A fire burned merrily in the parlour of 221 B Baker Street. The logs crackled as the flames jumped over them, throwing out the heat. Unfortunately the atmosphere between the two men sitting in front of the fir was like ice.
They both sat with their legs crossed and arms folded, closing themselves off. Watson, however, couldn't sit still. Fiddling his fingers, softly tapping his foot. He was not comfortable in the silence. He knew something needed to be said, things needed to be aired out, but his masculine pride wasn't going to let him be the one to falter first. Holmes appeared almost content with the situation. He sat staring into the fire, looking perfectly composed. But Watson knew him better. He could see Holmes' jaw clench and unclench sporadically and he took small pleasure in knowing his friend was as discomfited as he.
"And so he should", Watson thought to himself, brushing an imaginary piece of fluff off his trouser leg. "This is all his fault."
He threw an annoyed glance at his companion. Holmes appeared not to notice.
"I mean", Watson kept going, "I am allowed mention my own fiancés' name whenever I choose. Or my wedding date. Just because Holmes wants to act like a spoilt child losing his faithful side-kick, that's not my fault!"
So why on Earth did he feel like it was his fault. Watson had been living in the house himself and Mary planned to occupy after their wedding day for nearly a month. Yet he spent nearly every evening in his old rooms, sipping port, lecturing Holmes on the dangers of leaving the various lethal potions and inventions that tended to explode strewn about the place or discussing the cases that had arrived. Invariably Homes had already solved them, but this way he got to relive it and impress Watson with his great deductive reasoning. Though Watson acted thoroughly exasperated by his friends blatant showing off, Holmes never failed to amaze him. These evenings were enjoyable and comfortable and always Watson nearly wished he didn't have to get up and return to his house. It felt like old times then and a part of Watson was not ready to give it all up.
Then there were the nights when they ended up in a blazing row or sitting in frigid silence. But it always began the same. Watson would make mention of Mary or his impending nuptials and Holmes would pout his lips and cast some belittling remark upon the woman, or indeed, Watsons' intellect for choosing a marital state instead of staying a carefree bachelor. Watson would rise to the occasion every time and respond heatedly that just because Holmes was content to live, stuck in the rut of 221B Baker Street, never moving forward, that was up to him. But he, Watson, was not planning on wasting his life. They would continue back and forth until Holmes would order Watson from the premises or Watson would just storm out of his own accord. After a few days would send a message around to Watson, inviting him back to discuss an interesting case he had been working on that day. Watson would be careful not to mention his fiancée. Yet sometimes something would just slip out and it would start all over again.
This evening was different, however. Watson had arrived with the specific intent of telling Holmes that he and Mary had finally settled upon a date. Holmes had reacted exactly as Watson had known he would. They started to argue, standing facing toward each other. Holmes was more animated than usual.
"You don't need to waste yourself in marital drudgery just because that is what expected of you. You may as well throw yourself in the Thames for you will never be happy with that or any woman!"
That had infuriated Watson.
"Just because the only woman you ever wanted to spend your life with would rather traipse around the world committing various unlawful acts, don't think we are all condemned to an empty life!"
All the animation drained from Holmes' face. He sunk into his armchair, an air of utter sadness surrounding him. Watson sat in the chair opposite. He knew he couldn't leave after what he had said. He was annoyed beyond words at Holmes and his childish handling of the situation. But mixed with that annoyance was a strong feeling of guilt. He knew his last statement had been out of line. He looked up at Holmes again but the detective was still staring into the flames, his jaw clenching and unclenching. He looked rather dejected - a look that seemed so out of place.
"Just apologise", Watsons' inner dialogue spoke up again. "You know you will in the end."
Watson opened his mouth but it was Holmes who spoke first.
"I never felt that way about Ms. Adler. She intrigues me. Fascinates me. I never had those inclinations."
He spoke in a rather bored and empty voice. It sounded like he was reciting a list of ingredients for one of his concoctions.
"But my life never felt empty. I had cases to keep my mind active and keen, money enough to let me continue my interests. I also had an interesting and educated companion to while away the days. Now that is changing."
Watson had never heard Holmes speak so candidly about anything. It left him speechless for a time. Holmes didn't appear to be looking for a response. He was staring into the fire again.
"Nothing will change too much, Holmes", Watson said finally. "I shall still visit and help on cases from time to time."
"Perhaps it is time you went to your new abode, Watson. I fear I have said more than I intended."
Watson nodded and picking up his coat and hat he moved towards the door.
"I shall see you soon, Holmes."
The detective just looked up and gave a brief nod of his head. Watson suddenly noticed just how tired and washed out the other man looked. Holmes' eye met Watsons and there Watson saw a look that he had never seen before. He couldn't fathom it, but it was powerful. If Watson had been feeling uneasy after the fight they had had, he felt down-right wrong now. He hailed a hansom and as he journeyed towards his house he realised that once again he felt guilty. Not guilty over what he had said but guilty because he had left his friend alone in their old home, guilty that he hadn't stayed longer. Indeed he felt guilty in that moment for the fact he had moved out and had decided to get married. He wasn't sure where that guilt came from but it was followed by the parting look Holmes had given him.
As he prepared for bed the feeling of guilt had not subsided and the image of Holmes remained.