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My Heart, My Love, My Life

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Chapter Text


John Watson was sitting at her desk at the surgery where she worked three days a week part-time, going over paperwork and patient-files, wishing for the day to end faster. She needed a break, and a stiff drink. A good tumble wouldn’t hurt anyone, either. But at this rate, she was only looking forward to that drink. She might be lucky to get a break on Wednesday, but she wasn’t keeping her fingers crossed. She was surprised when her phone rang, and she checked her mobile first before picking up her desk-phone. The number looked familiar, and she sighed. Great.

“Watson.” She twirled her biro as she answered, hoping to God this would be a quick call. As soon as she answered, though, she knew it wouldn’t be. The first thing she heard was sniffling. Okay?

“Hello?” She tried again.

“Hey, Jack! It’s Clara!”  Okay, so she hadn’t misread the number, that was Clara Oswin’s office-number. John frowned, wondering what on earth was wrong. The wedding was in two days, wasn’t it?

“Hi, Clara. What’s up?”

“Hey, sorry to call you at work.” She heard a soft sound that might have been a sob, “God, sorry. Hey, are you busy this afternoon?”

“Uh, no?” She checked her schedule. Nope, she was good to go after her next two patients. Meant she’d be out of here by six? That’d be great. She sighed.

“Yeah, no, I’m free after six. What’s up? You sound awful.”

“Oh, thank Christ! I can’t…I shouldn’t be asking you for this, not this close to the wedding.”

“Clara, what happened?” Something had gone wrong, and two days to the wedding was a real bad time for things to get cocked up. God help them if her fiancé had done something stupid. Which was entirely possible, it was Harry Watson they were talking about anyway.

“Here, can you talk to Harry really quick?” She heard a commotion in the background and Clara sounded a little nervous.

“Um. Sure? I guess, I mean why do you need me to…” 

“John? Sorry, Clara’s about in pieces.”  Her sister came on the phone next and John sighed, rubbing her forehead. It wasn’t that Clara was about in pieces, she already was. John hadn’t been involved much with the planning, but she’d offered Harry a friendly ear while they planned the wedding, and had accepted an invitation to be there. She had offered Clara the same services and spent a couple of nights making friends with bottles of expensive wine and popcorn as they watched cheesy chick-flicks and superhero flicks to get Clara’s mind off of her impending nuptials.  This was Round Two or Round Three for them, John seriously hoped they could get their acts together once and for all.

“Hey, Harry. What’s up? Sounds like the walls are coming down?”

“Oh, John! Please, you have to help us! You have to help!” That was Clara in the background. Apparently, with Harry holding the phone she could get the words together properly.

“Uh, sure? Mind telling me what you need my help with, first?”

“Doctor Watson?” John’s nurse, a friendly woman named Chelsea, stuck her head in, John put a finger up to hold her. “Oh, sorry, ma’am.”

“John, we need a bridesmaid.”

“Hang on, Harry. Hold that.” She frowned and looked up at Chelsea. “Sorry, Chels. What’s up?”

“Oh, I just wanted to let you know that your three o’clock called in. Kids got the flu. They rescheduled for next week.”

“Oh, that’s…fine. What about my four-thirty?”

“Hasn’t called.”

“Okay, good. I’ll get back to you.” She waved Chelsea out and waited for the door of her office to close. She looked at her watch and sighed.

“Hey, Harry? Clara?”

“Sorry, John! I’m so sorry!” Clara was almost sobbing, “Will you please, please, please do it for us?”

“Do what?”

“Rachel broke her leg and she’ll be in the hospital the rest of the week.” That was Harry, the level-headed one of the pair right now.

“Doing…what?”

“Climbing accident, she said.”

“Jesus.” John had met the bridesmaids at the bridal shower and had gotten along with most of them, except for one. Rachel Mathers had been a typical type-A personality, flaunting her achievements and basically making everyone else hate her because she couldn’t stop bragging about herself. Not to mention the way she bossed everyone around, taking over almost every aspect of the wedding and making it miserable for the rest of them.

“Please, John? Please?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess. What do you need me for?”

“Just a quick fitting for the dresses. You were about Rachel’s size, you should fit her dress. You’ll do it, then?”

“Well, you said please.” John smiled, “The least I can do is make sure your wedding day isn’t ruined by a thoughtless bridesmaid none of us really liked to begin with.”

“Oh thank you so much, John! When are you available?”

“When do you need me?” She looked at her schedule again. There was an open block where the cancellation had been scheduled, and her four-thirty was still on roster. Hmm. Clara gave her the time and location to meet, and she promised to be there. Hanging up, she finished what was in front of her and set aside the remaining charts for later, putting them in the locked cabinet next to the desk. Time to switch with another doc. She’d take the rest of the week off, the wedding was taking place in Edinburgh and she hadn’t had a proper holiday in a while. She honestly couldn’t remember the last time she’d had more than a day or two off. If she had time, she might visit her sister in Brighton. Gathering the finished charts, John deposited them in her outbox, collected her coat and made sure she had everything before she left for the rest of the week. With things managed, she locked up and pocketed her keys as she headed for the main reception desk, taking the stairs down to the ground floor two at a time.

“Hey, Louis?”She stopped by the reception desk down on the ground floor on her way out the door, to let them know she was leaving early and wouldn’t be back for a while.

“Yes, dear?” The cheerful head receptionist, a very friendly bloke from Stirling who couldn’t possibly be straight with skin the colour of chocolate and eyes like dark coffee, looked up as she tapped on the desk. He took one look at her and raised an eyebrow. “Uh-oh.”

“Sorry.”

“What now?”

“You’ll never believe this, but I need to step in for Harry’s wedding.”

“Chief Bridesmaid?!”

“God, I hope not! Bridesmaid, at least.” She made a face and leaned against the desk.

“Take you’ll be gone the rest of the week, then?”

“Yep. And give my four-thirty to someone else if they don’t cancel before then. Pretty please?”

“For you, love, anything.” Louis just gave her that smile. He knew all about the Stamford wedding, of course. “Who are you, eh, replacing?”

“Mathers. Apparently, the idiot went and broke her leg in a climbing accident or something.”

“Oh, thank Christ! She’s not going to be there?”

“Nope.”

“Oh, bless! Bless!” Louis beamed, “Y’know, she didn’t like me.”

“She didn’t like any of us. I wasn’t even a member of the party until fifteen minutes ago.” John rolled her eyes, “I forgot you’re on Harry’s side of it, aren’t you?”

“You owe me a dance, Captain.”

“Oh, absolutely! Louis, I will dance with you anytime! See you on Wednesday?”

“At the very least. See you in Edinburgh, love!” Louis just smiled at her and leaned up to kiss her on the cheek, “You’ll get along with the rest of us, I should think. There’s only one I’d warn you of, but he shouldn’t be too much trouble.”

“Who’s that, then? I know all of Clara’s side, but not much about the other side of it. Harry’s been pretty quiet about her guys, I only knew about you because you told me.” She raised an eyebrow, curious.

“Oh, you’ll know ‘im. He’ll be bloody hard to miss if he actually shows. Heard him say that debt or no to Harry, he wouldn’t go anywhere near the place if Mathers was still part of the party.”

“Do I get a name?”

“Not ruining the surprise.”

“Oh, you’re useless.” She made a face, “Guess I’ll find out more about Mister Mysterious later, then. See you on Wednesday, Louis!”

“See you, John!” Louis waved and she said goodbye to the others as she left the office. Shrugging into her coat, she bundled up against the weather. It wasn’t that cold, but it was colder than she would like. Once out of the surgery, she looked up and down the street and headed for Cavendish Street. She was meeting Harry and Clara at four-thirty, it was just three now. She had enough time to get home, take a shower so she didn’t smell like work, and meet Clara at the Westfield Stratford City Mall. She might be a bit late, but nothing for it. Thankfully, getting home was relatively simple and she hopped in the shower. She got a text from Clara as she was getting dressed asking if she was free for dinner. Yes, why? Harry had decided to treat the whole party to dinner, one last hurrah before the wedding or some such. If she was interested in being social, they’d love to have her.

 

Text to Clara: (sent 3:15)

I would love to join you! I’ve met the girls, haven’t met any of Harry’s except Louis Emerrick, and that was because I work with ‘im! Yes, I’ll be there! Meet you at Westfield in thirty. – John

 

Pocketing her phone, John made sure she had her Browning. She had learned never to leave the house without it. A friend of hers at The Met had given her a warrant and holster for her gun a few Christmases ago, said he might as well. She already had registered licensing for it, but a warrant never hurt either. Thinking of Lestrade, she wondered if she should hit him up for drinks sometime. She hadn’t seen him in a while and things had been a little crazy. A night at the pub could do them both wonders. Leaving her Russell Court flat, she headed for the tube station to catch the train up to Westfield. Right as she turned onto High Holborn from Southampton Row, she saw a glimpse of black in the periphery. Looking over her shoulder, she saw a black Jaguar slide out of traffic and come to a stop along the kerb.

“What were the chances?” She muttered, leaning against the car as the back window rolled down, shooting a quick look at a nearby CCTV camera.

“Well, well. What brings you ‘round here, Mr Holmes?”

“Doctor Watson. Going somewhere?”

“Depends.” She grinned at the handsome gentleman sitting on the heated bench, “What’s in it for you?”

“The company of a lovely lady-friend who doesn’t mind me griping.”

“Thought that was your brother’s job?”

“Not as much these days, I’m afraid.”

“That bad, huh?” She chuckled, “Sure, if you don’t mind a little detour.”

“Get in.”

“Bless you.” She hopped into the car.

“So, where can I take you, then?” Mycroft Holmes asked as they rejoined traffic. “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

“Yeah, sorry. It’s been chaos with flu season.”

“Well, we’re all healthy in my office, thank you. And thanks to you, of course.”

“No problem.” She tapped her knuckles against the window. “Uh, head for Westfield Stratford City, please.”

“Why are you going up there?”

“Because I got bumped up to bridesmaid.”

“Oh?”

“Yep. One of Clara’s girls did something really stupid, or Rachel Mathers is a fucking liar, and she’s down one.”

“Latter.”

“Yeah, if I had to guess. Doesn’t matter, though, nobody really liked her.” John shrugged, “I think we’re going up tomorrow, so I took the rest of the week off.”

“That is wise. When is the last time you had a break of more than a day, my dear?”

“Not in a long time.” John looked at her friend, “I feel bad we don’t see each other more, but…schedules.” All she got for that was a slightly sad smile.

 

John could still remember the first time she’d been pulled off the streets by a mysterious black car and dropped off in some dingy warehouse in Whitechapel. A rather portly but fit gentleman in a suit that cost twice what she ever earned had questioned her regarding a number of subjects and when she finally got a name out of him, had decided that if he wanted to have a decent relationship of any kind, kidnapping really wasn’t the best way to go about it. The fact that she hadn’t been afraid of him had intrigued Mycroft Holmes and over the next three years, had staged regular “kidnappings”. She usually got dinner out of the deal, so she didn’t complain much. And really, when he admitted that all he really actually wanted was an impartial friend, who didn’t care about the scandals his late brother Sherlock had been embroiled in before his suicide four months prior to John’s return to a London she didn’t feel like calling home, it was all she’d been waiting for. If he wanted a friend he could pour out his woes to who wouldn’t tell a soul, John would be that friend. Even when Sherlock Holmes came back from the dead, John and Mycroft maintained their friendship. John knew more state-secrets than most government spooks, but she was never going to say a word about any of it. A couple of secrets, a few internal intrigues rattling the Royal Family’s cages a bit, some of it public knowledge some very private. Either way, she was good at keeping her mouth shut.

-&-

When the car came to a stop at last, she let the driver hold the door for her.

“Thanks for the ride, Mycroft.”

“My pleasure, Doctor Watson. Good luck tomorrow?”

“And the next day. Ugh. I hate weddings.”

“Why?”

“Well, not weddings, exactly, I just hate it when everyone else is so disgustingly happy and then they wonder why the singletons like me despise them for having someone.”

“You never know. Hook-ups happen at weddings all the time.”

“For more than a one-night tumble with a bloke you wouldn’t hit broad-side to a barn on a clear day?”

“Hmm. You do have a point. But, it’s not all bad, you get free food and all the alcohol you can handle.” Mycroft smiled, “And you’re not quite single.”

“Yeah, but who else is going to know that or care enough to let me explain myself? Besides, it gets me out of London.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, “See ya, Mycroft.”

“Take care of yourself, John.” Mycroft waited until she was out of sight to pull away, she didn’t miss that little detail. It intrigued her that someone as busy, as important as Mycroft Holmes, would invest so much effort and time into a bitter, semi-crippled veteran with no manners and fewer friends. She had her Army buddies, of course, she had Harry and Clara, but not much beyond that to speak of. But, as she’d learned in the years since coming home in 2011, having friends like Lestrade and Mycroft was very useful. Lestrade had fed her bits of info on his cases once he returned to The Met after a forced leave of duty, and Mycroft gave her work as well. She had the surgery, of course, but she enjoyed her clandestine work a bit more. And they knew this, so they gave her puzzles to solve, marks to target. She loved it.

 

Meeting up with Clara and Harry, John realized that she might possibly be in serious trouble. The whole bridal party had gathered for this final fitting, and when she walked into the store and gave her name at the front, the clerk pointed her to the back, showing her the way.

“John!” Clara was standing on the platform in front of the mirrors, gorgeous in her dress, “You made it!”

“Hi, Clara.” John carefully hugged the bride-to-be, “I thought Harry wasn’t supposed to see you until the wedding?”

“Oh, who cares? They’re lucky we’re having a ceremony at all!” Clara rolled her eyes. John snickered.

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

“Your dress is over there, love. Thank you so much for bailing us out, I just about had a heart-attack when Rachel called me from the hospital.” Clara made a face, “At least, that’s where she said she was.”

“You can do better than that, Clara. I’ve got you.” John smirked and went to get a look at the dress she was being asked to wear. She had met Rachel Mathers, they were roughly the same size. Rachel was a bit smaller in the chest than John, so there might be a bit of a snug fit there, but it probably wouldn’t be terrible. The dress was gorgeous, for a bridesmaid’s get-up, a very lovely ivory. It was two shades off from Clara’s dress, and John raised an eyebrow. The other girls wore a seasonably appropriate blue, different shades for each girl, but Mathers’ dress was…ivory. John took it down on the hangar and looked at Clara.

“Clara?”

“Yes, love?”

“Did you forget to tell me something?”

“I was afraid you would say no if I admitted my Chief Bridesmaid had ditched me.”

“Sweetie.” John sighed and looked at the dress. “Should’ve made a fucking bet with Louis. He’d be laughing his arse off right now if he knew about this.”

“You’ll still do it, won’t you? Please don’t be mad at me?” Clara looked so sad, so afraid of being ditched again or rejected right when she needed someone to step in the most. John shook her head and ducked into the nearest empty stall.

“I’m not mad at you, Clara. You know none of us really liked Rachel, so we’re not exactly going to miss her.”

“She didn’t even ask me, she just said “I’m your Chief Bridesmaid, leave this to me”. Didn’t give me a chance to ask you to do the job.” Clara messed with the skirt of her dress, “I knew it was a bad idea, but…”

“Yeah, I know.” She ditched her street-clothes and fought into the dress. Clara and the girls were listening to her struggle and curse and she finally got to where she could show herself without making anyone uncomfortable.

“Okay, for one thing, Rachel couldn’t have possibly been this small in the chest!”

“Can you breathe?” Clara giggled, “You look fabulous!”

“Yeah, I can breathe, but you’d better have something in mind for what I’m wearing under this thing, I can’t wear a bra.”

“No problem!” Clara smiled and came over, making a few adjustments, getting the zipper done up all the way.

“Oh, now that’s lovely!” John sighed, “Thank God it covers the scar.”

“Honey, you got that scar fighting for The Crown, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.” Clara shook her head, “Besides, the surgeons worked miracles, yeah?”

