“Can’t tell the bottle from the mountain top
No we’re not right.”
Morning light streamed onto John’s face. The pain of it was unbearable. He squinted at the glare, holding out a hand to shield his eyes. Nausea followed the pain and John turned over in his bed. That was a mistake. The nausea doubled and when John attempted to head to the toilet, his feet got tangled in the bed sheets. He fell flat on his face.
Pain on pain on pain. Oh dear sweet weeping Jesus this was horrible. Please God, just get me to the toilet and let me turn myself inside out.
He extricated himself from the sheets, reached the toilet, and vomited violently.
Never again, he swore. Never again would he ever attempt to solve his problems through drink. Harry went down that road, never to return. Why was he so eager to follow in her footsteps when he saw what happened with her? No. This had to end.
He lay on the cool tile of the bathroom floor and took stock of what his life had become over the past ten months or so. He was in love with a man who refused to love him back because it was a “disadvantage”. Because of that he was falling apart inside. He had blown up at him the last time they spoke, saying things he didn’t really mean. Did he really want Sherlock to die in a house fire? Jesus, who says that to anyone?
Regret filled his heart at the recollection. That wasn’t fair of him. And poor Sherlock. Poor Sherlock -- who had never had a real relationship in his life -- was being subjected to unmitigated hatred from the one person he had trusted. Possibly the only person he had trusted in his lifetime. John was his only friend. And John was hateful to him because John had the foolish notion that a man like Sherlock could be loved. Stupid fool.
Fortunately for John, fate had an emotional outlet in store for him. More and more every day, John found he was falling in love with a woman that he saw as a sort of savior from his own life, one who wanted a life with him. She was everything that Sherlock was not, emotionally speaking. Why was he hesitating about moving in with Mary? Why was he questioning it? This should have been the easiest decision of his life.
But somehow he still had this loyalty to Sherlock. There was this undeniable connection there. It was almost palpable. But it was rotten at the root. Nothing could grow from it. He really needed to be with Mary. She offered a future, a chance at leading a normal life not involving gunplay. It was the right decision. It was the healthy decision. And yet…It broke John’s heart to even consider it.
John sat up slowly and took a breath. If he wasn’t careful, he’d catch his death on the floor. It was winter already in the city. He looked up at the window of the bathroom through squinted eyes. Frost covered the glass. Despite being muted through the crystals, the sunlight was awfully bright. Wait…Where were the curtains?
He went into his bedroom. The curtains were gone from there too.
What in the name of…?
Opening his door was like experiencing a fresh new hell. A wall of sound hit him like a fist to the face. There was never such a clanging racket going on. Mrs. Hudson was standing just outside the kitchen and yelling at Sherlock over the radio. Rock music was blaring from it and judging by his lack of response, Sherlock was pointedly ignoring Mrs. Hudson.
“What are you doing, Sherlock?” shouted Mrs. Hudson. “John probably has the hangover from you-know-where and you’re making all kinds of noise! And what happened to all my curtains?”
“They wanted washing, Mrs. Hudson,” replied Sherlock, his voice raised in order to be heard over the screaming guitar. “Be a good girl and check on their progress in the washer downstairs, would you?”
“I’m not your maid, Sherlock,” said Mrs. Hudson. “Or your mother,” she added as she turned away and headed back downstairs.
John made his way carefully down the stairs. He had to do it carefully or else his head would dismember itself from the rest of his body – or so it felt. He looked into the kitchen to see Sherlock slamming cookie sheets down on the kitchen table, fwap, fwap, fwap…
At the risk of causing his brain to commit mutiny and leap out of his ears, John shouted, “Sherlock!”
Sherlock stopped and stared at his flat mate. John looked like hell warmed over. The dark circles under his eyes in his slightly puffy face made him look years older than he was. Part of Sherlock regretted what he had done with the window treatments -- but only a part. The rest of him wanted John gone. It would be easier if John would just hate him like everyone else did.
“John! Glad you’re awake!” said Sherlock with a wide grin. That wasn’t his regular grin, thought John. He’s up to something.
“What in hell are you doing?” begged John. His eyes were tearing up. Between the unmerciful sunlight streaming into the sitting room, the banging of the cookie sheets, and the cacophony of the Van Halen solo guitar riff, his senses had had enough intake for twelve weeks. He wanted to vomit again.
“Experiment, John,” said Sherlock. “You are the test subject. To determine what stimuli would aggravate your current condition. I should imagine that acute dehydration caused by your copious alcohol consumption on the night previous would be quite painful. We shall have to establish a pain scale. Too bad about not knowing how much you drank or what type of alcohol you ingested. No matter. We shall just have to crack on.” And with that, he slammed a cookie sheet on the table with a rather impressive THWACK.
