Irene Adler died on a Thursday so you could say it was apt that Jamie Moriarty did too. They find her at six am, eyes still open, lying on the cold of the ground. Gregson is informed an hour later, half asleep and in a daze. He calls Joan first, she picks up on the fifth ring and by the sound of her voice, he has woken her. The call doesn’t last long, a few words punctuated by a long silence – Joan thinking about how to handle it, how to tell Sherlock.
In the end she goes to the Brownstone having decided that she has to tell him before he finds out some other way. It’s still dark when he opens the door and Joan realises, by the look on his face, that he has no idea why she has come. He was always one step ahead of her – except this time he’s not.
She sits him down but Sherlock insists on making her a cup of coffee before he lets her speak. He assumes it’s to do with the case they’re working on and offers theories he has come up with since they have last been together. She hasn’t the heart to stop him quite yet, so lets him talk, nodding and taking it in as she does so.
Four minutes and thirty seven seconds after she enters the house, she tells him.
Sherlock has just handed her coffee and he stares at her. She can see the words ricocheting around his head as he struggles to take it all in. Moriarty is dead. Three words, five syllables and he can’t stop replaying the in his head. He doesn’t ask questions like Joan thought he would, instead he looks down in to his coffee and then up at her and she can see the tears in his eyes. He asks her to leave a moment later and she does –she’s reluctant but she can see that he needs the silence.
She worries for the rest of the day that he had broken down, but when she returns, later – in the evening – he seems completely fine. She knows better than anyone that that means he’s falling apart inside.
He asks to view her body. They reject his plea to start with but in the end, he is granted permission. Moriarty, you see, has done this before –died – and this time he wants to be sure that he is really mourning the dead. He needs to know, to be sure, that it is really her. So he appears at the chapel of rest - where they’ve told him she’ll be, and prepares himself for the shock of seeing her laid out on the table. Joan has half begs him to let her come, so he has someone to support him. He just brushes her off, he doesn’t need support – he’s fine, isn’t he? Sherlock has half convinced himself that it won’t be her - that it’s all been some kind of trick but as he stands behind the glass and looks at the body he knows that she is really gone.
Jamie Moriarty is dead.
It is in this moment, during this realisation, that he knows he will never be the same, not now. She changed him and her death has too. He just doesn’t realise quite how much.
He leaves the chapel of rest without looking back and disappears into the nearest coffee shop he can find, needing the anonymity that it brings. Sherlock sits in a corner table and just watches the people file in and out, trying to drown out what he is feeling. He’s fine, isn’t he?
Joan finds him an hour later, Bell at her side. They take the seats opposite him but he doesn’t listen to what they’re saying. Half way through one of Marcus’ sentences Sherlock walks out – he heads back to the Brownstone, both his friends trailing behind. They share a look, Bell and Joan, both confused at the way Sherlock is acting. They let him go and leave him to his silence, opting instead to go down to the station and talk to Gregson about their concerns.
When Sherlock gets in he goes to his bed, exhausted by the day, and slips soundlessly into the night.
In his dream she’s there– even when the scenes change and everybody else he has imagined melts into someone else, something else; she is left behind. He wakes and falls back to sleep but she is still there, always there. When he finally wakes, the sun filtering through the curtains, he forgets for a moment that she’s gone and when it finally hits him it takes his breath away. He shouldn’t feel like this, not about her, not knowing the things she has done but he does – he feels like he’s lost the only person who ever really understood him. Yes, his evil criminal mastermind former lover is the only person who could ever understand him, of course. It makes sense to Sherlock.
Instead of getting up like he should, he tries to go back to sleep. When he’s asleep, he thinks, he can feel like he’s back there, with her, not knowing what was to come. When Sherlock thinks about it while he is awake he can’t stop wondering why he didn’t see it sooner – the manipulation, the lies – but when he’s asleep it’s not like that – everything is okay when he’s dreaming.
Joan wakes him by slamming the front door and calling his name. Sherlock rolls out of bed and stands at the top of the stairs, looking down at her. She stares at him as he strides down and walks past her, into the kitchen. He makes her coffee, in silence this time, and puts it on to the table in front of her. He doesn’t sit himself; instead he paces, in anticipation of Joan’s questions. She doesn’t speak, not to start with, and just sips her drink, watching Sherlock.
He wants to go down to the station, to get on with their case, but somehow he doesn’t think Joan will let him. He continues to pace and runs a hand through his hair, his eyes on the ground. The silence is broken by the letter box and envelopes falling on to the mat. Sherlock disappears and returns a few moments later, a collection of letters in his hand. Joan starts to talk then, about how he must be feeling. Sherlock just opens the envelopes, one by one; a bill, a letter from a man thanking Sherlock for helping him, another bill and then, then, a letter from her. He recognises the hand writing, the colour of the envelope but he doesn’t let on to Joan what he has found – he just lets her speak as he slips the letter out.
Moriarty answers all the questions he posed in the last letter, posing ones of her own – it is quite unremarkable, it is just like her letters have always been. Except at the end, under her name, she has written something she has never done before.
I’m sorry Sherlock, for everything.
