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26 January 2012 @ 02:23 pm
[fic]: fight or flight  
Title: Fight or Flight

Author: epistolic

Rating: M.

Word Count: 7,766.

Genre: Angst.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: After Reichenbach, Molly writes a series of letters to Sherlock that never ends up getting sent. Sherlock/John, slash, One-Shot.

A/N: For incandescent, for her kind sponsorship. I really hope this was what you were after, darling.

Feedback = love forever, as always! ♥

Fight or Flight

Dear Sherlock,

It’s two months to the day since you died, and here I am, in a crabby little corner café twenty minutes from Barts, writing you this letter. I’m not going to send it, obviously – for one, I don’t know your address, and two, I’m sure you’d laugh at me if I did – I can just picture your face now – so the fact that I’m writing this letter at all would probably frustrate you. I know how you hate people doing things just for the sake of it. I’m a scientist as well, so I understand the itch to see everything to its conclusion, to never leave anything unfinished.

John is doing alright. You asked me to look after him, so I suppose I owe you some sort of report. Though really, if I’m honest with myself, I don’t know how to deliver this kind of report; the dead are easier to puzzle out than the living, because if you want to find something out about them all you need to do is make a neat incision down the linea alba and then up through the sternum and you can have all their insides laid out for you in a matter of minutes. John, though – you know what he’s like. He doesn’t like being inspected. I’m not like you, Sherlock, I can’t see through to someone’s marrow just by glancing at them, so everything you want me to do and everything you want to know, I have to achieve the old-fashioned way. I think you’ve forgotten what it’s like for us normal people. For you, the whole of London is one giant, glass aquarium. For me, I suppose I could call it giant, and I could call it glass, except it would have to be blacked-out glass – completely opaque but completely breakable.

I’m not being very useful to you, am I? Rambling on about things you probably don’t care about. You’d shout at me to get to the point, or order me out of the room. All you used to care about was usefulness.

I suppose what I’m trying to do is give you a different account of everything. I know I’m not smart like you. If you were some rare breed of mountain cat, I’d be a gerbil. I don’t mind admitting something like that; I mean, it used to hurt me, much in the same way you used to hurt me, because although I know I can’t say what I want to say without sounding like an idiot, the point is I still think, I still feel, I’m not completely blind. But now I suppose it’s all too far away for me to still feel the sting of it. I know I can’t tell you any of this to your face so I’m telling you here, now, on paper. Somewhere you can’t see. Somewhere you can’t dismiss as irrelevant, because it isn’t, it won’t ever be, not to me.

I read in the papers just last week that they’ve made a breakthrough on the Horcombe murders over in Paddington. That’s been happening all over the shop lately. Clues have been turning up in dumpsites, abandoned warehouses, a bunch of lockers in Central Station; they cordoned off the whole place and went through every single one. Television crew everywhere.

I’ve always thought it was a bit funny how death will suddenly make someone public property. A case that’s been cold for over ten years gets dug up and slotted in the Sherlock Holmes file because, frankly, it’s never going to get solved and a hunch is better than nothing. It happens the other way too – a celebrity everyone’s hated and badmouthed for decades jumps off a window ledge, and suddenly she’s the city’s hero and no-one will ever do again what she did for music, or prime-time television, or horticulture. I know I’ve done that myself. I never liked Amy Winehouse, but then after she died I spent the longest time listening to her albums, convincing myself that I’d been wrong about her, and every time I thought about what I used to think of her as I’d feel this overpowering sort of guilt crushing onto my body. I felt so ashamed for a while. Is that some part of the human condition? I know you’d know the answer to that, but you’ve been a lifelong cynic. There are times when I’m elbow-deep in a cadaver’s abdomen and although I can see all of their organs clear as day, where all of their blood travelled, whether they favoured their right arm or their left, there is still so much that remains a mystery to me. I can peel open the human heart but I can’t understand it. It’s a bit terrifying, sometimes.

When Dad was dying he just had this aura about him, like he’d walk into a room and everyone would start being as cheerful as possible. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much in my life as I did in those last two years. Looking back on it, I feel like an utter idiot; almost like I killed him myself. Real life, the way I see it, is just one long continuum of pretending that everything is just the way it should be, because if we started to think about all the things that could be – what if I’d never married him, what if Mum had never died, what if I’d stepped in front of that bus five seconds later than I did – then we’d all drive ourselves crazy. You’ve just got to make the most of things and carry on with it. But that’s living. I’m only just now starting to understand how dying is a completely different matter. You can’t die on a pretense, on a convenient little lie you created to get yourself through every day. When I’m dying, at least, I’d like the truth. That’s why I can’t understand why doctors are so wishy-washy about telling someone they’ve only got a year, or two, or half, left. If you can’t expect honesty at the end of your life, then I don’t know when you can expect it at all.

What was it like, telling John a lie just before you jumped? I can’t even begin to imagine it.



Dear Sherlock,

I was coming out of the back door of the hospital today – you know the one on Level 3 that you don’t like, because all the interns use it – when two reporters bore down on me like homing pigeons. I didn’t recognize them at first because as much as people say that journalists are obvious, I’ve never been able to tell. (I know you’d say something nasty about my skills of observation at this point.) Ever since I was a child my Mum used to say that if I were Little Red Riding Hood, I’d not only follow the wolf home, I’d probably also help him start up the stove.