John placed his hands over his ears. All he could do was stare at Sherlock in abject horror. He had experienced a certain amount of verbal abuse at this man’s hands – even emotional neglect, but never had Sherlock been out-and-out cruel. It was one thing for Sherlock to treat him off-handedly; that was the man’s nature. It was another thing entirely for Sherlock to kick John when he was obviously down. This was just pure meanness.
John never felt more betrayed in his life.
Mary. I need to be with Mary. Mary wouldn’t do such things. My God, please. I need to get to Mary.
“How’s the pain level so far? Scale of one to ten,” said Sherlock coolly.
John looked at that impassive, clinical, porcelain face and something inside him snapped. He walked straight up to Sherlock and punched him in the face. Sherlock hit the floor and looked up at John, his face blank. John went to the radio, turned it off, and unplugged it for good measure, ripping the cord from the wall. He then walked to the kitchen table and took both cookie sheets, walked to the front windows of 221B, opened one of them and threw both sheets out onto the street.
Sherlock had regained his feet when John had come back into the kitchen. John hit him again. Sherlock hit the floor again and this time his face held fear. John stood over him, enraged. Glaring at him and in a low, clear voice he rumbled, “So help me god, Sherlock… you’ve done a lot of crap things before but you’ve never... So help me… if you speak to me… you LOOK at me… you maniac… and I’ll fucking kill you.”
With fists clenched at his sides, John turned on his heel and went back to his bedroom.
They met in a café across town that same afternoon. Mary was waiting for him when John got there.
“What is so horrible that it takes me a tube ride and two taxis to get here?” asked Mary, clearly alarmed at John’s request for caution. “Are you and Sherlock being pursued by dangerous criminals?”
“No,” said John, taking a seat after looking cautiously around. “I just didn’t want Sherlock to follow me here. I needed privacy to talk to you. I didn’t want him making up some fool excuse to interrupt us.”
“Whatever’s the matter?” said Mary.
John took a deep breath. “How soon can I move in?”
Mary looked at John shocked. She had been hinting at him for a few weeks for him to move in, but honestly, she was only half kidding. She hated sharing Sherlock with him, and moving him into her place would be much more convenient for her, but she didn’t want to push that onto John so soon in their relationship. She told him so.
“I know it’s soon,” agreed John. “But I just can’t take Sherlock any more. He’s gone off the deep end with me and I’m afraid that if I don’t make a clean break now I’ll not want to be around him at all.”
“So you still plan on going off on cases with him then?” she asked.
“Well, of course. I’m the only thing standing between him and his own self-destruction. I can’t just abandon him,” said John. “If I do leave him completely, I’ll feel awful every day I’m away. I’m afraid he’s just a part of who I am. It would be like trying to rip my own arm off. I couldn’t do it.”
“But you still want to live with me,” Mary asked cautiously.
“Yes,” John replied. “I think just a bit of separation would be alright. He’s a big boy. He can handle himself. He’ll be fine without me there constantly. I’ll still drop by and see that he’s eating something every now and again when we don’t have a case, but otherwise, I’m all yours.”
Mary smiled. She thought a moment and said, “I think if you give me a week, I can move you in with very little trouble. My landlord is a wonderful old gent, but he’ll want notice of a week at least before you start living there. He’s a bit old-fashioned like that. It’s just… as long as you’re sure, John.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” he said. There was a moment of silence between them. They barely registered the fact that they were seated in quite a busy restaurant. For that moment, there was a shared look exchanged between them. It spoke volumes about their mutual concern over the detective and how he would handle this news.
“A week then,” said John slowly. That should be enough time to break the news officially to Sherlock and enough time for him to adjust to the change. John was sure Sherlock would understand his decision in time. After all, he was used to unilateral decision-making. The only difference was that this time, it was John making the big decisions, not Sherlock.
“Alright,” John said at last. “I’ll be moving in with you a week from today.” He looked at her earnestly and said, “Mary, I can’t wait.”
“Me too,” Mary smiled.
Already John’s heart felt lighter. This was the right thing to do. Life with Mary would be so much easier. She was not half as complex as Sherlock. It would be a welcome change to his life. And Sherlock would be fine. Wouldn’t he?
Deep in John’s gut something twisted. He pushed it down and away. Nothing would stop his move out of 221B Baker Street. Not even his own protective instincts towards his best friend. Sherlock would live. It would all be fine.
As he left the café, John turned the corner to find a cab and noticed that he was limping.