Tidying Up at Baker Street

Hello! I am Marie Kondo. My mission is to spark joy in the world through cleaning.

A feature of the KonMari method is that you clean my item and not by location. And we will always clean using the same categories. First is clothing. Next is books. Then, paper. The largest category is komono. Komono is kitchen, bathroom, garage– everything miscellaneous. Finally, sentimental items.

The Introduction

“You’ll have fun,” is the last thing Mrs Hudson whispers to them before the cameras start rolling. “She’s lovely, very modern. You’ll like her. Now, I have to be downstairs to greet her. You boys be good, don’t bicker in front of the cameras.”

John tries to glare daggers at her, but he has to stop, because the cameras are coming on. And when it had become clear a few months ago that no, Mrs Hudson wasn’t joking about applying on their behalf to a reality show, he and Sherlock had agreed that they might as well start off their probably ill-fated run on Tidying Up with Marie Kondo in the positions the public knows them best: John tapping away on his laptop from his armchair and Sherlock spread out on the couch, fingers steepled under his chin, thinking.

Sherlock is a drama queen by nature, of course, and the public eat him up at his most stand-offish, so John can practically feel the camera crew’s glee when Mrs Hudson throws open the door to the flat to introduce Marie Kondo to the tenants of 221b, and only John rises to greet her. In spite of his own misgivings, John can feel his smile widening and his greeting rising in pitch to match the energy of the petite yet somehow terrifying woman who enters the flat.

To his absolute shock, the first thing Marie does after hugging John is head straight for Sherlock. “And you must be Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective!” she says, and she seizes him by the hands to pull him off of the couch. Sherlock seems momentarily shocked at the gesture, but since maximum drama had been the point, and Marie had played right into it, John can see his lips quirk in a small smile as he stands and says, “The only one in the world.”

They embark on a tour of the flat. Despite the fact that most of the insane clutter is Sherlock’s, John feels oddly protective of the place now, and he had been prepared to snap at her to defend their belongings against forcible decluttering. Marie doesn’t seem repulsed by the mess, though. Instead, she asks questions about everything, and Sherlock happily goes into detail about each experiment and case file they come across. He’s clearly trying to intimidate or disgust her, but after each long-winded technical examination of his chain of deductive reasoning, she merely claps her hands and exclaims “Wonderful!”

If there’s one thing in the world that Sherlock Holmes absolutely cannot resist, it’s sincere praise. And Marie Kondo is nothing if not sincere.

Once they’ve traipsed through Sherlock’s bedroom, the kitchen, bathroom, and John’s little-used bedroom upstairs– more of a storage room, really, although there’s still a bed in there– they end up back in the sitting room, and Marie beams at them. “You have a lovely home,” she says. “Before we begin tidying, I always like to introduce myself to the space where we are working.” She kneels down on the carpet, and John winces at the knowledge of all of the substances that have been on that carpet since the last time he cleaned it.

The cameras focus on each of them in turn, including Mrs Hudson, who is hovering by the door with a fond smile on her face. John glances at Sherlock, and is somewhat surprised to find him gamely kneeling on the floor, eyes closed. To all appearances, he really is introducing himself to 221b Baker Street. John can feel the great eye of the camera swing to him, watching him watching Sherlock, and he quickly casts his eyes downwards.

When they stand up, and the cameras follow Marie as she heads back to the bedroom, John raises his eyebrows at Sherlock.

Sherlock just shrugs a little. “As you well know, plenty of people think my methods arcane when they first see me at work. I can recognize a fellow professional at the height of their craft.”

“First,” calls Marie, “Is clothing.”


When all their clothes are piled on the bed, John is surprised by how much it really is. They return to the bedroom the moment Marie leaves the apartment, trailing hugs and encouragement in her wake, and stand in front of the pile she had them create with the camera crew still hovering for a few last shots.

Apparently Sherlock is surprised too. “Why is it that you have all these nice shirts, and all you wear around the house is ugly jumpers?” he inquires innocently.

