Nutrisco et exstinguo means “I feed from it and extinguish it”
Alea jacta est means “The die has been cast”
Warnings: Rating for this chapter is K+
Chapter VII: Alea jacta est
song: A bird’s song, by Ingrid Michaelson
When I would play my song
You used to sing along.
I always seem to forget
How fragile are the very strong.
“Still no answer ?”
“I’m afraid not, Sherlock. I don’t think he’ll give any.”
Sherlock jumped from Molly’s sofa and started pacing agitatedly.
“But it doesn’t make sense! John never turns down a pretty young woman. He just doesn’t.”
She blushed and came out of the kitchen with two glasses of water with ice.
“I’m not so young any more, really.”
“A woman’s life expectancy in England is 82.4 year old, Molly, of course you’re young. And the mean age for women marrying in 2010 was 33,6 so you shouldn’t worry too much.”
She laughed nervously and sat down, putting Sherlock’s glass on the low table.
“Sit down and have a drink. You haven’t eaten anything in a week.”
“That’s preposterous, I’d hardly be moving by now if that were the case.”
“Really? But the fridge…”
“I didn’t say I ate a lot. Please do pay attention.”
She sighed. Seriously, the detective was such a child. It was as if his parents had just dropped him in her flat for a week and she was to baby-sit him until they came back to pick him up. Thing is, they weren’t coming. Not his actual parents, of course. But John wasn’t coming. The good doctor truly must have been a long-suffering flatmate. Wife, she thought absent-mindedly.
Sherlock was still pacing restlessly around the living-room. He’d been fidgety for the past week or so – he obviously hated being stuck in a flat all day. He really couldn’t take the risk to go out at all until he left the country, and so had Molly do everything he couldn’t manage from her couch on which he had taken up residence like a big, awkward cat. Toby liked him. She’d been very surprised when she had caught him poking Toby as they both lay on the sofa. She certainly didn’t think Sherlock would be the type to like pets. On second thoughts, maybe he didn’t.
He was just bored. And depressed, too. Although he didn’t even seem to realize this, he was moping around the flat like a lost puppy. The first two days, he hadn’t uttered a word and had lain motionless on the sofa, staring at the ceiling and thinking. Hard. But once he had figured out everything he needed to know, boredom had settled in. He had Molly book him a flight to New-York within a week (he was to leave the following evening, in fact, hence his edginess tonight), hand in receipts and tickets and poems to homeless people (she didn’t even try to understand what was going on), and even lie to Mycroft Holmes.
That had been the worst part of all. Sherlock’s strategy had actually been for her not to lie: to concentrate on the facts (yes the body she’d examined was definitely dead, yes its DNA matched Sherlock’s, etc.), which were all true according to the records, and find excuses for any lack of data. Of course Mycroft would find out eventually – because Sherlock didn’t intend to remain hidden forever. But it was crucial that he’d notice something was wrong only after his younger brother had left the country for good. Well, that was what Sherlock had told her any way, and Molly didn’t want to question him any further. She said she’d help, and she would. It didn’t matter if for some reason that the detective had to lie to her too.
Truth be told, she had been quite surprised at Sherlock’s behaviour in her home. It seemed he didn’t bother with appearances any more. Naturally she couldn’t be a hundred per cent sure that he wasn’t acting, but she believed that he was being genuine. That is, genuinely fitful. Not all crazy and excited like during a case, but alternatively cold and jumpy, distant and edgy. She wished she could do more for him – she’d truly do anything for that mad and brilliant childlike man. It had never occurred to her that the terrible detective with his winsome smile and incredible brain could be so… harried. Not weak, but… definitely not strong or infallible like he claimed to be. It had come to this because he had made mistakes, because his brother was a bastard to let him deal with Moriarty’s mess, too, but mainly because he had been careless.
Yes, Molly wished she could give him more – protect him and pamper this new vulnerable side to him that she’d never seen before. But she knew she could only do as he asked. Everything was in Sherlock’s hands now, and he’d have to do this alone. She had to let him go.