I don’t know why it still surprises me when people ask about you, Sherlock. I should really be used to it by now. I know it hurts John, to have journalists banging on the door at odd hours, shouting through the windows, trying to get a reaction out of him by saying horrible things about you. Wouldn’t that be a front-page article – Bachelor Friend of Disgraced Detective Throws Kitchen Chair at The Times Reporter. Sometimes it occurs to me that the only reason why people are so invested in your situation is because it satisfies some primal urge inside them, a desire to be proven right that’s been passed down from the Neanderthals all the way to the here and now. Self-delusion, I think, is Darwinian. It helps people survive. If they had to admit that you were real, that your mind and everything that you could do was real, then they’d also have to accept that they themselves were redundant. I don’t think anyone wants to confront the realization that the world would be exactly the same had they never been born. There’s such a huge emphasis we all place on life, on purpose; the big question everyone is always asking is Why are we here; why do we exist; there must be some higher reason why it’s me and not one of the five hundred thousand other possible fetuses my Mum could’ve had. They can’t lose that belief in a higher purpose, because then what’s to stop them all from jumping off of high-rise buildings themselves? You endangered them all just by existing, Sherlock. Surely you can see why they had to tear you down.

I know, I know – I’m boring you, aren’t I? You don’t want to read about ‘them’. You want to read about John.

You know, I always wondered about you and him. There, I’ve said it. I’ve put it out there. I’ve always been too afraid to say it to your face, and I don’t think I have to give you a reason why that is.

The two of you are just so different. I don’t buy into that ‘opposites attract’ bollocks, because that’s something that people on the outside say – people who see only the surface differences and nothing deeper. If two people are together, in any way, I’ve found that I can say with complete certainty it isn’t because they’re opposites of each other. That’s just a side-note, a little coincidence. It isn’t the diagnosis.

(Not that I’m trying to say that a relationship is a disease process, or anything, because – well, you know what I mean, Sherlock. I don’t have to explain myself to you, of all people.)

I feel like if I asked you about John you’d brush me off with something like, He’s useful, or, He helps pay the rent, or something equally ridiculous. But that’s not the reason, is it? I guess after everything that’s happened I can safely say that at the start, I was jealous. John was more to you than as a flat-mate or someone to get the groceries. You can’t possibly understand – I don’t know if you’ve ever been jealous in your life – but there’s a reason why Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor is one of the Ten Commandments. It’s a terrible thing, to be jealous. It’s like some part of you is just burning away all the time. It wasn’t even that I thought I’d be better for you, because I knew for a fact that I wouldn’t be. But from the very beginning I couldn’t understand what it was that John had that I didn’t – he wasn’t all that much cleverer, we both held medical degrees, and he said stupid things at times too. We were both very ordinary. That’s the thing with jealousy, I suppose; it’s so intimately tied to inadequacy, you really can’t separate the two. Why can he have that when I can’t have it? Surely I deserve it just as much as he does?

I asked John about it the other day. I cornered him outside his new flat.

“I don’t want to talk about Sherlock,” he told me, which I should’ve expected, really. “I’m sorry, Molly.”

People never want to talk to me. I have a feeling it’s because whenever they lay themselves bare to me I come out with something inappropriate, and we’re both of us so embarrassed that they have to reassure me that everything’s alright. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better if I never got embarrassed. Would that make me the same as you, Sherlock, do you think? Would I inspire the same sort of indignant awe, to be able to be completely truthful to someone without giving a damn about the consequences?

These are the sorts of things I keep thinking about while you’re away, when I’m supposed to be thinking about other things. There was a motor-vehicle accident in Clapham yesterday and I have four or five bodies to identify.

I miss you terribly.



Dear Sherlock,

I remembered something last night that I never got to ask you, so I’m writing it down here on the off chance that you’ll come back one day and I’ll have this piece of paper reminding me of what I need to know.

I never did ask you about Jim. I wanted to, for the longest while, but then every time I brought up the subject with John – he’s like a filter, do you know? Everything has to go through him first before he lets it get to you – he kept giving me that little head-shake of his, with that pinched-in mouth, and you know what I’m like. I’m so easily intimidated.

Last time I was in the pathology lab there were all these people, students mostly, talking about you. I don’t think they noticed me or they would’ve stopped. There’s a thing going around the hospital; half of London thinks that you’re a psychopath. It’s a hot topic, even five and a half months on. In the line for groceries, in the Barts staff cafeteria, at the dinner tables of CEO executives – it makes me sick to my stomach. They’re fighting over scraps of you in half the breakfast shows of the country. Every columnist has written a snippy little editorial about you. I think I’ve seen that footage of you at Jim’s trial about a million times, which is probably why I’m thinking so much about the two of you right now. I’m not going to make the silly claim that I knew about Jim before I knew about Jim, so to speak, so you can stop glaring. But I am going to say that despite everything that’s happened, it never once crossed my mind that you were a psychopath, or a sociopath, high-functioning or not.

