often at all. Once in fifty years, perhaps, once in a century more likely.

But, Moriarty and Sherlock could fall into the category. It was a disturbing, repulsive parody of the traditional idea of soulmates, but the connection was there. That was clear enough to see. Sherlock’s first case – Carl Powers. Coincidence piled on top of coincidence. John had seen it all in that brief second, all the things Sherlock didn’t know. Some of the things that even Moriarty didn’t know. They were as connected as any other pair in the universe could possibly be.

So, to take Moriarty in Sherlock’s place. It would work and it would in its own way help redress the balance at the same time. It would be a beautiful solution in its symmetry. But yet...

Sherlock was lying on the ground, half covered by rubble, his hair bleached silver with dust. John could make out Moriarty’s shoe a distance away.

He wasn’t sure how either of them would work without the other, not yet. Sherlock... he could see him crumbling without Moriarty opposite him, to keep him propped up.

He sighed and frowned.

It looked like the third way, then.

The third way which was only a sliver of a possibility, inspired by something Sebastian had said.

There was a fourth way as well, in which both Moriarty and Sherlock died, but John dismissed that out of hand.

So the third way.

He crouched down over Sherlock and looked at his face, as calm as though he was sleeping.

And then he looked inside him, at all of him, his past and his futures.

A lesser person, perhaps, but Sherlock Holmes is too important to be misplaced.

Too important, those were the words. And Sebastian had been right. Some people, some small handful of people, were always the ones the world warped itself about. They changed things in big ways, drastic ways. They pushed things forward.

There had been Arthur, way back when, the Greek heroes, and other legends, all over the world. Those were the most important, the ones who had changed the world the most. They had become fixed points in time. Sometimes they died bloody, but always they lived on in other ways.

John smiled as he found it. What he had always known was there, but buried under everything else. That tiny little spark that Sherlock refused to acknowledge in the same way he refused to acknowledge tiredness and hunger. That little part of Sherlock that was, no matter what he chose or wanted, a hero all the same.

And then he let go of it, and he let his knowledge of its existence settle into all of him, every part of everything.

And then he stood up and promptly collapsed.

The human body could only take so much, after all.

*

He hated waking up in hospitals. There was always a moment where he forgot who and what he was, before it all came flooding back.

And there was always, in those later decades anyway, the beep of the machines, cutting through everything.

Harry was standing in the corner, looking at him curiously.

“I take it that the world’s still in one piece then,” he said. She laughed.

“Yes, but that’s more than I can say for Sebastian,” she shrugged, “our sister’s been taking it out of him.” There was a fierce glee in her face.

“Good. I’m too tired to deal with him at the moment.”

He closed his eyes and thought, very carefully about one particular person. When he concentrated he could feel the thump of a heart beat in every inch of him.

“He’s still alive,” Harry said, “though we have no idea how you managed that.”

“I didn’t,” John told her, struggling to sit up. He couldn’t quite take the smile off his lips. “He did it all himself.” Harry didn’t look convinced, but John couldn’t bring himself to explain how it was Sherlock’s stubbornness that did most of the hard work, John just gave it something to work with: an idea.

He reachedout a little further, right to the edges of what his human half could deal with at the moment, and he felt Sherlock, rock steady, right in the centre of things, a fixed point in the universe, and other universes too, so steady in his own belief in his own brilliance, so steady in John’s belief in his own brilliance, that he was echoing across everything.

Sherlock Holmes wasn’t just a man anymore, he was an idea. And ideas were difficult to kill.

“You look like you could do with some sleep,” Harry told him, and John nodded, because he couldn’t argue with that. But when he slept he dreamt of ideas and stories and legends, and a little bit, of the future.

*

Mycroft came to see him later, John’s sister in tow.

“My brother is recovering admirably... though I regret that Mr Moriarty has so far evaded us.” John nodded, he knew that. Sebastian got his favoured human out somehow, even with his siblings anger.

“He’s too stubborn to let him get away,” John said and Mycroft nodded. They shared a moment of almost understanding then. It wa a long, hard look, and there was something in Mycroft’s eyes that knew more than he was letting on. It was a worrying feeling, but there was no way he could know. There was no way he could even begin to guess.

“And the world seems to have got past its small... hiccup as well,” Mycroft continued. John glanced at his sister, whose eyes flicked to her employer, filled with something like alarm, before flashing back to John’s.

Neither of them knew the answer, which was more than slightly worrying.

“So all’s right with the world then?” John asked, going for flippant. It came out more desperate.

