In Sickness and In Health
Louise sighed again, suddenly feeling utterly mentally and physically exhausted. She had mostly gotten used to Sherlock's difficult personality and odd idiosyncrasies by now, but enough was enough! It seemed like ages since she first came to this world, but she still wasn't any closer to getting back home or at least finding a way to let her family know she was all right. She had enough stressing her out already without Sherlock trying to give the whole block secondhand smoke.
Maybe she should have taken John up on the invitation to go with him, after all, but she didn't want to impose on the old friend John was going to see, especially since Sarah was already going with him. It was nearly May, so they should be having a nice and sunny holiday in New Zealand, while she was stuck here in England, where the weather was always gloomy even on the best of days, compared to sunny Louisiana. She had figured the two of them might be able to have some alone time without her or Sherlock acting as a third wheel, but right now she was really starting to miss John. She could use his advice. As both a friend, and as a doctor.
'I don't know how much longer I can take this…' Louise thought, propping her heavy head up on one hand as she picked up the empty, orange Walgreen's pill bottle that used to contain the medicine she needed to help control her bipolar II. She needed a refill, bad. She had run out the day before John left for his trip, but she hadn't wanted to ruin his vacation by making him worry. After all, she had gotten new ID and fake background in the mail from Mycroft along with her first paycheck, so she figured that would be enough to be able to hire a professional shrink with…
Well, it turns out she thought wrong, because that sneaky umbrella-wielding penguin in a tweed suit had set it up—for only God knows why—so that in order for everything to actually get activated and start working for her, she would have to marry Sherlock. And, if she didn't, then she could kiss any chance of ever getting a visa or the UK's equivalent of a green card and whatever other paperwork she needed in order to be able to keep living here as a legal immigrant goodbye. He had at least given her time to think about it, but, all things considered, she wouldn't put it past him to have her deported if she declined.
I mean, sure she had started to develop a little crush on him (despite himself), and sure he was handsome, smart, and kind of sexy in that intellectual-badass way, especially with those beautiful, piercing, glasz eyes… but that didn't mean she was ready to make a serious lifetime commitment to the man! Louise had been brought up to be a good Catholic girl by her rather traditional parents, so she had been taught that the Sacrament of Marriage was not something you entered into lightly, because it was for life. It wasn't a game you could play and switch partners anytime you felt like it, like a game of musical chairs. True love was patient, kind, loyal, and faithful. It was for the long haul, faults and all.
Besides, she was pretty sure she already knew what Sherlock would have to say on the matter. Why would he want to marry an average girl like her, when he was brilliant, and all she had was baggage that was just waiting to blow up in her face, like a ticking time-bomb? Well, he did seem to have a somewhat dark and checkered past when it came to addictions to certain substances, but if anything, that was even more of a reason why this marriage was a bad idea. Shouldn't there be at least one functioning adult in every relationship? Did Mycroft really expect her to take care of a problem child like Sherlock when she could barely even take care of herself without proper medication!?
Louise took a deep, calming breath. She was letting herself get too worked up. She could feel her eyes beginning to water, threatening to spill hot tears of frustration. She wanted off this manic rollercoaster more than anyone could ever know or even begin to understand, but not like this. Even if she could bring herself to marry for something as callous as a simple 'business transaction', there was no way she could do that to Sherlock. He might be a high-functioning sociopath who had problem understanding emotions and feeling empathy towards others, but he wasn't a heartless robot. What if he fell in love with someone else, someday?
The only things Louise knew for sure at this point were that she couldn't keep this up forever, and she officially hated Mycroft's guts.
Meanwhile, back at 221B Baker St…
"Louise, I need a small, cylindrical container for this next stage. Find one for me, will you." Sherlock asked absent-mindedly, not even bothering to glance up until he realized he hadn't received an answer to his request. He hadn't even noticed that she had gone out. "Where is that girl?" Sherlock wondered aloud, frowning slightly in disapproval, as he pried himself away from the table long enough to find a suitable container himself. She had been acting rather peculiar as of late. She seemed to be experiencing some difficulties with focusing lately, and there was something… off about her smile lately, as though it were slightly strained. It may not seem like much, but this was unnatural for the sunny, little blonde that he and John had gotten to know over the past month.
