Chapter 1: Blindness
Characters: Sherlock, Molly
Summary: John goes away for awhile, Sherlock loses his balance, while Molly asks the tough questions.
"He cleaned it," Molly said softly, admiringly; then, embarassingly, repeated, "He cleaned it."
"Nothing you say should ever be repeated twice," came Sherlock's reply from across the room, kurt and disinterested.
They had arrive back in the flat at around 9pm. He decided to take Molly along for lack of another set of eyes. And though she was disturbing - and that was being incredibly nice - to be around, he concluded that it was better to have a crippled dog around, than none at all.
Molly thought it wise not to reply. She simply kept rummaging about in the cluttered parlor. For whatever reason, Sherlock demanded that they not turn the lights on, so they had to scope everything out by flashlight.
She found that familiar friend of his laying on the floor, underneath a small mountain of books and a few clothes. Strange. The thing was probably under there for Lord knew how long. So why, then, did it look so - pristine?
Molly wanted to ask, originally, why John was not the one accompanying him, instead of her. But the thought slipped her mind when she realized how desperate he seemed to be. Perhaps he felt that John's abscence and the recent string of armed robbies were somehow intertwined.
But she had seen them seperated on a number of occasions before, which was, admittedly, quite uncommon nowadays. Maybe she should speak up and assure him that his companion - no, his intimate friend - was only temporarily gone and that he would be back before a moment's notice.
"No, Molly." She instantly turned to face him, dropping the clothes and a few books she held in hand back atop Sherlock's object of mystery.
"I said, no. He's not coming back. He-He'll never come back." Sherlock's throat felt oddly thick, heavy. When had this damned scarf felt so - tight?
"What?" was all she could manage.
Molly had processed all this, naturally, long before he even bothered to establish as to what those current feelings were.
Of course, if John came and went by the hours, then this abscence must have been particularly significant. But how?
"Wales. He left for Wales to set up his practice there. And he---"
He cut himself off sharply, then became curiously quiet.
Unable to stave off his emotions without being stringed into a web of melancholy, Molly let her mind drift. She vaguely recalled his explanations regarding how foolish it was to sleep in his own flat, much less visit there. Apparently, he had been boarding at local motels for the past weeks. Most likely to save face for the current investigation (they must've been there for something serious). So he couldn't have cleaned it. And after a chat with Mrs. Hudson, she was sure the lady wouldn't go near the thing.
It wasn't an arduous feat to connect the dots. But if this was true, and Sherlock was aware, then why would he so persistently assume that his friend would not return?
Perhaps the case and John's leaving were completely mutually exclusive events. Perhaps he just needed - or wanted, most likely - another presence. And his abscence was just a hinderance to that. She doubted John had gone for good, anyway, if the freshly cleaned skull was any indication of that.
And maybe he didn't know. Maybe she was simply giving him too much credit. But, this was Sherlock. And he was always such a shrewd sort of man. And that was one of his precious items.
Molly wasn't certain as to how she should approach him about this, but she was getting exceedingly used to the weighty cruelty of his remarks and so spoke with bold frankness.
"Sherlock. I think you may have missed - no. I know, positively, that you're - What is he, really? - friend hasn't gone anywhere."
He responded with a brief austere glance over the shoulder.
"No. It's just that, well... If someone isn't consistently evaluating you - No. I mean, if John's not acknowledging your existence, your skills, your worth - you - then, you don't really seem the same. I think I may have said something similar before," she trailed off.
The woman musthave read that from an astrology website, or worse: A women's self-help talk show. Something like that, he mused in relative disdain.
Suddenly, "Oh! Did you notice the spotless skull?"
He blinked. Did she just say spotless? Well, of course he noticed it! It was right where he left it since he was last in the flat a few weeks ago: seated next to his microscope atop the table. And he very specifically ordered Mrs. Hudson not to interfere with the so-called rubbish that completely suffused the apartment, not that she could ever keep her hands off their - no, his - dirty laundry.
"Of course, Molly. That's what why we came here in the first place. Or are you thatmuch of a goldfish?"
That one hurt sorely, but she still managed. "Why are you so fixed on the idea that he permanently left?"
He continued thrashing about the room, throwing objects here and there. It's not where he left it. It's certainly not where he left it. Mrs. Hudson must have made her stupid, damned rounds again. Wait. Molly was near the skull. That bi -
"How long have you been standing next to my skull?!" He surged foward, crossing the room in but a few steps. And why was his scarf so fucking tight!
"Why are you shouting, Sherlock?"
"Because I need my skull, woman!"
"NO! I mean, no. You..."
He shoved her roughly to the side, making a dive for the messy pile of knick knacks that lay beside her feet, adjacent to the bookshelf.
