I consider 221 B Baker St. The room I am in now is a doubtful shade of green, the ceiling stained by smoke (three years is ample time to pick up old habits), and a few tender rings where leaks have sprung over the years. My suitcase is packed, and has been for the past week. One doesn’t really need much to get by.
Ideally, life would return to how it had been before Moriarty; I, after all, need no time to readjust myself into my life at 221 B Baker St. It is the people around me, who comprised my interactions in that life who may make this a difficult transition. Of course, there is Mycroft, but I’m sure he knows already that I’m still alive. Predictable. He’ll be good for handling paper work, legal issues that come with being declared legally deceased for three years. Lestrade. I’ll have to establish that I’m still most definitely alive to him, but he’ll be glad of the help. They’ve kept the police work up reasonably well considering, but they’ve missed a few things. Red herrings. The pearl earring, the dead cat. Those are solved as soon as I can sit down and explain them. Lestrade won’t be a problem. Mrs. Hudson’s already rented the flat back out, but the couple living there won’t be long. A hasty move, with no disposable income to supplement their living. I should be able to move back into the old flat by the end of the month with John.
John. I take my bow in hand, and I pluck a few strings of my violin, checking for tune.
John will be a problem.
We should be able to resume life as usual together; there is nothing to impede this action except for emotional ramifications. How to handle them. I loosen my bow, and set it aside. I’ve waited three years to come back, to start life again where I left it with John. But he has moved on in my absence.
No. His life has moved on; he has not. The evidence is everywhere. The brief time he spent going back to his therapist. Leaving Baker Street, and yet stopping to look down it from afar, almost weekly. Visiting the grave yard where my supposed corpse was buried, at first daily, but now only on holidays and periodically in times of psychological imbalance. Why people think that the dead care what kind of flowers you leave them, I cannot fathom. Still, it is not an unappreciated gesture.
It is obvious that John has tried to replace me, perhaps to forget. A string of girlfriends, all more needy than the last. A way to take care of someone who in turn can provide a relationship, a sense of meaning, and physical comfort. He always was preoccupied with the farer sex, but never like this, never so purposefully. Perhaps as a distraction, an attempt to fulfill his sexual needs, but never with such early and eager emotional investment. Thus, the conclusion. He is attempting to replace me with a new partner in his life, seeking fulfillment in the delusion of these romances.
The problem: I am not a lost man who needs to be replaced. Although John is not aware of this and cannot be blamed for his ignorance. Can he? Not sure, a more motivated mind would have caught the subtle way that the machinations of his life have been being guided, regardless, he appears to be utterly unaware. I get up, setting my instrument back in its case, the place where it belongs, and I pull on my wool coat.
Once outside, I hail a cab. “221 Baker St.” I say, and sit back on the leather seat. Emotional ramifications. I have the ability to play a character, if necessary, to appease or play on people’s emotions. Usually acquaintances of victims, occasionally a suspect in interrogation. The people I must interact with in my work, in my family.
I’ve never had to play a character with John. Now is not a situation desperate enough to start. After all, if John was a person who I had to treat and deal with as any other, I wouldn’t bother with any of this. No. There’s nothing left but to attempt to reenter his life, and to wait and see what emotional impact I must deal with to reach this end.
“Stop the cab,” I say, handing the driver (middle aged, Caucasian, divorced) his fare and stepping out onto the pavement. I have seven minutes; I begin walking East. It’s astounding how little the world changes in three years. Even when changes do occur, people tend to work their lives and habits around it, to find a way to stay in stasis. In the full implications of overall identity, John has tried very hard to remain in stasis. But he’s changed.
Three minutes. What are the possible outcomes of meeting with John again? Joy, or sorrow? Considering the physical evidence, one would immediately think that John would be glad for our reunion. But it could just as easily be seen as a betrayal of trust, an abuse of our relationship. This meeting has the potential to hold rejection, I speculate. The cement of Baker St. underneath the soles of my shoes is familiar, grounding in a way.
I walk down Park St. to a mustard yellow apartment building. Tasteless. The search for the opposite of any triggering phenomena leads to desperate changes, doesn’t it? I ring the buzzer.
“Yes?” The landlady answers the door. Late 50s, although she tries to dress younger.
“Yes, I’ve got a parcel for Mr. Watson, he’s got to sign for it,” I say, softening my voice to the plea of those in customer service. There it is again. The act.
“Oh, yes, end of the hall there,” the woman says, patting her dyed blonde hair. I nod to her and stride down the hall. I hear the woman’s door closing, as I stand in front of the door to John’s new flat. How to attend to any emotional reactions? Can’t be planned without more knowledge, there’s no point. Either a reunion or accusation of betrayal. I suppose I did betray a certain trust, in a way.
