[identity profile] tartancravat.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] tartanfics
Title: Certainty
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairings: Sally Donovan, Lestrade, John
Rating: PG
Word count: 1,131
Disclaimer: This is a transformative work of the BBC’s Sherlock, which itself is a transformative work. Not making any money here.
Warnings: Spoilers for The Reichenbach Fall
Notes: Written for the latest round of [livejournal.com profile] sherlock_remix, a remix of Regret, by [livejournal.com profile] yalublyutebya. Please read that too! Beta by [livejournal.com profile] miss_sabre, britpick by [livejournal.com profile] bethia.
Summary: Every time someone dies, she thinks about the way they say that--"we have lost a good man." As though he’d been misplaced.


Sally has been to a lot of funerals. Careful though they are, the police sometimes lose people. Of course they do.

Every time it happens, every time someone dies, she thinks about the way they say that--”we have lost a good man.” As though he’d been misplaced, like a lost sock or an earring. As though he’d slipped through the cracks.

They did not lose Sherlock Holmes. He was not a good man. He did not slip through the cracks.

He was pushed. Sally helped to push him.


She leans against the wall behind New Scotland Yard, and rolls a cigarette between her fingers. She doesn’t smoke, and the cigarette came from the emergency pack Lestrade keeps in his desk, for days when the air is so full of smog that a little more smoke can’t hurt it. Days like this one.

Nobody liked Sherlock, least of all Sally. Still, a man is dead, and they are all so smug.

She pulls Lestrade’s lighter out of her pocket and lights the cigarette. The harsh smell is instantaneous, and she pulls it into her mouth. It mixes with the sick feeling in her stomach, but it’s quiet. She is quiet and still for a moment, breathing in smoke and beginning, slowly, to shift the weight that has settled on her mind.

This is Sally Donovan, lighting a candle for a dead man.


Sally once told John Watson that one day they would be standing around a dead body, and Sherlock Holmes would be the one that put it there.

There is a dead body. Sally helped to put it there.

She doesn’t go to his funeral.


She’s sorry he’s dead, but she’s not sorry he’s gone. She doesn’t miss him, of course she doesn’t. In the aftermath, it’s the turmoil at work that really bothers her.

The evening after Sherlock’s funeral, she buys a bottle of whisky and goes round to Lestrade’s flat. She hasn’t seen him in days, and frankly she misses him, but mostly she feels like it’s her fault he’s suspended.

When he sees her standing in his doorway, there’s a blank moment before he closes his eyes, takes a breath, and lets it out again. “All right,” he says. “Give it here.” He reaches out for the bottle of whisky and steps back to let her inside.

Sally feels wrong-footed--because she is--but she shuts the door behind her and takes off her coat. “Hey. I thought maybe you could use that.”

“Ta. I’ll get us something to drink it out of. Too early for straight from the bottle.”

She follows him into the kitchen, and watches him pull two glasses out of a cupboard before he shoos her into the lounge. She sits down on the sofa and dumps her bag on the floor. She’s been here before, once or twice, but never for very long, and it doesn’t usually look like this. The room is spotlessly clean and severely tidy, and Sally wonders if Lestrade’s been cleaning, just for lack of anything better to do. His office at work is always a mess.

Lestrade sits down in the chair next to the sofa and pours out the whisky. “It’s a bloody mess, isn’t it?” His house is spotless, and yes, this is all a bloody mess.

Sally laughs. God, what’s wrong with her? “Appeals have started coming in. All the people Sherlock helped put in prison? They’re all trying to get out, now. Might manage it, too.”

“Jesus, really?” He knocks back most of what’s in his glass and pours himself more. Sally just stares down at the liquid in her glass, swirling it back and forth. She doesn’t want to be drunk, really. Life’s shit enough right now as it is, and she’s a depressing drunk. “They’re talking about demoting me,” Lestrade adds.

“I heard,” Sally mumbles. “Kind of why I brought this round.”

Silence, for a moment, and then Lestrade clears his throat. “Donovan. Sally. Do you really think--?”

“I--” God, she’d been so sure.


Sally sees a lot of broken people, in this job. She stands on the other side of crime scenes, sits at the other end of sofas, and watches as they break.

She doesn’t know when John Watson broke, what moment it was that he knew; she hadn’t been the first on the scene, hadn’t been there, hadn’t watched it all happen like she knows John did. Like Sherlock made him do.

The first time she sees him afterward, he looks shattered. He looks like he has lost everything, and Sally wonders. She stands on the other side of the window, looks at the cane hooked over the edge of the interview table, watching the way his left hand clenches, how he holds it so steadily on top of the table as though he might lose control if he doesn’t pay attention to his own body. Like he might drift apart if he’s not holding himself together.

Sally tries to swallow, and gets stuck on the beat of her own heart.


Sally can’t abide not being certain. She’s a suspicious person--it’s a useful quality, in this job--and once she starts having suspicions, she has to know.

The larger the pile of re-examined case files on the corner of Sally’s desk grows, the less certain she is. She’s having suspicions again--but this time, she suspects she was wrong.


