A/N: Due to unexpected complications (aka, my computer crashed), this took longer than I expected to update. And I realize that this section is about half the size of the last one, but there is still a part III to come (I could hardly leave it as incomplete as it is), so fret not. Please bear with me and take this as a small tidbit until the last section comes in. Thank you.
It had been weeks: two, three, who could say, he was losing count. The general ebb and flow of time outside the realm of unsolved casework and scientific experimentation was often lost on him. He would nestle in an armchair for a leisurely smoke at dawn; and suddenly, it would be evening, the apartment still and noiseless, the daylight swept away under the heavy rug of night without him ever having gotten up out of the chair. In a gust of warm wind in the anacrusis of summer he would blink, and it would be winter, a sudden chill setting its teeth on his bones. Conceptual time eluded him in the same manner sound escaped the ears of a deaf man, only apparent through faint vibrations and the knowledge that somehow it was extant, that somewhere it was relevant to someone's life.
Having said as much, in all honesty, he actually was unable to conclude for certain that it had been weeks since The Argument in the Kitchen. It might have been months. It might have been seconds. His speculation that it had been weeks was only an assumption, based on one main variable, one disquieting factor:
The sheer, raging emptiness of apartment 21 B.
To the casual visitor (not that there were many of those) this state of agonizing vacuousness would not be overwhelmingly apparent. It wasn't as though the flat was lacking in physical matter: as it was, the normal messy conglomeration of miscellaneous items, accouterments, contraptions, and whathaveyoushad been replaced by an entirely new level of frightening disarray. In some rooms, there was barely floor space to stand, much less clear pathways by which to navigate without stepping on anything. But all this was the mess of one man alone; the emptiness prevailed in regards to another absentee party. So, perhaps it was not, effectually, emptiness.
Watsonlessness, he decided. He said it aloud to the audience of the flat, trying out his morbid neologism.
The word breathed like a disease.
And yes, it must have by now been weeks, he decided, sucking on his unlit pipe, scouring the contents of the dark room. It must have been weeks because, after The Argument in the Kitchen, Watson's personal affects had begun disappearing. It had begun with his professional appurtenances— medical books, medicine chest, pharmaceutical supplies, doctor's bag, crates of patient files— but the removal of those items had come as no surprise. John was setting up new offices elsewhere, and had told Holmes as much. Granted, though the disappearance of these had led to several tense conversations (well, more tense than usual; The Argument in the Kitchen had put a permanent strain on exchanges of any kind between them), they were not a true cause for fuss or alarm. It was expected. He was prepared.
He had not been prepared for hte sudden absence of Watson's grandfather clock in the main entry way. The ancient monstrosity had stood its solemn four feet from the door for as long as they had lived on Baker Street, a constant, grand (but in Holmes' opinion, essentially unremarkable) piece of furniture that had been witness to many a conversation and mad dash out the door over the years. Holmes had never had any real use for the thing, and it had been one of the few items to make the (rather short) list of "Belonging Solely To Dr. John Hamish Watson"; regardless, when he came back late from several bouts at the stockyards* one night and noticed that it was gone, the realization was instantaneous, swift, and sickening. And when Holmes had (tried to) casually mention it over breakfast, Watson had looked at him (with unnecessary acerbity) over the top of his morning paper and said simply, dismissively, "It's at Mary's."
The simply sentence hit him like a sledgehammer; but he refused to let it weave into his next innocently posed question: "How will you tell the time?"
"I have a pocket watch," Watson replied stiffly.
"The one I gave you for your birthday." He was not sure what had made him say that; it simply slipped from him. Across the table, Watson diverted his full attention to Holmes, looking at him strangely.
". . . Yes."
And Holmes, who repeatedly displayed his lack of knowledge and or regard for social norms, did not miss or fail to obey that tacit order to drop the matter. He simply grunted with expertly feigned indifference and went back to his biscuits.
Week one. That had been week one.
Several days later, they had been sitting once again in the kitchen for breakfast; and Holmes had been happy then, dandy and giddy because there they were for the first time in five days, sitting at their table in their cramped, dingy little kitchen with the steaming, scrumptious-looking promise of a real breakfast set before them, and no newspaper, no Mary to be spoken of or met. Just John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, sitting down to breakfast and what he could at least pretend was companionable silence.
He'd been so inherently giddy, so uncommonly excited that he was halfway through his third bite of sausage before it finally dawned on him that something was amiss.
He looked up from his unusually sizable breakfast just long enough to see Watson carefully set down his fork and reach for his cup of earl grey at the head of his plate—
Except that it was not Watson's cup. It was not his favorite navy blue mug with the gold trim, nor was it one of his alternative black ones (of which there were four). It was one of Mrs. Hudson's: plain, white, sterile-looking.
Again, that same sickening realization, accompanied this time by disbelieving dread: like a wave of nausea and bile, giving the succulent, half-masticated sausage in his mouth the flavor of acetic acid. And despite the fact that he ate not one more bite that morning or the rest of the day, despite that he tried to displace the taste with approximately 3 gallons of water, the taste lingered all day. Even in the evening, when his mouth was so numb with whiskey that his lolling tongue felt repulsive and foreign to him, the taste prevailed.
It was only when he gathered the liquor-lathered courage to actually scour the kitchen cupboards and drawers only to find them, as he'd dreaded, empty that he finally vomited.
And that had been week two.
After that, he'd lost all real track of the passing of days. His only indication of time elapsing was the dwindling amount of Watson in the apartment.
Until, one night, all of Watons's clothes finally vanished.
Until that night that John Watson did not come home.
He had waited, sat all night nearly buried in the cushions of his moth-eaten armchair, sucking aimlessly at this pipe much as he was doing now. For all he knew, he could have never gotten up out of his seat since then; he'd dozed a fair few times, enough to while away the majority of a day. The blinds were drawn tightly enough over the windows so as not to let a single dribble of sunlight touch the confines of his den. He could have been sitting here for months; he was certainly stiff enough.
But, by his judgement, it had only been weeks.