“Yeah, they did. Still shy of it, though.” She thought of the starburst scar on her shoulder, the only visible evidence left of the injury that had sent her home from Afghanistan after nearly twenty years in the Army, and frowned. Sometimes she hated that scar so much. At one point, Mycroft had actually fronted the money, without her asking, to have reduction surgery done on the scar. It was far less obvious, less obnoxious than it had been when she first arrived home. It wasn’t that John was body-shy, she really wasn’t, but it was a subject that had come up in various conversations at different times with different people that it made her very self-conscious and she felt like it was the first thing people noticed about her even when they couldn’t see it. Now it was more smooth lines and slightly-raised patches of skin.

“You look gorgeous, scars and all.” Harry came up and kissed her on the cheek, “Besides, you’re a bigger person than your scars. They’re just one part of the person that’s John Watson.”

“You’ve always been a smooth talker when you felt like it, Harry.” John wrinkled her nose, “Real charmer, you are.”  Harry just smiled at her. Content with the fit and style of the dress, and still slightly miffed that she had more or less been tricked into standing in as Clara’s Chief Bridesmaid, John took the dress off and got back into her street clothes. With the final fitting out of the way, John went with Clara and the girls to go shoe-shopping. She was the only one of the group who needed shoes, but this was a group-outing and she figured that the more time she spent with the wedding party, the easier things would be on Wednesday. She settled on a pair of blue kitten heels with a low, slim 50mm heel, skinny buckled ankle band, sweeping asymmetric strap detail and a pointed, closed toe. With shoes settled and not a ridiculous height, John was not ashamed of her height but didn’t mind a little bit of a boost, it was off to party. Besides, it sure beat out her other plans for the night, which hadn’t been that exciting. Her typical routine was simple: Go home, order takeaway, watch crap telly, pass out after a couple of beers, repeat tomorrow.

 

The whole group convened at a pub in Central London and got a long table to accommodate all of them. There were six in all, five with one missing. The only person they were missing was Harry’s Best Man, who apparently had gotten an important call and was going to miss the get-together, as he regretfully informed them as they sat in the pub an hour later.

“Oh, that’s just typical.” Harry rolled her eyes as she set her phone down, “Just like him, something important comes up right before the party.”

“He’ll be at the wedding, won’t he?”

“Absolutely. He learned a long time ago not to underestimate the wrath of Clara Oswin. Or me, for that matter.” Harry chuckled, “More respect for the two of us than that. It’d take an international incident to keep him from the wedding.”

“Government?”                               

“Something like that.” Harry just smiled benignly. “Don’t worry, I promise you’ll get along with him alright.”

“He’s aware that Rachel Mathers has been replaced?”

“Yep. He said you were a better choice anyway.”

“Not sure about that.” John took a sip of her drink and rolled her eyes, “Could’ve picked anyone else.”

“We didn’t though.” Clara just grinned at her, “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Besides, the girls all like you and the lads don’t mind you much either.”

“Most of ‘em are Harry’s lot, and I happen to get along with just about anybody.” John shrugged and looked around the table. One of Harry’s lads just raised his glass in salute.

 

After the party, John let Harry pay for her taxi and texted her sister when she got home safe. Clara was going to take care of the dresses, all John had to worry about was making sure she had shoes and underthings as appropriate. John packed for the wedding, made sure she had a change of clothes as necessary, packed everything else, and set her bags by the door of her flat. An angry sound got her attention and she looked over her shoulder. Sitting behind her, tail flicking in annoyance, was her three-year-old dilute calico British Shorthair. She had adopted the cat off the streets a few years ago after it kept coming around, getting in through a window, and she had named it Noire. The cat was neutered male, and probably the best friend John had. At the moment, Noire was glaring at her. She snickered.

“Oh, what? Feeling abandoned, you brat?” She stuck her fingers out, “I’m sorry I forgot about you, dear. Haven’t had any food tonight, have you?” Noire wandered over and rubbed against her, letting her pick him up. She headed for the kitchen and opened a can of cat-grade tuna. Noire made a sound of mild discontent, still quite miffed by her earlier forgetfulness, and set into his tuna. John located and set up the automatic feeder, cleaned the water-fountain and replaced the filter, and cleaned out the litter-box. John also called her standby pet-sitter to look after Noire while she was at the wedding.

“Oh, sure! Where are you going again?”

“Uh, Edinburgh.”

“Oh, that’s right! You’re going to Harry’s wedding, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I was going anyway, but things got kind of…interesting. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, gosh, no! All you need me to do is check on him a couple of times?”

“Yeah, maybe once a day?”

“Oh, sure, no problem at all!” She heard a soft chuckle, “Uh, do I want to know what happened to Mycroft?” John rolled her eyes.

“Your guess is as good as mine, honestly. I asked him first, as soon as I said I’d go, but he swore he was out of town for something. Business or who the fuck knows what.” She sighed, “You’d think by now I’d be used to it.”

“Sweetie, I spent years tracking that idiot brother of his everywhere, still do. God bless you for trying with Mycroft.” John heard the smile she couldn’t see and leaned against the counter, wondering how well Greg Lestrade knew her. Of course, they’d been friends by now for eight years. She was rather fond of Sherlock Holmes, who was a consultant of sorts for Greg. She’d run into Sherlock a couple of times when she worked a case for Greg, didn’t think too badly of him. He was a bit of a show-off, but not an inherently bad person, just didn’t have much in the way of manners. And he didn’t mind her much, even when he realized that she was more or less dating his brother. He’d moaned and whined about it for a while, but he didn’t have any real reason to object, their involvement rarely had a thing to do with him anyway. And honestly, he had to admit that John knew her business and would kill herself before turning in any of her secrets to the wrong hands. And if those secrets got out, it wasn’t her fault. Not to mention, he’d said she was by far one of the smartest people who knew who wasn’t family. That got an eye-roll from John and Greg, and a chuckle from Mycroft when she informed him of things at their next kidnap-date after that confession.

“Can you blame me? I mean, we’ve never officially dated, far as anyone else is concerned, but you wouldn’t know that about either of us. How many family Christmases have I been to because he finally had someone he didn’t mind introducing his parents to who wasn’t fazed by his silly little brother?” 

“At least two or three more than me, I think?”

“I rest my case.” She reached over and rubbed Noire’s scruff, “So, yeah, if you look after the monster for me, I’d be awfully grateful. Pay you back with a pub-night sometime?”

“Oh, sure. Why not? Not like I don’t adore your little fluff-monster anyway, is it?”  As if she really had to twist his arm for cat-sitting.

“So, what are the chances he’ll be spending the week at yours, then?” She smirked.

“Mine, or Baker Street. I heard from Mrs Hudson the other day, she said she hasn’t seen Noire in a while and kind of missed him.”

“That’s because she feeds him cheese when he begs nicely. And you tell that scoundrel detective of yours my cat is off-limits for experiments.”

“Oh, don’t worry about Sherlock, he loves Noire.”

“And it’s mutual.” She shook her head, “Well, you know the drill, Greg. Thanks again for doing this.”

“No problem! God knows you could use a long break. What’ll you do up there?”

“Not a bleeding clue. Might go visit family if I have time. I mean, Fort William’s only five hours north of Edinburgh.”

“I bet your grandparents would be happy to see you, if you’ve got time to make a trip up their way. Unless they’re coming to the wedding?”

“Yeah, they called the other day, wanted to know how I was doing.”

“Wanted to know if you were dating anyone?”

“Always do.” She chuckled, “I’m running out of ways to tell them no.”

“You’re running out of ways to lie, you mean.” Greg sounded sly. In the background, she heard a door slam open and raised voices and winced.

“Gotta go?”

“Sorry?”

“Oh, don’t. Keep Donovan from eating Sherlock alive, will you? I don’t think Mycroft would be very happy about that.”

“I’ll do my best. Good luck in Edinburgh, love, I’ll get the whole story when you get back to town.”

“Bye, Greg.” She hung up as he started yelling at someone, she honestly couldn’t say who. Checking her time, John decided to get some sleep. She had to be at King’s Cross Station by 10.20am, the train to Edinburgh left at 10.30am. With her bags packed, time off arranged, pet-sitting taken care of, and the identity of her sister’s Best Man the only mystery left to be solved, John slept rather well that night.


 

Chapter Text


John was up with her alarm the next morning, showered and dressed in good time, and got a taxi to King’s Cross Station with time enough to spare so she could get Starbucks and a croissant. She met up with the rest of the party, still no sign of her sister’s errant Best Man to be found, and they boarded the 10.30 Virgin Trains bound for Edinburgh. It was a quiet trip, plenty of talk between the party members, and John helped Greg and Sherlock solve a case remotely when they simultaneously texted her for assistance. Apparently, they needed a third set of eyes for this one and a medical opinion. She had them send pictures from the crime-scene to her email and then went over them on her tablet, giving her opinion over a phone-call.

“Are you sure about that, John?”

“If the photographic evidence is accurate, our victim hasn’t been dead more than a day or two. Who called time-of-death?”

“Anderson.”

“Well, he wasn’t far off on time, but he was wrong about the cause of death.” She scrolled to another picture, giving her sister a quick look when Harry made a noise. “Strangulation was the secondary cause, not primary.”

“How can you tell?”

“The bruises are too fresh. I’d give it a cause of death by overdose.”

“That’s what I said.” Sherlock sounded smug, “Did you see the pinprick injury on the forearm?”

“At the cubital fossa right over the median vein? Yep. The only question is, what killed her? Which drug did they use?”

“I bet Molly could answer that for us, or Sherlock, if he can get to it faster.”

“Of course I can get the answers faster. Molly has enough work to do.”

“Hey, boys, play nice. Ask nicely, Sherlock, and maybe Molly will let you do the toxicology by yourself this time. Make sure you take proper reporting notes on what you find.”

“I always do.” He sounded almost insulted that she didn’t think he could be nice to Molly Hooper. John snickered and rubbed her nose.

“Well, you two stay out of trouble, alright? I’ll be back in a week.”

“London will not fall while you’re gone, John. I promise.”

“Yeah, well, don’t have too much fun without me.” She looked out the window, “I’ll catch you two idiots later.”

“Bye, John. Thanks for your help.”

“Pleasure as always, Greg.” She let them hang up first and refreshed her inbox. She sorted through the emails there and answered those that required a response.

“I forget you work for The Met sometimes.” Harry murmured, “What was it this time?”

“Crime of passion, possibly a hired hit. Won’t know until we get suspects and toxicology results.” She shrugged, “Nothing really that interesting. Although, it is something when I have to remind Sherlock Holmes to be nice to the pathologist.”

“Doctor Hooper?”

“Mhm. She’s a very lovely girl, could do better in the dating department, but it’s not like I’ve got much room to talk about bad boyfriend choices, is it?”

“You don’t date is the problem. Maybe one or two blokes, a couple of hens, but…not like you did when we were younger.” Harry shook her head, “I could swear you’ve got a boyfriend, a secret one.”

“I do not have a boyfriend, Harry.” John rolled her eyes. If Harry brought up Mycroft, she would be absolutely shocked.

“Does Mycroft know?”

“Oh for God’s sake! Harry, don’t you dare!” John set down her tablet, “I am not dating Mycroft Holmes, alright? Despite what the papers like to say about it, we are friends!”

“Just friends? You two can get pretty cosy.”

“Leave off, Harry. I saw him yesterday, first time in months. And now he’s out of town on business, Christ knows when I’ll see him again.” John hated it when people talked about Mycroft like that. She had far more respect for him than to assume they were any kind of couple. Friends with benefits was most likely. Despite the way they acted around each other, sometimes. But it was almost always for a work event where Mycroft needed a plus-one and to pass off as a loving couple. Eight years on and the act was harder to carry and felt more real sometimes. When she would write an email or text him telling him to be safe wherever he was going, not to strangle the Prime Minister or Prime Minister’s lackeys and he wrote back with “I promise I will try my best”.

 

Once, during a deep-cover mission in Serbia, she had overindulged during a Pub Night with Greg’s lot, gotten properly drunk, and in a fit of…something, had sent a long, disjointed email that basically boiled down to John pouring her heart out and telling Mycroft not to do anything too stupid while he was in Serbia, she wouldn’t be very happy with him if he got hurt or killed. No coming home in boxes, please. “I can’t lose any more people I love, please don’t add your name to the list. Please, Mycroft, please be safe. Love from Lonely London.” Those had been her last words, the way she’d signed her email. Once sober, she had quickly apologized for the out-of-character email, but admitted that she really did miss him. And since she didn’t miss people like that, it was very strange for her.

“John? Sweetie?” Harry’s hand on her arm brought her back to the present. She looked out the window and saw they were coming into the station.

“Oh, Jesus Christ. Sorry, Hal.”

“Thinking about your boyfriend?”

“Is he my boyfriend if we never went public with it?” She put her tablet away and pocketed her phone after checking for any messages. “Do adult women in their forties have boyfriends?”

“Yes, and yes. Have you told him you love him?”

“A couple of times. Both while sober and while drunk.”

“And has he said those words in return?”

“Not those three words exactly, but…I mean, God, it’s Mycroft Holmes. He doesn’t say things like that. He says other things like “Be safe.” “Take care of yourself.” He’ll ask how my day’s gone, he’ll send me articles and papers he knows will interest me, from both our fields. He’ll bring me breakfast in bed on weekends if he’s at mine or I’m at his.” She got up from her seat and shouldered her backpack, making sure she hadn’t left anything in the compartment, “I can’t tell you how many times he’s come to pick me up from work, or sent a car for me. He’s given me his umbrella several times. And, um, I think I got him into football.”

“Chelsea or Arsenal?”

“Chelsea.”

“Mycroft Holmes watches football.”

“Only with me. He’ll record matches for me so I don’t miss them.” She thought of the birthday present he’d given her a while back, two season tickets to Stamford Bridge Stadium with access to Harris Suite. For the years he had maintained her tickets, she had missed only a handful of home games and had enjoyed every single one. No one really knew about those tickets, that was sort of a thing between the two of them. She suspected he might still have those tickets somewhere, they just hadn’t used them for much recently.

“Is that where you got your kit jersey?”

“Yep.” Which she had packed, for whatever reason. Harry rolled her eyes and ushered John off the train. After collecting their luggage, and there was quite a bit of it, they caught the Airlink 100 shuttle from Waverly Bridge to the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh. The first thing they got off the shuttle was the sound of a bagpipe. Red-carpet treatment, Pipe Major included. Nice touch, that was. Something appropriately cheerful for the occasion. A valet greeted them in a brogue John hadn’t heard in years and reminded her of her childhood. The rooms had been blocked for the wedding, of course, and John leaned against the desk with her back to the clerk and eyes on the lobby while Harry and Clara got keys for the wedding-party.

“Oh, Doctor Watson?” The clerk’s cheerful brogue broke into John’s musings, “Ma’am?”

“Hmm?” She looked over her shoulder, “Sorry, what?”

“You’re in a separate room from the rest of the Bridal Party, ma’am. You were upgraded.”

“Upgraded?” Harry’s eyebrows almost reached her hairline. “By whom?”

“One of your guests, ma’am.  Asked to remain anonymous, sorry.” The clerk shrugged as she handed John a key portfolio with a room-key inside and the room-number/suite name written on the front.

“Secret admirer, John?” Clara jabbed cheerfully, “Something you didn’t tell us?” John could only imagine. The bridesmaids and Clara were supposed to stay in the Caledonian Suite together, Harry had her own room, and the groomsmen had appropriate accommodations. And then Harry had decided to spring for the Alexander Graham Bell Suite as a Honeymoon Suite of sorts for her and Clara after the ceremony and reception tomorrow.

“Not very likely.” She saw where she was staying and whistled. The Billy Garioch Suite, good Christ.

“Where’re you shacked up, then? Lucky bastard.” Harry and Clara looked over her shoulder to see where she’d been moved to.

“Ooh, somebody was feeling generous!”

“Damn, Jack.” Harry made a jealous noise, “That’s the Billy Garioch Suite?”

“Looks like it.”

“Castle-views and all, you lucky bastard. Wonder who sprang to get you your own room.”

“I think I know who boosted me, but not a bloody fucking clue why.”

“Mycroft.” Harry and Clara said in the exact same tone of voice. As if that was any surprise. And just the sort of sneaky thing he would do for her sake. He knew she wasn’t really looking forward to the wedding, and if he didn’t know already about her change in status from guest to Chief Bridesmaid, he needed some new people on his payroll. Hell, Greg had probably told him, or Sherlock might’ve. She collected her luggage and decided she might as well get a look at her accommodations. John promised to meet up later, she had her phone if anything came up, and went up to the suite.

