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Doctor, Soldier, Spy

Chapter Text


Maiwand, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan

2007

 

He dropped to one knee and began snapping photographs. He didn’t want to miss anything. Most everyone was running away from the explosion, but others were running towards the chaos and destruction and death. Civilians and soldiers alike, he’d seen it before. And would, no doubt, see it many times again whenever he did this. A group of soldiers with specific patches bolted past him, running full-tilt, following the barked orders from their commander. Sherlock Holmes tilted his head as the voice reached him over the shouting and screaming faded a bit by the ringing in his ears left from his proximity to the bomb. He was unhurt, but his hearing was a little compromised and he probably looked like he needed help. They all did, honestly. Women served in the military, he knew this, had met some of them working for his brother, but this…there was something about the voice that got his attention.

A minute later, the commander put herself squarely in the frame of his lens. Sherlock had been taking pictures of people in different situations in different places for almost six years, but he had to admit that very few got his attention like that. She stopped smack in the middle of the shot, turned half-head on to him, and shouted another order to a group of soldiers behind him.

“Melrose! Spencer! Secure the perimeter! Bolton, help the medics! Move, lads, move!” She yelled, gesturing broadly. At which point, she looked straight at Sherlock, or at least at his camera. He’d been taking pictures non-stop, burst-photographs trying to get her in action. He couldn’t tell what colour her hair was under the helmet, or how long it was. Or what colour her eyes were, she wore sunglasses to protect herself from the sun. She wasn’t terribly tall, he would tower over her by several inches standing full-height, but she knew exactly what her business was and how to get it done efficiently. Who was she? Sherlock lowered his camera to look at her himself, by himself, and they made legitimate eye-contact. Just for a minute. As he watched, she did something unusual. She took off the dark glasses and he noticed that her eyes were…blue? Grey? No, what colour were they? Brown? He couldn’t tell from this distance, but the fact that she had taken her glasses off like that was significant. Sherlock wore sunglasses himself, for the same reason, and unconsciously shoved them up onto his forehead as he snapped a few more pictures of the commander facing him. After a minute, she turned and took off at a sprint to catch up to her men and start her work, whatever it entailed this time. Who was she?

Once she was out of sight, Sherlock shoved to his feet, grabbed his camera-bag, dumped his camera inside, and shouldered the whole lot before he took off in pursuit. He’d keep his distance, but it was time for some close-up shots of the aftermath. And maybe, that one soldier. Sherlock spent two hours at the site of the bombing, taking photographs of everything he could see, staying out of the way and trying not to make a nuisance of himself. He prowled the edges off the action, taking pictures when he saw what looked important. He was looking for the commander, trying to get her in as many shots as he could. There was something about her, the way she behaved, the way she took command of the whole situation, that spoke to him. Unfortunately, Sherlock knew he wouldn’t get a chance to learn her name while he was here, he would be pulled from Afghanistan tomorrow. He was already two days over his withdraw, but Mycroft had graciously given him the extra time he’d requested. He already had all of the evidence necessary for the job that had brought him here in the first place, these past two days were a bonus to see if he found another project. Well, maybe not a project, but he’d certainly found a new subject. And he knew nothing about her.

 

As he sat against a section of broken wall from an older bombing, he heard footsteps and turned his head. Was that her? All he saw at first were dusty desert-boots tucked into two-tone khaki fatigues. Moving up, he finally made eye-contact. It was her. And up close, he could finally read her name. Watson. Her helmet was off, tucked under one arm, and he saw now that her hair, kept long, was a rather pretty blonde. Or…pretty when she wasn’t covered in blood and dust and gunpowder. Her fatigues were stained with patches of blood, none of it seemed to be her own. Thank god. She looked down at him, studying him the same way he studied her, and smiled. She had a charming, pretty smile.

“Hi, there.”

“Hello.”

“One of mine, are you?”

“Uh…” He trailed off, a little confused by her statement. She rolled her eyes and put her gear down.

“Your accent, gave you away.”

“How…”

“Make a living on observation, be long dead and in my grave otherwise.” She pulled something from her vest and handed it to him, “Eat that.”

“Thank you.” He took the offered protein bar and opened it, offering her half.

“So, what’s your name, stranger? What brings you to Hell?”

“Uh, I’m…” he trailed off, taking a bite to cover his uncertainty. He didn’t feel comfortable giving her his real name. But he had a card for just this kind of thing. Digging one out of his own vest, just like hers except in black with a black-and-white “MEDIA” badge slapped on the back and on the front left breast, he gave her the card.

“Name’s Scott. William Scott.” Sherlock leaned his head back, “Who was it?”

“Hmm?”

“This.” He indicated the quieting chaos and destruction. She took the card from him and turned it over before she put it in a pocket for later. 

“Oh. This? Probably a local group. We get it all the time around here, kind of a way of life for us.”

“That’s…awful.”

“You get used to it.” She shrugged.

“Well, I gave you my name. What’s yours?”

“I’m John Watson.”

“Your parents must have had no consideration.”

“Nah, I picked the name myself when I turned eighteen. Watson’s not even the name I was born with, to be honest.”

“It’s not?”

“Nope.”

“Oh. I’m…sorry.” So, her family-life was unsupportive, possibly abusive. He studied the woman sitting next to him like they were old friends and not newly-introduced strangers. She was in her…thirties, new to her rank as captain but not to the business of war. She had some medical training, but he wasn’t sure if she was a doctor or simply a medic. It could be either. He couldn’t tell if she wore a ring or not, she still had her gloves on. She didn’t seem to sit completely on the heterosexual label, somewhere off-centre of a different sexuality. She was comfortable in her skin, but not with her past, and got along with nearly everyone she met. She made friends as easily as he could solve crimes, people just sort of…trusted her. Watson was one of the most interesting people Sherlock had ever met, and he’d actually had a chance to properly meet her. That was a first. And she didn’t seem to mind him. Most people didn’t like him.

“So, what about you, then? What’s your sorry tale of woe?”

“There’s not much.” He took the canteen of water she offered, “I go where they send me, do what they tell me. Try not to ask too many questions.”

“But you ask the questions that matter and know how to get answers.”

“Yeah. It’s part of my job.”

“This isn’t the job you usually do, is it? You don’t spend your life wandering war-zones looking for the next big shot, the next story. I’ve seen plenty of media types in my life, and you’re…different.”

“What makes me different?”

“Most war-photographers I know don’t travel alone if they can help it. You lot travel in packs like dogs looking for a juicy bone.”  He didn’t miss the tone of judgment in her voice.

“I’m…not a war-photographer. I’m here for something else.”

“Figures. Government?”

“Yes.”

“Good luck with that. Did you get what you came here for?”

“I…yes. I think I did.” He handed over the canteen. “And, uh, my name isn’t William Scott. Well, not my whole name.”

“Ah, knew it. You didn’t lie to me, though.”

“No, it’s…it is my name, just not the whole of it. I don’t…”

“Oh, calm down, you. I’m not calling you on it.” She patted him on the shoulder, “For Christ’s sake, I have a bloke’s name! Who’s judging?”

“Well, if you’re ever in London, come look me up?”

“Oh, you’re a Londoner! Thought you were Sussex with that accent!” She smiled, “So, how do I find you, then, Mister Not William Scott?”

“Here.” He gave her his real business-card. She turned it over and read it to herself.

“Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. London. Huh.” She looked at him, “Figured you had a name that matched the way you look. Smart, handsome, probably in over your head in a few things.”

“You think I’m handsome?”

“I swing either way, son, and you’re the handsomest thing I’ve seen in a month. Tell me you’re single and I call you a liar.”

“I am.”

“How?”

“People don’t like me, I’m too smart for them.”

“How can you be too smart for someone?”

“Because I know things.”

“And that’s…bad?”

“Most of the time.”

“Well, what about me?”

“Sorry?”

“What about me?” She looked him over, “Do me. Tell me what you see and I’ll tell you if you’re right, wrong, or if I think you’re full of it.”

“You…want me to?” People hated it when Sherlock deduced them, but it wasn’t like he could help what he saw.

“Yeah! Do me.”

“Okay.” He wasn’t sure how much time they had left, so he was quick about it. She was one of two children, had an older sibling she was not in contact with, both of her parents were deceased, and she…oh. She was bisexual, had identified as such from puberty but had kept it to herself due to her sibling’s violent coming-out.

“You…”

“Had a sister. She’s lesbian. It wasn’t good.” Watson shrugged, “As soon as I was old enough, I left the house and made my own way.”

“John. Watson. What made you pick that name?”

“It sounded good. And Watson…it’s my name, just…we don’t talk to that part of the family anymore and I always hated that. We’re not bad people.”

“So you are a Watson, it wasn’t randomly chosen. You had that in mind.”

“I picked my name carefully.”

“Good for you.” He smiled and finished what she had asked him for. After he was done, he leaned back. “Did I miss anything? Get anything wrong?”

“Except for my sister, pretty spot on. Neat little trick you’ve got there, Mr Holmes. I can see why people may not like you much if you know all their dirty secrets.”

“It’s…I can’t help it.”

“I don’t mind. Besides, you’re not half-bad and a certainly a good sight better than the rest of the lot.”

“I am?”

“Yep.” She looked up at a whistle, “Oh, damn.”

“Time to go?”

“Yeah. Sorry.” She got up and offered one hand. “If I’m ever in London, I’ll try and look you up.”

“Please?”

“Yeah. Uh, safe travels getting home, are you flying out of Kabul?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

“Oof. How are you getting there?”

“Helicopter.”

“Probably from our part of town. Want a ride back?”

“Do you mind?”

“Nope. I don’t mind, and my guys will keep their mouths shut.” Watson smiled and took his hand. If anyone thought of it, they didn’t say anything. A quick word to her guys was all it took to keep things quiet, and she gave him shotgun in their truck. She did the driving he noticed, and it was interesting to observe her in action from this vantage point. Unable to help himself, and feeling a bit selfish, Sherlock took more pictures of her. He also got some of her soldiers, who didn’t really seem to mind having their pictures taken.

 

When they got back to Camp Bastion, she walked him to the airfield, where a chopper was already waiting. His brother was also waiting. Damn it. Watson surprised him when she suddenly pulled him to a halt.

“Hey.”

“What?”

“Be careful. Take care of yourself. Okay?”

“I’ll…I’ll try. Thank you, Captain Watson.”

“Hey, call me John.”

“Sherlock. Please call me Sherlock.” He held out one hand, but she wasn’t interested in shaking hands with him. She surprised him with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and stole his phone for a selfie of the two of them together. John walked with him to the chopper and the worst sense of dread hit him. That he would never see her again, that he would forget her, that he would…he would…would what? What was wrong with him? Suddenly frantic, he turned on Watson, who stood calmly next to him and seemed to know something wasn’t on with him.

“John!”

“It’s fine, Sherlock. You need to go home.”

“What if I forget you?!”

“How could you forget me? You have my pictures.” She smiled and took his hands, “You’re one of a kind, Sherlock Holmes. I’m going to miss you. Be safe and smart in London, I’ll come find you.”

“Why can’t…why can’t you come with me?”

“Because I have work to do.” She looked sad, “I wish I could come home for good, God knows it, but where would I live? What would I do?” She touched the side of his face, the first time they had touched like that, “This is my life, Sherlock, what else would I do?”

“I’d find you work.” You could live with me. He didn’t say that out loud, but God knows he wanted to.

“Doing what?”

“Work with me. Work for my brother.”

“I don’t think your brother likes me. But that’s his problem, not ours.” She looked at him, her eyes grey, “Sherlock.”

“John?”

“Come here, you silly thing.” She pulled him close, “Down to my level, Holmes.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He leaned in a little, it wasn’t hard. When her lips touched his, he almost broke down in tears. Why did this scare him so much? He didn’t care about people, he just didn’t. It wasn’t how he functioned. John Watson was…amazing. She was gifted, dangerous, oh so dangerous, pretty enough to take anyone she wanted, and…kinder to Sherlock than anyone had been in far too long. People were not kind to him, on principle, and the way she had treated him was so different from the norm. It had started with a photograph, it ended with a kiss. He didn’t want it to end, but it had to. At least for now.

Watson helped him into the chopper and closed the door after making sure he was buckled in, checking and double-checking his harness herself. She didn’t have to, but she did. She kissed him on the temple, told him to be safe, and hopped out, closing the door. He watched as she knelt just out of the LZ, eyes fixed on their chopper as it lifted into the sky, and well until they were a small speck on her horizon. Sherlock reached for his computer bag, which his brother had brought for him from his hotel in Bost, and pulled out his laptop. Extracting the SD card with the pictures, he started downloading, isolating the pictures of Watson into a special folder.

“Sherlock?”

“No, Mycroft.” He didn’t look at his brother, “She is none of your business, and she’s going to remain none of your business.” All he got for that was a raised eyebrow. After a while, he sighed and looked up.

“Give me this, Mycroft. Just this one thing. Let me have it.”

“Sherlock…” He knew what Mycroft was about to say, and was having none of his brother’s usual misguided warnings.

“No. Don’t you dare. Let me have one thing, this one thing.”

“Very well.” Mycroft sighed and leaned back, knowing when to pick his fights. This was not one of them. Sherlock isolated John’s pictures and made himself a promise he would never forget her.

“What is her name?”

“John Watson. Do your own research, I’m not telling you anything.” He finished sorting the pictures from his primary mission and consolidated reports, putting everything on a thumb-drive and giving it to his brother when they landed in Kabul. “That’s everything from the mission. Anything else is none of your business until I make it your business. Leave me alone.”

“I question the wisdom of giving you two extra days to fool around.”

“She was kind to me, Mycroft. No one has been kind to me before like that. She talked to me like I mattered, she asked me questions. When I deduced her, she didn’t call me a freak.” That had been the biggest surprise for him. They had shared food and water with each other, talked like friends not strangers, and he had learned her history both by deduction and by her own word. She was like no one he had ever met before and it was…fascinating. He wished there was a way to bring her home, but he didn’t think she wanted that, as much as she said she did, he didn’t think she was ready to leave the Army. And it was selfish of him to want it for her.

 

When he got home to his flat, he locked his brother out and started researching John Watson, looking for everything he could find on her. That required asking Mycroft for help when he got to archives he couldn’t access without clearance, but he wanted everything there was to be had. John Watson was unique and special and Sherlock wanted to know her. It was a month of research before he had everything, including her original birth-certificate and her change-of-name papers filed when she was eighteen, but it would be six years before he ever saw her again. He didn’t forget her, not completely, but his life moved on and she moved to the background of things.


 

Chapter Text


Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London

 

John Watson walked through Russell Square by herself, lost in her own world and paying a bare hint of attention to the world around her. She had been home for six months, out of the Army for that long. Out of a sense of stubbornness, or who the hell knew what, she still got dressed in fatigues every morning. No one said she couldn’t, and she felt…whole that way. She hadn’t been discharged on medical or for doing anything foolish, she’d submitted the proper papers and gotten a Discharge With Honour, but she felt…adrift. With one hand in her pocket, she messed with a small piece of cardstock there, rubbing it between her fingers. Every day for six months, she had walked London’s streets, looking for one person. She had located his address very quickly, had spent several hours standing outside trying to get the courage to ring the bell, but always walked away before she could. How could she expect him to remember her? He must have moved on by now. Maybe he was even married?

“Watson!” Someone behind her suddenly broke her concentration and she slowed. “John Watson!” Who was that? She paused and looked over her shoulder as a gentleman in an overcoat got up from the bench she’d just walked by, holding a briefcase in one hand. He looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him.

“Stamford. Mike Stamford, we went to school together?” The man held out one hand to her, and she was able to put him together with an old schoolmate of hers from Saint Bartholomew’s, which had been legitimate ages ago for both of them.

“Oh! Mike! Of course, hello.” She gave him a passably friendly smile and shook his hand, “How are you?”

“Well enough. What about you? Heard you were overseas somewhere getting shot at?”

“Yeah.” She made a face, “Not very glorious, I’m afraid.”

“Braver than me, for sure. Not sure I could do that kind of thing.” Stamford’s smile got crooked, “But then, you always were the more reckless of us, weren’t you?”

“Someone had to be.” She shrugged uncomfortably.

“So…can I interest you in coffee?”

“Oh, sure.” Never turn down a cup of free coffee. “As long as it’s better than swill.”

“Should be. We have decent coffee in London.”

“We didn’t on base. I had to go out into town to find good coffee. Started drinking tea while I was over there.” She followed Stamford to a nearby coffee-shop and ordered a cup of strong black coffee. Stamford was right, it was good coffee. With takeaway cups in hand, they returned to the park and sat down on a bench together. It was quiet for a while, a bit awkward, but John appreciated having any kind of company.

“So…what are you up to these days? Still at Saint Bart’s?” She asked after a bit. Stamford chuckled.

“Oh, yeah. I teach there now.”

“You teach?”

“Yeah, bright young things, like we were.” Stamford shook his head, “Oh, they’re awful. God, I hate them.” John choked on her coffee, she couldn’t help it.

“Mike!”

“What?”

“Jesus!” she cleared her throat, “Are they really that bad?”

“Well, some of them are. There’s a few good ones, but not that many.” He shrugged, “Sorry.”

“No you’re not.”

“So, what about you, then? Back in London?”

“Yeah, but…I can’t afford to live here, not on my pension.” She looked up at the sky, “Place never really felt like home, though, y’know?”

“Any job-prospects?”

“Nope. Haven’t bothered to look.” She shook her head, holding the cup in both hands, “I’m afraid medicine doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to.”

“I imagine. Not with the mad shit you’ve seen out there.” Mike said calmly, gesturing broadly at the world around them, indicating something beyond London.

“Hmm.” She shrugged, taking a sip of coffee.

“So, what would you do, then, if not medicine?”

“Private security, or maybe police work.”

“Police work?”

“Mhm.” She sniffled, thinking of Sherlock Holmes, her consulting detective war-photographer one-timer. He’d followed her around a bomb-site in Maiwand for two hours, she’d hunted him down in the aftermath and sat with him for a while, driven him back to base, and seen him on his way to Kabul for a flight home to London the next morning. All she had to remind herself of that encounter was a selfie she’d taken on his phone and quickly sent to herself. And a couple of business cards.

“Oh. Are you looking for a flat, then?”

“I’ve got a place now, but it’s taking all my income, and I don’t have a job.”

“Bet you could find one.”

“One what?”

“One of each, maybe?” Stamford shrugged, “Have you thought about maybe looking for a flat-mate?”

“Oh, come on, Mike.” John snorted, “Who would ever want a flat-mate like me?” She would be damned if he didn’t smile. That sneaky, sly smile that always meant trouble. And she had gotten into that trouble with him during uni, on more than one occasion. He chuckled, looking so damn pleased with himself.

“What?”

“Did you know, you’re the second person who’s said that to me today?”

“I am?” She raised an eyebrow, “Uh, who was the first?”

“Would you like to meet him?”

“Where?”

“He’s at Saint Bart’s right now, or should be. Give you a tour of the old place before you meet him?”

“Uh, meet…who?” She watched Stamford get to his feet and finish his coffee. “Mike!”

“Come on, Watson!” He called back cheerfully, already on the move. John got to her feet and chucked her empty cup into a bin before she ran to catch up with Stamford. Getting a cab, they went to Saint Bart’s, which looked almost nothing the way she remembered and yet…still looked the same. She stood outside the hospital and touched the stone walls with a reverent hand.

“Good old Bart’s.”

“Come on, John, I want you to meet Holmes.” Mike stood by the doors, waiting for her. That name got her attention and she looked at Stamford.

“What?”

“Come on, slow-poke! If we’re lucky, he’s in the chem labs!”

“Wait, Mike! What’s his name?” she caught up with him at a lift.

“Holmes?”

“Oh. That’s…what I thought you said.” She said quietly, leaning against the wall. It couldn’t be. There was no way. Was there? She messed with the card in her pocket, taking it out to look at it. Sherlock Holmes. Was it the same person? Could it be? Getting her phone out, she unlocked the device and pulled up that picture. It was all she had of him, a cherished possession. When the lift slowed and the doors opened on their floor, she put her phone away and followed Stamford to one of the chemistry labs. It looked empty, but she got the feeling it wasn’t. There was someone on the other side of that door, who would either remember her or not.

“John.” Stamford had the door open. It was time. Taking a deep breath, she entered the lab, looking around.

“Oh. Bit different from my day.” She breathed. Different in several ways. Her focus caught on the man sitting at one of the chemistry benches, hunched over a microscope. She wasn’t sure if he heard them come in, and couldn’t tell from here if it was him or not. Hearing the door, and probably her voice, he glanced up. That was all she needed, and John caught her breath. There was only one person in the world she knew of who had that facial structure. Oh god, it was him. It was him. Shit. It was Sherlock Holmes.

-^-

Saint Bart’s Hospital, City of London, London

 

Sherlock Holmes was buried in research at Saint Barts Hospital, holed up in one of the chemistry labs, when he was interrupted by someone opening the door. He hated interruptions, even well-meaning ones. It was Mike Stamford, he had someone with him.

“Oh. Bit different from my day.” Stamford’s company said quietly. He raised his head a bit to get a better look at them and hesitated. Stamford half-blocked his view of the person who’d followed him and Sherlock hated that. Couldn’t he move out of the way? All Sherlock could see was a glimpse or two of camouflage patterning. Military? Hmm. Stamford didn’t have any friends in the military, did he? Well, maybe he did, what did Sherlock know of it? Stamford moved out of the way finally, sitting down on a nearby stool, and Sherlock had a full view of the stranger. Recently discharged, sometime in the past year, she wore the recently-adopted MTP fatigues. Her boots and uniform were clean and neatly starched, fit well to her frame if not a bit loose. It was when he got to her face that Sherlock realized what had happened. He froze, and so did she. It was John Watson, he would have recognized her anywhere. Six years and a few tragedies stood between them, but he had never forgotten her. He had carried her picture with him for years, especially between 2011 and now, hiding it when necessary, ignoring questions about who she was and where she was when asked. He lied to protect them both. But John Watson had never left him. And now, here she was in the living flesh. Tired and worn out, but alive. They both were.

“Oh my god.”

“John?” He got up slowly, not wanting to startle her.

“Sherlock! Oh my god!” She moved faster than he’d expected her to and he staggered a bit when she slammed into him, “Thank living Christ!”

 “John.” He didn’t know what else to do except hug her, so he did. He ended up sitting down, but the height of the stool put him nearly on eye-level with her.

“It’s okay, Sherlock. It’s fine. It’s all fine.” She smiled, that familiar, sweet smile she’d given him the first time they’d met six years ago in Afghanistan, “I’m home now. Bit long in coming, but I’m home now.”

“Where have you been?”

“Trying to get over being an idiot.” She looked at him, her eyes a beautiful shade of blue. They had been grey that day in Maiwand.

“Oh, I never forgot. You know? Not once! Six years, Sherlock.”

“Is that all it was?”

“Seems a lot longer, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, John. John Watson. Brave, sweet John Watson.” He took a risk and touched her face, seeing new scars, “I never forgot you, I promise. You look older.”

“That happens. You changed, too.” She got brave and touched his hair, something people generally didn’t do, but this was John Watson. She could do just about anything she wanted and he would let her. “Your hair is shorter than I remember.”

“Is that…bad?”

“No.” She shook her head, “I’ll take you any way you come, dear. I’m just…I’m glad to see you, Sherlock.”

“Is it silly to miss someone you only met once and only knew for four hours?”

“Nope.”

“Is it silly to love them?”

“Nope.”

“Because I didn’t believe in things like that.”

“Do you now?”

“No one was ever kind to me as you were, John. My brother called me foolish.”

“Your brother is an idiot. He put you in danger and I had to go in and get you out of it.” Her eyes grew dark and her expression grim. Sherlock frowned, trying to remember any point in the last two years when he and John would have seen each other, certain he would remember such a thing.

“You…”

“More than once. I don’t regret it, but…for the love of Christ, stop doing that. Stop getting into trouble when I’m not there to get you out of it again. No more emergency visits from your brother and last-minute chopper rides to Kabul for a flight from there to somewhere else to save you.”

“But, what if I get into trouble when you are here to get me out of it?”

“In that case, I’ll be getting into trouble with you, because I’m not letting you out of my sight.” She gave him a significant look, “Were you the first person who said something to Mike about needing a flat-mate but who would ever want the likes of you?”

“I was. Did he say something to you?”

“I said something very similar to him and he started smiling.”

“Well, I play the violin when I’m thinking. Sometimes I don’t talk for days on end.” He watched her expression, unwilling to assume anything about John Watson, “And my kitchen looks more like a science lab than a proper kitchen most days. I have an awful temper, no one likes me, and I don’t have any friends. Would that bother you?”

“Why would that bother me?”

“Potential flatmates should know the worst about each other.”

“You have several friends, plenty of people like you, and my temper’s just as bad as yours. And since I have every intention of moving in with you, I’ll keep you company on the days you don’t want to talk, and I don’t mind the violin played well. Early-morning see-saw sessions, on the other hand, are a different matter. Pull that trick and I’ll drug your coffee.”

“I thought that was my job.” Sherlock smirked and looked at her, “Anything else I need to know about you?”

“I have nightmares, and I’ve been known to suffer flash-backs.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“It is really that bad.” She sighed, “Bit broken, rough around the edges, Sherlock. You sure you want me?”

“Of course I want you.” Sherlock smiled, he couldn’t help it. “You know, I still have those pictures.”

“All of them?”

“Every single one.” He smiled, “Somewhere, I still have them.”

“The one I took before you left Camp Bastion?”

“Mmhm.” He took her hand in his. His hands were, naturally, much larger than her own, but there was a fit to them that made him happy. He didn’t have that much to be happy about these days, but…maybe that would change with John around?

The sound of a door closing was all the warning he had that Mike was gone, but that didn’t matter. The cup of coffee sitting by the computer didn’t matter, either. Sherlock had something far more interesting to worry about, even the case he was working on didn’t matter. John was real, warm, and willing to stay with him.

“What’s on your mind, Holmes?”

“Can I have my brother clear your flat so you can move into Baker Street with me?”

“Or you can help me move out. You know, I’ve stood outside your flat for hours and just kind of watched the place? Trying to get up my nerve to knock and introduce myself?”

“I know you have. I always wondered why you never came in.”

“It didn’t seem right, I didn’t know if you remembered me or not.” She tilted her head, “I guess that’s a silly question.”

“No, it’s not a silly question. You had no way of knowing, and neither did I.” He shook his head. “What now?”

“Now? Well, we can stay here and finish whatever it is you were working on when I interrupted you, sorry about that, or…”

“Or?”

“You can help me move out of a place that’s about the size of a walk-in closet.”

“And after that?”

“Whatever the hell you want.”

“Can I kiss you?”

“Do you want to?”

“A bit.”

“Well, you asked nicely.” She stepped back, “But you’re going to stand up when you do it.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Sherlock was happy to get to his feet, and John was glad to let him initiate the kiss. He had kissed a few people in the six years since their first and only meeting, but it was still a very special memory. His first kiss had been spur-of-the-moment, a goodbye kiss, but it was still…so very special. He hadn’t been John’s first, not by any stretch, but that didn’t matter to him. She had been quite good at it, and he had gotten a little better in six years. He used a trick he had learned from one of his partners, and nearly brought John to her knees. Sherlock was glad to hold her up and chuckled when she pulled away to catch her breath.

“Holy shit! What was that?”

“That was a kiss, Captain.”

“Who the fuck taught you how to kiss a girl like that?”

“Does it matter?”

“It might! Jesus!” John looked at him, “You might be a menace, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Can I be yours?”

“Who said I was going to share?” She raised an eyebrow and handed over his coat as he finished up with his current experiment, “I’m a horribly selfish person, I hope you know that.”

“I am fine with a little selfishness.” He smiled and shrugged into his Belstaff, which had been replaced once during his time away. Making sure he had his phone, Sherlock held the door for John after firing off a text to Greg Lestrade regarding the results of the experiment and they left the hospital together. Hailing a cab, they stopped by John’s small bedsit, which was located in a veteran’s housing project, and he helped her collect and pack out all of her belongings. She didn’t have much, a few boxes and a couple of deployment bags, her dress uniforms in garment bags. He came across a rather interesting find as he cleared out her desk and hesitated as he lifted out the SIG-Sauer P230, which had been distributed exclusively to Special Forces. The clip was empty, but there was one round in the chamber. The significance of it made him cold and he looked over his shoulder.

“John.”

“What?”

“What is this?” He held up the weapon.

“I told you. I have bad days.”

“Please don’t ever.” He put the pistol in the back of his trousers, “Ever. I’ll get a safe for this. You shouldn’t ever feel like that is your only option.”

“It’s not PTSD, it’s a different psychosis.” She collected her laptop from him, “I’m too chicken to pull the trigger on myself.”

“Good. It’s okay to be a coward.” He watched her pack up, wondering when it had ever gotten so bad she contemplated ending her own life. He had debated the same many times in the past, but never had because he knew there were people who would miss him. John didn’t have anyone who would miss her, she thought, so why not?Leaving the bedsit, he took her home to Baker Street. It was a quiet but not uncomfortable ride from her bedsit to Baker Street, and he messaged back and forth with Lestrade on their current case. John didn’t bother him, she didn’t push for conversation that wasn’t necessary. He appreciated that. She knew that small talk was unnecessary, there was time to talk about whatever was important later. 

 

When they got to Baker Street, he got out first and held the door for her, going around to get some of the assorted boxes and bags they had packed out of her old bedsit.

“This is Baker Street.” He said as they stood on the pavement together after he had paid the fare.

“I like it.” She looked up at the first-floor windows, “Which one’s yours?”

“First floor. There’s a room up on the second floor that I’ll add to the rent, if you’d prefer your own space.”

“For now, yes.” She picked up some of her stuff and followed him into the house. They staged her belongings in the foyer and once everything was inside, he sent her up to the second floor. Mrs Hudson had kept the room up in hopes of finding someone willing to put up with Sherlock day-in and day-out, but no one had ever really shown. While John got her things moved, Sherlock went to see if his landlady was home or not. She was, thankfully, and asked how his afternoon had gone.

“Mrs Hudson, I’ve found someone to rent the upstairs room.”

“Oh, you did! Oh, that’s wonderful, Sherlock! Who is he?”

“She, Mrs Hudson.” Sherlock rolled his eyes a bit, “Her name is John Watson, Mrs Hudson.”

“Oh, the soldier!” Mrs Hudson had seen Sherlock’s pictures from that one mission, had remarked on how often John appeared, said she was pretty. “Where on earth did you find her, Sherlock?”

“She found me. At Saint Bart’s. A mutual acquaintance of ours brought her along. She was looking for me.”

“And found you! Oh, lovely! Is she here?”

“Getting moved in.”

“That’s wonderful! Sherlock, I’m so happy.” Mrs Hudson had been looking after him for so long, remarked on more than one occasion that it wasn’t right for him to be alone like he was, let him get away with many things most landlords had turned him out for in the past. She treated him like a son, one of the few people who was genuinely kind to him. “You look happier.”

“John’s special, Mrs Hudson, I’ve never known anyone else like her, ever.”

“You take care of that girl, Sherlock Holmes, and let her take care of you. I’ll be up in a bit with tea and her papers.”

“Thank you, Mrs Hudson.” Sherlock kissed his landlady on the cheek and went upstairs. A commotion in the kitchen was John getting herself moved in.

“Boy, when you told me your kitchen looked like a science lab, you weren’t kidding!”

“You didn’t touch anything, did you?”

“Nope. Are you kidding me?” She looked over her shoulder at him as she put something on a shelf in one of the uppers. “Don’t say a word.”

“Couldn’t use a chair?” He couldn’t help himself, the sight of her standing on the counter was kind of funny. Mrs Hudson probably wouldn’t find it very amusing, but Sherlock certainly did.

“This is easier, believe it or not.”

“I’ll try to remember not to put things out of your reach.” He chuckled and gave her a hand down when she was done, “What were you putting away?”

“My tea-box.”

“Oh?” He remembered packing up a beautiful wooden box, obviously carved by hand, and wondering what it was for.

“I started drinking tea in Afghanistan, and collecting it.”

“Interesting.”

“Mhm. You’re in my way, move please.” She pushed him out of her way and left the kitchen. That was when he noticed a coffee-cup on the shelf. He had seen it in her bedsit, a Royal Army Medical Corps mug with the coat-of-arms and motto of the Corps emblazoned on the side. John had wasted no time moving into Baker Street, integrating her things with his.

Out in the sitting-room, she was arranging her laptop at the cluttered work-table and looking for somewhere to put a small collection of books. Mostly medical texts, but there was leisure-reading material as well. She seemed to be a fan of crime-drama and period literature, making for an interesting, intriguing collection.

“Sherlock?”

“Yes, John?”

“Is that a real skull?” She had noticed Billy Skull sitting on the mantle, but didn’t seem much bothered by it.

“Yes it is. I named it Billy Skull.”

“Huh.” She went for a closer look, “Well, that’s kind of neat. Not the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, but most people don’t keep human skulls on the mantle-piece.”

“I am not most people.”

“Good.” She leaned against the mantle, watching him, “Most people are idiots. And rude.”

“I can be quite rude.”

“But you’re not an idiot.”

