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nobody said it was easy

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He was lightly dozing on the sofa (okay, practically passed out in a drug-induced stupor, but semantics) when the sound of the downstairs door cut through the buzzing static of his subconscious drift. Probably Hudders. Sherlock rolled over, burrowing his face into the cushions. Light footfalls tapped up the stairs—very light, though that could just be his altered perceptions, as at the moment, everything was shrouded in a thick haze—and a thin, reedy voice called out, “Hi-ho! Sherlock Holmes?”

Ugh, not a client, not now. He flopped over to face the entry, ready to cast out the intruder with cutting invective, but the words died in his throat as a small, green head crested the landing. He blinked, dumbstruck, as the visitor ascended the final steps, revealing spindly green arms, an ovoid body, and… webbed feet? The creature’s bizarre appearance was topped off by a frankly ridiculous spiky green collar, reminiscent of a court jester.

Right. This had to be a hallucination. Sherlock rubbed his eyes and shook his head, bouncing his mass of grotty curls into even wilder disarray, but when he opened his eyes again, the strange little gremlin was still advancing towards him, mouth stretched into a wide smile.

“You are Sherlock Holmes, aren’t you?” Sherlock’s eyes flicked to the syringe on the coffee table. Just what was in Billy’s latest brew? He’d have to have a word with him, once the room stopped pitching back and forth. The shambling critter paused, following Sherlock’s gaze, and his grin grew impossibly wider. “Of course you are. Funny name, though. Any relation to Sherlock Hemlock?”

Sherlock’s brows drew together as he pushed himself up to sitting and tried to parse the question. He’d never known another Sherlock, but that was beside the point.

“You do realise that’s not how names work, don’t you?” he said in the haughtiest tone he could muster, which, given that he was speaking with what appeared to be an animated stuffed animal, wasn’t as impressive as he’d hoped. “The familial name is the surname.”

The friendly goblin just cocked its head, those bulging, unblinking eyes disconcertingly fixed on him.  

“That would imply that I’m related to all frogs, which is patently untrue. At least in as much as you are related to all humans.” Frogs?

“Frogs?” Sherlock repeated foolishly. Good lord, he must really be off his rocker, to be blurting out whatever inane thoughts passed through his mind.

“Oh, how rude of me. Kermit the Frog here, pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr. Holmes.” It held out a floppy hand, which to Sherlock’s complete surprise he took and shook, as if this were a perfectly normal encounter.

“Sherlock, please,” he replied by rote, mind still stuttering over the word frog. Something tickled at the back of his mind, a long deleted memory that wriggled to life at the odd name, though he couldn’t recall ever encountering a Kermit in his life. He closed his eyes again, trying to trace the memory back to its source. He’d been deep-diving in his subconscious ever since that failed flight to Serbia, and had got a bit better at retrieval, though the fragments that floated to the surface were still woefully incomplete. Mostly impressions from a childhood ruthlessly repressed: a flash of auburn fur, the smell of the ocean, a haunting tune in a young, singsong voice he couldn’t place.

At the gentle stroke of fingertips on his wrist, his awareness turned to the long, skinny digits in his grip: felt, with wires beneath a thin sheath of batting. He opened his eyes to stare down at their joined hands, pale flesh against grass green. It felt real enough, though he knew it to be an impossibility. He turned their hands this way and that, examining his quarry, until the creature—frog?—tightened its grip, pulling him down to eye level.

“Word on the street is, you've got the rainbow connection.” Sherlock had the impression that the impossible apparition was lifting its eyebrows meaningfully, or giving him a wink, despite the fact that it appeared to have neither brows nor lids on its bulbous, round eyes. Sherlock shook off its surprisingly firm grasp and sat up straighter, peering down at the surreal entity suspiciously.

“You’re not with the press, are you?” Imaginary or not, he’d had enough of the media interfering with his life of late, and he wasn’t ready for his most recent (and very real) drug habit to become public just yet. The frog-thing held up its hands in placation.

“No, no, nothing like that.” It paused, considering. “Well, not anymore. I used to have a gig for breaking news, ages ago, ‘we interrupt your program’ and all that, but the 24-hour news cycle put me out of a job. It’s all fake news now anyway. Yellow journalism at its finest.” Sherlock found himself nodding in agreement before he quite knew what he was doing. He narrowed his eyes.

“So what, a washed up ex-reporter shows up at my door looking for a hit, and I’m supposed to trust you?”