I’m sorry I can’t steal you
I’m sorry I can’t stay
So I put band-aids on your knees
And watch you fly away
A week already since the funerals, and John still hadn’t called Molly back. No, emailed her back. The idiot seemed to have crushed his phone and decided it was pointless to replace it. Maybe things were worse than you thought.
You had him followed and so knew where he was living now – strangely enough, you hadn’t expected him to move out of Baker street so quickly. In fact, he’d barely moved out at all. He just hadn’t gone back, and Harry Watson had come to collect what was strictly necessary – clothes, his laptop, and so on. Not much. It had pained you that he didn’t even wish to take anything from 221 B as a memento, something to remind him of you. Not that you’d admit it, even to yourself.
He wasn’t going to the clinic any more, so he must have quit. Not the best idea according to you, but then again the constant stares and whispers must have been hard on him. The idiot. Why did he have to post such a stupid comment on his blog? Of course it’d made him look either pathetic or bonkers, or both. Hadn’t he been the one saying that people would talk? What in the world had happened to make him even more stupid?
His best friend died, whispers in your mind that annoying voice that just won’t shut up. Not just died, killed himself. Under his very eyes. Lied to him until the end. And when I say best friend… You slam the door mentally on the unnerving murmur and try to think of something else. But there isn’t. Everything else has been seen to already, and now all you can do is wait. You’ve always hated waiting. It is your definition of hell itself: waiting obliterated the past because it was behind and none of your concern and dissolved the future because you only wanted to make it a present. Waiting was like being stuck in a never-ending ‘now’.
Except you’re not only waiting. You’re haunted by what you’re about to leave behind. Farewells. Why should they hurt so much? It doesn’t make sense. This tight sensation in your chest doesn’t make sense either. So you try to focus on New-York and all the work that awaits you there. Dreadful business, too. You should be excited. Such prospects should be a thrill. And it is, partly. But it’s overridden by fear. You’ve always enjoyed putting your life on the line to show just how clever you are – danger has always been your only flirt. But what a flirt! Nothing can be more exquisite than the adrenaline when there’s a deadline (usually, quite literally so), more pleasurable than the sense of triumph after you’ve outsmarted a challenging criminal. It is indeed how you get off. Mind play + power play + leg work = bliss. Friends had never been part of the equation.
People in cases weren’t people: they were victims, suspects, criminals, passers-by maybe, incompetent police officers and forensics. There could be targets, too, but those were just lives in the statistical sense of the word. Lives had to be saved because criminals usually try to take them and the game pinned criminals as the enemy. But the Work certainly didn’t consist in saving lives – the Work only consisted in winning the game: solving the case and catching the culprit. The criminal, by deciding to be an outlaw, had already decided to enter this game in which you put your life on the table before even starting to deal the cards. It was part of the thrill, after all. And you loved this game of life and death where you could prove yourself.
But lives with a face weren’t supposed to be part of the game. Data. Identityless human lives, that were all worth the same, because a life is a life regardless of the person. It never was a problem in the balance – by playing this, 75% chance that two lives will be lost, but by doing this, 50% chance that twenty will be, etc. As simple as that. Caring didn’t help making the correct calculations, quite the contrary in fact. Yes, it was ideal to be a machine when doing your kind of job – and yours was unique, so unique you’d have to be a very special and peerless machine, and you quite liked the idea. The only problem was, you did care. Usually retrospectively, OK, but still. You had learned to identify a twinge of regret, a pang of hurt, even a sting of jealousy or a jab of hope. And that was before you had met John Watson.
The doctor introduced nuances you were unaware of (for instance, the distinct ache that characterised a slight panic, often coupled with regret, and that made you want to make everything right again because you feared he would leave), and many pleasurable sensations too (a knowing smile which wouldn’t provoke bitterness or cynicism because it was veiled in tenderness, shared giggle that were tinged neither with innocence nor with experience, but seemed to transcend both because it embraced darkness and laughed it off). He made everything more intense. He came too close. You didn’t want to think about the implications of him being your colleague. He needed the thrill, after all, he was addicted to danger: and you were addicted to him. Luckily, you were dangerous. Not safe, he had written on his blog. You stood a chance. But you still cursed your bloody addictive personality.
