The evening had been non-eventful, much to John's delight. Sarah had cooked, and he had chuckled when she had stressed firmly that he wasn't to expect it every evening. After they had eaten and cleared away together, they watched a film. It was all very normal. John hadn't checked his phone once.
As he watched the rom-com with half-interest, he felt Sarah's eyes on him, and turned to regard her, her head lying comfortably on his shoulder.
"Are you ok?" she asked him in a quiet voice.
"Hmm? Yeah, of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"
"John." She sat up to regard him. "It's ok to be sad you know. You've closed a significant chapter in your life."
John blinked at her. He felt surprised by the strange pang in his stomach and he knew what it meant. There was a part of him, deep inside, that thought of the 'chapter' as dog-eared rather than closed. Could he really not pick up that bookmark and continue where he'd left off?
He smiled at her weakly.
"I'm just saying. It was your home, your life, for three years. It's ok to miss it."
Him. Miss him.
"I know it's fine."
"How about we invite Sherlock over in the near future?"
"He wouldn't come," John stated plainly. His eyes moved back to the film in the hope that Sarah would drop the subject.
They continued to watch the film in silence John put his arm around Sarah, pulling her close. This wasn't so bad, was it? He had a perfect girlfriend, a lovely flat, a job that was bearable. John smiled to himself at how lucky he was, and gave Sarah a kiss on the top of her head for good measure. This, right here, was real life.
When the film was over, they stumbled sleepily to Sarah's bed. Their bed, he reminded himself. John was very much looking forward to a good night's sleep.
"You don't play violin do you?" he asked Sarah as she turned off the light.
"No," she laughed. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, no reason."
John breathed deeply. Silence and sleep encompassed him.
It was 2:13am on the digital clock display beside John's bed. His eyes snapped open suddenly as a ringing noise filled the room. Beside him, he heard Sarah groan.
"What is that noise?" she mumbled into the pillow.
"Uh, I think it's my phone."
John reached over to his discarded jeans, and fumbled into the pocket.
Caller: Sherlock Holmes.
"Who is it?" Sarah asked, her voice clearer as she sat up. She squinted at the light from the phone.
"Is it Sherlock?"
John's mind raced at a relatively impressive speed considering he'd just woken up. He could lie and say he didn't know who it was. He could reject the call and turn his phone off. But then Sherlock would ring the land line. Did he know the land line number? Of course he did. Or John could just answer the call and see what his sociopathic best friend could possibly have to say at 2:13am in the morning.
John rejected the call, and cringed as he saw 5 unread text messages.
John. Something's wrong. Don't panic but I may need your assistance.
Ok. Panic a little. Where are you?
Perhaps I'm not stressing the urgency enough. I need your help! (P.S bring milk.) (P.P.S Are shops open at 2am? If not, bring milk from your flat.)
John. John. John. John. John. John. John.
Right. That's it. I'm phoning the police.
John cringed and ran a hand over his tired face. So much for a night of continuous sleep! He should have known it was too much to have hoped for. The phone began to ring again, and John heard Sarah throw her head down heavily onto the bed, and growl as she pinned a pillow over her ears. John took a deep breath as he accepted the call.
"I could be dead, I hope you know," came the voice from the other end of the line. John gritted his teeth together.
"Well, clearly you aren't."
"Well deduced Doctor."
"You're not drunk are you?"
"No... Why? Are you?"
"No. Sherlock, what's the problem? It's 2:15 in the morning and we were asleep."
"I need your help, John. I think I might have broken the house." There was a large thump, and John had the strongest urge to ask Sherlock Holmes if he'd just fallen off his chair. He refrained.
"John, I need help. I've phoned the police but they said I was wasting their time. How rude! After all I've done for...Oh, hell! John, help!"
There came a scuffling noise, followed by a loud metallic bang.
"Sherlock? Sherlock!" The line was dead. John sat on the edge of the bed, staring down at his phone.
