You thought my husband was cruel. He said horrible things to you—biting, personal things. He brought out your worst and made you monstrous. You hated him for it, and for his brilliance, his need for blood and murder and work (always the work) with no pay because he didn’t need the money.
You hated him for that, too, his bottomless bank account and the way he wore expensive clothes and that coat. The damn coat. The way he walked with purpose, or rather strutted. You hated my husband because you didn’t know him, not at all. No one did. But me.
I didn’t always. I once called him a machine, before he died and came back, before my divorce from Mary and before Moriarty almost took him away a second time.
That was when it began, when Sherlock Holmes began to show himself to me, and he didn’t mean to. It was all an accident, the way we really got to know each other—the way I got to know myself.
I was beginning to feel my age by then. My war injuries ached when the weather was bad and the weather was often bad in London. I carried lines around my eyes that hadn’t been there when we first met, not when I first set eyes on him in the St. Bart’s laboratory and had no idea my life was about to change forever.
Or maybe I did. How could I not? I was drawn to him as soon as he spoke. Magnetized. I trusted him, God knew why. I killed for him, to protect him. I only realized later that was what we did for each other, always: we protected each other.
John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.
The jokes about us being a couple stopped when I turned fifty and Sherlock, damn him, still looked twenty-five. On the night I began to know the real Sherlock Holmes (and the real John Watson), we were simply confirmed bachelors who solved cases together and lived in the same flat: 221B Baker Street.
It had been days without a case, wherein which I found time to catch up on reading and trash telly.
For a while, Sherlock bemoaned his state of boredom. He flapped around like a limp fish on the couch and sighed dramatically until I turned up the volume to ignore the muffled obscenities he’d picked up at The Yard. He obsessively checked his cellular, but Lestrade, who refused to retire, had nothing to offer.
As the days stretched into a week, we settled into our natural rhythm. I took a few shifts at hospital and tried to make Sherlock eat. Always a battle. I stayed out late one night, consuming perhaps a pint too many with Stamford for old time’s sake and came home to a silent flat.
I wobbled a bit on my feet as I locked the front door behind me. Yes, definitely one pint too many.
“Sherlock? Are you home?”
I wondered if he’d been called onto a case. I was used to him running off without me, although I never liked it. Never.
I searched through a few cupboards for chips, thankful to find no fingers or heads. Some things never changed.
Of course I found nothing to eat. I considered a cup of tea, but as I moved to put the kettle on, I noticed Sherlock’s bedroom door was open. The dim light on his bedside table threw shadows on the hall floor.
I took a few heavy steps toward his door and, well, was shocked to find him … asleep? The door creaked as I looked inside, but he didn’t move so I stood and watched. No matter how many times I’d caught him snoozing at the microscope or taking short blinks in the back of cabs, I still found it strangely miraculous to see the great Sherlock Holmes actually taking a proper rest.
His back was turned to me, but his still shaggy curls stuck up like thick ferns sprouted beneath the soil of a moonlit forest floor. One of his long-fingered hands clutched to the blanket that covered him. I saw one pointed edge of a pale cheekbone. Then, I backed away, tried to leave before he woke. He always woke when I watched him sleep, like he could feel me in his dreams.
Then he whimpered and I froze. He whimpered again, mouthed incoherent words. His fingers closed tightly to the blanket above him. He said, “No, stop, don’t …”
Intellect does not dissuade nightmares.
I moved to the bed and put one hand on his shoulder. “Sherlock.” I said his name again, louder. And again.
He sat up suddenly. “John.”
“Sherlock. You all right, mate?”
“Of course.” He pushed out of bed and past me. I listened to his bare feet patter into the bathroom. The door closed behind him.
When I reached down to touch his mattress, I found it soaked with sweat.
I returned to the kitchen. After over fifteen years of friendship, one learned not to ask questions of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. But just as I put the kettle back on the stove, his voice poured over my shoulder.
“I need you to stay with me tonight,” he said.
Read the rest at Archive of Our Own.
(Be warned. One reviewer said, “You made me cry a river.”)
Image credit: br0-Harry at DeviantArt