You know how, when you’re a child, you have all these things you want to be? I used to want to be a fairy, or a princess, or a cat. For my fifth birthday, Mum bought me these gauze-and-wire wings that you could put on like a backpack. They were pink and they shed glitter everywhere. I used to sleep with them on. I wore them until I wore them out. My first stethoscope, too – a toy one that couldn’t pick up any sound softer than a chainsaw, but I went around for months with it hanging around my neck. I think no matter how old you get you never quite forget your childhood, because it’s something so deeply ingrained in us all that to shed it would be like shedding our vital organs.

That includes you too, Sherlock; I don’t think you ever manage to forget yours, either. But you want to forget. That’s the crucial difference.

There’s always been a part of you that doesn’t want to be human. Was that what you dreamed of becoming, seven or eight years old, too long for your bed and your elbows too bony, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stickers your brother stuck on your ceiling? Something other than human? Or something greater than human? Perhaps you just realized that you would never fit in. Every child is expert at fantasy, at taking what he or she sees in everyday life and adding flourishes to it. Whenever I used to look in the mirror I saw a grubby little girl with scraped knees; so my mind added the wings, the diamond tiara, the beauty I’d never grow into. I have no idea what you saw when you looked in the mirror, but I have a feeling that like any other child you saw only imperfections. You saw a human being, a weak, fragile thing that could be hurt; so you wrapped it up in concrete, you pressed it so far into yourself that no-one could touch it unless you wanted them to.

I think the difference between what you are and what a psychopath is, is that single detail. I think you buried your heart a little too deeply, so that it never grew up, so that it never got in the way – but in a psychopath, there is nothing even to bury. The heart is already dead.

If you want more proof – I don’t know why it is I’ve taken it on myself to prove to you that you’re not the psychopath London keeps iterating that you are, or indeed the sociopath you keep iterating that you are – maybe I’m scared of you actually believing one of the two – you only need to look at John.

Let me say outright that I know you love him. Please don’t ever deny it, Sherlock; you’d break his heart.

You don’t think I’m capable of noticing these things, but just because I’m not as observant as you doesn’t mean I can’t see an elephant when it’s dancing in front of my face. Before you argue – I’m not talking about love as the sort people sing about, or promise to each other on wedding days. That’s different. I’m not talking about the love people have for their families, either. You know what I mean, don’t you? There’s such a modern trend of putting a stamp on everything from shoe choices to steak (very rare, medium rare, medium, well done) that it’s so tempting to do the same with things that can’t be defined, like colour, or happiness, or intelligence, or love. There’s no real way to measure or categorize love. You can’t just scrape it into a manageable lump and pop it on a set of scales, although I know you’d like that. People make such a giant fuss about it because nobody really knows what it is, but all the same, it’s life-changing.

When my Mum and Dad divorced, I couldn’t understand it for the longest time. They’d been together for decades. They met each other at a Rotary Dinner well into their thirties, Mum a nurse and Dad a building contractor, and they keep telling me it was love at first sight though I often wonder if that sort of thing exists. It’s something parents typically feel compelled to tell their children, and I find that anything people feel compelled to do is instantly suspect.

“It’s just temporary,” my Mum said at the start, the two of us sitting at the kitchen bench of her newly-acquired townhouse with mugs of cold tea. “Just for a month or two, until I get my breath back.”

I was still struck, still gasping inwardly like a banked fish. “What did Dad say?”

“He thought it’d be good for me. It was his idea, actually.”

She was sixty-three at the time, but she’d taken care of herself so that she looked at least ten years younger. I knew that she spent every evening before bedtime rubbing cream into her hands, into the lines that were only just starting to take root on her face. I used to wonder about that – you’d think a nurse, of all people, would get wrinkles before anyone else did, from all those night shifts and sick people wetting themselves and all the wailing in the corridors. But Mum was always good at keeping parts of her life separate. She was so orderly, Sherlock. I think you would have liked her. Whenever I think about her, even now, the first and most instinctive image that emerges in my mind’s eye is that of shelving, and boxes with tight plastic lids. Dad was in one box, labeled very neatly with one of those little white stickers that don’t leave any marks when you peel them off. I was in another box. And then there was her work, and then her domestic duties, and then her leisure. She maximized all available space, like those fold-in closets you sometimes read about.

“How can it be just for a month or two, Mum, when you’re already talking about divorce – ”

She had very narrow, frail shoulders. Whenever she shrugged it was like watching someone trying to get water off of a raincoat. “I don’t know, Molly. We’ll work it out as we go along.”

“Don’t you love him anymore?”

“Of course I love him. That’s not the reason. I’ve loved him ever since we met, you know that, sweetheart.”

That didn’t make an ounce of sense to me, but I never got her to elaborate on this little paradox because at that point my elbow went a bit too far to the right and I ended up shattering both mugs on the kitchen floor.

Sherlock – I don’t think I can explain how clumsy and disoriented I felt that day, finding out. Subconsciously, we all idolize our parents – it’s why whenever they get ill, the first reaction we all feel is a bone-deep, revelatory surprise. On some hidden level, parents are always untouchable. You can love them or you can hate them, but you can never deny that they always affect you in some way. It’s all too easy to forget that they’re human; that they have ordinary feelings and frustrations and dreams that were never realized; that there are moments when they also doubt themselves, when they don’t know how to make the correct decision. I’ve never asked you about your mother, because for all intents and purposes you go around pretending you don’t have one. But my parents – it had never occurred to me that they would ever separate. You just don’t really think of it until it happens, and then you can’t stop thinking about it.