"I have to go."
"No, John!" She sat up suddenly in bed, and although the room was dark, he could make out the outline of her face. "He's a grown man. If he's lonely, that's his problem. If he's burnt off his eyebrows, again, that's his problem. It's 2:20am. Come back to bed."
John bit his lip and cringed. Slowly, he rose from the bed and began to fumble for his clothes.
"I can't. I'm sorry. It's just this once." He knew she didn't believe him. He didn't believe himself. He gave her a kiss on the forehead and headed for the door.
The front door of 221b Baker Street was wrenched open by a fraught Sherlock Holmes. John noticed that the man was dressed, so he must have left the house at some point between John leaving at 1pm the afternoon before, and now, at 2:45am.
"Urgency!" he greeted in irritation, before turning and running back up the stairs. John shut the door behind him and followed. He heard various mumblings on the way up the 17 steps towards the flat which included: "Kitchen...Bored...Accident...Did you bring the milk?"
As John took a step onto the landing carpet, he heard it squelch under foot. He looked down and saw that the carpet was drenched. Sherlock had waded his way into the kitchen and sat himself on the kitchen table, his legs dangling like a child on a garden wall. He raised his shoulders with a what-can-you-do? expression, and blinked at John. John blinked back. The kitchen floor was sodden with water.
"What the hell have you done?" John splashed his way into the room.
"It wasn't me." Sherlock protested indignantly. "It was that thing over there." He pointed with a shaking finger towards the corner of the room where the washing machine stood proudly spewing water and soap suds. John fought back a cry of despair. He moved quickly and switched the machine off at the mains, then headed to the pantry and grabbed the mop. Sherlock studied him closely.
"It's called a mop," John snapped angrily.
"Yes, I know! Rude!"
"Don't just sit there, go and get some towels!"
Sherlock jumped from the table with a splash and headed down the corridor towards the bathroom. John muttered under his breath as he began to soak up the water. He prayed that the water hadn't seeped downstairs into Mrs Hudson's rooms. John hated himself for feeling like this was somehow his fault. Sherlock re-entered the room looking proud of himself for finding the towels. They were snatched from him and John began to splay them around the room. He returned to the mop and began to move it around vigorously.
"I can't believe...in all of your life...you have never used a washing machine!" He stole a glance inside the machine that was oozing soap around the seal. "There's NOTHING IN IT!"
"Wrong, John!" Sherlock shouted back defensively. "There is a tea towel inside!"
John stopped. He almost laughed. A crazy, deranged, sleep-deprived laugh.
"Why the hell have you washed one tea towel?"
Sherlock scoffed at John and kicked a towel around with his toe.
"Because...I was going to do the washing up. And it was dirty." He folded his arms over his chest defiantly. John's eyes widened in anger and he grabbed a drawer handle, wrenching it open with more force than was necessary. In it, neatly folded, was a pile of half a dozen clean tea towels. Sherlock's face fell.
John grabbed the detergent bottle and gave it a shake. He frowned.
"This was a new bottle. Please tell me you didn't put in the whole bottle."
"That's what it says there." Sherlock pointed at it with a finger. "That diagram. One bottle."
"That's a cap, Sherlock. 'One cap full'. Jesus Christ!"
John threw the empty bottle on the sideboard and ran his hands through his hair. He was angry; angry at himself for leaving this clearly incapable man to fend for himself. But mainly angry at Sherlock, as John knew deep inside that he had done this on purpose just to prove a point. He took a deep breath and concentrated on drying the floor, all the while being watched by the silent figure in the corner. Sherlock was feeling sorry for himself, John knew, but he wasn't going to cave. He wasn't.
"If this...has seeped...downstairs...you're in...big trouble!" John huffed as he mopped. Sherlock's face fell. It hadn't occurred to him. Weren't ceilings supposed to be waterproof?