“I do have a job, Sherlock,” John hisses. “I actually have to wear something professional under that white coat–” he cuts of the rest of the remark, since Sherlock knows where it was going anyway, and he’s acutely aware of the microphone hanging several feet over his head.

They start the process of sorting the clothes. The fact that they’re still performing public versions of Sherlock and John for the cameras makes it easier, somehow, to stomach thanking a pair of trousers before throwing them in the reject heap, but as soon as the camera crew packs up, they lapse into a comfortable silence of sorting and re-hanging, only commenting occasionally when one of them uncovers something long-forgotten.

Sherlock holds up a deep purple button-up shirt, staring at it critically. “I think this one is too small for me, anyway.”

John looks up from the pile of pants he’s folding into neat little squares, then lunges over and grabs the purple shirt from Sherlock before he can put it in the wrong pile. “Nope,” he says, throwing it back on the “keep” pile. “That one sparks joy for me.

Sherlock leers, and John drops the pants he’s still holding in each hand to place his hands on Sherlock’s hips.

“I haven’t worn it in years,” Sherlock muses.

“Yeah, well, it was memorable.” The bed is still entirely covered in clothes, but that only makes it all the more comfortable to push Sherlock back on until they’re rolling around in a pile of laundry, nipping and licking at each other’s mouths.

Sherlock has John pinned and is sucking shamelessly on his neck, so John can hardly be expected to hear it the first time when Sherlock gasps “When did you first fall for me?”

“What?” John arches, luxuriates in the feel of Sherlock’s lips and teeth over his throat.

“When–” Sherlock bites his chin– “did you”– a quick peck on the lips– “first fall for me?” Sherlock seizes John’s head with both hands, holding him still and staring into his eyes.

“God,” tries John, “Um… is before I ever met you a valid answer? It was before I met you. If love starts at one spot on a timeline and ends at the end of the universe, I was already completely gone on you by the time I saw you in the lab that day.”

John,” moans Sherlock, and moves back down to his neck, and though it devolves from there and ends with quite a few items of clothing that would need to be laundered before being sent to the charity shop, John can’t help but feel that the first day of tidying went very well indeed.


It feels better than it should to learn that Marie is pleased with the results of their clothing homework. They ended up downsizing enough that all of both John and Sherlock’s clothes could fit in the closet and dresser in Sherlock’s bedroom– the bedroom, now that John doesn’t have to traipse upstairs in a dressing gown to get dressed every morning. Marie gasps theatrically as they open the closet doors to show her. Her excitement for a well-organized closet is infectious, and before long they’re repeating the process for the next step: piling every book in the flat.

They’re so distracted re-discovering just how many books they own that John completely misses when Marie pulls down a leather-covered case, the size of a book vertically if quite a bit wider, down off the shelf and piles it on the floor with the rest.

He sure notices– sees it as if in slow motion– when she kneels down, skirt arranging itself around her knees daintily, to get a closer look at it. “Such a beautiful case,” she says. “It’s very heavy. What–”

Sherlock is closer and has longer limbs. He lunges over and snatches it up, utterly losing his composure for a moment as he snarls, “That’s ours.”

Marie only shrugs and says “That’s okay!” as she pushes herself back up, which gives John time to school his expression back into something halfway pleasant. “Sorry,” he says, grabbing the case from Sherlock. “This isn’t a book, so I suppose we’ll sort it later. I’ll just go store it upstairs, then.” He turns and flees for the staircase, and thankfully his hands wait until he is out of sight of the camera crews to start shaking violently.

The case had been a gift from Sherlock. It’s custom made by a safe-maker of unusual artistry– John didn’t ask who– who apparently had access to an identical SIG Sauer P226 for reference. The outside is iron, but inside there is a wooden slot covered in velvet, which the gun slots into like a hand into a glove. The metal on the outside of the case is disguised with a covering of soft leather, and it locks with a six-digit combination.

