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Title: Climb and Fall
Author: [livejournal.com profile] spacemutineer
Rating: PG-13
Summary: A canon-based missing scene from The Final Problem. After Moriarty's demise at Reichenbach, Holmes risks his life to end his life only to find himself haunted by the dead and the living once he succeeds.
Warnings: angst, canonical character death
Word Count: 796
Author's Notes: This piece is actually the second part of a prompt fill about Reichenbach and its immediate aftermath (the first was Zoetrope), but it stands up fine by itself. We're still not at the train quite yet, [livejournal.com profile] methylviolet10b, but we're chugging along. Sorry for the world's slowest fill. (I'm working on that speed thing, really I am...)



White.

The sky was white.

Featureless, soft.

Forgiving.

It was everything the sheer, slick rock of the cliff ledge had not been.

The exhausted muscles of his torn fingers were still spasming painfully, twitching at random intervals. His throbbing head lolled on the yielding pillow of cold, wet moss beneath him.

But Holmes was alive. Alive and breathing the humid air in sharpened gasps. Alive and staring up at the pale blank canvas above.

Alive.

And Professor Moriarty was not.

Moriarty's body was crushed against the boulders at the bottom of the falls, collapsing into an unnatural twisted mess before it disappeared forever into the foam and churn.

All that remained of him was carved into Holmes' brain like a chisel to marble, a mark made to last the ages. The memory of Moriarty's rasping voice howling Holmes' name in virulent rage as he fell to his doom had been a constant companion to Holmes while he navigated the narrow cliff ledge away from the scene of their final confrontation. With every delicate step, every tenuous handhold, Moriarty's dead voice followed him and called for him. Holmes' own name was a drowned siren's last song, meant to entice an unwary listener to the same desolate grave as its singer.

Holmes, the professor cried as the detective wedged his toes into the slightest of crevices in the broken rock.

Holmes, he called, welcoming, beckoning, inviting as Holmes' hands slipped once again on the wet fingerholds and he teetered on the brink.

Holmes, he screamed, a phantasm of violence and wrath echoing in the blue-white oblivion beneath.

Holmes

Holmes

Holmes

"Holmes!"

That was different. That was real.

"Holmes! Holmes!"

The extant world snapped back into focus like the lashing bite of a cat o' nine tails. No. Oh, no.

Watson.

"Holmes! Halloa?"

For reasons he could neither explain nor even conceive, Holmes had let the knowledge that Watson would come back for him sublimate away into the ether. Somehow, in the dire labor of the climb, he simply forgot.

Or simply allowed himself to forget.

Either way, he should have expected Watson to return looking for him. It was truly the only outcome possible. The man was as reliable as the morning sun.

Even now.

Especially now.

The doctor was out of breath from running but he shouted at the top of his strained lungs. His words vibrated through the thick atmosphere and bounced off the cracked stone walls.

"Holmes! Can you hear me? Holmes?"

Holmes could hear nothing but, in fact. Nothing but Watson's gasping calls and the pounding of his own heart echoing in his ears. With an exhausted effort, he rolled over onto his stomach to see the face of his pursuer from his secure vantage point. Immediately, he recognized this was a mistake. It would have been far better not to be a witness to this particular crime.

Watson paced and yelled on the other side of the falls, searching. Searching. His eyes caught upon the alpenstock left leaning against an outcropping, and his attention moved to the engraved silver cigarette case atop the rock, a long-ago gift now returned. Approaching with trepidation, he picked it up as if he expected it to burn him where he touched.

The note revealed beneath flitted half open in the wind and Watson covered it closed with his palm. It was a long moment before he moved again to view the writing inside.

The doctor was always a fast reader, a frequent advantage in their line of work.

But it was an eternity between Watson opening the note and the moment he closed it again, tossing it aside to the damp earth.

Without a care to safety, he ran to the very ledge and screamed Holmes' name again and again out into the crevasse and down into the abyss. He shouted and shouted, cupping his hands around his mouth until his voice scratched hoarse. Always he was scanning, looking, searching. He found nothing, as he was intended to.

At long last, the doctor backed away from the edge and dropped his weary body to rest on the rock. He picked the note up from the ground and held it still between his fingers as if it were the thinnest sheet of fragile glass.

And then, covering his eyes with one black-gloved hand, Watson cried.

From the distance across the cliffs, the doctor's hitched, broken sobs could not be heard, but by God, they could be seen.

It was the first time Holmes ever saw the man cry.

The detective couldn't hear his own heartbeat any longer. There was nothing left to hear. Instead, he concentrated on the vast, overwhelming sound of falling water.

Before him, Reichenbach roared.

And John wept.
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