“Hey, Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you want us to hang onto your dress for you?” Clara had stayed behind.

“Yeah, that’d be better. If I don’t see you losers tonight, see you tomorrow at breakfast?”

“Absolutely!” Harry waved, one arm around her fiancée's neck, “Bye, John! Thanks for everything!”

“I’m your sister, moron, it’s my job to do shit like this for you.” She rolled her eyes and waved as she headed for the lift. Getting to her suite didn’t take long and she saw the rooms.

“Oh my god. Mycroft, you extravagant, lovesick idiot.” She sighed and looked out on a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle. John unpacked and stowed her suitcase. At the little workstation, she set up her laptop. After putting up her toiletries in the bathroom, John checked her time. The train had gotten in at 3.15, it was almost 3.30 now. John took a shower and changed out of the clothes she’d worn on the train. As part of her involvement with the wedding, Harry and Clara had gifted her with a new, bespoke-tailored kilt in the Watson Ancient tartan. It was just a Philabeg kilt, but it was more than enough and probably the most expensive, sentimental thing Harry had ever given her. It even had an included sash she could wear with other items of clothing, such as her bridesmaid’s dress tomorrow. Feeling a bit like going native, John got dressed in her kilt. Most women wore hostess skirts, or even traditional earsaids, but John never had. She was a tomboy, through and through. So, on went the kilt, complete with thick wool stockings, flashes, Jacobite shirt, and kilt-pins. There were two, one of the Watson clan-crest, the other of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. She had a navy blue Balmoral cap, and she attached the cap-badge to the brim. The family crest went on the kilt. Tying on a pair of her old desert boots, John got a quick look at herself in the mirror and grinned.

 

Pocketing her wallet and phone, thank god for belt-pouches and sporrans, she made sure she had her room-key and headed out to do some sight-seeing on her own. There was a group dinner again around seven, she would be back before then no problem. John stood outside the hotel and looked around. Making up her mind, she set off for St. Giles’ Cathedral in Old Town. John took a detour of sorts through the parkland that fronted the castle, glad the weather was sort of behaving but still not stupid enough to leave without a coat. It was February, she was in Scotland, weather was a fickle thing. John sighed and put her hands in her pockets, head down a bit. No one bothered her, locals generally left each other alone and there weren’t too many tourists just at the moment. There would be later, absolutely, and John fully expected to get asked for pictures. A kilt-wearing Scot seemed to be something of a novelty, even in big cities like Edinburgh, and she could affect enough of a regional accent to please the out-of-towners. 

-&-

As she reached the end of the initial loop towards The Mound, John raised her head as she heard the sound of a fiddle. Interesting place to set yourself up, wasn’t it? Middle of Princes Street Gardens? Well, they played very well. Turning to look over her shoulder, she caught sight of the busker on the stairs leading to a garden-walk beyond. Catching sight of her, the performer grinned and changed his tune. Something lively and quick, a proper reel. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather to watch, and John closed her eyes to listen, to let the music move her. She hadn’t been here in so long, but born to Scotland, she had never really forgotten the place. Or it’s magic. After a bit, John felt an itch on the back of her neck and chuckled. Okay, fine. She could stand to make an idiot of herself for a couple of strangers. As the tune changed again, she saw the fiddler make a gesture towards the grass on the far side of the footpath, an invitation she didn’t need repeated. Well, at least she was wearing her kilt, yeah? One of the bystanders, seeing what was what, grabbed her by the hand and spun her ‘round. It didn’t take long before a group of about ten of them were dancing on the grass, switching partners almost without looking, rarely missing a step and never saying if anyone ever did. She had abandoned her coat and her phone to safety on the nearby bench, along with the valuables of her fellow revelers, watched over by one of the bystanders, but she could still see her coat. Well, she would have been able to if a wool overcoat hadn’t been set down atop it. No mind, it was unlikely there would much of a scrap when she needed her things back.

 

John did not miss the arrival of newcomers, but paid them little more than a quick glance. Nothing to be made from a swing-by, but no matter. She was teaching a tourist a couple of steps, and had to focus a bit more. They were welcome to join or not as they wished, there were plenty of bystanders and the group had grown a bit bigger. Leaving it alone for the moment, she let her current partner spin her out again. He apologized for being a bit left-footed about things, but her boots had spared her the worst of the missteps. She just laughed and let his cheerful wife have him back. Another man, this one a bit more sure-footed, took over from the cheerful tourist with a polite “May I?” before he just smiled and spun her again as the music picked up a bit. That was another five minutes gone. Or more. She kind of lost track, among other things.  Her new partner was tall, a bit broad at the shoulders but not terribly so, a little softer in his frame than some, a combination of lifestyle and body-type, but he wore carefully-selected, bespoke-tailored clothes to flatter his height and his frame both. At the moment, a finer country-tweed suit in grey. A simple two-piece affair that flattered, with braces, a white button-down, but no tie. Casual today, then. Out on the town for some sight-seeing? Not local, he had come to Edinburgh on business. Whether it was personal or professional was unknown at the moment. A flat-cap covered his hair, so she couldn’t tell what colour it was, and never mind his eyes. Some shade of hazel at the moment, but she suspected grey or blue otherwise.

 

Finally, she had to step away from the revellers, hard as it was. She was sure to drop a couple of pounds in the busker’s case for his performance, he really was quite gifted. After obliging a couple of requests for pictures (she knew it was inevitable), John headed for The Mound on her own, or she would have if her mystery dance-partner hadn’t caught up with at the top of the stairs leading from the gardens to the street.

“Mind if I join you, ma’am?”

“Oh! Hello.” She looked over as he stood on the footpath with her. “Of course, not that I’m going anywhere terribly exciting.”

“Oh, I’m sure we can find somewhere interesting to go.” He smiled and shrugged into his overcoat, the same overcoat she had seen covering hers, handing her something as he hooked the handle of a furled brolly over his arm. “This, I believe is yours. I took the liberty of securing it in my own pockets, seeing as it is statistically less likely to be stolen from the likes of me.”

“Oh. My phone. Thank you.” She took it from him, wondering that he had seen any potential for her belongings to be stolen.

“Shall we, then?” He extended one hand in invitation.

“After you!” She smiled and sent a text to her sister to let her know that she was still out, and her return was uncertain at this point to make the dinner. Harry told her no worries, it was more an informal get-together like last night’s back in London, so it wasn’t a game-ender if she skipped. So, John explored Old Town for a while with her mystery gentleman, who finally offered his name as Henry when she asked for the nth time. They toured Edinburgh Castle with a group of wide-eyed tourists, took more pictures when they asked John if they could, shared some history she knew of the area, and debated returning to The Caledonian to rendezvous for the dinner. It wasn’t quite a rehearsal dinner, there was no rehearsal with the civil ceremony Harry and Clara were having. So, instead of wondering, she called. They said she was under no obligation to be present for the dinner, the Best Man hadn’t shown yet anyway and she had been there last night. John was wondering if the Best Man had, in fact, bugged out, but Harry and Clara both told her not to concern herself. Harry’s Best Man was a very, very busy man and kind of important to the government, so his schedule wasn’t subject to the whims of the mere rabble. He had promised to be there for the wedding ceremony, and it was all Harry actually needed him for.

“Jesus, Harry, whoever you picked for your Best Man must be one hell of a bloke, most guys I know wouldn’t get away with skipping so much prep-work for a wedding.” John mused, watching Henry as she paced along the footpath along Lothian Road, just outside St John’s Episcopal Church. The hotel was right across the street from them. Harry just laughed.

“Oh, no, we have an understanding. You’ll get along just fine with him, I imagine.”

“You’re not going to tell me who it is, are you?”

“Nope! Not about to ruin that surprise, thank you very much.” Harry made a noise, “Let a girl have a few secrets, will you?”

“Christ you’re a weird one.” John shook her head, “And I can only say that because we’re blood. So, you’re absolutely sure I don’t need to be there for the dinner tonight?”

“Nope! If you want a night to yourself, go for it! God knows you earned it.”

“Thanks, Hal.”

“And if you hook up, you have to tell me everything.”

“I am not looking for a hook-up, Harry! Jesus, I have a boyfriend, remember?” She looked over her shoulder as she messed with the ring on her left hand. It was not an engagement ring, specifically, it was more of a promise. But she suspected it might have been an engagement ring even though the question had never formally been asked.

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Go have fun, love. See you in the morning.”

“Bye, Harry.” John let her sister hang up first and pocketed her phone. She took a minute to get her thoughts in order. She wasn’t obligated to the dinner, she had no other plans, so…what now?

“What did your sister say?”There was Henry, waiting for her to sort thing over.

“No obligation to tonight’s dinner, I was there last night in London. Said I could take a night if I wanted.” She looked up at the hotel, “Not a bloody clue what to do with my night now.”

“Well, it’s obvious you’re unavailable, going by that lovely ring, but might I interest you in dinner? As friends?”

“Uh. Sure. I mean, yeah.” She shrugged, “Never said I couldn’t spend time with other people. It’s the rest of it I put the brakes down for.” John smiled at Henry, “Y’know, you kind of remind me of him, did you know that?”

“I do?”

“It’s kind of the way you act, but your accent’s completely different.” Which it should be. Henry was from Cambridge, while Mycroft had grown up in Sussex and gone to good schools in London and elsewhere when he was old enough to do so.

“I hope your fiancé knows how lucky he is.”

“I’m the lucky one.” John put her hands in her pockets, “I mean, he pretty much runs the country, could probably have anyone he felt like pulling, and he settled for me.”

“Oh, I doubt it was settling, my dear. What does he do?”

“Y’know, I’m not actually sure?” John looked sideways at Henry, “Something with the government, but I don’t actually know what he does.”

“He must be very important.”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that. But he takes care of his family and loved ones. There was a whole big mess a few years back, big scandal, some were calling for his resignation, said he’d been compromised and couldn’t be trusted.”

“And you stayed with him?”

“Absolutely.”

“This wasn’t the Moriarty scandal with his brother, was it?”

“Oh, God, Sherlock? No, that was in 2011, I got home from Afghanistan about four months after that happened. No, this was…2016, I think it was? His brother was accused of murdering a media mogul, he got those charges wiped off the table. Don’t know how he did it, but he did.” John knew exactly how those charges had been cleared from Sherlock’s name. Considering John was the one who’d actually pulled the trigger from that fucking chopper with Magnussen dead in her sights and an itchy finger. It was bad enough that Magnussen was making waves in the news with a scandal that had ended with Lord Smallwood committing suicide, but when he went after Baker Street, when he went after Greg Lestrade of all people, that’s where John drew the line on putting up with the man’s shenanigans. Mycroft had warned Sherlock to stay away from Magnussen, he, of course, hadn’t listened. It had ended with a stand-off at Appledore, Magnussen’s country stronghold, Sherlock with a stolen gun to Magnussen’s head for daring to blackmail Greg and then mess around with him a little bit. John had gone with Mycroft on the intercept, sitting in the door of the chopper and waiting for her shot. Waiting for orders.

“You weren’t part of the mess with Magnussen were you?”

“Nope. Heard about it though. He went after my friends, of course I heard about it.”

“Said it was a sniper who shot him?”

“That’s what I heard.”

“Damn good shot, wasn’t it?”

“I know a couple of good marksmen who could make that shot blindfolded if they had to.” Never mind from a hovering chopper having to account for down-draft from the blades.

“Your history is available to the public, you’re not a bad shot yourself, are you?”

“If you know where to look for it, I suppose my records might be there for review.” She wasn’t surprised he knew anything about her, she wasn’t exactly a nobody in London society being so closely associated with the Holmes brothers. Her Special Forces records were unavailable, but it was on her military history that she had served in Special Forces, that was no secret. It’s what she’d done while in Special Forces that was so secret, why she did certain jobs for Mycroft when asked nicely.

“You’re very humble, did you know that?”

“Have to be. Making waves doesn’t get the attention you always want.” She shrugged and followed him into one of the many restaurants dotting the city. It was a Middle Eastern place, she noticed, and she raised an eyebrow. A place like this in the middle of Edinburgh was going to be interesting. The smell and sound of the place was familiar, in good ways and bad ones, and John stood in the doorway for a minute to get her head on straight. The music was familiar to her, in good ways. The conversation she could hear was primarily in foreign languages most people around these parts probably didn’t speak at all, and she wondered if there was a community in Edinburgh that frequented this place. She heard dialects from places she hadn’t seen or thought of in eight years, except for occasional nightmares, phrases spoken in Kurdish, Arabic, and she swore she heard someone speaking Pashto. The smell of masala spices and cinnamon was in her nose, and charred meats over charcoal.

“Doctor Watson?”

“Hmm?” She refocused and saw Henry waiting for her. A uniformed hostess waited behind him. “Oh, sorry.”

“For what?”

“Sorry, I kind of zoned out. I haven’t been in a place like this since…2011, I think? There aren’t many Middle Eastern restaurants in London I can frequent, at least any good ones.”

“Oh, I can give you some. Are you from London?”

“Yep. Born and raised in Scotland for most of my life, family moved to London when I was twelve. I moved away from the family when I was seventeen and never looked back as often as I should.”

“No, your family seems to be the unstable sort, if I understand. Your sister is alright, though?”

“She’s sober, that’s different.”John sat down and looked around at the other patrons. “I haven’t heard anyone speak Pashto in eight years.”

“You speak Pashto, then?”

“Fluently enough. I had to learn to speak to the natives.”

“Oh, right, you were deployed in Afghanistan.”

“Most of my service, yep. Beautiful country, when we weren’t busy blowing it up. And the people were nice, when we could get them to trust us.”

“And did you?”

“They were faster to trust a woman than they were a man, I never got that. I tried so hard to make them understand I wasn’t there to hurt them, I just wanted to help them. I can’t tell you how many times I must have said “Please, I’m a doctor. Let me help you.” to someone who couldn’t speak English.” She paused as a server came to their table to take their order. She let Henry do the ordering, not missing how he spoke to their server in fairly fluent Arabic. He was a business-man of some breed, did international dealings. John was impressed.

 

Once drinks and food had all been ordered, the server took their menus and went to put their order in. Henry had ordered two glasses of one of the restaurants non-alcoholic wines and two cups of Arabic Coffee, and the three-course taster meal for two with a side of spicy olives that would come out with the starter.

“What else did you have to learn to say?”Henry asked once they were alone again.

“Please don’t hurt me. Please don’t kill me. I want to help. That kind of thing.”

“Superstitious lot, aren’t they?”

“Away from the big cities? Away from the bases? It was always worse there.”

“Is that where you got that scar?” Henry pointed out a scar that had faded on the side of her neck. It had been reduced at the same time her GSW scar had been. She rubbed the faded, flat reminder hidden most of the time by her collar.

“Yep. Some half-mad local didn’t understand that I wasn’t going to hurt him and came at me with a knife. Mean four-inch thing, curved blade. Barely missed my artery, bled like a fiend anyway. Three weeks in the hospital before they’d let me go anywhere.”

“My God.” Henry’s eyes got wide. She had realized they were kind of a mix of colours, most on the side of the blue-grey spectrum with some hazel. She saw the server coming with their drinks and smiled. If she was lucky they did their Arabic Coffee the right way. John called it Desert Coffee, always had.

“Here are your drinks, your food will be right out!” Their server said with a smile as she set the cups down, “Do you need anything else right now?”

“No, thank you.” Henry gave her a polite smile and once she was gone again, John took a sip of coffee.

“Oh, thank the saints, they do it properly.”

“The coffee?”

“Believe it or not, I am very picky about my coffee. Usually take it black, maybe a bit of cream if I feel like giving myself a treat, but this? Give me a good cup of Desert Coffee and I’ll do anything for you.” She blew steam off the rim of her cup.

“What happened after you were injured, then?”

“My commander threatened to have me shipped home once and for all after that incident, but I told him no way in hell. I was not dead and I was still capable of hospital-tent work. He didn’t like that very much.”

“I imagine not.”

“But it didn’t matter what they wanted, I got shot six months later and shipped home anyway.”

“To a London you didn’t recognise and a family that didn’t care.”

“Something like that. Harry and I had a falling out years ago, I was kind of surprised when I got the invitation to the wedding.”

