221B Baker Street

London, England

October 1891

Through a single window the weak light of a lamp could be seen from the rainy street corner. Pulling his coat collar closer around his ears, Dr. John Watson hurried to the doorstep. It wasn't odd for Holmes to send for him in the middle of the night, but for once it had sounded like more than just cocaine ramblings or the need for an audience for his late-night violin performances.

They had just come off a case, jokingly named "The Red-Headed League" in Watson's files, in which they halted the progress of a few potential basement bank-robbers. Sherlock was always at his worst right after a case.

Mrs. Hudson flung open the door in a fury. "I can't do a thing with him, Doctor! It's like he's gone mad!"

"More than usual?" Dr. Watson bounded up the stairs, not bothering to remove his dripping wet coat or hat. The door was locked, and a favorite Italian concerto of Sherlock's was playing loudly on the phonograph. Watson pounded on the door and heard his old friend's voice shout over the music.

"I'm not here!" Watson continued knocking until he heard Holmes scrambling across the floor. "I said, tell them I'm not here Mrs. Hudson! And if it's the Scotland Yard, tell them I'll be indisposed for the rest of the—"

The door opened a crack and the manic, half-lidded eyes of his friend darted over Watson's unamused face. "Oh, Watson. I didn't expect you here at this time of night." He rushed Watson in, locking the door quickly behind them.

"What do you mean you didn't expect me? You sent that street urchin all the way to Queen Street in the pouring rain to fetch me. I had to set the poor child to bed rest in my own home before I came. Would you mind not using orphans to do your errands?"

"It's not like he was doing anything. Besides, I knew you're generosity would get the better of you, Doctor."

Watson sighed. The room was in shambles. Piles of papers strewn about, tobacco scattered across the floor like rotten confetti, and remnants of strange experiments and odd metal contraptions pouring out from behind the drapery and dark corners. Holmes pulled a chair up to the fireplace and removed a Persian slipper from the mantle.

Taking his pipe from his pocket and packing it with tobacco from the toe of the slipper, he asked Watson for a match. Leaning over to light his pipe, Watson noticed the holes in the wooden walls.

"Are these bullet holes, Holmes?"

"Ah yes. Target practice."

"But there's no target."

"Well, I suspect I was the target then."

Dashing to the window, Watson looked out and saw no one. "Did someone try to kill you?" It seemed as though a large gloved hand was clamped around Watson's throat.

"Earlier tonight. A man with a beard. Said he wanted vengeance for his brother, or something. Want anything to drink?" Sherlock puffed away at his pipe, staring into the fire. His dark hair stuck out in all directions, obviously unbrushed, his vest was missing a few buttons, his shirt was stained and wrinkled and his collar was bent. His unshaven chin stuck out from his slumped form as though he were thinking very seriously about something. Watson smelled alcohol on his clothes and wondered if that were the only intoxicating substance he'd had that day.

"No, I don't want anything to drink. I'm a bit more worried about the attempted murder you didn't inform me of." Watson took a long breath, trying not to lose his temper and turned off the phonograph. "We ought to go to the police about this, Sherlock."

"And scare Mrs. Hudson half to death? How inconsiderate of you, Watson. You know how she hates a ruckus." He picked up his violin and began to play in place of the missing music. "Besides, he missed. No crime to report."

"How about forced entry? Attempted harm?"

"I invited him in."

"So you knew him."

"Never seen him in my life."

"Then you thought he had a case for you?"

"I don't take cases from the police."

Watson was losing his patience. These elusive games Holmes played were getting old.

"Are you saying that the one who tried to kill you was an officer?"

"A young constable, to be precise."

"Will you please just tell me what happened, Holmes?" Watson's voice nearly cracked as he tore the violin from Sherlock's hands.

"A constable of the law came into my room and I offered him tea and he pulled a gun on me. And, unfortunately for him, I'm the quicker shot." He rolled his neck on his shoulders and rubbed them as though remembering were a straining task.

"A quicker shot? Holmes, does that mean you—"

"Killed an officer of the law? Yes." He stood up and stretched with a yawn. "Now Watson, if you don't mind I'm going to retire for the night. It's been a busy day."

"Sherlock, I'm not going anywhere until I figure out what's going on here!"

"We could be here all night."

"If you killed him, where's the body?"

"In the furnace. Mrs. Hudson thinks I butchered a hog. She was quite upset when she saw the mess."

"Dammit, Holmes! The police will come looking for him."

"And they'll ask me to solve the mystery of the missing constable. Case closed."

"You know that Lestrade has been gunning for you lately. This is just what we need: a dead constable on our hands!"

"In our furnace. And did you say 'We'?" Sherlock's eyes sparkled mischievously as he took a few steps closer to Watson.

