Word Count: 2,800
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Characters/Pairing: This part, John/Mary (eventual Sherlock/John)
Notes: Written for love_bingo's prompt "Love Nest." One million hearts and endless clappy hands for stellabelle, beta extraordinaire, who held my hand and cheered me on and is just generally the best.
Disclaimer: Characters and universe belong to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The BBC, Gatiss and Moffat. I’m just messing with them.
Summary: John thinks he could fall in love with Mary. (Post-Reichenbach)
Part 1: Un-break My Heart
Part 2: My Heart Will Go On
John has his first date with Mary Morstan two days after the cinema. When she walks into Starbucks, John swears it is in slow motion, sunlight catching at the edges of her silhouette. She leans in close to kiss his cheek; her hair smells like springtime, berries and flowers.
“Hello,” he says, and his voice comes out much too high. He clears his throat. “You look amazing.”
“Thank you. You look nice, too,” she says, and her smile is luminous, infectious. She is still standing very close to him.
He gets her a coffee, and they find a little table in the corner.
“So,” she says, slender fingers lighting on his wrist for just a moment. “How was your day? Did you get to go round shouting ‘O-Neg! STAT!’ at all the nurses and delivering crack babies just in the nick-of-time and saving the surgery from mad gunmen, all while managing to find the time for a quick shag in the broom cupboard?”
“Yes, well. All in a day’s work,” he deadpans, taking a sip of coffee. Then, he chuckles. “Well, today I did tend a rash on old Mr Taylor’s bum. I suggested the broom cupboard after, but he turned me down.”
“Well, now you’ve done it,” she says with an exaggerated frown. “My fantasy is completely shattered. Thanks a lot, dream-killer,” and the corner of her mouth twitches upward, her eyes sparkling.
After two cups of coffee, John is jittery, but he is contemplating a third so he can keep her talking; he is afraid to break the spell. She says something about being hungry, so he takes her to dinner.
She tells him that she used to be a dancer, that she’d come to London for the West End, that she dislocated her left knee in the chorus of Wicked, and she was ready for a change anyway. She watches Tommy Forrester three days a week and will finish a doctorate in educational psychology by year’s end.
He talks to her about work and about Harry, about how he used to be in the army. He tells her the funny stories about his time abroad, even a little about getting injured and returning to London.
At the end of the night, John walks with her to her door. While she is thanking him for a lovely evening, John leans forward and kisses her. Her lips are a chilled from the night air, but they grow warm under his.
He phones her the next day and asks her out again. They see each other every day for a week.
The springtime sun slowly fills John’s bedroom with morning light. It falls on Mary as she sleeps, making her skin glow gold, her eyelashes shimmer. He watches her face, and with his eyes he traces the arc of her eyebrow, the soft bow of her lip. She is beautiful.
Slowly, she wakes; her eyes are so blue. She slides closer, wraps an ankle around his calf; her toes are warm. She nuzzles his neck just below his jaw, and when she raises her head, he kisses her chin.
“Good morning,” he says, and his lips twitch upwards—he can’t help it.
She hums and stretches, catlike and graceful against his body. “Good morning.” Her smile makes the whole room even brighter. She leans in, and he kisses her mouth.
It is as if the weather forgot to look at a bloody calendar. The last week in May, it decides, on a whim, to switch back into winter, and every single person in London has a cold. He’s swears he’s seen at least half of them all by himself, staying late and coming in early to help Sarah with the overflow.
He’s tired. He hasn’t had more than four hours of sleep per night, and when he wakes, his head feels like it is stuffed with cotton. He somehow manages to drag himself from his bed and put on clothes. And by some divine miracle, he remembers the way to the surgery.
“You look dreadful,” Sarah tells him as she hands him a stack of patient files.
“Ta,” he replies, “and I feel even better.” His voice sounds nasal and muffled in his own ears.
By half-ten, he can hardly keep his head up. His right nostril will not stop running; his left might as well be full of cement. His throat hurts. When Sarah sends him home just before lunch, his protests sound weak, even to him. He crawls into bed immediately, barely even stopping to toe off his shoes. He is asleep before his head hits the pillow.
Somewhere, very far away, something is making a noise.
Ringing. The doorbell. Someone is ringing his doorbell. When he sits up, his brain bangs around in his skull, but slowly, like it’s suspended in liquid. He needs to get the door. When he finds his way to the sitting room, he sees Mary in front of him.
“John,” she says, and she has a little worry line forming just above her nose. “I went by the surgery to bring you lunch, and Sarah told me she’d sent you home. Mrs Hudson let me up.”