“Yes, Dr Watson,” Mycroft told him. “Equilibrium has been restored. I knew you’d find a way.”

There was no mistaking that last sentence, none at all. John was on the edge of delving into Mycroft’s mind and wiping his memories when the man continued.

“To save my brother’s life,” he went on. “Sherlock does get involved with things, and I had feared that this Moriarty business would be the straw to break the proverbial camel’s back, as it were.”

“I didn’t do anything,” John replied as a matter of course.

“They said you might not remember,” Mycroft said, nodding. He began to swing the tip of his umbrella up and down. “But the paramedics informed me that you must have performed CPR at the scene before succumbing to your own injuries.”

“Oh,” John nodded. It was as good an idea as any. No one was going to believe the ‘I made him a myth’ line, after all.

“I’d love to stay a little longer,” Mycroft continued. “But I have some pressing matters to attend to. While the world may no longer be ending, it still needs someone to oil the wheels. I’m glad you are awake and without permanent damage, Dr Watson. Perhaps if you and my brother could try to avoid trouble for a while, it might be for the best.”

“I don’t think there’s any power in the universe that could keep Sherlock from trouble,” he replied.

Mycroft just smiled in a way that could have meant ‘ah, my younger brother, how trying he is’ or it could have meant ‘well, you’d know’. It could also have meant ‘I’m going to go and invade a small country’, though, so John still wasn’t sure.

He could have looked. He could have pushed his way into Mycroft’s mind and found out if the man knew but, all in all, if Mycroft did know, then he was not that bothered about it. That was a problem for another day.

His sister smiled at him as she left. It was genuine, and had none of her usual steel behind it. Perhaps humanity was rubbing off on her too.

*

Sherlock was the last to visit, after Lestrade came and spent an awkward few minutes making small talk, before yelling that they should both be put under armed guard until they can work out how to walk down the street without almost being blown up. John took it with a smile and accepted the grapes cheerfully.

He came after Mrs Hudson as well, who looked worried and brought cake. She sat down and they watched their usual crap telly on the tiny screen high in the corner of the room. John liked that the most, he thought, of all the visits, because he actually felt human, all human, for an hour or two. Certainly, there was a part of him that wasn’t sitting there watching television. He was in the paediatrics ward, taking a little boy’s hand, he was in an operating theatre where an older man’s heart gave out half way through an operation, he was in casualty, where a car crash victim lost too much blood.

But he was here as well, in the uncomfortable hospital bed, with wires taped to him, eating a slice of date and walnut cake and watching a woman confront her soon to be ex husband about his affair with her daughter (his stepdaughter). It was probably the best cake he had ever had.

But Sherlock came last, striding in as though he hadn’t been in an explosion only days before. He looked at John, startled for a moment before blinking and shaking his head.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” Sherlock told him. “I thought... for a second it was like you weren’t there, you were...” he paused, “probably the painkillers. Hallucinations are one of the side effects.”

“What have they got you on?” John asked.

“Nothing interesting. Apparently my brother and Lestrade have been having some very decisive words with the staff about my treatment. This is the first time I’ve been able to get out of my room. The nursing staff are like guard dogs.” John laughed.

“Yeah, they’re good at that,” he agreed. Some of the nurses he had met would have made Sherlock and even his brother look like pushovers.

“I’m bored!” Sherlock announced, flinging himself down into the visiting chair. “I’m not allowed my phone, they confiscated my nicotine patches and Lestrade keeps sending Donovan with cases that aren’t even interesting enough to keep a two year old entertained!”

“And what do you expect me to do about that?” John asked. There wasn’t a reply, but he wasn’t expecting one. Sherlock just kept on talking about the cases, and the incompetency of everyone in the universe but him.

*

Harriet Watson:
I need to meet him
Don’t worry, I promise to behave.

John Watson:
Fine. He hasn’t eaten anything in three days,
you’ll probably do him some good.


*

Harry Watson brought a bottle.

John answered the door with a sigh of longsuffering and took it off her hands. She had barely walked in through the door when Sherlock looked up and stared at her.

“She’s not interested in you,” he said after a second, “you should let it go.” Harry blinked a couple of times then laughed.

“He is good,” she saidys, nudging at John’s side. “I understand what you see in him, Johnny.”

“It’s not like that,” John said for the umpteenth time, though he knew that his little stunt at the pool had somehow bound him and Sherlock together more than he had known was entirely possible. “We’re friends, we share a flat.”

“And a bed?”

“Harry! You said you’d behave!”

“I never said I’d behave well,” she said, unrepentant, but she settled down after that. John headed to the kitchen.