Every time I think about my conversation with Mum that day, a particular thing jumps out at me. Don’t you love him anymore? It was actually my attempt at something deeper – don’t you love me anymore? We’re all selfish at our deepest level, some evolutionary quirk that has kept Homo sapiens alive for millions of years. For me, at that time, I couldn’t yet comprehend a love that could be separated, split into separate portions like a carrot cake. If you loved someone, surely it had to be a complete love; you had to love with all of your being, so that it could not be unglued from breathing or sleeping or going to the bathroom. How is it possible to love someone and yet be apart from them, willingly? Everyone always says that love is feeling whole only when you’re with that person. If my Mum loved me, she would need to love my Dad; if she loved my Dad, then the two of them would need to stay together. A break anywhere in that chain seemed to me something of cataclysmic proportions. It was like finally discovering that the earth was flat.

It was only much later that I found I could understand. Children are the hardest on their parents; they are always the last to forgive. Of course, by that time Mum had already fallen down the stairs carrying groceries up from the car, and I had no way of telling her – so here I am, telling you instead.

There’s another kind of love, Sherlock, that isn’t romantic, or filial, or anything that can even be described. My Dad tried once – “You fall in love with someone’s soul,” he said, two weeks before the prostate cancer took him. He was delirious at the time. He no longer had control of his bowel motions; he had a urinary catheter. But I’ve never heard anything truer or anything spoken with such clarity in my entire life. Do you see, Sherlock? Love doesn’t have boundaries; it doesn’t answer to order or logic or fact, which is what you specialize in. You can be in love with someone but not be married to them. You can be in love with someone but not be attracted to them. Love is not desire. For a while, I was like the rest of the world – I thought you and John were a couple, I thought the two of you loved each other – but only now do I truly comprehend that it’s possible to not have the former, and still have the latter wholeheartedly.



Dear Sherlock,

I’m only just now beginning to realize how much easier everything was with you here. They’ve just sent me a body they found in the Thames two days ago, and if plunging your hands into the insides of a freshly dead corpse is unappetizing, then I really don’t know how to describe plunging your hands into a partially decomposed one.

If you were here, you’d take one look at him and that would be that. You’re like a keyboard shortcut.

The way that John is holding up in your absence can only be described as a miracle. I don’t really know what I expected; he’s always been the quiet type, but I’m the timid sort forever given to picturing the worst-case scenario. I think I imagined him going through London on a rampage, though what ‘rampage’ in this instance is supposed to stand for, I have no idea. I certainly didn’t think he’d hurt anyone. But when Dad died I was one huge tangle of fear and anger and a mute, transcendent sadness, and I wanted to go out and tear things to shreds. I didn’t, of course. But it’s the thought, and the desire, that counts.

“What are you doing nowadays?” I asked him the last time I saw him, which was two hundred meters away from your grave. It was raining a little and he didn’t have an umbrella. “How’s the flat?”

“It’s good,” he said. “It’s fine. The pipes are a bit rusty.”

He’d sidestepped my first question, but I didn’t know how to ask him again. “And – um – how’s – ”

“Harry’s fine too. She’s staying over at the moment, she’s been here for just under a week now.” I tried to cover him with my umbrella, but it was much too small and I almost poked him in the eye. “Do you want to talk somewhere else? Or are you – going to see him?”

“No, I’m not,” I said quickly, then got flustered. “I mean – I was, I was planning to, but – I’m not anymore.”

We went to a little café three streets away. I remember you saying once – I don’t have any clue how it came up in conversation, perhaps I’d proposed we grab a coffee there or something – that you hated it. I think John knew as well. It was him who picked it, hands in his pockets, staring at the water his shoes kicked up as we shuffled down the pavement under our sole umbrella. I had the feeling at the time that he’d chosen that coffee shop because he wanted to hear your voice inside his head, snapping about the quality of the coffee beans, deriding the décor, that superior little sniff you have when you don’t think something or someone is worth the mud on your shoes. Funny, the things we miss most about people! The other day, I almost added a solution of sodium sulfide to hydrochloric acid because I was distantly expecting you to lean across the bench, snatch my pipette away from me, and give me a long and contemptuous lecture on the elementary importance of the fume cupboard.

I ordered a pot of tea that I didn’t really want to drink and John ordered a coffee. His voice was so flat, Sherlock. He wasn’t even trying to pretend that he gave a damn about whether he got coffee or not, he was just going through the motions. In secondary school I remember being taught about the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to a stressful trigger; they showed us this PET scan of the brain and how all the higher functions simply shut down, leaving only the most primitive parts of the brain, the medulla oblongata, the rest of the brainstem, functioning. Breathe, sweat, run, hide. I remembered thinking that a person reduced to those four embryonic tasks wasn’t really even a person at all anymore. He was a husk in which a few of the most primal emotions – fear and desperation and violence – churned around like a pot about to boil over. I don’t know if it works the same way with grief, but the John Watson I was sitting across the table from was just a shell, someone who knew the correct responses by rote, who could feed himself and dress himself but could not remember what it was like to be truly at peace, to sit by the window of 221b with a paper and listen to the rain coming down.

