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Now or never

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He was standing behind the tree, shaking.

He had never expected that seeing his own grave would have affected him greatly, and, in fact, it didn't.

Watching his own funeral, albeit from a distance, was more in the category of strange entertainment rather than spookiness or creepiness. After all, he ate spooky and creepy for breakfast.

That is, unless John decided to force-feed him something that was actually seen as food. Then he ate food.

His thoughts were wandering, as they tended to these days.

The funeral did not affect him, as such, no.

What affected him were the people.

Not even the number of them, since with the scandal that he had created (or participated in) was due to garner attention of all kinds of gawkers, from the common Daily Mail audience to the tops of society.

What drew his gaze, however, were the faces of these he called friends. Or, rather, that Moriarty called his friends.

But first, he watched Molly - little, ignored Molly - as she stood to the side, bravely keeping the mask of complete grief on, not letting slip what she knew.

Mycroft, frowning at her occasionally, drew himself up, as high as he could, his own mask firmly in place, looking for all that watched him like a proper, upperclass kind of mourner. Appropriate to the extreme.

But finally, his friends.

Did he have friends? He had never considered this as a thing he might like to actually indulge in. Why? Who needed them? Who needed people around them, who...

He needed.

He needed Gregory bloody Lestrade, the only DI to ever actually stop long enough to listen and the only one on the force who would ever consider using external input from an "independent consultant" like him. The only one, then, to benefit from Sherlock's input. Why go anywhere else, if he knew that Lestrade would give him what he wanted and Lestrade would get what he wanted. A little quid pro quo. Equal exchange - well, after a fashion. Obviously, Sherlock's input was infinitely more valuable...

...but then, the very idea of losing that link, that relationship, cut Sherlock deeply. The concept of no more Gregory Francis Lestrade (and yes, Sherlock did know his name, both of them) was so wrong that Sherlock simply could not allow the universe without said man in it.

On Lestrade's dependable arm, verily hanging from his elbow, Mrs Hudson looked so much smaller than usual. Diminished. Reduced.

Old.

She wasn't allowed to get old.

She wasn't allowed to die.

Not because of Sherlock.

If someone asked, this was the reason he would have admitted most eagerly. Mrs Hudson, yes. His dear, lovely old housekeeper... landlady.

Of course. Mrs Hudson. Obvious. Who would allow such a sweet old lady to be shot by some brute. Nobody, that's who. Well, Moriarty. But not Sherlock.

It was much easier to focus on Mrs Hudson than it was to even try to move his eyes onwards. Onwards, where, to her right, a hunched, pained figure stood, his hand grasping his cane, his face drawn in sorrow.

Because he knew, just knew, that despite all that he had claimed and all his reassurances, the most important person stood right there. Right. There.

He focused solely on John for the rest of the ceremony - hah, as if he could have even looked away. How. Hah.

John was there, true, warm and alive, but his face looked as if it was his own funeral. As if he was the corpse to be now interred.

He stood there, watching people leave. His brother, in his black car. Molly in a cab. Lestrade and some officers in their beat-up vehicles - they even offered to take Mrs Hudson back home, nice of them.

They also spoke to John, who however just shrugged and shook his head.

Lestrade clapped his shoulder, a bit hesitantly, and said something softly.

John did not react.

John did not move.

John did not indicate he had noticed them leaving.

Not until the last rustle of leaves died in the distance.

Then he slumped, just a bit, showing how tired he was in fact.

And then he approached the gravestone. Slowly. Measured pace. Slightly limping - again. One hand gripping the cane, the other flexing against his hip.

He could hear John's heavy breathing from where he was hiding and suddenly it all felt much, much too real, too close, too... too true.

His grave.

His best friend.

His only actual friend.

The only person he...

Sherlock shook himself off.

He couldn't now get distracted. This was a goodbye. This was a goodbye that he wasn't going to participate in. After all, he was now dead to the only person he had ever felt that much for.

He had to stay dead to John, since him being dead meant John would be alive. And John being alive was the very pinnacle of priorities on Sherlock's list right now.

He listened, head bowed, to the halting words. The praise - unexpected. The pain lacing them. The strange, strange and terrifying tone he had never heard John use ever before. The begging. The broken, stuttering...

"...one more miracle, Sherlock, for me, don't be...dead. Would you do that just for me? Just stop it. Stop this..."

He could have stopped it. This minute. This second. He could just step forward and touch John's shoulder. There would probably be some screaming and maybe some curses and, possibly, knowing John's temper, maybe a punch. Hopefully not, but he would have to consider it a probability.

He could have sent a text. Just "SH." and leave it at that. Maybe something more specific, maybe using John's middle name as a signal it's not from Moriarty.

He could have left a letter, somewhere in the flat, telling John all the needed details and explaining how it all went so wrong so quickly. Well, he would have had to ask Mycroft to do it...

He could have...

John was crying.

John was standing over his grave and crying.

This was not in his probability calculations.

Shouting. Cursing. Silence.

That rant, just a second before? Yes, that was also more or less expected.

What Sherlock did not predict were the tears.

What Sherlock did not predict was his reaction to them.

The way his heart constricted and his hands itched to reach out and to hold.

He bowed his head and leaned on the tree trunk.

He had to do something. Anything.

His mobile was out and in his hands before he even managed to think about it in detail.

 

Sent: I need to be able to contact John.

Received: Impossible. Would risk the whole mission.

Sent: Possible. He may be most useful.

Sent: Also, for the mission to be a success, I need all three of them to stay alive.

Received: Do you see any risks for doctor Watson's continued existence?

Sent: Yes.

 

He waited, watching his best - only - friend draw shaky breaths.

 

Received: CCTV on the cemetery is temporarily disabled. There is nobody in the closest area and my men are blocking approach routes.

Received: Just be quick about it.

 

He looked up from the screen.

John was leaning on the gravestone, both hands gripping the black edge so hard his knuckles turned white.

Sherlock pocketed his phone and took a long, cleansing lungful of air.

Now or never.

"I've heard you," he said, his voice shaking. "I've heard you, John."