They finally meet for drinks. It's been ages, but Greg had refused to let it go.
He'd fucked up the first time, when Sherlock died. He'd felt paralyzed with guilt and had avoided John like the plague. Looking back now, it makes his stomach roil with shame. After all that John was undoubtedly going through at that time, Greg just...let himself off the hook. At the funeral, after the funeral... God, he hadn't reached out until nearly two years afterwards, and that was just to drop off the box of Sherlock's belongings.
So when he heard of Mary's death, Greg was devastated, of course. But he vowed that it wouldn't be like last time.
So he called and left a voicemail. An honest-to-God voicemail, complete with, "Call me if there's anything I can do." At the funeral, he shook John's hand and offered his condolences looking him squarely in the eye, and reminded John to call as soon as he was ready.
The week after the funeral, Greg texted John. "Drinks this week? Name the time and place."
He didn't receive a response, though he wasn't expecting one. Instead, he set up a calendar reminder on his phone. Every Sunday at 8pm, he texted John Watson: "Drinks this week? Name the time and place."
He still saw John in a professional capacity, of course. Greg was in and out of Baker Street on a regular basis. Not only that, but he was the one to interview John after the incident with Culverton Smith in the hospital. He was the one on the scene after the whole horrifying affair at the Holmes family estate. John was friendly and courteous during every one of these encounters, but he didn't mention the texts.
It had been a month after the Sherrinford Incident when Greg's phone pings on a Sunday night.
Allsop Arms? Tuesday at 7? JW
See you there. GL
He notes that's the pub they frequented together before Sherlock's death. It was off the same tube line that Greg took home, and the location made it easy for John to pop out for a pint on nights that he and Sherlock weren't immersed in a case.
He wonders if that means John's not living in Watford anymore.
Tuesday night finds Greg holed up in their usual booth, stomach twisted in what feels like nervous anticipation. There was so much he'd wanted to say to John over the past few years, yet now John was saddled with yet another insurmountable loss--was Greg supposed to chat with him about rugby and telly and Yard gossip like they had back in the old days, with the cloud of Mary's departure hovering over them, or was he supposed to bring it up and legitimately ask John how he was doing? And if he did, how the hell was John supposed to respond? He starts to question whether his tenacity was such a good thing after all...
But before he can work himself up even more, he sees John stride through the door of the pub, and catches his eyes with a smile. They greet each other with a warm handshake, and Greg offers to buy the first round. John accepts.
When they're finally both seated in the booth, Greg fidgets with his pint glass nervously. What in God's name is he supposed to say?
In what Greg can only assume is an act of mercy, John speaks first. "I'm glad you texted. I haven't had a night out with actual adult conversation in as long as I can remember. You'll have to excuse me if I start speaking in rhyme or randomly naming colors or discussing the latest episode of Tellytubbies--I'm starting to understand what people are talking about when they mention Baby Brain."
Greg laughs. "So who's taking care of Rosie tonight?"
John smiles. "She's with Sherlock."
"Christ, alone? You sure he's not going to turn her into some sort of experiment?"
"Oh, without a doubt, but at this point it seems a small sacrifice to make to save my own sanity."
"So...that's going well, then? With Sherlock?" He doesn't want to put too fine a point on it, but since John brought it up...
"Well, when I left he was attempting to teach her the Krebs Cycle using Duplo Blocks. Seems a bit advanced for 9 months, but who am I to judge?" He shrugs.
Greg barks out a laugh, and John smiles back. "So did you see the match on Sunday?" John asks.
So that's how it's going to be. Greg feels himself relax as they ease back into their familiar steady banter.
Two hours later, John checks his watch. "I should be getting back."
And now it's finally the moment of truth. Greg knows what he wants to say--what he needs to say. He's run it over and over in his head since that day two weeks after John's wedding, when John called him and begged him to check on Sherlock. Two simple words: I know.
I know that you and Sherlock were more than just friends. I know that when you lost him, you lost your partner, not your colleague. I know that you must have had your reasons for hiding it from us, but mate, trust me, those who care about you wouldn't have given two shits who you sleep with at night--only that we could support you in your agony, in your grief. We would have been there for you.
He'd wanted to say it, rehearsed it time and time again.
He'd come close, after Sherlock's attack on Culverton Smith. John had been sitting across from Greg in the interrogation room, having recounted his side of the story when, out of nowhere, John spoke in a soft monotone, as if in disbelief. "I really hit him, Greg. Hit him hard."
God, he'd wanted to tell him then, tell him that he knew why John's horror at his own actions was infinitely more profound than that of a friend who'd finally lost his temper with a mate, a schoolyard beatdown over past transgressions, boys being boys. What had happened in that morgue--though John had undoubtedly saved Smith's life--what had happened there between John and Sherlock, in light of their past relationship, was a dark and twisted thing. It wasn't okay.
But he'd chickened out. He'd clapped John on the shoulder and told him no one could blame him.
He'd had a hard time sleeping that night.
So tonight, it's going to be different.
But just like before, he feels his throat close up and his tongue get tied. He searches for the words, but none seem quite right. He realizes he probably looks like a fish out of water, mouth opening and closing futilely as he struggles to finally speak out. John gives him a strange look.
Except this time, Greg's brought backup. Just in case. He reaches into his bag, and pulls out a book.
London A to Z.
He places it on the table and pushes it over to John, searching his face for signs of recognition. John looks predictably flummoxed.
"I borrowed this from Sherlock. Ages ago, right after your honeymoon with Mary, when I went to check on him. Kept meaning to return it, but always forgot."
"Thought you might want to read it."
"Isn't it just...for tourists or whatever? I guess we did use it to decode that cypher once, but I'm pretty sure that was a one-off."
"Be that as it may, you really should have a look through it sometime. Makes sense of a lot of things. Real enlightening."
John furrows his brow more deeply, clearly under the impression that Greg's off his rocker.
"Sure thing, I'll...uh, have a look."
They part with another handshake, and Greg watches John as he ambles off in the direction of Baker Street.
And for the first time in a long time, he feels like it's going to be okay. It may not be perfect--God knows it was a clusterfuck of the most epic proportions-- but maybe, just maybe, all it took was a few good men deciding to finally grow the fuck up and do the right thing.
Of course, he hadn't really said it aloud. He hadn't looked John in the eye and said, "I know you and Sherlock were lovers and for all I know you might be again, but you need to stop hiding it because we all care too much about you to let it slide this time." No. He hadn't had the balls to say that.
But he was taking a step, a step towards honesty, a step towards recognition, and if he was extremely lucky, John would see it for what it was and meet him halfway.
It wasn't over, surely. But at least it was a start.