I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, or upset. I can’t condemn you. I’m holding the same secret as you, like a cancerous little thing right inside my stomach. But I have to tell you these things or I’ll burst with them. It’s a purely selfish reason, which is why I’m glad yet again that you’ll never read these letters.

I don’t even remember what John and I talked about, in the end – I don’t think we talked about you. But he’s hurting, Sherlock, he’s hurting so much. I’m hurting. I know I don’t count much in that regard, but for what it’s worth, it’s true. I don’t know how to care for him. I didn’t know how to care for my Dad either, in those final months when every day I felt as if I were standing on a tiny patch of land in the middle of a giant sea, and the waters were rising, inch by inch, and I had nowhere to go. We sat at that table in a coffee shop you hated and the ghost of you swallowed the both of us up. I imagine that’s how people feel as they’re being smothered to death in their sleep – the moment of alertness, then the slow, drowning suffocation.

I don’t understand why you lied to him at the very last moment. Everybody knows that remembering someone as they used to be is the greatest solace of the grieving. You shouldn’t have taken that away from him and replaced it with uncertainty, with a gaping sort of self-questioning that forces him to convince himself of the truth. You didn’t want him to fight for you, but now he’s fighting himself instead, and that’s much more painful.

Maybe you thought he’d despise you and move on. If you did, Sherlock, I have to tell you that you’re an idiot, and that perhaps you never quite knew the human heart as well as you always claimed to.



Dear Sherlock,

I had a visit from Mycroft today, which is probably something you don’t want to hear about. But at this point I think you and I are both fully aware that these letters have become less about you than they’ve become about me. I’ve already forgotten why I started writing them in the first place; this is only my fifth one, so I don’t know what that says about my memory. But I think whatever the reason was, it was just an excuse anyway.

I’ve always found Mycroft a little bit frightening. (I can just hear you now: But you find everything frightening, Molly. You’d find a cockroach frightening. And what is it going to do, scuttle you to death?) He’s an exact carbon copy of you but in a more sanctimonious package. He pulled my chair out for me, in my own dining room. I have a feeling he’d do the same for someone stepping up to the electric chair, and he’d do it with the exact same look on his face, that smile that never quite reaches his eyes like he’s already resigned himself to living the rest of his life in a world full of idiots. That’s the difference between the two of you: Mycroft’s already resigned to this world, but you, Sherlock, you have this compulsion to keep on battling it.

“And how are you holding up?” he asked me once we were both sitting down. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen Sherlock since his disappearance, mmm?”

He had both hands folded primly on the table, as if he was trying to convince me that he didn’t have anything up his sleeves. I was trying not to squirm. You both do this thing in which you don’t blink at all for years. Trying to look Mycroft in the eye is like trying to force an Iranian tank back across the border just by staring.

“I’m doing okay, I suppose. I haven’t seen him.”

“Has he been in contact with you?”


“He hasn’t been in contact with me either,” Mycroft said. He sounded surprisingly wistful. “I would’ve thought he’d have made a move by now. It’s almost a year to the day, you know.”

Of course I knew. But I still said, “Oh, I – has it really been that long?”

“You should go on holiday sometime. Take a month or so of leave. I’ve already talked to the hospital, the paperwork’s gone through. I hear Vanuatu is lovely this time of the year.”

I sat for the longest time just gawking at him. People talk down to me all the time; they seem to assume that just because I’m awkward and can’t get my words out properly, I don’t have a brain. For a moment I was fully prepared to be angry, or at the least, upset. But then I realized that I couldn’t be angry with a man who was so obviously trying to be kind. When I looked at him, a second time, the ramrod-straight spine and the folded hands were not those of someone who was being condescending on purpose – they belonged to someone who was uncomfortable with vulnerability, and discussing you with me made him feel vulnerable. His questions were all too casual – Has he been in contact with you? – as if afraid of the possibility that you’d bypassed him, afraid that the history between the two of you was large enough to make you avoid him entirely. After all, Sherlock, you came to me for help on the day you staged your suicide. Mycroft had to wait for the papers.

I think I pitied him, a little, and I think he noticed that because he was out of his chair in an instant and patting around for his umbrella. There hadn’t been any rain forecasted for days.

“I won’t bother you any longer, you must be busy,” he said, and then he left.



Dear Sherlock,

A year later and you’ve finally died out of the papers. This means something to me, because I still read them, but John doesn’t anymore as he cancelled all his subscriptions months ago. I had to inform him the other day that there’d been a tsunami in Japan. He looked at me blankly, as if I’d spoken in a foreign language, and then it just seemed cruel for me to keep on standing there waiting for all the appropriate emotional and verbal responses, so I made a clumsy excuse and dashed off.

There’s always been a curious part of me that wants to know how the two of you actually began. I talk to Mike sometimes, I know all about the last few flat-mates you had before John came along. I know that they all lasted for fewer days than I have fingers – on one hand, even. Mike keeps repeating the story about the spark plug and the formaldehyde and while it never fails to leave us in stitches, it’s sobering, too. I don’t think he was the only one who was stunned speechless when John Watson actually stuck; I spent the first few months scurrying around the hospital like someone who’d just had their fortune told, jumpy and apprehensive, convinced that any moment now you were going to explode the kitchen of 221b or set fire to John’s sheets or any number of things you’ve done before. It was like swimming in a sort of expectant dread. Now I know what mothers feel like when they’re putting food in front of a tricky three-year-old, wondering if five minutes later they’ll have to change the wallpaper.

