I knew our marriage was over the moment we walked in to our house and found Sherlock Holmes sat on the couch. That’s what I tell people anyway, though it’s not actually true. It’s somehow less embarrassing then admitting how long it took me to realise I could never compare and it is, after all, the moment I lost him. If I could ever have been said to have him.
I met John in a completely ordinary way. It had been a long Friday and I was out having a drink with some girlfriends. He was there in the pub alone, and I’ve always had a thing for men who look a little sad and lost. It was Grace who talked me in to approaching him, and he seemed like a good sort of man. We told our friends later that it was love at first sight, though I guess that might be overstating it a little. Either way, within a week he’d moved in and a month after our meeting each other I was Mrs Mary Watson.
There was always something a little sad about John, a little detached. I have to admit I looked him up pretty soon after meeting him, I knew all about Sherlock Holmes. But John never mentioned him and I didn’t bring it up. It was obvious that John was hurting and I didn’t want to make that worse. Didn’t want to be the nagging wife who gave him no privacy.
I don’t mean to make it sound like we weren’t happy, we were. John brought my flowers. We liked the same terrible TV shows and would laugh about them together. We used to cook for each other all the time, it might not seem like much but it was wonderful. It always felt as though John were always a little removed from it. I’d find him sitting staring in to space and when he’d see me he’d smile and kiss me but later he’d be staring in to space again.
When we walked in to our living room that Saturday, a Tesco bag each and satisfied smiles, it took me a second to recognise the man on the couch. You don’t expect your husband’s dead flatmate to be sat there sipping tea from your best china when you get back from a supermarket trip. As soon as I recognised him, though, I turned to John.
I’ve never seem John look like that. He looked like someone had punched him...no, not strong enough. He looked like he was falling apart, like someone had grabbed him and torn him open right down the middle and all he could do was stand and gape as the life ran out of him. His hand began to tremble where it was resting on my shoulder and I began to say his name but before I could Sherlock spoke over me.
“I know you must be horribly angry at me but if you let me explain you’ll see how all of this was the only real choice.”
For a second John did look angry, his face clenched, eyes closed, then his Tesco bag hit the floor and he surprised me, all of us I think, by walking quite calmly around the couch, grabbing Sherlock by his coat and pulling him up. Sherlock braced for a punch, instead John wrapped his arms around him. Yanked him close and held him.
Sherlock looked a little like he had been punched anyway. For a few second he stood there uselessly, arms hanging by his side. Then, slowly, he lifted his arms. Wrapped them around my John as though he could have gotten him any closer then he already was, held on to him.
I gathered up the dropped shopping and made my way to the kitchen. This was their moment and I didn’t quite understand what was going on but I knew enough to not interrupt. John had missed this man a lot and, well, it would be indecent of me to intrude. So I made a pot of tea. When it was ready I looked through the door and they were still there. John’s arm had moved up Sherlock’s body to grip his shoulder and Sherlock’s head had fallen to rest on John’s. It was quite sweet, really. I probably smiled to myself as I went to drink tea alone and read the paper. Didn’t realise, yet, just what Sherlock was to John.
I’d read the rumours in the papers, of course, but they were just papers. I still don’t believe they had anything back then. I think it took John losing Sherlock and, in a strange way, marrying me, to see what he really wanted. Either way, that Saturday I drank two cups of tea and read the entire paper including the sports page and was on to the supplements before the kitchen door opened again. It was John; he looked suspiciously like he’d been crying.
I hugged him, wanted to comfort him. It didn’t occur to me until later to compare that embrace to the one he’d just given Sherlock. After all, I hadn’t been dead and he was probably a little embarrassed by the evidence of his tears. It was natural that he wouldn’t hug me with so much passion, just a cursory hug before he told me that Sherlock NEEDED his help to clear his name, so Sherlock would be staying in the guest room for now and this would take priority. I agreed, of course. What else would I do?
Over the week it took them to clear Sherlock’s name, it was like I saw John come to life in front of me. They behaved almost like children and I’m afraid I treat them a little like an indulgent mother. They came spilling in to the house at intervals. Sometimes out of breath and smiling, gripping each other by the arm or the hand. Sometimes they strode in mid conversation, not even stopping to speak to me before locking themselves in the study or the sitting room or the kitchen.
