The drizzle had turned to heavy rain as Sherlock stood gracefully from a black cab and shut the door loudly behind him. He glanced up at the red brick building in front of him. Four windows across, six windows up. He smiled at the light which glowed out into the street.
Making his way up the concrete steps, he was pleased to pass a resident who held the outer door open for him in a nonchalant yet impatient manor. Sherlock gave a confident nod of thanks and entered into the warm, welcoming lobby of the apartment building. He headed for the stairs.
Number 17 greeted him in shiny silver numerals. He heard the muffled sound of a female voice, followed by a laugh. Sherlock gave a definite tap on the door with his knuckles. The laugh stopped suddenly and moments later the door was opened to reveal a startled Sarah Sawyer.
Sherlock took this as an invitation to enter and brushed passed her into the flat. She closed the door in a fluster and hurried after him into the living room where she found Sherlock staring intently down at her guest who stared back at him from the sofa.
"Wow, you really don't hang about do you Sarah? It's been, what, four hours?"
"Sarah, who's this?" asked the dark haired man, eyeing Sherlock in confusion.
"Ah, no one. May I have a word please, Sherlock? In private," she said through gritted teeth, dragging him into the next room and then glaring at him furiously.
"How dare you just barge in here!"
"How dare you break my best friend's heart!" he snapped back. To her credit, she appeared to look regretful at least. "You are a nasty woman. I don't like you. In fact I have never liked you. There, I said it. I only pretended to be nice for John's sake."
"That was you pretending to be nice? You need to work on your acting, Sherlock," Sarah scoffed. His face dropped at her clearly ridiculous statement. Sarah's pale cheeks were flushed in anger, though Sherlock was certain she'd had at least two glasses of wine. They glared at each other.
"Pack a bag," Sherlock demanded.
"What?" Sarah stammered, looking suddenly alarmed. It took most of Sherlock's efforts not to roll his eyes. Honestly, why were people such idiots sometimes?
"Not for you, for John. Pack a bag for John. As for the rest of his things you can pack them up too and he'll collect them while you're at work so he doesn't have remind himself of what a bitch looks like. Oh, and speaking of work, John will not be handing in his notice. He shouldn't have to. This is your doing. Instead, you'll make him redundant."
Sarah scoffed at this, and placed her hands on her hips. It was all becoming rather surreal.
"I can't do that Sherlock. I don't have the power to do that."
"Well, let me put it this way, if you don't make John redundant, then I will make you redundant and you will find it much harder than him to find work. Believe me when I say that I do have the power to do that."
Sarah gave a growl of irritation and stormed off towards the bedroom – the bedroom she shared with John only a few hours earlier – to pack a few things. Sherlock decided to take this opportunity to get to know John's successor. He wandered casually into the living room and sat himself down beside the puzzled man on the sofa.
"Hello," the man replied warily.
"Are you stupid?" Sherlock asked bluntly. "Look around you. Surely you've noticed that a man lives here? The most obvious clue being the Gilette razor in the bathroom," he paused suddenly and bellowed over his shoulder in the direction of the bedroom, "Gilette razor, Sarah!" He smiled in satisfaction and turned back to his conversation. "Do you have a best friend?"
"Uh...yes." The man swallowed loudly in apparent fear that this strange man was trying to befriend him.
"Good. Keep in touch with him, won't you. Don't let him fade away into the background, because in twelve to eighteen months you're going to need him. I just wanted to wish you luck."
Sherlock offered his hand and the man shook it in uncertainty. As Sarah carried a holdall into the living room, Sherlock rose from the sofa and crossed over to her.
"I hope you're pleased with yourself."
"Oh grow up, Sherlock. He'll get over it," she muttered to the floor.
"Yes, of course he will, obviously. That's not the point. He really loved you."
"But he always managed to love you that little bit more didn't he," Sarah shot back. Sherlock blinked at her. Was that true? Yes, he'd phoned John regularly when he'd first moved out, and always insisted that he accompany him on the particularly gory cases that might need a medical eye. He had taken some of John's time but not all of it. He was his friend after all. Maybe Sherlock had just been lonely. But he hadn't gone out of his way to ruin their relationship. Had he? He couldn't remember. It was all irrelevant now. Anyway, he'd got want he'd wanted, whether he'd set out to get it or not.