I spent the longest time picking John to pieces. It was part jealousy, as I’ve said before in another letter, but it was also part something else. I’ve told you – I don’t have your ability to disassemble someone the moment they walk through the door, so that just by simply blundering their way into your life they’ve shared with you all of their most intimate secrets. I’m like any other ordinary person in that I rely on first impression. I make assumptions about someone by the little snippets I catch of them doing something, or saying something. I ask them questions. I’m no less curious than you, Sherlock; it just takes me longer to get there. And it took me months before I could tell myself that I had John figured out.

I think, at the very heart of John Watson, is loneliness.

Not the sort of loneliness people get when Christmas comes around and not a single card is in the letterbox. I mean the sort of bone-deep loneliness people get when they find themselves in a foreign country, not speaking the language, not knowing the customs, without a map or a reason why they’re there in the first place, but forced to keep on functioning.

I think in every man who comes back from war there’s an innate perplexity. My grandfather was a fighter pilot during World War II and I remember sitting on his knee when I was little – he’d look at my face for hours, mouth set in an uncertain shape, like he had an image in his head of who I was meant to be and I didn’t quite match up. When you’re a tiny black dot in the sky with ack-ack fire whistling past you on all sides, you get a real sense of how much of your life depends on probability. It doesn’t matter if the guy in the aircraft next to you is better at tennis, or has twin baby girls at home. The people manning the antiaircraft guns down below aren’t going to make concessions for that sort of thing. So fighting men get this Utopia inside their heads: remember what home was like, the sun on the barley fields, sponge cake with that clotted cream Mum always makes, clean sheets and hot showers. It’s the only way to stay intact. The human mind always needs a reason to carry on living. Just get through this day, this month, this war, and everything will be alright; you can go home. But then when they do get home, nothing is quite as they’d remembered it, or as they’d imagined. The sun looks the same falling on barley fields in East Anglia as it did falling on the crumbled ruins of East Berlin. The sponge cake Mum makes has too much cream and not enough jam. The sheets are clean, and the showers are hot, but there are also giant lines at the grocery store, weeds overtaking the vegetable patch, a tile that fell off the roof last summer that no-one replaced. Coming home after years of war, my grandfather must’ve felt a bit like a time traveller would feel – house in the right place, but everything a little off-kilter in that indefinable way that makes all the difference. You can’t put your finger on it, but something’s changed. He used to try and tell me what it was like, fighting the war, and although I used to find these jerky and unreliable anecdotes boring, I realize now that he was trying to communicate this sense of not right to me as best he could. He’d looked forward to peacetime for years upon years only to realize, having achieved it, that he no longer belonged to it. He’d fought to the death for a world he couldn’t understand anymore. Between this new, foreign world and the world of guns and artillery, sweat and grit, where to pull a trigger was to already predict the outcome, he found himself continuously picking the incorrect answer – he wanted to go back, to the battlefields where death hung over every corner but at least where everything still made sense.

John must’ve felt the same, I think, in those early days. Disconnected from a world he’d once loved so much that he’d been willing to go to war for it – that kind of loneliness is not something I can even imagine. Just thinking about it makes me feel sick.

Though it does explain to me why he got on with you, Sherlock, when no-one else could. You have the exact same brand of loneliness. You’re always telling anyone who’ll listen that you despise people as a whole, that you can’t stand their stupidity or their selfishness. You’re always cutting them off at the knees. But if I’m truthful with you, Sherlock – completely truthful – I think, deep inside of you, you love them. Their approval means something to you. If you didn’t love them, then Jim Moriarty’s little game with you at the end wouldn’t have made a difference, because whether or not London thought you were a fraud would have been about as relevant to your interests as a rhinoceros. This city is your heart; humanity is your heart, with all its flaws and contradictions and idiosyncrasies. You’ve always loved it, but a nagging little part of you has been similarly aware that you didn’t belong to it in the same way that I belonged to it, or Lestrade, or Mrs Hudson. You were cut off from the one thing you found most valuable; your intellect, your insight into the human condition, was as much a blessing as it was a curse.

It’s like my Dad said – you were right for each other, you and John, from the very soul. He was your home, and you were his battlefield.



Dear Sherlock,

I’m sorry that it has been so long since my last letter. It’s almost three years since the day you stepped off the roof of Barts Hospital, and the funny thing is, nothing much has changed. People harp on about how time is meant to heal everything but that’s simply ridiculous. In my professional experience, time has never healed a single breast cancer to date; in more cases than not, time is a person’s worst enemy.

I have a feeling that this is going to be my final letter to you. On the one-year anniversary of your death I just had this revelation, standing there in front of your sham of a gravestone, this sudden understanding that all these letters to you were also a sham. What on earth am I writing them for? You’re never going to read them. All I’ve done is created a version of you, taken the substance of all my grief and John’s and molded it into the barely-discernible shape of you sitting in an armchair, somewhere in London, listening in that hawkish way of yours to the peaks and troughs and flat-lines of my heart. I think I set out to give you an account of yourself, but as always with any sort of writing anywhere in the world, by anyone, all I’ve managed is to give you an account in reverse. The whole point of reading multiple biographies on the same person is not because of interest in that person, really, but because of interest in the people writing them; you always used to say that more can be learned about someone by the way they tell a story, rather than the story itself.