She places her hand across his forehead; she frowns and ushers him over to the sofa. Once he’s settled, blanket in place, she bustles off to the kitchen with a handful of plastic bags. He closes his eyes, but he can hear her working: the kettle boils, plates clink together, drawers open and close.
When he opens his eyes again, she’s back. She is holding a plate of curry.
“Sorry,” she says. “I would have brought... but I didn’t know. Would you rather me try and get you some soup or something?” The sofa dips a little where she perches on the edge, and he shifts his body backward as he sits up a bit, making more room for her.
“Thank you,” he says, taking the plate. “No, this is—this is good,” he says. He smiles at her, and it hurts his sore nose a little, the stretch in his skin.
She pouts at him, a show of sympathy. She moves to brush her thumb over his eyebrow, fingers light and soft at his temple and just behind his ear. “I want you to feel better.”
He can’t really taste the curry, but he can feel the heat. It makes his right nostril drip, a faucet turned on. He’d be embarrassed, but he can’t find the energy. She laughs as she swipes at his nose with a tissue, saying, “That won’t do at all, will it.” And she’s laughing, those amazing blue eyes sparkling.
He thinks he could fall in love with her.
Mary stays with him for the next several days. He likes having her there. He spends most of his time sleeping, but when he wakes and decides he’s had quite enough of lying down, he drags himself to the sitting room. Sometimes, she watches telly. Often, she sits at the desk, plucking away at her laptop, writing for her courses. Sometimes, she sits in Sherlock’s chair, reading, which takes some getting used to at first.
She’s there now, head tipped toward her book in her lap, thumbnail resting against her lips. When she notices him, she looks up, tells him that he’s looking more like himself. He does feel a little bit better.
The next afternoon, he’s feeling almost normal again. He’s reading the newspaper, and he can feel her watching him. He ignores it for a while, but his curiosity gets the better of him, and he raises his head.
She has an odd expression on her face. He hasn’t seen this one before. Something about it unsettles him, just a bit. He gives her a look, open and slightly worried.
“It’s just—“ she says, cutting herself off. “I mean.” She takes a breath. “Are you ever going to tell me about him?”
“Sorry, what?” John says, feeling like he’s been dropped into the middle of a conversation instead of the start.
She looks apologetic. “Sherlock Holmes.”
It takes the wind out of his lungs for a minute.
He stammers, “Wh— I mean,” He clears his throat, shakes his head a little. “Wh—“
She softens, wearing a sad sort of smile.
“I’m not an idiot, John,” she says. “I didn’t recognize you at first, at the Tube, but it wasn’t long before I realised— I mean, you were in the papers for weeks.” She shifts in the chair, bringing her leg up under her. She has that soft expression again. She’ll be a good therapist.
She continues, “It’s just—I’ve been here for almost a whole week straight, and—it’s obvious that he’s everywhere. There are all these things around that you never touch, places you never go…” Her eyes flick over his shoulder, down the corridor to the closed door.
“We’ve been together, what? Nearly two months? And you’ve never even said his name to me.” She says the last sentence quietly, hurt edging each word. She fidgets, tucking her hair behind her ears, switching legs.
John doesn’t like her voice sounding like that, wants it to go back to normal. He doesn’t… He clears his throat, trying to shift the lump that’s grown there. It still takes him ages to find the words he’s looking for.
“Sherlock,” he manages, weakly. “He’s—” and he has to stop to clear his throat again. “He died.” His breath is coming quickly. He takes a deep one, willing calm. “He killed himself. I don’t—”
He lowers his eyes, watches his own hands where they are gripping his knees, forces his muscles to relax. He doesn’t think he can look at her while he’s talking about him. He’ll never get through it looking at her, watching those lines of concern form around her mouth, between her eyes. So, he squares his shoulders like a soldier, lifts his chin, separates what he needs to say from the emotion bubbling in his chest, stinging the backs of his eyes. He shakes it off, wills it away.
“The papers,” he manages, voice low, nearly monotone. “They got it wrong.” He pauses for a minute. He doesn’t really know how to find the words. “He was my best friend. We lived here together. We worked together. Every day. I knew him; they didn’t. He was—“
Before he can help it, a thousand mental images of Sherlock flood his mind—bored and shooting chunks of plaster out of the wall, calling Anderson a moron, explaining how it’s so obvious that the lead news anchor and the weather lady are sleeping together, ripping explosives from John’s body at the pool, making inappropriate jokes at a crime scene, peering into his microscope at the kitchen worktop, handing John a coffee, taking John’s hand as they run together as fast as their feet will carry them through London.
