They were fighting.
It had begun with bitter comments when John came home late to 221B Baker Street after work only to find out via the cellphone that Sherlock had refused to take a paycheck from Lestrade after the latest solved case.
John had been tired, hungry and annoyed, which quickly had made the whole situation worse, whereas Sherlock apparently couldn't understand why it infuriated John that he had declined the offer from the Detective Inspector. And so, the bicker evolved into a real fight.
"Sherlock, is it above you to accept money for your work? Because if so, are you aware that I slave all day just so we can pay the rent and eat and afford your experiments?" John growled as he tore off his jumper when he felt himself grow warm from the conflict.
Sherlock leaned against the kitchen table with his arms crossed over his chest and frowned at John's words.
"Don't be ridiculous, John. You know that when we need money, I get money. And by the way, we haven't spent a penny on most of the components to my experiments; I'm able to get them for free."
John scowled and paced back and forth in the room. Truth to be told, he knew that Sherlock always paid his share of the rent and the costs for his cases. But somewhere, deep within lay a jealousy which now showed its ugly face. John was jealous of Sherlock's carefree lifestyle, and how unbound he was every day. Sherlock didn't have to meet people he didn't want to see and he could spend his days doing whatever he liked, or what he did like; solving crimes.
And even though John now and then became a part of the thrilling cases, he was still chained to the everyday life; the one when he had to go shopping food alone, clean the apartment and work for long hours. Therefore, John didn't always have the energy to race after Sherlock and do what he too found interesting. And that made him frustrated.
"Don't you call me ridiculous when I'm not the one who constantly demands that I cross London to do something insignificant like sending an e-mail for you! It's getting tiresome of being interrupted by your texts when I'm right in the middle of an examination," John spat and that was when Sherlock stood up straight and fixed his ice blue eyes on him.
"I understand. I apologize for the inconvenience I've caused you and I will not do it again," he said sternly before he added, "I hope the hypochondriacs are fascinating enough for you."
"Do you think I work because it's entertaining? I'll have you know that we need a steady income to get by, especially when you're not taking checks!" John roared and marched to the wall to use it as an outlet for his rage. The punch bruised his knuckles and as he winced, Sherlock's indifferent voice pointed out behind his back, "That isn't working. You'll end up with aching hands and remain angry. People usually believe a pristine action can reduce their own feelings but they are wrong."
John swirled around and lashed out, "Stop deducing me! You are such a pain in the arse at times."
John had a feeling a line had just been crossed. Hurt flashed in Sherlock's eyes before he stalked towards him and ended up looming over John. There was no return now.
The fight grew dirty as both of them threw insults dripping with venom at each other. They uttered mean, cruel things to each other, irrelevant of the initial topic with Lestrade's check. That had simply been the catalyst and had driven them to the point where they revealed every bothersome thing that made them resent each other.
"I thought you understood what it would mean to share a flat with me. If you've found out just now, after two years, that you hate it, you are denser than I thought!" Sherlock retorted with a humorless grin and before he caught up with what he was doing, John grabbed Sherlock by the jacket, turned them around, and thrusted Sherlock into the wall. A dull thud and a surprised exhalation upon impact with the wall were heard in the now very quiet room. John released the suit but didn't back off as he hissed to the taller man, "Never fucking call me dense, Sherlock."
Sherlock stared at him, clearly astonished by his unexpected move. A red colour had crept up the detective's pale cheeks as the fight progressed and now he only took shallow, quick breaths as his eyes practically scanned John. And by habit, John let Sherlock deduce him without interrupting. He patiently waited for Sherlock to decide what reaction he would have.
"I see you've reached the point when you've emptied your vocabulary and take to use violence instead. Very impressive. Or was that the soldier showing?" Sherlock asked in a hushed tone and lifted one eyebrow.
"Leave me alone," John said and retreated one step.
"Fine!" Sherlock snapped and pushed himself from the wall. Without looking at John, he stalked to the door and disappeared through it. John could hear the angry, heavy steps on the stairs as Sherlock went downstairs and at last past the front door. When the door slammed shut, John released a breath he unknowingly had held and rubbed his forehead.
Immediately he regretted the things he had said but was aware that Sherlock could hold a grudge for a long time. Had the detective been too wounded by John's insults this time to forgive him? But then again, John had managed to get along with Sherlock for over two years and although they occasionally got vexed with each other they somehow overcome every clash.
John's eyes swept over the messy room and his shoulder slumped miserably. One thing was sure, though. Wherever Sherlock had gone to sulk, he was surely not going to tell John in the next few hours, or perhaps even days. John had to wait for him to come back.
Without Sherlock in the flat to distract him from the real life, John suddenly remembered that he was supposed to work the next day and it was late. The problem was that John by experience knew he would have trouble falling asleep when he was upset and his mind was brimming with thoughts. And he really didn't fancy drowsing off in his office again.
With a tired sigh, he walked to the bathroom and began to brush his teeth when he in a flash of genius came up with a solution. In the open cabinet before his eyes stood a white bottle with the sleeping pills he had been recommended for his traumatic dreams of Afghanistan. Along with the cane, he had not used the pills after his first day with Sherlock. The bottle gave a rattle as John wrapped his hand around it.
"It won't hurt to take two and get some sleep," the doctor mumbled to himself and went to his bedroom.
Sherlock dug his hands into the deep pockets of his coat as he stomped his way through a dark and cold London.