John once explained to me about the concept of closure. I was fairly certain at the time that he was quoting, verbatim, what his therapist had just told him an hour or two before. I think closure is a pretty concept in much the same way that Heaven, or God, is a pretty concept. What exactly is closure? I’m starting to sound more and more like you, but the fact is, closure sounds like something Mum would say about gnats – Close the door before it gets inside the house, love. You can shut a fly out, but there are things that you can’t just close the door on, can’t stuff into a plastic box like a disused toy and snap the lid over.

It’s been three years, Sherlock. Three. Years.

I used to find religion pathetic, because the whole basis of it – having someone who’s listening all the time, dispensing forgiveness like sweets – seemed so much to me like grasping blindly at the ether, in the same way a newborn child will grasp at anything and anyone for safety. But I don’t find it pathetic anymore. These letters are as much a heartfelt confession as kneeling in a confessional itself. Funny, though, that these letters are addressed to you; prayers are sent up to a similarly absent someone, and I find myself asking the exact same questions as the people I see milling around church after services, talking a bit too loudly, smiling a bit too hard, as if trying to conceal a secret doubt.

Did I imagine you, Sherlock? I’ve got newspaper articles of you, but then people have the Bible. Were you really as brilliant as I remember you to be? Did I conjure up that moment in the hospital, when you came to me, and said that you needed my help? Nothing, three years on, is certain anymore. I’m on that tiny patch of land and I’m sinking again. I’m almost tempted to pull my home phone out of its socket because the disappointment I feel each day when no call from you comes through is like standing at your funeral all over again. I can’t bear to look at John – I can’t talk to him. You’re there, like a shadow at both of our sides, rarely acknowledged but so readily visible.

I know you have the least respect for people who beg, but Sherlock, at this point in time I don’t need your respect. That used to be the only thing I ever wanted from you, but now I don’t care. I just want you to come back to us. John doesn’t hurt in the same way that I do because he thinks you don’t have the choice anymore, but I know that you’re alive; I know you have that choice.

I know you could be here if you wanted to.

With all my love and more besides,


The End.

A/N: This story is basically my reaction post to Reichenbach, in fic form, haha! Thank-you so much for taking the time to read! And as always, feedback means a lot to me ♥

aliassmithaliassmith on January 26th, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)


This was heartbreaking and still so, so beautiful. <3
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
Thank-you so much, darling! I'm sorry I made you cry /o\ I'm very, very glad you enjoyed it all the same, though! ♥
Elven Ranger: fanficnightswhisper on January 26th, 2012 05:22 am (UTC)
This was one of the most eloquent, befitting, fics for this series I have yet to lay eyes on. Your thought process, reasoning, and language are perfect. I just devoured this. Brilliant work.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Oh wow, thank-you! You have no idea what it means to me, that you enjoyed this fic to such an extent. Thank-you! ♥
mildly_neurotic on January 26th, 2012 05:38 am (UTC)
Enjoyed Molly's perspective. Nice work.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Thank-you! ♥
desigirl6desigirl6 on January 26th, 2012 07:22 am (UTC)
A very beautiful piece. I loved Molly's little anecdotes about her childhood the most though. They gave Molly a dimension we rarely - if ever - see in the show.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:06 am (UTC)
I really tried to imagine who Molly would've been when she was younger - because we don't see very much of her in the series, and I really wanted to explore her thought processes more. I'm so very glad you liked this, bb! Thank-you! ♥
Sie Of Many Names: sherlockdraloreshimare on January 26th, 2012 07:44 am (UTC)
What a gorgeously done Molly POV fic. Yes. :
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:07 am (UTC)
Thank-you so much, darling! ♥
Denorios: sherlock rooftopdenorios on January 26th, 2012 11:16 am (UTC)

he was your home, and you were his battlefield - how do you do it? How do you take one line, one simple line, and make it say so much? It's like magic. I'm in awe.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Guh, thank-you! Thank-you so much for reading and commenting, thank-you, and I'm sorry for making you cry /o\

swissmargswissmarg on January 26th, 2012 11:52 am (UTC)
Wow, this is so good. I really like all of the little stories Molly tells, and how they relate back to Sherlock and John. You have a really good insight into their relationship, and their psyches.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC)
Oh, thank-you! I'm actually more of a Sherlock/Moriarty shipper, so I hadn't really thought about the Sherlock/John dynamic up until this fic, and now I can't stop thinking about them because they just fit so perfectly. Thank-you so much for this lovely comment! It really means so much to me ♥
l.m.: sherlock; upincandescent on January 26th, 2012 12:08 pm (UTC)
AH! You wrote this so quickly! *___*

I have absolutely no reading time right now, but I promise to squeeze some in later. Thank you, THANK YOU!