“Siblings can be our bane or our blessing. And yet, family is often all we have in the end.”

“Well, a friend once told me something interesting, about family.” She took a sip of the wine, just to get a taste of it. For a non-alcoholic wine, it was pretty decent.

“It must have been something profound.”

“The way he put it was like this, I was complaining about my family and the lack of affection any of us showed for each other. This buddy of mine, some cocky Yank from Kansas, just gets this look on her face. Says, “Doc, all ya gotta remember is this. Family don’t end with blood.” It was the strangest thing she’d ever said to me, but it stuck with me. I always thought maybe she was drunk, we’d been going a couple rounds that night, but she seemed dead serious when she said it, sad almost.”

“Was she a dear friend?”

“Dean?” She recalled the tall, rowdy American, but couldn’t remember exactly how she’d met her. Or when. Dean Winchester had just been part of her life for a couple years and then disappeared. “Yeah, I’d say that. Best friend, maybe, she was one of a kind.”

“Were you ever…” Henry trailed off and John almost choked. Nice save, there. She caught her breath as the server brought out their food, setting the plates in the middle of the table with smaller tapas plates for them to share the food. 

“Um. Sort of.” She took a bit of everything onto her plate and looked across the table at Henry, “I kind of dated both sides of the line.”

“I make no judgment on you. You seem to have a certain taste regarding partners.”

“I don’t browse as much as I used to. Especially not now that I’ve got this.” She messed with the ring, “Mycroft deserves better than me, he really does, but he’s…I can’t get rid of him.”

“He won’t leave?”

“I am not complaining, I just kind of wonder sometimes what someone so important sees in someone so…unimportant like me.” John made a face, wondering where this mood was coming from. It was ambivalence, irritation, and Christ alone knew what. She almost missed the look on Henry’s face, he looked sad, almost hurt.

“You’re important to someone, Captain. Never ever doubt that.” He looked across the table at her, “If the papers are to believed for a moment, which I don’t put much stock by them myself most of the time, yours is a friendship of circumstance that went somewhere quite extraordinary.”

“Circumstance? Funny word for kidnapping. I was quick to his game, though, and we became good friends. None of the Moriarty madness mattered, Magnussen didn’t matter, A.G.R.A and Culverton Smith rattled the cages a little bit, but Eurus.” John shuddered, “Christ, I thought she would be the end of us all.” Nothing like being held hostage at gunpoint, drugged, and tied up before being tossed into an abandoned well that slowly filled with water from a drain-spout as a pawn in a deadly game. And that was after they’d put pieces of the puzzle together between Baker Street and the isolated island prison of Sherrinford, where they had been played against each other and eventually gotten out.

“Who was Eurus?”It was a typical response from someone who had no knowledge of the sibling feud that had poisoned the Holmes children for so many years.

“Someone I will never miss, and it will take me a very long time to forgive her crimes against my loved ones.” John downed the rest of her wine, “If you encounter any toxic family members of your own, do not feel obligated to them in any way. Cut them out of your life, they are not worth the pain and angst they will bring with them if they find a way back in.”

“You must have suffered under this individual.”

“She tried to kill me.”

“My god. How did you get away from her?”

“I’m still not sure how they found me where she’d put me, but I got out of there alive.” And after getting out of the well, she had spent three weeks at Mycroft’s bedside in the hospital, waiting for him to wake up. John had then taken a solo job and eliminated the background threat posed to them by the continued survival of Eurus Holmes. She had taken a page from Eurus’s own playbook, lured her out of her lair, and killed her. But the death would never be traced to her, there was no evidence linking her to the death and the body had never been recovered because the remains had been destroyed immediately. She had called in a few favours and ensured that her record would remain clean on this. Mycroft knew, and by extension Greg and Sherlock knew, but that was as far as the knowledge of Eurus Holmes’s death had ever gotten. Most people didn’t even know she was related to the boys, let alone her real name. It was going to stay that way.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Have you talked to anyone about these experiences?”

“I don’t trust therapists anymore. It took me six months before I would talk to anyone outside of the people who experienced it with me, and it was Mycroft’s idea.”

“So you have spoken to someone?”

“I didn’t want a thing to do with them, of course, and they knew that, my...feelings towards therapists are no secret. But the psychotherapists employed by MI6 are rather good at their jobs, and know how to handle the likes of me.”

“Oh, dear. Was it that bad?”

“I got a full psychological evaluation from Medical, which I haven’t had a proper one since I was in the Army.” She shrugged, “It was actually rather nice, being able to finally look at a chart and go “yes, that’s it. I knew it wasn’t just in my head.” People don’t always understand if they haven’t experienced.”

“I can only imagine the terrible things you saw in service to our country. Which I should thank you for, my dear.” Reaching across the table, Henry tapped the cap-badge on her Balmoral cap, “Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, were you?”

“Royal Northumberland, Fighting Fifth.”

“Brave lass, right in the front-line of fire.”

“I was a doctor, women weren’t allowed to serve in front-line combat positions, but they didn’t care as much if you had an RAMC badge on your sleeve.”

“And yet you saw it all.”

“Every gruesome bit. No regrets, though.” John did not regret any of her service, just the way it had ended.

“You should not have survived that wound, and yet, here you are.”

“Lucky me.”

“I think it is the rest of us who are fortunate, my dear.” Henry took her hand in his.

 

After dessert, he paid the bill and walked her back to The Caledonian. It turned out that he was also a guest at the hotel, as he was in town for some business or other.

“Well, thank you, Henry, for a lovely evening. I completely missed the group dinner, but my sister gave me permission, and honestly, I think I had more fun with you.” John said as they waited by the lift.

“It was as much pleasure as it was your own, my dear. Do enjoy yourself tomorrow, a wedding should be an occasion for merry-making.”

“I’ll try, but I make no promises. They picked Valentine’s Day, kind of stereotypical for romance and such nonsense.”

“Is it really nonsense?”

“Getting married on Valentine’s Day? I’ll hold my judgment on that, tah.” She rolled her eyes. Henry kissed her on the cheek and stepped aside as the lift they were waiting for arrived and opened, depositing nearly the whole of the wedding party in a tipsy tumble.

“Typical.” She huffed, carefully stepping out of the way while getting a hand under Clara’s elbow.

“Oh! Hey, it’s John!” Clara recognised her right away, of course. But her tipsiness made the syllable of John’s name draw out to “Jawn”. She hated that, Harry pronounced her name that way when she was drunk.

“John! There you are! Come with us, we’re going drinking!”

“The night before your wedding seems like a terrible time to get drunk.” She sighed, “Really, Harry?”

“Oh, come on, you spoilsport! You missed the dinner, you’ll come with us drinking!” Her sister grabbed her by the arm, almost pulling her back off her feet.

“Good night, John.” Henry laughed as he escaped into the lift, “Good luck!”

“Good night, Henry. I’ll need more than luck with this lot!” She put an arm around Harry to hold her sister up on her feet. As if realising that John had been with someone just now, everyone turned as one to the lift, catching a brief glimpse of Henry before he was gone from view.

“Who the bloody hell was that posh tosser?!” One of the lads burst out.

“That was Henry. And he was far better company than your rowdy lot. Polite gentleman, he was.”

“You’re not even on the market, John! You can’t do that to Mycroft!”

“We went out to dinner and had a couple of drinks, I am allowed to do that. Now come on, someone’s gotta be the responsible adult around here and none of you idiots is halfway sober enough to do the job proper. Where are we going?”

“Not a fucking clue. We’ll figure it out when we get there!”

“Don’t make me regret this.” She sighed and followed the group out onto the streets. She impulsively fired off a text to Mycroft.

 

Text to Mycroft Holmes: (sent 7.00pm)

Languishing in Edinburgh. Missing you rn. – John

 

 

Text to John Watson: (sent 7.01pm)

How could you possibly miss me? You’re with your sister, aren’t you? Busy with wedding-prep, I imagine. – M

A reply came back pretty quickly, he usually did that if she’d got him at his desk and he was on paperwork. Or just not terribly busy at the moment he received her text.

 

Text to Mycroft Holmes: (sent 7.02pm)

Busy with wedding-prep, yes. Sneaky little shits didn’t even tell me they were trying to replace their bitch Chief Bridesmaid when they called me yesterday. But I don’t like seeing Clara cry, so I said sure. Why did I say yes to that? – John

 

Text to John Watson: (sent 7.05pm)

Because you are a good person. Better than many of us and more than I deserve. Be safe tonight. – M

John snorted. Yeah, she’d be safe alright. The wedding was tomorrow, for Christ’s sake, it would be bad for any of them to get so badly compromised they landed in lock-up.

 

Text to Mycroft Holmes: (sent 7.06pm)

I’ll be alright. I miss you, wish there was time for us to meet up while we’re here on our separate business. You get in tomorrow, don’t you? – John

She remembered Mycroft saying that his business taking him out of town was somewhere in Edinburgh, but he couldn’t give her specifics. She didn’t press the issue, she was kind of used to it by now. Her phone beeped with an incoming text and she looked at it, steering Harry towards a nearby pub with one hand.

 

Text to John Watson: (sent 7.07pm)

Yes, I do. I’m afraid, barring some stroke of enormous good luck, we are very unlikely to cross paths in Edinburgh. But do give my best to your sister and her wife for me? – M

 

Text to Mycroft Holmes: (sent 7.08pm)

I will, I promise. Miss you, guess I’ll see you at home next time? – John

 

Text to John Watson: (sent 7.08pm)

Absolutely. Enjoy yourself, my dear. I love you. – M

John smiled at the last text.

 

Text to Mycroft Holmes: (sent 7.10pm)

Love you, too. Always. Good night, my love. – John

 

“John! Hurry up!” Harry yelled, and John pocketed her phone to catch up. It was just the first stop of what promised to be an interesting night of bar-hopping. John just hoped none of them would regret this in the morning. Excessive drinking the night before a wedding was usually a very bad idea. But they were all adults and would, hopefully, take responsibility if they felt poorly the next morning. The rest of the evening went smoothly, John trading text-messages with Mycroft back and forth for most of it, much to the amusement of the others. She put up with some good-natured ribbing for it, but it didn’t really matter that much anyway. It was quite late when they stumbled back to the hotel, well to the wind and in very good spirits. John said goodnight to the rest of them and made her way unsteadily back to her room, so very, very glad Mycroft had arranged a private room for her. She might actually get some sleep, peace and quiet at the very least.


 

Chapter Text


After partying until midnight, John slept relatively well and was up early to meet the rest of the group for the Wedding Breakfast, after which time she rendezvoused with the girls to get ready for the ceremony. She had resigned herself to finding out the identity of the Best Man right before the ceremony and tried to think of anyone she knew that Harry trusted that much to let them get away with this kind of absence from vital parts of the planning. John wore her Watson tartan sash, the other girls wore the District tartan for the City of Edinburgh. Clara and Harry wore their personalized family tartan, and the lads on Harry’s side of the party likewise wore Edinburgh District. Well, most of them did. And the sight of the boys fancied up in full kit was a thing to behold.

 

As it came up on time for the ceremony, and there was still no sign of the Best Man, John was beginning to wonder if her sister was friends with a ghost. She had fallen to pacing the space just outside The Boardroom, where the ceremony was taking place and all of their guests and the other members of the wedding party had gathered. Watching her pace were Harry and Clara, who were going up the aisle together.

“John, sweetie, stop doing that. You’ll make yourself dizzy.”

“Give me a physical living entity and I’ll stop.” She turned on her heel again and made another pass, “I swear to God, Harry, you asked a bleeding ghost to be your Best Man. I knew you were a bit cracked.”

“Oh, stop.” Harry rolled her eyes, “He’s absolutely living and real, I promise.”

“Then where the bleeding hell is he?!” She turned on her sister, pointing an accusing finger at Harry. Just then, the wedding coordinator poked her head out of the room with that tight, trained smile.

“We’re all set to go in here, ladies.”

“Thank you, Patricia, we’re just waiting on one more. He’ll be here momentarily.” Harry said dismissively. John rolled her eyes at her sister.

“Let’s go over this one time, Captain Watson, you can fill your colleague in when he finally shows himself.” The coordinator stepped out of the room and consulted the tablet in her hand, looking at manifest. “So, the way this is going to happen is, Captain Watson, you and the Best Man will enter together at my mark, walk the aisle together, and you will go to the left while he goes to the right. As soon as you are at your places, you two will remain standing for the ceremony as the Honor Attendants, I’ll give another signal and Miss Oswin and Miss Watson will come up the aisle together and stop before the Registrar. From there, the Registrar will be in charge. He will tell you when to hand over the rings. Any questions?”

“No, ma’am.” John shook her head and fell back to pacing. Once the coordinator was back inside, she looked at Harry and Clara.

“What’s that look for?” Clara messed with the set of her skirt. John rolled her eyes and went over to help.

“Oh, stop it, you’ll wrinkle it doing that.” She fluffed out the skirt and tugged on the train until it fell just the way it was supposed to, straightening her sister-in-law’s beautiful veil and the headpiece, “There. Now that’s proper. You look beautiful, Clara.”

“Must’ve done somethin’ right, yeah? You two kept me around.” Clara smiled shyly, fiddling with her boquet. Green, white, and pink flowers, carnation and roses with waxflowers and Queen Anne’s Lace. The green carnations were a symbol of Harry and Clara’s homosexuality and their pride in that part of themselves. John thought it was a nice symbol, subtle or not. There were pink and white roses and carnations as well.

“Well, I’ll say one thing.” John traced the petals of her white carnation corsage, “There is nothing cheesier than being the only unmarried bridesmaid at a wedding taking place on Valentine’s Day.” And really, she was. The other bridesmaids were both married. And, as far as she knew, at least one of the groomsmen. Louis was dating a nurse over at The Royal London Hospital, she was pretty sure his significant other was on the guest-list, and Mitchell Rainer was married and had three children. That left the unknown as the Best Man. Who, just her luck, would be either married or unavailable. Or didn’t swing her way. She kind of sat in the middle of the sexuality spectrum anyway, but most of her guy friends were gay. She loved each one of them to pieces, but it was hard watching all of the handsome ones get snatched up. Of course, there was always Mycroft. More or less her boyfriend despite what they told themselves and others.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that, dearie.” Harry’s smile turned very smug.

 “Just wait until after the ceremony.” Clara patted her on the hand, “I’m going to hand you the bouquet.”

“You’re going to hand it to me anyway, aren’t you?”

“During the ceremony? Yes.” Clara grinned and squeezed her hand, “After the ceremony, you keep it.”

“Did I miss a memo or something? Did you two plan something and forget to tell me?”

“No, why on earth would we do something so underhanded and sneaky?” Harry’s smiled had gone positively wicked.

“I would suggest refraining from further picking on your sister, Miss Watson. Even I know better than to rile her well-earned ire on this particular day.” John would have recognised that voice anywhere, and turned on her heel so hard she almost fell backwards.

“Mycroft!” She hadn’t meant to just spit out his name like that, but she couldn’t help it. And dear good lord Baby Jesus, what a sight for sore eyes he was! Full kilt just like the rest of the lads, his in that gorgeous Home tartan. She had never really seen him in anything but three-piece suits, the occasional pair of denims, a couple of cosy shawl-collar jumpers she’d stolen one of for herself, maybe a tweed suit, or a blazer on his days home. But the kilt? Jesus Christ, John forgot to breathe! As Harry hugged Mycroft, who honestly looked as at home in the kilt as he did in those gorgeous suits, the pieces came together for John.

“Oh my God! You sneaky little shit!” She turned on her sister, “You right bastard! He’s your Best Man, isn’t he?!”

“Of course he is. Who did you think I’d roped into it?”

“Well, no wonder you just about refused to show up when Mathers was still on the roster!” She went right up to Mycroft and hugged him, “You can’t stand her on a good day!”

“And I am rather tolerant of people by nature of my job.”

“Jesus Christ, Harry!” John shook her head, “So much for a ghost!”

“A ghost?” That got a glimpse of a smile, one of those honest smiles he saved for certain people.

“Long story.” She looked up at her own significant other. Yeah, that’s what it was. Boyfriend? Something special, whatever else. “I didn’t know if you existed or not because you missed most of the prep. And for Christ’s sake, I saw you on Monday! You never said anything!”