When Sherlock had given it to him, John had reverently placed the weapon in it, then handed it back to Sherlock without setting the combination. Sherlock hadn’t said anything, just set the combination and placed the case on the bookshelf. When Sherlock wants John to be armed for a case, the weapon appears in his jacket pocket.

John has never even been tempted to ask for the combination. He’s never questioned which cases Sherlock decides to slip the gun into his pocket for. It’s better this way: the knowledge of the thing looms less large in his mind. He can forget that he owns an object which in itself would net him an lengthy prison sentence, and he can mostly forget how he ended up with it in the first place.

When he’s mostly stopped shaking, he places the case on the bed and goes back downstairs.

Marie is entirely sanguine about having been shouted at for touching a box, and when the books are back on the shelves, with a few boxes marked for the secondhand shop, she leaves a space the size of the case where she had found it.

When the crews are gone, Sherlock finds John sitting on the upstairs bed.

“We should get rid of this thing,” John says, gesturing to the bed. “Make more space up here.”

Sherlock nods. “Probably,” he says.

The gun case is on the coverlet, halfway in between them. John looks at it, and then at Sherlock.
“They don’t hand out service pistols as souvenirs when they send you home from the front lines,” says Sherlock quietly.

They’ve never talked about this before. John’s gun is just there, like Sherlock’s drugs sometimes are. It didn’t come from anywhere in particular.

Except, it did. John lets out a long breath. “No,” he says. “I bought it. There are people who specialize in weapons that have found their way out of the Forces. I think some part of me thought it would have been appropriate. For it to have been this gun. If I had… used it.”

John had used it, of course. He had shot a man in cold blood the first day of their acquaintance.

Sherlock runs his hands over the leather of the case, and then his long fingers manipulate the dial out of John’s sight. He lifts the lid, revealing the shining, deadly thing inside. “We don’t need to keep it, you know,” he says. “We can make do without. Would probably be safer. We can… thank it for its service, and let it go.”

The gun seems to nearly glow in the soft orange twilight coming in through the window. John feels the urge to pick it up, but he doesn’t. He can feel it in his hand like it were there. He can remember the taste of it, too, well-oiled and starkly metallic when he had put put the muzzle in his mouth in his dingy room, the one before Baker Street, to see what it would feel like.

He shakes his head. “I like that you have it,” he says. “I don’t– you know that I don’t have you keep it because I’m a danger to myself. Not any more. You know that, right?”

Sherlock nods.

“But… I do like that it’s not me. We may be many things to each other at home, but when we’re on a case, I’m not John. I’m Sherlock Holmes’ gun-arm.”

Sherlock snaps the case shut, and he actually looks a little bit amused when he says, “Still a soldier.”

John’s hand finds Sherlock’s, and he is both entirely serious and not entirely innocent when he says, “I’m here to be used, Sherlock.”


The papers, John thinks, should be the easy part.

Neither of them have a particular problem with paper clutter. John has barely any– all of his necessary documents are digitizes. Sherlock has a few filing cabinets of letters and notes from cases, but besides the pile on the mantel which is mostly for show, there isn’t much to tidy.

Which is why John is surprised to find Sherlock sitting at the kitchen table, the week the homework included paper, staring at a messy pile of papers.

“Where did all this come from?” he asks. There seems to be everything in there: from full-size sheets to paper to tiny scraps to napkins to things that don’t even look like paper at all– paint chips, John recognizes, and scraps of cloth with the ink on them so spread as to be illegible. There’s a cloth bag on the side of the table that a few scraps are still spilling out of.

Sherlock is looking at the pile will an odd kind of reverence, and when he glances up at John, he’s guarded. “They’re… letters,” he says.

“Suppose I’m not surprised that you get a lot of weird letters.”

“No,” says Sherlock. “I wrote them.”

John leans forward. Sure enough, he can recognize Sherlock’s handwriting on a few of the pieces. It’s most recognizable on the real paper, and devolves to something wide and shaky on the napkin that’s closest to his side of the table.

John blinks, and his mouth falls open.