“Mad,” John continues, almost breathless, and he realizes he’s beginning to smile. His fingers come up to scrub at his mouth, confirmation. “Mad and wonderful and real. He was extraordinary and infuriating and petulant and brilliant and…” He shakes his head, unsure of where to go from here.
“And yours,” Mary adds for him. She moves out of Sherlock’s chair and kneels in front of him, reaching up to touch his face, thumb across his cheekbone, soft and reassuring.
John thinks about it. “Yeah,” he says, remembering Sherlock. “I suppose he was,” and he takes her hand in his.
The first weekend in July, they go to Cornwall. The air tastes of salt and seaweed, and it feels nice to wiggle his toes in the warm sand. The ocean is nearly the same dark blue as Mary’s eyes, and he loves the way her laughter rings like church bells on the wind, through the spray. For two days, everything is sand and surf and sex, and John hasn’t felt this alive in ages.
They are lying, silent and side-by-side, on matching striped towels. She’s on her belly, and the breeze keeps blowing a wisp of golden hair into her eyes as she lazily flips through a magazine. She has grains of sand stuck to the back of her thigh, a million glittering jewels in the sunlight. Every now and then, she runs her foot along the length of John’s calf, from the back of his knee down to the knob of his ankle, and he kisses her shoulder, warm under his lips and sweet with sun lotion.
He is in love with her.
John decides to ask her to move in with him. She stays at Baker Street most nights anyway, and on the nights that she doesn’t, his bed feels too large, the flat too quiet.
Mrs Hudson is over the moon for him, when he tells her.
On his way home from work, he stops at the DIY shop to get copies of his key made, and while he’s waiting, he wanders over to the paint section. He reckons it’s well past time he fixed the sitting room wall for Mrs Hudson.
He gathers some spackling paste, a trowel, and some sand paper, and he picks up about a million paint chip cards with names like Snow Capped and Sparrow Grey and Cherry Bomb. She can pick it—he’s rubbish at that sort of thing.
He texts her, but she can’t come over tonight, so he’ll do it tomorrow; she’s free tomorrow. He’ll make dinner, do it up with candles and music and everything. It will be perfect. He is smiling like an idiot, right there in front of the paint rollers and blue tape.
He pays the man at the till, and he heads home, giddy and nervous and ready.
The new key turns easily in the lock when he tests it, and he wonders if he shouldn’t wrap it like a present—or would that be silly? He lets himself in, dropping the bags just inside the door.
He is halfway across the room to bung the keys on the desk, when he stops, dead in his tracks. The keys in his hand fall to the ground, but John doesn’t hear them land; the only sound he registers is the blaring drumbeat of blood pounding in his ears. He feels like someone has punched him in the stomach.
The world around him goes hazy; this can’t be real.
But it looks real.
That is— It is—
Sherlock, who is standing from where he’d been sitting in his chair. Standing. He’s so tall. His body stretches on forever. Now, Sherlock is moving. Walking. Toward him.
John is breathing too fast, and he cannot tear his eyes away. Sherlock. He’s getting closer. He’s smiling—that smile, that one that he remembers—that one.
John hears—his voice is so low; it is the same. John feels stuck, feet nailed to the spot on the floor.
Sherlock is getting closer. He should say something. But what?
Sherlock’s long fingers wrap around his arm, and John dumbly watches where they light on his sleeve. He’s breathing hard, breaths near to whistling as they come in and out of his nose, chest rising and falling quickly. John lifts his head, and Sherlock is still there, attached to the hand on his arm, face impassive, waiting.
“Sherlo—” He can’t get the whole word out. He coughs, choking on the air filling his lungs, and his knees are going to fail him.
He backs away from Sherlock until his body finds a table or a wall, yes, a wall—he needs support. He bends forward, stares at the knees of his trousers, closes his eyes tightly for a second, pinching the bridge of his nose.
When he stands upright again, he just stares. Sherlock hasn’t moved.
Suddenly, John’s legs remember how to work again, and they take him back over to where Sherlock is standing in long, heavy strides. He doesn’t have time to process anything; everything is muddled, too much. And his hand is curling into a fist, and his arm is rearing back, and he’s saying, “You bastard.”
His brain catches up with him before he actually swings. His fist hangs between them for a second before John lets it drop; the fight in him goes just as quickly as it came, evaporating into nothing. His heart is filling, brimming, overflowing with relief.
He lunges forward and wraps his arms around Sherlock; he can’t help how tight he’s holding on. He can’t make himself let go. It isn’t a second before Sherlock does the same, holds John just as tightly, and they are both breathing hard, chests rising and falling in the same rhythm.
==End Part Three==