“Well, I did tell you I had business taking me out of town, yes?”

“Yes. Many times, I was a little upset with you because I had to worry about someone looking after Noire for me. He’ll be fat and spoiled by the time I get back to London at the rate things are  going.”

“Did you call Lestrade?”

“Pretty sure that little monster is spending the week at Baker Street.” She sighed, leaning against Mycroft. She always did that when she felt out of her depth or overwhelmed about things. She spared a quick thought for polite, kind Henry, who had been so attentive yesterday while still respecting some obvious boundaries while enjoying an afternoon in Old Town together. She felt a little guilty about that, but not terribly. She was, after all, an adult. And it wasn’t like she was married or anything, and he hadn’t done anything more than kiss her on the cheek or the hand, he respected that she was engaged to someone else.

 

The door creaked open and the coordinator stuck her head out again. Setting eyes on Mycroft, she gave a brisk nod, then did a double-take. Oh?

“Oh! M-Mister Holmes! Welcome to The Caledonian, sir!”

“Thank you, Patricia. Call time?”

“Er. Yes, sir.” She nodded and ducked back into the room, a moment later pushing the doors open for John and Mycroft.

“You got a Mister Holmes out of the coordinator. What kind of threatening did you have to do to get her respect?”

“Not as much as some. She was rather easily influenced.” He just grinned at her in that sly way that meant some thinly-veiled threats had been laid down. John snorted, quickly adopting a proper expression as the coordinator waved them into the room. Mycroft was properly solemn as they walked the aisle together, but when they parted ways to take their places, he held onto her hand a little longer than proper. Then, in a fit of what had to be rebellion, he kissed the back of her hand before letting her go. Someone in the crowd of guests made a soft sound of appreciation. John knew she was blushing and spent most of the time glaring at Mycroft, who just smiled back at her.

 

She took Clara’s bouquet when it was time, handed Clara the simple Claddagh ring she and Harry had worn for as long as they had ever been a couple when requested to do so by the Registrar. As the two exchanged memorized vows to be faithful only to each other for as long as they remained on this miserable earth, she happened to look across the aisle to Mycroft, who had the most unusual expression on his face. John was used to seeing it in quiet moments, usually in private. He would catch her doing something ordinary and properly domestic and she would catch this awed look in his eyes, this bizarre softness to him. She knew the idiom was supposed to read “He looked at her as though she was the sun”, but it should be “He looked at her as though she was the light of his life, his guiding way”, or some comparison to the moon or something precious. Why did he look at her that way? Had he always and she had only really noticed if she actually caught him in the act?

 

John looked away as the Registrar asked for Harry’s ring, blushing like mad. What did he see when he looked at her like that? She wasn’t much to speak for, had no fortune to offer, nothing he needed. She was good at discrete work but…not useful. Definitely not marriageable material, at any rate. A couple of people in her immediate circle of friends would disagree, but her dating history was pretty dismal and the fact that she had lasted so long with Mycroft probably was a fluke. They had never said they were dating, not formally, so the pressure wasn’t really there. But they sure as hell acted like it. John had enough experience dating to know how a proper boyfriend behaved, and Mycroft ticked every single one of those boxes, some that former exes had ticked and others that had never been marked off.

-&-

When the ceremony was concluded, she and Mycroft followed Harry and Clara out, as agreed upon, but right before they got out the door, Clara turned quite smoothly and passed the bouquet to John, who had completely forgotten about that.

“Clara, what…” She looked at her sister-in-law, “What are you doing?”

“I told you, didn’t I? Said you’d get to keep my bouquet after the ceremony?”

“I guess you did, didn’t you?” She shrugged, “Not that you ever told me why you were giving it to me in the first place. Doesn’t quite solve my problem, though.”

“Which problem is that, then?” Harry just raised an eyebrow and John rolled her eyes.

“Only unmarried bridesmaid. And the Chief Bridesmaid on top of that. And it’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Well.” Harry shrugged and John wanted to punch someone. A flicker of motion in the corner of her vision got her attention and she spotted the wedding photographer.

“Oh. That’s your cue, girls.” John went behind Clara and set her veil and train to rights, “Go get your pictures done right, we’ll be behind.”

“Don’t dally too long, silly girl.” Clara smiled and kissed her on the cheek, “And stop worrying, for God’s sake.” They were halfway down the hallway leading back to the main body of the hotel when she realized she still had Clara’s bouquet. And no answers.

“Hey, Clara!” She called.

“Yeah?”

“You don’t need this, do you? Kind of important?” She held the bouquet aloft in question.

“Nope! Got another one for pictures! That’s yours, love!”

“But why?”

“Oh, stop worrying!” Harry called back, “Smile for once, will you?”

“Leave them to their games, John.” Mycroft said quietly, one hand on her wrist before he slid his fingers down to cover hers as she held Clara’s bouquet. So much for the bouquet toss?

“You’ve apparently forgotten my sister’s particular brand of “games”.” She sighed, “Why do I feel like I missed something important?”

“Isn’t it always something?” He tugged on her hand, “Come with me, dear.” John just followed where he led her, which was into a smaller conference room. John leaned against Mycroft until the door behind him clicked shut, her head hitting his shoulder. It was then that John noticed something very disturbing and wondered how on earth she had missed it earlier.

“Wait. Where’s my ring?”

“Hmm?”

“My ring. It’s…gone.” She studied her left hand before looking at the floor space in her immediate vicinity as if she would see it there, “Where would I have lost it? Did I lose it or leave it somewhere?”

“Did you ever take it off at any point today?”

“This morning, yes, but…oh.” John put a hand over her eyes, “Damn it, Clara! That little shit stole it this morning while we were getting ready! Judas, I can’t trust those two for anything!”

“Don’t be upset with Clara, or with your sister. Not today.”

“I have every right to be upset with them! You gave me that ring, Mycroft! Have I ever, with very few exceptions, willingly taken it off? In the two years I’ve worn it?”

“Of course you haven’t.” He took her hand in his and lifted it, studying scars and blemishes he had long ago memorized before he placed a kiss on the back of it. “And it wasn’t lost or stolen. Clara took it because I asked her to.”

“You…why on earth would you do something like that?” She frowned at him, confused by not only the confession but the uncharacteristic behaviour of taking something from her that he had actually given to her. “Why not ask me? Did you want it back?”

“Of course not, not to keep it. Don’t look at me like that.”

“Mycroft, it’s Valentine’s Day, my sister just got married again to her wife, and they tricked me into being the Chief Bridesmaid. All they told me was that one of the bridesmaids had become laid up and they needed a last minute replacement.” She folded her arms against her chest, “And then they wouldn’t tell me who the Best Man was, or if it was even a living person. I swear I thought it was a ghost for all the intel those two bastards were feeding me. And then it turns out it’s you.” She leaned her head back, “Was this your business in Scotland, then?”

“I was under orders to keep my peace on the matter, or I would never have kept it from you, love. Please forgive me, at least?” Which was about as close as he would ever get to apologizing for his part in the mess.

“Your ring is perfectly safe, I promise.” Mycroft held out one hand to her. “Please don’t hate me for any of this, I know you’re not terribly fond of surprises.”

“What are you doing?”

“Take my hand.”

“Why?” She wasn’t going to say no to anything, but straight answers would be very nice right now. He rolled his eyes and gave her a particular look, one he saved for moments when she was being particularly stubborn or ridiculous.

“I’m trying to ask you to marry me, so take my damn hand!” Well, that was a straight answer. John heard the door open and looked around Mycroft, prepared to tell off the newlyweds for interfering where they were unwelcome. It wasn’t her sister or her sister-in-law, though. John looked at the Registrar, who held the door for two attendants. Guests from Harry and Clara’s wedding.

 “When on earth did you file all the documents?” She looked back at Mycroft.

“As they were completed and acquired. Your documents were fairly easy to acquire. And tricking you into signing the papers was just as simple.”

“Catch me when I’m busy and I’ll sign a war declaration.” She chuckled, “Isn’t that what you always tell me when I lose touch with the outside world?”

“Well, you haven’t done that yet, but I did manage to slip this past you.”

“Sneaky bastard. You and the other two planned this, didn’t you? That’s why Clara gave me her bouquet.”

“It was Harry’s idea. She wanted a dual wedding, I said no thank you.”

“Oh, God bless you!” John looked at the patient Registrar, who just shrugged.

“Does this happen often?”

“Not quite like this, but it’s not my job to complain about business. Besides, the terms were quite simple.”

“And the compensation sufficient, I’m sure, knowing this one.” She poked a thumb at Mycroft, “No wonder you bullied the coordinator into behaving herself.” All she got for that was a noncommittal shrug. Not denying anything, but not admitting to it either. The Registrar just smiled and got down to business. It was fairly simple and straightforward. Relatively speaking.

“Are you, John Hamish Watson, free, lawfully, to marry Mycroft Alexander Henry Holmes?” The Registrar just smiled at them benignly. This might just be the most interesting thing they did this week. A double-wedding in the same family? That’d be one for the water-cooler gossip.

“I am.” Yes, but she hadn’t expected to be doing just that very thing on her own sister’s bloody wedding day. Nothing for it, just a bit of excitement for the festivities and no one would ever know any better.

“And are you, Mycroft Alexander Henry Holmes, free, lawfully, to marry John Hamish Watson?”

“I am.”

“You may exchange your rings now, if you wish.” Their witnesses and attendants produced the rings, one to John and one to Mycroft, and she studied the band curiously.

“Mister Holmes, you may go first if you like.” The Registrar said patiently, in no big rush to get them out the door.

“I call upon these persons, here present, to witness that I, Mycroft Holmes, do take you, John Watson, to be my lawful wedded wife.” He gave her back her promise ring, which she had kind of always suspected was really an engagement ring despite what he told her, fitting it to her finger again, shaking with nerves no one could see unless they knew his tells. “I give you this ring a second time as a sign of our marriage, and as a symbol of our love. I promise to care for you, to respect and cherish you, throughout our lives together.”

“And Doctor Watson?” The Registrar smiled at John, and she wondered that someone was actually bothering with her professional title, most people would just call her Miss Watson. She guessed it was because the Registrar had just married a Miss Watson and decided this one deserved something else. John nodded and  took Mycroft’s hand in hers, taking a moment to trace those specific calluses on his fingers that spoke of a more interesting job than some back-office paper-pushing like he purported to do. Jesus, she was really doing this.

“I call upon these persons, here present, to witness that I, John Watson, do take you, Mycroft Holmes, to be my lawful wedded husband.” She fitted the rather beautiful if simple band and managed to look him in the eye without losing her nerve. “I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage, and as a symbol of our love. I promise to care for you, to respect and cherish you, throughout our lives together.”

“Mycroft and John, you have both made the declarations prescribed by law and have made a solemn and binding contract with each other in the presence of the witnesses here assembled.” The Registrar took their joined hands and smiled. “It therefore gives me the greatest honour and privilege to announce that you are now husband and wife together.” This was a good day for her, wasn’t it? Nice and busy, two weddings back to back no less.

 

Once rings and promises had been exchanged, and maybe a few tears shed, they signed the Marriage Schedule, as did their witnesses. With the Schedule properly signed and sealed, it would be returned to the Register Office in no less than three days so the marriage could be properly registered. John suspected it would be official by Monday. That was good enough for her. The Registrar turned to them after they completed signing the Schedule, a bit misty-eyed.

“Can I be the first to congratulate you both on your marriage. May I wish you both a wonderful day today, a very long and happy marriage and all the very best for your future lives together. Congratulations, Mister and Doctor Holmes.” John had signed away her maiden-name a minute ago, practically given it away, but that was fine. In contrast to Harry and Clara, their ceremony no longer than the time it took to exchange rings and vows to each other and sign the Marriage Schedule. She suspected there would be a proper ceremony at a later date, or his parents would kill them both. Never mind Greg, he would bury John in her sleep and kind of forget where he put her if she forgot to invite him to any wedding she might have. And Sherlock? Ooh, he would raise a big ruckus about this! They hadn’t been gone long enough to be missed by anyone, and the people who mattered already knew what they were about, so John took Mycroft and went in search of the reception, which promised to be a proper party if her sister had anything to say about things.

“Y’know, John, I always said you were a sneaky little bitch, but I didn’t actually think you’d sneak something this big past us!” Their witnesses were giddy about the whole mess, and John rolled her eyes. Of course Mycroft had pulled Louis and his partner to stand for them, of course he bloody well had. Tosser.

“I’m not the one who did the sneaking, Louis! You can thank this proper idiot for that!”

“Oh, be nice.”

“You’re a bloody menace, Mycroft Holmes! Is it my job to look after you, too, now?”

“I can look after myself just as well, thank you.”He look so insulted she might doubt his abilities.

“Yeah, right.” She snickered. Louis’s girlfriend giggled. Louis just rolled his eyes. He knew all about the kind of trouble Mycroft could get into, ta. John bellyached for hours when she’d had enough of his shenanigans. When they got to Peacock Alley, they were welcomed and scolded for disappearing like that.

“Not a word, Louis.” John hissed as Louis disappeared in search of his table.

“Oh, don’t worry. I like my job too much to blab about something that important!” Louis just smiled and kissed her on the cheek, “See you when you get back to work properly, then?”

“Guess so. God knows how long that’s going to be.” She rolled her eyes at Mycroft, who shrugged. Louis chuckled and went off, sworn to silence.

“John!” Her great-aunt Mairie came charging at her, “Where have you been, you silly thing? You’ve nearly missed the whole bloody party!”

“I’m sorry, Aunt May.” John grunted, squirming until she could breathe a bit easier, “I…dropped my ring earlier and Mycroft stayed behind to help me find it.” Not quite the truth, not quite a lie.

“Oh, you reckless thing! Don’t you ever lose that gorgeous ring, you hear me?” Mairie Watson grabbed her by the hand and inspected her hand to make sure the ring was, in fact, where it belonged. No band, so no clue she’d just gotten herself married off. Satisfied that things were mostly in order, Aunt May sniffed and looked over John’s shoulder at Mycroft, who looked perfectly innocent, hands folded behind his back, ring concealed from view.

“And you, sir! Why don’t you buckle up and marry this girl properly? Sometime before I die, will you?”

“Of course, Aunt May.” Mycroft was properly polite, “Perhaps a summer ceremony?”

“That soon? It’s just mid-February!”

“Valentine’s Day, as I have been reminded several times. Most of them by John.” Would Aunt May be smart enough to put the pieces together, and could they buy her silence if she did?

“What are you two up to, then?”

“Up to what, Aunt May?” John put on a passably innocent smile, “We’ve been practically engaged for two years, I’d guess that’s more than enough time to wait for a proper wedding. Summer it is.”

“I don’t trust you.”

“We never said you had to. Keep an eye on your post, Aunt May!” Mycroft grinned as he stole John away from her nosy great-aunt. The minute they were out of earshot, John remembered how to breathe again.

“Oh my god! She’s going to figure it out, you know? Aunt May may be old, but she is not senile! She’ll figure it out by herself, Mycroft!”

“Let her. Who’s going to believe her anyway? Today, of all days?”

“Oh, you’re terrible.” John wrinkled her nose. “I guess I married you, didn’t I?”

“Mhm. Even gave up your name for mine.”

“Yeah, well, no shame in being a Holmes, is there?”

“I suppose not.” He led her to the head table, where Clara and Harry held court over their guests. If that pair didn’t just look so fucking smug when they caught sight of John and Mycroft, who were stopped twice more by other guests before they got to their seats. As soon as she was seated, her chair pulled out for her by Mycroft, who did not bother to seat himself until she was properly settled, John put her head in her hands and giggled.

“Oh. My. God!”

“So?” Clara took the bouquet from her and put it on the table next to the identical secondary, “How’d it go?”

“I kind of hate you a little bit right now, Clara. You’re a sneaky little fuck when you want to be.”

“Oh, you don’t mean a word of it.”

“Yeah, thanks for not minding a double-wedding. Sort of.” She took a sip of wine, “God, the paperwork is going to be a nightmare.”

“For what?”

“Change of name.” She looked around, “Only six people in this room know anything. Let’s try to keep it that way?”

“How?”

“Not a bloody clue. Aunt May already ambushed us once.”