And then, it suddenly clicked into place.
"Oh!" Sherlock gasped in realization when he spotted the empty, orange medicine bottle just barely peeking out of all the rubbish. It seems Louise had already used up all of her Concerta, which would certainly explain why she might be having trouble concentrating, now that she had nothing to help rein in her ADHD, and judging by the date on the label, Louise should have finished off her supply for this about a week ago, depending on how much of the thirty day supply she had already taken before coming here. Which meant… she was probably on the verge of running out of her Lamictal as well, if she hadn't already. No wonder she was having trouble smiling. If someone with her type of Bipolar hit a bad low without any medication to help her, then it could be very dangerous for her. And to make matters worse, she had mentioned before that she had already gone through a bout of major depression.
This was not good, not good at all.
Why hadn't Louise gone to see a doctor yet to get new prescriptions written up? He had thought she would be sensible enough to at least manage that much on her own once Mycroft set up a new identity for her, but she obviously hadn't, or she wouldn't be exhibiting such classic symptoms of her conditions, although, he did have to admit she was doing rather well in concealing them, since it had taken even him this long to realize something was amiss. If only her purse were here… Then he might be able to find something more substantial to explain her illogical behavior, though, to be fair, people with mental illnesses weren't exactly known for being logical. To her credit, Louise really was much more clever than she realized. He estimated her IQ would probably be somewhere between the high 130's to low 140's, well above average. He really should have her tested once they straightened out her medication problem.
His thoughts were interrupted once again when he heard Louise's footsteps climbing slowly up the stairs, almost reluctantly. Sherlock glanced about the room and realized he probably should have at least cracked a window open to let some of the smoke vent, but it was a little late for that now. Stimulants, like nicotine, didn't exactly mix well with bipolar conditions.
Louise was unsurprised to find the air in the flat still thick with smoke, but at the moment she could care less. She was doing her best to hold it together long enough to get herself into the shower, where she could ride out her latest low and cry quietly in piece, with her tears safely camouflaged by the running water. She hated crying in front of other people, especially the people she cared about and wanted to worry the least. Unfortunately, one of the most recent additions to this list seemed to have other plans.
"Where were you?" Sherlock asked, stepping in front of her. It was fairly obvious where she had been, but he could tell she had her 'mask' on, so he wanted to stall for time, see if he could get her to take it off and admit she had a problem, before he had to forcefully deduce it out of her.
"Can't you tell just from looking?" She asked shortly, not really in the mood for this. She was sort of glad he had actually bothered to take notice of her absence, but right now he was in her way. Crying in front of others was bad enough, but Sherlock… Sherlock barely knew how to handle normal people. She couldn't imagine how awkward it would be for the both of them if she broke down here, right in front of him.
"I was trying to make conversation, but since you don't seem to be in the mood, perhaps I should just skip straight to the point." Sherlock replied, calmly, unfazed. The fact that the normally patient girl was being so short with him only proved further that something wasn't kosher with her. "How long have you been off your medication?"
Louise furrowed her brow slightly and considered lying for a moment, but then she remembered whom she was dealing with. She might as well get this over with. She was going to have to tell someone eventually anyway.
"Nearly a week." She finally replied, sighing heavily with resignation.
"A week?" Sherlock asked, raising an eyebrow. So, she really had been doing without for that long… She had astounding self-control if she could keep up this act 24/7 for so long without cracking. Rather than an artist, perhaps she should put this talent to use and aspire to be an actress instead. "You must be nearly at your whit's end." He observed, allowing a hint of how impressed he was to show through. It wasn't everyday someone could surprise him like this. Louise was a rather interesting girl. He hardly ever felt completely bored around her, which was saying a lot.
"Yeah, but I've been lucky so far, because I haven't hit a serious low yet." Louise acknowledged reluctantly, giving him a slight, wan smile. "After all, I've had much worse. I went through this for a whole year before I finally broke down and told my parents I needed help. The worst part was not knowing why it was happening, so it's not quite as bad this time around, since I at least know that much already."