Also, your new layout is GORGEOUS. XD
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Haha, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration! I'm finding now that I like Sherlock/John more and more, they just make so much sense. I know that you're very busy with the Inception Big Bang, so take your time - this fic will still be here when you're ready. ♥

I love it so much! I'm glad you like it!
- incandescent on January 27th, 2012 05:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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talimenios79talimenios79 on January 26th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
I loved this.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Thank-you! ♥
Not tacky, just delusional: love isn't fairtotally_loca on January 26th, 2012 03:46 pm (UTC)
This just broke my heart. I want Sherlock to read these letters, even if just to understand what he did from another perspective. All Molly's relevations and the way she explains herself are just so poignant and true. So very shiny.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:27 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, thank-you! It was actually my head-canon while writing this fic that Sherlock does read the letters, that Molly has no idea that Sherlock is actually sneaking in to read them - which was why I chose to end this fic just before three years, so that Sherlock comes back after Molly's plea for him to come back in her letters. But of course that's just my own head-canon, haha! He'd probably more likely come back for John than for Molly. But thank-you so much for such a lovely comment - it really made my day, bb! ♥
- totally_loca on January 27th, 2012 01:31 am (UTC) (Expand)
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Ev / Letha: andrew_stareatavistique on January 26th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
Mel, Mel - you are just perennially awe-inspiring. I usually tune out in overlong internal monologues but this was so profound, I can't even express the myriad of feelings appropriately. You captured Molly's voice perfectly and in it, you brought out the intricacies of the character's relationships... Molly's somewhat naive perspective, Sherlock's disengagement and John's pain and emptiness.

The thing is I have a near-pathological obsession with psychoanalysing John Watson, and this fic has made a lot of things a lot clearer and easier to think about.

And I find myself compelled to say back to you, OMG WILL YOU JUST MARRY ME ALREADY.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC)
Oh, Yvonne, I never quite know what to say to your comments, they are always so lovely! That was actually my initial fear - that I wouldn't be able to sustain an internal monologue for a fic of appropriate length, because usually I can't think of anything to say after a thousand or two. But Molly - I don't know what it is about Molly, I just have this feeling she sees so much more than she lets on, she knows so much more than Sherlock gives her credit for. She just seemed perfect to write an internal monologue from. ♥

John is so deceptive; initially, you think he's pretty boring. That's what I thought for the longest time. But once you actually think about him, about who he is and what he's capable of, then he's actually very fascinating. I can't stop thinking about him now.

- atavistique on January 27th, 2012 12:43 pm (UTC) (Expand)
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Bonaparte: the matrix - kissskyvehicle on January 26th, 2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
So I know you're a big Sherlock/Jim shipper, so I wasn't quite sure what you'd make out of Reichenbach... so THIS. Was unexpected, surprising, and of course a little bit sad. And that last part especially. I just feel like now, Sherlock coming back will be just as hard on Molly as it is on John, if not moreso. Because going by this, Sherlock needed her, and then used her, and then just threw her away like she didn't really count after all. I just love Molly, and I just love YOU!!!
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:38 am (UTC)
I know, I felt the same way too! It felt a bit strange writing Sherlock/John after writing so many Sherlock/Moriarty fics, especially since it's such a different perspective. My personal opinion of Moriarty is that he's not a psychopath, but obviously from Molly's POV that wouldn't come through. That's what I love about this series so much - because there are just so many interpretations about every detail, different from different POVs, it's just fascinating!

And wow, I never actually thought of the "used her, and then threw her away" thing. But now it does seem almost crucial. Thank-you so much for such a lovely comment, darling, it means so much to me! ♥
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smokiquartzsmokiquartz on January 26th, 2012 07:30 pm (UTC)
Just, gorgeous.
I love Molly's back-story and her observations.

You’re like a keyboard shortcut.
That was prolly one of my favourite lines.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
Wow, thank-you so much! I'm so happy you liked this, thank-you, thank-you! ♥
letshavedinnerletshavedinner on January 26th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
This was just lovely. Just everything about it was wonderful. It is something that I can completely imagine happening, and also something that Molly would definitely do. The conversation with Mycroft, and the way you portrayed Johns mourning was so, so heartbreaking. Well done for such a wonderful piece.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Wow, thank-you so much! I'm glad that you liked it, that you felt it was believable, and that all those conversations worked well - I really wanted to sort out in my own head Molly's relationships with both Mycroft and John, this fic was on some levels just me sorting out my own head-canon. Thank-you again for such a lovely, lovely comment! It makes me so happy. ♥
kunju: bellissimo mon amourinnie_darling on January 26th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
This was so lovely. Molly hit upon so many things Sherlock needed to hear: I don’t understand why you lied to him at the very last moment. Everybody knows that remembering someone as they used to be is the greatest solace of the grieving. You shouldn’t have taken that away from him and replaced it with uncertainty, with a gaping sort of self-questioning that forces him to convince himself of the truth. You didn’t want him to fight for you, but now he’s fighting himself instead, and that’s much more painful. And of course, He was your home, and you were his battlefield.
ABC, her eyelids say.epistolic on January 27th, 2012 01:46 am (UTC)
Oh, thank-you! That's what I really really yearned for after seeing the series - I wanted Sherlock to learn something from Molly, because although he dismisses Molly all the time, I think she is a lot more perceptive than he gives her credit for. I'm so happy you liked this - thanks for such a lovely comment! ♥