She looks over the edge of her coffee cup at the calendar on her kitchen wall, and realises what day it is.

She rings the office and fakes sick--she feels sick, anyway. She hardly knows what she’s doing, and before she has time to think about it she is on the Tube, staring into the middle distance, feeling like she’s in the middle of those strange, aimless films her old flatmate Louisa used to watch.

Sally wakes up at the gate of the cemetery, feeling like the world has only just come into focus. She’s more surprised to find herself there than she is to see John Watson, but his presence still makes her pause.

The headstone is very plain. Just Sherlock’s name, no comment. Sally feels John’s sharp movement as he realises she’s there.

“I was wrong.”

She is now, finally, certain. It feels good to be certain. It feels terrible. “I’m sorry.”

“Thank you.” John isn’t smug. Some people would be smug, but he isn’t. Sally watches him touch the headstone, which is... heartbreaking. And when he meets her eyes, she knows he sees that, knows he believes she’s sorry.

It’s only as Sally is watching John walk away that she realises he isn’t carrying his cane. That’s better. That’s good.

Date: 2012-04-10 10:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
Ah, I really liked this. I have to admit, I rather hate Sally in the show, but getting inside her head to at least see her conflicted about Sherlock's death is nice. I particularly liked:

This is Sally Donovan, lighting a candle for a dead man.

Lovely evocative image.

Date: 2012-04-13 08:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
I do really hate Sally, but then I also confess that I'd love to hear a bit more about Sally's reasons for hating Sherlock so much in the show. I always like seeing a nuanced depiction of a character, even one I don't like.

Date: 2012-04-14 03:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
I confess to not going into her head much in my own work, but I haven't ever written anything from her POV. It's not that I necessarily hate her; but Sherlock hates her, and we're normally in his perspective. At least we definitely are meant to be in his corner in the show. It would be great to get some more background on Sally, though I do also realize there's not a ton of time in each series.

Still, you're right: this is what fanfic is for!

Date: 2012-04-14 03:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] solojones.livejournal.com
I think that's true. Even with John and Sherlock, they drop all these tantalizing hints and do a fair amount of character exploration... but it just makes you want more exploration. Hooray for good fanfics :) Thanks for adding to those.

Date: 2012-04-10 02:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] i-luv-redheads.livejournal.com
I'm glad you wrote this. I feel like Sally is always portrayed as this evil witch with no morals or something. However, we have to remember that she's a cop. She's trained to be suspicious, on alert at all times. How would you react to this pompous guy showing up at all of your crime scenes, making these wild claims, and then throwing your own mistakes in your face? Would you be hostile? Of course you would! Sally gets the idea in her head (remember Moriarty is a genius too and so can we really fault her all that much for falling into his trap?) that Sherlock is actually NOT all that he says he is and the evidence is all there for her to see. Sally is NOT the only one that falls for it. Lestrade isn't innocent in all of this. It's refreshing to read something that shows that Sally is a HUMAN and that she sees the error of her ways but she is STILL not going to fawn all over the idea of Sherlock because that's not her true character. I think it would be frankly ridiculous to assume that just because she realizes that she's wrong that she would suddenly like this douche bag of a dude all of the sudden. That's not how it works in real life.

Wow that was a ranty rant. All of that was to say that I really liked this and I'm so glad that you wrote it. :o)

Date: 2012-04-10 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
This is quiet, lovely, and realistic. Thanks so much!

Date: 2012-04-10 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-for-polkadots.livejournal.com
I've always liked Sally as a character and this is one of the few stories that (at least in my eyes) do her justice. Well done.

Date: 2012-04-11 07:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] agentotter.livejournal.com
That was absolutely fantastic. I loved the whole thing, but in particular that scene with the cigarette was really powerful, I thought. And I loved the style you used writing it... I'm not sure if it's just your usual or if you were trying to really write it in Sally's own voice, but I could practically hear the actress reading it aloud to me... I think you really captured her sort of speech patterns and her simple but effective turns of phrase. Really just awesome. A++++++ would read again. ;D

Date: 2012-04-13 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] duh-i-read.livejournal.com
Oh, this is so perfect. I always yearn for more introspective Sally fics that explore the complexity of her side of things and this is fantastic.

Date: 2012-04-13 09:22 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This is absolutely heartbreaking. Every word felt perfect, sharp and painful. The first paragraph alone literally brought tears to my eyes. It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever read, and it's certainly made me view the character in a whole new light.

Ugh, basically you've broken me in the best possible way. Thank you.

Date: 2012-05-09 01:27 am (UTC)
ext_2496: (Sherlock and John)
From: [identity profile] aelfgyfu-mead.livejournal.com
I found this painful to read. I have to think better of Sally than we get to see in the show; I can't see how Lestrade would keep her on his team if she were just the harridan she seems. You show a bit more of her, and it fits well with my head canon. She doesn't like Sherlock, but she's not going to gloat over his death, and she's a good enough cop and person even to regret it.


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