"You were having suicidal thoughts." Sherlock stated, more than asked. Knowing what he did about Louise, the reason she had waited so long was most likely because she hadn't wanted to trouble anyone else, and if that were the case, then she would have continued to conceal her condition from those around her until the situation changed to where it would hurt those around her more if she didn't ask for help. Since she was raised by traditional Catholic parents, the condition most likely to bring about this change of heart would be suicidal thoughts, since it went against the teachings the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and would basically earn you a one-way ticket to Hell from their point of view. And, seeing how logical Louise is, coupled by her belief in the teachings of the Church, she would undoubtedly conclude that if Hell did indeed exist, then it would be far better to keep suffering on earth for the remainder of her lifespan than to end it all only to wind up being tortured in Hell for the rest of eternity. In order to avoid that, as well as saddling her family and friends with survivors' guilt for not seeing through her act and getting her help before she could attempt suicide, the best course of action would be to admit she needed help to them before she allowed herself, in a moment of weakness, to make a terrible mistake that she could not take back.
Louise nodded, a little surprised he had managed to jump to that conclusion so quickly, but then again this was Sherlock she was dealing with.
"Yes, I was. But it was just thoughts I never actually tried to hurt myself, because I realized it would just make things worse for me in the end." She replied, wanting to clarify that even if she felt hopeless, she didn't really have an actual death wish. She knew no sane person should.
"Good." Sherlock said simply, scanning her for any indication that she might be lying. She wasn't. He felt relieved to know that she was able to remain so rational, even in such a compromised state of mind. He wasn't entirely certain he would have been able to handle an irrational and openly manic Louise on his own. Even now he wasn't sure what he could do for her beyond trying to get her some professional help. How was one supposed to comfort someone in this situation?
"It's alright, Sherlock." Louise said suddenly, as though reading his mind. "I'm not going to do anything. I would have told one of ya'll sooner or later if you hadn't figured it out, because I'm not sure how much longer I can keep my 'everything's okay' mask on. I'm just having trouble working out a few details with your brother before I can start seeing a doctor and get treatment." She explained.
"Why would you need to consult Mycroft about this?" Sherlock asked, frowning. If all of her papers were in order, then she should be able to see a doctor anytime she wanted, unless…
"Yeah, about that…" Louise began hesitantly, wondering how much she should tell him. "It turns out he decided to tack on another condition for setting up my new background, identity, and so on..."
"And that would be…?" He prompted, wishing she would just get to the point.
"He… He said wants the two of us to get married...?" She finished rather reluctantly, bracing herself for whatever his reaction might be.
Sherlock stared blankly at her with a 'does not compute' expression written all over his face.
"… What?" He asked dumbly, stunned. Whatever Sherlock had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been that. What on earth was Mycroft thinking!?
Sherlock tapped his fingers impatiently on the arm of his chair while he waited for Mycroft to pick up his phone. Normally, he preferred texting, but with the situation being what it was…
"I see she finally told you." Mycroft stated, deigning to answer at last. "I must admit, I didn't think she would last this long."
"Just what are you playing at, Mycroft?" Sherlock demanded, narrowing his eyes. "I thought you and Louise had already come to an agreement once she decided to report on me to you. Why would you, of all people, suddenly insist upon such a ridiculous condition?"
"Hn, I must admit, I had not planned on doing so, but then it occurred to me what a great opportunity Miss Rouge's appearance presented." Mycroft conceded boredly.
"Opportunity?" Sherlock inquired dubiously. What opportunity?
"Yes. You remember how Mummy was always so terribly worried that neither of us of ever would marry, do you not?" Mycroft asked tentatively. Sherlock stopped fidgeting in his chair.
That's what this was about? Why should Mycroft suddenly be so concerned about that? As usual, Mycroft was not only trying to drag their mother into this, but he was clearly, once again, pushing something he found distasteful onto him to take care of instead.
"If it concerns you so much, then why don't you go out and get married?" Sherlock retorted, frowning with irritation.
"Now, now. Don't protest too much. You wouldn't want to hurt the lady's feelings now, would you?" Mycroft chided him.
