The first time John walked past the half-open loo door and saw what he thought was a drowned Sherlock lying on the bottom of the tub, he nearly had a heart attack. Sherlock's eyes were closed and John was a heartbeat away from dragging him out and beginning CPR when Sherlock casually stretched out a leg.
John ran to his room and sat on the end of the bed for a long while. Then he made a phone call.
It turns out the sniper training he'd attended on a whim, after being prodded by his lieutenant, has more uses than shooting murderous cabbies at a distance. It's also useful for sitting still on a chair, looking slightly bored and unconcerned.
John flipped a page in the latest BMJ, sure that if Sherlock were not so lost, he'd notice that John wasn't actually reading. Just another clue to Sherlock's state of mind. Just another reason to panic.
"Bored," Sherlock said.
John turned another page, resolutely not allowing his eyes to shift even a millimeter from the undoubtedly scintillating article on...something or other.
"Just don't shoot the wall," he said eventually, after trying and discarding more probing statements that would inevitably fail to elicit a helpful response.
Sherlock didn't move. John turned another page.
The second time John saw Sherlock underwater, it wasn't an accident. This time he was just off to the side of the doorway, almost holding his own breath as he tried to determine if this time he'd need to interfere.
He didn't grab Sherlock out of the water and shake him senseless and scream at him. It was a close call, though.
John went back to his room and made another phone call.
John's been spending a lot of time sitting in his chair staring at the newspaper or balancing his laptop on his knees while he looks at a random page on the Internet. One day he even sat there with a book of erotica just to see if Sherlock would notice or react in any way. He didn't.
“It’s not me, it’s you,” Sherlock said from his sprawl across the couch.
John looked up from the newspaper.
“It usually goes the other way around,” he said, causing Sherlock to snort. “Are you breaking up with me?” Despite the terror he was feeling, John couldn't help smiling at his insane friend. Only Sherlock could come up with that phrasing at a time like this...
“Yes,” Sherlock said, going back to immobility. "I'm breaking up with you," he added when John didn't react.
“Okay,” John replied, returning to his contemplation of the Tesco ad and deep breathing to calm himself that Sherlock failed to notice.
The third time John saw Sherlock underwater, the fear that Sherlock wouldn't come up was almost familiar. He resumed his place just out of view and counted to himself, remembering long ago university debates about how long a bloke could stay underwater, whether you could drown yourself on purpose.
If anybody could do something so idiotic, John thought, it was Sherlock.
“John, I’m moving to Madagascar.”
John sighed, staring into his tea as if he could read the future there. “For how long?”
“Can I rent out your room then? Only, it’s going to be difficult to manage the rent on my own.” He'd been prepared for this one, thanks to his phone calls, which helped him with his appearance of boredom.
“Do as you wish,” Sherlock said. “I won’t be here. In fact, I’m leaving tonight. Mycroft can have my things sent.”
“Send me a postcard, will you?”
Sherlock gave him a strange look as he stalked out of the room and John gripped his mug tighter, counting to 20 in Pashtun. And Arabic. And Latin. He'd been assured this was the best method, that reacting would only make it worse.
But he was beginning to doubt.
The fourth time John saw Sherlock underwater, he'd reached that point of eerie calm that usually descended at the moment of battle when he saw an injured patient. Apparently his subconscious had finally decided to treat Sherlock as a patient.
It was unfortunate that he had very few treatments in this case. Short of getting the patient committed and dosed with antidepressants, there was so little he could do.
John gritted his teeth and held on to calm with everything he had.
Sherlock was gone for all of 8 hours. Apparently he visited Heathrow and floated around the place like a ghost but a text alerted John when he'd reached Baker Street again.
“Back so soon?” John asked from his chair. “Madagascar not to your liking?”
“There were no planes leaving tonight,” Sherlock said (and John sent a mental thank you). “So I’ve decided to stay, for now.”
“That’s nice,” John says. “Saves me the trouble of finding a new flatmate, I suppose. I hadn't even gotten around to placing the ad.”
Sherlock stomped to his room and slammed the door. John almost smiled.
The fifth time John saw Sherlock underwater, he'd almost gotten used to the sight. Almost. Although the first shock was as bad, he got over it sooner.
John wasn't precisely expecting the next move as he walked into the living room.
“John, I’ve decided that since the problem isn’t me, you need to move out,” Sherlock said before he'd made it more than a stride through the doorway.
John paused, balanced in an awkward position and looked at him. And looked at him.
“No,” he said eventually, finishing the step he'd begun.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “I’ve grown bored with you, and I need someone new and interesting.”
John couldn't help it. He laughed. “Did you think you’d get rid of me that easily?” he asked. “You really don’t understand some things, Sherlock.” He sat down in his usual chair with an air of finality, grinning as Sherlock stomped off to the bathroom.
The sixth time John saw Sherlock underwater, it was only for a few moments. And then he surfaced and looked straight at John, who was leaning in the doorway and waiting. Sherlock nodded once, slowly, and John left.
The phone was warm and slippery with the sweat of his hands, but he held on long enough for the two phone calls he had to make.
"He's ready for another case."
"You're sure?" Lestrade said.
"I wouldn't say it if I wasn't sure. He's past the worst of it now."
The sigh from the other end of the line showed how much the other man had been worrying as well. "John..."
"I know. You're welcome."
He hung up, took a deep breath, and dialed another number.
"John?" The voice sounded calm, even calmer than John had sounded when dealing with Sherlock.
The man at the other end of the phone was silent.
"I couldn't have done it without your help," John offered.
"The feeling is mutual," Mycroft said. "I'm in your debt."
"Nonsense. What else could I do? He's my friend."
"That's what I meant."