Had I Known
The most ridiculous question I have ever been asked is this: If I had known before it began all that I now know, would I have done things differently?
Looking back with perfect hindsight, I gave the question serious thought despite its inherent absurdity. Naturally the little choices might change: one shirt over another; this meal instead of that. The little things that would make no difference in the grand scheme. The choices that, in theory, the ripples of time would smooth over without regard.
Of course, these aren't what are meant when the question is asked. It is the big things people want to hear about. Would I have taken the flat with him had I known? Would I have followed him on all those cases?
Would I have let him fall?
As if that were within my power to control.
Let us assume, for this brief exercise, that it was. Let us also set aside such considerations as the consequences of Moriarty and his network continuing unchecked. Ignoring these trivialities, would I have stopped him?
How much grief might I have saved myself if I had? But how much joy might I also have foregone?
I met my Mary in the absence of Holmes. Without her, I would not have known the joys of marriage and fatherhood, brief as both were. While she and I might still have made our acquaintance had Holmes not 'died', I cannot know if would have pursued a closer relationship with her. And had I not, how then would I have understood myself as I now do?
Mary gave me more than the world of the time could understand or accept. She gave me the ability to recognise that my feelings for her were not so different from my feelings for him. Our love for one another, her love for me. These were what gave me the understanding and the courage I needed upon Holmes' resurrection to put voice to what was in my heart.
No. I would not have stopped him falling just as I would not have stopped the bullet that felled me at Maiwand. As his 'death' led me to Mary, my injuries led me to him. We are but the sum of our experiences, and without knowing pain we cannot appreciate joy.
"What are you writing, my dear man?" asks Holmes. He has just come in from tending his bees and I smile to see him. He is cheerful, refreshed from the summer air.
"Only my thoughts," I reply. It has been years since there were cases to write up, and we are both content to keep it that way.
"Come have tea. I've brought in fresh honeycomb." He smiles, knowing how much this will please me.
I close my journal and set aside my pen. Rising, I follow him into the kitchen.
No. Looking back, I would not change a thing.