“Oh no.”

“Mycroft handled it.” John looked down the table to her…husband. Oh god, it was true, wasn’t it? Jesus Christ. She sighed and decided they would just tell people a summer wedding was in the plans, and let it go from there.

“Does this mean you’ll move into his house?”

“Yep.”

“Good! And you’ll keep Noire?”

“Absolutely!”

“What’s on, dear?” Mycroft looked over, having picked up a bit of their conversation. John chuckled.

“Making plans to clear out my old place. Noire can come with us?”

“Of course he can!”

“Mycroft Holmes is a cat-person.”

“He’s usually my cat-sitter, but since the sneaky bastard was already up here on “business”, I had to call Greg.”

“Yeah you did, not that he minded.” Harry snickered, “Myc, let me see your ring.”

“Ma’am.”

“I keep forgetting you two are friends.” John shook her head.

 

About ten minutes later, the Master of Ceremonies got everyone’s attention and announced that despite the whole party being in attendance already, it was time for the presentation of the wedding party. Her name wouldn’t be changed on the lists, so she didn’t have to worry about that dirty little secret coming out yet. The presentation went smoothly, dinner was announced and plated, and it was quiet for a bit. John didn’t appreciate the distance between her and Mycroft suddenly. It shouldn’t matter, this wasn’t their party, but she wanted to sit next to him. Badly.

“John, sweetie?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s wrong?” Clara put a hand on her arm, “I can feel you twitching.”

“I want to sit next to Mycroft is all.”

“Of course you do! Who says you can’t?”

“No one, I guess.” She sighed and looked at her sister, “Think I could talk Harry into switching with me?”

“Oh, sure! Besides, who’s going to care?”

“Who indeed.” She looked down the table to Mycroft, who looked about as antsy. Clara grinned and leaned towards her wife, whispering something just for her hearing. John took a sip of wine as she looked out over the party.

 

The music was suitably regional, with a few modern pieces slipped in here and there, there was bound to be dancing soon and like hell was she missing it. The food was likewise regional, and delicious, the dishes and wine carefully selected with a suitable non-alcoholic alternative for those who did not drink but still wished to be part of the revelry. The guests were mostly close friends and family of the married couple, there were only a few people John didn’t recognise. That was to be expected, she hadn’t been present in Harry’s life much the past few years so it only made sense that there would be people at her sister’s wedding she didn’t know. The hum of conversation was just slightly softer than the strains of music, and she felt a little busy in her head.

 

John sighed and realized that her glass was empty. Harry wasn’t as much of a heavy drinker as she had been, her sister had been sipping at one of the non-alcoholic options most of the night, but John was very much a social drinker. She suspected Harry was sticking to the non-alcoholic offerings after last night’s ill-advised shenanigans. None of their group had suffered a hangover, by some miracle, but there had been a couple of headaches that morning. John had certainly felt a little less than stellar when she joined the group for the Wedding Breakfast. But before she could go in search of another drink, wine or something stronger didn’t matter to her, a hand on her shoulder kept her seated as a glass was set down at her place. Not wine. A catering server came through to collect empty plates and glasses just then.

“Are you finished with your plate, ma’am?”

“Yes, thank you.” Of course it was Mycroft who answered that. As soon as the plates had been collected, Mycroft took Clara’s vacated seat and set down his own glass.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Making friends with people your sister knows.” He just smiled at her, “I heard you were missing me. I was three seats over, you know.”

“So? What kind of friends are you making?”

“A few interesting connections.” He shrugged, “I like your sister’s crowd.”

“Did Aunt May corner you again?”

“Mm.” That expression said everything. John chuckled and leaned against his shoulder.

“So, you know there’s a couple people in London who don’t know we’re married and they’re going to have some things to say about that when we get back.”

“Mhm.”

“Greg’s gonna be mad.”

“Until we reassure him that we’re not forgoing a more traditional ceremony altogether and he can still do something typically embarrassing?”

“Yeah, pretty much.” She rolled her eyes, “You know he’s gonna give you the full treatment once he figures this out, right? He likes me. A lot.”

“He was one of the first to believe we were a couple before we ever made it official. At all.” Mycroft narrowed his eyes, “A man the likes of Gregory Lestrade is a valuable asset. He’s clever, not unhandsome, and patient enough to put up with my little brother.”

“Yeah. And God bless him for that. Your brother is a very unusual individual. Not many people can handle him.”

“And yet, you don’t seem to mind him at all.”

“Oh, no! I love your brother! His gift is amazing! I just wish he had better manners sometimes.” John took a sip of the drink Mycroft had brought her and made an appreciative hum. He had very good taste and had gifted her with a glass of a rather good whiskey. It was, going by taste alone, the sort of whiskey that a single bottle of the stuff was about half a week’s pay. Smooth, with something smoky in it. On the other side of Mycroft, Harry and Clara had their heads together giggling and making eyes at each other, occasionally peeking at Mycroft and John and breaking into silly grins. John stuck her tongue out at her sister once and got a rude gesture in return. Neither rudeness was at all meant in seriousness, they were picking on each other in the spirit of the special day.

-&-

After everyone had eaten their fill and were a few glasses into the open bar, the Master of Ceremonies declared it was time for the dancing to begin. First, the couple would dance to a special song, then Clara would dance with her father while Harry would dance with Clara’s mother. Harry and John’s parents were either dead or absent and no invitation had been extended to any surviving parental figure for the wedding. Clara’s parents had always treated Harry like she was part of their family, no matter how foul her moods got or how hard she fell off the wagon. John couldn’t count on two hands how many times Clara’s father had paid for rehab for Harry when it was absolutely not his responsibility. His excuse every time was that Harry deserved to be healthy and content, however they had to get her there. A few stints in Castle Craig Hospital near Gorebridge had usually done the trick, so if she ever took a fall again, off to Scotland she went.

 

Once the First Dances were out of the way, the dance-floor was opened to the guests. John grabbed Mycroft and dragged him out to the floor, he just followed her like he always did when she decided to do something and take the lead. After a couple of waltzes, she took a break to catch her breath. Mycroft disappeared to have a word with the live band that had been hired and a minute later, she heard a familiar tune. John had danced a couple traditional reels, so this wouldn’t be the first one of the night. But it was the music itself that got her attention. John narrowed her eyes as she watched the dancers take positions. She remembered dancing to this very same song with Henry yesterday. It might be coincidence, but no one in this room knew about her excursion in Princes Street Gardens yesterday, and almost no one knew about her afternoon with Henry. John looked up when Mycroft came back to her, one hand out in invitation.

“May I?” He wore that smile of his, the same smile John had seen yesterday. Had she...had it been Mycroft yesterday? Had he ventured out in disguise, maybe finding her by chance, and just...never said anything to her? He took her out onto the dance-floor and as it had yesterday, that was five minutes gone.

 

As soon as the song was over, John tugged on Mycroft’s hand. She had sat through so much flak from Harry and the others last night, had felt so guilty, wondering if she’d said too much to a stranger who had no right to her story no matter how prettily he asked. But at the same time, there were things Henry had just seemed to know, had intuited without her saying anything.

“What is it?”

“Come with me, I think...we need to talk. Privately.” She looked around the busy room, “Please?”

“Of course.” He took the lead and once they were out sight and ear-shot of the party, he sat her down and stood before her, not blocking her way or threatening. “Now, what is it?”

“I...um. I did something yesterday you may or may not be aware of, and I need to know that you didn’t marry me today just out of pity or because you felt obligated because you found out.”

“John.”

“Because you might have married a towering moron.”

“John.”

“I said thing yesterday that I have never said to anyone, ever, and they just...it all just came out. I couldn’t help myself!”

“Why? What do you think you’ve done wrong?”

“I met someone yesterday in the park, he wasn’t a local. His name was Henry, I never got a last name from him. He kind of reminded me of you.” She twisted the ring on her finger, refusing to look at him, “We spent hours together, I ended up missing the rehearsal dinner because I was with him instead. Harry told me I could, it’s not like I just skipped out because I felt like it.”

“John, why does this make you feel guilty? You didn’t do anything inappropriate, as far as I’m concerned.”

“You wouldn’t know that from the way Harry and the others made fun of me while we out drinking last night. And some of the things I told him...”

“John Holmes, would you look at me, please?” Using her married name was one way to get her attention, and she suspected it would be used quite often in the future. John finally looked up, just a bit, at Mycroft standing in front of her. He looked magnificent and regal in his wedding regalia, but there was a softness to his eyes, a sadness, that she remembered seeing in Henry’s eyes when she was talking about the trials she and Mycroft had been through together. Before she could say anything, he got to his knees before her and took her hands in his.

“John, what did he tell you his name was?”

“Henry.”

“You didn’t get his last name?”

“No, and I never thought to ask for one, it was never important.” She sniffled, “He reminded me of you, but I couldn’t figure out why.”

“Did you ever give him your name?”

“I was wearing my kilt yesterday, he recognised my clan tartan and asked which of the Watsons I was.”

“And you told him you were John Watson.”

“He just smiled and said he’d guessed but wanted me to introduce myself. He knew me from the papers, he said.”

“You’ve always been trusting of a particular type of stranger, it sometimes baffles and irritates me.” Mycroft smiled at her and rubbed the wedding ring, “I’ll have to get you a proper band for this now.”

“No you don’t. We know, don’t we?”

“Of course we do. But tell me one thing?”

“Absolutely.”

“What is my name?”

“Your name? Why does that matter?”

“Just tell me. What is my name? The whole of it?”

“Mycroft Alexander...Henry...Holmes.” John felt a slip of something in her gut and covered her mouth with one hand. “Oh my god!”

“And who did you meet in Princes Street Gardens yesterday while you were playing hooky?”

“Henry.”

“And he never gave you a last name?”

“Nope.”

“But he reminded you of me.”

“Small things about his personality, his speech-patterns.” She wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry or laugh, “Why are you so good at disguises? It’s awful!”

“John, my love, don’t be ashamed, ever.” He took her hand away from her mouth, “And I want you to do something for me.”

“What?”

“Never, ever again do I want you to doubt your worth. To me or anyone else. Never doubt yourself again.” His expression was stern, the look he saved for John when she was being hard on herself. “Hearing you talk yesterday about what you thought you deserved, don’t ever speak of it again. I never want to know that thought has ever crossed your mind. If it has, I’m not doing my job properly.”

“Oh, Mycroft.” John leaned forward until her forehead touched their joined hands. She still felt guilty about yesterday, but knowing what she did now about charming Henry (and secretly wondering how the bloody hell she hadn’t put together that there was a damn good reason he reminded her of Mycroft), it wasn’t as bad.

“John, I am proper rubbish at showing my deeper affections and that is entirely my fault for a lifetime of convincing myself there was nothing to be gained from letting people into my life for sentimental reasons.” Mycroft rubbed his thumb over her knuckles, distracting her and calming her with the same motion. “Never think I take you for granted or doubt you. I’ve meant to do this for...years, perhaps. When Clara suggested today was a proper day to make it, well, official, I saw no fault in her logic.”

“Valentine’s Day is such an overrated day already, getting married seems so...clichéd.” She looked at him for a minute, “Good thing we’re having a proper ceremony later, yeah? Mum would skin us both.”

“I’m not looking forward to informing her of things.”

“Then don’t tell her! If she calls and asks when you’ll finally get around to marrying me properly, tell her sometime this summer, just like we told Aunt May!” John looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping and couldn’t see anyone nearby.

“I suppose you’re in no rush to file change-of-name paperwork, then, are you?”

“Not for a while, anyway.” She narrowed her eyes, “Try to keep it to a minimum calling me Holmes in public, will you?”

“I can only try, I make no promises.” Mycroft gave her a boyish smile and got up, pulling her back to her feet, “Now, come on. There’s still plenty of dancing left to do.”

“Yeah, yeah, hang on.” She got up and ruffled her skirt to fall properly. She hadn’t cried at all, and if her eyes were a bit red, that could be attributed to last night’s festivities and the long day behind them. When they got back to the table, Harry and Clara were giggling like teenagers.

“There you are! Thought you two might’ve wandered off for the night, said good riddance and swanned off on your own business!” Harry looked at the two of them, eyes wide and a bit glassy, “What a serious pair you two are! What’s on?”

“Nothing that’s your business, Harry.” John rolled her eyes at her sister and sat down. “So bugger off.”

“Oh! Nearly forgot!” Harry set her glass down, she had apparently moved on to alcoholic beverages. Tomorrow’s hangover would be unenviable. “Mycroft, Mycroft, almost forgot this one got into some business yesterday! Thought she was all clever and sneaky, too!”

“Oh, my god. Harry, would you quit, please?” John put her head down. Thank Christ she’d already told Mycroft about yesterday, not that any of it was news to him anyway. He’d been present for the whole mess!

“What?”

“I told you! Nothing. Happened.”

“Yeah, well, you came back on the arm of a rather handsome bloke after being gone for hours. What were we supposed to think?”

“That maybe your sister’s personal business in Edinburgh was none of yours in the first place,” Mycroft said with a prim sniff, looking at John next. She had her head in one hand, watching her husband and wondering how she’d gotten that lucky.

“Oh, come on! It was all in good fun!”

“Do you want me to tell her, or would you like to?” Mycroft turned to her, one eyebrow raised. It took her a minute to catch on to what he was asking and she grinned.

“Tell me what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Should we tell them? Or let them think whatever they like?”

“Would they believe us, is the question.”

“Believe what?” Harry whined, “Come on, no secrets on my wedding day!”

“Perhaps, but I don’t see that it’s any of your business, seeing as it does not in any way at all affect our marital happiness.”

“Spoil-sport. Always have been, too.” Harry muttered, “Smug bastard.”

“Oi! You take that back, Harry Watson!” John shot her sister a dirty look.

“What? Am I wrong?”

“No, but for what it’s worth, Harry? Turns out Henry wasn’t such a stranger after all.”

“He wasn’t?”

“Nope!”

“Then you did know ‘im from somewhere?”

“London, actually.”

“Figures. How?”

“Because my husband is a clever, resourceful man. If he wants to be unnoticed, he can blend with a crowd very effectively.”

“Oh! Oh! Hang on a minute!” Harry brightened up, smacking her hand on the table, “Was that you yesterday, Mycroft? The mystery bloke my sister ditched us for?”

“I did not ditch you, you told me I didn’t have to show up. So I didn’t.” John narrowed her eyes at her sister, “Besides, I ended up chaperoning your drunk arses all over Old Town last night anyway, so you can hush.”

“Oh, you clever bastard! You clever, clever bastard! Fooled my sister, eh?”

“Apparently.”

“Oo-ee! Hang on to that one, John Watson, you got a good one!” Harry crowed, beside herself, “Takes a lot to fool you, too. By now, you’re kind of used to it!”

“More or less. Now, will you please leave it alone?”

“Oh, you’re no fun. Fine, I guess.”

“Jesus, you’re awful.” John shook her head. Well, at least she’d tried reasoning with her sister. They understood it was Mycroft who had stolen John away last night and returned her to the hotel just in time for them to go off on a pub-crawl, but they would still rag on her for it.

-&-

John didn’t get much of a respite from nosy family members, unfortunately, and after a couple more rounds on the dance-floor with Mycroft, who was a surprisingly good dancer thanks to many hours of study in his childhood and during uni, she was waylaid again.

“Excuse me, Mr Holmes. May I butt in?”John recognised the voice, and the brogue that had thrown her off a bit when she’d gotten in yesterday and heard a couple of locals talking right off the train softened by mixed blood and years away from home, a split second before she set eyes on the intruder and she didn’t miss the way Mycroft raised an eyebrow.

“Absolutely, Mr MacKelpie. She’s all yours.”

“That’s awful kind of you, sir.” The interloper just grinned at Mycroft, “So, when’re ya gonna make us proper family then, hm?”

“Iain.” John groaned, “Do you mind?”

“What? Nothin’ wrong with askin’, is there?” Her adventurous, reckless cousin Iain MacKelpie gave her a winning, crooked smile.

“There is if you’re the tenth person who’s asked!”

“Well, am I gettin’ an answer out o’ ya or not?”

“Sometime this summer. We haven’t worked out details like dates or venues yet.” Mycroft smoothly intervened before John actually tried to strangle her cousin for his cheek. 