Perhaps you should have gotten yourself a cat, like Molly. Independent, clean and quiet. Not important enough to weigh in the game. John did. Mrs Hudson, too, and Lestrade, that was true. We’re not safe. Dark forces are at work, and they’re coming to get Sherlock. Stupid John with his stupid hyperbolic style. The idiot had been right though, in some way. And he had felt it before you even noticed the trap closing onto you. Stupid Mycroft and stupid Moriarty and stupid friends. But most of all, stupid you, for not seeing this coming earlier. You could have managed it differently then.
Now it’s too late, and in the very short span of three months, you had to get prepared to leave the one you’d been trying to keep by your side at all costs for more than a year. Everything had quickened drastically in the last days, leaving you with nothing but a few hours to say goodbye. Not that you could actually say it, either. It all had gone so fast that you’d had no choice but to rip it apart – whatever ‘it’ had been, what John and you had shared. Never had you gone through such an agonizing withdrawal. Because no one was there to force you: you weren’t locked or tied down, you could just go out and take a cab and rush to John’s side and make it all stop. You physically could. But then John would be killed within the day (and that was being optimistic).
That’s how you realized how insane such an addiction was – who would be foolish enough to get hooked on a single original with no duplicate whatsoever, and so fragile and breakable as a bloody human life? It is even a double-edged sword: a human subject isn’t just data and is highly unpredictable because it has a conscience and a mind (even if not as brilliant as yours). You cannot put it in your pocket or hide it in a cupboard, cannot use or dispose of it as you please. And if you lose it, you cannot obtain it anywhere in the world, because it was only one of a kind. Ha! And all those moronic common people who believed the use of cocaine was risky behaviour. In that case, what tied you to John was plain suicide.
Suicide. You shiver. It wouldn’t come to this, would it? Your informants from the homeless network had told you John was seen digging your grave and throwing up. In the middle of the night. Harry Watson had also left her brother’s room with a disassembled dummy wearing a wig with black curls. You had read the poem at least three times to make sure you got the message right – perhaps the code had been altered. But no. It said “digging your grave” and “disassembled dummy”. You really didn’t need to ask ‘Not good?’ this time. Obviously, it wasn’t good at all. But John? John? Soldier at heart, tough enough to put up with you and kill a man in cold blood to save your life, long-suffering and forgiving John… A strong man. Wasn’t he? And what about you?
I’m sending you away tonight
I’ll put you on a bird’s strong wing
I’m saving you the best way I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing
“We should take care of your hair, now.”
Molly was enjoying this. Well, she thought she would. Actually, cutting the detective’s soft curls as he was staring blankly at a mirror he wasn’t seeing, she felt like she was preparing him for his execution. She winced.
“Nothing. It’s fine.”
“I’m not going on the electric chair, Molly. I’m just flying to New-York.”
“Ha ha, yes, of course! It’s just… you know… your hair…”
“You’re crying. Why are you crying?”
“Oh I’m just being silly…”
“You’re always silly. But you’re not always crying. Tell me.”
She smiled and wiped away her tears. She’d never seen that side of Sherlock either. John had, though. She remembered him writing on his blog that his flatmate looked like a twelve-year-old, and just didn’t understand why it was normal to care. It was almost sweet, the way he was genuinely asking. She took a deep breath and patted his head.
“It’s all fine. Let’s get the bleach on now, shall we? It might tickle a bit.”
She chuckled. He really did look like an abandoned puppy.
“Just don’t forget to come back.”
You know we’re not so far away
Get on a boat, get on a train
And if you ever think you’re drowning
I’ll try to slow the rain
“Did it really have to be orange?”
“It’s not orange! The man on the picture was a red-head! Look, it’s a perfect match.”
Molly sighed. The previous night, the consulting detective had been so absorbed in his thoughts that he had gone and curled on the couch without commenting on his new hair style. But then this morning with the day light he’d been appalled.
“Well, you might have wanted to think about that before you picked a fake identity who happened to have red hair!”
“I didn’t really have much choice. No time to obtain other papers, I had to do with those I already had in my possession – male ones, too. This one’s perfect because it’s an entirely fake persona but who’s registered everywhere. And shares my fingerprints, too. “
“Right. I’m not even going to ask. Anyway, you don’t have to keep it that way in New-York, do you?”
