A/N: I'm sad! The story is over! It was wonderful going through it with you; thank you so much to everyone who read, reviewed, and enjoyed this story. It was my first fanfiction story ever and I had no idea it would end up this long, so thanks for sticking with me through it all!


Chapter Twenty-Three

The following days were mostly centered on paperwork, according to Lestrade; and of course John was called on frequently to relay evidence and as somewhat of a witness. John professed stupidity on the topic, but Sherlock saw the tiny, pleased smile he wore whenever Lestrade rang him up. He eavesdropped on the conversations they had, on John's breathless recounting of his adventure, his descriptions of the clues and whatnot. Sherlock meanwhile lounged on the couch, feigning boredom.

After about a week, though, John got an email from Taylor.

Dear Dr. Watson,

I wanted to let you know that everything's been settled. I am going back to America with Chris, and we are filing a divorce. I don't care anymore what my parents say about it, and especially not what his parents say about it. Chris is being referred to an American prison, where he will probably just bail himself out. But I'm not worried about him anymore. Now the world knows all about him, and I am free.

Anyway, I thought you might want to come visit me at the apartment so I can properly thank you, and so you can say goodbye to Toby. I'm sure he's going to miss you.

I hope you'll come! I'm leaving on Saturday.

Sincerely,

Taylor

John sat for a moment staring at the email. For the past few days he'd been visiting Taylor and Toby as they worked out the details of the case. Sherlock had even tagged along more than once, ostensibly to make sure John did not get a swelled head; but John knew that he wanted to visit Toby. Astonishingly enough, it had not occurred to John that Taylor would be going back to America—with Toby.

He closed his laptop and turned to the detective sprawled on the couch tuning his violin.

"Taylor's leaving," John said.

Sherlock looked up. "Was she here?"

John shook his head and snorted. "No, I mean she's leaving London. Toby too."

Sherlock's fingers froze in place; then he said, "Naturally." He began to tune his violin again, but John noticed he was tuning it flat.

"She wants us to come over and say goodbye," John added tentatively.

Sherlock turned his head toward the back of the couch. "Are you going?"

"Well, I was thinking. Are you?"

Sherlock tuned some more.

"It doesn't matter," he said at last.

John watched him a moment, hands drumming his knees. "It does matter," he said quietly. "You're going to miss him."

Sherlock sat up, glaring. "I? I? Miss that slobbering mongrel? By no means!" He plunked back down again, causing the couch to shake a bit as his head hit the arm rest.

John pursed his lips. "Alright then. I'll just go by myself." He turned back to the laptop and began typing a reply. He didn't notice Sherlock turn back to glance at him with a look of dissatisfaction on his face, then go back to tuning his violin dangerously flat.


Sherlock waited for John to leave before he put his day clothes on. He calculated how long it would take John to ride a cab over to Taylor's, how long it would take to get past the inevitable pleasantries, and how long John was likely to stay there. After he'd given John plenty of time to talk and play with Toby, Sherlock hurried out of the flat and hailed a cab, instructing it to take him to Taylor's apartment. When he arrived he walked casually over to the alley John had so cleverly chosen as his break-in place. But to Sherlock's surprise, he could still here John and Taylor's voices drifting through the open window of her bedroom.

How long does it take to say goodbye to someone you barely know? he wondered.

Irritated, he leaned against the wall and waited, listening to their idle chatter intermingled with playful woofs from the dog. After what seemed like hours (although his clock, which was obviously on their side, claimed it was only half an hour), he heard John bid Taylor farewell and then (ridiculously enough, through tears) say goodbye to Toby. He heard the door close, then Taylor saying some things in a strangely squishy voice to the dog. He smiled triumphantly when she said she was going to do some shopping and Toby would have to stay behind. Here was his opportunity.

He crept around to the front again and watched her leave, waited for her to notice she'd forgotten her purse, go back in and get it, and come out again, hail a cab, and finally drive off. The he ran back to the alley, cracked his knuckles, pulled down the fire escape ladder (he didn't even need to stand on a trash can to reach it, just had to leap once or maybe twice), scrambled up, and thrust his head through the open window.

Toby sat on the floor below, looking up at him and swishing his tail.

"Oh," Sherlock said.

"Mr-r-rf," Toby said.

Sherlock eased himself into the room and knelt on the floor beside the dog. Toby craned his neck up to sniff him, deducing things about him, Sherlock guessed with a smile. He held out his hand for Toby to sniff, but to his surprise the dog simply leaned on him, blinking his big eyes slowly and letting out a huffing breath.

It was a pleasant feeling, warm and soft on his palm, and Sherlock instinctively rubbed his fingers through the dog's fur. Toby leaned on him more heavily, finally tilting so far he fell over onto his back. Sherlock laughed and plunged both hands into the fur on Toby's belly, massaging the favored areas to make Toby kick his back legs. He let out little snorts of pleasure and wriggled under Sherlock's hands. Sherlock found he enjoyed the sensation almost as much as Toby did.

Finally tired out, Toby rolled away from him and stood. He gave himself a shake that turned his right ear inside out. Sherlock laughed at him, causing Toby to bark in protest. Before he knew quite what he was doing, Sherlock lifted the dog into his arms and buried his nose in his fur.

Toby didn't protest, but snuggled closer to Sherlock and rested his chin on his shoulder. It took Sherlock a moment to realize exactly what he'd done, and when he did realize it, he pulled the dog away and held him at arm's length. He stared at the furry face and Toby stared back, head cocked inquisitively.

"It's not like I like you," Sherlock said.

Toby's ears pricked up.

Sherlock set the dog back down and closed his eyes, as a door from his Mind Palace blew open from the wind of emotion. Memories of his own childhood dog tumbled out the door and for the first time in years, Sherlock faced them. The fun he and his companion had together. The joy. The belly rubs. The adventures. The long, long walks. The feeling of his warmth on Sherlock's feet as he slept on the end of his bed. The times they'd run through the hall together…

Carefully, Sherlock gathered the memories back together, stacked them neatly into the proper room, and closed the door. But this time he hesitated before locking it. He decided to leave it unlocked, just for today. In case he wanted to take another look later.

Toby nuzzled Sherlock's hand. Sherlock gave him one last rub around the ears and stood to go. Toby watched him climb out the window and disappear. He let out a single bark; Sherlock couldn't tell if it was of protest or of farewell.

Sherlock jumped back into the alley and started walking towards Baker Street.

He'd have to make another room, he realized as he walked. There were so many facts connected to this dog now; it was foolish to let them run rampant through his mind.

John's first case.

Toby the dog.

Taylor the runaway.

An abusive husband and unsympathetic parents.

Really, it was all so mundane, it sounded like your average newspaper article. But the dog had spiced things up a bit. John had been right. But it had been John's case, after all.

Pulling out the music he'd begun composing at the start of the case, Sherlock began to work on the last movement. It was slower than the first ones, the notes longer and lower on the scale as he tried to emulate the voice of the dog in music. It would be a tricky piece to pull off. How could he replicate the finality of that single howl?

He'd play it for John when Taylor left. He knew John would miss her and the dog.

Toby was certainly an extraordinary hound.