"Oh, please." Sherlock scoffed. If Mycroft really cared about Louise's feelings, he wouldn't be exploiting her greatest weakness like this just to get her to enter into a loveless marriage. Besides, Louise was currently in the shower, so there was no way she could hear them over the running water. "She doesn't want this marriage anymore than I do. Why do you think she held out for so long without telling me anything?"
"My, my. Are you really that slow?" Mycroft asked, shaking his head. "I can tell from the way she talks about you during her reports that she's beginning to fall for you, though I have no idea why. The more time she spends with you and John, the shorter her reports become, like she's trying to shield you from me. She is resisting this marriage because she cares about you. When she first learned of this condition I had set for her, she called me up to argue that, in addition to being against her personal ethics, it wouldn't be fair to you. Don't you feel lucky, Sherlock, having someone who cares so much about you that they are willing to suffer for you?"
"This isn't funny, Mycroft." Sherlock told him in a dangerously low tone of voice, gritting his teeth. His older brother really could be most infuriating.
"Do you hear me laughing? I am being perfectly serious, Sherlock." Mycroft replied coolly. "You claim it would be a loveless marriage, but you clearly care for her enough to get angry when someone threatens her wellbeing, not to mention you actually bothered to call me on your own for her sake. You have a reasonably attractive young woman who cares for you and can, for the most part, manage to keep up with you intellectually. Not only that, but in such a short amount of time, she has been able to grasp a deeper understanding of your character than most of the people who have known you for over five years. Her empathy and intuition when it comes to the hearts of others is quite impressive, and it is also something that both of us sorely lack. Not only can she understand you, but she can actually accept you in a way that others cannot bring themselves to. She knows how to reconcile the differences between her own hopes or expectations for someone and the reality of who and what they actually are without putting the blame for any inconsistencies on the person involved. She's probably the only person in the world who would be able to sustain a healthy relationship with someone like you, who possesses such a difficult personality. You should snatch her up before someone else does."
Although Sherlock hated to agree with Mycroft on anything, he could see his brother's point. If he were to marry anyone, Louise would indeed be an ideal candidate, but that was a rather large if, also…
"What do you mean 'before someone else snatches her up'?" He asked.
"I had a little chat with John before he left for New Zealand." Mycroft stated. "He said you appeared to have gotten a little jealous when Miss Rouge declined accompanying you on a case because she had already made prior arrangements with a new friend she made recently?"
"I was not jealous." Sherlock practically huffed. Why on earth would John think that? And when did he leave for New Zealand? Sherlock hadn't even noticed that the good doctor had left. Why did he have to find all of this out from Mycroft? "I simply could not understand why she would turn down solving such an interesting case to go to the cinema with someone else."
"With someone else?" Mycroft asked, sounding like the fat cat that ate the canary. "So, in other words, you would not have minded so much if she had wanted to go with you, correct?"
"…" Sherlock frowned; suddenly all too aware of just how conflicted he was feeling. Why had that irked him so? It's not like he had romantic feelings for Louise. Wasn't it just because he had wanted her to show a greater interest in the case? But, then again, since when did he care what other people thought? True, he may have come to value John's input as a doctor and human springboard, but with her it was… something else…
Mycroft took his silence as a 'yes'.
"You see? What are you going to do if some outsider takes her away? She can't stay with you forever." He pointed out. "If she married someone else, she would go live with them and start her own family. You might occasionally see or hear from her once in a while, but do you really think she would still have time to spare chasing clues and solving cases all over England with you? You might as well kiss your lovely new assistant goodbye now and save yourself the trouble later on. I can always have her sent back to America, if you'd like." He added for effect.
Sherlock's brow furrowed, and his frown deepened. He did not like the sound of that one bit. It might be selfish of him, but he didn't want to lose such an interesting person so soon, and if Mycroft had her deported to America, she would be completely on her own over there, since this wasn't really her world to begin with. At least here, she had him and John to depend on when she needed help. He didn't think it was safe to tell Mycroft the truth about her origins yet, and, even if he did, there was no guarantee that doing so would stop him. Sherlock sighed in defeat as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Maybe it was partially the fault of some of that wretched 'sentiment' that Mycroft and John both seemed to think he was developing for her, but at the moment the intellectual wizard just couldn't see any way out of this, that wouldn't end badly for Louise, other than to bite the bullet and acquiesce to his brother's unreasonable request. Even though he really hated letting Mycroft get the better of him, right now it was more important to help Louise get the medication she needed before her condition took a nasty turn for the worst.
