Take a deep breath
And hold on
And don’t let the humans get you down
A long time ago now, John came home to find Sherlock perched on the edge of the chair and a bird perched on the edge of the table.
John didn’t miss a beat.
“Experiment?” He hung up his coat, blew on his chilled hands.
“Ah. Dinner, then?”
“Sherlock?” John approached cautiously. The bird — a pigeon — seemed quite unperturbed overall. “Where did this come from?”
There was a long silence.
Finally: “I don’t know.”
John frowned. “What do you mean?”
“This is not my doing.”
“It’s…” John looked around. “How did it get in here, then?”
Sherlock kept staring at the pigeon.
“This is bad.”
Sherlock jutted his chin in the bird’s direction. “Bird. In a house.”
“Well…it’s a nuisance, I agree, and very weird,” said John, “but I’ll get rid of it. Have we got…a net? You must have a net, somewhere.”
Sherlock shook his head. “It’s not that, John. A bird in a house. Trapped. It’s…very bad.”
“Well, bad for the bird, definitely.” John looked around. “I mean, there must be a window open somewhere, broken screen, who knows? Did you put a hole through your bedroom wall this afternoon by any chance?”
Sherlock slapped his hands down on his knees. “John. Do you not understand what this means? Bird. House. It’s an omen, a harbinger of death.”
They stared at one another. The pigeon made a small hop. John pursed his mouth.
Sherlock waved his arms in the air. “Yours! Mrs. Hudson’s! Lestrade’s! Any poor soul unlucky enough to be lured into this pit!”
John bit his lip. “You’re mad.”
Sherlock sighed and closed his eyes, weary. John tried not to smile. It was a losing battle. He tried harder because Sherlock seemed very serious about this bird business. John cleared his throat.
“You don’t mean…are you telling me you’re…”
“What?” Sherlock said sharply.
Sherlock stared at him for so long it was unnerving. The bird fluttered its wings and made a small, soft coo. Sherlock twitched.
“It’s not superstitious if it’s true.”
Of course, the bird business happened before John left to do things like date and get engaged and have carnal relations with a member of the opposite sex which evidently required leaving to accomplish properly, so what was the point of remembering it now? Oh yes. Apparently, lying in a pool of one’s blood on the floor of one’s flat tended to play havoc with one’s mind and memories and sensible, rational thoughts as one’s heart pushed and pumped and propelled one’s body closer and closer to one’s inglorious demise.
It was the damn bloody case with the onion skins and the missing dog collar and the shoe polish and it was all good, it was bloody brilliant until it all went pear shaped somehow because the wife — how could he have overlooked the wife! — was hell bent on revenge when Sherlock revealed the fact that the cousin had forged the signature on the will and the family fortune was, after all, going to great-grandmother Alice’s cat and Sherlock was quite (rightly) pleased with himself but because he was Alone with no John to remind him that others were obviously not pleased at all about the turn of events, he waltzed in the flat with nary a care in the world—
(we’re all mad here, we’re all mad here)
—and opened the door to the flat, flushed with the thrill of success and there was a figure in the room and for just a moment, the merest of moments, his brain flashed JOHN JOHN JOHN JOHN HAS COME BACK but it turned out the flash was only the silver glint of a knife blade moving with fascinating dexterity and speed for such a small woman with small hands but such a hugely furious face
(we’re all mad off my game I’m off my game why am I off my game oh that’s right JOHN)
—and before he realized what was happening
(she’s upset about the cat the damn cat Eloise is getting all the money why didn’t I see where are my eyes oh that’s right fucking JOHN)
—and there was a knife flashing in and out of his chest
—and a flash of shock
—and a hiss of fury
—and the door slamming and the floor rising up to meet him and then
(here here here)
About the bird, he knew it was true, despite John’s mockery, because it had happened before when he was five and the crow flew in the back door because Mycroft left it open and blamed it on Sherlock because he blamed everything on Sherlock, and the huge (to Sherlock) feathered beast squawked and flapped and beat around the house while the (Hysterical) Nanny cried “Bird in the house! Death to follow!” until someone (Sensible) Mummy opened the front door and shooed it out.
And a week later Grandmother died. While visiting. In the house. Nanny didn’t seem quite so Hysterical after that.
Even in his room with the door shut and his arms flung over his head he could hear John wrestle with the bird, could hear the frenzied flapping of wings and John’s muffled curses, the bangs and thuds and scrapes and crashes until finally everything went eerily still.
The door banged open.
“Damn bloody bird,” John yelled. “The window is wide open. Freedom is right there. Right there! It’s as if it wants me to kill it.”