The frog grinned good-naturedly. “Well, by your own admission I’m not even here, so what’s the harm?” Had he said that aloud? He couldn’t remember. “Anyway,” it continued, “I’m a little guy. What’s left in that should be more than sufficient.” It gestured to the abandoned syringe, a thin stripe of golden liquid still lingering in the chamber. Sherlock slumped back on the sofa, too lightheaded to really care.

“Be my guest.” He watched with mild interest as the creature picked up the syringe, before a stray thought cut through the fog. “Wait, we shouldn’t share needles. Not hygienic.”

The frog laughed. “Look, pal, I’m not about to get some fleshbag disease, okay? The worst I can get is a bad case of cottonmouth.” It cackled at its own joke. “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing. Besides, not real, remember?” That too-wide crocodile smile stretched its triangular face into a lumpy trapezoid. Were frogs related to crocodiles? No, amphibia, reptilia, but both studied by herpetologists… both cold-blooded. He shivered.

“Tie me off, will you?” A length of rubber was thrust in his face, followed by a thin green twig of an arm. “Never can get the hang of it on my own, not enough pressure in the jaws.” It hinged its mouth open in demonstration, revealing red and pink felt in concentric rings. Sherlock fumbled with the rubber tie, but managed a firm knot, then watched in fascination as the frog pressed the needle to the centre of its arm. How did it find a vein? Did it even have veins? Either way, the thing depressed the rest of the plunger into its felt skin and sagged back onto the sofa next to Sherlock.

“Ahhh…” it sighed in obvious relief. “That’s the stuff. Sweet brown sugar.”

Sherlock made a sound in the back of his throat in indignation.

“I’ll have you know that is fine china, absolutely pure. Does this look like Mexico to you?”

“Apologies, my man. No offense intended.” It had started to slur its words slightly, taking on a lazy drawl. They lay on the sofa in silence for a few long, timeless minutes, staring sightlessly up at the ceiling. Eventually, the small body at his side stirred, pulling off the rubber band with a flick of its long fingers and tossing it and the empty syringe aside.

“Man, it ain’t easy being green.”

“Nor a felt amphibian, I'd wager.”

The frog shrugged. “It is what it is.” Its green head turned to face Sherlock, suddenly very, very close. “And call me Kermit.”

“Okay… Kermit.” The name felt strange in his mouth, but he supposed he could respect the wishes of his imaginary companion.

“Sherlock… do you ever feel like, I dunno, there’s this… giant, gaping hole inside you that just needs to be filled?”

Sherlock squirmed uncomfortably, because yes, he did know that exact feeling, had been trying to escape it for weeks in fact, with moderate success thanks to an exhilarating mix of uppers and downers. But now at its mention, he could feel it opening up inside him again, in the pit of his stomach, a great yawning emptiness that threatened to swallow him whole.

“I suppose it’s different for you, being human. You weren’t built to be dependent on someone else.” Wrong. Sherlock was dependent on a very particular someone else, and falling apart in his absence. He was about to ask what Kermit meant when the frog flipped over onto his knees and bent at the waist, revealing a literal gaping hole in its rear. “See? The curse of a puppet. I’m incomplete without a human companion.” Puppet! There was always something. And yet, despite their differing anatomy, Sherlock knew exactly how Kermit felt, and the emptiness inside expanded to his chest, forcing out his breath. He didn’t realise he was on the verge of hyperventilating until Kermit’s reedy voice broke through, calling out his name.

“Sherlock! Hey there, it’s okay. You’re okay.” A flimsy felt hand patted his cheek, bringing him back to the present. “You know, we don’t both have to be alone and empty. Why don’t you give it a go?” Kermit patted its—his?—rear, and smiled. Sherlock frowned.

“Look, I don’t know what you think you know about me, but I’m not interested in penetrating—”

“No!” Kermit squeaked, and Sherlock would swear the frog was blushing, if he weren’t still bright green. “No, it’s not like that, I promise! It’s not sexual. It’s more like…” His eyes turned up to the ceiling again, growing distant. “Like stretching out on a warm rock on a nice sunny day. Or having a stomach full of flies and nowhere to be for hours. Or a really good hug.”

Sherlock wasn’t too sure about the first two, but he could relate to the last. He recalled the feeling of John’s arms around him, pulling him down, one hand squeezing his bicep and the other cupping the back of his neck. His skin prickled at the memory. At the time he had frozen, his mind still on his Very Important Speech, unable to process what was happening to his body in the moment, and every day since he has cursed himself for not reciprocating, not wrapping his arms around John and holding him close, resting his cheek on that soft blond hair. No—don’t dwell. It’s for the best; if he’d hugged him back, he might never have let him go.