“Neither are you.”

“Touché.” She smiled, “So, I take it you’re still a consulting detective?”

“Yes I am. I was out of work for a while, but I’ve started taking jobs again.”

“Out of work while you were out of the country, you mean. Don’t do that again, will you please?”

“If I leave the country, you’ll come with me.”

“Good.” She narrowed her eyes, “Because I’ve had quite enough of hauling your sorry arse out of bolt-holes and prison-cells for a while.”

“Well, I can’t promise you won’t be doing that same thing here in London, but at the very least people won’t be shooting at you while you do it.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Most likely people won’t be shooting at you.” He sat down in his chair and watched her. “Are you going to keep your P230?”

“I’d like to. I should see about getting it registered and such.”

“I’ll introduce you to Greg Lestrade, he’ll be able to help out. My brother could probably do something useful, but I don’t like talking to him.”

“Does anyone?”

“Not usually.”

“Figures. What’s he do?”

“Hell if I know.” Sherlock didn’t know everything his brother did, and that was alright with him. “He’s with the government. You might know more about him than I do, to be honest.”

“What makes you think I know more about your insufferable brother than you do?”

“You were Special Forces, judging by your side-arm, I would be absolutely shocked if you weren’t recruited by MI6 or MI5. They love the likes of you, and you’re a medic, that’s a bonus.”

“Doctor.”

“Oh, you did go to medical school! That’s right, Saint Bart’s, wasn’t it?”

“And King’s College London. Thank you very much. That’s Doctor Watson, sir.”

“Or Captain?”

“If you piss me off, it’s Captain. If we’re on speaking terms, it’s Doctor.”

“And if we’re living together?”

“Just don’t call me Jyp.”

“Call you…what?” The nickname tripped him up a bit and he blinked. What on earth?

“Bad nickname my sister gave me when we were kids. Used to say she got jipped with me as a sibling and said she wanted a little brother.”

“Oh, John.”

“We never really got along, and that’s fine with me. Harry’s kind of an idiot anyway, and too drunk most days to tell you what her own fucking name is.” John’s expression darkened, “I’m way too used to bailing people out of jail for stupid reasons, I had to get her out of the drunk-tank a couple of times.”

“I can’t promise to stay out of trouble, it seems to find me regardless, but…”

“Any trouble you get into, Sherlock Holmes, I’ll be right next to you. And you, I don’t mind bailing out. Just try not to get arrested?”

“I make no promises on that.”

“Just try, that’s all.” She shrugged, “But back to the question about recruiting? Yeah, they recruited me.”

“Which service?”

“MI6.”

“Did you say yes?”

“They had to do some sweet-talking, but I said yes.”

“Then you know more about my brother than I do. I am so sorry.”

“I don’t work for your brother, thank god. Different divisions. He’s strategics and analytics.”

“And what were you?” MI6 didn’t just let people walk away. Whatever John had done, she was either still active or had been put on reserve.

“I technically don’t exist.”

“Oh.” He raised an eyebrow, “I would have put you in Medical.”

“I’m a soldier first.”

“And probably better at that part of the job anyway.”

“Medicine doesn’t interest me like it did when I went to school.”

“What would you do, then?”

“Private security, go back to MI6, or this.”

“This?”

“Private case-work.”

“I imagine you might be a halfway-decent detective.” He smiled at his new flat-mate, “You’re a fascinating puzzle, John Watson. This will be a bit of fun, won’t it?”

“God help the unsuspecting people of London.” She gave him a dangerous smile and he raised his eyebrows. Oh, yes, this was a good thing he had done. Mrs Hudson came up shortly and introduced herself to John, giving her the contracts to sign. Sherlock was pleased to see how they got along well enough. But that was just kind of how John was, she got along with everyone.

Papers were signed, John promised a banker’s cheque for the agreed amount, and Mrs Hudson left when someone rang the bell. Sherlock looked out the window and made a subtle noise. It was Lestrade. They had solved the last case he’d been called on, this was a new case no doubt. Hopefully an interesting one this time. Not that the last had been that boring, but he could have used a bit more excitement.

“Sherlock, dear! It’s Lestrade!” Mrs Hudson called from downstairs.

“See him up, Mrs Hudson!” He called back, smiling at John, who raised an eyebrow over her teacup. “Feel up to a bit of a run, Watson?”

“Work so soon?”

“Might just be.” He rocked on his heels, waiting until he heard the footsteps on the landing. “What is it, Lestrade?”

“Might be a 6, please come?”

“Details, Lestrade.”

“Here.” He turned as a file was held out, “This is all we’ve got.” He flipped through the information they had and raised an eyebrow, handing it off to John without missing a beat.

“What do you think, Watson?”

“Could be interesting.” She handed the file back to Lestrade, who hadn’t even noticed her until Sherlock had said something, going to fetch their coats. It was cold enough to warrant her parka, and he bundled up in his coat and scarf.

“You’ll come, then?” Lestrade took the file.

“Text the address, we’ll be right behind in a cab.”

“Of course. Thanks, Sherlock.” Lestrade dropped a small, grateful bow, and went back downstairs. Once he was gone, Sherlock looked at John, who just smiled at him as she tucked her P230 into a holster on her belt, out of sight under her smock and parka. He chuckled as she waved a loaded clip at him, tucking it into a pouch next to the holster.

“Travel prepared.”

“Always.” She passed him by and headed down the stairs at a brisk clip, halfway to the street by the time he caught up. Hailing a taxi, he got the address from Lestrade and sent the driver to that location. Somewhere in Kensington, it looked like. Well, crime had no prejudice. It was nice to have a partner, though, someone he could bounce ideas off of. And John promised to be smart, that was very helpful. Having a former soldier and MI6 agent along could lead to lots of interesting adventures. On the cab-ride to Kensington, they discussed the case a bit. John needed to see to make conclusions, but she had some decent ideas.

-^-

When they got to the Royal Crescent address, the street was partially blocked-off by police tape. John paid the fare and jogged to keep up with him as he approached the tape-line. He encountered Sally Donovan at the line, she gave him a dirty look as she let him through.

“Hold it. Who’s this?” She stopped John. “No civilians, Holmes, you know the rules.”

“As you can very obviously see, Donovan, Watson is not a civilian. Captain John Watson, Inspector Sally Donovan.”

“Ma’am.” John was polite but distant.

“Watson is my partner, Donovan.”

“You've got a partner now?”

“Is that a problem?”

“No, just don’t think we need you is all.”

“The case-file your boss showed me says otherwise.” He took John’s hand and left Donovan behind.

“What is her problem?” John muttered. “Jesus.”

“She doesn’t like me, never has.”

“Her problem, not yours. I don’t like her at all.”

“Then you aren’t going to like the Lead Forensics Investigator.” Although, to be fair, Philip Anderson was far better than he had been all those years ago. Sherlock had asked Mycroft a favour to help Anderson get his job at The Met back after finding out he’d lost it following the scandal in 2011. Anderson knew Sherlock was behind him getting his job back and was nice to him when they worked together, but he still felt it was fair to warn John. When they got to the house in question, Anderson met them at the door.

“Holmes.”

“Anderson. How is it?” He looked up at the house, “Where are we?”

“Upstairs. You’ll want this.” Handing over PPE gear. Sherlock nodded and took a minute to change into the coverall. Behind him, John was asking questions and Anderson was giving her decent answers. Going upstairs with the pair in tow, he realized that the two knew each other from school. Anderson had gone for pathology, John had gone for something else, but they had gone to school together. When they got to the bedroom containing the primary scene, the two were deep in conversation about who knew what, and he nodded to the constable guarding the room.

“Uh, what’s that all about?” Lestrade whispered as he looked over Sherlock’s shoulder at John and Anderson.

“Old school-mates. I wasn’t certain if she would get along with Anderson, she doesn’t get along with Donovan.”

“And you just figured out that they know each other?”

“They were discussing old professors at Saint Bart’s and taking the same courses.”

“Oh.”Lestrade shook his head, “Well, you know the drill. Two minutes.”

“Of course.” He paced the scene, went over what he saw in his head, worked out the clues before him and some that weren’t, and shared his knowledge with Lestrade.

“Do we have a cause-of-death?”

“I didn’t want Forensics to touch it until you got here, we’ve got nothing.” Lestrade shook his head. “Any ideas?”

“Physical evidence suggests a heart-attack, but the patient was otherwise perfectly physically healthy before his death?”

“According to neighbours, fit as a fiddle.” Lestrade tipped his head, “What are you thinking?”

“I need a second opinion. I need to know the exact cause-of-death.”

“Where the hell are you gonna get one of those?”

“Doctor Watson. What do you think?” He looked over his shoulder at John, who was still heads-together with Anderson.

“Hmm?”

“Cause-of-death. What do you think?”

“Ah.” She came over and inspected the body carefully. “Well, given the patient’s medical history and evidence recovered from the bathroom down the hall, Anderson and I concur that the victim suffered from digoxin toxicity and as a result of that died of heart failure.”

“What’s…digoxin toxicity?” Lestrade asked tamely. “How do you know it wasn’t just a heart-attack?”

“Because we found these in the bathroom.” She tossed Sherlock a pill-bottle. It was a prescription written out to the victim for Lanoxin. “Also, I have a friend who almost died from digoxin toxicity in 2006.”

“But…”

“We also found these.” She held out a stapled stack of papers and something else. A hospital identification bracelet and discharge paperwork. “Our mister visited the A&E at Charring Cross Hospital yesterday afternoon for symptoms of digoxin toxicity but was misdiagnosed as a panic attack secondary to atrial fibrillation. They dosed him with a standard loading dose of Lanoxin by IV while he was at the hospital and shuffled him home ASAP.”

“I smell a malpractice lawsuit.”

“I smell a rat.” Sherlock flipped through the paperwork, “Even an overworked A&E surgeon would know the difference between a panic attack and digoxin toxicity. If they knew what they were looking at, to begin with, and most should know.”

“Who was the attending physician?”

“That’s where it gets interesting. Our mister requested a new doc shortly after his care-team was established, but they were apparently short of surgeons and couldn’t put up a replacement on request.”

“I wonder why.”

“His ex-wife is an A&E surgeon at that hospital. Look at the name listed under attending.” John indicated that section of the paperwork and they both looked. While he and Lestrade had been taking the scene apart in the bedroom, John and Anderson had quietly been combing the rest of the house for evidence. Sherlock had noted the unhappy, failing marriage, but had never considered the ex-wife. He wasn’t unobservant, it just hadn’t occurred to him that she might be a suspect, that this might not be an accidental death. 

“Who called it in?” John looked over the body again.

“The…ex-wife. She said she’d come to see him, they talk once a week, to finalize the papers and found him like this.”

“Motive?” John looked at the other two. This wouldn’t be the first time Anderson had helped solve a case for him.

“Definitely. Look at this place, can you imagine the life-insurance policy on Mr Stantley? Jesus, she’d get everything on the accidental-death clause alone.”

“But if it’s not accidental…”

“She gets absolutely nothing but a prison sentence.” Anderson shrugged, “Now what?”

“Mariticide?”

“Murder. Ouch.” Lestrade looked at the body, “Damn. Well, that’ll be a fun interview. Nice work, you two.”

“I saw this kind of thing a lot in Afghanistan. Husbands killing wives, wives killing husbands, parents killing their children, and children doing likewise to their parents.” John rocked on her heels, “Didn’t think I’d see it at home like this.”

“Can I hand this to Forensics?”

“Yep. Have the body sent to Doctor Hooper. She’ll do the rest. Have her run for Lanoxin.”

“Got it. Thanks, Sherlock.”

“Thank John, she figured  it out first.”

“Oh, god, yeah. Thank you so much, Doctor Watson.”

“No problem. Nice to be useful again.” She smiled and shook hands with Lestrade.

“You two get on, I’ll get your statements later.”

“Of course, Lestrade. Thank you.” Sherlock left first, not missing how John stayed behind a bit. “Coming, John?”

“In a bit. I’ll meet you downstairs.”

“Don’t be long.”

“Don’t worry about me. If I miss you, I’ll get back to Baker Street another way.” She was giving him permission to leave her behind if he had to, not that he really wanted to, but he understood that she might want to do a bit of catching up with Anderson. At this rate, it must have been nearly twenty years since the two had seen each other. If John didn’t get along with Donovan but she got along with Anderson, that was fine with Sherlock. Lestrade followed him out, taking him to the line and letting him out.

“So, who’s the shadow?”

“That’s John Watson. Friend of mine.”

“Where did you meet her?”

“On a case in Afghanistan. Six years ago.”

“Oh. Damn, that’s a long time.”

“I know it is.”

“Is she the girl in your pictures?”

“Yes, she is.”

“When’d she get home?”

“Six months ago.”

“Looks like she knows her business.” Lestrade looked back at the house, where they’d left the scene to Anderson, John, and Forensics. “Feel free to her bring her along in the future, I kind of like her. She’s smart. And nice.”

“She’s nice to the people who deserve her kindness, and to those who don’t.” Sherlock smiled, “But far kinder to those who treat her well.”

“Well, I’ll send her along once she’s finished up here, could be a while if Anderson takes her on for assistance. I hope you don’t mind?”

“Anderson has very few friends anymore, I’ll let him have some time with John.”

“Interesting name she’s got. Wonder if John is short for something?” Lestrade ruffled his hair.

“You would have to ask her that question.” He knew, but was in no way qualified to reveal that bit of John’s history without her okay.

“Yeah, if I ever get the chance. Things  need to slow down.”

“Don’t wish for that, you’ll get bored.”

“So will you.”

“Then don’t hope it slows down.” He just raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, get on. I’ll let you know when Watson’s out of here, then.”

“Thank you, Lestrade.” Sherlock went to hail a cab and go home. He let himself into a quiet, empty house. Mrs Hudson was out, then. That was fine, he had enough to do that some time to himself would be appreciated.


Chapter Text


Sherlock didn’t see John for several hours, though she kept in touch with him, until she called to inform him that she was still with The Met and was he interested in venturing out for Pub Night? She was joining the fun tonight and had called to see if she could draw him out. Normally, he didn’t go to Pub Night, seeing as the only people he spent time with were just as likely to join him at Baker Street for the same thing with less people. But John hadn’t had much time with anyone outside of her counselling appointments in six months, and he knew that socializing was kind of important. If she wanted him to go, he would go. So he asked where they were meeting up and got ready for a night out.

“Off somewhere, Sherlock?” Mrs Hudson called as he left. “Where’s Doctor Watson?”

“She’s out. I’m going to join them, wish me luck.”

“For what?”

“It’s Pub Night, Mrs Hudson.” He made a face.

“Oh dear. Well, good luck, then! Be smart about things, dear!”

“Yes, Mrs Hudson. Be back later.” He waved and left the house. It took twenty minutes to get to The Strand, where he met up with the usual group and a few extras. Lestrade, Anderson, and Donovan were there, of course, Molly Hooper had shown up, his brother was there, the Hopkins twins were in, and he saw John sitting next to Anderson. He felt just a little bit of jealousy at how close they were. What surprised him, though, was seeing his brother. Lestrade must have coaxed him out of Vauxhall Cross for a couple of hours, but imagined there might have been judicious use of handcuffs to accomplish that, Mycroft could be quite stubborn when he felt work took precedence.

Stopping by the bar, Sherlock got a drink for himself and started a tab. John’s glass was empty when she set it down, whatever it was, so he got something for her, too. Once he had the drinks in hand, he made his way to the large table their group had commandeered for the night. Well, it wasn’t much of a traditional table but a few long lounge-tables pushed together so the group could sit on a cluster of couches and easy-chairs.

“Sherlock! You came!” John had seen him coming, “Hi!”

“Of course I came.”

“For once.” Lestrade muttered.

“John asked nicely.”

“Sure she did.”

“Here, I’ll move over and you can sit there.” Anderson made to move over, pulling John into his old spot, “You sit here, John. Hi, Sherlock.”

“Anderson.” He smiled at the specialist.

“Sit with me, Philip!” Stanley Hopkins gestured grandly to the empty seat next to his. Sherlock realized then that the group had more or less split up into designated couples, excepting for Sherlock, John, and Molly, who didn’t seem to mind being the group singleton. Shrugging, he sat down in the vacated spot next to John, handing her the glass.

“Ooh, what’s this?”

“I wasn’t sure what you were drinking, so I guessed.” He put his feet up on the table next to hers, not missing how she was still in fatigues. Eventually, she would give them up for civilian clothes, but he didn’t mind her taking her time.

“Well, you have good taste!” She smiled and took a sip, “Connemara, very nice! Turf Mór?”

“You can tell?”

“Yes, sir, I can. Bless you.” She leaned against him a bit, “Sorry I didn’t come home.”

“You were busy, it’s fine. You live with me, that’s all. I’m not asking you to spend all of your time with me, that’s not fair.”

“And that’s maturity.”

“Damn.”

“Ignore them.” John tapped his foot with hers, “They mean well.”

“They’ve watched for years, they know what’s what.”

“Mhm.” An eye roll said so much. He chuckled. It was quiet for a while, conversation flowed freely among their group, jobs were discussed, case-notes were exchanged, and everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time.

 

At one point, John and the girls disappeared in a group, going who knew where. Sherlock caught sight of them about fifteen minutes later on the dance-floor, more or less sticking together. This was where Sherlock got a glimpse of his flat-mate’s bisexuality, her lesser-explored tendencies. The women she was with were all very pretty, some more sure of themselves than others, but she had no problem flirting with them. Someone came after Molly and pulled her away, but the sweet pathologist didn’t seem to mind the attention, and neither did anyone in their group. Donovan and Stella Hopkins stayed close to John, knowing the strength in numbers in a crowd was an important statistic.

“Hey, Holmes?”

“Hmm?” He looked up at Anderson.

“I think you might want to stage an intervention.”

“A what?”

“Someone’s trying to woo your girlfriend.” He pointed at the dance-floor, where he saw a potential problem brewing. Some creep had decided John was a good target, either unaware or uncaring that he was encroaching where uninvited and there were two police officers and a veteran who would be happy to beat him senseless for one wrong move. John, of course, was having none of it and kept politely distancing herself.

“Donovan carries her handcuffs at all times, doesn’t she?” His brother mused conversationally.

“Absolutely. And she would have no problem taking that prick to task if he touches the girls again. If John doesn’t make her point soon, we might have a bigger problem.”

“Excuse me, gentlemen.” He set down his glass and went to rescue John, though in truth he was more likely going to spare the drunk idiot trying to hit on her from something far worse than a hangover. They were on the fringes of the floor, so it wasn’t hard to get to them, and he smoothly got between Creepy and John.

“Mind if I intrude?” He asked, not really caring. He didn’t think John cared much either. There was one way to make a point to Creepy, and he didn’t mind making it clear that John was not available for pursuing. Flirting with friends was always allowed. Unsolicited attention was never something he would be okay with. To make his point, he ignored the blustering creep for a minute and pulled her close. John’s eyes widened as she read his intent a split second before he kissed her. God he enjoyed doing that. After a while, it got harder to breathe, so he pulled back. Looking up over John’s shoulder at Creepy, he gave the man a mean smile, a dangerous smile.

“She’s unavailable. Move along.” He said calmly. Uncertain of what to do, Creepy gauged the group, sized him up, and made the wise choice to do what Sherlock suggested and moved on. Two police officers, both with handcuffs on their belts, a veteran with anger issues, and a tall, protective civilian significant other? Move along, son, safer, greener pastures to be had elsewhere.

“Oh, nice one, Holmes.” Hopkins murmured, beaming. “Too bad you scared ‘im off, I kind of wanted to have a bit of fun with ‘im.”

“Maybe later, Hopkins. Down, girl.” He rolled his eyes at her, turning to look at John. “Heard you were having some trouble.”

“That’s a word for it!”

“You handled it rather well.” He squeezed her hand gently, “I didn’t step in to save you, you know.”

“You stepped in to save Mister Idiot. Thanks for that. What a moron!”

“Don’t worry about him.” Sherlock smiled, “You came here to enjoy yourself, do that.”

“If he does that again with some other girl, can I put him in cuffs next time?” Donovan asked, still ready for a fight, “Please?”

“And do everyone in this venue a favour? Help yourself, Donovan.” Sherlock put an arm around John, who took the hint and put both arms around him. If anyone had any questions, he would be happy to set them straight. Maybe not politely, but he would make it clear that John Watson was not available for pursuit. John pulled him back into the crowd and he let her lead the way. He didn’t spend much time in clubs outside of cases and occasions like this, but he liked the music at The Strand, and the clientele was generally socially agreeable.

John was quick on her feet and far more flexible than he gave her credit for being. It was fun to dance with her. At one point, she pulled on him.

“Hey! How much can you hold on your shoulders?”

“On my shoulders? Why?”

“I have an idea! I think we can get away with it in here, the ceiling’s high enough! How much weight can you hold on your shoulders?”

“Standing up? How much do you weigh?”

“145. Take off my boots and it’s 140. Lift me onto your shoulders!”

“How?”

“Ever take ballet?” She was beaming. Whatever she had in mind was going to be risky and probably very worth it. Oh, yes, Sherlock had taken ballet. Years ago, and he had loved every minute of it. She took off her boots, he took off his jacket, those things were handed to others, and with help from Donovan and Hopkins, they got John off the ground and onto Sherlock’s shoulders. It took a minute to get their balance right, but he had no trouble holding her. He knew where and how to hold her steady until she needed him to let her go. The others on the floor wisely made room, knowing John was going to need a bit of room for her stunt, and cleared several feet of space for her. She must have taken ballet herself, or done something similar, John knew the signal to let go and boost. Carefully, sliding his hands under her feet, waiting for the second signal. When she gave it, he pushed up, she pushed off and he let her go. John executed a perfect somersault and landed absolutely flawlessly on her feet. The whole floor erupted and John took a bow for the awestruck crowds. Even Sherlock was impressed. Thoroughly impressed. How on earth had she done that? He was six feet tall, she was five-foot-seven, her jump had given her half of their combined height. Well, now he knew that he could hold John Watson on his shoulders. Returning to their table, he sat next to her.

“Where did you learn how to do that?”

“I took acrobatics as a child. I loved it.”

“That was incredible!”

“I also took ballet, but I stopped.”

“Why?”

“They said I was the wrong type.” She shrugged, “I think they were just jealous because I wasn’t a clumsy washout who tripped over her own feet.”

“Shame on them!”

“Do you dance, then?”

“I used to. Loved it. Still do.” He shrugged, handing her a glass of water.

“Ballroom or ballet?”

“Both, actually.”

“I love dancing. Miss it so much. My sister used to tease me, you know?”

“That was mean of her. No one should ever be shamed for a passion.” He put an arm around her, “I’m glad you came home, John. I’m glad you found me.”

“Me, too. Thanks for still being around for me to come home to, Sherlock.” John put her head down on his shoulder. “Six years is a long time and a lot happened while we were gone.”

“Yes, it did.” It certainly had.

 -^-

The rest of the night was quiet and he enjoyed the company of friends until quite late. When Lestrade stumbled into Mycroft’s car at the end of the night, Sherlock was not surprised at all. He just smiled and wished them a good night. Molly had disappeared quite early, but a text from her reassured them all that she was fine, she had decided to go home with her dance-partner and would see them later. Well, good luck to whoever had her, Molly deserved a good time of her own. When they got to Baker Street at last, Sherlock held the door for a stumbling, exhausted John. She was giddy, kept giggling, and they got as far as the stairs going up to 221B before she finally lost her balance and took them both down. She yelped as her centre of gravity shifted and he tried to catch her. They landed heavily on the stairs, but neither of them were hurt, miraculously. He had broken John’s fall, and she had tried to save him from a concussion. It had worked, more or less.

“Oh, shit, I’m so sorry! Are you okay?” John gasped, still giggling, “Oh my god.”

“I’m fine, John. Are you okay?”

“I think I’m okay. I need a shower.”

“We both do. Get up.” He nudged her off and she got up carefully, pulling him up off the stairs. Drawn out by the noise, Mrs Hudson poked her head out of her flat.

“Sherlock, what are you up to?”

“Sorry for the noise, Mrs Hudson. Everything’s fine. We just got in late.”

“I told you to be smart about it.”

“I think we were pretty smart about it.” John blinked owlishly, “Well, smart-ish. Good night, Mrs Hudson!”

“Good night, dears.” Mrs Hudson gave him a specific look and went into her flat. Sherlock just shrugged and went upstairs with John, who disappeared into the bathroom after a quick stop upstairs to her room to get something. She took the first shower, made short work of it by habit, and came out in track-pants and a tee-shirt that must have been part of her PT uniform, hair wrapped in a towel. It occurred to him that he had never actually seen her with her hair down. And he had never seen her in anything but fatigues.

“Your turn.” She indicated the vacant bathroom with a tip of her head. “Tea?”

“Yes, please.” He studied her for a minute and watched her unwrap the towel, give her hair a quick rub-down before tossing the towel over the back of a chair, and hop up onto the counter like she had earlier, pulling down her tea-box from its high shelf and two coffee cups. As she hopped down, her shirt rode up a bit and he got a glimpse of smooth, tan skin. After six months in London, and she was still tan? Lovely, that was. And...was that ink he spied? John Watson had tattoos. Hmm, that was interesting. What was it, he wondered? Intrigued, he went to take a shower while she fixed tea for them. After being alone for so long, he had expected to be a little rough about having someone around, but John just kind of found ways to fit into his life. He hadn’t seen much of her in six years, but had thought of her often and revisited the photographs he’d taken of her in Afghanistan. It was interesting to think that one three-hour in Afghanistan and a few half-remembered encounters in the years since had brought them here, to John living with him in Baker Street. They were practically strangers, but Sherlock felt an attraction to the unassuming veteran who had been looking for him and never been brave enough to seek him out until a mutual friend reunited them. He would have to thank Mike Stamford for that, and soon.

After finishing up in the bathroom, Sherlock went out to the kitchen. John gave him a cup of tea and sat him down, taking the towel from him.

“Here, sit down. I’ve got this.” She patted him on the shoulder and he raised an eyebrow. Well, if that’s what she wanted to do, he’d let her. Usually people didn’t touch him like she did, because he didn’t let them. John was thorough and meticulous, drying his hair in sections and careful not to overdo it. A bit of product to keep everything tame until morning, she knew what she was doing.

“Don’t go to bed until it’s completely dry, or you’ll have fuzzy hair in the morning.” She cautioned, giving his hair a quick ruffle with the towel. It was mostly dry, but even Sherlock knew the folly of going to bed with wet hair.

“Where did you learn?”

“Had a roommate in uni who had hair very similar to yours. Poor thing would get the worst bed-head in the morning, spend hours taming it back. I learned a few tricks and taught her.”

“You’re a useful friend, aren’t you?”

“I can be very useful.” She smiled at him, “Did I say thank you already?”

“More than once, yes.”

“Okay, because...this is amazing. I’m...really, really glad I ran into Mike.”

“So am I. I’m glad you found me.” He took her hand, “Stay with me, John Watson?”

“Good luck getting rid of me.” She just turned his hand over and leaned across the table to kiss him on the cheek. “See you in the morning, Sunshine.”

“Goodnight, John.” He let her go and watched her go upstairs. He hated nicknames, they were generally unkind, but she had apparently given him one he didn’t seem to mind. John Watson was one of a kind, he would have to be very careful not to lose her. After a while, he cleaned up the kitchen and went to bed.

-^-

As seemed standard these days, his sleep was disrupted by nightmares and at one point, Sherlock came awake fighting, screaming. He sat upright in bed and reached for the bedside table. He knew his pistol was there and grabbed it. A soft sound to his right got his attention and he froze.

“Sherlock? Are you okay?” It was John, standing in the doorway, her own gun in hand. He stared at the dark corner of the room, shaking.

“Sherlock, I heard you give a shout, are you okay? I thought someone had broken into the flat.”

“Who else is here?”

“No one. Did you hear something?”

“I...I don’t know.” He hated that feeling, not knowing if he was actually dreaming or if it was all real. John had a torch in one hand and swept the beam across his room, focusing on the corners where his nightmares tended to linger longest when he woke up. Nothing there. Nothing in the closet, nothing in the bathroom, nothing in the kitchen or in the sitting-room, and there was nothing in the upstairs rooms either. John even cleared the foyer, hallway, and street outside. 221C was locked up tight, but she picked the lock and showed him that it was just as empty down there as it was everywhere else.

“You...can pick a lock?”

“With or without the proper tools.”

“That’s...very useful. I’m sorry, John. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, Sherlock. My own nightmares were keeping me awake and I heard you give a shout. I thought something had happened.”

“No. I just...”

“It’s fine, I promise. Don’t feel bad about it, it’s normal to have nightmares after what you went through. You’ll have them for a long time, I wager.” She ushered him back upstairs and locked up the flat. Once in the bedroom, she put his pistol back in the drawer, put her own on the opposite table, and popped into the bathroom for something. She came back with water and a sleep-aid.

“Take that, drink all the water, you’ll feel better.” She handed him the pill and watched him take it before taking her own. “I’ll sleep in here if that’s alright with you.”

“Please. I think...I think having someone here will...help. I really do.” Nothing was worse than waking up from one of those nightmares alone. Mrs Hudson had come up several times to check on him, and on more than one occasion had called on Lestrade to come sit with him until morning, just to keep him company. And the DI did it, never questioned, never complained, just sat up all night and kept watch while Sherlock tried to sleep. John smiled and let him get settled before taking the other side of the bed.

“Goodnight, Sherlock.”

“Goodnight, John.” He turned his back to her and tried to sleep. Usually he couldn’t sleep with someone else in the bed, but the sound of John breathing was...comforting. She didn’t touch him, but having her close by was nice. It didn’t take long for Sherlock to fall asleep, and there were no more disturbances.

-^-

It was morning when he woke up again, somewhere around eight or nine judging by the sunlight, but he didn’t feel motivated to get up yet. Remembering what had happened last night, he looked for John. There she was, behind him, sound asleep. He took a minute to study his flat-mate as she slept and wondered how many people had gotten to wake up next to her like this. He was briefly jealous, but realistically knew it was silly. John had taken many partners and he envied them greatly for having gotten to spend time with her. But now he had a chance to spend time with her and he wanted to. Whatever that entailed, if it was moments like this waking up in the morning, or actively engaging in some other activity. She would be a useful partner for The Work, her skills would be put to good use no doubt.

He found himself wondering what colour her eyes were first thing in the morning, what she looked like after a good shag, after a good run during a case, after a bad case, after a hard day when nothing seemed to go right. What did she love, what did she hate, what was she indifferent about? Was she religious, was she Atheist, did she not care either way? What were her political leanings? Did she like football? He knew she drank beer and whiskey, did she like good wine? What was her favourite food, what was her least favourite food? Did she like animals? Prefer cats to dogs or not care, as long as it was four-legged and furry? What did John Watson look like when she cried? When she laughed? When she was upset, or happy, or furious? What made her happy? What made her sad? What made her so angry she would do anything to put things back to rights? He knew some of these things, but there was so much he didn’t know, and Sherlock, a man of intelligence and a desire to know everything, wanted to know everything about John Watson. That required years to dedicate to study and routine, and he was rubbish about commitment. Knowing his dismal luck and his bad habits, he would do something stupid and she’d leave him, like others had. That scared him.

“Would you stop that? I’m trying to sleep.”

“Sorry.” He made a face, “I can’t help it.”

“Yes you can, you just don’t know how to refocus.” She cracked an eye open and looked at him. Apparently, her eyes were grey in the morning. Hazy with sleep, slightly glassy and unfocused. She blinked at him, studying him from that angle, and he wondered what she saw.

“How can I refocus if I don’t know what to do?”

“Distraction usually works, in my experience.” She rolled and shuffled until she was right next to him, “I can tell when my partners are awake, Sherlock. Most of them leave before they realize I’m already awake, think they’re sneaking out unnoticed. I let them, because I don’t particularly care if they stay or go.”

“What about me?”

“I knew you were awake, but you weren’t really bothering me. You’re very quiet in the morning.”

“I’ll try not to sneak out on you, I don’t think you’d like that very much.” He grinned at her. She was pretty in a very sleepy, messy kind of way, and he liked that she was okay with him seeing her this way. Most women, and even some men, didn’t like the way they looked in the morning. Or much at other times of day. John didn’t seem to care either way, she looked the way she looked and if someone didn’t like it, that was their problem.

“What are you looking at?”

“You.” He noticed up close that she had freckles. Just a few of them, rather faint, but they were there. “You have freckles. I never noticed that.”

“Most people don’t. They were a lot darker when I was little.” She shrugged, not particularly bothered.

“I like them. They’re...cute.”

“Cute?”

“Yes. Cute. Little secret kisses.”

“Your grandmother told you that story, too?” Her eyes widened. Sherlock nodded. His father’s mother had regaled him with stories of the Fair Folk as a lad, warned him about entering fairy-rings and making sure to be nice to the sprites. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that the magic of his childhood had been lost to him, and he regretted that sometimes. But, if Sherlock was guilty of leaving bits of string and beads in odd places, or dropping crumbs of shortbread, or putting a bit of silver out on certain nights, who could blame him?

“Did she tell you how to leave found things for fairies and when to leave silver out?”

“And how to enter fairy-rings.”