Omens and more omens, thought Sherlock.
It was very dull in the flat after John left to have lots of sex and go on adventures without him. And oddly empty, even though John himself was small and took up a rather small amount of space. And it was still. And quiet, even though Sherlock liked it quiet, most of the time. Sometimes it was so quiet, though, that Sherlock was forced to make noise, such as dropping books or kicking coffee tables or smashing glass bowls against walls.
He was alone, but not, god forbid, lonely. He detested the word. What a useless, stupid, useless, annoying, useless human sentiment.
So, he was not lonely as he slept alone and showered alone and ate alone and walked alone and talked to the skull and stared at faces on the street as they passed, willing them to look at him, but few did and fewer still spoke to him because perhaps he didn’t even exist at all. Perhaps it was only John who had existed, John whose very corporeal being kept Sherlock tethered to this wretched, violent, horrible, beautifully awful world. But now John had left.
It had been good while it lasted.
So very good.
“Bird’s gone,” John had said. He was still out of breath. “Took care of it.”
The flat was a mess.
Sherlock said, “I can see that.”
John brushed his hands briskly. “So, it’s all fine now.”
“The situation. The—” John waggled his fingers in a most condescending manner — “omen.”
Sherlock just looked at him. Was the man daft?
“It doesn’t matter, John.” He spoke slowly because John was staggeringly slow today. “Clearly you don’t understand. It was in here. Simply shoving it merrily back outside doesn’t change that fact.”
“You’re welcome.” John sighed, trying not to roll his eyes. “And, you’re mad, you know.”
Yes, I know, thought Sherlock, despondent. We’re all mad, here.
There were approximately 11.2 pints of blood in the adult human male’s body, but Sherlock was not ready to consider much more about blood yet, including how much was still inside his body versus how much he’d already lost and how much he would continue to lose if he didn’t get up soon and get himself to hospital.
But, he didn’t seem able to move at all. So, he thought, instead, which was much less taxing, at least for now. And pleasant, if he thought about appropriate subjects such as
Making breakfast and reading the paper
Ordering him to clean up the mess again again
Running behind him just behind him ready to do battle with him
With Mary and beside Mary and inside Mary and
Sherlock closed his eyes.
Maybe dying wasn’t the worst thing after all.
Dating: What an antiquated, useless, tedious societal ritual. He would never understand its purpose.
But John did, clearly, and not only that, he enjoyed it. Oh, Mary was fine, Sherlock supposed. She was pleasant enough and not completely irritating, but beyond that the entire practice befuddled him. Couldn’t they just watch telly in the flat? All of them? Together? Apparently not. No, it was just the two of them, John and Mary, and movies and dinner and walks and outings here and there that Sherlock was absolutely not interested in hearing about, despite Mary’s desire to somehow include him in their mutual, eternal Wellspring of Joy.
It began slowly, he supposed, as such things do, the John-shaped absences here and there, some evenings, occasional weekends. Then the absences and silences grew longer and bigger and more frequent until finally, he just wasn’t there at all.
How fascinating to attempt access to the Mind Palace during such a traumatic occasion. He couldn’t wait to tell John about it if he ever saw him again, in the flesh.
Mycroft trying to drown him in the pond behind their house when he was seven
Drinking Father’s good Whiskey after his parents had gone out for the evening and getting violently ill on the new hall carpet and Mycroft helping him clean it up
Overdosing on cocaine when he was 23 and Mycroft carting him off to rehab again
dear lord was his life flashing before his eyes
How incredibly boring.
He would have laughed if he wasn’t slowly drowning in his own blood
There. That was better.
The time he tried to kiss him
The time he almost succeeded
The time he tried to punch him
And the time he very much succeeded
And John and John and John and
he seemed to have very few memories stored away that did not include John in some starring role. How very fascinating.
He couldn’t wait to tell him.
The annual risk of a person being severely injured by a re-entering piece of space debris is about 1 in 100 billion. In the course of a 75-year lifetime, the odds of getting injured by space junk is a little less than 1 in one billion. By comparison, the annual risk that a person is struck by lightning is about 60,000 times higher, and the risk of a serious injury from a motor vehicle accident is about 27 million times higher than the risk associated with re-entry events.
Sherlock pondered this. He deduced that being struck by a falling bit of satellite would be a noble and wondrous way to die, far superior to lying in a pool of his own blood with a knife wound in his chest and a half-finished experiment on the kitchen table.
He tried to sit up and couldn’t.
Tried to lift his head, his arm, his hand his toe nothing nothing nothing.
He was going to perish on the floor of the flat.
It was madness, all of it. It couldn’t end like this.
