It's different. I'm not sure whether it's better or worse. It's simply different. Everything is different. John is living here with me again on Baker Street. It could be like it was back then. But it isn't. Not even the flat is the same. Mrs Hudson had it redone after the grenade exploded, to make it livable again. It smells different. More like Rosie than like John and me. I've grown accustomed to it. I still notice though, sometimes, when I come in from outside and that warm, sweetish scent brushes over me, the one that comes from Rosie. All babies probably smell like that. It would make sense. One of nature's tricks. Pheromones that calm, that soothe and induce a sense of happiness, that awaken instincts. That trigger nurturing and protective mechanisms. Nature's way of protecting the weak, ensuring their survival. I have no experience with any of that. All I know is that I can't escape such things either.
It's warm and cosy in our flat. Not just because of Rosie. John and I are both aware of it, but we tend to attribute it to the baby. It's easier that way.
I am no longer the person I once was.
I fly to Sherrinford twice a week to play music with Eurus. It's an odd sort of experience, and it affects me. I notice it best when I come back home after Eurus and my eyes meet John's. That's when I realise something's different. That everything's different. John feels it too. I can see it in his eyes. Those are moments in which I get a vague sense of what's happening here.
The music forges a connection between Eurus and me in a clear, straightforward manner. Playing together requires a degree of concentration and engages our mental capacity: both mine and my sister's. At the same time, it opens up a subliminal emotional pathway. I treat it with care. I can direct it through the music, opening it wider or narrowing it. Eurus can too. We are on equal footing when it comes to music. It enables us to approach each other whilst maintaining our distance. Both at the same time. A balance that we strike between us, that allows us to be close without risk, without feeling insecure.
I am discovering emotional pathways that can be opened whilst remaining controlled. Making happiness something I can experience without fear. Touching the soul, expanding and warming it. No sense of being overwhelmed and out of control, of being ploughed under, stirred up and burnt by passion. No catastrophe that leaves me empty and disorientated, the way The Woman did. That will remain a thing unto itself. It is not what I am looking for. I should have trusted myself, should have listened to my own voice. Not to John. John didn't understand me. He is only now beginning to understand me. Just as I am only now beginning to understand myself.
Now that everything is different. The flat. Me. John. Everything. The only thing that has remained is the cases. We are working on cases again, John and I. Together. That's the thing that's stayed closest to how it used to be. But even that is different. There's Rosie, for one thing. Mrs Hudson minds her when we're out. Molly too, sometimes. I spoke to Molly. I told her the truth: that I love her, that she's my friend. She is. I do love her. She's done so much for me. I trust her completely. But I can't be what she wants. I can love more than one person. I know that now. But there is no one I love in such an existential way as I do John. She understood. I am eternally grateful to her for that.
Ever since John wept, since I put my arms around him, since we embraced, it's been easier for us to allow physical contact. But it's only now that John is living with me again that we've become aware of this new thing. There are likely several contributing factors. Rosie, who is still entirely reliant upon physical means of communication, whom we feed and change, bathe, carry around and cuddle. My experience with Eurus. The emotional depths in myself that I've been feeling my way around ever since I remembered Redbeard. Boarded-up pathways that are just now opening. My faith in my own heart. I can no longer deny it, will never be able to deny it again.
I am no longer the person I once was.
It's no coincidence when John touches his hand to my arm at some point during the day, when he lets it rest on my shoulder. It's no coincidence when I brush his arm with my hand, when our fingers touch. It's not a coincidence. We both know it. It's a new stage of our friendship. It's exhilarating. We're walking a new path. The way we interact with each other has changed, the way we look at each other. We are not the same. Nothing is the same as it used to be.
John ran his hand over my back, let his hand linger there as he showed me how to change Rosie's nappy the first time. He let his hand rest on my body. I felt John there, right beside me, felt his body heat seeping into me. Along with my longing for even more heat, more closeness, my desire to hug him. I concentrated on Rosie and saw my own hands passing on to the baby what I was getting from John.
"Tell me if it's at all unpleasant," John said.
"I like it," I replied, quietly, without looking up.
John dropped his forehead to my shoulder, just for a moment, and we both understood that we meant our closeness, not Rosie's dirty bottom which needed cleaning just then.
It is what it is. We sometimes say that to each other. It is what it is, even if we don't dare consider what we mean by that.
John's smile reaches a spot deep inside that warms me up when it is touched.
I should tell him.
I wouldn't know what to do without him. He is the cornerstone of my life. The ground on which I walk. I should tell him, but words don't suffice. Words aren't enough. They can't express what I want to tell him.
I saw John fighting for me on the other side of the glass wall that Mary's violent death inserted between us. I saw him despair over his feelings, saw him beat himself bloody in a blind rage. I felt his helplessness with my own body, his unbearable pain which exploded over me. A choked-off cry for help. The deepest, most wounded root of love. We scraped it raw against each other.
So much that can't be said. So much that was never put into words, and that never will be. Words are not enough. Words will never be enough.
Love heals. Allowing love, heals. It's harder to accept love than it is to give it. I suspected that would be true. I am only now discovering John's love. Allowing it to seep through to me. It's different than I thought it would be. You can't rationalise love. You can only give it room and make space for it. Open the pathways for it and see which direction it flows. And be amazed. Amazed at what happens when you do. When you let that which flows, flow. John's love is a complex stream on many levels. It is old and wordless, like mine.
"Sherlock? Can you hold her a sec?"
I go into the bathroom. Rosie is lying in the baby bathtub, cheerfully slapping her rubber duck onto the surface of the water. John's t-shirt is wet. I slip my hand in under Rosie's back. She isn't stable enough yet to sit by herself. John's hand is in the warm water. I slide along it with mine to take its place. John's fingers linger, rubbing and caressing mine. Just for a moment. Two or three seconds. Heat draws into my loins. Our eyes meet.
John smiles wistfully and says, "I'll get a fresh towel."
Rosie looks up at me, makes a pleased sound. I hold her, supporting her back as she splashes. The bathwater smells of baby oil.
John's tenderness awakens a deep and elementary longing in me.
I should tell him.
John returns with the towel. I lift the child out of the water and place her in John's arms, over the towel. John wraps it around her. She squeals happily when he lays her down on the changing table and dries her off. I go over to him. I intend to place a hand on his shoulder, but instead find my arm around him. My chin fits perfectly on his shoulder, my temple pressed against his. My heart pounds against his back. I can feel him breathing. He pauses. Rosie kicks at the towel. His hand settles over mine. I close my eyes. His body relaxes back into mine. I feel his weight and his strength and his heat. His thoughts, his attentiveness. All of him. Rosie is babbling. John lets go of me, turns back to the baby. His body moves against mine. I give him space. But I stay there.
Later we sit at the table eating the Thai curry I went out to get. We don't talk. John's eyes are deep and pensive. Rosie is sleeping. In my room. We switched rooms. John sleeps downstairs now, Rosie's cot in with him. I've moved upstairs.
It's very late that night when I go into my old room. John is lying awake in bed. I sit down beside him. I am no longer the person I once was. Nothing is as it once was. Everything is different. John's fingers weave themselves between mine. The room smells of warmth and cosiness, like Rosie. I close my eyes. John breathes. The stream is heavy and strong. It makes me dizzy. It fills me up. I am drowning in it.
I crawl in next to him when he silently holds up the covers.
The waters are dark and deep. I fall. I let myself fall. I sink and sink and sink. I'm drowning. I let myself drown. The waters are dark and deep. Much darker and deeper than I think I shall ever comprehend.