“You wrote these to me while you were dead,” he says. He’s sure that he’s correct. It’s not hubris, at this point, for John to accept that Sherlock has never valued anyone as much as he does John. And the messiness of the pile itself makes it obvious when they had been written: in spare moments, on spare items, probably often in terrible danger.

“Well done,” whispers Sherlock, but he doesn’t sound complimentary. He sounds terrified. “I can… we don’t need them. I can get rid of them.”

John’s fists clench involuntarily with the effort of not lunging forward to grab at them. They’re not his, really. “If that’s what you want to do,” he says, unable to disguise the tremor in his voice. “But… it’s not too late to deliver them. If you want.”

Sherlock squeezes his eyes tight. “These letters are not me at my best, John.”

Slowly, like he can’t quite believe he’s doing it, Sherlock pushes the entire pile across the table to John. John sits down, picking up the bag they came in and gathering them back up into it. “I’ll read them later,” he says. “We don’t have to discuss them, if you don’t want. But, Sherlock?”

Sherlock opens his eyes, staring at the bag warily.

“You know you don’t have to be at your best for me, right? You don’t have to brilliant and strong all the time. I think you’re amazing when you’re doing nothing. I think you’re beautiful when you’re in a black mood and can barely get of the couch. I still love you when you’re too tired or absorbed in the work to remember that other people have feelings. I want to know what you were thinking and feeling those years, whether it’s flattering or not, whether it’s coherent or not, no matter what you did or what happened to you, I still love you.”

Sherlock looks too stunned to reply, so John takes the bag of letters, places it in the drawer of his desk, and turns the key in the lock.


Of course it was going to be a dramatic moment. This is exactly what television audiences tune in for: lovingly horrified shots of the contents of Sherlock and John’s refrigerator, only half filled with food. Unlike with every other category, where they had been allowed to arrange their own pile, Sherlock and John are forced to stand by while the cameras capture Marie’s reaction to every experiment she pulls out of it. Her reactions are, no doubt, a large part of the appeal of her show: she gasps and squeals her way through the assorted body parts, the radiant smile never leaving her face. John can see why Sherlock seemed to identify her as a kindred spirit, that first day, but it doesn’t make the process any more pleasant.

When the whole gory picture is piled on the counters, Marie is nearly bouncing with joy and excitement. John can feel a camera zoomed in tight on him, no doubt looking for a way to cast him in the role of long-suffering husband. Which he might be, when it’s just the two of them, but he refuses to participate in making Sherlock look like a freak on camera, so he deliberately sidles up to the detective and wraps an arm around his waist as they contemplate the carnage.

Sherlock drops a small kiss on the top of his head– a distraction for the cameras, and an entirely misleading signal to the audience that there is no marital strife whatsoever resulting from this obscene collection of partial corpses in the refrigerator. John keeps the pleasant expression plastered on his face and hopes it’s convincing.

“I want you,” says Marie, “To be able to see at a glance what you have in your refrigerator. Right now, food is mixed in with experiments. Your homework for this week is to store everything in a way that is clear. Just like how you arrange your socks so that you can see each pair– I want you to be able to see every finger and arm from one look.” She holds up a finger in her left hand an an arm in her right, beaming.

Sherlock is tense, but John can feel that her comparison to socks relaxes him a little. There had been plenty of tidying to do in the bedroom, but Marie had had nothing but effusive praise for Sherlock’s sock index.

The tension in the air goes right back up again the moment the crew packs up, leaving Sherlock, John, and Mrs. Hudson staring at the pile of flesh on the counter that needs to be arranged in some more satisfactory way before it warms up too much.

“Bloody hell,” John sighs. “I thought the whole point of this was for her to just tell us where to put shit, already.” He hadn’t really thought that– he knew the majority of the work would be theirs– but he sure wishes it were true, right now.

“Oh, I think it’s much better that you two talk it out,” Mrs Hudson says. “She’s a very smart lady. Now I’ll put a cuppa on and you two can get to it, alright?” She bustles into the kitchen, but Sherlock raises a hand to stop her.