"No, you don't need the skull, I meant. Y-you don't need it."
He ignored her.
"You NEED him."
Sherlock paused, his eyes fixed and unblinking, the fingertips of his long pasty fingers just barely caressing the surface of the freshly cleaned skull. John's image flashed in his mind. 14 days. 19 and a half hours. 36 minutes. 8 seconds. He was in an operating room. Working diligently. Keeping someone alive. Alive
He stood slowly, the skull gently nestled in his bare hands.
"I. Need. No. One. No thing. And certainly not you."
She stood dumbfounded once again. It's in her nature to be that way, he concluded. Like everyone else. But she's saying something else - again. Why doesn't she just keep her mouth closed? He can't think properly with all the extra noise matter. Maybe he should go fetch his violin.
But what if he found even that to be in immaculate condition? Perfect. Cleaned past the last dust bunny. What then? Somehow, the thought was beginning to make the flat a little warmer, his throat a little more clear - and his head a little dizzy.
"Why did you take off your gloves?"
And why would you ask that? To examine the skull. Obviously.
Molly took a wavering, but strong step forward.
"You found what you came for. And now you look normal again. Almost. I mean, you look almost...pleased. Satisfied." Then she whispered, "Happy, even."
"You're emotional checklists are always, well appreciated, Molly.
"Ah. I-I get it. Maybe you just want to be alone right now. You know what?" she smiled skittishly, "I'm just going to leave now. I'm, ah - I'm just glad to have been of some use. See you tomorrow! Besides, I need to---"
"Dump your boyfriend," was Sherlock's distant, but lightly concerned reply. "I know. And good luck. Besides," he glanced at a microscopic abrasion on her collarbone and a small cut above her right eye, 5 days ago and healing quickly, "An abuser is never worth it."
Molly gripped her purse, pensively, wearily. "R-Right. Again. As always!" She laughed. Sherlock heard a peculiar restlessness emanating from her throat. Maybe that's what he was feeling, too.
"Thanks. But I'll be fine. Good luck with yours, too, Sherlock. Have a nice night." Her steps were laboured. Soon, only he, the darkness, and that familiar mess were the only things left in the apartment.
And suddenly, the skull didn't seem so pertinent anymore. He walked oved to a small mound of classic Britannicas and sat atop them. He then placed the skull carefully in his lap, put on his gloves, then held the thing a few inches from his nose.
What did she mean by 'good luck with yours, too'? Yours. It held so much weight, though the thought was not overbearing.
He couldn't understand it. He cleaned the skull. Actually cleaned the damned thing. And it was in that moment, Sherlock realized the invaluable nature of John H. Watson's existence. He stood up, dropping it on the floor beneath him and began pacing about the room.
Of course! "Wales" was not a country. Not in this context, at least. "Wales" was the name of a hospital. Wales F. Meredith Medical Clinic. Why didn't he see that sooner? It. Was. Bloody. Obvious! Painfully so.
Pain. That's what he felt when John had announced it to him. Prior to that revelation, they had an intriguing little verbal altercation that he was sure his flatmate would simply walk off. But when he failed to return to 221B after a week's time, Sherlock suspected a connection to the local violent robberies that had sprung about in the past month.
Obviously, that wasn't true. But maybe it would've been wise to conclude that John left because of the arguement. Still, he had been wiser to never rule out seemingly farfetched data.
And maybe he really would break out the old boy and play a few compositions. Perhaps some of John's favorites. He chose not to chug along any needless materials with him on his temporary stays to the motels. Less he remember why he was not accompanied in the first place.
Sure enough. The instrument was in flawless shape when he recovered it. John would make a good housekeeper, he contemplated somewhat wistfully.
Sherlock stayed up into the wee-hours of the morning playing the classical versions of a few songs from John's favorite bands, like U2 and Queen. If a tear fell from his eye - which would have explained the damp cheeks - Sherlock was certainly not aware of it.
But the smile that splayed across his face, he was very much aware of. He smiled until it hurt his cheekbones. In fact, never had he ever desired to smile so much in nearly all his years of living. He did so a lot when he was very young, he vaguely recalled. But those smiles were so empty, and forced that they held no value.
He stopped playing for a moment, peered out the window, then whispered, "He's coming back here. He's just on medical leave. He's going to return, so we can finish this case. He's has to come back. " He resumed playing, and smiling, and being in a weird, ineffable ecstasy. It proabably wasn't pain afterall. Maybe it was something else.
Whatever it was, it made him feel really, really good, then.
The fluid cacophony flooded the room and seeped out the window into the chill, swarthy sky. He hoped that John could hear.