“I’m going to put dinner out,” he informed the room in general. “Sherlock, will you be wanting any?”

“No,” Sherlock said, but then he lookrf up, his face furrowed in confusion and there was the unmistakable sound of his stomach rumbling.

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” John said with a laugh. He risked a glance at Harry, who just winked, beaming fit to set the world alight.

John had just putting food onto plates when there was another knock at the door. They heard Mrs Hudson answer it and then the familiar tones of Mycroft’s voice. He wasn’t alone.

John glaresd at Harry, who made an exaggerated ‘I didn’t have anything to do with this’ gesture, before they both managed to turn to look at the door. Mycroft entered, his assistant, the sister that Sherlock didn’t know about, at his back, wearing a rather sadistic smile and the sort of red dress that made men want to take over the world.

“Sorry to drop in like this,” Mycroft said, “but I felt sure that Sherlock would sabotage my plans if he knew about them. As you were having Harriet over, I thought it only fair that we have a full family gathering.”

John and Harry both looked at their sister, but she smiled serenely, tapping away at her infernal BlackBerry.

“You’re not welcome,” Sherlock said.

“Calm down, Sherlock,” John told him, huffing a little sigh of exasperation. “I made more than enough food, Mycroft and...” he paused to look at his sister.

“Anita, today, I think.”

“Do you just like the letter A?” he asked.

“Something like that.”

Mycroft smirked a little and John considered wiping his mind again, but really, Mycroft Holmes wasn’t his problem, he had more than enough on his plate just keeping up with Sherlock.

He was half expecting Sebastian to show up, but he didn’t, and the meal went well. Sherlock ate more than John had ever seen him eat before. Even if his elder sister’s presence meant the sibling rivalry kept stirring up a little and Harry had Mycroft off his diet in a matter of seconds. The world was still standing, Sherlock still very much alive, if his impromptu performance of ‘cat squawking’ for violin after dinner was anything to go by and John was in a million different places at once.

But he was also in 221b Baker Street, sitting on a very comfortable sofa and drinking a cup of tea, which was exactly where he wanted to be.



***


Links to the awesome art:

Art by Togsos: Here
Art by Venturous: here
Page 1 of 3 << [1] [2] [3] >>

Date: 2011-02-08 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shefa.livejournal.com
THIS. Is. Brilliant.

I'm speechless, really.

You've given John-as-Death such profound humanity while not diminishing his wider role as Death. That, alone, deserves a standing ovation. But to weave that into historical anchors and mythological threads until the ultimate solution -- his solution, to make Sherlock myth makes so much sense that it gives me chills every time I think about it.

I adore the canon references here (Sebastian Moran, omg), and the sibling rivalries and alliances. I love Sherlock who can almost see John as he truly is... and I love the attachment that forms between them almost instantly.

This story is just so profound and beautiful and human. Brava!

Date: 2011-02-08 01:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] special-schizo.livejournal.com
...

Oh my God.

Oh my God, this is brilliant.

I know I've had a lot of Coke and cookies, but I'm pretty certain I'm flapping my hands and squeeing because of the fic. Because it is wonderful, and truly worthy of flappy hands and squeeing (and staying up late/early, and a not-finished presentation). This was just so wonderful and gorgeous on so many levels - the concept alone was fantastic, and then there were the characters ( I love your John, Harry, not!Anthea and Sebastian. Your Mycroft is a thing of awesomeness.), and then there were the flashbacks (I'm just a history geek), and then there was the honest to God plot, and then the conclusion which just made so much sense, and then... er... it's slightly hard to type when you keep flapping your hands for joy. Who knew?

So, er, yes. I love this. You may have gathered that. I could copy-and-paste exactly what I loved, but you already wrote the fic, I'm sure you don't need to read it all over again.

Date: 2011-02-08 02:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] juri-anne.livejournal.com
So wonderful! I wish I could say more, but I just read this and I honestly have no other words than I loved every bit of this. All the characters were so spot on and I don't think I could ever get enough of John as Death. Its just perfect.

Date: 2011-02-08 02:43 am (UTC)
ext_25997: (Default)
From: [identity profile] bethac.livejournal.com
This was wonderful, I loved it!

Date: 2011-02-08 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] firefox1490.livejournal.com
this is bloody brilliant.

just saying :D

Date: 2011-02-08 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pendrecarc.livejournal.com
This is beyond brilliant. Beautifully written, of course--that conversation at the Somme, my goodness--but it's just so thoroughly imagined, and I love how you've wound it in and around canon, with those simultaneous conversations and Harry and Sebastian's cultivation of Moriarty.