My hand knocks on the wood of the door. There has been a conversation going on inside of the flat, over the phone if I’m not mistaken, that stops. Footsteps. I knew those footsteps when I first met John, sure yet off balance. The limp. Things have changed, haven’t they. The door swings open, and there stands John, mobile muffled against his chest, a tan sweater, tea stained (he spilled when I knocked, has grown unaccustomed to visitors), same trousers (a newer pair of his usual brand), ink stains on his wrist (he’s been journaling, although his blog has been put on hiatus)-
Dealing with unexpected emotional ramifications.
He stares at me, I can see him thinking, trying to keep up. His mobile falls to the ground. John turns away from me, walking back into his flat. I pick up the mobile and follow John into the flat, closing the door behind me.
“John?” I ask, needing information from him, anything.
He is leaned over the porcelain sink in the bathroom beside the front door. He’s staring at it. In shock. I place his mobile on a desk, where a journal lies open, biros arranged neatly beside it.
“If that’s you,” he says, still refusing to look directly at me, “Jesus, that’d better be you, this’d better not be…” he looks up at me, unable to communicate his thoughts. I cannot fathom what is going through his mind, so I wait, silent, gathering information.
“You’re dead, and I’ve gone mad.”
There is a tone to his voice; desperate. Pleading. I walk towards John, slowly, giving him time to accept, until I stand a couple of feet away from him. Close enough for comfort in reality, far enough to keep from overwhelming him.
I take his hand in mine. The hand I’ve held, the hand I know. I had a plan for this, but feeling the crevices of his hard worn hand beneath mine, remembering its texture, the shape of the muscles that make it, I stand unsure for just a second. Emotional reactions. John comes forward suddenly, and grabs me around my torso. A hug.
“Mrs. Hudson’s got the flat up for rent again,” I mention after a minute.
“No she hasn’t,” John says, holding me firmly yet carefully.
“No, but she will in week.” John finally lets go as I say this.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” he says. “Sherlock… well, I don’t suppose you need me to tell you what I’ve been up to the past few years.”
“No,” I reply, letting myself smile.
“And I don’t suppose you can tell me what you’ve been doing.” John smiles back to me. “Well. Where are you going to stay for the next week?“
“Here,” I answer the question posed within the question said aloud, come John. Say what you mean, you know I’ll figure it out anyways.
“There’s only one bed,” John says, amending the offer.
“Fine.” I don’t mention that if we do sleep in the same bed, perhaps he’ll wake up less often, like on the nights he spends sleeping beside any of his array of past girlfriends. A week will be plenty of time for observation.
“Well,” John starts. He seems to still be at a loss.
“Order in?” I suggest.
“Yeah, I’ll just,” he says, beginning to ramble, “right.” He turns and goes to the phone, keeping me in the corner of his eye. I sit back on the couch and check my phone. One new message. Damn.
They say blood is thicker than water. –Mycroft
I observe John for a minute, and type a reply.
Would hate to bother you with the paperwork so early in the week. –SH
The rest can wait, including Mycroft. I accept a point that I had previously noted, but reserved for closer observation. John. It seems I owe him a great debt. I’ve spent the last three years on old bed frames, without proper heating or company. Yet watching John up close, he is not the man I left. He’s thinner by approximately 23 pounds. Emotional stress seems to have lead not only to weight loss, but also to extreme sleep deprivation. Evidence is in observation of darkness around the eyes, and the nervous ticks and blinking of someone who has accumulated a long term sleep deficit. In this case, I am guilty. It’s better than an early death, but there’s something paining about seeing John so.
Second obstacle for reintroduction of myself into my old life with John: returning John to his physical, mental, and emotional balance from before when I left. We cannot resume our old life together with John as he is now, and I feel somehow that I owe it to him. My phone vibrates, text message. I check the screen: Mycroft. I don’t bother to read it.
Can’t talk now, busy. –SH
“So, food should be by in about half an hour,” John says, walking over to me and sitting beside me on the couch. “Sherlock, I just can’t, how-“
“John,” I stop him. “Don’t ask questions of me that I can’t answer.”
He leans back in the seat and rubs his face with the palms of his hands, a stress reaction. “Right.”
“I need to get my things,” I say, getting up. Half an hour should be ample time. John rises with me as I go for the door.
“Why didn’t you bring them with you?”
I pause before I answer this, considering the merits and demerits of honesty. A part of my mind is still consumed by the lies I told John before, on the rooftop. But he knew, even then. It’s decided.
“Because I didn’t know if you would want me anymore.” There’s a discomfort to this honesty. John stares at me and I see emotions cross his face, what was it, remorse? Guilt? Regret? What for? Words said before my faked death? Or is it words that weren’t said? Curious.
“All’s forgiven,” I tell John, and he seems to calm. Would he say the same to me? Not sure. Things are going well now. I turn to the door to take a step, but my mind pauses me, pulls me back. I’ve forgotten something. I turn my head back to John, and I hold out my hand between us. John’s lips tense together for a moment, and then relax.
He takes my hand.