“Mrs Hudson,” he says, and his voice sounds pinched and anxious– “I think it might be best if we had some time alone.”

John nods. “Damn cameras,” he mutters.

“Oh of course, dear, I’ll just head back downstairs, then,” Mrs Hudson says. She passes by Sherlock and gives him a quick hug, which he returns. He shuts the door to the flat when she’s on the stairs, and runs two hands through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut.

John collapses onto the couch, reveling in not having to wonder if his face is doing something weird or if he’s standing at an unflattering angle.

“We should just get a second refrigerator,” he sighs. He’s suggested it before, and for some reason Sherlock has never jumped at the opportunity to get more space for his experiments, so the idea had simply fizzled out. With a deadline of an hour or so to find a temporary solution, and another week to figure out the body part issue once and for all, though, it seems like the right time.

Sherlock is pacing, and John can see the exact moment his hands curl into fists. “We don’t need another refrigerator,” he snaps.

John frowns at the unexpected vehemence. “Okay, I mean, we can talk storage, but like she said, we do want to be able to identify everything at a glance. Wouldn’t it be better for you--”

“I’ll decide what’s best for my own experiments, thank you,” says Sherlock, but it doesn’t sound final. It sounds tentative. He sounds… scared. It’s odd.

“Sherlock?” John know with this kind of a strop he’s likely to just get shouted at for his troubles reaching out, but Sherlock is scaring him now, and he can’t help but want to understand why this is so unappealing to Sherlock. “Why don’t you want a second refrigerator? We don’t have to get one if you don’t want, you know, but I just… this is clearly bothering you, and I need to know why.

Sherlock doesn’t look like he does when he’s thinking; it’s more similar to his manic energy just at the tail end of a case, when everything is piling up in his mind and the load of all the information almost-connecting is nearly unbearable until the moment it finally slots into place. But he’s not trying to solve anything here, there’s nothing to solve–

“It’s permanent,” Sherlock bursts out. “I can’t– I couldn’t tell you, John. I know it’s not logical. We’re married. You love me. I know that. But–” his voice cracks a little and he runs another agitated hand through his hair, and John finds himself leaning forward unconsciously, wanting more than anything to reach out and comfort him but he has to hear what’s coming, first.

“But I left you, Sherlock says finally, desperately. “I left you, and I think you hated me for it a little bit, and I– we never talked about it after I came back, not really, and I thought it was okay, that it didn’t matter finally after everything else that happened but it does. I left you and you would be well within your rights to leave me right back, and then what would I do with two refrigerators? I could barely even fill one up with both experiments and food, before you.”

In a moment, John is up and Sherlock is in his arms, and the detective feels very small and fragile despite technically being larger than him. “Love,” John murmurs, “I’m not going to leave. I promise. Not ever.” He sighs. “And if just saying that again were enough, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.” He pulls away and leads Sherlock to the couch, where he can watch Sherlock’s face as he says, “You know, we thought having someone come tell us how to clean our flat would be awful, but it… hasn’t been a bad thing, right?”

Sherlock nods.

“Maybe,” John muses, “having more help with– with us-- wouldn’t be a bad thing either. I don’t know how to talk about this with you, right now. But I want you to feel secure, and I think– I think there are things I need to say to you, too.”

Sherlock scowls. “We don’t want a couples’ therapist.

“We didn’t think we wanted a tidying consultant, either.”

Sherlock sighs and slumps back against the couch cushions, fingers drumming anxiously on his leg. “You were never exactly singing the praises of any of your therapists,” he points out.

“So we won’t go back to any of them. Especially not that last one,” John chuckles ruefully. “But– some credit to Ella, right? She made me start the blog, and made sure I was still around to meet someone worth blogging about.” He reaches up to run fingers through Sherlock’s hair. It’s the first time he’s mentioned his history of suicidal intent since the conversation about the gun, and he feels tightly-wound to see Sherlock’s reaction. He doesn’t want pity, or concern; he just wants to be able to acknowledge that it happened.