"Fine." Sherlock eventually conceded, though he wasn't terribly happy about it. "What do I have to do?"Louise wiped her eyes as she turned off the water, letting out one last sad sigh, before grabbing her towel so she could dry off. She felt a little better now that she had finally told someone and let herself cry for a bit. She was glad Sherlock had confronted her now, even though she still wasn't sure what she was going to do about Mycroft. She hung up her towel and pulled on the clean clothes she had laid for herself, finishing just barely in time before the door suddenly burst open, revealing a fully dressed Sherlock. She gaped at him incredulously. Can't he at least knock first? What if she had still been naked!?
"Ah, good. You're ready." He observed, nonplussed. "Come along, the car is already waiting for us downstairs."
"Wha?" Louise asked dumbly, blinking owlishly at him. "What car?"
"I'll explain on the way, just come with me." Sherlock urged her, taking her by the hand so he could quickly lead her out of the flat.
"Explain what, Sherlock? Where are we going? My hair is still wet!" She exclaimed, wondering what the big rush was. Did they get another case while she was in the shower?
"Where is Mrs. Hudson? Mrs. Hudson!" Sherlock called out to the older woman as they made their way down the stairs.
"She's off visiting her sister, remember?" Louise reminded him, miffed that he kept ignoring her questions. It was hard being patient with Sherlock while she was busy fighting her own emotional rollercoaster.
"No matter. We'll figure something out." Sherlock replied absently as he herded her out onto the street and into an ominously familiar black car.
"Wait, isn't this…?"
"Mycroft's car? Yes, it is." Sherlock replied nonchalantly as he slid onto the seat next to her, and the car rolled away from the curb, joining with the rest of the traffic on the streets of London.
"Why are we in Mycroft's car? Did you call him while I was in the shower or something?" Louise asked curiously, wondering what in the name of William H. Macy was going on with these two brothers.
"We are going to the Register Office." Sherlock replied as he finally turned to look at her. "The two of us are going to get married today."
Louise's jaw dropped. …What?
"Shut the front door!" She shouted incredulously. She didn't know how things worked in the UK, but didn't they need a lot of paperwork like birth certificates and such? Hadn't Sherlock been against the idea of them getting married? "I thought you—"
"Calm down, and let me explain." Sherlock said patiently. He had been expecting a reaction like that. "While I disagree with Mycroft's methods, a marriage between the two of us would actually help keep you safe. If we are legally married, it will be easier for you to become a legal citizen of England, and make it much harder for anyone, including Mycroft, to deport you. Once the two of us are married, your reputation, as his sister-in-law, will be able to affect his as much as mine does, so even if he wanted to expose you as an illegal immigrant, he wouldn't be able to do so without damaging his own name."
"—Furthermore, we are only going through with the civil ceremony today. Our marriage will be legal in the eyes of the law, but since we aren't holding the religious ceremony yet, technically you won't have to worry about that whole 'sacrament of marriage' thing you Roman Catholics are so hung up on. This way, if in the future, you should ever decide you want to marry someone else, I can divorce you and make you a free woman without having to worry about getting a pesky annulment from the Church, which I understand are difficult to come by. Our relationship doesn't have to change just because we get married. We can continue living just as we are now. You don't have to finish 'consummating' this marriage with me any time soon, either. I don't mind waiting until you feel ready to do so on your own." He finished, glancing away from her as he said the last part.
Was it just her imagination, or did he seem to be a bit… embarrassed? Well, she couldn't really blame him. She could feel her own cheeks flushing a little at the thought of 'consummating', as Sherlock had so tactfully put it, anything with him. And it was obvious that he had put a lot of thought and consideration into this. He wasn't entering into this lightly. He had thought ahead for her, and she was immensely grateful to him for agreeing to take such a leap for her. Louise smiled her first real smile in days. It was small, but it was honest.
"You're a good man, Sherlock Holmes."