“Do you drop shortbread for them?”

“Yes.”

“I knew I liked  you.” She smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek, “You’re a keeper, Sherlock Holmes.”

“So if I find something unusual in the flat that I didn’t leave out, can I assume you were the one who left it?”

“Absolutely.”

“I get the feeling my grandmother would adore you, John.” Sherlock took her hand.

“Is she still alive?”

“Both of my grandparents are, on my father’s side. My mother’s parents died when I was younger.” Meme had died while he was in uni, Bap had died when he was twelve. Sometimes he missed his French grandparents, but he still had family to visit in France when the fancy took him to reach out to that side of the family.

“Where do they live?”

“I believe they live just outside of Edinburgh.”

“Ah, good Scottish roots for you, too?”

“What about yours?”

“Not that far from Edinburgh. My grandparents live in Bow-on-Fife, and last I knew, some cousins held the family seat in Leven.”

“That is the clan-home of the Watsons, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“These are the Watsons you took your name back from, I take it?”

“Right again. And they were very happy to have me, when they found out.”

“As it should be.”

“You should meet my cousin, Iain, you’d like him. He’s just like me.”

“Oh?”

“Mhm. War-photographer, we crossed a couple of times while I was in Afghanistan. Actually, you might have run into him while you were there.” John shrugged, “Haven’t seen him in a while, he’s in Syria right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

“That’s a dangerous place to be.” Sherlock raised an eyebrow.

“So was Afghanistan. And so was Serbia.”

“Conceded.” He knew when to pick his fights. And since it was very likely John had been the one to pull him out of Serbia, he honestly remembered so very little of it, she would know better just how dangerous Serbia had been. After a while, she got up and left the bed, he listened to her move around in the en-suite and debated what kind of future he had. He had a partner, which was more than he’d hoped for, he had a friend, more importantly. He wasn’t alone anymore, and John didn’t seem likely to leave him without damn good reason. He would just have to be careful and let her have her own life.


 

Chapter Text


After waking up, John and Sherlock took a quiet morning to themselves. John cooked breakfast, Sherlock helped with wash-up, and he worked on an experiment while she looked for work. If she found something in the papers, she would share it with him and he would solve it. Three cold-cases were solved for The Met from newspaper spreads, John made the calls and he had her give them a specific address when required to provide one. He had been solving cases anonymously for The Met for years, collecting reward fees when offered, and those funds were delivered to a Post Office Box in the Marylebone Post Office. Most of his mail was delivered directly to the house, but specific mail was delivered elsewhere.

“There’s a system in place for this, I take it?”

“Years in the making. It works.” He watched her, “Thank you, for helping.”

“No problem.” She just smiled at him. “Would you mind terribly if I looked for a job?”

“No! Of course I wouldn’t. But what on earth would you do?”

“Not medicine, not my fancy.” She shrugged, “Any ideas?”

“You’ve expressed interest in private security work. With your military background, you would be rather good at it, I imagine.” He narrowed his eyes. “You say no medicine, but have you considered becoming an EMT?”

“Or a Paramedic? I got my certification for that during medical school, just because I felt like it.”

“Would you be happy doing that?”

“I can drive an ambulance, did it in Afghanistan when I wasn’t driving the trucks.”

“And you were rather good at that, as I recall.” Sherlock smiled, remembering that two hour-long drive from Maiwand to Camp Bastion. John blushed and refined her job-search. Her qualifications were up to standard, and he suspected her certification remained up-to-date as well. He could see her doing very well as a Paramedic, happy driving an ambulance. Maybe part-time to keep her schedule open for any case-work they picked up through the Agency or The Met? But he would not stop her from taking a full-time position if one was offered. She might be able to give him new cases through that kind of work, that would be a nice bonus.

 -^-

By noon, they had solved four more cases from his blog, and John had an interview lined up with the Greater London Ambulance Corps for one of the positions listed on their website. Apparently, they were so desperate for capable staff that they wanted to see her today, to sit down with her and talk. So, she took a shower and found clothes suitable for an interview. Sherlock followed her to the street and got a taxi for her, taking a minute to straighten the set of her coat. She wore nice dark trousers, comfortable but practical shoes, a white blouse, and a tailored waistcoat in dark red. It was raining, so he gave her a brolly and wished her luck.

“I’ll let you know what they say.”

“Please do. I’ll look for more cases while you’re gone.” He kissed her on the cheek and saw her off. Going inside, he shook the rain from his hair and went upstairs. Mrs Hudson came up after a while with tea and asked where John was off to.

“Job interview, Mrs Hudson.”

“Oh, good for her! Where?”

“Uh, one of the ambulance companies had several openings and she apparently fit the bill for one or two of them.” He shrugged and took the cup of tea she gave him, “I thought she would be different after six years, but she’s almost just the same as I remember her, Mrs Hudson. Is that bad?”

“No, dear, that’s luck.” Mrs Hudson just smiled at him, “That girl makes you happy, doesn’t she?” All Sherlock could do was nod. John made him happy, but he didn’t know why. He had spent so long by himself, shying from closer intimate relations with people, always afraid of hurting them or getting hurt in turn. Over the years he had learned that most people were downright cruel and had no care for the feelings of others. He had become callous and rude, it was easier to drive people off before they got too close. Holding people at a distance had become second nature. And then he had met John Watson, who had treated him with kindness and engaged him. It had never occurred to him to treat her as he treated everyone else.

“Well, you take care of that girl, Sherlock, and she’ll return the favour. You need someone in your life, you’ve been alone far too long.”

“I know, Mrs Hudson.” He pulled a picture of John taken all that time ago in Afghanistan from his pocket and looked at it. “But, I think she’s been just as alone as I have, just as in need of someone to be with.”

“The Army can be a lonely place, I suppose.” Mrs Hudson seemed pleased with herself, but Sherlock didn’t mind.

It was quiet for a while, until Lestrade came knocking with a live case. He noticed right away that John wasn’t around and asked.

“Where’s Watson?”

“Job-hunting. She had an interview.”

“Oh, that’s fine. I was kind of hoping she’d be around, I need another medical opinion. Anderson said this one needed another pair of eyes.”

“He asked for John?”

“Yep. By name.”

“I’ll let her know I’m out and if she’s able to join us, she will.” He sent a text to John letting her know he was out on a case and where to find them if she was available. He made sure to mention that Anderson had asked for her, maybe that would help get her out to the scene.

 -^-

An hour later, Sherlock found himself sitting on the pavement with Lestrade in front of him, listening as a call was put out for an ambulance. All he could think was that John would be rather cross with him for getting into trouble while she had her back turned. It was a short wait for the ambulance, there was one nearby that was dispatched to their scene. When he heard the sirens five minutes later, Sherlock raised his head.

“Don’t do that, keep your head down.” Lestrade scolded, “I’ll go explain this to that lot, you sit right there and don’t move until I tell you.”

“Yes, sir.” He put his head down again and felt the cloth beneath his hand slip a bit. He moved it back into place and tilted his head a bit. The case had been fairly simple, he had given Anderson the second opinion he needed, and it had been a matter of patience to find the suspect. Sherlock had found him first and pursued him, eventually jumping off the Millenium Bridge to chase him into the water. River Police had picked them both up rather quickly, but now he was soaking wet and bleeding from a head wound he had incurred in the course of the struggle. John was not going to be very happy when she found out about this. If she found out. But she would, he couldn’t lie to her. After a while, he heard footsteps and sighed. Help? Finally.

“How the hell did I know you were going to be involved with this call, Sherlock? As soon as it came in, I knew. I knew you had something to do with it!”

“John?” He looked up, and there she was, decked out in Kelly-green and hi-vis yellow, a jump-kit over one shoulder, arms across her chest, hair tucked under a ball-cap emblazoned with the Ambulance Corps coat-of-arms.

“You’re an idiot, Sherlock. But that’s okay. You’re my idiot.” She put her kit down and dropped a blanket around his shoulders, “Least the rain let up a bit, yeah?”

“A bit.” He grinned, “Sorry about this.”

“I doubt this is the first or only time this is going to happen to either of us.”

“I guess you got the job?”

“Walked into it. Asked what someone with my training was doing looking for this kind of job in the first place, I told ‘em straight that clinic work is not for me, which means A&E probably wouldn’t be a great fit, either, but I knew how to drive an ambulance and field-medicine was something I happen to be rather good at. Not to mention, at half-time I can kind of dictate my own hours.” She got to work taking care of the hurts acquired over the course of the chase, careful but thorough. “Just didn’t think my own flat-mate would be my first call of the day.”

“What gave it away?”

“When I asked who had placed the assist call on The Met’s end and they gave me Lestrade’s name. I remembered you had texted me and figured it was the same case, and someone had probably gotten themselves hurt if Lestrade needed an ambulance. I knew you were with him, so I guessed you were involved.” She took care of the head-wound, sealing it with an adhesive and butterfly strips. She also gave him a booster jab for Tdap, seeing as he’d gone swimming and was overdue by a few years.  At the very least it would cover him for tetanus. After she finished up with him, John dried his hair for him with a towel from her kit, the same care from the night before was taken. No one on the scene seemed to mind, things were being taken care of efficiently elsewhere, John could spend a few minutes looking after him. She had her radio turned down, but he could hear it talking, and knew when another call came.

“Hey, Watson! We’ve gotta go!” Someone else shouted. John sighed and looked at him.

“The other bus is taking the suspect to get checked out at University before we hand him over to The Met, I think you’re okay.” She got up, “You need dry clothes, but that’s about it.”

“Would it be a bad idea to go to a hospital?”

“Not at all. Have Lestrade drive you in, and keep me informed.” John helped him up and ruffled his hair a bit. “See you later, Sunshine.”

“Why do you call me that?” He rubbed his face with the towel around his neck. “I don’t mind it, I was just curious. It’s a strange sort of nickname, isn’t it?”

“Sherlock means “fair-haired man”, which is a bit of an irony since you’ve got the darkest hair I’ve ever seen in someone who didn’t actually have black hair.”

“But you mean it. It’s not...”

“I’m not making fun of you, no.” She took his hand, “I’ll stop if you want me to, it just sort of seemed to fit you. I don’t know why I called you that, it just sort of happened.”

“Don’t stop.” He curled his fingers around hers, “I...don’t mind it. I like it.”

“You’re a good one, Sherlock. Maybe a bit stupid sometimes, reckless, but you’re a good one. Stay out of trouble, I’ll see you at home.”

“Okay. Be careful. London can be a bit dodgy.”

“I can handle dodgy. Take care of yourself, Sunshine.” Picking up her kit, she headed for the ambulance. He followed her, stopped her before she climbed into the cab, and kissed her.

“Be careful.”

“You, too. You know how to reach me if something comes up.”

“Okay.” He let her go and stood back as she slammed the door and started the engine.  As they turned the corner out of sight, blue-and-twos going, he sighed. What was wrong with him?

“Hey, Sherlock?”

“Yes, Lestrade?” He looked over his shoulder.

“Is there anywhere I can take you? We’re pretty much done here, I handed things to Donovan to shut down.”

“Would you mind a detour?”

“Where to?”

“Wherever the closest hospital is. Or an A&E walk-in clinic would serve as well.”

“John tell you to get checked out?”

“She thought it might not be a bad idea.”

“Sure. Come on, you.” Lestrade led the way to his car and got them underway. “Guess it’s a good thing I keep a change of clothes for you, huh?”

“Very.” Sherlock rubbed his hair dry a bit more.

“So, did you ever tell me how you and Watson met?”

“We met in Afghanistan while I was on a case there six years ago.”

“Oh, that’s right. She was your mystery soldier for two hours and the closest thing you had to a friend for another hour and a half. Then you never saw her again.”

“Not while I was coherent and able to recognize her, no.”

“Oh?”

“She stepped in on more than one occasion to extract me from a bad situation.” Sherlock looked out the window, “I’ve never known someone like John Watson before.”

“And you’ve met a lot of people, haven’t you? Some better than others.”

“I don’t want to lose her.”

“I’d tell you not to be an idiot, but that doesn’t seem likely to run her off.” Lestrade looked over at him, “Just be careful with her.”

“I know.”

“I’m glad you have someone else, Sherlock, you need friends.” Lestrade smiled at him and pulled into The Royal London Hospital and dropped him off. “I’ll be right in after I park this thing. Go get checked in.”

“Thank you, Lestrade.” He headed into the hospital and made his way to the registration desk. It was a short wait and the secretary’s expression was priceless.

“What on earth happened to you?”

“You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you the truth, ma’am.”

“You’re soaking wet! Are you alright?”

“That’s up to a doctor, I suppose.” He retrieved his wallet, “I won’t be much  trouble.”

“Do you need a towel or something?” She took his drivers license and entered his information into the system for later.

“Do you have one?”

“Let me see what I can do for you, sir.” She gave back his license and a clipboard with a biro attached, “You go take a seat, someone will be with you soon.”

“Thank you.”  Sherlock took the clipboard of paperwork and gave her a smile. Finding somewhere to sit, he made a face. Being wet was no fun, and he felt sorry for the people sitting next to him. The desk-nurse brought over a towel for him and went back to her station. Someone else decided a bit more was necessary and a cup of tea appeared in his field of vision. He looked up at a grandmotherly type he had noticed before, she just held up the tea.

“You look like you need a few of these, son. What on earth happened to you?”

“Uh, fell into the river.” He took the cup from her, “Thank you, ma’am.”

“Doing what?”

“I was working. Stupid thing to do, I’ll be in for it from my partner later.” He took a grateful sip.

“You a detective, then?”

“Yes’m. What gave it away?”

“Just a guess. My boy’s with The Met, you see, so I know the type.” The woman smiled at him and took the empty seat next to him, “You might know ‘im, if you work with the lot?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do.” Sherlock peered at the papers and did his best to fill everything out accurately, cursing as drops of water fell on the paper.

“Ah, thought you might! Know a lad named Princeton at all?”

“I might. Which division does he work?” Sherlock knew alot of people at The Met, most of them in Homicide. The old woman showed him a picture of a rather handsome young fellow in uniform, holding the lead of a beautiful German Shepherd.

“That’s my boy Tate. He’s in DSU.”

“Oh, I do know him, that’s his dog, Victoria!” Sherlock took the picture, “Oh, I know them! They’re two of the best, aren’t they? Highest arrest record of anyone in their division, maybe outside of it? Don’t tell anyone in Homicide I said that, will you?”

“Oh, not from me, son!” The old woman smiled, “Where are you, then?”

“Work with Homicide most days I can be bothered out of my house.”

“Oh, you consult, don’t you? One of those clever private detectives who works on a case-by-case basis for them?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled and gave the picture back, “I’ve met Tate, he’s a bit of a friend of mine. Good bloke, smarter than most of ‘em. And Victoria’s a sweetheart.”

“If she likes you?”

“If she likes you.” He chuckled. Over the years he had been away, Sherlock had realized that being nice to people was generally easier ninety percent of the time than trying to push them away. And if someone was kind to you, you were kind in return. Sherlock finished his paperwork and went to hand it in, returning to sit with Sergeant Princeton’s grandmother. Lestrade came in with the gym-bag containing Sherlock’s change of clothes and handed it over.

“You need me to stick around, Sherlock?”

“No, I shouldn’t think so. I can get a cab back to Baker Street.”

“Suit yourself. Call if you need a ride back.”

“Thank you, Lestrade.”

“Stay out of trouble, will you?” Lestrade gave him a significant look, turning to Mrs Princeton, “Keep an eye on this one for me, will you, Mrs Princeton?”

“My pleasure, Inspector. Long as I can.”

“Bless you, dear. You should come by the office sometime for a visit.” Lestrade smiled and leaned over to kiss Mrs Princeton on the cheek. Sherlock was not surprised Lestrade knew her, and he just smiled as she berated Greg for not taking good care of himself, never mind Sherlock needed a hand.

“You’re not eating right, are you?”

“My husband cooks when the occasion arises, rare as that is these days with both of us so busy. But...no, I suppose not.”

“Silly boy. Well, I’ll fix that up for you. Go on, Inspector, you’ve work enough for six people on your desk and no need to worry your head about this one while you’re at it.”

“Do it anyway, Mrs Princeton. See you later, my dear.”

“Be safe, Inspector.”

“Of course.” Lestrade just smiled and waved as he left, “Take care, Sherlock, see you later!”

“Or sooner than you’d like?”

“Cheeky git.” Lestrade rolled his eyes and left the hospital in rather good spirits. After he was gone, Sherlock just shook his head.

“Before you ask that question banging around in your head, young man, I’ve known Greg Lestrade since he was about your age.” Mrs Princeton looked sideways at him, “My William was partner to him back when he was first on the force, taught him all he knew, said he’d never met someone with so much promise, hoped to see him climb the ladder all the way someday.”

“I take it that mess back in 2011 didn’t make him very happy?” Mrs Princeton’s husband was still living, far as he could tell. Her lips quirked and she squinted at him.

“Not a bit. But he never ever held you or Lestrade responsible for any of that mess at all. Knew right who to blame and put blame where it belonged. Said it wasn’t right you got slandered like that and no chance to defend yourself.”

“No one was going to listen to me. Which is exactly what Moriarty wanted.”

“And good riddance to that bastard! He’s good and dead, and you’re still here!” Mrs Princeton took his hand and looked at him, expression soft but serious, “You take care of yourself, Sherlock Holmes, London can’t lose you again. Ever.”

“I do try, Mrs Princeton. I suspect my partner will be a good help in that department.”

“I should certainly hope so! Who did you find to stay with you, then?”

“Someone I probably don’t deserve at all.” He found a slightly damp picture of John in his inner pocket, “I’ll have to replace this now, but...that’s my John. She’s...amazing. She’s everything any decent man could ask for.”

“Oh, she’s handsome! Soldier?”

“Until recently. She came home six months ago, never quite settled into London properly. But, we found each other and I hope she’ll stay with me.”

“She’s a pretty girl, looks very smart.”

“She’s damn smart.” Sherlock smiled wistfully, “Damn smart woman. Resourceful and clever, kind, and...”

“Beautiful where it matters. She’s a good soul to her, I can see it. What’s she do now?”

“She’s an ambulance driver here in London, but I suspect I’ll see enough of her to satisfy both of us.” He heard sirens outside in the ambulance bay and raised his head. The likelihood of that being John’s ambulance was highly improbable, but he could always hope. Even if it was, it was unlikely he would see her. Mrs Princeton caught him looking and just smiled to herself.

He didn’t see John before he was called back, but that was fine, he hadn’t really expected to. Thankfully, his visit was relatively quick. Well, as quick as they could get a chest x-ray done with a follow-up CT. It was mostly to make sure there wasn’t any fluid in his lungs after that swim, which there was not, and to make sure he hadn’t broken or fractured any ribs when he hit the water, which he had not. But the physician seeing him warned him to come back if that cough got any worse. And with a childhood history of pneumonia, it was a legitimate concern. Well, at the very least he had a doctor in-house, and she probably knew the signs and symptoms to look out for and he highly doubted she would let him get away with staying home if he got worse. After all, it was more or less in her best interest to keep him alive and healthy.


 

Chapter Text


Once his discharge papers had been processed, almost four hours after he arrived at the hospital seeking care, Sherlock got dressed in the change of clothes Lestrade had brought for him earlier. He was quite ready to go home and stay there. He was startled by a soft knock as he was struggling with a button on his shirt and looked over his shoulder. Odd?

“Come.” He called quietly, suspecting it was a nurse. The door opened from outside and he turned back to his task.

“Heard you behaved yourself for the staff while you were here.” He knew that voice.

“John?” Sherlock turned, clothes forgotten, “What are you doing here?”

“Came in with a load a bit ago. Heard you were still here and came looking. You’d be surprised what being nice to the nurses can get you around here.”

“How did you get them to tell you where I was?”

“Said I was your emergency-contact, your fiancée.”

“You told them we were married?”

“Sorry.” She looked kind of sad, so whatever had brought her here was not good.

“John, what happened?”

“Young kid, looked an awful lot like you.” She sniffled and folded her arms across her chest, hunching her shoulders. “I haven’t had someone flat-line on me in...I don’t know when. Probably Afghanistan.” She’d lost a patient, no wonder she looked sad. And if the patient in question had reminded her of him at all, it made perfect sense.

“Come here.”

“I tried, Sherlock, I tried everything, I just...I couldn’t save him.” She leaned into his arms, shaking.

“You’re the driver, you’re not expected to save everyone. Or, really, anyone.”

“But I’m a goddamned Paramedic, it’s my job! I have to try!”

“And you did, love. You did try, and that’s all you could do.” He rubbed the back of her neck, “And you know something?”

“What?”

“You didn’t let that young man die alone. If I had to guess, he had no family, at least that he spoke to, and no one would really miss him. You were there for him when there was no one else, and you that’s the best for someone who has no one.” He could attest to how nice it was to have someone, anyone, willing to hold your hand when you were struggling, suffering. His life had been saved by more than one paramedic willing to take time to care for him, pull him back from the brink. In some cases, quite literally.

There was one ambulance driver who had gone above and beyond the call of duty when Sherlock had been young, reckless, and high as a kite, on top of being extremely suicidal, who had responded to a concerned civilian’s call for assistance when someone spotted him standing on a turret of Tower Bridge, contemplating that one small step. He had been forty-two metres up, nearly thirteen stories, standing on a ledge, almost hysterical. But then, Bill MacLeod had arrived. The gruff, Scottish driver had apparently gotten a look at things, gotten word of it, and decided the best thing to do was climb out there with him. Bill had stood there, holding Sherlock’s hand, for almost two hours, talking to him, letting him cry, letting him talk, and had finally coaxed him back to safety and carried him down to the ambulance. Bill was still with the ambulance service, if he wasn’t mistaken, despite how long ago it had been. But Bill had been young at the time, Sherlock had been in his twenties and Bill had been in his thirties. So it would be reasonable to assume that Bill MacLeod still drove an ambulance, or worked for the service regardless.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“Did I fail?”

“No, absolutely not.” He held John tightly, “I had my life saved by an ambulance driver when I was in my twenties, bravest man I knew at the time. I’ll tell you that story at home, but you did nothing to fail. You tried to save your patient, but you couldn’t. That’s okay, you can’t save everyone.”

“I just...I feel like I could have done more.”

“If he was overdosing, very unlikely.”

“Yeah, that’s...that’s what happened. We got the call and I thought of you immediately. Of course, I knew it wasn’t you, but...that poor kid!”

“You’ve had an interesting first day of work, haven’t you?” Sherlock had to smile, this was unlikely to be the last time he heard of work-related grievances. She would never give him names, of course, but she would certainly talk to him.

“But I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I forgot how much fun it was to drive an ambulance.” She sniffled and smiled, “London’s not Afghanistan, thank God, but the princple’s the same. Still have to fight time and traffic and fate and pray you get there in time.”

“Come on, you’ve a job to do.”

“And you need to get home to Baker Street.”

“Yes, I do.” He put an arm around her shoulders as they left the slightly-cramped treatment-room he had been sequestered in for his stay. John took the time to walk him out to Stepney Way and get him into a taxi, giving the driver the Baker Street address.

“I’ll see you at home whenever I get done with this.” She promised, leaning in to kiss him, “Take it easy, alright?”

“I will. Be safe.”

“I will.” She smiled and backed away to let the cab pull away, and he knew she stood there until they were out of sight. He was lucky with John Watson, he knew that, but...oh, how lucky. It was interesting that she had lied her way past the nurses and told them she was Sherlock’s fiancée, but it made sense. She wanted to see him, and being his emergency contact was all well and good, but not good enough. But they barely knew each other, didn’t they? Maybe...maybe he could make it more truth than fib? He didn’t have his phone, it needed replacing after his earlier swim, but he knew where a few jewellers were located that might have what he wanted.

“Er, there is one stop before Baker Street, if you please.” He tapped on the divider.

“Yes, sir?”

“9 Marble Arch Park House, please. Direct route. Thank you.” He settled back and wondered if he was going mad. This was, quite possibly, the stupidest thing he’d ever done, and Sherlock was not ashamed to admit that he had done many stupid things in his life. This was definitely one of them. When the cab stopped outside of the destination he had given, Sherlock asked the cabbie to wait, if he could. The man shrugged and switched his light and metre, and Sherlock crossed the footpath to the storefront, letting himself in. Shaking rain out of his hair, he looked around. He didn’t usually come to places like this, but he suspected he would find what he needed here.

“Hello, sir! Can I help you find something?” A cheerful shop-girl chirped from behind the counter. Sherlock looked around again and sighed.

“I need to find a ring, please?”

“Of course, sir! This way!” She ushered him to a certain display and he browsed, knowing he was limited on time. After some searching, he found an infinity-style ring that looked perfect.

“That one?” he pointed it out to the shop-girl. She took it out to let him look at it and he studied it. “What size is this?” He knew John’s ring-size by accident, but he couldn’t recall how he’d come to that knowledge, just that he knew it.

“That, sir, I believe is a 7?”

“A...7? Hmm.” Well, it was the right size, at any rate.

“Would you like to buy that one, sir?”

“Yes, I think this will do. Thank you, miss.”

“Of course! I’ll take that and get a box for you, then!” She took the ring and went into the back, “Will this size do or would you like another?”

“No, I think that will do.”

“Yes, sir.” She just smiled at him and went out of sight for a moment. Sherlock found his credit card and waited at the counter, a little impatiently. When she came back, she gave him a little blue gift-bag with the box inside, and inside the box was the ring. He gave her the card and waited while she ran it. He had invested in a waterproof wallet a while ago, so his card should still be good even after his swim earlier. Sure enough, it went through alright and he signed the proper receipts. Thanking the shop-girl for her help, Sherlock left the store again and returned to the waiting taxi.

“Thank you for waiting, I’m sorry for the delay.”

“No problem, sir. Where to?”

“Uh, 221B Baker Street, please. Thank you.” He held onto the bag carefully and wondered how on earth to give it to John. Should he just...give it to her? Should he plan it out? Do something for her? How did he do this? It didn’t seem right to just...give it to her and assume the best. Or the worst.

“Something on your mind, sir?” The cabbie had noticed, observant bloke. But then again, Sherlock had learned long ago that cabbies were some of the most observant people in London. They saw everything. He sighed and looked at the little bag in his hands.

“I’m...trying to think of how to do something. It’s not simple.”

“Well, sir?”

“I...I’m trying to think of how to propose to my girlfriend.”

“Oh, that’s lovely, sir! Is that what’s in the bag?”

“Yes.”

“Cheers! How long?”

“Er...six years? Bit of a long-distance relationship, I’m afraid. Lost contact a few times, but...”

“Oh, I understand, sir.” The cabbie just smiled at him, “Special girl?”

“Very.”

“What’s she like?”

“She’s smart, kind, unassumingly pretty, but she has a bit of a temper to her.”

“Ah, one of those smart ones?”

Very smart one. And entirely too good for any of us.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, sir! You’re not a half-bad bloke yourself! Handsome fellow, decently smart going by the looks of you, probably smarter than half the people I know and more than that in the city. What’s she do?”

“She’s a paramedic.”

“And yourself?”

“I’m a detective. Work with The Met.”

“Ah! Good match! Keep each other plenty busy!” The man chuckled, “Well, if I were you, son, I’d just ask the girl. Put your heart into it and out there and just ask ‘er. Be honest about it.”

“It can’t be that simple?”

“It can be! Sure can be! Has she made any overtures?”

“I may have gotten a hint or two, yes.”

“Then just ask ‘er! Whatever feels right to you, just put it there for her.”

“That...okay. Thank you.” He had some ideas now, simple things. He might need some help for a few things, but he had an idea that might just work. Nothing too terribly complicated, or showy. John was a rather simple woman, showy gestures of affection didn’t seem to be her thing, and brazen declarations wouldn’t really win her properly.

Once at Baker Street, he paid the fare, tipped the driver well, and went inside. Putting the ring somewhere safe, he went out to run a few more errands. His first stop was to replace his phone, which didn’t take very long, and then he went to Saint Bart’s. He needed to talk to Mike Stamford, and urgently. He found him between students, with time to talk.

“Sherlock! This is unexpected, what can I do for you?” Stamford was surprised to see him, but pleased. “You look like you ran here from Baker Street, mate, you okay?”

“Mike, I need your help! It’s about John.”

“Oh? How’s that going? Everything good?”

“It’s...um, I was wondering if you might possibly know what her favourite flower is.”

“John Watson’s favourite flower? Ooh.” Stamford made a face, “I used to know that, she was rather fond of...roses were a big hit with her, and she liked, um, what are they called. Oh, they’re these little things, look kind of like miniature azaleas, but that’s...not what they’re called I don’t think.”

“Peruvian Lilies?”

“Yeah! That’s it!”

“Alstroemeria. Of course.” Sherlock smiled and looked up the nearest floral shop. “Thank you, Mike.”

“What are you planning over there anyway?”

“Nothing you need to concern yourself with.”

“Why don’t I believe you? I haven’t you smile like that in years. Actually, probably not since that job you took in 2007 that took you to Afghanistan.” Stamford looked at him carefully, “That’s not where you met John, is it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Jesus Christ, Sherlock! Six years?”

“Yep.”

“Oh, lord. Send me an invitation, will you?”

“Absolutely! After all, you’re responsible for getting us back together, aren’t you?” He just got up, pocketed his phone, and offered Stamford his hand.

“Well, damn. Let me know what she says! About bloody time you settled down, Sherlock, this is big news!”

“And completely unplanned.”

“So, mind me asking what put that idea in your head in the first place?”

“She lied her way past a couple of nurses at Royal London.”

“Oh, John. John Watson, you silly girl.”

“I don’t mind, and it was her idea first. She came up with it by herself.”

“You’d better talk to your brother and start getting your papers together, then, Sherlock. That wedding’s gonna happen faster than you think.”

“Oh, don’t worry. Once my mother finds out about this, I won’t have to worry about much of anything except being in certain places at certain times.” Which wasn’t entirely true, but he could always hope.

“Do your parents even know about John?”

“Yes. Mummy was terribly disappointed in me when I didn’t pursue John after I got back from Afghanistan. Said it was a bloody shame I was giving up on such a pretty, promising girl like that. But we were busy, she was on the other side of the world, and...well, things kind of got in the way between then and now.”

“Time to make up for it, then?”

“In a manner of speaking.” Sherlock cleared his throat, “Thanks for your help, Mike.”

“Yeah, glad to, uh, glad to help. Good luck.”

“Thank you.” He shook hands with Stamford, who was amused and a bit concerned, not that Sherlock blamed him, and he left Saint Bart’s. With that bit of business complete, he checked his phone for messages. John had sent him a text to let him know that she was working a full Swing Shift and would be off the clock at 11.00 pm, which would put her home around 11.45 pm or midnight, and not to wait up. But he had plans, and promised to wait as long as he had to for her. His next stop was a nearby floral shop, where he asked the shop-assistant’s help putting together something for John, combining roses, alstroemeria, and baby’s breath. Then he got in touch with a friend of his who owned a local restaurant. Not that he really had to do much more than explain to Angelo that he had a girlfriend and had some plans for her. Angelo’s first question wasn’t “Where did you meet this girl?” it was “When do I get to meet this girl?” To which Sherlock didn’t really have a good answer. Sometime soon, certainly, but given her schedule, likely not tonight. She was working rather late, apparently.

“You bring me this girl as soon as you can, Sherlock Holmes!” Angelo scolded over the phone, “I need to meet this special girl!”

“You will, Angelo, I promise. Thanks for this, I’ll be in touch.” He promised, hanging up with Angelo. No sooner had he done that than his phone rang again. It was John. This would be an interesting phone-call.  Trying to keep a smile off his face, Sherlock took the call.

“Hello, John.”

“Hey, you. So, you know how I said I wasn’t getting out of here until eleven?”

“Yes, I remember. Has that changed?” He could imagine the supervisors had decided a half-shift was enough for the new girl for her first day, and possibly for a few weeks while she got her feet on the ground and got used to the demands of the job.

“Yeah, that has changed. What time is it now?” She sounded tired but happy. He looked at his watch. She had been working since 3.00 pm, it was just now 7.00 pm.

“It’s 7.00, by my watch.”

“Oh, good. That’s...half of a shift, then?”

“I believe so. If the Ambulance Corps runs their shifts on eight-hour rotations?”

“That’s what it looks like to me. I guess I’m on half-shift rotations for the first two weeks, and then...whatever they give me after that.” She was probably still in the ambulance, on her way back to dispatch headquarters, “I’ll be home in a bit.”

“That’s fine. Are you hungry?”

“Are you kidding me? I’m starving! Christ knows I need a shower, but yes! I’m hungry!” Someone in the background was laughing, probably her partner. Sherlock chuckled and waited until she was done berating her partner.

“You, knock it off! You may be senior, but I can still knock sense into you!” There was a muffled response and she made some noise.

“Be nice to your partner, John.”

“He’s a veteran of the corps, he’s just being a brat is all.” Another pause. “Uh, I guess I get a ride home this time? Oh, are you sure? Yeah, that’s...great! Thanks!”

“What’s up, John?”

“I’m getting a ride home! Don’t have to worry about getting a cab or taking the Tube tonight. God bless my partner!”