The glassy look disappeared from John’s eyes, he was no longer lost, and his confidence grew by the day. He became more assertive, less tentative with Sherlock. He would argue with him, would intercede for him, inserted himself back in to that place I now know Sherlock had left for him.
If you want to know what they did on those days I’m afraid you’re best to read John’s blog, I’ve never been much for adventure so I stayed out of it. I made tea and sandwiches, provided bandages, leant my phone and generally made supportive statements. I was naive enough to think it was a short term situation, that John had been swept up by the return of his friend but he would return to me soon enough. But there were so many things I didn’t realise then.
I hadn’t realised, for example, that Sherlock Holmes in the spare room was to be something of a permanent arrangement. I’d phoned Mrs. Hudson early on in the affair and she’d enthusiastically told me 221B was still available so I’d presumed he’d move back there but apparently it was never an option. Sherlock must be near John and if John would not be persuaded back in to 221B then Sherlock would stay with us.
It annoyed me a little at the time that I wasn’t consulted, but I didn’t bring it up because that was around the time that John become used enough to Sherlock again, secure enough in the man’s continued existence and presence in his life, that he began to get angry.
There were a horrible few days where it was stifling in the house. I tried to bring it up a number of times but Sherlock would leave the room or John would give me a look as though he was disappointed. I tried bringing it up alone with John in bed, which lead to our first real fight. Not that we hadn’t rowed before, but we’d never fought. Not like that. Not angry shouts and accusations and John storming out to sleep on the couch.
I let him stew for a while before I slipped down after him, but I was too late. I sometimes wonder if I could have changed things by chasing him straight away but I don’t think so. Delayed, maybe. Sherlock had made it to the living room before me and they were talking. Having the talk I’d been trying to push John in to, though John seemed no happier now it was Sherlock doing the pushing.
I know I shouldn’t have listened in, but what else could I do? I listened as Sherlock explained to John about Moriarty and how he’d wanted to kill John. How Sherlock had played Moriarty, forced him to kill himself and then how Sherlock had faked his own death to save John. I watched John shake his head, his shoulders so tense, as Sherlock explained this. I listened to John argue against it. Why couldn’t Sherlock have told him? John would have never been able to fake his grief convincingly enough, he would have been killed. Why was he gone for so long? He was disassembling the network, undoing what Moriarty had done so John would not be in danger from him again. Why now? He’d returned as soon as he could, as soon as it was safe. He’d never wanted to go. Did he even... Of course.
It was Sherlock who stepped forward this time. John seemed to have had his string cut, all his anger drained by Sherlock’s cold explanation, his rationalisation. He let himself be pulled to his feet, manoeuvred into Sherlock’s embrace, and he almost lay there, face in the other man’s chest. Then Sherlock looked up, he met my eyes as though he knew I’d been stood there all along, and I did realise then that a fight was on, though I don’t think any of us realised just yet that I’d already lost.
Sherlock looked away from me, locking his arms around John and I would have interrupted but I thought John needed that. He’d been hiding for so long, and he tried to be strong for me. One night to break while I slept then I’d have him back.
He never came back to bed that night.
Things went back to how they had always been for a few days, with the strange additions of Sherlock making a mess of the kitchen and playing his violin at odd hours. John was attentive, as though he realised he’d ignored me a little over the past week. I didn’t mind, I told him that, but it was still very nice when he brought me flowers just because.
Then a case came in and he was gone again.
It wasn’t nearly as endearing the second time, and really that should have been my wake-up call but I’m embarrassed to say it took the call for the fourth case to realise that John intended for it to be our new normal. I didn’t mind it when I thought it was once: I minded it every much by the third time.
I wasted a while trying to compete. I thought that if I could just show John how much better it was with me, how much more normal and how loved he would be, that he’d stay. I hadn’t realised then that he didn’t want normal and comfort, he wanted adventure. I made sure his periods at home were a stark contrast to his time with Sherlock, in retrospect they was probably the worst thing I could have done. I cooked romantic dinners, asked about his day, took him to bed and told him how much I loved him. Gave him the things I didn’t think Sherlock could.