“Ah…” he stammered, trying to gather his wits again. “Even so, perhaps it’s not a good idea.”

Kermit crossed his arms, mouth wrinkling into a thoroughly unconvinced pout.

“If I'm a figment of your imagination, then why would I ask you to do it, unless deep down you wanted to? Go on, you know you're curious.” He was, a bit. He must have had puppets as a child, but he didn’t have access to most of those memories, and at any rate, he was certain he had never had his hand inside a living puppet before. As if reading his mind, Kermit leant closer and whispered, “C’mon, when are you going to have an opportunity like this again?”

He had a point, and anyway, if this was all in his head, what was the harm? Sherlock sat up with a sigh and held out his hand, trying to look as disinterested as possible.

“Fine, if we must.” Kermit turned over again, presenting his hole to Sherlock, who stared dumbly at the felt offering. “What… am I just supposed to…”

“Put it in? Yeah, that’s the idea.”

“Um.” This was too weird. “I don’t know if I can.”

“Or I could sit on your hand, but that’s a little more awkward.”

Sherlock wrinkled his nose. As if this weren’t already awkward enough.

“No, that’s… I can do it, just…” He pressed his fingers together and reached out towards the opening in the frog’s green backside, but stopped at the last moment to close his eyes and take a deep breath. What the hell was he doing?

“Oh, for fuck’s sake—” Kermit scooted backward, sheathing Sherlock’s hand in his body. Sherlock gasped, hand suddenly engulfed in heat, eyes still squeezed shut. It felt… it felt like… fabric, actually, which shouldn’t have been a surprise at all. He wiggled his fingers a little. A soft fabric, not felt, some sort of lining, a little silky… rayon, perhaps? Definitely a synthetic, maybe a poly blend. That would account for some of the added warmth, not very breathable and surrounded by layers of stuffing. Tentatively, he cracked his eyes open and looked down at his hand. Kermit had shifted, turned a bit to lie more comfortably on the sofa, and was now rubbing his cheek into the cushion in an almost catlike manner.

“Are you—is this okay?” Sherlock asked, concerned by the strange behaviour of his companion.

“Mmmmm…” Kermit swivelled on Sherlock’s wrist and flopped onto his back, arms and legs akimbo. “It just feels so good to be whole again, you know?” He let out a satisfied sigh.  

Sherlock didn’t know, not really, but he was glad he could make his new friend—friend?—happy. He lifted his hand, turning it around and marvelling at how Kermit still moved independently of him, stretching his arms over his head and grinning up at Sherlock. Sherlock pressed his fingertips in farther, feeling where Kermit’s mouth split in two, his thumb going low into the jaw, the rest of his hand curving around the head. What a bizarre sensation, having one’s fingertips inside the cranium of a living creature.

“Having fun?” Kermit chuckled, and that was even stranger, his hand being moved by this animated bit of fabric and foam. Sherlock squinted at the impossible thing on the end of his arm, as if that would help it make any sense, if he could just see how…

Kermit laughed again, and Sherlock gave up trying to understand, just smiled back at his odd little friend.

“Ah, that’s more like it! See, it’s more fun like this, isn’t it? Two pals, hanging out as nature intended. Feels more complete, right?”

Sherlock shrugged. “I suppose so. But it's easy for you, being a puppet. Sometimes… sometimes I wish I had someone to fill my hole.” As soon as he said it, he realised how it sounded, and instantly wished he could take it back. And unlike his green-skinned companion, he knew his face flushed bright red when embarrassed. Shit.

The frog, damn him, picked up on the innuendo right away, his smile growing into a lascivious grin.

“Pretty thing like you, shouldn't be too hard to find.” He crossed his legs and waved his hand about in an extravagant manner, flapping loosely at the wrist. “Don't you have, I dunno, a John or something to take care of that fine ass?”

Sherlock knew he was taking the piss, but it hit a little too close to home.

“I used to.” He slid his hand out of the puppet and set him back down on the sofa. “But it was never like that.”

“Hey, I know buddy, I’m sorry.” Kermit scooched up next to him and put a hand on his knee. “I didn’t mean anything by it, just making a joke.”

“It wasn’t funny,” Sherlock mumbled, looking down at the hand that had been inside his friend. It was a little sticky, sweaty and covered in a fine sheen of grime. “Ugh, what the hell, Kermit?”