“Good. I’ll see you soon, then.” Sherlock just smiled as she hung up with him and quickly redialled Angelo’s number. When he heard of the slight change of plans, he was so happy it was almost painful.

“Oh, you’re wonderful, Sherlock! Is there anything you need me to do for this?”

“Uh, actually...I do have a few things. Is there any chance I can come by? My partner’s on her way home right now, I doubt she’ll be surprised if I’m not here when she gets back.”

“Of course, lad! Come down and we’ll get this whole thing ready for you! Good for you, Sherlock! Good for you!”

“Thank you, Angelo. You’re great.” Sherlock smiled and hung up with Angelo, collecting the ring and the flowers and putting them in the box the flowers had come home in. With the box under one arm, he made sure he had his keys, wallet, and phone, and left again.

“Mrs Hudson, I’m leaving for a bit! If John gets home before I do, just tell her I went out for a quick errand! I shouldn’t be long!”

“What on earth are you up to, Sherlock? You’ve been in and out of here all day.” His landlady came out, “Busy, are we?”

“Oh, very.” He smiled and kissed her on the cheek, “Won’t be long, Mrs Hudson! Just finalizing some plans for the evening!”

“Well, don’t get into trouble, young man, hear me?”

“I won’t, Mrs Hudson, I promise. I’ve had quite enough trouble for today, thank you.” He grinned and waved down a passing taxi. Mrs Hudson shook her head as she closed the door of the house and he gave the driver the address to Angelo’s.

When he got to Angelo’s, he told the driver to wait a bit, he wasn’t going to be very long. All he really had to do was give Angelo the box and a few instructions on what to do with the contents.

“Sherlock! There you are!” Angelo grabbed him with one foot through the door, hugging him so tight he had trouble breathing.

“Angelo.”

“What do you have for me, son?”

“I need you to do something with these.” He gave Angelo the box once he could breathe again. “It’s...not much, but I wasn’t expecting her to get off so early.”

“Well, that’s good for us, isn’t it? These are beautiful.” Angelo looked at the flowers, saw the bag. “What’s in the bag?”

“Just put that by one of the plates as it is. That’s, um, that’s a ring, Angelo.”

“Oh, Sherlock!”

“I know.”

“You’re going to propose to her!”

“I’d like to.”

“Oh, I’ll take care of you, son! You go home and get ready, I’ll see you in a bit!” Angelo just beamed and hugged him again before seeing him out, “You just come back when you’re good and ready, we’ll have it all ready for you!”

“Thank you so much, Angelo. And keep it quiet, will you?” Not that there was any way John would find out ahead of time, she didn’t know anyone who knew Angelo.

“Oh, sure I will! See you soon, Sherlock!”

“Thanks.” He ducked into the cab and took a deep breath.

“Where to, sir?”

“Um, back to 221B Baker Street, please.”

“Yes, sir.” The cabbie just got them underway. It was a quiet drive back, which was fine with Sherlock, he didn’t really feel like talking. He did send a text to Lestrade, though. To make sure they weren’t interrupted by any cases.

 

Text to Lestrade: (sent 7.20 pm)

I’m not taking any cases until tomorrow. If you need us, hold the cases until morning, please. – SH

 

 

Text to SH: (sent 7.22 pm)

It’s been pretty quiet around here, but I may regret saying that. You taking a night in? – Lestrade

 

 

Sherlock looked at the text and smiled.

Text to Lestrade: (sent 7.23 pm)

Yes. See you tomorrow? – SH

A response was quick to come, not that he was terribly surprised.

 

 

Text to SH: (sent 7.25 pm)

Yeah, probably whether we want to or not. – Lestrade

Text to SH: (sent 7.26 pm)

Have a good night, Sherlock. – Lestrade

 

 

Sherlock chuckled and pocketed his phone. So far, things were going rather well. He was nervous, of course, and desperately hoped she wouldn’t turn him down. But she was the one who’d fibbed about being engaged, he was just...making it official. When they got back to Baker Street, he paid the fare and tipped the driver, not missing the ambulance sitting out on the kerb, just...idling. No lights, nothing, no hurry, just waiting. That was John. He smiled and was glad he didn’t have any evidence of his plans on him, John wasn’t a stupid woman. As the cab pulled away, he went around the back of the ambulance to the open bay doors. John sat in the treatment-bay, just in the door, her feet nowhere near the ground, waiting for something. Waiting for him.

“Hi.”

“Hi. Mrs Hudson said you were out, so I waited.” She looked up at him, “You okay?”

“I’m fine. Are you okay?”

“Kind of tired, but not terribly. Starving.”

“Are you signed out?”

“Yep. Start again tomorrow, same routine.” She leaned against him, arms going around him almost without thought. He liked that, she wasn’t afraid of being affectionate in public. “You don’t mind this, do you?”

“Absolutely not. If you don’t?”

“I don’t mind. I’m tired, hungry, and I need a shower.”

“Go take a shower. I have plans for dinner.”

“Going out?”

“Yes.”

“Do I have to dress up?” She made a face. He chuckled.

“If you’d like to, but it’s not mandatory.”

“Well, you’re taking me out to dinner, that’s a special occasion.”

“I suppose it is. Inside with you.” He helped her down from the ambulance and nudged her across the pavement.

“You good for the night, then, Watson?” Her partner called from the cab.

“Yep! Thanks for the ride, Bill!” John smiled at the older paramedic she had been partnered with. Sherlock recognized him right away. It was Bill MacLeod! He’d been right, he was still with the Ambulance Corps!

“Bill MacLeod?”

“Well, I’ll be damned! Sherlock Holmes!” MacLeod left the ambulance, pulling Sherlock into a careful hug, he was very much aware of the day Sherlock had, what he had been through. “How are you, son?”

“I’m...well, Bill. Could be better, could be much worse.”

“You keep an eye on yourself, call us if you feel a bit off, we’ll get you where you need to go. Won’t have you keelin’ over on my watch.” Bill’s Highland accent, mellowed by age and time, was still very much there. It was the same familiar, soothing voice that had coaxed him away from a permanent solution to a (blessedly) temporary problem. And every time since then that Sherlock had considered suicide, he heard Bill talking to him, promising that this, whatever it was, would pass and he would move on. There was enough worth living for, wasn’t there? Things he wanted to do, places he wanted to go? People he wanted to see again? Don’t take that away from yourself and others. But the advice that had stuck with him to this day was this: “Taking your own life. Interesting expression. Taking it from who? Once it's over, it's not you who'll miss it. Your own death is something that happens to everybody else. Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.” And it was advice he had forgotten when faced up against James Moriarty, who had subtly and systematically ruined him in every way that mattered without ever laying a hand on him.

“Bill?”

“Hmm?”

“I’ve…done terrible things. I didn’t listen to you. I was wrong.”

“Son, that wasn’t your fault. And you weren’t dead to begin with. He is. And good riddance to ‘im.” Bill rubbed his shoulder, “Take care of yourself now, Sherlock Holmes. I’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you, Bill. You’ve…been a good friend.”

“Let your girl take care of you. Guess you’ve got some plans?”

“Maybe.” He sniffled. Behind him, John had the door open and was on her way upstairs. Bill chuckled and sent him inside, getting back into the ambulance to return it to headquarters and go home.

“Say hi to Lydia for me.”

“Oh, I’ll let her know you said hi, son! Have a good night.”

“You, too, Bill.” Sherlock watched the ambulance pull away and went upstairs to wait for John. Mrs Hudson brought tea for him, smiling like she knew a great big secret. He took comfort in knowing she had only speculation and John had no idea.  When he heard the shower go off in the bathroom, he made his move to the bedroom. He wanted to do this right, as last-minute and spur-of-the-moment as it was. And potentially foolish and misguided. But it felt like the right thing to do. He had been stuck all afternoon on the fact that John had told people that they were engaged, just to get to him when she probably didn’t need to concern herself with going to those lengths. She was a Paramedic, a medical responder, she could very likely go anywhere in a hospital she pleased and no one would really bother to stop her. But she hadn’t used her clearance like that, she had gone out of her way to come up with a somewhat careless lie and told them she was his fiancée.

Well, in any case, maybe he would get Mummy off his back now about finding a partner of his own. What with Mycroft disgustingly content to be married, but to a good man. And Greg Lestrade was a very good man. Very kind, very patient, and, Sherlock was not ashamed to admit, very handsome. Also, very very good at his job. One of the best, really. And Sherlock liked to think that maybe he had his own Lestrade with John, she was very similar to the DI in several ways and, of course, very different in others. As he was debating his wardrobe choices for the night, she knocked on the door from the en-suite to the bedroom, sliding it open just a bit to stick her head out.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s the dress-code for this place? Where are we going?”

“Little Italian restaurant down in SoHo. I know the owner, owes me a favour.”

“Do something for him, did you?”

“Got him off on a murder charge by proving he was in a different part of town when a particularly vicious triple-murder was committed.” He shuffled hangars, “He got three years and probation for six months.”

“Jesus. So, what was he doing instead?”

“Housebreaking.”

“Oh. Okay, then.”

“As for dress-code, I’ve seen patrons seated wearing denims and trainers.”

“Ugh. Not that casual. Business-casual acceptable?”

“Always.”

He just smiled over his shoulder. All he could see was her head and shoulders, the rest of her was wrapped in towels and hidden behind the door. She studied him and her eyes narrowed.

“What are you up to?”

“Who said I was up to anything?”

“You’ve that look to you, like you’re up to mischief.” She raised an eyebrow and pushed the door open, coming out into the bedroom. He was and wasn’t surprised. That was a bold move for her.

“What are you doing?”

“Making sure you look halfway decent tonight. Not that your taste in clothes is questionable, but there’s something you’ve got in mind, and I’ll be damned if you aren’t going to look like you mean it.” She nudged him aside, going through his closet. “You wouldn’t be the first bloke I’ve dressed for date-night, either.”

“Didn’t think I was, love.” He watched her go through his clothes. She found a certain shirt of his he was rather fond of and pulled it down.

“Oh, this is lovely. Do you wear this often?”

“No, sadly.”

“It’s beautiful. Silk, is it?” She rubbed the material between her fingers, “Gorgeous colour, I bet you look stunning in it. Here.” She hooked it over her arm and looked for the rest of his outfit. “Hmm, no two-piece for you tonight, I’m afraid. We’ll up the game a bit, shall we?”

“What are you thinking?”

“Let’s…see here. These will do.” She took down trousers, a suit-jacket, and did some more hunting for a waistcoat, “One or both, your pick. No tie?”

“Is it necessary?”

“Here.” She found a tie, he usually didn’t wear them out of principle any more than he wore three-piece suits. Laying the clothes out on the bed, she went back for shoes and found his spare Belstaff. The one he’d worn most of the day was in desperate need of dry-cleaning. She also found a scarf.

“There you go. You take a shower and get dressed.”

“What about you?”

“Oh, I’m not telling.” She smiled and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek, “I’d give a ransom to know what you’ve got planned for tonight, you’re awfully happy.”

“I have reasons to be happy, besides, I want to spend time with you.”

“A proper date-night.” She had to get up on tiptoe to reach him, which was both endearing and amusing, but she didn’t seem to mind the height-difference. He suspected she could easily overpower him if circumstances called for it, she was built that way and knew how to use her body to her advantage. In more ways than one. Sherlock chuckled, unable to help himself, and put an arm around her waist.

“Do you know what would make it better?”

“Hmm?”

“A proper engagement.” Oh, clever girl.

“Well, I make no promises of grand plans beyond dinner, will that do for now?” He just smiled and touched her cheek.

“Dinner sounds lovely.” She had no idea that was exactly what he had in mind. And she wouldn’t until it was time. He leaned in and kissed her, he liked doing that and she was rather good at it.

“Oh, you’re a menace.”

“Is that a problem?

“Well, no, but we are on a bit of schedule, yeah?”

“A bit of one.”

“Then you had better get moving, mister!” She shimmied out of his arms and headed for the door, “I’ll meet you in the sitting-room, half an hour. Be there, be square, or be late to your future.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He watched her go, not missing how the towel dipped and gave him another glimpse of ink. Same tattoo or a different one?

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“How many tattoos do you have?”

“That’s for me to know, and you to find out.” She looked over her shoulder at him, “If you’re good, maybe I’ll show you later.”

“Oh.” Because if he wasn’t mistaken, that was a hummingbird on her shoulder. Which made him wonder what the peek of ink he’d seen on her hip earlier was supposed to be. With a charming, wicked little smile, she was gone and he had a problem. And a time-limit. Shedding his clothes with speed, he hopped into the shower and made short but thorough work of it. He ignored his body, it’s pleading, just for the moment. Maybe later. Maybe. Just, potentially, there was a maybe in the near future. Sherlock knew he was clean, and he suspected John was always very careful with her partners. After his shower, he managed his hair and got dressed. He was nervous, and he had some trouble with his buttons when he couldn’t get his fingers to cooperate. Frustrated, he threw open the door of his bedroom and looked out.

“John!” He shouted, suspecting she was in the sitting-room already.

“What?”

“Help?”

“Oh, what did you get into now?” She appeared in the hallway, ready for the night ahead, and he was a little disappointed she was already wearing an overcoat, he was dying to know what she was wearing. He had honestly expected her to wear fatigues, but considering how much of her legs were on display, she was wearing something rather…different. Oh god, his mouth went dry. She got one look at him and chuckled, a sweet, understanding sound.

“Nerves getting to you?”

“A bit. I’m sorry, I don’t…”

“You’re not used to this. That’s okay.” She smiled and took over, quickly and efficiently doing up the buttons of his shirt, which she tucked into his trousers. Next was the tie, the waistcoat, and the suit-jacket. She knew her business and was efficient about it.

“There, you’re ready.” She turned him to look in the full-length mirror on the wall. “Handsome bloke in a suit.”

“These make me think of my brother.” He messed with the skirt of the waistcoat, “He wears three-piece suits all the time.”

“You are nothing like your brother, and thank God. I know your brother, and as much as I respect him, God bless his husband.”

“MI6?”

“Mhm. Someone did his homework.” She didn’t seem surprised he knew that.

“I was…curious. I wanted to know everything about you. Was that not good?”

“You’re allowed to research the people who interest you. But I was a nobody, one person out of hundreds that day.”

“But you were kind to me, you spent time with me when there was no reason to do otherwise.” He turned to her as he adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, “Why?”

“I was just as curious as you were. I’m just sorry it took us six years to actually see each other again.”

“Me, too.”

“Plenty of time to make up for it, yeah?” She smoothed the tie, fingers steady. “Come on, you, let’s get to Angelo’s.”

“How did…?”

“Small Italian restaurant in SoHo, know the owner? I’ve been to Angelo’s a few times for lunch.” She smiled, “I don’t know him nearly as well as you do, I doubt he has any idea who I am.”

“Oh, he’s been waiting to meet you.”

“Then let’s go!” She handed over his coat and he followed her out of the flat after making sure he had his phone and wallet. At the street-door, he called out to Mrs Hudson that they were leaving, she told them to have a good time. Getting a cab was relatively easy, and he gave the driver directions to Angelo’s, sending a text to let Angelo know that they were on their way finally. A response came back quickly that everything was ready for them, and Angelo was excited to do his bit to make the night’s magic happen properly.

“So, if I asked, would you tell me what you’re hiding under your coat, my dear?” He asked softly, trying so hard to keep his hands to himself. He hated intimacy, it bothered him to be so touchy with a stranger, but he wanted to touch John, to know the feel of her skin under his. And he wanted so very badly to know what in God’s name those tattoos were! He knew about the hummingbird, but there were others?

“No, it’s a surprise. You’ll see at the restaurant.” She looked at him sideways, “I have my secret, and you’ve got your own. A big one, I know. But I’m not asking, I like surprises.”

“I hope so.” He took her hand, finally unable to keep to himself. She let him, which was even better.

When they got to Angelo’s, he got out first, gave her a hand out, and paid the fare. Angelo had been waiting for them and opened the door for them, absolutely beaming as he let them in.

“Sherlock! Good to see you!”

“Angelo.”

“Captain Watson, hello, my dear! Welcome!” Angelo apparently did remember John from past visits and was absolutely giddy to see her again. “Welcome welcome!”

“Hello, Angelo.” John gave Sherlock a suspicious look, “Did you say anything to him?”

“Nothing, I swear.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Oh, no, Captain! I have a good mind for faces! I remember you! Didn’t think you were Sherlock’s mystery girl, but I am so happy it’s you! Here, sit down! Sit, sit! Be comfortable!” He ushered them to the table usually reserved for Sherlock, taking their coats, and Sherlock got his first look at what John had decided to wear that night. And no wonder she wanted to hide it until she was good and ready to show off! If they’d been home, it was looking very unlikely they would have made it out the door!

“John!”

“I know.”

“Oh my god.” He took a deep breath and sat down first, taking in the sight of his flat-mate in an off-the-shoulder mini-dress that brushed her thighs with an intriguing cut-out back that left little the imagination and yet concealed so much. She wore…minimal lingerie from what he could tell, kinky little minx, kitten heels to give her a bit of extra height without being unreasonable or unwieldy, minimal makeup, a soft, not-unpleasant perfume, and no jewellery aside from her tags. Angelo just beamed as he pushed John’s chair in once she was seated and promised to be right back. The table had been set for two people, the flowers had been put up in a square vase with water and clear decorative stones in the bottom, and he took one of the Peruvian Lilies and gave it to John, who was awestruck.

“How did you know?”

“I asked a friend.”

“Oh, Sherlock.” She looked at the table and then at him, “Did you do this?”

“Yes, I did.”

“This is amazing! This is…I…I don’t think anyone has ever gone to this kind of effort for a date before!”

“Their loss, then, and my happy gain. Do you like it?”

“This is…I mean, what else do you have in mind?”

“That’s my surprise.” He just smiled. Angelo came back with wine and he quietly inquired after the ring. Angelo had it safe, he would bring it out later if Sherlock wanted to wait a bit to give it to her.

“Thank you, Angelo.” Sherlock just smiled as the friendly Italian-born restaurateur gave his shoulder a firm, supportive squeeze.

“Of course! Are you ready to order?”

“I think our usuals will do, Angelo. Thank you so much.”

“Of course, of course! Pleased to! I’ll be right back.” With that, he was gone and Sherlock looked across the table at John, who studied him with a content smile.

“So?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m very happy, Sherlock.” She tilted her head, “Are you happy?”

“I think I am.”

“You think you’re happy?”

“There’s one thing that may have much to do with just how happy I am tonight, but regardless, I am quite content.”

“Well, aren’t you a proper enigma wrapped in a puzzle?” John just smiled, taking a sip of wine.

“I’ve been called worse.”

“Well, shame on them. You’re wonderful company. A little rough around the edges, call it as you see it, but that’s just the way you are. I’m not asking you to change that.”

“You would be the first.” He hoped he hadn’t misread the situation.

“I’m not perfect, Sherlock, but even I know better than to insist someone change to unrealistic expectations.” She gave him a significant look. “I’m a soldier, a doctor, maybe a bit more than that, but even I know better. Has someone made that demand of you before?”

“Perhaps one or two in the past.”

“They weren’t right for you, they weren’t after the right things.” John’s expression softened, “We all deserve someone who can handle us at our absolute most monstrous worst and still respect us in the morning.” Partners on both sides of their arrangement had been lost to that, it seemed. Angelo returned with their plates and asked if they needed anything else.

“No, Angelo, we’re good for now.” Sherlock smiled at his friend. Angelo, not a stupid man, leaned over Sherlock’s chair.

“Would you like me to bring the box, Sherlock?”

“Uh, yes. Actually, do you mind?”

“No, not at all!” Angelo just squeezed his shoulder supportively and went off smiling. John raised an eyebrow at him.

“No need for concern, my dear.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I never said you had to.” He just smiled at her. She narrowed her eyes but knew when to pick her fights. Whatever he had in mind, she would find out soon. It was quiet while they ate, John had a standard appetite for someone with her history, she ate half of her meal and pushed her plate aside. Sherlock barely ate out of principle, and had consumed the same quantity of food. Familiar with his habits, and most likely with John’s as well, Angelo brought out a small, discrete white bag, which he gave to Sherlock, and collected their plates to pack away the left food for later. He also brought out a dish of homemade gelato, it smelled like liquorice.

“For the happy couple!” He gave John a charming smile.

“I hope you don’t mind liquorice.” She picked up her spoon.

“I do not mind.” Sherlock let her take her share and ate the rest.

“What’s in the bag, then?” She asked after a while, licking off her spoon. The liquorice was a nice sweet-savoury end to the evening’s meal and paired surprisingly well with the wine. Sherlock took a quick sip of his and picked up the bag. What indeed.

“It’s, er, something for you. It’s not much, I’m afraid, but I’m not very good with this sort of thing anyway.” He carefully unpacked the box in his lap and wondered if he sounded as nervous as he felt. His hands shook again and he cleared his throat as he looked across the table at John, who watched him with a soft, curious expression.

“What’s on your mind, Sherlock?”

“John? If…I asked you something, would you…um.” Sherlock had worried this would happen, it was so rare he couldn’t find words for something. Taking a deep breath, he looked at his flat-mate, who had been on his mind for six years. He wanted the rest of this life with her, but he wasn’t sure how to ask her for it. He didn’t even know if she wanted it.

“John, are you happy with me?”

“That’s a strange question to ask, but…yes, I am happy. Why?”

“I just don’t have any friends, or at the least I have very few friends. Would you be happy to stay with me at Baker Street?”

“Of course I would. What’s wrong?” She was smart, she knew he was nervous about something.

“I never forgot about you, you know? In the six years we were apart, I thought of you all the time. I kept your pictures, I carried them everywhere I went. I may have lied to people about who you were to me, for better or worse depending on the situation, but I never forgot about you.”

“Who did you lie to?”

“Friends, family, strangers. In Serbia, I lied and said you were an old pen-friend I’d lost touch with and all I had was your picture, but you were more or less no one important. I barely remembered your name, for all they cared. I thought if they knew who you were, they would try to hurt you, too.”

“And then I showed up, saved your sorry arse, and firebombed that base off the map. So it didn’t matter anyway.” She picked up her wine, “I’ll do that all over again if I have to, Sherlock.”

“Would you stay with me if the world turned on me again?”

“Just you and me against the world, Sherlock Holmes. I’ll live with you at Baker Street until we’re old enough or just sick enough of London to retire. We’ll move to the countryside somewhere, maybe Hastings or maybe far away. I could take you to Scotland.”

“What would I do? What would you do?”

“Whatever we bloody well felt like doing! I’d maybe start a private medical practice and do house-calls when I wanted to, maybe you’d write memoirs, or I would. Or you would do something else? Don’t you like bees?”

“I love them.”

“Raise bees, then. I’ll write our memoirs, you’ll raise bees, and we’ll enjoy a quiet but interesting retirement somewhere properly isolated. Maybe we’ll have a dog, or two dogs.”

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Would you…marry me? Would you give me everything else we haven’t talked about yet?”

“Would I…oh my god.” She saw the box. She saw him get down on one knee. “Oh, Sherlock.”

“Please, John? Please tell me you want everything we just talked about, and everything else we haven’t said. I don’t just want a partner to solve cases with me, I want someone to grow old with and be with. I’m tired of being alone and…I don’t want people to keep asking me when I’ll get married.”

“That’s none of their business! Of course, I’ll marry you!” She took the ring, which miraculously fit, “And point me at anyone who gave you grief for remaining a bachelor this long into your life and I’ll put them to rights.”

“Yes?”

“Yes! Of course, yes! I think six years of long-distance mutual pining is long enough don’t you?”

“Long enough.” He wanted to cry, but he didn’t. He would do that later.

“Kiss her!” Someone else in the restaurant yelled. Well, no time like the present, and she had actually said yes to a silly, spur-of-the-moment idea. He wasn’t sure he could stand up yet, but she had no trouble leaning in to meet him halfway and initiated that first kiss. The crowded restaurant exploded with noise as the watchful patrons cheered and whistled. It wasn’t every night they got to see a proposal, anyway. Getting up, Sherlock pulled John to her feet for another, longer kiss. Angelo came up, absolutely beside himself, and hugged them both, congratulating them on taking this big step and warning them to be good to each other and take care of each other.

“I think we can manage, Angelo!” John said, laughing tearfully, “Oh, god, who’s going to believe this?”

“Probably no one we know! I suspect Mummy will be ever so pleased, though.”

“Do you think we’ll get a chance to tell her?”

“ I’ll take you to meet my parents for Christmas, we’ll tell her then.” He was already thinking ahead. Angelo handed over their coats and saw them out to a taxi he had called for them, wishing them well and giving John the flowers to carry home wrapped in butcher paper.

“Do come back soon! Many happy returns to you both! Be safe!” He waved as they left the restaurant. John looked at Sherlock and then at the ring on her hand. It was simple but elegant and not too flashy or obnoxious. But it didn’t have to be. She worked a fairly rigorous job, and he had taken that into consideration when looking for something to give her. It wasn’t much, just what he could do with on a last-minute budget.

“Where did you find this, Sherlock? It’s lovely.”

“I did some hunting this afternoon.”

“What got the idea into your head to propose in the first place? I don’t mind at all, but it’s a little…unexpected.”

“Isn’t it supposed to be?”

“Well.” She rolled her eyes.

“I’m sorry.” He took her hand, resting on her lap. “No, it was something you said to me earlier at Royal London that got me thinking.”

“Oh.” She looked at where their hands laid and then at him. “I said a few things at the hospital, not all of them necessarily good.”

“You told me how you got past the nurses. I’ve thought about it all day since then, I’ve wondered why you were so inspired to use that particular ruse to get to me.”

“Well, I…you know, I don’t have a good reason. Or an excuse. It just…seemed like the right thing to say. I thought of saying I was your wife, but that didn’t seem to be quite as believable.” She sniffed and grew still. “Fiancées have more visiting-rights for significant others in hospital than standard girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. And I wanted to see you, after losing that poor boy, I had to see you. I was ready to fight my way past an army to get to you.”

“I was glad to see you. A little surprised you managed to find me, but I was glad you came to see me.” He rubbed the underside of her wrist. “Thank you, John.”

“For what?”

“For saying yes, giving me a chance. For giving us a chance.”

“I was a little surprised, but I wasn’t going to say no.” She smiled, her eyes glazed with a lack of focus that spoke to being tired. “I need a bit of excitement in my life, and really, you’re the most interesting, exciting thing that’s happened to me in six months.”

“As long as you wish for some kind of excitement, I’ll try to give it to you.” He could at least promise that. “There will be periods of inactivity, boredom is a problem when cases get thin, as they sometimes do.”

“I’ll keep you from getting destructive. And I have a job lined up, so we’ll have my income and pension to bolster finances if things get too tight. But I’m not that good with money, so I make no promises.”

“You have a gambling problem.”

“A bit of one. I can’t turn down a round of poker and never give me a dare.”

“I’ll try not to. But…” He thought of something, “I might be able to give you lottery numbers, if that’s any interest to you.”

“You don’t know the lottery numbers!”

“It’s an algorithm. If you know the formula, it’s simple.”

“I’ve tried for years to figure out how that system works, I’ve lost paychecks on the wrong numbers.”

“Trust me, then.” He patted her on the hand.

When they got to Baker Street, he paid the fare and she got the door open. Going upstairs, they were careful not to disturb Mrs Hudson, who was quite likely asleep by now. Putting the takeaway boxes in the fridge, he hung their coats and loosened the tie. He hated ties, but it was fun to get all dressed up every once in a long while.

“No, you don’t.” John was there, batting his hands away. “This is for me.” She had kicked off her shoes and wore, to his knowledge, absolutely nothing more than that dress. Most women had enough of a sense of modesty to wear stockings. John, apparently, had not done so. God bless them both and make him the luckiest man in London tonight. Thank you, God. Sherlock wanted to touch and did. The expanse of skin revealed by the back of her dress was…soft, the only imperfections were the lines of her tattoos. She got the tie undone and worked on the buttons of the shirt, stopped only when Sherlock decided enough was enough, they were going to do this properly, and picked her up. The indignant sound she made was adorable and she glared at him.

“I don’t like being picked up!”

“Get used to it, love. I enjoy holding you.” And really, he did. She wasn’t that heavy, after all. She just rolled her eyes at him and let him carry her.

“Y’know, next time you carry me across the threshold of this bedroom is probably going to be on our wedding night?”

“Why can’t I carry you before then?”

“Well, I certainly won’t stop you, but traditionally the groom carries the bride to the bedroom.” She gave him that sly smile of hers, “Christmas?”

“Oh, God.”

“I can’t wait to meet your parents. I’m curious to meet the people who produced such an interesting, intelligent person like Sherlock Holmes.” John just settled in his arms and he put her down on the bed. It was a work of patience, shaky fingers, and a few minutes to get out of their clothes, John did most of the work on his buttons since she wouldn’t let him touch any of it. when she had his shirt off, he stopped her. He had to touch, had to return a favour, had to taste.

“Allow me.” He whispered, pushing her back against the pillows, running one hand up her leg from knee to hip, sliding under the skirt of her dress. That was when he discovered his soldier’s naughty side. Brazen little thing, going out in public like this? Oh, she was a menace. He knew enough about the mechanics, how things worked, how to be smart and safe about it, but…oh, John Watson was new territory and he couldn’t wait to explore. She was happily putting Irene Adler to crying shame.

“Oh, you wicked little thing.” He whispered, touching her bare hip, “All this time?”

“I like a bit of naughtiness sometimes. And who knew any better while we were out in public? Have you seen this dress? I can’t exactly wear standard lingerie with it!”

“I suppose not.” He chuckled and cupped her thigh in one hand. Getting the dress off took no time at all, and he tossed it carefully aside. She took care of what little she had worn above the waist to preserve her modesty, which wasn’t much more than a few bits of adhesive-coated silicone. And he finally got to see that tattoo!

“Oh, John!”

“Do you like it?”

“Oh, John.” He traced the thick black lines with his fingers, tracing the path from about mid-abdomen to mid-thigh, just about where the skirt of her dress had ended. He had never seen it because he hadn’t known to look. It was…beautiful. “It’s an otter.”

“Mhm.” She let him examine the otter that wrapped around her hip and thigh. It was a bold series of thick black lines, curving along her body. What made it so unique was the lotus-flower etched in blue on the otter’s chest. And on her upper back and shoulder, trailing down her arm just above her elbow, another, more delicate tattoo. The hummingbird. It was a watercolour-style, soft lines of colour blended into a delicate piece of living art, the bird done in greens and blues, a string of beads and roses hung from the beak and wrapped her bicep and upper arm. But there was one he had missed before, and only because when he had noticed it the first time he’d thought it was a scar. But upon much closer, more intimate examination, he realized what it really was.

“Oh, John.”

“Do you know what that is?” She looked over her shoulder at him as he traced the faint white lines on her back, “What it’s from?”

“I…don’t think so. It looks familiar, but I don’t know what it is.”

“It’s from Lord of the Rings.” She turned her head again, “I plan to get it re-inked in light blue to bring it out on my skin a little bit in the future.”

“What is it, though? It’s so…intricate but simple.”

“It’s the Evenstar, Lady Arwen’s necklace.” John’s voice was a soft sigh, “She married Aragorn, who was born mortal, and forsook the immortality of her father’s people, the Elves. Have you never read the books?”

“I think Mycroft used to read them to me when we were young, but I don’t remember them. But it’s so beautiful.”

“Well, if I can get you to sit still long enough, they turned the whole lot into movies, I’d like to watch them with you.” Sherlock generally abhorred pop culture, seeing it as useless and cluttering up his Mind Palace with foolish trivia, but if John wanted to share something important to her, he would sit with her and watch the films. On her left ribcage, hidden under her arm and near her heart, was a fourth tattoo. She had four in all, he had seen each one. This last one was intriguing, and he suspected based on pop culture as well.

“What of this one?”

“Star Trek. More pop culture, but a philosophy behind it is what I believe in first beyond the recognized symbolism among a small clique of fans.”

“What is it, then?”

“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.  It’s a belief that beauty, growth, progress -- all result from the union of the unlike. Concord, as much as discord, requires the presence of at least two different notes. The brotherhood of man is an ideal based on learning to delight in our essential differences, as well as learning to recognize our similarities. The circle and triangle combine to produce the gemstone in the centre as the union of words and music creates song, or the union of marriage creates children.” At this last, she made a face, “Not that I’m at all interested in having children. There are plenty of other ways to celebrate that sort of union.”

“I’m afraid our lifestyle may not be the most nurturing for raising children regardless.” He traced the lines of the tattoo carefully, “Circle. Triangle. Gemstone. I appreciate the philosophy. And it is clearly important to you.”

“I try to live by it, and it seems to serve me fine.” She ran her fingers through his hair, eyes settling on the ring he had given her. “This is so…pretty. It’s so subtle and so simple.”

“I didn’t think you would want or appreciate anything showier. It would be gaudy and impractical. As it is, I’m not certain you can wear that on the job.”

“If I can’t, I’ll get a chain and wear it around my neck.” She leaned her head back, “I won’t take it off without a damn good reason. Uniform codes aren’t good enough if they’re not obvious. But I should imagine engagement rings are allowed.”

“I hope so.” He settled beside her, content to just be with her, not making any demands of her.

“Can I touch you?”

