“How well do you know Colonel Sebastian Moran?” The inspector settles into his seat beside her, leaning back.
“Well… yes,” Joan says, eyelashes fluttering from under the weight of her memories.
Lestrade doesn’t say anything – he knows he doesn’t have to.
The good doctor pulls her lips back, trying to find the words in her mouth.
“He was my first friend,” she ventures, looking into a corner of the room. “He was the first person I remember meeting.”
“You grew up together,” Greg surmises with a nod. She answers back with a nod.
Joan takes another breath and tells him of the walks they took in their wellies and coats, of trees climbed, of the years worth of companionable silence stretching between them.
“He would always stick up for me,” she says, happening upon a memory where Seb, in a worn rugby jersey and battered boots, declared that she could play rugby better than the lot of you bastards.
“Did he have a temper then?”
“Of course he did,” Joan replies, a little too quickly, a little too honestly. “He always did. He was always patching holes in the walls or fixing doors or apologising. I used to wrap up his bloodied knuckles sometimes. My Mum was a nurse. I used to say that I’d make a good doctor. He’d tell me I already was one.”
Lestrade watches the former captain, swallowed by her jumper and coat, operating totally without sleep, worn down almost completely.
“We went on holiday when we were small – it was a complete mess, Seb’s father spent the whole time gambling. We ended up sitting on the jetty for a weekend, eating fish and chips. It could’ve been worse, but he wanted it to be better. After my father died, he was the first person to come up to me at school,” the good doctor skips through her memories, tripping over some of them.
“And then he went to Eton?” The inspector doesn’t pretend to hide his surprise, raised eyebrows and all.
“He went on some sort of a sporting scholarship,” Dr. Watson offers, by way of an explanation. “He hated it – he used to call and say that all anyone ever talked about was money. New money, old money, how much money they had. They were just young boys, so they wanted to be accepted, so they talked about money. It made him angry – Seb got into a lot of fights.”
“Then he enlisted right after school, did you ever see him when you were in Afghanistan?”
This interview isn’t formal. Greg’s already been demoted. But she answers his questions anyway.
“Yes. I did see him in Afghanistan.”
The silence after her statement almost swallows her up. They were supposed to enlist together – but she was a woman and she wanted to be a doctor. She’d have to come after him.
“I never saw him when I was in London again until he’d stepped out of a cobbled street and asked me to get into a van with him and put a bag over my head.” Joan wants to cry, but she’s too tired to. She remembers trying to look him in the eye, barely catching his gaze, mouth going dry at the weight of the jacket that stank of explosives.
Joan couldn’t see him, but she knew where he’d set up his kit. One of the best marksmen in the British army and his sightline trembled almost uncontrollably.
“What did Moriarty do to him?” Lestrade keeps an eye on her – she’s barely moved since the interview began, left hand clenched in her lap.
“I wish I knew. I think he thought Moriarty loved him. I think Seb thought he’d… found someone who understood him, who allowed to him to be himself,” she shakes her head in the deepest disbelief.
Joan’s features soften hopelessly. “He came and saw me after the funeral – he was so remorseful. He had no idea that Jim had a plan to shoot himself in the head. He apologised. Sebastian Moran apologised.”
Greg shakes his head, too, thinking he should change over his nicotine patch.
“And then he left,” she shrugs, defeated.
They end the interview, they’re both exhausted and try to go home to sleep and have a feeling they won’t.
Joan packs a bag the next morning and takes an early train out of King’s Cross. The hours melt into tunnels and the long gaps between them. It takes her all day.
He’s sitting at the end of the dock when she finds him. Dr. Watson sits down beside Moran, pulling the huge jacket around her.
“You’re late,” he starts, offering her the soggy, vinegar-soaked fish and chips in his lap. She declines.
“Hello to you, too. I had an appointment with Lestrade.”
“Oh? Is he the salt and pepper one? He’s a bit of alright, isn’t he?” Seb doesn’t quite grin, but he should have. “Was going to propose to you, you know.”
“When? You did a few times,” she replies.
“I was going to do it properly, with a ring ‘n’ all. Before I enlisted.”
She smiles. “Do you still have it?”
“Aye, ‘course I do. Somewhere,” he shrugs, massive, scarred shoulders falling clumsily. “Didn’t do it, though. Thought you deserved better.”
Joan rolls her eyes. “You’re an idiot.”
Sebastian produces a phone from his pocket and holds it out to her. “Press the wee magnifying glass. It’ll show you where he is. Location updates itself every eight minutes. Was supposed to wait for orders, but…”
Joan blinks, and takes the phone from his huge hand. “Berlin,” she breathes.
“Aye. Better get on it. He’ll be somewhere else tomorrow.”
Joan kisses his cheek, resting her face on his shoulder. “I would’ve said yes.”
“You’re too sentimental,” he smiles, his hand on her knee.
“I’ll see you later,” she promises, picking up her bag.
Joan’s long gone before Sebastian allows himself the luxury of crying.