And oh dear god not that memory, the one where
“I ran all the way,” John said. He was panting, so it must have been true. “Where are we going?”
“You’re grinning like a Cheshire Cat. It must be good.” John sucked in a breath. “It better be good you arse because I lied to Mary. Got out of a bloody double date with Frank and Tamara and said Mrs. Hudson needed help moving a new couch in.”
“At 8 p.m.?”
“I didn’t say I’m a good liar, Sherlock.”
“Right. And off we go!”
And it was good until John was on the pavement shot in the side — well barely shot, more of a graze, really, if they were getting technical — and sirens wailing in the dark and John muttering about the idiocy of it all and what was he going to tell Mary—
Hospitals all smell the same and the lights hurt your eyes all the same but John was crying and Sherlock was shocked, not because John had been hurt, but because although he knew John cried, people did, after all, he’d never seen John cry right in front of him and it was alarming, but also extremely fascinating.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
Sherlock tilted his head, trying to decipher it all.
“I can’t stay away from you. I keep trying. God knows I try. I stay busy, I take on more clients than I can manage, really. I’ve started reading novels, but I can’t concentrate. I can’t write. Mary has signed us up for a bowling league for god’s sakes. And still. I can’t. I dream about you. I hear your voice — your bloody stupid, enticing, beautiful voice — when I’m asleep when I’m working when I’m—” he stopped.
“Nothing.” He hitched a breath. “It’s just. Even though I know. I know—”
“You know what.”
“I’m going to get hurt. Every time. Every single bloody time.”
“I don’t see—”
“Of course you don’t see! I’m engaged Sherlock. I’m engaged and not to you. I shouldn’t. I can’t. I keep coming back and I keep getting hurt over and over and over and over and I can’t. Not anymore.”
The humming of the overhead lights filled the space between them.
“For no one else has ever sailed past this place in his black ship until he has listened to the honey-sweet voice that issues from our lips.”
John balled the sheets in his fists. “What are you talking about? Are you even listening to me?”
Sherlock was most definitely listening and he was enthralled because he was John’s siren. It was the most beautiful thing anyone had ever said to him.
“What am I going to tell her?”
For a moment Sherlock forgot. “Tell who?”
“I lied to her, Sherlock. I lied. For you. And now.”
“I certainly didn’t ask you to lie.”
“No. I know. I know. I know. But I. What am I going to say.”
“That you can’t stay away from me.”
That sentence hung heavy in the antiseptic air.
“Do you have any idea how that sounds?”
Yes. Yes yes yes.
And here comes Mary down the hallway, running, out of breath, her face squashed up in anger and hurt and worry. Her mouth was moving before she even got close to him.
“Last month it was a concussion. This time a shooting.” Mary looked at him. “We both love you, Sherlock. But.” She shook her head.
“Are you telling me to stay away from him?”
“I’m telling you.” She caught her lower lip between her teeth. “I’m telling you I can’t lose him.”
I can’t either.
Borborygmus, he thought, feeling the wetness below him, around him, both seeping in and seeping out of him all at once. A rumbling or gurgling sound caused by the movement of gas in the intestines.
Saturday mail delivery in Canada was eliminated by Canada Post on February 1, 1969.
There was a place in Florida called Pirates Cove and someday he would visit it and John would come too.
The length of a Plutonian year is 248 of our years. I must be on Pluto, then, he thought, because this day was neverending. Then he thought: See, John? See? The solar system.
I’m dying and the bloody, fucking solar system.
It was time to consider the blood.
Class I Hemorrhage involves up to 15 percent of blood volume. There is typically no change in vital signs and fluid resuscitation is not usually necessary.
Class II Hemorrhage involves 15 to 30 percent of total blood volume. Skin may start to look pale and be cool to the touch. The patient may exhibit slight changes in behavior. Volume resuscitation with crystalloids is all that is typically required. Blood transfusion is not typically required.
Class III Hemorrhage involves loss of 30 to 40 percent of circulating blood volume. The patient’s blood pressure drops and the heart rate increases, peripheral hypoperfusion (shock) and the mental status worsens. Fluid resuscitation with crystalloid and blood transfusion are usually necessary.
Class IV Hemorrhage involves loss of more than 40 percent of circulating blood volume. The limit of the body’s compensation is reached and aggressive resuscitation is required to prevent death.
Fascinating as it all was, he was definitely hovering
somewhere between 30 and 40 percent and
clearly, he’d been
wrong after all. The bird hadn’t been
meant for John or Lestrade or Mrs. Hudson. It had come for
After the bird business, but before John left, Sherlock sat the breakfast table and attempted mental telepathy.
