If you just call my name at any
time at all, I’ll be there….
It’s in your eyes, the love you hide.
Look at me, you’re all that I need…
“Oh, nothing. Never mind,” I said airily.
He frowned just a little. Possibly because it was the fourth time in as many hours that I had said his name to no purpose.
Well, there was a purpose, but not one I was willing to make him aware of. So I simply frowned right back at him, as if he were being extremely unreasonable. My frown has been called intimidating on more than one occasion. John did not seem to be intimidated, however. Never did. Never had. Of course, I did not want him to be.
“You know,” he said languidly, not looking up from the newspaper he was reading, “there is a ‘boy who cried wolf ‘ effect that might well kick in soon.”
I thought for a moment, then just shook my head. “Is that one of those ridiculous popular culture references you are so fond of making?”
“The boy who cried---oh, never mind. I’m sure it was deleted years ago.” He stood, folded the newspaper briskly, and headed for the door. “It’s just that the boy cried wolf so often that when the wolf actually did show up, nobody paid his words any attention at all. It did not end well for the boy.” He grinned a John grin. “Off to Tesco’s.”
Then he clattered down the stairs.
So John Watson went off to buy milk and bread and chocolate HobNobs not realizing that he had left behind in the flat a man who had just felt the earth shudder beneath him.
Perhaps I should have told him why I said his name so often.
Truthfully, it is only because I wanted to know that he would answer.
And now he had told me quite plainly that he would not always answer me.
I worked to calm my breathing. It took longer than it should have done. Then I began to reconstruct the wall that had surrounded me for so long and that, of late, I had allowed to crumble more than a little. Every time I said “John” and he answered, another stone in the wall fell away. I would call him and he would be there. To run through the dark London streets with me. To send a text for me. To lean against a wall and laugh, not at me like so many others, but with me.. To save my life. To do this and do that.
To be here.
To be my friend.
But now I knew that it was not always going to be this way and that my wall needed to go back up before he was actually gone and I was left defenceless.
I noticed very quickly that it was much colder behind the wall than it used to be.
For the next week, I did not say his name even once. Oh, I spoke to him as usual. We worked a case. We even went to dinner at Angelo’s. But I never called him by his name.
It was not clear to me whether or not he even noticed.
Until the end of the week.
It was 3AM when he left his bedroom and came down the stairs. I was sitting at the open window having a cigarette.
“Sherlock,” he said with a sigh. “You’ve been doing so well with the patches. What happened?”
I glanced over my shoulder at him.
He was standing there looking all John. Pajama trousers hanging from his hips, a shabby teeshirt with a stretched-out neck, hair all sort of sticking up like a hedgehog’s quills.
I just inhaled deeply and slowly blew the smoke in his direction.
He didn’t look angry, just rather sleepily befuddled. “Sherlock?”
Why did he keep saying my name?
I didn’t ask him that, however. Instead, turning my face towards the window again, what I said was, “Why do you want me to be killed and eaten by a wolf?”
“What?” Befuddlement had obviously become complete bewilderment. “Why would you ask me that?”
I watched an old woman in a tattered coat go through a rubbish bin in front of Speedy’s. “I read the story. About the idiot boy and the wolf.”
I threw the cigarette out the window and turned around to stare at him. “You said that you wouldn’t always answer me. That’s what the story means. You were telling me that one day I would say your name, I would say John, and you wouldn’t answer. You said that.”
John just stood there for a long moment. Then he hitched up his pajamas a little and walked over to lean against the wall next to me. “Oh,” he said softly, “that’s why you haven’t said my name all week.”
“Of course I noticed. I didn’t know if you were angry with me or if it was just some experiment.”
I was trying to read his face, but it was too dark in the room.
He leaned closer, into the glow of the moonlight coming through the window, as if he knew what I was trying to do. “Sherlock,” he nearly whispered, “ do you really think that I wouldn’t answer you if you called my name? I will always answer you. Always.”
I looked into his eyes and in that gaze I saw it all, the truth of what he was saying, and so much more besides. In fact, I saw more than I could deal with at the moment. That was for another day. But in that same instant, lost in his gaze, I felt the newly rebuilt wall crumble again.
“John?” I said.
“Yes, Sherlock?” he replied.
I kicked away all the fallen stones from that wall, because I knew that I would never need them again.
“Nothing,” I said.