She knew, he thinks, that the end was coming and this was her way of making it better for him. They had never said they loved each other, not quite, not to each other. It was always there though, hidden in the words they did speak - even after Irene faded and Jamie Moriarty appeared it was still there, in all the things they never said. This was Moriarty’s goodbye, he thinks, five words written at the end of an unremarkable letter.
He looks up at Joan and then down at the letter, his eyes drawn to the words, to Moriarty’s goodbye. Sherlock closes his eyes for a moment and then drops the letter down on to the table, startling Joan as he does so. She stops talking at glances up at him, concern evident in her eyes. He knows she thinks his actions have something to do with what she had been talking about – how Sherlock could talk to someone if he wanted to – but she couldn’t be more wrong. She stutters his name and stands as Sherlock starts to leave the room.
When he’s gone, slamming the door after him, Joan notices the mail, spread over the counter top and realises that it was that which Sherlock reacted to, not her words. She doesn’t recognise the handwriting, not to start with, and a few lines in she stops reading – it is Sherlock’s private correspondence and she has no right to read it – but as the paper falls to the table she sees the name, the words, scrawled on the back.
It stuns her for a moment and she understands why it affected him the way it did.
When he returns from his ‘walk’ three hours later, she has replaced the letter where she found it and sits, patiently, at the kitchen table. They don’t talk about and Joan just thinks he doesn’t realise she has read it. Sherlock, even though he knew the moment he re-entered the brownstone that Joan had noticed the letter, has no desire to discuss its contents.
He just sits next to her at the table and they sit in silence for the next few hours. At three am Joan falls asleep, her head resting on the counter top and Sherlock finds her a pillow but doesn’t sleep himself. Sherlock is too scared of dreaming to fall asleep.
The funeral comes two weeks later. Joan, Gregson and Bell all talk to him – telling him that he will get nothing from going – but on a rainy Sunday sixteen days after her death, Sherlock stands in a graveyard watching Jamie Moriarty be committed to the earth. He stands the furthest back, but there are only three people, counting him, in the cemetery any way. Sherlock recognises the other men, vaguely, enough though - enough to know that this is just business to them. The vicar speaks the age old words; ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and with that she is gone.
There is no wake, not really, and Sherlock just stands by the grave after everyone else has gone. He stares down at the headstone, her name etched into it. It rains but he doesn’t notice.
Because Jamie Moriarty is dead.
Mycroft calls him six days later from London. He tells Sherlock how he has heard of the death through unofficial channels and wonders how Sherlock has reacted. Mycroft is interested because last time the Jamie Moriarty did this to him he reacted in quite a spectacular way, a way which Mycroft hopes won’t occur again.
Once he has finished talking the line stays silent for a long time but Mycroft knows better than to think that Sherlock has terminated the call – no, they younger of the two Holmes brothers is just thinking about what he is going to say next.
To say that Sherlock’s request surprises him would be an understatement. Mycroft doesn’t understand why he asks what he does but knows better that to try and get a reason out of Sherlock. Instead he just agrees to the demand, and rings off, the conversation playing on his mind.
The next day Mycroft finds himself in Brompton cemetery standing by a grave that has no body in, for a woman who died twenty three days ago despite the gravestone professing that she died three years ago. He places the flowers down, as per Sherlock’s instructions, on the grave of Irene Adler. On the grave of a woman who never existed.
As he leaves he texts his brother, informing his that the task has been completed. Mycroft turns back, for a fraction of a second, and sees the flowers lying on the grave of a woman who is buried thousands of miles away.
Three days after the flowers are left on Irene’s grave, Joan brings up the letter. Sherlock is standing by the door, his coat in his hand, and Joan’s words cause him to fall silent. She asks why he wrote to a woman he barely knew, why he wrote to a woman who manipulated him and lied to him. He doesn’t answer to start with; instead he just stares at her.
When he finally does speak, a few minutes later, his eyes are on hers. Sherlock talks about why he wrote Jamie Moriarty, why he wrote to someone who hurt him as much as she had – it was because he had wanted to know what kind of woman could’ve done what she had. That had been the reason to start with but by the end he wrote because… because he had realised that there was more of Irene in Moriarty than he had thought there had been. Though if Irene never existed, then the parts of her he saw in Jamie Moriarty were, in fact, the parts of Moriarty that had bled through to Irene, her creation, in the first place. Things fell through, traits of Moriarty, and Sherlock saw them.
It turns out, as he tells Joan, that there was more of Moriarty in Irene that he ever knew.
She doesn’t ask if any of the things that fell through were the things that made him love Irene because he’s already out the door. But something in the way he spoke makes her think it probably was.
She still appears in his dreams, Moriarty, but it starts to affect Sherlock less and less – it barely shocks him anymore and every time he wakes he knows she is dead. He doesn’t forget again, not something like that.
Things go back to how they were before; he helps Gregson and Bell with Joan and everything moves on. They all think that he has moved on, let it go, but sometimes Sherlock sees Joan looking at him and he knows she’s not entirely convinced. She’d be right too - to think that he hasn’t got over it, because every time he wakes, knowing what he does, it hurts – just a little, not a lot, just enough.
But it hurts.
Jamie Moriarty is dead.