“Hmm?” He lifted his head a bit. She wasn’t touching him, but she clearly wanted to and was asking his permission.

“Every other time we’ve had a thing to do with each other, you’ve never been coherent enough to know who I was. This is the first time I’ve been able to do this with you. Are you alright with me touching you?”

“You slept in my bed last night after our nightmares kept us awake. You can touch me.” He took her hand in his and studied the calluses he knew were from far more than surgery. Only the best marksmen had those specific calluses on their index fingers. Gifted soldier, indeed. With her free hand, she touched where she could reach, being careful when she got to his back and found the scars left from his experiences during internment. She knew the origin of those scars, where they had come from and very likely the names of the men who had beaten the marks into his skin. Rolling over, she looked at them, and he let her. She knew everything of that dark chapter in his history, he couldn’t bring himself to be ashamed of it in her presence.

“Oh, Sherlock.”

“You know where they came from.”

“I am so sorry.” She kissed one of the scars, “I hate the reminder they left and will leave for a long time after the nightmares go away. Maybe someday we can see about having them reduced.”

“Mm.” They didn’t particularly bother him, but he was far more body-aware than he had been prior to 2012.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“How soon can we get married?”

“Oh, once we file all of the proper documents and make the proper announcements? I would imagine it will take some time to find all of the proper documents necessary to file on both our parts, but I believe it’s within twenty-eight days after giving notice with the Register Office is the soonest.”

“That’s not long at all. But I’m not really in a hurry to get married. Are you?”

“Nope.” He traced the lines of the beads and roses on her arm, “At least…not right away. My mother will be inconsolable, I’m afraid.”

“Worry about that when you have to.” John sighed, her hand wandering along his back. Touching was not something he usually did or enjoyed, but there was something calming and intimate about what they were doing.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” She just smiled at him. Sherlock still had a bit of a problem, but he could do without if he had to.

After a while, John shifted under him. Her thigh brushed against his, and he sighed.

“Well, well. Mr Holmes, I do believe you have a problem.”

“Might just have.”

“Pity to let you suffer like that for so long. Why didn’t you say something?”

“What on earth would I say?” He raised an eyebrow at her. “Do you want to?”

“I’m game if you are.”

“I am not against the idea at all.” He moved so he was over her completely, “And yes, I am clean. I was tested three months ago.”

“So was I.”

“I know, I saw your records.”

“And I saw yours.” She raised an eyebrow in challenge. He just smiled. Well, despite their status, it was prudent to use protection, so when she produced a wrapped condom from…somewhere, he took it from her.

He knew the mechanics, how it worked and what should work best, but that didn’t mean he knew everything. And he certainly wasn’t a virgin, as so many erroneously believed, but it was just easier to let them believe what they wanted to about him and go on with his life as necessary. John was the first woman he had been with in years, but she was by far the best partner he could remember. She let him take his time, let him experiment a bit, wasn’t afraid to tell him what didn’t work for her and suggest something that might make it better. Angles were changed, a bit of lube was added to the mix, and he found that magic spot that made her go wild. That was by accident, and he would have to remember it for later.

After figuring out what worked for both of them, he settled for a long, careful bout of sex. John, of course, reached climax first, women typically did; Sherlock was a few strokes behind, a bit out of practice but unwilling to stop unless she asked him to. Finally, he came, and it was…well, breathtaking was one word for it. Sherlock could have sworn his heart actually stopped, but it hadn’t. His head was a bit fuzzy, but that was normal for him. He didn’t like it, but the endorphin haze was worth the scramble. John hissed when he pulled out and he studied her face.

“I didn’t hurt you?”

“Been a while is all. You were far gentler than most of my past conquests.” She smiled crookedly. “Go get cleaned up.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He obediently left the bed, taking a minute to get his balance back. There was a strange tingle in his muscles, a looseness he wasn’t fond of. She chuckled and came after him.

“Well, well, a good round of sex can apparently bring the mighty Sherlock Holmes to his knees.”

“Oh, don’t sound so bloody pleased with yourself.”

“Worth it, though?” She got a flannel wet and gave it to him after he had disposed of the condom properly, taking one for herself. She apparently had no qualms about cleaning up in front of her partners, but that didn’t surprise him for some reason. She wasn’t shy of her nakedness, but she didn’t have to be.

“Ugh.” She made a disdainful noise.

“What?”

“Middle-age has not been kind to me.” She made a face at the mirror. “Guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. I was going to get soft eventually, I suppose.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” he looked over his fiancée’s body, there wasn’t a bit of softness on her out of place. She was hard where she needed to be, soft where she needed to be. She was in absolutely stellar shape, he suspected she had maintained a rather strict exercise regime since coming home, which may or may not have been sidelined when she moved to Baker Street. He coughed a bit, the exertion had been a bit much but nothing he regretted doing. She gave him water and rubbed his shoulder.

“Does that count as physical exertion?”

“Yes it does, but I doubt it’s going to give you any trouble. I assume the doctors told you no smoking for three weeks?”

“Something like that.”

“Do it, your lungs will thank you.” She looked him over, taking his hands in hers. He knew what she was looking for and was touched she was so concerned. But his wellbeing was her primary concern, wasn’t it?

After they were sufficiently cleaned up, it was back to bed. John was warm and didn’t mind touching in her sleep. She welcomed it, in fact. As she fell asleep first, he took the opportunity to study her. He liked doing that, he had noticed. And now, he reflected, he had a chance to do all of the things he had thought about that very morning before she woke up, or at least before she let him know she was awake. After a while, he knew it was better to sleep now than stay awake longer, no doubt Lestrade would be calling early with something for them and he wanted to be on his game for that. Leaning over to kiss John on the cheek, which didn’t wake her but did make her twitch in her sleep, he rolled so his back was to her and got comfortable. And just like last night, he had no trouble falling asleep. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be any nightmares this time. 

-^-

There were no nightmares for either of them that night, thankfully, and he was awake decently early, pulled from sleep by two things. One, the bed was empty, so John was awake before him this morning. Two, he smelled coffee and bacon, which meant she was cooking breakfast. His clock told him it was barely seven, which was almost stupidly early for anyone, but then he remembered that John had a job, and training. But…wasn’t she working Swing Shifts right now? Or was it whatever they gave her? Hmm. Yawning, Sherlock rolled out of bed and found a pair of pyjama bottoms to wear, seeing no need for anything more than that right now. Making a stop in the loo, he shuffled out to the kitchen and found John at the cook-top, wearing…surprisingly little. Hearing him, she looked over her shoulder and smiled.

“’Morning, Sunshine! Coffee?”

“Yes, please. I’m not usually awake this early. Why are you up?”

“Shift starts at 7.00. Bill’s picking me up for work every day this week, said it’s easier than me trying to get down there for shift-start.”

“Are you working mornings, then?”

“For now.” She gave him a cup of coffee and he sat down at the table. Half-seven, she had time to eat breakfast, take a fast shower, and be on the kerb when the ambulance arrived. After breakfast, which consisted of fried eggs, bacon, and eggy toast with jam, he offered to do wash-up so she could get ready for work. That turned out to be a good thing, her phone chimed with a text message while she was in the shower. It was from Headquarters, with an update on her work schedule for the week.

“Oh, John.” Sherlock felt sorry for her, but he figured she could handle the change. Yesterday, they were being nice to the new girl. Today? Not so much. Pocketing her phone, he went into the bedroom and found her getting dressed.

“My phone go off?”

“Yep. You’re not going to be very happy about it.” He tossed her the phone and let her look at the messages. She made a face.

“Ugh. I knew they were going to do that! Well, we’ll just see about that. I was supposed to work an eight-hour yesterday and they sent me home at the half-mark.”

“Don’t cross your fingers for six hours.”

“Well, damn.” She sighed and finished buttoning her shirt, shrugging into the long-sleeved jumpsuit that had hung loose around her hips. Sherlock noticed that she was still wearing her ring, and smiled.

“You’re wearing it?”

“Until someone tells me I’m not allowed to.” She took his hand. “Stay in touch, Sherlock.”

“You, too.”

“Of course.” She smiled and he let her go, following her out to the sitting-room, helping her collect the rest of her gear. With her jump-kit over one shoulder, her hi-vis parka over one arm, and her boots in her hand, she headed downstairs. He followed along and held the street-door for her. John sat down on the stoop and put her boots on, lacing them up quick and efficiently.

When the ambulance pulled up five minutes later, lights on, John hopped to her feet and collected her gear. Sherlock handed over the takeaway cup of coffee he’d set aside for her, knowing she was going to need it if she had a twelve-hour shift ahead of her.

“Have a good day. Be safe. Stay in touch.”

“Of course. You, too.” She leaned up on tiptoe and he kissed her goodbye, reluctant to let her go to work, but the city needed her more than he did right now. And this would help her feel useful again. It was a moment’s adjustment as she switched places with Bill to do the day’s driving, and then they were off. He caught her waving, and knew that wherever they were going was a serious call when the sirens went on, breaking the quiet of Baker Street until they were around the corner and gone again. Would he see her today, as he had yesterday? Or would his path not cross with his fiancée’s again for a while until she came home? That remained to be seen. The door of 221A creaked open and Mrs Hudson poked her head out, still half-asleep, as he went upstairs.

“What was that noise, Sherlock?”

“Sorry for the noise, Mrs Hudson. John’s gone to work for the day.”

“Oh. Well, that’s alright, then. What’s she do?”

“She drives an ambulance.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, if you don’t need me, I’m back to bed.”

“No, Mrs Hudson. I’m sorry for the disturbance.” He smiled at his patient landlady and went upstairs while she went back to bed for a little longer. The morning was blissfully quiet until ten when Lestrade came by with a box of cold-case files, an intriguing live case that promised at least a day’s worth of business if not more, and some questions.

“Watson?”

“Gone to work.”

“Right. You don’t mind?”

“No, she needs to be useful and stimulated, and I would much rather have her local driving an ambulance in London than…God knows where doing God knows what.”

“Like…”

“She used to be with MI6, do use your imagination, Lestrade.” He rolled his eyes at his brother-in-law.

“Oh! She was…”

“Apparently, rather good.”

“Well, damn! You got lucky, didn’t you?”

“Perhaps more than I deserve.” He smiled a bit and shrugged into his coat.

“Oh, so how did last night go, then?”

“It went…splendidly.” It really was the only word to describe things from last night.

“That’s not usually a word you use to describe things, must’ve been a damn good night, then.” Lestrade yawned and ruffled slightly-unkempt hair. Sherlock chuckled and held the door for him.

“Mrs Hudson, I’m out! Case on!”

“Be safe, dear!”

“Yes, Mrs Hudson.” He shrugged when Lestrade gave him a look and locked up once they were out of the house.


 

Chapter Text


The case kept them busy well past noon and it was nearly eight in the evening before Lestrade called a break in the action and decided to go look for food. Even Sherlock was hungry, so he went with Lestrade.

“Where are we, anyway?” Lestrade asked as they ducked the tape-line and headed for his car. Sherlock looked around, picking out landmarks from other visits to this part of town.

“Canary Wharf is half a mile south of us. We should be able to find something there.”    

“Well, in that case, I’ll leave my car where it is for now. We can walk, God knows I need the exercise.” A rueful pat to a concealed midsection under three layers of clothing and an overcoat. Sherlock rolled his eyes.

“You are in better shape than I am, Lestrade, and I swear I will put a diuretic in your coffee for three weeks if you say anything about middle age and getting soft.”

“If I didn’t think you were serious.” Lestrade chuckled and patted him on the shoulder, “You’re a good one, Sherlock. What’s around here?”

“There’s a rather good Indian restaurant on Pennyfields, well, two actually.”

“I could do with a good curry. After you.” Lestrade shrugged and he took the lead. It didn’t take long to reach Ravaa, which was acceptably busy for the time of day.

“When did we eat last?”

“Lunch, I think? That was hours ago.”

“No wonder we’re hungry.” Lestrade sighed and ruffled his coat as they joined a short queue. After a day of chasing leads and suspects with minimal breaks, of course they were hungry. The wait wasn’t that long, Sherlock had waited longer than this at this very same location. It was worth it, and he entertained himself (and Lestrade, who kept hushing him) by deducing the patrons.

“Uh oh,” Lestrade muttered at one point. Thinking his brother was involved somehow, Sherlock looked over his shoulder and out the window. No sign of his brother’s cars, but he did notice an ambulance making its slow way up the streets.

“Lights are off. Not here on a call.”

“Damn. God bless that driver, this street’s a tight fit.” Lestrade whistled softly. They watched, intrigued, as the ambulance manoeuvred into a rather tight slot. Whoever was driving knew how to handle a vehicle the size and bulk of a standard ambulance.  “Wanna place a bet on a rookie driver afraid of hitting something?”

“More likely someone familiar with the clearance a vehicle like that requires in narrow streets. That’s not the caution of a first-timer.” Sherlock shook his head.

“Who would drive that slow on a city sub-street?”

“Military, most likely, someone with experience in narrow, unpaved streets with barely the room to manoeuvre, let alone aim a rifle.”

“Jesus. How do you know that?”

“Just a hunch.” He grinned and shrugged, rocking on his heels. A hunch which was about to be proven correct. That was, if he wasn’t mistaken, John’s ambulance. He’d glimpsed the number and was fairly certain it was her. Which meant they were here on the same business. He waited until he saw a glimpse of hi-vis yellow and patted Lestrade on the arm. “Get a table for four, will you? We’re going to have company.”

“Sure. Shouldn’t be a problem. Where are you going?”

“Just out for a moment. I really will be right back in.” He promised, stepping out in time to intercept John and Bill, who had already spotted him. She looked absolutely exhausted but exhilarated. It had been a good day, then?

“Hey, handsome stranger! Thought that was you I spotted in the window.” She had no problem hugging him, and he had no problem accepting the intimacy. “What on earth are you doing in this part of town?”

“Case. What are you doing in this part of town?”

“Call. Just made a drop at Royal London and came back this way to get food at end of shift.”

“You worked all twelve hours?”

“Every. Single. Fucking. Hour.” She leaned against him with a soft groan, “Why did I sign up for this job?”

“Because you wanted to. It keeps you busy when I can’t.”

“Oh. But...why?”

“Introspection later. Food now. Come on, kids, there’s a table with our name on it.” Bill passed them and went to catch up with Lestrade and a hostess.

“Food sounds amazing, Indian smells amazing. I’m starving.” John muttered as he took her inside. “I will sleep like the dead tonight, just to let you know.”

“Okay.” He just smiled and put his arm around her shoulders. Once inside, she took off her ball-cap and unzipped her parka. The hostess showed them a table with enough room for the four of them, John claimed a bench seat, tossing her gear aside as she collapsed. Sherlock kept her head from hitting the table with more than a muffled thud, but he could just tell she was exhausted.

“Damn, Watson. Are you okay?” Lestrade eyed her up warily.

“Twelve. Bloody. Hours. One uniform change. One meal-break, well, half of one. My body hates me right now. I haven’t been on my feet this much in six months!”

“Jesus.”

“Took it like a champ, she did. Kept going, no matter what. That one drives like a pro, knows what she’s doing and how to steer in just about anything.” Bill said cheerfully.

“Oh. Right. First.” Sherlock looked at the pair of older men sitting across from him and John, “Bill MacLeod, Greg Lestrade. Lestrade is with The Met. Lestrade, this is Bill. He drove ambulances when I was in my twenties and now he’s keeping the young drivers out of trouble.”

“Oh, pleased.” Lestrade shook hands with Bill. “Do I want to know how you know Sherlock?”

“How do any of us know him?”

“I can think of a few things. Bless you for it, whatever it was.”

“Hell of a story, Inspector.”

“Must be, knowing him.”

“Oi!”

“Oh, leave him alone, Greg,” John mumbled, half-asleep. “I need cold beer, hot food, and when I get home, a hot shower and...lots of sleep.”

“You’re on a twelver again tomorrow, love.” Bill said, “Night shift.”

“Oh, so I can sleep in?”

“You can sleep in. I’ll come get you like I did today.”

“Oh, perfect. That’s perfect.”

“How does that shift-system work, though? I thought it was consecutive twelve- or eight-hour shifts?” Lestrade picked up the glass of water at his place and took a sip.

“I’m senior in the corps, command my own hours and the ability to pick my own partners. I usually pick up the rookies, give ‘em a taste of things my way. Most of ‘em don’t last long and go to someone else. I work twelvers alternate, one work-day is a day shift and the next one’s a night shift. I work my rookies hard.”

“No kidding!” John gave him a dirty look, “You’re lucky I’m good at taking orders!”

“It’s in your nature, lass, you’re a soldier!”

“He’s already picking on you?”

“He’s been picking on me all day.”

“That’s a good sign.” Sherlock leaned over and kissed her on the temple, “Sit up, you’ll fall asleep doing that.”

“Sorry.” She yawned and sat up as a server appeared and took their order. Bill ordered a round of beer, Greg ordered appetizers, they were all relatively starving at this rate so entrees were ordered as well. And John entertained herself singing in quiet harmony with the overhead music, messing with Sherlock’s hand under the table, just running her fingertips over his, occasionally rubbing along his palm or the back of his hand. She was a cuddly little thing after a long day, even in public. There had been a time in his life where none of this would have been okay with Sherlock, but he couldn’t bring himself to care what anyone thought of this. John wore gloves as part of her uniform, but he would be an idiot of high order if he didn’t think Bill had seen and gotten the story on John’s ring, which shimmered in the lighting of the restaurant.

“I missed you.” She said softly as he lifted her hand after turning his over to link their fingers together, “Kept thinking about you.”

“You did get my texts, I know you did.”

“Loved getting your texts.” She yawned a bit, “Nice of you to keep me involved even when I can’t be there.”

“I don’t know many people who would be able to receive a thread of crime-scene photographs of graphic nature and solve it from the other side of London in five minutes without asking half a dozen questions before getting anything useful done.”

“I asked more than that many questions.”

“But they weren’t stupid questions.” He corrected. John did ask a lot of questions, but they were good, decent questions that steered the conversation, and the case, in the right direction.

“Are you being nice to someone, Sherlock?”

“Yes. I can be nice.” He looked at Lestrade, who was intrigued and puzzled by the behaviour he was observing. Bill had been with John all day, he probably knew the whole story, excepting a few details John wouldn’t divulge on her deathbed, and just smiled all pleased with himself. He wouldn’t out them, he knew it wasn’t his place. The server brought their drinks and appetizers and left after ensuring they didn’t need anything else. No, they were alright for now.

Their food came in good time and it was quiet as they ate. John seemed content to be as close as was socially acceptable and then some, nearly always touching somehow, stealing bits of food from his plate and sips of his drink but freely offering her own for the same from him. What the other two thought was anyone’s guess, but he suspected Bill was just enjoying himself watching the two of them. Sherlock found himself fiddling with John’s ring, a bit sorry he hadn’t been able to go for something a little nicer, but she didn’t care about cost or showiness, it was the last-minute sentiment that she enjoyed.

-^-

It was quite late when they finally left the restaurant, and John was half-asleep standing up. Sherlock was not above carrying her if he had to, despite knowing damn well she did not like being picked up and carried if she could walk on her own. As they bundled up on the street, prepared to part ways with Lestrade and Bill, who had to return the ambulance to Headquarters for tomorrow, he gave John her cap and gloves once she had zipped up her parka. She returned a favour and fluffed his scarf up a bit, tugging on the lapels of his coat as he pulled on his own gloves.

“Anyone didn’t know better might think you’re established, the way you two act.” Lestrade mused, locating his keys and checking his phone.

“Is that a problem?”

“No, it’s kind of cute. People don’t touch him, no one touches the coat.”

“Well, I’m not hurting him, I’m not taking anything from him, and he knows that. If I do take something, I’ve got a damn good reason to.” John finished what she was doing, going as far to fold the collar of his coat up the way he usually wore it, which proved her observant nature if she already knew the way he generally wore his coat in the first place.

“Well, I don’t know about you three, but I’ve gotta get the bus back to Headquarters for tomorrow and get home, so I’ll see you later.” Bill was looking at his watch, “John, I’ll call when I’m on my way. Dispatch will probably give you a heads-up as well.”

“Thanks, Bill. See you tomorrow.” John and Sherlock shook hands with Bill, who insisted on more than that and went for a hug before setting off on his way.

“You take care of yourselves, you mad things. Keep me informed of things as they develop, will you?”

“Of course we will,” John promised. Bill waved as he set off again.

“I think I know what the answer’s going to be, but can I give you two a ride back to Baker Street?” Lestrade rattled his keys in his pocket, “I’m heading that way myself and I’d be happy to drop you off.”

“I’m fine with whatever, I just want to go home.” John yawned, leaning against Sherlock with both arms around him like she had the other night at the club. “I have to be up for work again in twenty hours.”

“Come on, then, I’ll do the driving this time.” Lestrade just smiled. John got about a block before Sherlock just gave up watching her shuffle and picked her up. She grunted and made some half-hearted objection, but he just shouldered her jump-kit and held her like he had last night.

“You’ll trip on flat, level pavement at this rate, John. I can carry you.”

“Well, if you insist.” She got comfortable, “Don’t really mind if you don’t.”

“As I recall, you told me you don’t like being picked up.”

“By most people.” She sighed, leaning her head against his shoulder, “Don’t mind so much if you’re the one doing the lifting. Thought I’d be too heavy for you.”

“You are no such thing, dear.” He scolded his sleepy, affectionate fiancée.

“Need a hand, Sherlock?” Greg asked, smiling at the two of them.

“No thank you, Lestrade. I can manage.”

“If you say so, son.” The DI just chuckled and led the way back to where they had left his car. It was a bit of a walk, but Sherlock had no problem carrying John. He would carry her from one end of London to the other, carry her as far as he must if the situation called for it. Getting to Lestrade’s car, he set her in the back seat, making sure she wouldn’t fall off the bench or wake up once they got underway, and took the front seat with Lestrade, who wisely said nothing but smiled like he knew something. Which he did. There was no sense denying he knew something.

“Think she’ll sleep all the way back to Baker Street?” Lestrade whispered as they got underway. Sherlock looked into the back seat where his fiancée slept.

“Most likely. Considering how tired she was? I may have to carry her upstairs.”

“For some reason, I don’t think you really mind.” Lestrade smiled at him, “You know, Sherlock, you’re not the same person you were two years ago. You changed.”

“I had to. What I saw, what I did? I never want to experience anything like that again.” Sherlock looked out the window, feeling that ache in his gut that hit him every time he remembered his time away, the awful things he had seen, done, and experienced.

“But it’s done? It’s all over?”

“Short of Moriarty legitimately rising from the dead, yes.”

“That would be interesting. Are we sure he’s actually dead?” Lestrade had right to be concerned, and it was a concern Sherlock had struggled with for a year and a half.

“Yes. I saw the autopsy photos myself.”

“Who killed him? How did he die?” Lestrade’s grip tightened on the steering wheel. Sherlock reached over and loosened his fingers a bit, glancing over his shoulder.

“She’s in the backseat.”

“John?”

“Took a job for my brother, apparently, after it came to light that I was not the only one to survive that day. He was in far worse shape than I was, had gone into hiding after the incident. But John hunted him down and put an end to him six months before I found out. And I only found out after coming back on-grid after a deep-cover mission.” He rubbed the back of his hand. “It was one of the first things my brother told me after they pulled me from Serbia. Well, after she pulled me from Serbia.”

“John pulled you out of Serbia?”

“Yes, and at least two other missions I required emergency extraction from. But I never knew it was her, that she had anything to do with it.”

“Oh, Sherlock.” Lestrade looked a little heartbroken at that. “I didn’t know she had so much to do with your work regarding Moriarty.”

“Neither did I, until after the fact.” He tapped his knuckles against the window, “I’m taking her to Heathfield at Christmas to meet Mummy and Dad, I figure that gives us both enough time to settle into our lives together before I introduce her to the rest of the family.” Sherlock looked over at John, who slept on apparently unaware, and sighed. “Do you think they’ll like her?”

“Considering they know John, and know all about her? Absolutely.” Lestrade smiled. “Don’t you remember how upset Mummy was with you when she saw all of those pictures and then you admitted that you hadn’t seen or spoken to her ever again and didn’t plan to?”

“I thought she would buy me a one-way ticket to Kabul and put me on the plane herself.” He chuckled, remembering how truly unhappy his mother had been to realize that the rather handsome girl in all of her son’s photographs was a stranger he had met once by chance and had no intention of pursuing by letter or otherwise.

But, unbeknownst to anyone else in the family, or even to John, Sherlock had a small, carefully-cultivated collection of letters and postcards addressed to a Scott Williams, delivered to a Post Office box very much like the one he had the reward cheques sent to. In fact, it was the same box. So, really, he had kept in touch with her, she just didn’t know it.

“Now what are you smiling about?” Lestrade had noticed his smile.

“I may have just managed to fool one of the smartest people I know who wasn’t family.”

“What did you do?” A suspicious slant to his eyes. No wonder, he was notorious for making a mess of things if he wasn’t cautious.

“He wrote me letters under an alias.”

“How...?” Lestrade looked into the backseat, stunned to hear John’s sleepy voice. Sherlock just smiled bigger. “You were asleep!”

“Was not. And yes, you big idiot, I did know it was you.”

“Mind-reader.”

“Whatever.”

“How...?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Shh.”

“Oh my god.” Lestrade breathed, eyes wide, expression absolutely priceless. “Where did you find her?”

“Maiwand, Afghanistan, 2007. July of that year.”

“It was March.” John piped in without missing a beat, sharp as a tack even half-asleep.

“Are you sure? I thought I was there in the summer.” Really all he remembered was being hot and miserable until John took his attention away from the awful things and treated him like he mattered.

“It was March. I remember because my birthday was that day.”

“Oh. Of course. 31 March 1971. You were nearly an April Fool’s baby.”

“Depends on which birth-certificate you look at.” Which was also very true. And Sherlock had seen both. “No wonder Harry hated me. I was quite literally a joke to her.”

“John, don’t do that to yourself.”

“What now?”

“At least Mycroft and I are on speaking terms with each other.”

“Oh.” Not the answer he wanted, but it was all he would get for now. “Sibling?”

“Older sister.”

“Oh.” A quick look into the backseat, but nothing further was said. John was quiet the rest of the drive and when they got to Baker Street, she had truly fallen asleep in the backseat, so Sherlock did end up carrying her inside. Lestrade helped him by getting the doors, but didn’t stay. He didn’t need to, and it was well past time for him to be home with his husband.

“See you on the next call, Sherlock?”

“Of course. I may or may not have John with me.”

“Works for me. Have a good night.”

He saw Lestrade to the street and quietly locked up as soon as his brother-in-law was gone. Going back upstairs, he shut down the flat and joined John in the back bedroom. He took care not to make noise, knowing she needed her sleep, and was careful getting into bed. As with the night before, he slept exceptionally well. One nightmare woke him, but not as violently and he didn’t seem to wake John in turn. It took a while to get back to sleep, but he finally did.


 

Chapter Text


It was well past any reasonable hour by the time either Sherlock or John surfaced the next morning, and they discovered that Mrs Hudson had been in. She had left tea and biscuits for them on the kitchen table with a note that she had already seen Mycroft and Lestrade, who had subsequently left messages, and was happy to turn away any further callers if they’d like her to. Mycroft could wait, but Lestrade had a case for them. So, after tea, they got dressed for their day. John, he noticed, got dressed in her work uniform, putting her parka and jumpsuit in her jump-kit for later. At this rate, it was very likely she would be going straight from a crime-scene to her job, which meant calling Bill to tell him where to get her from. That was fine.  Hailing a taxi, they went to rendezvous with Lestrade at the scene.

The case was an exciting one, and John proved herself rather good at running down suspects, which he had thought she might be but seeing it in person was something unexpectedly gratifying. Considering the suspect was quite a bit larger than she, and she had him on the ground before Sherlock could shout a warning as he came at her from the side, trying to catch his fiancée off-guard. But John simply turned her body a certain way, reached out with both hands, and the next thing Sherlock saw was the suspect going arse-over-teakettle as John deftly flipped him to the ground over her shoulder and then proceeded to sit on him until someone could give her a pair of handcuffs, holding his arms tight against his back and keeping her knee in his spine, her weight distributed just so.

“Don’t fight me, I’ll break your arm to prove a point.” She snarled at the suspect, who whimpered and stopped struggling as hard.

“You alright, John?” Sherlock gave her the pair of handcuffs he kept on him, “He didn’t get you, did he?”

“Nope, I’m fine. Winded, but fine. You, stop it.” This was to the suspect, who gave a token struggle, “What did I tell you just now?”

“You know, innocent men don’t usually flee from the police when we try to ask you questions, Mr Harper.” Sherlock tugged on the cuff of his coat, eyeing up the suspect squirming under John’s weight, “And I really would suggest you stop struggling, or my partner will be more than happy to make her point and carry out her threat. Do you suppose a call for an ambulance would get us yours, love?”

“Maybe. I’d laugh if they dispatched my bus to get this sorry piece of work.” She flashed him a grin. The suspect gave another struggle and she turned her attention back to him.

“Would you stop, Jefferey Harper, I swear to God I will knock sense into that thick skull of yours once and for all if you don’t!” And just like that, the suspect froze absolutely still and even Sherlock paused. He heard sirens behind them and raised an eyebrow, folding his arms across his chest. The suspect, on the other hand, turned his head a bit, eyes wide.

“Shit.” He breathed, a puff of dust stirring under his cheek, “You’re kidding me. Bennett? Lilith Bennett? Jesus Christ!”

“Don’t go by that name anymore, Harper, haven’t since I was eighteen.” John shifted her weight a bit, “But who else do you know could ever own your sorry arse in a fight fair or not?”

“Well, shit. You run for The Met now or what?”                                                       

“Part-time, when we get something that tickles our fancy or they need us to run down sorry bastards like you. What were you doing in this part of town anyway, Jeff?” John climbed off the suspect and rolled him, sitting him up, “I don’t get the impression you’re the man we want.”

“God, I hope not! Who were you looking for?” Their maybe-suspect blinked up at John and Sherlock, “Not me?”

“Know this bloke?” Sherlock held out a photograph of the suspect, who really did look an awful lot like the man John had put over her shoulder. And apparently knew from a long time ago. He knew her old name. He squinted at the picture and then looked up at Sherlock.

“Yeah, that’s my brother.”

“Tommy?!” John grabbed the photograph from Sherlock, “Oh, shit, that is Tommy! Jeff, where is your brother?”

“Stopped at my place last night, asked for money and a place to stay for a night. I think he was trying to get a train out of here.”

“Shit.” John looked over her shoulder as Lestrade came up behind them, “Greg, we have a problem!”

“Great, what now?”

“Put out this photograph to every single major rail-station in London and look for him on CCTV footage, he’s probably long gone by now. Jeff, did he use card or cash?”

“Don’t know. All I know is the fucker wiped me out last night. Wallet was stolen.”

“Which is how we got your name.” Sherlock frowned, “Your brother stole someone else’s wallet, but your ID was dropped at the scene.”

“Oh, you have to be kidding me! We went after the wrong guy?” Lestrade did not look happy, but Sherlock didn’t blame him. Thomas Harper was a wanted man for multiple counts of burglary, assault, and at least one count of murder. “Did you have anything to do with Thomas Harper’s activities in the past two weeks?”

“No, sir, I did not. I just gave him a place to stay last night. Is that harbouring a fugitive?”

“Did he threaten you?”

“Yes, sir, he did. Said he’d kill me if I asked questions. Wasn’t right in the head, man. Covered in blood, too. Pitched his clothes, but...I saved ‘em.”

“Greg, get warrants for Jeff’s house. If Tommy was there, he’ll have left traces behind.” John was thinking on her feet, “His clothes are still there, and there will be other evidence.”

“Do whatever you want! You can go into the house if you want! I didn’t know what he was doing, I just did what he told me!” Jefferey Harper shook his head, “I’ll talk if you want me to!”

“Yeah, I’ve got some questions.”

“Can I get a lawyer? I want to talk to you, but...”

“Sure. But don’t back out on me, son, or I’ll turn you into Prime Suspect #1 on charges of harbouring and aiding a wanted fugitive.” Lestrade gave Harper a sharp look as a couple of constables got him up and off to the car. “Take him to Holding, lads.”

“Yes, sir.” The pair nodded and got Harper on his way. Once the car was away, Sherlock turned to John, who was brushing off her uniform.

“He knew you.”

“Who? Jeff?” She raised her head a bit.

“Yes. He knew your name.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t expecting that.” She tugged on the Velcro strap of her glove with her teeth. “Not every day some bloke I just ran half a mile spits out my old name when I tell him to shut up and stop fighting me.”

“But you knew who he was first. You knew his name right away.”

“I knew when he came at me, I saw his face and made him.” John looked at him, “Jeff Harper was the only boy brave enough to charge at me from the side for a tackle, but I always put him over like that, even when we were kids. We grew up together. Went to school together until uni. He was a good friend of mine, but his brother Tommy always struck me as...not quite right.” 

“That’s...interesting.”

“I wasn’t expecting to run into him, at all. But if Tommy’s the one behind this last string of calls and the murder, I can’t say I’m surprised.” She made a face, “I always said he’d get into trouble doing something stupid.”