Don’t marry her, he thought.
John looked at him. “What?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“I could have sworn you did.”
“What did you hear, exactly?”
John shook his head, went back to his paper.
Stay here, with me, forever. Never leave me because I might die if you do.
John looked at him.
I love you, desperately.
“Sherlock. Your lips are moving but I can’t hear you. What are you trying to say?”
“I’ve always wanted to climb Annapurna,” he blurted.
John laughed, loud. “You? With the cold and the ice and snow? And no internet? You’re mad.” He folded his newspaper and looked at Sherlock in all seriousness. “You wouldn’t last a day, and I wouldn’t let you even try. Too bloody dangerous. Wouldn’t want to lose you up there.” He smiled. “Mostly because there’s no way in hell I’d go up there to fetch you.”
Finally, all he could hear clearly was the fizzling, pumping, dragging pound of his traitorous heart tossing his life’s blood onto the floor. Would it eventually leak through the ceiling into Mrs. Hudson’s room below? How gruesome but oh what he’d give to see her face when that happened. And then, slowly, he couldn’t even hear that anymore because there was only buzzing. A gentle, sweetly swelling buzz, as if a thousand, no a million bees were hovering just around his head and
a door opening! And a bright light, brighter than the sun! And voices! Well, one voice, but the most important voice in the world. John’s voice! And John’s face! Oh dear. Was John dead, too? No matter. There was nothing Sherlock could do about it either way, now, because there was no satellite and no lightning and no car crash. Just a buzzing and a swelling and a floating and a falling and John.
He struggled to sit. John (John! John’s hands!) held him in place.
“How much blood—”
“You lost a lot, Sherlock. About 30 percent. Lie back.”
“Hah! I knew it!”
“Stop moving around—”
“Tell me — did the blood—”
“You’re fine, Sherlock. Well, you will be—”
“No, no.” Stupid, stupid.
“Would you lie still? You’re pulling all your tubes—”
“The blood. Did it leak into Mrs. Hudson’s apartment.”
“We won’t…worry about that right now.”
“It did indeed,” Mycroft said loudly from across the room. He sounded appalled. And more than a little disgusted. Really, Sherlock. Bleeding through the floor. “But, John found you before it found her.”
John shrugged, one shoulder. He wasn’t looking at Sherlock quite. “We had a lunch date. You missed it. Entirely. Good reason, it turned out.”
John shushed him. “You’ve simply forgotten. Rest now. You need to rest. We’ll talk later.”
Later, John did come back, because that was what John did now, apparently. He not only left, but he came back, too. Which was a new, good development.
Sherlock said immediately, “We didn’t have a lunch date, or any other sort of date. You’ve barely spoken to me in weeks.”
John didn’t argue. He sat in the chair beside Sherlock’s bed. He pursed his lips, folded his hands in his lap.
John was very pale and his hands were trembling, which is why he was holding them so tightly in his lap, Sherlock thought. John’s eyelashes were also wet. John was upset. He wasn’t crying, but he had been, before he came in the room. John swallowed his saliva and it went down with a click and a bump, the thyroid cartilage surrounding his larynx jumping up and down with the effort.
“Lestrade picked up Katherine Keeler, by the way, in case you were wondering.”
“Your assailant? The one who stabbed you? Nearly killed you?”
“Ah.” Sherlock waved an impatient hand. It all seemed inconsequential now. “Why did you come to the flat?”
John sighed. “Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters!”
“Because I knew.”
“Sometimes people just know.”
“When bad things are happening to the people they care most about.”
John sighed heavily. “Bird in the house,” he said, as if that said everything.
“Yes,” Sherlock said. “Though, I rather hoped it would be for Mycroft.”
John rose slightly from his chair and leaned down suddenly, quickly, as if wanting to complete the movement before he changed his mind and pressed his lips to Sherlock’s mouth, slightly off centre, but mostly full on the lips. John’s lips were dry and smooth and his skin smelled like salt. Sherlock kept his eyes open and saw everything.
“Well,” John said, sitting back down and looking away. “Anyway. Dangerous work that we do.”
“Clearly, you need supervision. A bodyguard.”
“Clearly,” Sherlock said.
“And as I’m the only one qualified for the job, what with my experience. And training. And background.” He shrugged.
“Of course, I’d need to be available to you. My services, I mean. Twenty-four hours a day. Which would be easier if I moved back.”
“To the flat.”
John coughed. “Yes.”
Sherlock smiled. “But that would be utterly mad.”
John smiled back. “Wouldn’t it just?”
Song title and lyrics by Chip Taylor