The frog had the good sense to look chagrined.

“Sorry, been on the streets a while, tryin’ to score my next hit, you know how it is. I can’t remember the last time I had a proper soak.” He raked an assessing eye over Sherlock. “By the looks of it, you're overdue for one yourself, pal.” He gave Sherlock’s knee a pat and hopped off the sofa. “Where's your swamp?”


“Oh, what do they call them here… moor? Bog? Hell, I'd settle for a pond, if that all you've got.”

“I… have a bathtub.”

Kermit let out a deeply put-upon sigh. “Well, I s’pose we can make do, but it's kind of sterile.”

“Isn’t that the point?” Sherlock asked, standing and heading towards the bathroom, Kermit at his heels.

“If you wanna get technical about it, but where’s the ambience? It’s all just hideous white tile and bad lighting.” They had reached the door to loo, which Sherlock flung open with a bit too much force. “Yeesh, case in point.” Sherlock turned on the light and the bright fluorescent bulb stuttered to life. Kermit recoiled in obvious horror. “No, absolutely not. A tub is one thing, but that horrible light is where I draw the line.”

Sherlock blinked up at the light, still emitting a slight flicker amidst its unnatural white glare. It was rather hideous, especially in his fuzzy state. It cast into harsh reality every bit of matted dust in the corners and mildew in the grout, and good god, how many stray hairs could there be in one tiny room? He quickly flicked off the light.

“Right, I’ve got some candles somewhere… oh! And a Bunsen burner in the kitchen.”

“Bunsen?” Kermit trailed behind Sherlock as he collected the burner and tealights from around the flat. “Do you know Dr. Honeydew then?”

“Nope.” He didn’t think he did. He might have done, at one time, but he tended to delete all doctors, save one. By and large a boring lot, and he already had a doctor… or had had… and if he couldn’t have him, he didn’t want another.

“Hey-oh, look what I found!”

Sherlock turned at the door to the loo, arms loaded full with the burner and scavenged candles, to see Kermit stumbling blindly toward him, head entirely covered by that ridiculous hat.

“Take that thing off, you’ll—” Kermit ran into the doorframe and flew backwards, arms pinwheeling as he fell. “—hurt yourself.” Sherlock shook his head. “See? Death frisbee,” he grumbled as he set the tealights around the room and turned on the taps. Kermit joined him as he was lighting the last candle, about to turn on the burner. “Stay back,” he warned. “I suspect you’re rather flammable.”

“I’m not the flaming one here, buddy,” Kermit giggled, but he moved out of the way as Sherlock crouched next to the burner, set on the closed lid of the toilet like a profane altar. With the flick of a lighter, the gas burst into flames, bathing the whole room in a warm, cheery glow. “Oooh,” Kermit marvelled, bulbous eyes alight with glee. “A fire swamp.”

The air was starting to grow thick with steam, lending a rather swampy atmosphere to the room, though Sherlock wasn’t sure where fire factored into the mix. Still, it was pleasant, the heat of the bath warming the tile under his bare feet.

“Too bad we can’t have the sounds of the swamp, though.” The frog looked wistfully into the far distance. “I miss their voices.” Sherlock suddenly recalled with aching clarity those long, lonely years on the run, tracking every thread of the web on his own, only the memory of John’s voice in his head for company. It was a pale facsimile of the real thing, but it had kept him sane (mostly), kept him going, kept him fighting for every last breath.

“I have an idea!” He ran to the sitting room and rummaged through the sofa cushions until he found his mobile. He tried to ignore the creeping cold tendrils of disappointment at the lack of new messages (of course there weren't any, why would there be, stupid foolish hope) and hurried back to the humid warmth of the bathroom. “White noise app,” he explained as he thumbed open the program and flicked through the settings. “Plenty of nature sounds, not sure about frogs, but I believe… ah yes, here we are.” The soft chatter of cricket song filled the small space, the sound bouncing off the tiled surfaces, creating a choir of layered chirps and echoes. Sherlock had to admit it was actually quite beautiful, and certainly enhanced the swampy mood. He looked down at Kermit, whose eyes had gone a bit misty, though from emotion or condensation Sherlock couldn't say.

“Perfect,” he croaked, voice lower and rougher than Sherlock had heard in their short acquaintance. He felt a wave of overwhelming tenderness crest over him for this small, strange creature, all alone in this big, uncaring city. Sentiment, he chided, and yet he couldn't stop himself from patting his odd little head.