“Oh! Glory! About fuckin’ time you two tied up!” Iain’s face lit up, “Good! Now, come on, you. We need ta talk.” He tugged on John’s hand, pulling her away from Mycroft, who just chuckled and waved when she threw him a desperate, pleading look. She’d kill him later for that. He thought it was amusing. She was dreading the coming discussion.

“So.”

“What?”

“Spill.”

“Oh, knock it off, Iain. I’ve been picked on, poked at, and lectured by nearly every adult in our parents’ generation tonight already. Never mind those in our bloody generation!” John snapped, “My personal business is just that! Mine. Not to mention you kind of popped up out of fucking nowhere like you always do.”

“Sorry, luv. Got in late from Syria, came straight here after a stop-off at mine.” He sat down at an empty table with her, taking her hand in his, “But in all seriousness, when will you two idiots settle down?”

“Sometime this year.”

“Not sooner?”

“Maybe sooner. I’m moving out of my place to his in Kensington when we get back to London, or before if I can talk Sherlock and Greg into moving my stuff for me.”

“Not that you own much.” Iain rubbed the back of her hand, “You’re awfully tetchy tonight, luv. What’s got you puffed up? If you were a cat, your fur would be all big.”

“Because everyone thinks that just because Harry got married on Valentine’s Day, what a crying bloody shame Little Sister John is still single!”

“Well, luv, to be fair, you didn’t really make your relationship with Holmes very public.”

“The whole fucking family knows I’m dating him! We’ve practically been engaged for two fucking years!”

“Someone pushed the wrong button, didn’t they? Wasn’t me, was it?” Intuitive bloke, her cousin. But he always had been rather in tune to John's particular emotional wavelength, there to lend a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or a timely jest to make her smile.

“No. Sorry, Iain.” She put her head in her hands, it was killing her that she had pretty much gotten married right under everyone’s noses.

“Hey, Johnny?”

“Hmm?”

“Why are you waiting to file change-of-name papers?”

“What?”

“You heard me alright. Why wait?”

“File...wait a minute.” She eyed her cousin, “Iain?”

“Hmm?”

“What do you know? What did you see or overhear?”

“Just a dirty little family secret no one else is going to hear about from me because I don’t gossip.” He tugged on her shoulder until she sat up and hugged her, “I won’t tell a soul if you don’t want me to, Johnny. It’s your little secret that’ll blow the whole lot of ‘em clear away. Get ‘em to shut up proper.”

“Late to the ceremony, right on time to eavesdrop on mine.” She sighed, turning to tuck her head under his chin, “God love you, Iain MacKelpie, but you’re a right bastard.”

“Your right bastard?”

“Mhm.” John rolled her eyes. Cheeky git, wasn’t he?

“Can I get pictures of you and Mycroft tomorrow? I assume you’re staying in town a while?”

“Um. Sure. I imagine we’ll be here at least tomorrow, maybe the day after.” She sniffled, “What were you thinking?”

“Just a bit of fun, nothing serious.”

“If you want to. I don’t see Mycroft objecting too much.” John didn’t mind the idea, Iain could work magic with that camera of his. Iain smiled and kissed her on the cheek. It wasn’t long before Mycroft came looking for them, well for John in any case, and they reassured him that they were just talking, catching up with each other after being apart for so long. It had been almost two years since John had seen Iain for more than a few minutes over Skype. They'd spent time together in Afghanistan while John was in the Army and Iain was wandering the meaner places of the world looking for the next story to photograph. Mycroft just kissed John on the cheek and told Iain he was welcome to visit them in London next he was in town for something. Family was so important, and John had so little of it she cared to speak to regularly enough. Iain would always be the exception, always.

-&-

When the night finally came to an end, John and Mycroft took their leave of the guests, secret safe with the newlyweds and her observant cousin, said goodnight to those left, and retreated to John’s suite. She appreciated having somewhere private to go to at the end of the night and leaned against Mycroft in the lift, dozing off as she processed the day’s extensive, exhausting roster of events. John squeaked, mildly alarmed when her centre of balance shifted and her feet left the ground. Without warning, Mycroft had picked her up.

“Oi!” She voiced an objection, “I can walk, y’know!”

“I know you can. And I want to carry my wife.” He just smiled down at her, “Stop me if you dare.”

“You’re ridiculous.” She rolled her eyes at him. “I suppose it is a bit of tradition, isn’t it?”

“One I never quite understood but appreciate the symbolism.” He mused as they made their way from the lift to her door. He set her down long enough to retrieve a room-key and pushed the door open before picking her up again and carrying her into the suite. Room-service had been through, of course, and she realized a few special touches had been added, including but not limited to rose petal turn down service on the bed. 

There was also a tray with a selection of glasses and two bottles. Champagne and...brandy? That was a nice touch. The first thing John did once Mycroft set her back on her feet was to kick off her shoes and go for the back of her dress. Her mobility limited by a number of factors, she kicked her shoes to one side so she wouldn’t trip over them and made her way to the suite’s bathroom.

“What are you doing?” Mycroft chuckled as he watched her.

“I’m getting out of this fucking dress! And then I’m taking a shower. You are welcome to join me if you want to, but I have had enough of looking proper for today.” She got the zipper and tugged on it. But her left shoulder wouldn’t let her do much and after a long couple of days like the two behind her, it was acting up a bit. More than a bit. John groaned and cursed as she had to give up.

“Mycroft!” She called from the bathroom where she was staring at her glassy-eyed reflection. Like magic, her husband poked his head in.

“Need something, dear?”

“Can’t get the zip undone. Do you mind?” She turned her back to him and he just smiled as he undid the zipper for her.

“Shoulder’s acting up, then?”

“Has been for a while, the weather’s no help and the non-stop action of the wedding kind of did it in. I thought my knee would give out first, but my stupid body held up long enough to see my sister and her wife off on their honeymoon to Greece.”

“They leave in the morning?”

“Yep.” She shrugged out of the dress and heaved a sigh of absolute relief. That was echoed by the noise Mycroft made. She looked over her shoulder at him, wondering what had his attention and raised an eyebrow.

“You alright?”

“Oh, John! What is this?” He reached for her but did not touch, but oh he wanted to. John looked down and grinned. Unlike the other girls (excepting sweet Clara, who had a very naughty side), she’d settled on a very daring galloon lace open bust bustier with underwire open cups, adjustable shoulder/garter straps, strappy back details, and bow details, and a matching G-string thong with a naughty little secret.

“This?  Christmas present last year from Clara and Harry. Never had an occasion to wear it before now.” She let him touch, “Do you like it?” Going by the way his pupils had dilated, he liked very much. Who’d ever think, for a minute, that the man who practically ran the country had a kinky side? John was familiar with her husband’s odd hobbies, had even paid a visit to a dominatrix friend of his for some…lessons. Nothing she would ever, ever regret. Irene had been the first person besides Mycroft to tell John that her scar was beautiful, it was a piece of her history and a story she should be proud of. Apparently, the domme had a thing for soldiers and John had been her dream customer. Not exactly a clean slate, but certainly new blood, a new client to play with. John had visited Irene not because she was unfamiliar with bedroom play, but she was very out of practice and out of touch with that side of herself. This kind of thing, John’s risqué wedding-night lingerie? Irene would adore it. Mycroft certainly did.

“John Holmes, you naughty girl.”

“Your naughty girl, Mr Holmes.” She just gave him a cheeky grin over her shoulder as his hands wandered and he touched lips to skin. Oh Christ, the sound he made just then went straight to John’s core and settled into a warm little coil. Teeth against skin, not enough pressure to break but to mark, John whined as one hand slid around to rest against her abdomen. Soft from middle-age and loss of muscle-tone from dropping a rigorous routine, but she had continued to keep herself in shape in the seven years since she had come home from the Army with morning runs around Regent’s Park or Holland Park when she was staying with Mycroft. Sometimes, if she was feeling adventurous, she ran Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

“This is for me.” Mycroft rumbled, the wool of his kilt rough against her skin as he pulled her back until they were flush, the metal buckles cold where they touched. “This is mine.” John couldn’t help a tiny gasp and gulped when that hand wandered south. His, indeed. Just a bit lower, he would figure out what made this whole get-up so…daring. Oh, there it was. He found the edge of the crotch-seam, where it opened, what wasn’t there.

Please, please, please. She begged in her head. Intrigued, and highly aroused if the nudge against her lower back was any sign of his state, Mycroft rested his chin on her shoulder as he leaned against her, hand sliding lower still until he found what he wanted.

“That shower will wait. This devious little thing is coming off because I’m taking it off of you, and it will be protected for future adventures.” He tugged on the garter strap, letting it snap against her thigh a bit. “I thought you were wearing hose, my dear, not these delightful things.” “These delightful things” were a pair of sheer thigh high stockings with a lace top that added a touch of elegance. Before John could utter a syllable, she was off her feet and they were on the move. With little ceremony, Mycroft dumped her in the middle of the bed. His layers came off, she watched, and when the only thing he was still wearing was that gorgeous kilt, which would have to be preserved for reasons, John held out one hand in unspoken invitation. She had moved so her back was to the cushioned headboard, propped into a comfortable, semi-seated position.

 

John had her body-image hang-ups, Mycroft had his own, but she loved every inch of him. Every soft, slightly-pudgy curve, every freckle, every dimple. And the fact that while the hair on his head had greyed with age, that curly, wiry-soft thatch had not. It was still vibrant and glorious red. Obedient and determined to enjoy a very unusual wedding-night, Mycroft obliged John and joined her on the bed. He straddled her hips, careful not to rest his full weight on her, and took in what was rightfully his by law. John reached down and tugged on the folds of fabric, freeing them and smiling when she found the sweet-spot on the back of his left knee. When she reached the curve where thigh met very fine, shapely arse, John discovered her husband’s own naughty secret. It was never mandatory to wear a kilt commando, John sometimes did when she was feeling particularly rebellious, and most gents these days wore pants underneath. John was thrilled to discover that, for this occasion at least, her husband wore his kilt commando.

“Who’s naughty, Mr Holmes?” She leaned her head back and watched his eyes flutter. There was a soft thud as his forehead rested against the headboard, and a groan rumbled from his chest, something between a growl and a whine. “You went commando at my sister’s wedding?”

“S-speak for yourself, Watson!” Oh, so it was Watson when they were in the bedroom and she was being a brat? She could live with that. 

“God, I love you.” John leaned forward and kissed the soft, pale chest, finding a scar she remembered and despised. “You need to stop getting yourself hurt on the job. This was too close for comfort.”

“Married a doctor, didn’t I?” He looked down at her from where his head rested against folded arms, eyes bright with too much drink and arousal, slightly glassy and certainly bloodshot, but still a beautiful shade of grey. “You’ll patch me up.”

“I’d rather not, really. I like you whole and sound.” She sighed, nuzzled the hollow of his throat, “But if you come home to me in pieces, I will patch you back together best as I can.”

“Just come home in the first place?”

“Just come home in the first place.” She put her arms around him. It was bad enough when he was out of the country on business, but now it would be so much worse.

“I will do my best. For now, my dear, allow me to adore you for every amazing thing you are and do for the rest of us.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head, distracting her. John sighed and leaned her head back just a bit. Mycroft obliged and kissed her. She grinned as she felt his fingers trail a path from temple down, down, down, down. Heart rate up, up, up, up. He chuckled as he tracked her responses, he was rather good at doing that, and carefully undid the garters before he moved down and kissed the soft inside of her thigh as he worked the stockings off, placing a kiss on each new bit of skin slowly revealed. The stockings disappeared off the side of the bed somewhere in the tangle of clothes, and he nuzzled at the fabric barrier keeping him from his goal.

“My God, you smell divine. May I?” He looked up at her, asking before assuming he was allowed to do anything. John nodded, words were not a thing for her just at the moment, and sighed as he got to work. He tugged until she was in a more prone position, right where he wanted her, and indulged in a bit of finger-play without removing a single remaining bit of lingerie. Clever bastard, wasn’t he? John moaned and arched her back as two long, calloused fingers slipped up inside her body. Mycroft kissed right below her belly-button, a favourite place of his to kiss during both lovemaking and foreplay, smiling against the soft skin as she twitched.

“Oh God. Please, Mycroft! Oh...please!” She breathed, breath catching as he gave a twist of his fingers.

“Christ, are you a lovely sight for sore eyes.” He kept up what he was doing, kissing up her body until he could claim a proper kiss, “Have I told you how very much I missed you?”

“Might’ve.”

“Terribly. Anthea thought it amusing. She likes you, y’know.”

“Anthea doesn’t like anyone.”

“But she likes you. Thinks you’re good for me. Says I’m a lucky bastard.”

“I may be the lucky one.” 

“We both are, my dear. Dear God, you’re beautiful.” His eyes were soft and dark as he looked down at her, having left off teasing her to just...admire. Observe. “And mine. May I have you, John? Properly?”

“Yes! A hundred thousand times yes!” She took his hand in hers, “Absolutely and always.”

“Are you dry?”

“At this exact moment in time? Not by a bloody fucking long shot, no thanks to you!” She rolled her eyes, knowing what he really wanted to know. “Currently in my cycle? Yes, I am quite dry.” His eyes lit up and he went into the side-table for something, coming up victorious with a silver-foil packet and a small tube.

“Shall we, then?”

“Oh, you sneaky bastard.” She took the condom from him and looked at it, squinting at the expiry date. It was brand new, by the looks. Shrugging, John held onto the condom for a minute.

“Well?”

“We shall. After you.”

“Much obliged, my love.” He smirked at her and went down again, using his teeth to remove her next-to-nothing panties, before carefully removing the lace bustier. She returned the favour with his kilt, which she tossed aside towards the foot of the bed to preserve, taking a moment to admire a familiar body. This was hers forever. For as long as she and Mycroft lived in this miserable, awful world, they were married. Mycroft waved the foil packet at her and she took it, tearing the corner with her teeth and shaking out the bit of rolled latex into his hand. Time to make the most of the opportunity, and what an opportunity. Was this her wedding-night, then?


 

Chapter Text


It was no trouble that kept Mycroft Holmes awake, for once there was nothing demanding his attention that didn’t deserve it. It was quiet, but he wasn’t alone. John Watson had fallen asleep curled against him, a familiar and comfortable thing to do. He smiled as his wife stirred and woke up. He hadn’t meant to wake her, but she was a notoriously light sleeper.

“Ugh.” She groaned and rolled, burying her face between the pillow and his shoulder. “I needed a shower before, now I really need one.”

“Is there something stopping you from getting a shower, my dear?” Mycroft chuckled, knowing how badly she had wanted a shower earlier and how he had kept from getting one.

“Yeah, there is.” John muttered, pushing up to glare at him, “You stopped me, remember?”

“I apologise for nothing. And as I recall, you were not in serious objection to the delay, either.”

“Of course I wasn’t. But you owe me a shower and I will get one come hell or high water.” John poked him in the side and extracted herself, “You are welcome to join me or not, but if I need a shower, God knows you do.”

“I’d love to join you.” If only to spend more time with his wife. His wife. He had gotten married. It wasn’t a rash, sudden decision, or a reckless one. He had always intended to marry, but the proper partner had never quite come along. Until he’d met a hot-headed veteran with attitude and unenviable aim who wasn’t afraid of him at all. Intrigue had turned to interest had to turned to affection and now they had been together for seven years. There was no one quite like John Watson, and now one of the most intriguing people in the world belonged to him. He watched her walk away from the bed, stopping at the door to the bathroom to look over her shoulder.  That look, he loved that silly look.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just observing. Admiring.” Considering himself the luckiest bastard in the United Kingdom. John rolled her eyes and waved a come-hither gesture as she disappeared into the bathroom. The shower ran and Mycroft sighed. Real life waited for them back in London, jobs and responsibilities they had turned their backs on to escape to Edinburgh for a mini-holiday under the guise of attending Harry Watson’s wedding. Harry had approached him nearly a year ago to ask him an enormous favour, which he had agreed to readily enough. He was very fond of John and respected her sister for fighting to overcome her own demons. This was Harry’s way of expressing gratitude for all the times he had been there to take her to a safe-house or treatment centre to recover from another bout of alcoholism. He regretted very little of tonight’s celebrations, least of keeping a sneaky secret from John’s gathered family. A few people knew, but none of them were going to say anything.