"I meant you. This…this has nothing to do with me. Goodnight." Watson fixed his hat on his head and started for the door. Holmes cut him off, barricading the doorway with his smaller frame.

"Mrs. Hudson threatened to throw me out if I don't behave. If only I had someone here with me, to keep me in line…"

"I don't blame her."

"I'll be reduced to a beggar. Ragged! Living on the streets!" Sherlock's voice grew loud, his eyes fluttered rapidly back and forth looking for an answer.

"We can only hope that a lazy detective won't use you for an errand boy then. So unless you have something more to tell me, I must be going now." Watson muscled his way past Holmes and began walking brusquely down the stairs to the door.

"I'll never survive the winter!" Sherlock shouted after him, but by now, Watson had caught on. Holmes was pulling another stunt to convince him to come back and live with him on Baker Street. Just as he was almost out the door, Sherlock caved.

"Fine! I didn't call you over because of the constable."

Once back in the study, Watson took off his coat and hat and sat in front of the fire. Holmes was fidgety, which was normal following a finished case, but this fidgeting was more nervousness than pent up energy.

"You didn't really kill a police officer, did you?"

Sherlock didn't sit down, choosing instead to pace back and forth in front of the fire. "Oh no, I killed him all right. A clean shot too, right to the temple." He mimicked shooting a pistol. Watson sighed at this showmanship. "I knew he was going to pull a gun when he walked in, so I was ready. You see, he had this peculiar—"

"Get on with it, Holmes."

Slumping out of his shooting posture, Sherlock cleared his throat at his friend's rude interruption and continued his story. "But as he pulled the trigger on me (and I used my lightning-fast reflexes to dodge the bullets) a curious thought crossed my mind."

"That's why you called me here? A curious thought?" Watson huffed in disapproval and stood to leave.

"Don't you at least want to know what it was?"

"No, I think I've heard enough. Goodnight."

"I thought, if only I had someone here with me. Someone on whom I could…thoroughly rely…" Watson looked back at Sherlock, whose face held a slightly sad note. "And now that there's nothing to keep us apart, I thought—"

With a surge of anger, Watson quickly cornered Holmes, his larger body looming over him. "You mean now that Mary is dead? Why don't you just say it, Sherlock. You're glad she's gone." The former military man's muscles rippled with the threat of violence. Holmes didn't look the least bit flustered.

"I just think it would be a good business move to return, is all." The words sounded cold to Watson's delicate ears, devoid of sympathy.

"We don't work together anymore," spat Watson, shoving himself away from Holmes' cool and infuriating façade.

"But you miss it. The thrill, the excitement, the unknown…the way things were before."

"You think I miss living with you? That I miss the late night violin solos, the constant clutter, the addictions? Coming home to weird smells and smoke clouds and you saying, 'oh it's nothing,'! The vanity, the arrogance, not to mention the awful things to did to my dog!"

"It wasn't all that bad…I let you borrow my cravat for formal dinners once and a while, didn't I?"

"Holmes, you're not getting it. I've told you a hundred times—I'm not coming back! It's over between us. We're friendly acquaintances, nothing more. And I expect you to act accordingly! I won't be dragged along on your little escapades anymore. I have a job and a life now. Even without Mary." Watson stared at Holmes with a downturned lip and straightened his necktie. As he was leaving, he said, "You didn't kill anyone, did you?"

"Only a hog…" Holmes sighed, pouting his lips like a child. "See you for dinner tomorrow?"

The answer "no" called back to him as Watson hurried home.

... ... ...

Sherlock lay in bed a long time that night, formulating in his head a million different ways to get John to return. He could severely injure himself, and have the good doctor nurse him back to health, thereby giving him time to relive their days together and recognize that he needed Holmes as much as Holmes needed him.

Or he could weave a false case with Watson himself as the criminal, forcing him to get involved in clearing his own name. Perhaps if he 'accidentally' drugged him? As the night wore thin, Sherlock asked himself that greatest of questions, one that even he could never truly answer:

Why? Why do I go to such lengths to have him by my side? I've never needed anyone before. When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. So it stands to reason that, since I am well enough on my own as a detective, I need from him something other than his services as my assistant. But what? That, I cannot fathom.

And he's right…I was glad when Mary died. I didn't think I had the passion necessary to hate until I met her. How strange. She wasn't an unpleasant woman. On the contrary, she was kind, generous, witty, beautiful: everything Watson could want in a mate. But those qualities only made me resent her more when I saw her standing at John's side. He should be standing at my side—my right-hand man, my partner, my only friend. Jealousy? How very unlike me. What have I, the great Sherlock Holmes, to be jealous of?

Hours of ideas later, Holmes fell asleep thinking only of the pink bow of his friend's frown.