Sherlock remained cross-legged on the kitchen table, his island in the storm, while John finished drying the floor. Once it was as dry as he could make it, John wrenched open the windows letting the cold night air in. He then stood with his hands on his hips glaring at Sherlock. Sherlock gave his best apologetic smile.
John let out a strangled cry of exasperation before storming out the room. Sherlock frowned. Was that a no? He jumped off the table and slipped on the floor as he went after John.
"Ok, so I'll admit, not one of my greatest experiments, but it's sorted now. No harm done."
"No harm done?" John turned to glare at him. "Sherlock it's 3am. I've had to leave my girlfriend, who is probably not speaking to me anymore thank you very much, to come all the way across London because you thought you'd put the washing machine on in the middle of the night for the very first time in your life! What is wrong with you?"
John took a deep breath and studied Sherlock's face. He saw a mixture of indignation, indifference and, what was that? Hurt? Had John upset him?
"I was just trying to show you that I can do this on my own. I don't need your patronising ready meals and taxi money. Just because I don't do these things don't mean that I can't. Or that I shouldn't." He was looking deflated as he played with his cuff. "We were a team John. And you've ditched me. It's just mean. Why would you do that?"
John blinked at him.
"Because...I love Sarah," he told him. Sherlock's bottom lip stuck out sullenly like a toddler.
"I thought you loved me," he mumbled. John laughed loudly.
"I do. Of course I do. But in a different way to Sarah. A very different way!" he stressed. "Look, normal people – dull, ordinary people – have more than one person in their lives. And although you mock it, the reason it happens is because it works. Just because I don't live here anymore doesn't mean we aren't friends anymore."
Sherlock frowned. That's not what this was about, was it? This was about who would clean the microwave now that John was gone, or who would turn the grill off when it had been left on by mistake. It wasn't about friendship. That was so...pedestrian. Sherlock swallowed hard.
"Sherlock, I've had Sarah in my life for a long time now, but if we ever had a falling out, as much as you'd hate it, it'd be you I'd come to."
Sherlock thought on this.
"So when you break up," he ventured, "I'll be the one you move back in with?"
"If we ever broke up, I might move back here. Maybe." John reworded and Sherlock seemed pleased enough. "Do you want to hug it out?"
"No," Sherlock stated flatly.
"Tough." John pulled him in and gave him a quick pat on the back. Suddenly he frowned, and held Sherlock at arm's length. He moved closer to Sherlock and Sherlock leaned away, in a comical tug-of-war movement. John sniffed deeply and frowned.
"No," came the too-quick response. John suddenly patted his way down Sherlock's body. Sherlock wrestled him impatiently.
"Stop! Stop that! John get off me!" They broke apart, Sherlock poised ready to deflect another frisking. John eyed Sherlock warily, and began to take a couple of small steps towards the living room. Sherlock copied him, his eyes never breaking from his former flatmate. John dashed suddenly, and Sherlock gave a cry as his friend went marching into the living room and headed for the violin case.
"Don't!" Sherlock exclaimed but it was too late. John had opened the lid and found a packet of opened cigarettes nesting in the soft lining of the case. He snatched them up and put them in his pocket, hoping his face was conveying disappointment. In truth, John really wanted to laugh. Sherlock stood there awkwardly.
"Right...yes...it's probably for the best if you take those away," Sherlock admitted in a low voice. John moved to him and stood with his palm out expectantly. "What?"
"And the rest, Sherlock."
The taller man huffed and headed to his desk. He bent and retrieved a slipper from the floor, and pulled an unopened pack from inside the toe. He handed over the pack reluctantly.
"You're breaking my heart, John."
"I'm a good friend," John replied.
Sherlock made his way to the sofa and sat down, hugging his knees to his body. He'd been defeated. It was no fun.
"You can leave now."
"I intend to. Good night Sherlock. I'll call you later," John said as he made his way sleepily to the door. "Be good."
"I'm always good, John."