 

Joining John in the shower, he took his time exploring his wife’s familiar body, getting to his knees and looking up, half-blinded by water. She was beautiful, he decided. She looked down at him and smiled, reaching over to turn the water off. This was messing around, the real business of the shower was behind them.

“What are you doing down there?”

“Admiring the view of something that belongs to me now.” 

“All you had to do was ask, you know.”

“And all you had to do was say yes.”

“Bastard.” A gentle tug on his hair and no heat behind the word. Mycroft chuckled and nuzzled the soft skin below her belly-button, knowing it drove her mad.

“Say that like you mean it, Captain.” He looked up to meet her gaze and smirked before getting back to business. Shifting on the slick tile, he held on. She groaned, tugging on his hair tighter.

“Traction. Not here.” She dug her fingers into the back of his neck, “You know the rules.”

“Much obliged, ma’am.” Whatever she wanted, she could have it. John smiled and got him up. Taking a minute to dry off properly, it was right back to bed. As before, he took over, kissing a trail down John’s body to his ultimate destination. She kept herself trimmed and maintained a routine he had always appreciated. The noises she made, the signals he read, were perfect. The familiar scent of his partner’s body, the way she smelled and felt after a shower, was intoxicating. He loved this, being this close, the intimacy. He smelled the soap from their shower, but John’s unique smell was stronger as always. She smelled like gun oil, tea (it changed depending on her mood and which blend she’d drunk recently), and something a bit sweet. It was pleasant and familiar, comforting. The soft smell was like a drug, and he was guilty of spending quiet hours doing nothing but breathing John’s scent. Her hand was in his hair, her fingers tight but not demanding.

“This is for me.” He nuzzled the crease of her thigh, smiling when her grip tightened. She was ready to play if he was game. Mycroft hummed as he kissed along her thigh to her knee. After a bit of torture, he put her out of her misery, chuckling when she was forced to muffle a string of curses uttered in Dari. She often cursed at him in Dari or Pashto, both of which he spoke passably well, and he always laughed at her because half the time she didn’t mean a word of it. 

 

It was sweet relief to both of them when a condom was rolled on and he rocked slowly and carefully into her body, finding the angle and rhythm that worked. It felt like living and dying and being reborn, and it was fantastic. John came first, whining as she pressed her forehead to his shoulder, fingers digging into his back, knees tight against his hips. Mycroft sped up his pace a bit, behind by a few strokes, this second climax pulled from what felt like somewhere behind his spine, gasping as his vision narrowed to a hazy darkness as he spent his load. It took a while for John to relax enough for him to pull out, and it was a glorious hurt he would suffer over and over and over again for her happiness. Once either of them was capable of moving more than their eyes, John staggered from the bed and disappeared into the loo to dispose of the spent condom, returning with a warm flannel to do some brisk cleanup. After preliminary clean-up was done, she hopped right back into bed, complaining about the chill. Mycroft chuckled and let her get as close as she wanted.

“That was almost a proper wedding-night.” She sounded sleepy and content as she used him as a pillow. John had reintroduced Mycroft to the wonders of intimate physical contact and one of his favourite things in the world was cuddling. John happened to be an ace cuddler, so he’d kind of struck the jackpot with that factor of his wife’s personality. Mycroft raised an eyebrow, even though she couldn’t see it, and looked down at the top of his wife’s head.

“Why do you say almost, love?”

“Because we had to share it.” She sounded so adorably and understandably petulant. Mycroft chuckled a bit.

“Oh, it wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“Promise me we’ll have our own proper wedding-night, Mycroft?”

“Absolutely.” He just smiled, knowing it was important to his wife. “I’ll even give you a proper ceremony if it’s just that important.”

“That’d be very nice, yeah.” She sighed and resettled, “Lucky me.”

“We are both extremely fortunate. And we should make the most of our brief peace and quiet, it won’t take very long for word of this to get out to others of our acquaintance.”

“Sherlock?”

“Mhm. And Lestrade.”

“And by extension, your parents. And…don’t you have another sibling? I mean, aside from your psycho sister.”

“My little brother?” Mycroft hadn’t spoken as often of the youngest of the Holmes siblings as he did of Sherlock, and less than that than he did of Eurus. But John knew next to nothing about their brother, who had been baptised Benjamin James Quintavius Holmes and had gone by Q since puberty. Their parents still quite stubbornly called him Benjamin, and all of the unfortunate derivatives of that name, despite his repeated wishes to be called Q. Sherlock and Mycroft, however, obliged him as a matter of solidarity and professionalism. It was a case of preferred identity, and Mycroft was happy to indulge.

“Yeah. You don’t talk about him much, but I assume there is, in fact, a fourth sibling.”

“Fifth, actually.” He drew designs on her shoulder, recalling the one failed pregnancy between Sherlock and Q. “My mother miscarried one pregnancy, another daughter. We were all devastated, and hopeful when a fifth conceived.”

“Oh my god, Mycroft. That’s awful!”

“Then we were given a brother. My parents gave him an appropriately deplorable name, of course.”

“This ought to be good.” He felt her smile, she was very much aware of the oddity that was his given name, never mind Sherlock’s. “How much worse could it possibly be than Mycroft Alexander Henry Holmes, or William Sherlock Scott Holmes? Or even Eurus Faith Elizabeth Holmes? May she never trouble more than our nightmares when we can’t sleep.”

“You saved all of us, John, which is a favour I’m not certain we can ever fittingly repay you for.” Mycroft hadn’t given his deceased sister more than a momentary thought, if that much at all, since the end of that scandal. “Even Q called me an idiot.”

“Q is short for something?”

“He will never admit that he was born with the unfortunate name Benjamin James Quintavius Holmes.”

“Oh my god! I think I know why he goes by Q!”

“Precisely.”

“So, when do I get to meet your little brother?”

“Come visit me at Vauxhall Cross and you can meet him. He works for me.”

“Of course he does.” John wrinkled her nose, “How is it I haven’t met him before? It’s not like I haven’t been to Vauxhall Cross hundreds of times on leisure and business alike.” That was very true, and John was one of his best agents. She had been part of Section Six many years ago, during her time with the Army, had cleared training and joined the highest agency. The exact circumstances of her departure were confidential, known to a very few, but the Director had made it very clear that if circumstances ever provided themselves favourably and John wished to seek employment with her former division, they would be very happy to have her back. Mycroft had never pushed for his then-girlfriend to return to MI6, she had never really shown much interest in it. She clearly missed the work, so he had offered her a contract-position with them. It was good enough for them, but he knew she was hounded by former associates begging her to come back properly.

“I suspect you haven’t met Q before because he wasn’t very visible. He worked behind the scenes for much of his career, but he’s in position now to take over the Quartermaster Division. You were familiar with his predecessor, Alexander Boothroyd, and R. Who has also been slated for replacement.”

“A few shake-ups in MI6 while I wasn’t paying attention?”

“Nothing to concern yourself with, my dear.”

“What about M?”

“She’s going to retire.”                             

“Time to bring MI6 into the modern age. About bloody time.” John sighed, her weight sinking against him, “Let me know if the ranks need filling out, will you?”

“I thought you weren’t interested?”

“Unless a couple of the current double-ohs retire, I should be alright. There’s a couple I get along with just fine. Others not so much.”

“We’ll see what we can do for you, dear Watson.” He smiled and held her close as she fell asleep. What would she say, he wondered, if she had any idea he was in the running to take over for Minerva Collins when she stepped down?  There were three senior agents in the running, he was one of them. Could he possibly convince his wife to come back to MI6 for his sake, if nothing else? Whatever position she wanted would be hers, but he...well, Mycroft was going to be selfish. This particular conversation could wait a bit, but he could be patient.


 

Chapter Text


“Why are we doing this? My brother has people who do this.” Sherlock Holmes complained, dumping an armload of clothes into a box. “Why are we doing this?” Greg Lestrade sighed as he finished packing one of four boxes. A couple of boxes, a couple of deployment bags, and two zippered garment-bags for dress-uniforms. A whole life, a career spanning nearly two decades, packed up in preparation to be moved out.

We are doing this because it’s the least we can do.” He rearranged the new pile to fit in the box, sealed the box, labelled it appropriately, and stacked it with the other three, giving his bratty partner in crime a sharp look, “John Watson is a better person than any of us, and a better friend than any of us deserve. My team likes her, my bosses like her, and she can work a miracle at any crime-scene you put her on. But if you piss her off she will fuck you up.” Greg thought of the times John Watson had taken down a suspect who had brushed her off the first time, underestimating the veteran. People seemed to do that quite often, and it was always fun to watch the aftermath.

“That wasn’t my question,” Sherlock grumbled. Greg rolled his eyes.

“She makes your brother happy, and she puts up with you. I can’t say that for many people.” He picked up two of the four boxes, “She really, genuinely likes you, Sherlock, despite every honest effort accidental or otherwise you have made to try and run her off.” He still remembered the first time Watson and Sherlock had met. Watson had crashed Mycroft’s place in Kensington after taking a job for MI6 and the rest was kind of bizarre. To this day, five years on, it was still anyone’s guess who had gotten to the house first and who had startled whom. Mycroft hadn’t been home at the time, Greg had been forced to call him after responding to the break-in call that was automatically triggered when one of the other two tripped the system.

 

That was when Greg had found out for himself that Sherlock hadn’t actually died when he had jumped from the roof of Saint Bart’s Hospital in 2011. He remembered making that phone-call from his office with the unlikely pair of house-breakers cooling their heels in holding. Bail had been posted for both of them and Greg had dutifully driven the trouble-makers home. All he knew was that it had spawned a strange but beautiful friendship and John had started showing up to more crime-scenes, even if he didn’t call for her help. It turned out that Sherlock had taken her on as a sort of business-partner and whenever Greg called for him, he called on John if she was available. Now, that didn’t stop Sherlock from sabotaging a couple of dates, but he’d gotten over himself pretty quick and accepted that John more or less belonged to Mycroft. Her schedule and person were basically his brother’s to command and he was happy to remind Sherlock of this whenever it came up.

 

Once the last of Watson’s belongings had been packed up, they moved everything out in small loads. They were moving Watson out of her Russell Court flat and into Mycroft Holmes’s Kensington townhouse in Hyde Park Gate.

“Where are they, anyway? Why are we doing this now?” Sherlock asked as they made the last trip back up to the flat.

“Somewhere up in Scotland, if I remember.” He held the door for Sherlock, who carried the other half of the remaining load, “Um. Edinburgh? Had to go up there for John’s sister’s wedding or something.”

“But why did Mycroft go to Edinburgh?”

“Because Harry Watson needed a reliable Best Man and she trusts your brother. He’s really stepped up for Harry when she goes on a bender.”

“Oh.” Sherlock looked over his shoulder, “Is this everything?”

“I think so. Prop the door and I’ll do another sweep once we get this to my car.”

“Right.” Sherlock dutifully propped the door open and they took the boxes and bags down to Greg’s car. Leaving Sherlock to load everything into the boot, he went back up to do a final sweep and make sure nothing had been left behind that should go with them. He found a few things and took them along, he left a pre-filled out cheque on the side-table and set a small key-ring with two brass keys on it on top, making sure the door was locked from the inside. Alerting the building-manager to the status of Watson’s flat, he left the building and met up with Sherlock. The drive to Kensington was quiet, Sherlock solved three cases while they were en route. 

“Greg?”

“Hmm?”

“Does this mean we’ve lost our babysitting privileges? If John’s moving in with Mycroft?” He looked rather serious. Greg almost laughed at him.

“No, I shouldn’t think so. What on earth gave you that idea?”

“My brother was her primary pet-sitter, she’s moving in with him. Are we still needed?”

“If you’re wondering if you’ll get to keep Noire over at Baker Street in the future, I should imagine that arrangement remains.” Greg chuckled. Trust his boyfriend to be a cat-person. As it was, Greg had stepped up to watch John’s feisty cat for her while she was in Scotland and as a result, the creature had moved into Baker Street for the foreseeable future. John swore left and right that Noire wasn’t real fond of strangers, but the sassy calico didn’t seem to have much of a problem with Greg or the brothers. Greg suspected Noire and Sherlock got along because, after a rocky start that involved defensive wounds and a lot of yowling, Sherlock had taken it upon himself to apologise for startling Noire and stepping on his tail by bringing offerings of cubed white cheddar cheese and catnip toys to sooth ruffled fur. It had taken about nine months for a collection of toys to appear in Baker Street, along with a small climbing-tree that doubled as a scratching post, and other accessories. Mrs Hudson had patiently charged a one-time fee for a pet deposit and added any pet damage to the running tab she kept on Sherlock’s rent. But it was not uncommon to find Noire sleeping in Mrs Hudson’s sitting-room, so she obviously didn’t mind too terribly having a furry addition to the family.

 

-&-

 

Getting John moved out of her Russell Square flat and into the Hyde Park Gate townhouse took approximately two hours between packing, load-out, transit, load-in, and unpacking, but it was mostly a matter of adding what they had brought over to what was already on-location. There wasn’t much to move because John had been keeping approximately half of her worldly belongings at Mycroft’s place, it had just taken a while for the final decision to be made. Greg was curious to know what the deciding factor had finally been, what the final push might have been. As always seemed to be the case, a call came through right as they finished up at the Kensington house and that was the rest of the day gone. It was midnight before Greg or Sherlock saw a bed, and they retreated to Baker Street for whatever spare sleep they got. Greg barely had enough sense left in him by that point to shoo Noire off his pillow before he face-planted.

“Tha’s mine, cat. Shoo.” He aimed a swat at Noire and was rewarded with contact and a disgruntled noise as the cat went tumbling off the bed and landed on the floor in an indignant heap. Sherlock snickered as he kicked off his shoes and dumped his clothes in a pile. A startled sound from the floor turned out to be Noire buried in Greg’s clothes. Greg rolled his eyes as he trudged into the bathroom.

“Serves you right, you fuzzy tyrant. Shred those clothes and I’ll turn you into a hat.” He shot over his shoulder. The only article of clothing he had ever actually lost to Noire was a rather hideous tie his ex-wife had given him for Christmas one year, but he hadn’t minded the loss of that item quite as much. Noire, not a stupid animal by any means, gave a soft meow and settled with nesting in Greg’s discarded clothes, kneading but not actually using his claws to make himself comfortable. Greg rolled his eyes and managed to brush his teeth standing up. He looked awful, but that was to be expected. Muttering about middle age and inconsiderate subordinates, he made his way back to the bed and half-tripped over Noire, who was content to sleep in Greg’s clothes. He did that often, and it was quite endearing. John said it was because Noire liked the way Greg’s clothes smelled, which was kind of silly but sweet. The pillow smelled blissfully of Sherlock and sleep, with that ever-so-faint telltale of clay from the litter-box. Which meant Noire had been sleeping on his pillow again. Well, that was fine.

 

Dragging the covers up over his head, Greg turned into the warm body next to him and fell asleep with one hand on an almost-too-narrow waist. Silly moron, forgetting to eat. Said it slowed him down, Greg had rooted out a mild eating disorder that he worked around by figuring out exactly what Sherlock liked to eat and making sure those foods were easily accessible and regularly provided. He carried snacks in his pockets and kept the car and his desk stocked for Sherlock, and at least one meal a day was mandatory. Better than it used to be, he figured any progress was a victory with Sherlock. He was so much better about sleeping these days than he had been, but Greg couldn’t count on two hands the nights he’d sat up with Sherlock and coached him through another PTSD sleep-episode, reassuring the younger man that he was safe in London and Serbia was thousands of miles away. No one was going to hurt him, no one was demanding answers he couldn’t provide. It didn’t happen as often now as it had in the early days following Sherlock’s return from the dead, but Greg was always willing to do what it took to make Sherlock happy. And really, despite his flaws and vices, Sherlock was a simple man to please. Give him case-work, puzzles, and body-parts to experiment on, and he was a happy man. Greg was implicit in providing these things because a content Sherlock Holmes was a willing Sherlock Holmes and a willing Sherlock Holmes said yes to a case that maybe ranked a 5 on his silly scale, which meant Greg got useful intel, solved a tough case, and got to go home early. Really, an ideal arrangement for everyone involved.