He was confused by the way John had acted this evening. And apart from his brilliant deducting skills, Sherlock had trouble reading John's emotions. He may be a sociopath but that didn't mean he could prevent people from getting under his skin.
Sherlock sighed and watched white smoke appear before him before he raised his head and looked at the starlit sky. There was the regularity he needed right now. He turned into a deserted alley and walked briskly to keep warm.
His pride had been wounded by John's accusations, no matter how true they were. Sherlock was accustomed to expect John coming to assist him with the different cases. But Sherlock truly valuated the doctor and if it was up to him, he would have preferred to keep John by his side all the time. But all the same, Sherlock had a very strong hunch that John treasured his work in the clinic even though it sometimes made him testy. A doctor usually had an urge to care for and heal people. A respectable and altruistic job Sherlock himself could never take up. So why did it feel like this night's ugly fight was far worse than the ones before? Like both of them had gone too far with their insults?
Sherlock ruffled his dark curls as if demanding his mind to understand. Had his brutal honesty at last gotten to John and demolished the base on which Sherlock's only friend stood? Was it Sherlock who had done wrong, by in the first place reject Lestrade's paycheck and then describe John as an idiot? And to say the least, Sherlock had been quite caught off-guard by John's move when the ex-soldier had pushed him against the wall. If Sherlock hadn't for an embarrassing moment been subjected to the human feeling of shock, he would have been able to stop John. At least he told himself so.
Sherlock reminisced how he instead had sneered at the shorter but enraged man and further insulted him. That was when John once again confused him and acted like no-one else would. Sherlock had always been fascinated by how John's behaviour stood out from other people. But to see John give up on him and tell him to leave was an experience Sherlock found hurtful.
So he had done what John asked of him; gotten the hell out of the flat and now wondered in a silent and dark alley with rubbish on either side of him.
'Solitude is dull,' he thought solemnly and picked up his phone from the pocket to distract himself from the unsettling conflict. Ugh, a text from the archenemy. Sherlock ignored the message from Mycroft and went to check the incoming emergency calls. Of course, the verb check could easily have been replaced by hack and Sherlock's action was of questionable legality, but it was a time-saving method to see if there would be a potential mystery come morning.
As he scrolled, his eager eyes suddenly stopped when he read a call which had been made fifteen minutes ago. Someone had requested the fire brigade to 221 Baker Street.
At that moment, Sherlock heard sirens in the distance and suddenly he had turned around and hurried back through the alley with his heart pumping adrenalin and fear into his blood. He reached the road and considered stopping a cab but couldn't spot one. He swore loudly and relied on his ability to run instead. The wind played with his hair and the hem of his coat became smudged when Sherlock climbed over a small brick wall and used every shortcut he knew to get back to the flat and John.
As he turned around the last corner, completely out of breath and with a lump of worry in his throat, he was appalled by the sight that met him. The whole house was in flames and the windows crushed from the heat inside. Fire trucks were parked nearby and men with helmets scurried here and there. Apparently they had given up on putting out the fire in Sherlock's house and only concentrated on saving the houses beside it. A police car stood beside one of the red trucks and Sherlock discovered that Mrs. Hudson sat in the back seat and talked to a sergeant.
Without minding the gathered curious crowd, he nudged them out of his way and hurried to the car. Mrs. Hudon was dressed in a nightgown and covered by a blanket which she clung to as she sniffed in distress. Upon seeing Sherlock, she gave a cry and was about to say something when Sherlock interrupted her.
The old lady's expression froze and she stared at him with revelation in her damp eyes.
"I saw you left the house. But I thought John came after you. He is always with you," she let out with a whimper.
Not this time.
Cold dread crashed into Sherlock as he turned to the burning house. This one time, John hadn't followed Sherlock. And as a window in the attic exploded and the crowd cried out and backed away while the firefighters became more frantic, Sherlock decided to breach the guarded house.
One thought flashed through his mind though; why wasn't John outside and in safety?
Sherlock leapt between the trucks and was about to open the door when a body tackled him and threw him back to the street. Sherlock turned to look at the dimwit and saw that it was Lestrade. Of course. Only he would have predicted Sherlock's intentions and now he secured a firm grip around Sherlock to efficiently hold him back.
"You can't save your things! The roof is about to collapse!" the man shouted into his ear to make himself audible over the roaring fire and the loud creaks from the giving building.
"John is still inside!" Sherlock screamed and saw how Lestrade's face grew grey.
"But we were told the house was empty!" the man croaked.
And then the fire fighters urged everybody away to a safe distance as the roof caved in and waves of heat rolled of the open holes in the façade. Everything went silent. Sherlock stood still, completely numb and with a surreal ringing in his ears. Everything moved in sickening slow-motion and the world began to spin before his eyes. Black shapes ran past him, illuminated by the orange light of death behind.
John wasn't dead. He couldn't be dead.
The arms around him let go but Sherlock didn't care. It was his fault. Because if he hadn't left John, the doctor would have stood beside him now. And he wasn't.
Unable to look away from the flames, Sherlock realized that together, John and he had meant life. But before he met John, the ex-soldier who had survived a bullet hadn't been alive. And Sherlock hadn't been either, no matter how many morbid cases he had solved alone. But together they had nurtured each other's vitality and shared countless of laughs. That was all gone now.
Unaware that he was swaying on the spot, Sherlock was about to succumb to the threatening emotional darkness when suddenly a booming voice travelled across the commotion and Sherlock immediately listened to it.
"Bring the ambulance here! We've got a wounded man! He's jumped!"