“Watching you take him down like that was...thrilling.”

“You know I could take you down just as easy if I wanted to.”

“Oh, I know you could.” He smiled, not in any big hurry to let her go. He brushed a streak of dirt from her face, not really noticing he’d done it as she stilled, it was just instinct.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“Case?”

“I know.”

“Audience?”

“Don’t care.” He really didn’t.

“Did I really get you that good?”

“Yes, you did. Is that a problem?”

“Might...just. Wow.” That last was a soft exhale against his lips as he tried shutting her up with a kiss.

“Do shut up, Watson.” He scolded, not meaning any of it.

“Yeah, sure.” She blinked, “Happy to.” Behind them, Lestrade just rolled his eyes and said something inappropriate. John politely flipped him off, a silent “fuck off” since she couldn’t say it out loud.

“Watson. That’s not very nice.” He chuckled, pulling back a bit.

“He started it.” She pouted. Sherlock smiled and tucked a piece of hair out of her face.

“Can I take you home, please?”

“What’s in it for me?”

“Oh, plenty.” He just gave her a sly smile. It was just three, if he got her back to Baker Street, that would give him almost four hours before she had to go to work.

“You two get lost before I have to write you a citation.” Lestrade admonished, smiling too much to be completely serious. John shrugged and he took her hand. Collecting her jump-kit from where she had tossed it aside to take down Jefferey Harper, they said goodbye to Lestrade and went in search of a taxi. It was a quiet ride back to Baker Street once they managed to get a cab, and when they got home, he paid the fare and let John into the house. She went upstairs, shedding her uniform as she went. He collected her clothes and shook them out before putting them aside. As the shower ran, he just smiled. She took a quick shower, came out in a towel, and kissed him on the cheek.

“I’m taking a nap. Join me if you want.”

“You need sleep more than I do.” He just smiled at her and watched her go back to the bedroom, “Do you need an alarm set, John?”

“My phone should go off around 6.45, that will give me enough time to get ready.”

“Sleep well, dear.” He heard the door close and went back to working on the experiment currently running.


 

Chapter Text


Life settled into a routine for Sherlock and John, she would work whatever hours Bill MacLeod had on his schedule, pitching in on cases while she was at work over text, going live on cases during her time off, and a strange kind of domesticity took over Baker Street. Sherlock started sleeping regular hours, usually whenever John slept, they both tried to maintain a healthy-ish diet, and planned out Christmas when it came upon them. John insisted on a small tree and dragged up a couple of boxes of long-disused Christmas ornaments from 221C.

Over the course of an afternoon or two, she turned 221B into a properly cheerful place with strands of garland and tinsel and fairy-lights hung up on the mantle and draped around the tree, which housed a strange collection of ornaments. Glass balls in different colours, multicoloured fairy-lights, and silver tinsel. John discovered a pilfered roll of blue-and-white Police Line tape in the bottom of one box and the next thing Sherlock was aware, their tree was hung with glass balls, plastic icicles, silver tinsel, multi-coloured lights, and crime-scene tape. And on top was a lopsided, glitter-shedding craft-stick star that dusted the tree and passersby with red and green glitter if you so much as looked at the bloody thing. It was, by far, the strangest tree Sherlock had ever seen and the first time he saw it, all he could do was stare at it.

“John?” He called out, she was somewhere else in the flat at the moment.

“Yeah?” Ah, bedroom. Either coming or going from work? Coming, if he was lucky. Well, no matter that. What was that thing?

“Could you...come here?”

“Yeah, what’s up?” She popped her head out from the hallway, “Where have you been?”

“At Saint Bart’s with Molly. What is that?” He pointed at the bizarre monstrosity in the sitting-room. Not that it was all that large, but...what on earth?

“That’s our Christmas tree!” She just smiled at him, “Do you like it?”

“Is this...crime-scene tape?”He took hold of a ribbon of the familiar plastic tape.

“Yep! Found a whole roll of it in the bottom of one of those boxes I dragged up from the basement and figured, why the hell not use it for something? So I used it to decorate the tree! What do you think of it?”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a tree like it before.” He didn’t hate it, but it was certainly not what he’d expected to find when he’d given her permission to decorate the flat for Christmas.

“Well, I like it!”

“You’re allowed to, expected to even. But...what an unusual tree.”

“Are we at all what might be considered “usual” or “normal” around here, Sherlock?” She folded her arms and looked up at him, somehow adorable and threatening all at once, as if daring him to say a single bad thing about her impressive efforts to decorate the flat for Christmas.

“I suppose not, but our decor might raise some eyebrows among the unsuspecting.”

“That’s their problem, not mine. By the way, did you see Billy Skull’s hat?”

“I noticed.” Billy Skull was wearing a red-and-white Santa hat, which did make him smile a bit more. John’s Christmases were few to speak well of, so he appreciated her trying to make memories she didn’t mind remembering.

“Oh, by the way, we’re expected at your parents’ by 3.00 tomorrow. So don’t make any plans.” She headed back through the kitchen after a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Did Mycroft say something?”

“No!” She yelled back from the bedroom as he shed his coat and scarf, hanging everything to dry. It was warm in the flat but he noticed the fire had died down, so he went to fix that.

“Your Mum called while I was asleep! Scared the life out of me because I didn’t know who it was!”

“She called...you?” He could only imagine how his mother had gotten John Watson’s phone-number, “What did you say to her?”

“I didn’t tell her anything, and I don’t think they know, so we can still surprise them, but she wanted to make sure we were actually coming.” John emerged again shortly wearing denims and a faded regimental tee-shirt, she had disappeared wearing quite a bit less than that, which meant he’d woken her up when he got home. He felt bad for that, but he was just glad Bill had given her three days off.

“I promised I would drag you there in handcuffs if I had to steal them from Lestrade. I’ve never met this woman, you do realize that?”

“I am so sorry. My mother can be a little...overwhelming.” Sherlock dropped his jacket over the back of his chair and rolled his sleeves back as he sat down. John was busy pulling her hair up into a messy updo, but she caught him watching and gave him that sly little smile of hers he’d seen a lot of in the two months they had lived together. He just smiled back, he had to.

It was hard to believe it had been two full months since he and John had been reunited at Saint Bart’s, moved in together, and gotten engaged. In that time, they had begun collecting the necessary papers and documents to file notice of marriage and had at least started planning out what they wanted for a wedding. Nothing too big, they really didn’t know that many people between them they wanted to invite, small and simple, and if at all possible, a-religious. John had been raised Catholic, Sherlock had been raised in the Church of England, and neither of them was particularly religious in adulthood for various and similar reasons. John was a soldier and had seen too many awful things done in the name of a religious figurehead to really believe in anything concrete, but she was a spiritual and believed in something greater than all of them. Sherlock, on the other hand, was a scientist at heart and had no room to believe in a god-figure conjured out of desperation to bring order to chaos. There were other ways to do that, you didn’t need a mysterious big-bad waiting to smite the unwary to knock sense into people’s heads. They had discussed dates, they were looking at some time in January or February, and planned to file notice right after Christmas. Everything else was submitted and ready to go, they just had to give the date. That required a conversation with his parents, so that was one thing to get off the list while they were in Sussex.

“Hey, you. Get out of that head of yours, I need you here.” Her voice was soft in his ear and he turned his head. She had come up behind him and leaned over the back of his chair, arms folded across his shoulders, head down next to his.

“Hi.”

“What?”

“Nothing.” She smiled and leaned in, touching noses with him, she liked doing that, “We have company coming soon, don’t go wandering off on me, alright?”

“Oh. The party.”

“Yes, the party. Can you be nice to everyone for a few hours?”

“I can...try?”

“I invited Anderson, you know.”

“Yes, and that’s fine. I don’t mind Anderson, he’s alright.” Sherlock rolled his eyes at the mildly scolding tone he heard in her voice. One thing John was good for was making sure Sherlock was nice to people he might otherwise be rude to, and it had saved him some trouble on more than one occasion. Even if he didn’t mean it, it did make a bit of difference interacting with people.

“Fine. Did Molly say if she was coming?”

“She did. She wanted to know if she was allowed to bring a plus-one.” He leaned his head back and looked at John, reaching out to touch whatever he could reach from here. “I told her that was fine, and I didn’t think you would mind.”

“No. And considering I haven’t met her girlfriend, I’m kind of curious to know who she found.” That was all they knew about Molly’s mystery partner, but it was enough. Whoever it was, they made Molly very happy and absolutely spoiled her rotten. Sherlock had visited Molly’s office on several occasions and found her desk adorned with beautiful if slightly extravagant flower arrangements delivered for her from her partner, and she was more self-confident, content to tell him off if and when the occasion called for it. But she and John were good friends, so he saw her on occasion at Pub Nights when those two put their heads together with Donovan and Stella Hopkins, whose brother was dating Anderson. There was a bizarre dynamic Sherlock had never seen coming. It would explain a few things about Anderson, but not everything. And having a girlfriend had made Donovan less inclined to pick on Sherlock. He didn’t know why, but he certainly didn’t mind. And Stella Hopkins was very smart, so he could see a long, promising career with The Met for her. She liked the work and didn’t mind Sherlock.

“You and me alike, my dear. You’re not wearing this to the party, are you?” He tugged on her tee-shirt, a faded regimental tee-shirt for the Royal Army Medical Corps. She rolled her eyes at him and leaned over, kissing him from a slightly upside-down position. She called it Spiderman kissing, and he had never bothered with why she called it something so ridiculous but he didn’t mind it.

“No, I am not wearing this to the party, thank you, good sir. Brat.” She tugged on his hair, “You know better, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Do I?” He just had to, he couldn’t help himself. Her eyes narrowed and he just grinned at her.

“Oh, you’re a menace.”

“You’re the one who said yes, dear.”

“Oh, stop it. Enough out of you.” She rolled her eyes and pushed back.  “I’m going to take a shower and get ready, then it’s your turn. Mycroft and Greg are coming at 6.00.”

“I have to be nice to my brother, don’t I?” He made a face, of course they were coming. John had personally invited them both and then hounded his brother until he agreed to come to the small Christmas party she was throwing for friends. It was apparently a small but sizeable group of people that had said yes, they would come to a party for Christmas Eve.

“Yes you do!”

“Oh, very well.” He watched her go, not missing how she pulled the tee-shirt over her head as she walked through the kitchen. Oh, naughty.

“John?”

“I never said you had to wait your turn, but they are coming at 6.00.”

“Oh, you’re terrible.” He chuckled and shoved to his feet, picking up his jacket. Making sure both doors were locked, he didn’t want any interruptions until five-til, thank you very much, Sherlock followed his fiancée into the bedroom. Along the way, he unbuttoned his shirt a bit. She was so picky about that and insisted on doing it herself nearly every time. Tossing his jacket aside a bit recklessly, he went for the button and flies of her denims while she took care of his shirt and trousers. Oh, she was a bad girl! His bad girl, to be precise.

“Oh, John Watson.”

“Yes, Sherlock Holmes?” She just smiled at him with that wicked little grin of hers and he finished removing what few articles of clothing she was actually wearing. Kicking out of his trousers and pants, he picked her up. She squealed, flailed a bit, and gave him a dirty look when he dumped her on the bed.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that, I’ll make up for the indignation of being thrown into bed.”

“Then get over here!” She scooted back against the headboard, beckoning imperiously with one hand. His captain commanded, he obeyed. Gladly, sir. Chuckling, he joined her in the massive bed that had never once been empty of her presence except on the nights she worked night-shift with Bill. Kneeling over her, he brushed hair out of her face, leaning in to kiss her on the forehead.

“Brat.”

“Your brat, Captain?”

“You’d better be. I don’t like sharing.” She ran her fingertips along his flanks, making a satisfied sound into a kiss as she tracked over his ribcage. He knew why she was so pleased, and it was all thanks to her. Pulling back, she smiled at him.

“You’re putting on weight.”

“That’s generally what happens when one eats and takes care of themselves.”

“Just because you’re skinny as a rail doesn’t mean you actually have to look like one. You look healthy now.”

“So do you, love.” He pointed out, tapping the bridge of her nose, making her go cross-eyed. When they had met, neither of them had been in a very good place in their lives. But two months had brought so many positive changes. Spontaneously proposing to John had been one of the smartest things he’d ever done and he had zero regrets about any of it. She had brought focus and guidance to his life that had been lacking for far too long, and he had given her work and direction in her own life. Her job provided extra income, it was a job she was good at and enjoyed doing, and she was still available for casework if he needed her. He couldn’t have asked for more than that. He was glad to have someone to talk to at night, to bounce ideas off of, to...be with. Having people around you was so very important, he had learned that during his time away, and had made his best to keep his close friends closer. And now he was looking forward to getting married in the New Year. That was never something he had seen for himself.

“John?”

“I know, you idiot. You love me.”

“Yes, I know you know. Can I still say it?”

“Yes, you can still say it.”

“I love you.”

“Sherlock Holmes is a great big sap.” She smiled and leaned up to kiss him, “My great big sap. And I won’t tell anyone, reputation is all a man has.”

“Don’t I know that.” He rolled his eyes at her. It was true, though, and he did know how fast reputation could ruin a man. No thanks to James Moriarty, the silver-tongued devil. But John had taken care of that problem for him, so he had no worries about that anymore.

“Come on, you, out of your head.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He smiled and leaned down to kiss her, which led to other, more interesting things. As it usually did when they had a few minutes to themselves and either one of them was in a proper mood.

Forty-five minutes later, they were showered and dressed and it was only if you were familiar with their habits that you would have known they’d shagged. John wore the same denims from before, and a red sweater that was somehow showy but stylish, a mock turtleneck sweater with sheer lace sleeves and a peplum hem that flattered his fiancée’s frame perfectly. But instead of trainers or some other footwear, she was wearing a pair of desert boots. That made him smile. Sherlock had settled on an outfit similar to the one he’d worn that night two months ago, minus the jacket and tie, with a white shirt instead of John’s favoured purple one. Stylish yet casual and very much his taste, with a bit of John’s flair thrown in for good measure. She liked him in waistcoats and had said so on more than one occasion, so he switched between suit-jackets and waistcoats at home and in the field. And he did not look a thing like his brother, either, so there was that.


 

Chapter Text


As John had predicted, Mycroft and Lestrade were the first of their guests to arrive, and Sherlock was polite with his brother. It was the least he could do for John’s effort to celebrate a holiday none of them really cared for much as adults. He had known that John’s taste in Christmas decorations would raise a few eyebrows, and he was not disappointed. He took their coats and went back to the bedroom, and as he did, he heard Lestrade’s exclamation as he figured out what it was on their tree.

“John! Don’t tell me that you put crime-scene tape on your Christmas tree!”

“Found a roll in one of the boxes I pulled up from the basement, couldn’t help myself. Do you like it?”

“Y’know, I really actually do? It’s a novel use for it, I do like it! That’s really quite clever!”

After setting the coats down, Sherlock went back through the kitchen, taking a couple of glasses from his brother.

“So, John and Gregory seem to get along rather marvellously, don’t they?” His brother whispered, indicating the pair in the sitting-room.

“They have from the beginning.”

“How did she win him over, then?” An eyebrow went up, and Sherlock smiled into his mulled wine. Mrs Hudson must have brought it up earlier and fixed up what promised to be the first of many batches.

“She made friends with Anderson, of all people.”

“Oh, she did? Aren’t they coming?”

“We invited them.” He shrugged, “Turns out Anderson and John went to medical school together for several years before their paths went different ways.”

“Oh.” Mycroft made a noise of understanding, even if he didn’t quite.

“Hey! Boys! No hiding in the kitchen!” John’s voice cracked across their conversation like a commander barking orders on a battle-field, and Sherlock was not ashamed to jump in alarm. Mycroft did likewise, which was amusing in its own way.

“We’d better go, she really does not like it when I hide out and we have company.”

“But the only company we have is ourselves. What is she worried about?”

“What do you think?” He just raised an eyebrow at his brother and took two of the glasses, his and a second for John. Going out to the sitting-room, he leaned over the back of John’s chair, where she had predictably settled.

“I heard you in there, y’know. Think you’re being a pair of proper sneaky squirrels, are you?” She took the offered glass and gave him a look he had become rather familiar with in the past two months, “You know my rules, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Ooh, boy, she’s got you right where she wants you, don’t she?” Lestrade chuckled, taking his glass from Mycroft, “Boy, she got you right into shape, didn’t she? Good for you, Jen!”

“I’m as good at giving orders as I am at taking them, Greg, and this one’s not quite stupid.”

“Oh, thanks.” He rolled his eyes, “A real charmer you are, Watson!”

“Hey, I said yes, didn’t I?” She snapped back at him, not meaning a word of it.

“Sorry? Said yes to…what?” Lestrade and his brother traded a genuinely confused look, and Sherlock looked at John again. There was no way. Not this long after the fact. Absolutely not. His ever-observant brother, the man who ran the bloody country behind their backs, not Mycroft Holmes. No.

“You’re kidding me.”

“Did we…miss something?”

“We must’ve, the question is, what? They’re looking at us like we’ve grown another two heads apiece.”

“Hang on?” John kicked into a more upright position, having been sitting practically sideways in her chair, “Hang on a minute! You cannot sit there and tell me you still don’t know!”

“Know what! You two don’t even look guilty, you look horrified!” Lestrade looked from John to Sherlock, “What on earth did you do?”

“And how did we miss it?”

“Jesus, I got something past the most observant man in the country! That’s a first.” John muttered into her glass and looked up at Sherlock, who leaned against the back of her chair and contemplated the reality that, somehow, through sheer luck, ignorance, or just being very careful about it, which they really hadn’t been, Sherlock and John had managed to keep their engagement a secret from more than just his parents.

“Oh my god, did we actually keep a secret from them?”

“I think so! Should we put them out of their misery before someone else arrives?”

“Like Mrs Hudson? I’m shocked she hasn’t told all and sundry who would listen, you know she told Mrs Turner.”

“Of course she told Mrs Turner, that was the first bloody person she told when she found out! I heard her all the way up in the guest room, for Christ’s sake!”

“Tell us what! Jesus, what are you two up to over there?”

“Sorry, Greg, we’re just…we thought you knew.”

“Knew what?” The DI raised an eyebrow, “Answers, please?”

“Well, I guess that means Mummy doesn’t know, if Mycroft didn’t know.”

“Thank God, but that’s going to make tomorrow very interesting.” John made a face.

“It was going to be news to them regardless, dear.” He leaned over and kissed his fiancée. The only interruption they had was Mrs Hudson coming up with Bill and his wife. Sherlock took their coats, John took the small gift-bag and covered dish they had brought, and directed them to sit while she got drinks, introducing the couple to his brother, Bill already knew Lestrade. Once they were all settled again, it was quiet for a bit, conversation was kept neutral and polite but not forced.

“Um, Watson?” Lestrade finally got up the nerve to say something, after a third glass of wine.

“Hmm?” John gave the DI a slow, slightly-tipsy glance over the rim of her wine-glass.

“Is...sorry if this is an odd question, but...is that a ring? I keep seeing it, but...”

“Yep. You’re not imagining it.” She studied her hand curiously, as if it was the first time she had noticed the ring and not the untold nth time she had looked at it and smiled just like it was the best thing in her world. She’d been doing it for two months and it was one of the sweetest things to catch her just looking all dreamy-eyed at it.

“Oh. Okay, then. Uh, where did...” He trailed off, John just pointed her thumb at Sherlock, her mouth was full.

“Two months ago, Lestrade. You’re slipping if you never figured that out.”

“Didn’t they take that night off, Inspector?” Bill asked calmly, knowing what was what of course.

“Yeah. Didn’t say why, just...just said to hold any cases for the next morning. Oh.” And there it was. Lestrade looked at John, who shrugged, and Sherlock, who smiled. “Oh, you have to be kidding me.”

“Why? Is it that hard to believe?”

“But...I mean, you two didn’t even...well, I mean, that’s six years isn’t it?”

“Just because we didn’t see each other doesn’t mean we forgot. And believe me, I’ve seen and been through worse.” John raised her gaze to Lestrade’s, “This seems to be last-minute but it’s not really. Besides, there’s enough to do it could be April before anything happens.”

“Not if you get Mummy involved it won’t be,” Lestrade muttered, and Sherlock chuckled. His mother had involved herself rather intimately with the planning of Lestrade and Mycroft’s wedding, if he recalled right. He hadn’t been around for it, but he had heard about it later and seen the pictures.

The next guests to arrive were Mike and Patricia Stamford, followed right behind by Anderson and Stanley Hopkins. It was an interesting mix of Sherlock’s friends and John’s friends, and the odd few mutuals they had between them, like Mycroft, Lestrade, and Mike Stamford, and Anderson. The rest of them were either his friends or hers, most of them were her friends. The biggest surprise of the evening came when Donovan, Stella Hopkins, and Molly arrived together, with Molly’s mystery girlfriend in close tow. The minute he saw them on the street, they’d come together in Molly’s car, Sherlock nearly choked.

“Oh my god.”

“Sherlock? You okay, love?” John was right behind him in a heartbeat, she’d seen his reaction. “What’s wrong.”

“Oh my god, it’s her.” He whispered, leaning against the glass. He was certainly off the market, and it was quite obvious the woman in question was unavailable, but this was going to make things very interesting indeed.

“Hang on, is that…that’s her, isn’t it?”

“Yep.”

“Are you okay with this?”

“Yes, John. It’s alright.” He took her hand, “You have nothing to worry about, I promise.” He was well aware of how protective his fiancée could be, and had no problem with her possessiveness, but he didn’t want her to see Irene Adler as competition when there was no such thing. John made a soft sound in her throat and he felt her hand tighten on the back of his waistcoat.

“John Watson, can you be nice?”

“I don’t have to like it.”

“If I can be nice to Donovan, you can be nice to Adler.” He put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her on the top of the head. She hated when he did that, but she was rather the right height for it.

“I kind of hate you right now.”

“No, you don’t. Let’s go play nice.” He heard their footsteps on the stairs and tugged on her arm to get her to move. “You have nothing to worry about, John, I swear to you.” 

“This is the woman you obsessed over for months after her supposed death, the woman you flew out to Yemen to rescue from certain death when you found out she was still alive. I think you’ll forgive me if I’m just a teensy bit leery of her being in my house.”

“Greener pastures, my love.” He whispered, leaning her head back for a kiss before letting her go to properly greet their new guests. John was friendly with Donovan and Stella, and she hugged Molly, it was Adler she was a little cool with at first. Sherlock rubbed the back of John’s neck as they chatted with Molly and Adler after collecting coats and dispensing drinks, Donovan and Stella had gone to make friends with Anderson and Stanley, who were sitting with Mycroft and Greg. The Stamfords had decided to make friends with the MacLeods and everyone seemed to be getting along well.

“Sherlock, dear, happy Christmas.” Irene smiled broadly at him and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. Beside him, he felt John bristle. That was hers, thank you. He smiled and tugged on his fiancée’s shoulder.

“Irene, a pleasant surprise to see you. You’ve been looking after Doctor Hooper for us, I take it?”

“Oh, she’s a treat! Just a lovely girl!”

“Good, she deserves someone to take good care of her properly.”  He gave Molly a genuine smile, he really was very pleased she had someone like Adler. It explained so much of how Molly’s personality had changed over the months. It made sense.

“And who is your handsome friend, Sherlock? Don’t be selfish.” Adler cooed, eyeing up John with an expression they were both unfortunately very familiar with. Time to drop the bomb, and he was looking forward to it.

“Oh, I will be as selfish as I like, Miss Adler. Allow me the distinct pleasure of introducing my fiancée, this is John Watson.” He took John’s hand very obviously in his, as if his body language wasn’t already crystal clear, “She and I had a bit of a long-distance relationship over the years and reconnected lately.”

“Oh! Sherlock! You did it!” Molly’s eyes got wide, “Oh you sneaky thing! I thought you looked pleased with yourself! You asked her?”

“Two months ago.”

“Oh, John! I’m so happy for you! I had no idea! That’s wonderful!” Molly just about took John to the ground in her excitement, Sherlock had enough time to rescue her wine-glass before either of them went over backwards.

“That’s so exciting! Let me see the ring!”

“I swore I told you, Molly! Or at least showed you the ring?”

“I never really paid attention! When we’re doing anything together, there’s other things happening and I don’t pay attention! Some sorry observant I am, huh?” Molly took John’s left hand between hers and cooed over the simple ring. “Oh, it’s so pretty! It’s so simple, Sherlock, it’s lovely! And it’s perfect for you, John, you can still wear it at work, can’t you?”

“I haven’t taken it off except for once or twice. I try not to, it doesn’t…feel right.” John blushed a bit. Sherlock chuckled and gave Adler a smug grin. She just raised an eyebrow.

“Well, well, Sherlock Holmes is engaged? Getting married?”

“Later in the new year, we haven’t settled on a date, but nearly everything is in order.”

“If someone had told me three years ago that you would tell me at a Christmas party that you were engaged to be married, I would have laughed in their faces.” Adler took a sip of her wine, “You surprise me, Holmes. I’m proud of you.”

“John Watson is not a stranger to me, Irene.”

“Oh, of course she’s not!” Irene waved a dismissive hand, “Molly’s told me all about you two! It’s a sweet story, I think. Really, you should consider a second career as a photographer, you’re quite good at it.”

“Perhaps another time.” He shrugged. The flat was decorated with different photographs he had taken at different times during his turn as a photographer, most of them were of John from that one trip to Afghanistan. Others more recent were from the past two months, little moments he had captured and printed for posterity.

“You seem to have a favourite subject for your lens.” Adler had noticed the consistency of John appearing in photographs. “She is rather photogenic, isn’t she?”

“She doesn’t mind. As long as I’m discrete.”

“Oh, of course.”

“But, truly, in the interest of friends, thank you.”

“My pleasure.” She knew what he was thanking her for, he didn’t have to say anything. “Has she told you off recently?”

“Not in the last two weeks, but I have gotten a telling-off one or two times.”

“Just one or two?”

“John does enough nagging for both of them, y’know.”

“You’re marrying a soldier, she’ll whip you into the dust if you step out of line.”

“She’s been very patient with me, which I am quite grateful for.”

“You’re a brave man, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Maybe.” He shrugged. John was more likely to find a subtle way to make him sorry for toeing the line or disobeying her.

“Sherlock!” John called from the kitchen, and he turned on instinct. She beckoned and he obeyed, leaving Adler behind to chuckle at his obedience. Good riddance if she thought she knew anything.

“Were you polite with Adler?” John murmured as he joined her in the kitchen. Molly smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and took her leave. It was obvious she wasn’t needed.

“Thanks for inviting us, Sherlock.”

“You’re a friend, Molly. Christmas should be spent with friends.”

“Even sneaky ones who can’t be bothered to tell me they’re engaged properly?”

“I’m sorry, I thought you knew.”

“Not a bloody clue! Bit of a dimwit, Holmes. Got to be bloody obvious with me, and I’ll still miss the hint!” She smiled, “Send an invitation, will you?”

“Absolutely.” He put his arms around John and held her, resting his chin on her shoulder once Molly was gone.

“Yes, I was polite with Adler.” He answered John’s earlier question.

“What’s on your mind, love?”

“Being grateful for small things, I suppose.”

“It’s Christmas, we have a full house of friends and family, and we still have to figure out how the hell we’re going to explain this to your parents. I can’t believe we got it past Mycroft and Greg as long as we did!” She giggled, “Oh, did you see their faces?”

“We managed to surprise my brother.” He smiled, “That never happens, he knows all.”

“Apparently not! So, your mum knows about me, but she doesn’t know we’re engaged, and there’s absolutely no chance Mycroft tattled.”

“Nope.”

“Oh, boy. Is there anything about your parents I should know before I meet them?”

“I’ll…well, explaining it would do no good, my parents are unusual people.”

“Seems to be a family thing.”

“More or less.” He leaned his head against hers. Beyond the kitchen, the hum of conversation was a pleasant background, everyone was getting along nicely. John hooked her ankles around the back of his knees, sitting on the edge of the kitchen table as she was, and looped her arms around his waist. Her kiss tasted of mulled wine and mince pie. He enjoyed kissing John, probably more than he should, but he couldn’t help it.

“Well, let the poor girl breathe, Holmes, for God’s sake.” That was Lestrade, coming through for something. Without missing a beat, John and Sherlock both flipped him off in unison. The rude gesture just made him laugh.

“Really, kids?”

“Sod off, Greg.”

“Yeah, yeah, be nice. It’s Christmas, Jen.”

“And?”

“Holiday Spirit and all that, y’know?” He just grinned at them as he carried out a tray of glasses, “Come be social, why don’t you?”

“Must we?”

“I suppose. It is our party, isn’t it?” she made a face and he helped her down from the table. Going back out to the sitting-room, John and Sherlock mingled with their guests and made the most of their strange little Christmas get-together. John was content to sit on Sherlock’s lap as they took over her chair, having no problem getting cosy with each other. He had been rather quick to adapt to intimate affectionate touch, they were more careful about it in public places but kissing and holding hands was not unusual for them while they were out and about. And text-exchanges were nearly constant if John was working and Sherlock was elsewhere. Long text-threads spoke to a connection not to be underestimated. There were those of their friends and family who were trying to understand how they had never put the pieces together before now. Two months and they had managed to somehow keep an unintentional secret from several important people, people who saw them on a regular basis and still missed the signs. John didn’t exactly hide her ring, after all. Apparently, Greg and Mycroft had just assumed it was a ring she’d started wearing, never thinking to question where she’d gotten it or why she kept wearing it. Or, more importantly, to question why the way Sherlock behaved had started changing in subtle ways.

-^-

After a couple more glasses of wine, everyone was in tipsy good spirits, there had been plenty of kissing under the mistletoe John had discretely hung around the flat, and they managed to talk Sherlock into playing a few songs. He was a rather accomplished musician, this was no secret, but he didn’t like showing off. However, in the spirit of the holidays and bolstered by the wine, he agreed to play. And how he didn’t lose focus when John decided to mess with him a little was testament to his skill. While he was playing a beautiful solo of “Sussex Carol”, putting a surprising amount of focus and emotion into it, John snuck up on him and carefully put something on his head.

“What did you do?”

“Nothing.” She kissed him on the cheek, “A bit of harmless holiday fun is all, love.”

“John.”

“Nice, Watson.” Greg chuckled. She had managed to get a pair of reindeer antlers onto Sherlock, it was anyone’s guess how long they would stay there. Their guests tittered and chuckled when they saw what she’d done, shushing each other.

Finally, after another two songs, Sherlock finally turned to the mirror to see what had them all so amused with themselves. As soon as he saw the antlers, he made a face.

“John.”

“I am not sorry!” She chirped, she was wearing a cockeyed Santa hat, curled up on her chair. Sherlock turned to her and gave her a look she was familiar with. She just raised an eyebrow in challenge.

“Hey, Holmes.” Anderson piped up, “Nice antlers!”

“Sod off, Anderson.”

“Aw.”

“Boys, boys, be nice.” John rolled her eyes, “We’re all adults here.”

“Are we?” Bill MacLeod queried from his perch on the couch.

“Hey!”

“Believe me, adults can be extremely childish.” John grabbed Sherlock as he passed her chair, he detoured to sit down with her after putting his violin away. “Is that coming with us to Sussex tomorrow?”

“Yep.”

“Excellent.” She got comfortable in his lap, stealing his glass since hers was empty.

“That is mine.”

“And mine was empty. So there.” She sniffed, “Besides, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.”

“Pest.”

“Your pest, I’m afraid.” John put the glass down and looked at the time. The group had shrunk a bit, it was nearly midnight and they were down to the two of them, Mrs Hudson, Greg and Mycroft, the MacLeods, Anderson, and Stanley Hopkins. The Stamfords had left a few hours ago, followed in short order by Molly’s group of four.

“Oh, god, is it really midnight?” Hopkins looked at his watch, “Jesus.”

“We’ll call a cab for you.” John slid from Sherlock’s lap to go get their coats and call a cab to get the pair home safely. Five minutes later, she was holding the street-door for them as a cab idled at the kerb.

“Thanks for coming, lads. Get home safe.”

“Thanks for inviting us, John.” Anderson gave her a hug, “By the way, I knew.”

“You didn’t say anything.”

“Nope. Figured you wouldn’t want me to. You’d say something when you wanted to.” He smiled, “I thought Lestrade a bit more observant than that, though, two months?”

“Forget Lestrade! What about Mycroft? I can’t believe we got past him!” She chuckled, “See you on the next call, Anderson.”

“God, I hope not! Boxing Day is the soonest I want anything to do with work!”

“Don’t get your hopes up, we all know the holidays brings out the worst in people.” She sighed and gave him a push as the cabbie sounded the horn. “Go on, we’ll see you after Christmas.”

“Roger that. Good night, Sherlock!”

“Good night, Anderson,” Sherlock called from behind her. Once the cab was out of sight, John closed the door and they went back upstairs. The MacLeods were ready to go, so they said their goodbyes and John promised to be back at work after Boxing Day.

“Of course you will be!” Bill grinned as he shrugged into his coat in the foyer, “You enjoy yourselves tomorrow, alright?”

“We’ll try.”

“I’ll pick you up on Friday. Day-8.”