I'll be back to reread this, and I imagine more than once.

Date: 2011-02-08 05:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chironstar.livejournal.com
WORDS AREN'T ENOUGH TO PRAISE THE SHEER EPIC BRILLIANCE OF THIS FIC.

This is genius at its finest. Your imagery is vivid and powerful, and your story moves the heart with its depth and exploration of humanity and the universe. What's most amazing is the way you weave John, Harry, Anthea and Sebastian with their embodiment of the Four Horsemen, especially with John embracing his humanity and experiencing mortality while carrying on as Death. ♥ I love your interpretation of Death/Apocalypse - it's one of the most creative and poetic ones I've seen. ♥

I have nothing more to say except: PLEASE GOD, LET THERE BE MORE. ♥

Date: 2011-02-08 05:43 am (UTC)
innie_darling: (sweet-faced)
From: [personal profile] innie_darling
This was totally fascinating and had me wondering how you were making this work all the way through.

Date: 2011-02-08 07:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] epona34.livejournal.com
Awesome! Thanks for sharing.

Date: 2011-02-08 12:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ivy-b.livejournal.com
This is gorgeous. I love the idea of Death being half mortal and always experiencing life and dying. And then meeting Sherlock and changing things and Moran trying to take over and... Everything was just so brilliant.

Wow

Date: 2011-02-08 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eckax.livejournal.com
This was completley and utterly brilliant. I need to get to work and I just can't seem to gather my bearings... Thank you so much for this experience, truly. I wish I could say that I would reread it, but I am scared that my feeble mind can't take it once more!

Once again, thank you for writing this!

Date: 2011-02-08 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karadin.livejournal.com
That was really interesting! thanks for posting.

Date: 2011-02-08 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cjandre.livejournal.com
Fascinating! I love the idea of making Sherlock into an idea! A Myth! It's all canon!

I thought your characterization of John as both human and immortal was also quite skillful. He was so very John, even when he was being more than that.

:-)

Date: 2011-02-08 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zephyr-macabee.livejournal.com
Loved every word of it.

Date: 2011-02-08 07:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] madder-badder.livejournal.com
Fantastic! So much fun to read. Such a great family dynamic! Thanks for all your (I am sure very hard) work on this.

Date: 2011-02-08 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tafizgurl.livejournal.com
Wonderful. Just amazing. Thank you so much!

Date: 2011-02-08 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] qthewetsprocket.livejournal.com
Serious win here. Memory'ing and reccing like the wind.

Of the many things I love about this fic, I adore the idea that John and the other Endless aren't quite certain whether Mycroft's got a whiff of the 'other' about him as well, but something makes them not push too hard at the thought. Personally, I think Mycroft was behind it all: he wanted a way to gain supernatural protection for his little brother, but not in any way that looked like it was his own doing.

In short: win, rawk, and utter awesome.

*copious applause and confetti*

Date: 2011-02-08 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joolz01.livejournal.com
Bravo! It's very courageous to take on a theme like this, but it totally worked for me. From beginning to end (which is the really hard part) it was totally coherent and clear and powerful. Well done!

Date: 2011-02-08 09:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ktbean.livejournal.com
Wow. This is just amazing. I love how you've tied canon into every little bit of the story.
AMAZING!

Date: 2011-02-08 09:58 pm (UTC)
ext_8664: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mummimamma.livejournal.com
That was wonderful.
I loved John's comfy chair (of course!), and naturally Mycroft - who knows everything - always. Although I now find Blackberries more worrisome than before.

Date: 2011-02-08 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] deerang2002.livejournal.com
Fascinating! This was beyond brilliant and I'm going to have to read it many times to make sure that I get all of the nuances, but this was breathtaking after the first read through.

amazing!

Date: 2011-02-09 12:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ecars01s.livejournal.com
Seriously gorgeous fic! Beautiful, I love the siblings roles. It was beautifully done and created. I desperately want to know if Mycroft knows and if Sherlock is ever going to figure it out.

Date: 2011-02-09 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bathsweaver.livejournal.com
I loved every moment of this fic. Thank you so, so much for writing it.

Date: 2011-02-09 02:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhiannon87.livejournal.com
My god. I do not have words to express how much I loved this. This was brilliant. The characters and the writing and the plot and flashbacks and I love everything about this. Making Sherlock into a myth was just so perfect and right. And you had the four horsemen of the apocalypse texting each other and it worked and... this was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.

Date: 2011-02-09 02:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cloudtrader.livejournal.com
This is really good. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Kudos to you!
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