It was case eight that broke me. It wasn’t the anti-social hours or the human organs in the fridge or the ever-present smell of something chemical that no amount of cleaning could seem to remove. All these things I could stand. It was coming down one morning and finding them curled on the couch together. John was never a physically demonstrative man outside of the bedroom, one of the reasons those earlier embraces with Sherlock had been so shocking, but Sherlock had been dead. Now, though, it was any other Tuesday and my undemonstrative husband was there lying in the arms as Sherlock Holmes, fast asleep, as though Sherlock were simply a rather abusive pillow.
That would have been enough, I think, but there was more. There was the look on Sherlock’s face. He was awake and looking at me, that same defiant look he’d given me on the evening of their fight. As if John was his and he were challenging me to come and try to prove it. To prove just how futile it would be.
I left the room and locked myself in the bathroom to panic, to be angry and cry and wish Sherlock back in to his grave and John off the couch and back in to my bed. When I came out they were gone, no note. I phoned Mrs Hudson.
That night I had my second real fight with John, about Sherlock again. John didn’t want him to move out, I did. I couldn’t stand it anymore, couldn’t cope with that man trying to take John away from right under my nose. John thought I was being irrational. He actually said hysterical, like some fainting 1800’s heroine who needed to be brought smelling salts. I nearly punched him.
It was Sherlock who defused the situation by agreeing to move, and for a second I was sickeningly grateful until I realised he’d won again. He was the one he looked good in John’s eyes and, further, he was now out of my sight so he could do whatever he wanted with my husband and I would never know.
I’m not accusing John, you understand. I know he was faithful. I don’t believe for a second that he would be unfaithful. Not sexually, anyway. But the battle for his love was lost that day in so many ways.
For a few weeks I thought my pessimism was unfounded. When there were no cases John would be home with me. It would be just like it always was, which I loved until I realised it was JUST as it was, complete with those empty eyed staring sessions that told me that while his body may be with me, his mind was elsewhere. It didn’t take a genius to know where it was, where it had always been. As soon as his phone rang he was gone, and I tried to tell myself it was enough that he came back to me but I knew I was wrong.
His moving out was a gradual process, I don’t think even he realised when he was doing until it was too late. A few shirts left for if something was damaged on a case. Trousers, shoes, a toothbrush. Sometimes when there was no case he just wouldn’t come home for days. He’d have an excuse but I knew by then I’d lost. I made a last effort, a last push to be the perfect wife, to be the wife he wanted, but I knew by then he didn’t want a wife.
The divorce papers sat on the table for nearly two weeks before he came home and we could talk about them. The funniest thing was he was shocked, as though he didn’t realise just how completely Sherlock had overridden our marriage. He told me he wasn’t gay, swore by it, and all I could tell him was that he should stop letting that hold him back. That Sherlock was clearly the love of his life, sexual or not, and if the only thing that was stopping him from being everything he could with Sherlock was the idea that he wasn’t gay then he needed to sort his priorities out.
I was very fair about the divorce settlement, asking for only what I brought with me. It was signed and filled quickly and I changed my name back.
Looking back, now, I see that I never stood a chance. See that for John, there could never be anyone but Sherlock. See that it was pointless to try. I meant what I said to the tabloids when someone finally got a photo of them kissing, that I wish them all the best. Sherlock sent me a thank you card, you know. And some flowers. It was a week after the divorce was formalised and I can’t help but wonder if that was when John came to his senses.
Really, I can’t say I regret any of it, not the way it turned out anyway. I did love John, I do love John, and I believe that in a way he loved me. I believe he’ll always remember me as his normal time, the time when he was just John Watson. I think if Sherlock hadn’t come back we’d have stayed together, maybe had a child. But where I was stability and safety, Sherlock was danger and passion and while I think John wanted to be my husband, he is actually Sherlock’s partner. I’d like to think it took him being with me to realise what he really wanted. I’ll find another man, another husband. I won’t cry myself away. This time, though, I shall stay away from sad men looking lonely in bars. Having my heart broken once is fine, twice would be excessive.