“Thank God. A 12 would probably kill me at this rate.” She huffed as she held the door for them. “See you in two days, Bill.”

“Merry Christmas, John.” He gave her a hug and kissed her on the cheek, “See you in two days, love.”

“Good night, Lydia.” John took a hug from Bill’s wife, “Thanks for coming tonight.”

“Oh, we wouldn’t miss it for the world, love! You look after that handsome boy of yours and let us know when you have a date, yeah?”

“Oh, absolutely! Of course you’ll be invited!” John smiled and waved as the couple set off down the street. They had taken the Tube, would probably get a cab at the end of the street to get home.

It had been a good night and a very successful party. And the best part was, Sherlock was still wearing his antlers. That reminded her, she had a present for him upstairs. Locking up the house, she had talked Greg and Mycroft into staying overnight, she went back upstairs. It was quiet and warm in the flat, the lights were low and most of the lighting came from candles. Sherlock was playing again, antlers in place. Greg and Mycroft sat together on the couch, heads together and voices soft. Mycroft’s jacket was hung over the back of John’s chair and his tie was loose, the sleeves of his shirt pushed back to reveal an interesting secret she wasn’t sure many people knew about him. Mycroft had tattoos. One each on the underside of his forearms, that read “Queen” on the right arm and “Country” on the left. He also, as all agents did, had a coded tattoo on the heel of his left foot that would identify him if his body was ever found and there was no other way to identify him, recovered bodies didn’t always have their heads attached. John had her own barcode tattoo, as a former double-oh; but hers was far more subtle, it had been done in UV-reactive white ink and was only truly visible under a black light. Mrs Hudson was in the kitchen tidying the place up, humming to herself along with Sherlock’s music. John came through to deposit the last few glasses after collecting the empty ones from the sitting-room.

“Mrs Hudson, you do not have to do the wash-up, we can handle that.” She scolded her landlady.

“Oh nonsense, dear! I don’t mind!” Mrs Hudson just smiled at her, “It was quite a lovely party, wasn’t it?”

“It was definitely one for the books. I’m just glad everyone seemed to get along well.”

“Hmm.” Mrs Hudson raised an eyebrow, “I saw the way you behaved around Miss Adler.”

“Well, you can’t blame me for being a little jealous, can you?”

“No, dear, but Sherlock is very loyal. He learned his lesson. He would never, ever hurt you.”

“I know. Oh, god, Mrs Hudson, I know.” John took the newly-washed glasses and put them away after drying them off.

“Never mind that boy can’t stop looking at you when you’re not paying attention.”

“I’ve caught ‘im, y’know?” She smiled, peeking over her shoulder just in time to catch him doing that very thing. He didn’t look like he was doing it, but she knew he was.

“And all the pictures he’s taken of you?”

“I know. It’s a good thing I don’t mind.” She rolled her eyes at that one. Sherlock had started carrying a small camera everywhere they went, she carried the bigger camera for crime-scene photographs for later study, and she would catch him taking pictures of her doing absolutely nothing at all. It wasn’t just a cover-job, it was a hobby. And she was his favourite subject. She was pretty sure he stalked her around town while she was working, she had caught him a few times on the edges of a crowd gathering at a call she responded to, discrete but present, and had seen the evidence on his cameras. He seemed to enjoy watching her work, which was both funny and flattering. Thinking of that, she pulled her phone from her pocket and swiped into her camera app, selecting a recent photo he had sent her.

“He sent me this one the other day.”

“Oh, that sneaky boy.” Mrs Hudson took her phone and looked at the picture, “Does he follow you at work?”

“Sometimes, if he doesn’t have a case on.”

“Well, this is a rather good one of you.” Mrs Hudson studied the picture. It showed John sitting on the back of her ambulance, it should be noted that her feet did not touch the ground, but she wasn’t looking at the camera. She had her head down, so her face was hidden, but Bill was visible behind her. “Is that your partner?”

“That’s Bill. He takes good care of me.”

“Keeps you busy is what he does. Good man, him, I like him.”

“So do I. He’s been good to Sherlock.” John looked out into the sitting room as the music stopped, “What a Christmas, Mrs Hudson.”

“A very good one, I say. Well, I’ve done all the damage I care to, so I’ll leave you young folks to your selves. Have a good night!” Mrs Hudson finished what she was doing, dried her hands, and said goodnight to the others.

“Good night, Mrs Hudson.”

“Good night, you three.” She ruffled Sherlock’s hair and patted Greg on the cheek. “Good night, Greg dear.”

“Good night, Mrs Hudson.” Greg just smiled at Mrs Hudson and once she was gone, John locked the doors. Going to their odd little Christmas tree, she found Sherlock’s gift. She was a little nervous about giving it to him, but she wanted to give it to him before tomorrow. She had done careful research on this gift, taken her time selecting it, asked for advice from uninvolved third parties because she didn’t want it getting back to him by accident. Well, not entirely true, she had enlisted Mike Stamford’s help for this, but he’d promised not to say anything. He hadn’t said anything when Sherlock had proposed to John, so he was happy to keep quiet on this for her sake. And she was grateful for that. She remembered where she’d put it, but it wasn’t there. Instead of panicking, knowing it hadn’t been mistakenly taken by someone else, she checked under furniture. Oh, there it was, under the couch.

“John, what are you doing under there?”

“Getting…ow. Getting something that fell under during the party.” She couldn’t reach it the way she was positioned and sat back on her heels, “Damn. Someone must’ve kicked it under there without knowing.”

“There were thirteen people in this flat tonight, and we were all moving around quite frequently. What are you doing?”

“Shut up.” She had climbed onto the couch and was leaning over the arm and back of it. Finding the little box, she grabbed it and pulled herself back onto the couch. “Got it!”

“What is that?” Greg asked over the rim of his teacup. John turned the box over in her hands, debating if this really was the best time to do it. Well, it was kind of the only time she could do it, really. Damn. She sat on the arm of the couch, feet dangling above the floor, swinging her feet as she looked at the box in her hands. It wasn’t anything very expensive or really even that pretty, but she thought it was nice enough. But the question running through her head wasn’t would he say yes, she was wondering if he would wear it. Women didn’t usually do the proposing, and she was two months behind the mark. Deciding this was definitely a “now or never” moment, John slid from the couch and made her way to Sherlock, who watched her every move with careful eyes.

“John?”

“It’s…not much, but I wanted to give this to you.” She looked at the box in her hands and then dropped to her knees, “I’m kind of behind the mark, but…”

“What is it?”

“Just something small.” She held out the box, “You’re kind of a difficult man to shop for.” She was painfully aware of Mycroft and Greg watching from the couch, shushing each other like children, and Sherlock studying her like it was the first time he’d seen her in months. The way he had studied her one chaotic afternoon in Maiwand, anonymous behind the lens of his camera and suspiciously curious about her, subtly stalking her for two hours before she decided to put him out of his misery and make proper introductions. That was, more or less, what had brought them to this. He inspected the box but did not open it, silently deducing it and trying to discover what was inside without asking or saying if he knew.

“I’ve spent two months learning everything about you, from the way you sleep to the way the music you play changes on your mood. And what it takes to get you to slow down for a minute, what it takes to get you to eat something. When you’re truly happy, you get this tilt to your smile, I don’t know anyone else who smiles like you do. A good case turns you giddy, and it’s probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done with my life to watch you solve a case from two pieces of evidence no one thought about or even saw. You’re like a little kid when something gets your interest, you’re excited about it and passionate about it and you want to make the most of it.”

“John?” It was a bare breath of her name, he was almost afraid to speak any louder than a whisper. Poor dear. She leaned forward a bit, settling between his knees more comfortably, and carefully opened the box so he could finally see what it was.

“You asked me two months ago if I was happy. I was happy two months ago, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before in my life. I have a good job, two good jobs, a loving partner who drives me absolutely mad on some days but never stops trying to put me first, and a future I never thought I’d see.  I always believed a partnership, any partnership, should be at least fifty-fifty. So, this is my fifty.” John looked up for a minute at her quiet partner, “Sherlock Holmes, will you marry me?”

“Absolutely!” He took the box from her, his hands trembling as much as hers were, leaning in until he could kiss her. “You’re the bravest woman I’ve ever met, John Watson, of course I’ll marry you!” Someone behind them made a soft sound, quickly stifled, and she gasped when he shifted, wrapped both arms around her, and lifted her onto his lap, all without breaking the kiss. Taking the box back from him, she took the ring out and made sure it fit, which it did. Then it was back to kissing, his hands sneaking under the hem of her sweater to touch her skin. John was vaguely aware of someone saying “Goodnight, you crazy kids.” and the sound of a door closing. Mycroft and Greg quietly leaving them to their business.

“Are they gone?” Sherlock whispered as she pulled back enough to breathe. She peeked over her shoulder.

“Yep.”

“Good.” He murmured against her neck, fingers sliding over her skin like a blind man reading Braille, memorizing every imperfection and texture. The way the fine hairs prickled to attention, the sensation of goosebumps under his fingertips. She dug her fingers into his hair, rocking her hips against his as she took a kiss from him.

“God, I love you.” She wasn’t sure if she said that or if he did, but it didn’t matter. Desperate to touch, she worked on his buttons while he found the clasp of her bra. Abandoning his shirt and waistcoat, she went south, getting his belt off and undoing the button clasp and zip fly of his trousers with slightly unsteady fingers. Somehow, while he didn’t stop kissing, she was aware of him undoing the laces of her desert boots. His shoes had already been kicked off and hers were quick to join. Then he returned a favour with her denims and she tugged on his trousers. Her sweater was pulled over her head and discarded, as was her bra, and she finally got that damn waistcoat undone, which was added to the pile with his shirt as soon as she got the buttons free.

This wasn’t the best position for having sex, but neither of them could be bothered just right now to move to the bedroom. It was hard enough to kick her denims off without standing up, but she managed by leaning back on her knees and shimmying out of the article of clothing. Finally, they were skin-to-skin, and it was glorious. John moaned as his fingers dug into her hips, sliding around and under to cup her arse. It didn’t take much to work him to full hardness, he was quite eager already. Rolling on a condom took no time at all and the selfish sigh of relief as John sank down on him was almost heartbreaking. Reaffirmation of a bond that nearly hadn’t existed. What if John had gotten hurt or killed in Afghanistan? Or come home and settled down with a stranger? What if Sherlock had gotten killed during his time away? Or even here in London when a case went sideways? They were lucky to be alive, lucky to be with each other, and John fully intended to be quite old beyond reasonable use before dying. Dying young wouldn’t be terrible, but she had things to live for, people to live for. She had a life to live, thank you very much.

The first bout was quick, a bit rough, and dirty. It usually was in circumstances like these. But they loved it. John took a selfish pleasure in watching her fiancé fall apart under her when she was on top, of watching him lose some of that lauded control and give in to the baser urges. She knew where to touch and how, she knew that the side of his neck was very sensitive and if she needed to bring him to bear, a quick, sharp nip would just about send him over the edge. When he was teetering on that edge, John leaned against him, putting them flush shoulders to hips, bore down on him, and lowered her lips to his neck. One hand was in his hair to hold him still as she angled his head just so, the other had caught his in wandering and she tucked it against the small of her own back, fingers tangled tight. The hardness of their rings against flesh and bone was almost painful, but she squeezed harder and applied her teeth carefully. A whine threatened to turn into a scream, and she felt him shaking under her. He muffled his scream with his free hand, somehow, John clenched her teeth against her own outcry as his climax thundered out of him. She was behind this time, and pulled herself out to that finish, collapsing against him as soon as it hit her. She whined and thrashed until her body calmed down, and then it was quiet until she could move to pull off.

“Holy shit.” She rested her forehead against his shoulder, “Do you think we woke anyone up?”

“Not…very likely. We were rather quiet, I should think.”

“Jesus.” She slumped against him, “I hate this fucking chair.”

“No you don’t. You love it.” He ran shaky hands over her back and shoulders, “Off, dearie. You know the drill.”

“Bastard.” She kissed a bit off-center and carefully slid from his lap. Her legs didn’t quite want to work, and she offered him a hand up as soon as she had her balance. Leaving their scattered clothes, they stumbled into the back bedroom. He made a pit-stop in the bathroom, she took her turn after, and then it was into bed to cuddle and warm up.

“Dear God, I love you.” He murmured against her skin as he traced the faint lines of her Evenstar tattoo, “Have I told you that?”

“Yes. More than once today. And quite often on every other day, as well.” She ran her fingers along his forearm, he was half atop of her, “But I do love you.”

“I doubt either of us would have asked the other to marry if we didn’t, my dear.” He traced the bumps of her spine, ever so slightly crooked from childhood scoliosis that had more or less corrected itself with postural retraining in the Army. She hummed, not agreeing or disagreeing with that statement, he was rather correct in that assessment. It wasn’t an act of desperation that either of them had proposed to the other, though others unfamiliar with their long history might see the move as rather rushed. John didn’t care, and she suspected Sherlock cared quite a bit less than very little for the judgment of others, especially after what had happened in 2011. And really, she had never been this happy with her life, ever. Maybe in the Army, which had given her two decades of focus and dedication. Or even MI6, which had given her four years inside of that twenty she had been with the military. The circumstances of her separation had been mutual, her record had not been wiped, she had simply…moved on when called upon to do by outside forces that at that time had needed her more than MI6. But that life, both of those lives, were behind her now and she had a very different future to look forward to. And she was looking forward to it.

“Sherlock?” She thought of something important.

“Hmm?”

“Do you…know M? Who took over for her?”

“Oh.” He paused, “I…believe her replacement was a fellow from the IASC by the name of Mallory. You would be better off asking Mycroft, he knows far more about that than I do.”

“Oh. I was just wondering. I went to her funeral, y’know?”

“I know you did. I saw you there, but we never met. I was there with Mycroft.”

“That was awful, wasn’t it?” She turned her head, “You know, I always thought Mycroft would take over MI6, and then it went to some poncy IASC tosser who came out of nowhere and started giving orders.”

“Did you know Mallory?”

“Yeah, I knew Mallory. I was on the extraction team that pulled his sorry arse out of Northern Ireland in the nineties. Nice bloke, enough, but never struck me as the sort who should be heading up a major agency or in charge of more than a couple of people. His leadership style’s not really…” John trailed off.

“You wouldn’t be alone in that assessment, my love.” Sherlock put his head down near hers, “Plenty of my brother’s agents are in the same camp. They respect him, but they don’t really like him.”

“Interim Director Gareth Mallory. Ugh.”

“If I asked what your number was, love, would you tell me?”

“What makes you think they gave me a number?”

“Did they?”

“I had to fight for it, but they gave me a number.” John rolled over and grinned at Sherlock. It would be amusing to see if he could guess her former number. If she ever returned to the agency, she would probably have to retrain, she was fairly certain her number had been reassigned by now.

“Hmm.” He folded his arms across her chest and rested his chin on them. “May I try to deduce my fiancée’s former double-oh number?”

“Oh, you think I was a double-oh, do you?” She cocked an eyebrow.

“You are far too good at certain things to have been little else, my love. You were RAMC and Special Forces at different times in your career, which apparently spans twenty years of your life, the last twenty to be precise. You joined right out of medical school when you were called up upon graduation from King’s College London, served for...five years? Yes, five years in service to the British Army as a medic until your skills garnered the attention of the Intelligence community and you were recruited into MI6. God bless whoever recruited you, they must have had the fight of their lives to bring you in.”

“I may have played hard to get.”

“Of course you did.” He smiled and kissed her on the bridge of the nose. “My sassy little doctor.” She snorted.

“So, you decided to give MI6 a whirl, which as gutsy of you regardless, and clawed your way through training and tackled a top agency with your eyes set on one goal. You were taking a double-oh designation, you wanted that.”

“And since I was a soldier...”

“Killing was nothing new. You bagged your two qualifying kills within a year of entering and became one of the youngest agents to reach high agency in the history of the organization. M must have adored you.”

“We got along. The Quartermasters didn’t mind me too much, either.” She didn’t want to say she had been M’s favourite, that title went to someone else, but she had certainly been one of M’s favourites. She was young, pretty, and quite clever. If a job needed doing, John could do it well enough to get the results they wanted and eighty-five percent of the time she left things intact.

“Oh, you were one of Q’s prototype testers, weren’t you?”

“He knew I was good for bringing my equipment back in one piece and not in pieces.” She smirked, “Oh, they hated me for that. Absolutely despised my existence because I got the fun toys they weren’t allowed to look at.” She was one of the only agents, active and retired, who had returned her gear either all intact or mostly intact. It was a hold-over from her Army service, taking care of her gear and making sure she didn’t break anything that couldn’t be replaced. She’d only lost a few pieces of equipment in her day, and held bragging rights for the Quartermasters liking her and, quite possibly, spoiling her with choice bits of tech the other agents didn’t get to play with.

“You didn’t happen to know 007, did you?”

“Unfortunately.” She remembered the callous, self-assured agent who had come from the Navy, and how she didn’t really get along with him.

“I am so sorry. Did he try to flirt with you?”

“On every occasion presented. I never took the offer, just to be clear. I had work to do and better things to do with my time than turn myself into one of his women. No.”

“So, you weren’t 007.”

“Well, not when he was.” She raised an eyebrow. “If you remember, that agent didn’t take the number until...oh, it must have been 1993. I joined in 2000.”

“Oh.” There was a momentary pause as he did the math in his head. He would have been familiar with the agents by name, if not otherwise. He didn’t work for MI6, but he had certainly spent enough time there to make up for that. Much to the chagrin of several staffers in Q-Branch and elsewhere. She ran her fingers across the back of his neck as he worked things out, waiting for him to reach the obvious conclusion. She had sort of given him a big hint about it.

“Oh.” It was soft at first, and he stilled. “Oh!”

“Hmm?”

“John?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my god.” He put his head down on her shoulder, “You really were?”

“Four years of it, love.” She stroked his hair, “And one of the lucky few who had a choice of walking away.”

“Which you did. But they didn’t wipe your records!”

“I don’t want my number back, it’s already been reassigned to someone. I just hope they were smarter about it than they were with Brosnan.” She made a face, “Would Mycroft know?”

“You don’t want to meet him, do you?”

“Just to see who M found to replace me.” She smiled. She had been with MI6 from 2000 to 2006, but she had absolutely no idea who had replaced her as 007, or even if it had been more than one person. Double-oh agents had deplorable mortality rates, they always had, she could imagine one agent had replaced her, died on a mission, and been replaced with someone else. Some lasted years, others lasted months. It was luck of the draw. John’s instincts had kept her alive in both worlds, and she had lived long enough to more or less retire from both and move on to other pursuits. Now she was driving an ambulance for a day-job and solving crime in her spare time. What a thing. What a life. Sherlock made a face.

“Well, I suppose it could be arranged, if you really want to meet him.”

“He can hardly be worse than Brosnan.”

“Oh, no, he’s far...better than Brosnan, but...well.”

“Let me meet this bloke and I’ll be the judge.” She leaned down and kissed the top of his head, “I’m not about to run off with a secret agent, Sherlock. I lived that life, I loved it, but I never wanted it to be my whole life.”

“Maybe after the New Year.”

“That’s fine with me.” She smiled and leaned against the pillows, “We’ve a long day tomorrow, shall we get what sleep we can before we have to go make nice with your parents?”

“Ugh. What are we going to tell Mummy?”

“That we’ve finally made it official and plan to marry later in the New Year.”

“I suppose that’s true, isn’t it?”

“Yep.” She rubbed the crease out of his forehead, “Don’t do that, you look old and angry.” He chuckled and kissed her before settling next to her properly. She turned over for a proper kiss and got comfortable.

 

They slept relatively well, as well as they ever slept, and were up slightly later than their usual hour. Taking breakfast with Greg and Mycroft, John did the cooking and Sherlock did wash-up, they all took showers and prepared to make the journey to Sussex to meet Mummy and Dad for Christmas. John made sure their outfits for the party were packed and that suitable overnight bags were ready to go. This included making sure Greg and Mycroft were in order as well, which they were. They were due in Heathfield at 3.00 pm, which gave them plenty of time to get down to the house and still have time to get ready for the party.


 

Chapter Text


After a light lunch, they shut down the flat and packed up the cars Mycroft had arranged for them. To save time, they were driving down together in separate cars, Mycroft and Greg in one of Mycroft’s cars and John and Sherlock in a second. They would do their own driving this time. They didn’t have worry about saying goodbye to Mrs Hudson, she was gone to her sister’s until January, and there were no other obligations for them to take care of. They had all put in or been granted the requisite time off to spend with family, so all they really had to do was get out of London. John stole the keys from Sherlock, who thought it was a good idea to dangle them just out of reach to tease her, but she played a bit dirty and used the distraction of a kiss to steal the keys from his hand.

“Oi.”

“I’ve seen how you drive, sir. I’ll do the driving this time, thank you.”

“I am not a bad driver.”

“I didn’t say you were a bad driver, did I?” She raised an eyebrow at him as she got in, “Besides, I’m the one who spends all day behind the wheel, anyway.”

“Don’t you want a break from that?”

“Not with you behind the wheel of the car in question!”

“Oh, fine. You impossible thing.” He rolled his eyes and got in on the other side. “Just remember, this is neither a Foxhound nor an ambulance.”

“And yet it was the base for both of those things in Afghanistan.” She started the engine, unable to help a sly grin, “And guess what I’m qualified to drive?”

“I am very much aware of your qualifications, love. No need to remind me.” He took her hand briefly and she pulled away from Baker Street. It was only out of long experience, instinct, and habit that she pulled out first and led the way to the Holmes estate down in Heathfield. She was used to driving the lead truck in a caravan and simply took the lead here.

 

With GPS to guide them, she had no problem on the semi-crowded roads between London and Heathfield, but she did have to stop when she saw the house. Or, rather, the gate-house.

“Sherlock?” She looked out the windscreen, eyes narrow.

“Hmm?”

“That’s…a gate-house.”

“Yes, it is. Are you going to drive through it?”

“Give me a minute, you posh bastard. I’m trying to figure out what the house might look like if it’s got one of these bloody things!” A glance over her shoulder showed Mycroft’s car right behind them, just waiting for her to make the next move. “Jesus.”

Finally, she knew it wasn’t doing any good to sit there, so she got underway again. A remote swung the gates themselves open and she headed through. The road beyond the gates was paved and clear of all snow, carefully plowed by…someone. It led through private land that she suspected had belonged to the family for centuries, winding past what looked like a stable complex.

“Does your family keep horses, Sherlock?”

“Yes, we do. If there’s time, I’d be happy to give you a tour of the complex.”

“That would be lovely.” She smiled and reluctantly turned away from the stables, “I used to ride when I was young, see, and did a bit of it in Afghanistan.”

“I know.” Sherlock just smiled. 

“I know you know, you brat. I’m just saying, if we get the chance to go look, I’m not going to be a clueless yahoo.”

“Oh, of course you’re not.” He soothed, taking her hand again. When they finally came into view of the house, John baulked.

“Holy shit! That’s a house!”

“What do you think of it?” Sherlock asked softly as she pulled up short of a spur that led down to a carriage porch and the front door of the house and stopped.

“Damn proper house. Kind of looks like something out of a Jane Austen novel or something.” Kicking her door open, she stood on the runner-board and studied the house from there.

“We’ve been approached for that sort of thing before, but Dad was never very interested. Said it would bring tourists.”

“Sounds like your father’s a bit of a recluse.”

“Not as much, he just doesn’t like lots of strangers.”

“Well, I know where you get that from, at least.” She huffed, “Damn.”

“Well, come on, then!” He grinned at her across the roof of the Land Rover she’d driven from London and dropped back into the car. John shrugged and pulled the car into the carriage porch. As they had been the entire drive, Mycroft’s car was right behind them. Staff emerged from the house as they arrived, which didn’t surprise her considering the size of the place and the little history she knew of the family. Sherlock went around to open the boot and help the staff. John got out, tossing the keys to the loitering valet driver, who smiled and touched his temple as he traded places with her. As the cars pulled away, taken to be parked elsewhere on the property no doubt, John yawned and stretched, taking a minute to work tense muscles loose after the nearly two-hour drive behind them.

“John! Come on!” Sherlock called from the house.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming. Hold your horses, Holmes.” She muttered, snapping her beret against her thigh before she set it straight. Out of habit, stubbornness, and a desire to be comfortable in her own skin, John had worn fatigues to Heathfield. They were clean, properly starched, and neatly arranged, but it probably wasn’t what most people would wear to their first meeting with their fiancé’s parents. And yet, she had to remind herself that these people hadn’t really ever seen her in anything but fatigues, so it wouldn’t alarm them if she showed up in their home wearing her uniform.

“So, in the interest of full disclosure, how many people are supposed to be at this party?”

“Oh, for Christmas? Maybe a hundred or so. Just a small gathering.”

“That’s not small! I don’t even know a quarter that many people!” John blinked. A hundred people? Oh, lord.

“You’ll do fine.” Sherlock put a hand on her shoulder, “I promise.”

“Different class.”

“You’ll. Be. Fine.”

“Warn me next time! Don’t just throw me into the deep end and tell me to swim.” She looked at her fiancé, “I’m a soldier, I adapt, I improvise, but I prefer a bit of a heads-up if I’m being asked to rub elbows with people in a completely social class than mine.”

“I’m sorry, it slipped my mind.”

“Hm.” She narrowed her eyes.

“Sherlock!” A voice broke the tension, and John and Sherlock turned as one in the direction it had come from. She didn’t miss how Greg and Mycroft shared a look and disappeared in a heartbeat. Well, that was telling. She knew Sherlock and Mycroft didn’t speak often or at all of their parents, for reasons, had assumed a strained relationship, but whatever she had been expecting of the man who had sired two of the most intelligent people she’d ever met, it certainly wasn’t what she got.

“Dad.” There was a question to that greeting, as if Sherlock was as surprised as John at the sight of his own father. How long, exactly, had it been since he had been home? The man standing before them was in his sixties or seventies, hair gone a very dignified white and a bit thin from what she could tell, in remarkably good health and physical condition, John suspected that had to do with his routine. At the moment, he was clearly coming from somewhere else on the estate, had come up to meet them, probably hoping to catch his sons and their significant others before they scattered. John had learned the names of Sherlock’s parents a long time ago, so putting the name and face together was easy. But she hadn’t expected Siger Holmes in a thick wool overcoat dusted with snow, a grey tweed flat-cap that matched the off-shade tan jacket that had been mended and patched over the years, thick waxed woolen trousers lined with flannel, sturdy boots, and a handmade red scarf tucked around his neck, with a massive dog at his heel. It looked like a Borzoi. The family kept dogs? Horses, dogs, and a rather proper house to boot.

“Well, at least one of my sons saw fit to give me a sighting before you vanished! I see your brother’s scarpered off like he always does.” Oh, there was something in his tone of voice. His smile was disarming, and he switched arms on the double-barrel shotgun tucked into the crook of his elbow in order to give Sherlock a one-armed hug. John had dropped into parade-rest, an automatic motion when she was waiting for her turn that Sherlock found charming, and stood quietly by with her hands tucked against the small of her back. After a while, Siger let his son go and turned to John, giving her a sharp, calculating glance. She’d be the Prime Minister’s personal idiot if he didn’t know who she was.

“Oh, and who’s your rather pretty, dangerous-looking friend, Sherlock?” An eyebrow went up. He knew who she was, he had to. There was no way he didn’t know about John. She gave Sherlock a quick glance and took it upon herself to make a good first impression on her future in-laws. Taking one step forward, she offered him her hand.

“John Watson. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you properly, Mister Holmes.” She was pleased to note he had a good, strong handshake, and was a little surprised by the strength of hers. Give it a minute, he’d put the pieces together.

“Watson.” His eyes, a shade of hazel that changed with lighting and mood, narrowed. Then, it hit him. “Oh! Oh, lord! No! It’s the John Watson! Our own! You came! Oh, Amelia’s going to be just absolutely thrilled you’re here!” The next thing John knew, she’d been yanked into a hug that nearly lifted her off her feet, Siger was quite as tall as his sons. “Oh, you lovely girl! I am so happy to finally get a chance to meet you properly! Jesus! How long has it been, then? Really?”

“Er, I think it’s been six years, sir.” She grunted as her feet touched the ground again, “We…we’re not quite the strangers people take us for, are we?”

“No! Oh, of course, you’re not! Oh, you lovely, beautiful girl! I am so very, very happy you came!” Siger seized her by the shoulders and proceeded to kiss her once on each cheek, just about in tears he was so happy, “Oh, what a joy this is! I am so thrilled, so happy to see you! John, please, please be happy here, be at home here. This house is your home, please treat it as such. You are welcome whenever you like, we don’t have all that many guests outside of the odd gathering like this one.”

“Well, this isn’t that far from London, two hours more or less by car or by train. We can certainly make time to visit.”

“Oh, you absolutely must!” He just beamed at her, eyes bright. “I’m so glad you came for Christmas!” John was kind of surprised by how excited he was to see her and wondered what that said for Sherlock’s mother when she finally got eyes on John.

“We weren’t going to miss it, don’t worry.” John eyed the shotgun. “What’s that for?”

“Wolves go after the livestock.”

“You keep horses.”

“Even been kicked by one, Captain?” One eyebrow went up. Sherlock choked. John blinked.

“Yes, actually. Hurt like hell, I couldn’t walk for two days.”

“Horses can stand up for themselves, but a little reminder every now an’ then don’t hurt either.” He patted the shotgun carefully. It wasn’t loaded, but care was always taken with firearms. John appreciated that.

“Siger! We have guests coming and you look like you just came off the moors!” That would be Amelia Holmes. Uh oh. They all three turned like children caught in mischief, and probably had very similar expressions on their faces. She stood on the half-landing of the stairs above them, they were below her. Amelia looked just the way John had expected her to. Tall, gracious, and ever so slightly annoyed. It was clear Sherlock got his good looks from his mother. Which John suspected meant Mycroft was a look-alike to Siger when he had been much younger. At the moment, Amelia wore a gorgeous floor-length ballgown with an off-the-shoulder neckline and ¾-sleeves with ruching at the waistline and gemstone accents. It was John’s favourite shade of purple, and she knew why Sherlock could pull the same colour off so bloody well. Bloody genetic jackpot. Lucky bastard.

“Sherlock, my dear, sweet son!” Of course, Amelia was all smiles once she got eyes on Sherlock. 

“Hello, Mummy.” Sherlock let his mother hug him, took the affection she gave him without complaint.

“I am so happy you came down! How was your drive?”

“I didn’t drive, so it was fine.”

“And where in God’s name is your brother?”

“Snuck off like he does every time, Meli.” Siger offered tamely, “Even I didn’t see ‘im.” Well, it was more like they’d been caught by Siger, and then Amelia in turn.

“Oh, that boy! Him and that brother of yours are the absolute worst of the lot!” Amelia looked very annoyed indeed. John raised an eyebrow at Sherlock.

“Brother?”

“Shh.”

“Always something.” She muttered, defaulting to parade-rest while Sherlock’s parents had a moment. As if suddenly remembering that there were three of them, Amelia turned on John.

“Oh, John, dear! Hello! I’m so glad you came down with Sherlock! Welcome!”

“Mummy.” She had been informed, quite sternly, that she was under no uncertain circumstances to ever call Amelia “Mrs Holmes”. Which meant Siger was Dad, no questions asked or answered.

“You are such a good girl to my rascal of a son! Do take care of him, won’t you?”

“I do try, Mummy.”

“Good girl.” Amelia looked her over carefully, taking note of absolutely every detail about her. Not missing the ring.

“Oh. What is this little thing?”

“Should we tell them now?” John looked at Sherlock, who shrugged as he kept his hands in his pockets.

“Tell us what?”

“We thought you might already know, or at least Mycroft knew, but…well, we got something past him.” John coughed softly. “This was two months ago.”

“Oh! You proposed! Oh, Sherlock, you dear!” Amelia almost broke down in tears as she finally understood, “You finally put things right! Oh, God bless you dear things!”

“Oh, well done, son. Well done indeed.” Siger gave Sherlock a sly look. “When’s the wedding?”

“We haven’t decided on that yet, we’re still working out a few details.”

“Oh, don’t bother! Something small for you two, for sure! You don’t have many friends between you, but family will certainly want to know!” Mummy waved a dismissive hand. “I suppose you won’t be looking for churches, either.”

“We wouldn’t be against it, but it’s not really our comfort zone.”

“And you are the ones getting married, so your comfort is most important! Oh, this is wonderful!”

“Told you,” Sherlock whispered. She hushed him with a nudge.

“Greg warned me first, genius.”

“Oh, why don’t the two of you go get ready for the party? Guests will be arriving any minute now!” Amelia hugged them both, kissed them both, and shooed them off, turning to give her husband a scolding for being out so long.

John grabbed Sherlock and made a good escape while they could. Sherlock took the lead, guiding her through the house to his rooms. It was a separate part of the house, with private access to the courtyard and the gardens, which were…massive. John explored the rooms of the annexe where Sherlock lived when he was home. A second annexe next door apparently belonged to Mycroft, but the brothers didn’t seem to care much about being in such close proximity. Most of the time, it was difficult to get them to behave themselves in the same room, forget being next-door. John sat on his bed, watching him move around the room.

“I don’t suppose your parents would be terribly upset if we shared a bed, would they?”