“No, I certainly won’t.”
Molly laughed softly as she tightened the sulking man’s tie.
“See? It’s all good. You can pick something less flashy, next time.”
She added dreamily:
“Maybe auburn, dark blond…”
“Yes, blue… wait, blue?”
He nodded seriously.
“OK… be sure to send me a picture.”
“You know that’s not going to be possible.”
Brushing his bright red hair, she laughed whole-heartedly.
“That’s too bad. Guess we’ll have to bleach them again and dye them blue when you get back.”
His lips curve but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. I believe some people might want to do a lot worse than just die my hair blue when I come back. If I come back.
He’s not scared of dying – there’s a risk, but he’s quite sure he won’t. He’s not an idiot, after all. And he’s flirted with danger long enough to be familiar with it. Statistically he stands a good chance, even if what he’s planning to do is crazy – precisely because it is crazy, in fact. But coming back is a different matter altogether. He doesn’t know if it’ll ever be safe to do so.
That’s a lie.
“Sherlock? Are you all right?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
You’re just afraid to come back and see everyone has moved on. You’re dead to them. To John…
He looked up at her sharply. Their eyes met and she squeezed his hand. She had sounded so much like him.
“Sorry. I’ll get prepared then.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“What are you talking about? This is so exciting!”
The detective fell on the couch and rolled on his back, tilting his head. He smirked up at her.
“Exciting to put on a disguise? Or to pose as my wife?”
Molly spluttered and threw one of her salmon-pink cushions at his head.
“You terrible, insufferable man!”
“Oh, don’t get so violent, dear. You’ll ruin my hair.”
She shook her head and went into her room to change. Oh, she was going to miss him.
In two years or so
Drop me a line
Write me a letter
I hope to find you’re doing better, better than today, better everyday
“Are you coming?”
“Right away, honey!”
She smiles at the cab driver and pays him before running after you. You’ve been on edge for the whole drive, and there’s this nagging feeling tightening your chest again. If you didn’t know better, you’d say you have asthma.
“Why, why do I have to be your wife the one time I’m hit on by a nice-looking guy?” she mumbles.
“It has nothing to do with you being married to me. Don’t you know the saying? Gentlemen prefer blondes.”
“And I’m sure you’re talking from experience.”
You send her a glare, but she responds with a winsome smile. She does look gorgeous: the type John would love having as a girlfriend. You frown. Molly takes your arm and presses it softly.
“Jealous, are we?”
You quite admire how she manages to doublespeak and wonder why you never noticed what a capable woman she truly is. Well, you probably just didn’t bother. Not that it matters, anyhow. You unwittingly press your hand to your chest. The vice of pain tightened around his ribcage. This was preposterous.
“Is everything all right, James?”
Christ, of all the names this idiotic red-head could have been called, it had to be James. James Harvest. What a stupid name.
“Yes, it’s fine.”
“Well, off you go, then. I can’t come with you once you’ve gone through customs” she says, readjusting his jacket.
What’s with you? Finally, you don’t have to wait any more. You’re leaving for good. Everything begins now: the game is on! There’s no time to look back. The die’s been cast.
You remember how it felt when you left John on the side of the road by the police station. That had been both clever and good – Moriarty was in that cab after all, he had made it quite clear with his silly light and painting game on the building across the Met – you were only making sure not to involve the doctor in this. It had made you realize just how accustomed you had become to have him by your side as a partner – a colleague. Well, you didn’t have much time to dwell on it as you had to watch Jim’s little fairy tale (and you really wanted to punch the man, because he was right, of course, and now you could see the storm coming closer and that meant less time left with John).
Yes, it had been both clever and good – the smart and the right thing to do. Just like jumping off the roof in front of him. Just like what you are about to do now: fly away. The knot in your chest is back and he growing void too, but this time there’s nothing to distract you from it, no madman’s video to take your mind off it.