Sherlock nuzzles into the touch. “Credit to Ella, then,” he admits, and John feels a tiny bit of the knot in his chest unravel. “But you’re disqualified from choosing therapists from now on, I think. I’ll send you a list of candidates who seem the least horrifically dull and underqualified to me.”

The rest of the knot unravels and releases a tidal wave of relief into John’s body. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted this, wanted to be able to talk about the past with Sherlock properly, until this moment.

“We could renovate the upstairs room,” he says in a rush. “Put in sinks, and the new refrigerator up there. A proper lab.”

Sherlock’s expression changes entirely. He looks awed, and he whispers, “You’d do that?”


“I always thought that that room was… your space,” says Sherlock. “You go there to get away from me, a lot of the time.”

John considers this. It’s partly true. “Sometimes,” he admits. “Yeah, sometimes I need space. Sometimes what I need space from is exactly what we’ll be relocating to the upstairs room, though. And other times…” Sherlock’s excitement has faded somewhat, and he’s observing John closely. John knows he can’t lie about this: he does have a tendency to grab his coat and go out for a walk to cool down in tense moments, and he knows how much Sherlock hates it. And he does the same thing within the flat too, sometimes, stomping up the stairs and slamming the door to the bedroom that he hasn’t slept in for years.

“I’m not trying to get away from you,” John says, and though Sherlock’s eyebrows shoot up, he’s telling the truth. “I’m trying to get away from my own reactions. And yeah, sometimes they’re reactions to you, because you’re being a prat, but… that anger, how I can’t do anything in that moment but remove myself– I don’t want to be that person. And the reason I leave is that I don’t want you to see me like that.”

“Oh,” breathes Sherlock.

“Yeah, oh,” John sighs.

Sherlock smiles, brittle but real, and says brightly, “Well, I suppose I’d better get researching therapists, then. And you can get researching refrigerators.”

Sentimental items

It isn’t hard to sell the bed from the upstairs bedroom. So easy, in fact, that John feels a little bit stupid to have procrastinated on doing it for so long. A student just moving into his first flatshare shows up with a rented truck, and John helps him carry the pieces down the stairs. The cameras watch, doubtless capturing footage over which some sort of voiceover about the public’s perception of John and Sherlock’s relationship will be added. John finds he doesn’t particularly care.

On the last day of shooting, the camera crew is bustling around capturing footage for the before and after. The ground floor isn’t particularly dramatic– John and Sherlock had no desire for a minimalist flat, so they hadn’t ended up with one. The refrigerator reveal draws approving gasps from both Marie and Mrs Hudson, and then they head upstairs for the main event.

It had been by far the smoothest reno job John had ever experienced. The fact that they were on a shooting schedule meant that some magical assistant on the show had procured a contractor who could do the work on the upstairs bedroom in the space of a week. Sherlock throws open the door to his new lab triumphantly. Marie, of course, makes a beeline for the refrigerator, and Sherlock brings her up to date on the results of some of the more gory experiments he’s been keeping in there.

When the tour is finished, they settle in around tea and biscuits. The cameras feel almost comfortable, now, but John is still relieve that this is the last awkward, too-scrutinized conversation he’ll have to have in front of them.

But it’s also the last time he’ll see Marie. So he has to say it now.

“Is it always like this?” John gestures around. “When you help people? We, um… talked, a lot. While we were tidying, about stuff that I don’t think we would have if you hadn’t made us do this.”

Marie’s eyes are shining. “Always,” she confirms.

“Well, you certainly got my boys in line,” says Mrs Hudson. “I’m very grateful to you, Marie.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that.” Marie leans into Sherlock sitting beside her on the couch, who seems barely surprised, and quickly slings an arm around her. “This home looked like John and Sherlock before, and now, it looks like them even more. I think you will still have plenty of trouble.”

John meets Sherlock’s eyes, and smiles.