"That's very clever," Sherlock said as Sarah wrenched open the door, "Deflecting the blame like that. I'm sure it'll help you sleep tonight. If, of course, sleeping is what you have planned."
"Get out Sherlock," Sarah said wearily and he obeyed. His fun was over. Before she had chance to close the door, Sherlock lowered his voice and told her the words that he'd planned to say as he'd made his journey in the taxi, even though he didn't think she deserved to hear them.
"I feel sorry for you. Very soon you're going to look around and the loving, caring, funny man that was once by your side isn't going to be there anymore, and you're going to feel very alone and very stupid for not doing anything to prevent that. Trust me."
The door was slammed behind him. He gave a nod of achievement and headed back home.
When John returned from the shop, Sherlock was lying on the sofa in his dressing gown, typing on his phone. He didn't raise his eyes to acknowledge John, so John headed for the kitchen to pack the shopping away and put the kettle on.
"All sorted?" he asked as he headed for his armchair. Sherlock looked at him blankly. "The case...is it sorted?"
"Yes, yes...It's over," Sherlock said resolutely. John gave a nod and smiled at him. His eyes fell onto the holdall by the side of the sofa.
"Hey, is that...?" He crouched beside the sofa and wrenched open the zip. "Was Sarah here?"
"Yes," Sherlock lied bluntly to his phone. John looked at Sherlock for some desperate elaboration but it didn't come. Forcefully, he flung Sherlock's legs from the sofa and sat down heavily, refusing to break his gaze from Sherlock until he looked up from his phone.
"Well? What did she say?"
" 'Hello.' "
" 'Can you give this to John?' "
John sat back against the sofa and let out a long breath. He felt incredibly drained and emotionally exhausted by the day's events.
"Was that it?" he muttered quietly, more to himself than Sherlock. Sherlock gave a groan and threw his phone down. He scrambled up on the sofa so he could face John with a hard stare.
"John, what were you expecting? An apology? One of those obnoxious clichés? 'It's not you, it's me!' Well, maybe it wasn't her, maybe it was you. Do you really want to pull at that thread? Let it go. It's getting old."
John sniffed indignantly, though he was not surprised at Sherlock's lack of emotional support. He didn't think it was getting old. It had only been six hours. They'd been together for years and it was all over in a flash. It was so typical of Sherlock not to understand the pain of detachment. John scowled and then rose from the sofa towards the kettle.
"You're right. I'm back here now. It's time to move on."
"You should never have left in the first place," Sherlock muttered. John popped his head around the kitchen door.
"What was that?"
"I said 'You're welcome,'" Sherlock replied with a tight smile. John rolled his eyes.
Two coffees were placed onto the table and John huffed as he had to move Sherlock's legs yet again to sit down.
"So I suppose I should be planning my resignation letter. Do you think 'Dear Spiteful Whore' is an appropriate term of address?"
"It's a strong opening," Sherlock agreed. "I'd hold off writing anything yet though. Let's not talk about this anymore. I'm hungry." He grabbed his mobile and John sat listening to him order food for the both of them.
As they ate, Sherlock ventured a topic.
"I suppose you'll have more time on your hands now?"
"Until I can find a new job."
They ate in silence for a long moment until Sherlock wrenched his phone from his pocket, clicked open a photograph and slid it across the table. John picked up the phone, puzzled.
"What is...Urgh, God. Sherlock that's disgusting, did you have to show me that while I'm eating?"
"Sorry," Sherlock said with a grin. He clearly wasn't. "What do you reckon? Fancy going to the morgue tomorrow? New day, new flatmate, new case."
"Old flatmate. Actually I prefer 'returned' flatmate," John corrected. "Maybe. We'll see."
Sherlock was disappointed by John's unenthusiastic response.
"Oh...well, it's probably not your scene. The police found the body in connection with a drug's ring in Battersea. It might be a bit dangerous."
They stared at each other. Sherlock's tragic use of reverse psychology was evident to them both. John scoffed and shoved a mouthful of food into his mouth.
"You're a dick," he mumbled, mid-chew. Sherlock laughed loudly.
"So you'll come?"
John sighed in resignation.
"Oh, go on then. You might need my help."
Sherlock banged both palms on the table in celebration and grinned widely. He had won, and in more ways than one. John had found his way back to where he belonged.