“Well…” Sherlock cleared his throat awkwardly. “Shall we?”

Kermit grinned up at him. “I’m good to go. You’re the one wearing a bunch of useless clothes.” Sherlock glanced at his ratty pyjamas and stained dressing gown. He really was in need of a good bath. He felt an uncomfortable prickle of self-consciousness at the thought of undressing under the watchful gaze of another, even if his companion was already naked, and a frog. As if sensing his hesitance, Kermit turned toward the quickly filling tub. “D’ya have any of that goop that makes bubbles?” He hopped up on the lip of the bath and poked around at the assortment of bottles that lined the bathroom shelves, giving Sherlock some much-appreciated privacy. He made short work of shucking off his dirty clothes, and turned back to see Kermit pouring a seemingly random mix of bath products into the tub. The result was a rapid proliferation of bubbles and a multitude of conflicting scents.

“That’s quite enough,” Sherlock said sharply, whisking the bottles out of Kermit’s reach. The frog simply snapped his fingers and leapt off the tub, disappearing into the hall. Sherlock shook his head at the puppet’s antics and turned off the taps. He had just lowered himself into the hot, sudsy water and closed his eyes when a call of “Head’s up!” jolted him back to full wakefulness. He turned to the door and was nearly hit in the face by a floppy plaid disc flying at his head. He managed to catch the thing before it fell into the bath, but made a face when he saw what it was.

“What’s this for?”

Kermit skipped over to the tub, delighted by his own cleverness.

“It’s for you, silly!” When Sherlock made to toss the cursed thing back on the floor, Kermit intercepted it and hopped up next to him, pulling it firmly on Sherlock’s head. “Come on, humor me. It’s fun!” He giggled. “Well, it’s funny. Same difference.” You’re Sherlock Holmes, wear the damn hat. Sherlock frowned at the memory—not even a real memory, a memory from a drug-fuelled dream. Which, considering his current state, he supposed shouldn’t surprise him. All sorts of things were coming to the surface lately, deleted events both real and imagined, forgotten but never truly erased. That was the trouble with the brain; it wasn’t a hard drive, no matter how often he wished it otherwise. He could suppress, attempt to “delete”, but neurons were slippery things, not as black and white as binary. Inconvenient.

Kermit settled himself on the other end of the tub, webbed feet dangling into the water. “Ahh, that’s nice.” He hummed a little tune to himself and swung his legs idly, kicking up bits of foam that skittered over the bubbly surface and stuck to Sherlock’s knees.

“Thanks for this.” He waved a lanky green hand around to encompass the entire room: thick steam, warm glow, chirping crickets. “It’s been so long since anywhere’s felt like home.”

Sherlock felt a lump rise in his throat. He hadn’t let himself think about how little the flat felt like home to him these days, but it was true. Tonight, in the enclosure of this cosy room, was the first time he had felt true comfort, contentment, in longer than he could remember.

“My pleasure.” He flicked some foam back at the frog. “Kermie.” He wasn’t sure why he used the nickname, but it felt right, the way Billy fit Wiggins better than any of his self-appointed monikers. Kermit immediately stiffened, and Sherlock felt the swooping discomfort he associated with social faux pas, uncertain as to the source of the offence.

“Sorry,” he hurried to amend. “I meant Kermit.”

His companion took a deep breath, hands fidgeting in his lap.

“No, it’s okay. It’s just…” Another steadying breath. “That’s a name I haven’t heard in a long while. The only other person to call me—well. Let’s just say we don’t speak any more.”

“I’m sorry,” Sherlock echoed, not knowing what else to say.

Those long green fingers twisted together, head bowed slightly and rocking slowly side-to-side.

“No, no. It was for the best, really. It wasn’t what you would call a healthy relationship.” The frog chuckled dryly, a rough scrape of throat devoid of mirth.

“I’m not sure I know what a healthy relationship is,” Sherlock admitted. “At least, I’ve yet to see one.”

Kermit resumed his half-hearted splashing. “Well, with your line of work, that’s not a surprise. What about your parents?”

Sherlock shuddered. “Please, let’s not bring them into any discussion of a model relationship. They are terminally boring, they can’t go anywhere without the other, they finish each other’s sentences constantly, eugh, it’s nauseating even to consider.”