Chapter 2: Tea and Rosy Cheeks
Characters: John, Mrs. Hudson
Summary: A landlady and her tenant share a breakfast. And there is pleasant awkwardness.
Mrs. Hudson's hands were careful and patient. They actually reminded him of his own, during an operation.
John had awoken relatively late that day, and Sherlock was nowhere to be found. Finally, a bit of solace and silence.
When he entered the parlour, he found his landlady taking away the dishes. Apparently, Sherlock did eat breakfast. Though, John assumed he probably just took a sip of the tea and dashed off.
So, the two opted for a pleasant, late morning brunch. She was preparing the tea and he was preparing the eggs and toast.
"You two don't do things like this together, do you?"
John was a bit startled by the boldness of the question, but answered with perfect courtesy.
"Ah, well, no. No, I don't suppose we do."
Mrs. Hudson placed the small pot back on the stove. She took a seat adjacent to the window, waiting for John to finish serving.
Once he did, he took his place opposite her, not keen on allowing the sun to pierce his skin whilst he ate his food.
They ate in comfortable silence for a while, the clear, sharp clattering of utensils brushing against the plates in perfect tandem.
"I don't suppose you do, either," she said after some thought, then, dropping her voice a little, remarked, "But I bet he's a necrophile, or one of those fetish-types. You just need to appease him a little."
John's ear perked, straining to hear the final portion of the statement. He made a small fist under the table and pushed it against his ribcage in a weak attempt to not look like a total buffoon choking on a piece of egg.
"I'm sorry, but - what was that again?"
Mrs. Hudson finished her tea, then stood to retrieve more from the stove. As she passed by John, she noted that he was nearly done as well. Better save some for him too, the poor dear.
"I said," the landlady replied, gingerly tipping the pot over her cup so as to avoid a spill, "that if Sherlock is one of those ---"
"No, no, no. I heard what you said. Sorry for that. I just, uh, couldn't really believe that you said it."
She took took a seat, drawing her chair a bit closer.
"Well, naturally. I'm entitled to be concerned with all of my tenants."
John returned her cordial smile, though a little abashedly.
"Even the strange ones."
"And by what do you mean when you say 'strange'?"
"Oh, you know... He seems to be attracted to dead things. The skull for example. And takes a great fancy to blood and decaying things, like some of the withering plants in my garden. And not to mention all of the animal carcasses he---"
"Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Hudson, Mrs. Hudson. Please. He's just a simple chemist. And most of his interactions with all of those, those things are always case-related. I hardly think---"
"Oh, no. It's perfectly okay, John. I've grown used to it. Sometimes, he even brings me dead flowers to place in my album book. Though," and here she took her cup, raising it up a bit to hide a sly smile, "I'd assume you receive much more flowers than I do, or ever will."
John heard perfectly clear this time. He felt the tips of his ear redden and his cheeks grow a little warmer in embarassment.
"Mrs. Hudson, really. Honestly. I thought I explained all this to you before. He and I are ---"
Mrs. Hudson tentatively reached out her hand and placed it atop his own. "Oh, I know. Trust me, I know. Somone with such preferences might be a little hard to get on with, but I'm sure if you just did a few more things that he liked, then the waters might be a bit calmer."
John stared at his landlady with his mouth agape and his blood boiling. Doing things for Sherlock seemed to be all he did nowadays. Clearly, Mrs. Hudson had developed the entirely wrong ideas about their partnership.
He tried his best to keep an even tone. "Two things are wrong with that. One: He and I have a strictly professional relationship. Uh, partnership. And he is neither a mysophile, necrophile, haematophile, nor any other kind of fetishist."
Mrs. Hudson frowned. She didn't like the sound of that. The poor boy wasn't even sure what sort of things his own boyfriend even liked. And they had been together for more than an year. An entire year. What was the matter?
She placed her other hand atop his wrist, rubbing comfortingly. "It's okay. I'm sure you two will figure something out. Sooner rather than later, I hope."
Mrs. Hudson stood and cleared the table. John hurriedly did the same, trying his best to clear away the fog of her misconceptions. Before she left, she remarked, "Maybe you should get him a new skull. Oh, but make sure it's a real one. Preferably someone who died long ago, so it's nice and rusted. And maybe a new microscope. Or an old one. He seems to like the older models. Says they're more efficient. Anyway, good luck with everything. And don't fuss so much when you're in bed. Unless it's the good sort of fussing." She winked mischeviously. "Do have a nice day, John," she finished, patting him against the cheek before disappearing.
He walked back over to the table and plopped down into a chair, suddenly exhausted. Why did he get the strange feeling that she purposely failed to listen to anything he said?