So you stare at Molly. She seems to be in pain. Why is she making that face? Oh. Right. It’s your face, actually. You are hurting. Empathy, was it? But why would you be hurting? This plan of yours is brilliant and even thoughtful of the others, something that really never was your priority. It’s brilliant, and it’s what John would have done, you’re sure of it, so why in the world would it…
That’s when you feel the wetness on your cheeks. Crying? You’re actually crying? That is completely unnecessary – not useful to the least. And you’re not one to waste time being absurd – oh.
Of course. It isn’t logical, indeed: because they’re real tears. Your broken laugh sounds like a sob. The tears were fake at Bart’s, and now they’re real? This is all so messed up. You’re so messed up.
And so you’re standing there, in the middle of Heathrow, dumbfounded, staring at Molly’s figure without even seeing it. You’re so flabbergasted that she actually comes into focus again, and you desperately try to stop the flow – but you didn’t choose to start it, and you know you won’t be able to decide when to end it either. This is utterly ridiculous. Why now of all times? There’s nothing dangerous involved, nothing intense at all, nothing traumatizing like jumping off a building in front of the one you…
Maybe that’s it. Because there’s nothing.
Suddenly Molly is hugging you, and you find yourself at a loss for words.
“It’s all right, darling. It’s not going to be that long, I’m sure. I know you’ll miss me, but we can call and skype…”
You’re so shaken that it actually takes you more than a second to understand what she’s talking about. Of course. A full-grown man weeping in an airport isn’t a very common sight, and people have been – still are – staring. There are those damn cameras everywhere as well – anything suspicious, anything at all, could alert either the angels or the devils, not to mention some pawn in dear Jim’s web or, even worse, Mycroft. Molly is being clever – in fact, she is making up for your own blunder. Sentiments. They really are troublesome.
You hug her back, and breathe in deeply. This is it.
“I’m not jealous. You should find someone”, you whisper into her ear.
And then you’re gone.
I’m sending you away tonight
I’ll put you on a bird’s strong wing
I’m saving you the best way I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing
The plane is full and the alleys are crowded when you get on. Stupid, stupid James Harvest. He’d never fly in business class – not to mention first class – and so you had to book a ticket in economy class. You forget it’s actually Molly who had to pay the bill, since you’re (kind of) dead.
Airplanes. Who got the crazy idea of putting as much people as possible in the narrowest wagon one could imagine, and send them up into the air for several hours? The meals weren’t even disappointing, they were plain dreadful. And God, were the TV screens really necessary? You glare at a wailing baby. Shut up. Look, I’m crying too, and I’m not screaming my lungs out. It’s a wonder you’re even considered to have a brain.
Why did your seat have to be at the very back of the bloody hell-machine on wings? And all those people fussing and moving and talking… You can hear everything and it’s driving you mad. All those inanities uttered in so many languages – how many? You count. 12. No. 13, you correct as you spot a Japanese couple arguing by a window.
「なぜあの女と不倫したのか？」(“Why did you fool around with that woman ? “)
「そんな．．！どんなことがあっても卑弥呼のことを騙そうという気持ちにならないぞ。」(“What are you on about ? I would never deceive you, Himiko !”)
「当たり前だろう！決して浮気をしなかったぞ。」(“Of course ! I’ve never been unfaithful to you.”)
「違うんだ。」(“Wrong.”) you drop as you walk past them, getting more irritated by the second and tramp away muttering to yourself 「明らかに嘘をついている。何とばかなのだろう。」 (“Obviously, he’s lying. How foolish can she be?”), leaving the poor couple speechless.
You reach your seat at last, and you want to kiss Molly because she’s wonderful: it’s a single seat. At the very back, indeed, but with nobody next to you. You let yourself fall onto the seat and secure your belt – they’re going to announce it in a minute any way, and you won’t be listening. You close your eyes and shut your senses off – all of them but touch and taste, although you wish you could. There’s a metallic taste on your tongue – how ironic. Closing your eyelids doesn’t stop the tears. It’s ridiculous. They don’t concur at all with your blank face.
Trying to shrug it off, you curl up in the synthetic blanket so as to look asleep – and not because the tightness in your chest is choking you and will no longer be ignored, naturally.
It will pass though, you know it will. And then only emptiness will remain.
I’m saving you the only way that I know how
I hope again one day to hear you sing
I hope again one day to see you bring your smile back around