“Fair enough. But at least they seem to really care for each other. All I know is that when a relationship is more yelling than talking, there’s something seriously wrong.” He grew quiet, gaze fixed on the alternating sprays of water coming off his flippered feet. “She used to hit me too,” he whispered. “At first just light slaps, but then it got harder. By the end it was fists, or beatings with her purse. I never…” A long pause, filled only with the sound of crickets. “I never fought back. I dunno, the things she said, it always felt like I deserved it, somehow. And I didn’t tell anyone. It was too… embarrassing, I guess.” More soft splashing. “I wish I had. Wish I had gotten help sooner, for both of us. Maybe then I wouldn’t be—” He gestured to his skinny arm. “Well, anyway. I’m just glad to be out. And with every ending there’s a new beginning, opportunities to meet new people, new friends.” He looked up at Sherlock at last, a smile creasing his soft face. “With good friends, you can’t lose.”

Sherlock swallowed, wishing that to be true. Recent experience had taught him that wasn’t always the case. Or maybe he just wasn’t a very good friend.

A felt hand patted his soapy knee. “Don’t worry, buddy, you’re a good friend.” Wait, had he said that part out loud? He didn’t think so, but he was admittedly not in a very clear state of mind. “Anyone would be lucky to have you.”

Anyone. The word shot through his nerves, reverberated in every tortured cell of his being, and he couldn’t stop the sudden prick of tears in his eyes.

“Hey there, everything’s going to be okay.” The hand on his knee was now petting in gentle, reassuring strokes. “Wanna talk about it?”

Sherlock shook his head, a sniffle escaping despite his efforts.

“That’s all right. That’s fine. Like I said, it's not easy.”

Sherlock sniffed. “What, being green?”

“Yeah, that. But also, being human. Just… being.” Another consolatory pat, and the hand disappeared from his knee.” Sherlock blinked the tears from his eyes and looked up to see the frog had leaned backwards over the edge of the tub, only his spindly legs visible, hooked over the rim. “I’ve got just the thing,” his voice called from somewhere near the ground. Sherlock was about to ask if he needed help when he popped up again, a small banjo in his arms.

“Where did that come from?”

Kermit grinned at him. “Same place as I came from, Oh Great Detective.” There was mischief and firelight dancing in his eyes, but if he was teasing Sherlock, there was no ill intent, just good-natured affection shining out of those wide round eyes. It tugged at something in Sherlock’s heart, nostalgia for a time when another good friend would tease him without malice. Not just a good friend… his best friend. The bravest and kindest and wisest person he had ever known, and he had somehow, miraculously, been his best friend.

Had been.

Past tense.

The soft twang of banjo strings broke through his fugue, the slowly plucked chords both hopeful and melancholic in their simplicity. Kermit’s unique voice joined in with the strings, a bit high yet comforting, weaving an achingly sweet melody.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Sherlock let himself be lulled by the music, sinking back into the warm, sudsy water. His eyes fluttered closed, and he drifted in and out of consciousness, bits of the song sparking visions behind his lids.

What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing, and what do we think we might see?
Walking down an alley in Vauxhall, the thrill of a case thrumming in his veins, John at his side, a glimpse of stars above.
Beautiful, isn’t it?

All of us under its spell, we know that it's probably magic.
Standing on the rooftop of Bart’s, wind whipping his coat around his legs, phone pressed to his ear.
It’s a trick, just a magic trick.

Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors.
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.

Kermit’s voice trailed off into soft nonsense syllables, and Sherlock dozed, letting the tune carry him through to the last plucked string. The final chord echoed in the quiet room, the vibrating sound waves slowly dying away, until only the whispered chirps of crickets remained. At last Sherlock stirred, noting that the water had started to cool. How long had he nodded off? He pushed himself up and rubbed his eyes.

“Thanks, Kermit, that was just what—” He broke off, bleary vision cleared to reveal an empty tub. No small body perched on the edge, no webbed feet splashing water this way and that, no funny triangular face smiling back at him. He was alone.

Of course he was.

He sighed and stretched, noting with disgust the greyish tinge to the water, any trace of the frothy white bubbles long since dissolved into the muck. He pulled the plug and steeled himself against shock of cool air as he fumbled for a towel. His head was clearing, bringing with it the threads of the plan he’d stumbled upon, thanks to the mysterious Faith Smith. He’d been dragging his feet too long, allowing himself to be subsumed by self-indulgent fantasies. No more opiates; he needed to be sharp, stimulate his mind rather than dulling his senses. Yes, stimulants only from here on out. He towelled off roughly and headed for the kitchen, taking the Bunsen burner with him. It was time to move things along to the next level. Once more unto the breach.