“Not very likely to be. Considering we’re engaged?”

“True. They certainly took it better than I expected them to.” She swung her feet a bit, “But I suppose if they already knew who I was, it was only a matter of time before they asked the question themselves and we had to come up with a reasonable answer.”

“You know, it occurs to me I don’t even know what you’re wearing?”He gave her a raised eyebrow. “You know what I’m wearing, but I’ve not the faintest what you found for yourself or if you had any help doing so. You’ve been distressingly secretive about it.” John grinned. She had choices, one a bit more revealing than the other. It depended on how much of her ink she felt like sharing with a crowd of a hundred strangers.

“I know that smile. What’s in your head?”

“What is your parents’ stance on tattoos? I know you don’t mind any of my tattoos, but I can’t say the same for your parents or any of their acquaintances.”

“Ah.” He looked thoughtful for a minute, tucking his chin against his chest, thinking it over. “May I ask why that’s so important to you?”

“It dictates which dress I wear.” Oh the way his eyes widened, she had to fight off a full laugh.

“Oh?”

“Yes.”

“Well, in that case, I think it’s safe to assume my parents aren’t going to mind very much either way, considering most of your visible tattoos are actually quite tasteful. And one is quite nearly invisible to the casual gaze, so there is that.”

“We should probably get ready, it’s nearly four.”

“Of course.”

“I forget, is there dinner involved with this madness?”

“My mother’s Christmas soirees are memorable as much for the food as for the guest-list and the dancing. We were wise to eat light before we left London.” Sherlock focused on her, “Are you going to need any help getting dressed?”

“No, I think I can manage by myself. What about you?”

“What do you think?” He raised an eyebrow in challenge, he knew how much she enjoyed helping him get ready when they had something to do. Neither of them really knew why, but he didn’t mind the unnecessary help and she enjoyed the time spent helping him get dressed up. Even on days when all they did was sit in the flat and play catch-up with their blogs, he tended to wear a button-down and trousers, so she got to play on those mornings. Hopping off the massive, heavy wood-framed canopy bed, John gave him a quick kiss and went to get ready.

“Holler if you need me, love.” She murmured, letting him go.

“Yeah. Sure.” He blinked and watched her go with a familiar glazed expression on his face. She chuckled. It was too easy to distract him like that, too easy to derail him, so she tried not to when he needed to focus. On the other hand, a quick touch on the shoulder or hand could distract him from arguing with Donovan or just about anyone else and get him back on track.

 

Leaving Sherlock’s room, John went to get dressed in the annexe’s second bedroom. She didn’t need to take a shower, that had been done in London and she hadn’t done anything since arriving at the…well, this place wasn’t exactly a standard country house. It just about put her family’s place in Leven to shame, which was saying something. At the same time, she wasn’t surprised a family as old as the Holmeses had a place like this. Shaking her head a bit at the ridiculousness of it all, she debated dresses. Finally, feeling a bit feisty, judgment of strangers be damned, John settled on a rather revealing floor-length gown that was just long enough without being too long for her frame, with a flared hem and a fit that was a bit showy. A sleeveless affair with an unusual back, or lack thereof. Her above-waist tattoos would be on very obvious display, and she didn’t care at all. She got the dress on, securing the tasselled ties behind her neck in such a way they wouldn’t come undone.

As she was sliding on her shoes, having done her hair and a bit of makeup, John was distracted by a soft knock on the door. There was only one person it could possibly be and she looked over her shoulder.

“You can come in, Sherlock.” She called, chuckling as the door creaked open. The poorly muffled gasp was ever so worth the trouble of deciding which dress to wear and she smirked as he stood there, looking rather sharp in a bespoke two-piece suit with her absolute favourite purple shirt, the one he’d worn the night he had proposed to her, but a bit silly with his mouth hanging open.

“John!”

“Oh, close your mouth, Holmes, you’ll swallow a fly.” She waved a hand at him, “Did you need something?”

“W-where did you get that?”

“I had it in the back of my closet after I pulled my things from storage, I’m surprised it lasted so long.” She smoothed the skirt, “Going by the look on your face, you approve.”

“I may have a hard time keeping my hands to myself tonight.”

“We’re engaged, Sherlock, we’re allowed to be touchy-feely if we want to. And if a bunch of stuffy old-money inheritors don’t like it, it’s not my problem.”

“There may be a bit of scandal tonight, love.” He came up behind her, boldly touching the revealed skin of her back, “But I am sorry for none of it.” Leaning in a bit, with her heels she was just a bit taller than usual and he didn’t have as far to reach, he kissed the back of her neck.

“Can you dance in those shoes?”

“Absolutely. All night if I must.”

“Good.”

“Have I told you, I love dancing?”

“Many times.” He smiled against her skin, “How many times have we danced in Baker Street?”

“Exactly.” She leaned her head back, “Now, if I’m not mistaken, guests have been arriving for the past fifteen minutes. We’ll be late if we sit here any longer.”

“Oh, Mummy won’t mind if we’re a bit tardy.”

“I mind.” She rolled her eyes, reaching back to touch the back of his neck. “You can be patient for a few hours.”

“Can I?”

“Yes. Because you must.” She turned in his arms and leaned up on tip-toe to kiss him properly. “Now, come on, you. I have no idea where we’re even going.”

“This way.” He took her by the hand, she carried her shoes in one hand, and at the door from the annexe to the main house, she slid them on again. The house was full of people, and they mingled with any number of guests making their way to the dining room. John saw a number of people she recognized from the papers, and a few she knew from...other places. Different places. Oh.

“Did I ever ask what it was your parents used to do?” she murmured to Sherlock as they entered the dining-room, “Because I’ve already picked out at least five ambassadors to foreign nations, their ambassadors, and I swear I saw the Prime Minister.”

“My family has always been involved in politics in one way or another. My mother just happens to be very good at making friends with the right influential people. I grew up around these people.”

“And I worked around them for a while. Jesus.” She narrowed her eyes, “Never mind the fact that I just picked out three members of MI6, not including Mycroft.”

“Of course you did. He always invites a few of them to join us for Christmas, they don’t always make it for various reasons.”

“Out in the field, I suspect.” She knew that feeling, and sometimes missed it. 

Finding their seats wasn’t difficult, the family sat at a long head table that gave them a clear, unobstructed view of their guests, who were otherwise seated at round tables seating eight to twelve people per table. John sat next to Sherlock, who sat to the left of his parents. To her left was…it must have been the unnamed third sibling Sherlock had never actually told her about. It was clear just looking at him that he was a Holmes, and as soon as she saw who was sitting next to him, she raised an eyebrow. Leaning over to Sherlock, she poked him in the side.

“Hmm?”

“Mind explaining how anyone in your family knows James Bond?”                                                

“How do you know him?”

“How do you bloody think I know him?” she kept her voice down, “He was MI6 same time I was! He was in training when I left the agency, how do you think I know him!”

“Of course.” Sherlock smiled into his wine, slanting a sideways glance at the pair taking their seats. “Nice to see you, Q.”

“Sherlock.” The youngest of the Holmes siblings nodded to Sherlock, giving John a quick glance, “Who’s your friend?”

“So much for all-knowing Holmeses.” John muttered, “Don’t tell me we kept this from the whole family?”

“Kept what from the whole family?” Q, which was either a title or a nickname, tilted his head. “Did I miss something?”

“Apparently.” John sighed, “I must be the only person in the UK who can sneak something past the Holmes brothers.”

“Oh? What makes you say that, then?”

“This.” She showed them the ring, “Subtle enough half the people we know didn’t even notice it or didn’t pay enough attention to realize exactly what it was.”

“Oh, that’s pretty.” Q carefully took her hand in his. “I always said Sherlock had all the luck if he felt so inclined.”

“Speak for yourself.” John raised her eyebrows at Q’s companion, “Commander Bond, a rather pleasant surprise to see you again.”

“Captain Watson. You look well.” Bond, always rather suave and smooth with the ladies, just smiled as he took her hand for a brief kiss, “A pleasant Christmas surprise to see you. How are you, my dear?”

“Well as the likes of me can be.” She smiled as he sat down on the other side of Q, “I’m almost afraid to ask what kind of trouble you’re up to these days, I haven’t seen you since 2006.”

“Oh, I’ve been plenty busy, and this one’s in charge of keeping me out of trouble.”

“God bless you, then!” John looked at Q, “So, is Q short for something, or is it a title?”

“A bit of both, ma’am.”

“I can only imagine what for.” She raised an eyebrow. “Coming out of this family, I’m a bit curious.”

“Nothing terrible, but nothing I was very fond of.”

“Nickname and title alike.” John nodded.

“I’m not sure I know your name, Q.” Bond mused.

“Of course you don’t know my name.”

“Not that it would matter.”

“Smooth bastard.” John chuckled as Q blushed. Next to her, Sherlock smiled, hiding it in his wine-glass.

-^-

Dinner was lovely, she ate better in that sitting than she had in weeks (by no fault of her own or of Sherlock’s, of course), and she enjoyed talking with Q and Bond, who regaled their table with retellings of various mishaps. Apparently, Bond was among the ranks of agents who had a nasty habit of bringing his equipment back in pieces, if it made it back to Q-Branch at all.

“Is Trevelyan still with the Agency?”

“Who?”

“006.” She looked past Q to Bond, “He’s still around, isn’t he?”

“Oh, yes. He’s still with us.” Bond smirked.

“Unfortunately.” Q’s expression became murderous.

“I take it he’s still the in-house explosives expert?”

“Yes, he is.”                                                                                   

“I’m so sorry, Q.” John reached over and patted Q on the shoulder, “He was a terror back in my day, I can’t imagine he’s mellowed with age at all.”

“When were you ever with MI6?”

“Right before that one made his agency.” She poked a thumb at Bond as she took a sip of wine, “I remember you as a rookie, Bond, you’re come a bloody long way from there, haven’t you?”

“Oh, perhaps.” He smiled softly, “I tried to do right by your legacy.”

“Good luck there, son.” She snorted. “Who did they replace me with, then?”

“Did you know Birch?”

“Sam Birch?” She raised an eyebrow, “Lord, I never gave him a week in the field! What happened to him, then?”

“Got himself offed during a mission in Marseille.” Bond narrowed his eyes, “Shot three times and thrown into the Mediterranean off the coast of Les Îsles and Château d’If. At least, that’s where they found him.”

“Oh my god.” John swallowed hard. It was always a little sickening when an agent died in the field, they very rarely died well. “How long was he in agency?”

“Three months. He died on his first mission.”

“Bad odds for his successor.” She whistled low, “Jesus. That’s unfortunate. Well, I hope whoever replaced Birch lasted a bit longer than three months.”

“Long enough to consider retiring?”

“Now who’s trying to beat my record?” John raised an eyebrow. She had been the youngest agent in the organization to become 007, the only woman to date to do so, and had left quite a legacy behind when she returned to the Army five years later. She had replaced Brosnan in 2001, who had replaced one agent before him, and Sam Birch had replaced her in 2006, survived three months in the field, and someone unknown had replaced Birch after his death.

“Well, you didn’t exactly retire, you…left. The Army wanted you back.” Sherlock pointed out.

“They didn’t wipe my records, did they?”

“Nope.”

“There.” She shrugged. “So?” Sherlock and Q both pointed at Bond, who simply lifted his glass in salute.

“Told you. I tried to do right by your legacy.” He said.

“You know, I told M to consider you for the agency.” She smiled, “I’m glad they listened. Ultimately.”

“Were you his mentor?”

“One of them.” John set her glass down. “We had some…differences of opinion. I was younger, in a different branch of the military, not to mention I was female.”

“You set me straight on more than a few things, rather quickly, Captain.”

“But you outranked her.” Q looked from John to Bond, confused by the history.

“Not in MI6, he didn’t.” She looked up and out at the crowded tables beyond them, “And besides that, we had met at least once before either of us had a thing to do with the SIS. So we weren’t complete strangers.”

“Oh. That’s…I didn’t know that.”

“Not many people do.” She detected a shift in conversation and looked to her right as Amelia got to her feet. Everyone had eaten, dessert had been consumed, and several glasses of wine had loosened everyone’s inhibitions a bit, so it was time to move on to the next bit of the evening’s festivities: dancing. Even better! John followed Sherlock up to a different part of the house, through one of several sets of glass doors leading from the expansive dining-room that opened out onto a massive open Great Hall, where a live twelve-piece orchestra had been warming up. The hall backed onto a spacious patio area that let out into the gardens, which John promised herself a better look at during her stay. They looked amazing, lit up with fairy-lights and the footpaths kept clear through the efforts of the grounds crew.

John’s dance-card was rather full that night, as she took turns with Sherlock, Mycroft, Greg, Siger, and even managed to coax Q out for a while. She also danced with Bond. To say she enjoyed herself would be a bit of an understatement, John had an absolute blast and tried to remember the last time she’d enjoyed Christmas this much. None came to mind right away, so this was really one for the record books. It was well past midnight by the time she and Sherlock stumbled into bed, exhausted and giddy, asleep almost before they reached the pillows.


 

Chapter Text


Awake at their usual time the next morning, John was pulled from the last hold of sleep by a warm weight on her back. He liked waking her up this way, she’d noticed, and smiled into her pillow as he laid a trail from her shoulders down to the small of her back, just above her hips. The contrast of lips and stubble was lovely, and she squeaked when he found her soft spots.

“You make the prettiest noises.” He murmured, breath hot against her ear. John flipped over so she faced Sherlock, who was gloriously sleep-mussed, and dug her fingers into his unruly curls.

“Last night was amazing.” She studied her fiancé, “I had a blast.”

“Good. So did I.” He smiled and leaned down to kiss her. It started slow, it usually did anyway, but John loved the lazy rhythm of an early morning shag. She rocked against Sherlock, who set the pace as he always did, and after a brief pause for a condom, he slotted into place and began to push. It was amazing, and really quite a perfect way to wake up on Boxing Day. They took it slow, in no rush to be anywhere, making it matter in the best way, ensuring that each of them would be wearing matching, shit-eating grins most of the day.

When they joined the rest of the family later that morning, there was very little physical evidence they’d done anything, but it was obvious if you knew what to look for. Not that anyone else had much room to talk, John recognized the smug grin plastered across Greg’s face for exactly what it was and chuckled. Lucky bastard had gotten a similar wake-up this morning. But what made her happiest was seeing Q and Bond together. It was obvious her successor cared very deeply for the youngest Holmes brother, and the way he held Q was…sweet. And Q didn’t seem to mind the display of open affection in front of his family. This had been a very good Christmas, John thought, far better than many of her past Christmases. She leaned against Sherlock’s knee as she sat between his legs on the floor while he sat in one of several armchairs, contemplating her future as she messed with the ring on his hand.

“What’s on your mind, love?” He whispered, leaning over to kiss her on the temple. She just smiled and leaned into the touch.

“Nothing specific. Just thinking.”

“Hmm?”

“Considering myself a lucky girl.” She sighed, turning her head a bit to look up at him, “For a lot of reasons.”

“Perhaps we are both lucky.” He tugged on her shoulder, “Up.”

“Mm.” She groaned a bit as she shoved to her feet. Some adjusting got her comfortable in Sherlock’s lap, and she tucked her head under his chin, taking the offered cup of coffee from Mycroft, who just smiled and squeezed her hand. They were going to be in-laws soon, and what a mad thing that would be. She didn’t realize that her track bottoms had slipped until Bond, of all people, said something.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?” She shifted to look at the clever, gifted double-oh, one eyebrow raised. He pointed towards her ankle. The cuff of her track bottoms had ridden up enough to bare the skin there, and reveal a sixth tattoo she had gotten in the two months since moving to Baker Street.

“Oh. That?” She chuckled and looked at Sherlock, who shrugged. He had the same tattoo, in the more traditional place. John had gotten hers on her ankle because that was actually the place where she had been grabbed by the suspect that necessitated her needing the tattoo in the first place.

“That’s a protection sigil.”

“A…sorry, a what?”

“A protection sigil. A sacred tattoo. Supposed to keep me safe from supernatural harm or the like.”

“Oh.” Bond just nodded. “It seems rather specific.”

“It is.” She looked at Sherlock, “We should invite them to the wedding, you know.”

“Oh, absolutely! Can you imagine the earful we’d get if we didn’t? Besides, I like Dean.”

“I knew you would.” She grinned.

“Who is that, dear?” Amelia looked a little puzzled.

“Oh, just a friend of mine, Mummy. A couple of American blokes, brothers actually. I met one of them in the Army. We reconnected last month on a case.” She shrugged. Greg narrowed his eyes, she could see the wheels turning.

“The Winchesters?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Yep.”

“Oh, you have to invite them! Your friend Dean is a pretty decent bloke! Only one I know, besides you, who can drink me under a table.”

“Of course they’re invited!” Amelia huffed, “Just give me an address, dear.”

“They move around a lot, but I think I have a mailing address for them somewhere. I’ll get it to you as soon as I find it.” She promised. The boys lived in a bunker between jobs, if she wasn’t mistaken, and she was fairly certain Dean had given her his address before they parted ways last time.

She had met Dean Winchester in the Army years ago, and lost touch after parting ways with him, but she had never quite forgotten the odd, intense Yank from Kansas who had a rather deadly, unusual side-job. It wasn’t a hobby, he’d been very clear about that, it was a job. Not a very fun job, but it was a job. He was, effectively, a monster hunter, and dealt in all manner of unusual supernatural beings and phenomena. Her path had crossed with Winchester’s just a few weeks ago when one of her cases with Sherlock intersected with one of Winchester’s hunts and they had teamed up to close the case safely. John could honestly say she would be happy never to see another demon in her lifetime. That, unfortunately, was unlikely to remain true. Angels, on the other hand, were fine with her. Some were rude, but she liked Winchester’s angel, a slightly-awkward fellow named Castiel.

The case they had reunited over had been a missing-persons case that had taken John and Sherlock from London to a small town in Utah, where it turned into a demonic possession. The Winchesters had already been on the hunt and intervened just in time to keep John and Sherlock out of trouble. John very clearly remembered being grabbed and kidnapped by their potential victim, fighting her way free and running a bit before being caught again. She had been knocked out in the struggle and woken up to find herself hanging upside-down from a meat-hook in an abandoned processing warehouse, hands and feet tied with rope, gagged with duct tape, bleeding from wounds taken when she was captured. The demon had taunted her, saying that she was weak but she would serve as a decent vessel. Her exact thought-process on that matter had been “Well, fuck this. I’m dead anyway.” But Sherlock had arrived in standard flamboyant fashion with some unexpected but very welcome back-up. It had taken all three of the boys to handle the demon, that was the first time John had seen an angel in person when Dean had summoned Castiel, who had taken care of matters in a snap. Literally, he snapped his fingers and the demon was gone. Violently, but he was gone.

“Yeah, they’re coming to the wedding.” John nuzzled under Sherlock’s chin, “I owe it to Dean. He saved my life.”

“Yes he did.” Sherlock stroked her hair, “That didn’t quite turn out the way we thought it would, did it?”

“Nope.” John shrugged, “But it got me back in touch with an old friend, so you won’t hear me complaining. For God’s sake, they followed us back to London!”

“Yes they did.” John didn’t miss Sherlock’s arms tightening around her.

-^-

After the morning rendezvous, John spent the rest of the day with Sherlock, exploring the estate and even getting some time in the saddle when Sherlock took her to the stables and introduced her to the stable-master. John was thrilled to be back in the saddle after a while away from it, and was pleased to note that she hadn’t quite forgotten how to ride. Sherlock was, of course, a natural, but not a show-off.

It was a perfect way to waste an afternoon, and she was reluctant to leave, but it was Boxing Day already and she had work the next day. Thankfully, Bill had her on for a Swing-8 and she could get some downtime when they got home. So they packed up and got ready for the drive back to London. Greg and Mycroft were likewise taking leave for the same reasons, and John suspected it would be the same caravan drive going north. Amelia and Siger were sorry to see them leave, but they understood only too well that duty was calling.

“Well, you all be safe driving back! Are you sure you can manage the drive, John?” Amelia looked at their odd little line-up. “Oh, James and Deacon are going back as well, it seems.”

“Hmm?” She looked over her shoulder as a rather beautiful classic Aston Martin DB5 was pulled up behind their cars. The valet-driver hopped out and came around with the keys. “Whoa. That’s an Aston Martin. Who owns that?”

“I do.” There was Bond, taking the keys from the valet-driver, overnight bag over one shoulder. He kissed John on the cheek as he passed her, “If you don’t mind some company on the road, love.”

“Jesus, where did you get that car?”

“Won it back in 2006 in a round of poker. Don’t you remember?” He just smiled at her, “Q had it rebuilt and re-moded for me last year.”

“Oh, that was your first job as a double-oh! I didn’t know that was the same job! They didn’t tell me your number, just your name! Oh, Christ!” She rubbed her face, thinking back to the very first case she and Sherlock had worked together in London, “Y’know, I solved a case because of you?”

“Oh?”

“Yep. First case I ever worked with Sherlock, we get this older bloke in Kensington, died of heart failure secondary to digoxin toxicity. Killed by his ex-wife.”

“And you knew what it was?”

“I knew exactly what it was. Greg didn’t, but I did. I knew you had almost died of it, and I knew what the symptoms looked like.” She squeezed his hand, “If you get offered retirement in the next six months, 007, please take it. We’re a lucky few who live long enough to reach that stage. I cycled out to service with the Army, you can retire properly.”

“I already plan to. I have enough that is important to keep me state-side.” He looked at Q and his whole demeanour softened. “Not that I would die alone in the field, but…well, it’s hard enough when it’s someone else.”

“You’re sweet on Q, aren’t you?”

“Oh, absolutely. I regret nothing but hurting that boy.”

“You’re a good one, Bond. The Agency will miss you.”

“Ah, I’ll go back to train the rookies.”

“Oh, that would be fun.”

“You should consider coming back, John, I’m sure we’d find you something to do.”

“Not field-work.”

“Q could always use a hand, if you’re any good at logistics.”

“I’m a soldier. I can do logistics and combat troop-movement in my sleep.”

“Just something to think about.” Bond grinned and kissed her on the cheek, “You take the lead, Captain!”

“Yeah, just keep up with me!” She rolled her eyes and turned to Amelia, “I guess I’m leading this crazy train.”

“Good luck, dear. We’ll be in touch.”

“Absolutely!” John smiled and hugged her future in-laws. “Thank you so much.”

“Oh, of course, dear! Do be safe, and don’t be a stranger!” Siger scolded, lifting her off her feet a bit just because he knew she didn’t like it.

“Dad!” She scolded, “Put me down!”

“I know, I know, you don’t like being picked up.”

“Ugh!” She tugged on her parka once she had her feet back on the ground. Behind her, the boys snickered, getting quiet when she glared at them over her shoulder.

“You five, knock it off!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Not sorry at all, are they?”

“I’m afraid not, love. Do be safe, we’ll talk to you soon.” Amelia smiled and kissed her on the cheek before sending her on her way. John took the radio and headset from Sherlock and climbed into the driver’s seat of the Rover after attaching the radio to her belt and setting the proper frequency. She gave Sherlock the frequency and waited until Greg and Bond checked in from the cars behind her. Waving to Siger and Amelia, who watched from the entrance to the house, she set off on the first leg of their journey back to London. It was quiet but comfortable, and the drive back was untroubled. They had launched from Baker Street, so that’s where she led them back to.

-^-

An hour later, John pulled up at Baker Street, where three spots were miraculously open in front of the house.

“Well, that’s convenient.” She murmured, taking the first of the three parking spots. It was residential parking, no permit, first come-first serve parking, so when the Jaguar and the Aston Martin slid into place behind her, she just smiled. There wasn’t enough room for all six of them in the house, but she was not above hosting the brothers and their partners for a while. Sherlock just rolled his eyes as he got out and went around to get their luggage.

“You don’t mind your brothers staying a while, do you?”

“Not if you don’t.”

“Which I don’t at all.” She fetched up her keys and got the door open, pushing it open and letting herself into the house. Taking her bags from Sherlock, she ran upstairs and turned on the lights and got a fire started after depositing her things in the back bedroom. She was digging for glasses as the boys made their way up, having already located the bottle of Macallan Mike Stamford had brought over on Christmas Eve.

“Make yourselves at home, boys!” She called over her shoulder, listening to the sounds of the boys settling down. Finding the glasses, she took the bottle and three glasses, Sherlock took the rest, and she carried the lot out to the sitting-room, where Mycroft was building up the fire while Greg rifled through John’s vinyl collection before settling on one of her classic Christmas albums.

“Y’know, Watson, you’re the only person I know who still listens to this stuff.”

“Got a bit of everything in there, Inspector.” She smiled and handed over one of the glasses, “That’s for you.”

“Bless you.” He kissed her on the cheek, “Good Christmas, wasn’t it?”

“Bit of a mad one.” She smiled and sat down in her chair, where Sherlock had already made himself at home. “You know, this is my chair.”

“Yes?”

“Fine.” She shrugged, getting comfortable, “Yours has more room, though.”

“Yours is cosy.”

“Uh-huh.” She rolled her eyes at her sentimental fiancé.

“A Happy New Year to all of us.” Bond murmured. “May it be a happy one.”

“Amen to that.” John raised her glass. “You two are coming to the wedding, by the way, I’m not giving you an option. You will have to be dead in your grave to miss it.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world, dear.” Bond promised, “I promise.”

“Good enough for me.” She sniffed and settled down.

 

It was nearly 10.00 pm before any of them made a move to take leave, John had all but fallen asleep on Bond’s lap. Sherlock didn’t seem to mind her getting cosy with the double-oh, he seemed to understand that they were friends and hadn’t seen each other in a long time. She heard Greg say something about work tomorrow and cracked an eye open.

“What’s the time?” She yawned, squirming to free her wrist so she could look for her watch.

“It’s nearly ten, love.”

“Got a Swing-8, ‘m not in a hurry.” She curled up again, nuzzling against Bond’s thigh. He chuckled and stroked the back of her neck.

“You’re still as cuddly as ever when you’re sleepy, aren’t you?”

“Get her after a week of long shifts and she’s like a bloody cat.” Sherlock mused with a knowing smile. John made a noise, too tired to flip him off.

“Oh, be nice, Holmes. This one can make it look like a complete accident.”

“I know.”

“I’m not asleep, you know.” She muttered. The boys laughed and she uncurled from Bond’s lap, leaning up for a quick kiss.

“You’re okay with that, Sherlock?”

“It’s a kiss, not a proposal.” He shrugged.

“Come on, I’ll see you out.” She yawned as she got to her feet, stretching a kink out of her back. Helping their guests collect their things, she saw them to the street. It was quiet on Baker Street, there was very little traffic about, and John promised to see them again soon. She would probably see Greg before she saw anyone else, but that was okay.

“Come by MI6 sometime, I’d love to see you again.” Bond gave her a hug, “We need to catch up.”

“Oh, absolutely! I had no idea you took my number, but I’m so glad you did. Take care of yourself, James.” She smiled, “And really, if M offers you retirement, please take it. Be smart about it.”

“Of course I will.” He promised, kissing her on the cheek before getting into the Aston Martin.

“By the way, I think you might owe me a ride in this beauty.” She leaned in through the window, “I thought this thing had been wrecked.”

“So did I.” He just smiled, “Take care, and I’ll be in touch.”                 

“I know you will.” John looked past Bond to Q, “It was nice to finally meet you properly, Q. I think you and I will be seeing a bit more of each other in the future.”

“You, too, John. My brother has spoken rather well of you.” Q smiled and took her hand.

“Drive safe, you two.” She leaned back and patted the roof of the Aston Martin, waving as they pulled away. She locked up once the street was quiet again and went upstairs to the flat. Sherlock was shutting things down and she collected glasses while he banked the fire and shut the music off.

After finishing a brisk clean-up/shut-down of the flat, John took Sherlock back to the bedroom and after going through their nightly routine, she took her side of the bed and got comfortable.

“John?”

“Hmm?” she turned at the sound of Sherlock’s voice behind her.

“How well do you know James Bond?”

“He was one of the smartest agents I ever had the pleasure of training, and he never made a point of taking my superior rank for granted, despite being not only older but senior otherwise.”

“He was?”

“I was a Captain of the Army, he was Commander in the Navy.”

“Ah. Which would have been the Naval equivalent of an Army Colonel, yes?” She saw the understanding, “And you are three years younger than him, so that was another mark against you from the start.”

“He made my job a bit difficult, stubborn piece of work he was.”

“For some reason, my dear, I think you were a match.” He smiled and leaned over, kissing her on the cheek, “I’m glad you are a friend to him, he has so few of them.”

“He’s a good man, I hope he gets a chance to enjoy what makes him happy.” She leaned back against Sherlock.

 “Sleep well, love. Tomorrow’s another day.”

“A busy one, with my luck.” She huffed, just glad Bill had given her a Swing-8 so she wouldn’t be dying on her first day back from holiday. Sherlock just chuckled and kissed the back of her neck. It wasn’t long before she fell asleep, lulled by the rhythm of his breathing.


 

Chapter Text


John slept until noon, at which time Sherlock woke her with lunch. It was routine, on the days she worked a Swing-8. He would let her sleep, working on experiments or taking cases by himself, and wake her up at noon for lunch, a shower, and she would be ready to go by 3.00 pm, when Bill came by with the ambulance to get her. It was routine, it had been for two months, and it was unlikely to change anytime soon. It was also very sweet of him. So, while John ate lunch and skimmed over the day’s papers and blog entries, he caught her up on things and she helped him solve a few trickier cases he had saved for her to look at. He did that, too, keeping some of the better, harder cases so she could give them a look-over when she had time. Sometimes that was while she was home between shifts, sometimes that was while she was away from home on shift, but she loved the fact that he respected her opinion and experience, as limited as it was in this particular field, to keep her involved. And they weren’t always the simple cases he saved for her, sometimes she got a nice tough one that took a while. Today was a day for simple cases, so by the time Bill pulled up with the ambulance, she had a clear roster of Agency cases and a promise to keep her phone close by if he happened to need her.

“You know the routine, love. Call or text, I’ll respond if and when I can. Be safe, be smart, and be in touch.” She said, standing on the pavement by the ambulance while Bill switched places to let her do the driving for the day.

“I will.” Sherlock leaned in and kissed her, “Be safe, be smart, and be in touch.”

“I will.” She smiled and pulled away from him a bit reluctantly, tossing her jump-kit into the cab before she clambered in. Slamming the door, she turned the key and nodded as the engine rumbled to life.

“Ugh. We need to get the belts checked. It’s making that squeak again.”

“The mechs say it’s not the belts. They’ve looked.” Bill shrugged and flipped through their log. “Twice.”

“I keep telling you, give me a head-lamp, a spanner-set, and an hour. I will find the problem and fix it.” She huffed, shaking her head. “I am more than capable of servicing my own vehicles.”

“Believe me, we know.” Bill rolled his eyes. It was no secret at Headquarters that John had her opinions about the mechanic staff, who weren’t incapable but didn’t seem to do things just the way she preferred. A tap on her window was Sherlock, and she rolled the window down.

“What’s up?”

“I just got a call from Lestrade. I’ll keep you posted.”

“5?”

“Higher.”

“7?”

“Possibly an 8, apparently this is a particularly gruesome one.”

“Be careful, alright?” She leaned over a bit, “I don’t like you taking serious cases without me like that.”

“I’ll be careful.” He smiled and took a quick kiss.

“Sherlock.” She grabbed him by the hand.

“Hmm?”

“I love you.”

“I know.” He just gave her that boyish grin and touched foreheads with her.

“Nerd.” She couldn’t help herself.

“I know.” He kissed her on the cheek and hopped off the running-board, “I’ll be in touch.”

“You’d better. The last thing I need is you ending up on my roster, but knowing our luck, you’ll end up there anyway. Just be smart about it?”

“Absolutely.” He stepped back out of the way and let her pull out. His call had come at the same time they’d gotten one, so they both had places to be. It was the first of what promised to be an interesting, busy afternoon. It always seemed that the two weeks following Christmas were particularly busy for law enforcement and first responders.

-^-

Nothing particularly fun or interesting happened on John’s shift, discounting the updates she got from Sherlock in the field and the help she supplied over text when she had a chance to do so, but even Bill knew the quiet wouldn’t last long. It never did. They took a break at seven for dinner, staking out on a quiet stretch of Baker Street near the house, she could see her front-door from the stake-out for god’s sake and she was eating a sandwich from Speedy’s. She had the bay-doors of the ambulance open and was sitting on the floor on a towel, swinging her feet as she watched people go by on their own business. She knew from a quick walk-by that Sherlock was home, but for how long was anyone’s guess. She was briefly distracted by a flash of silver in the periphery of her vision and turned her head just as Greg Lestrade’s silver BMW came up the way, lights off. Not up on business? She raised an eyebrow and waved as he slowed down. Sure enough, he had seen her and pulled carefully into the Tolmer’s Square access where she was sitting.

“Hey!” She called cheerfully as her brother-in-law popped out of his car, “What are you doing up here?”

“Had some things for Sherlock. Is he in?”

“Should be. The light was on when I did a walk-by five minutes ago. I haven’t seen ‘im or had any messages, so I’m pretty sure he’s up there.”

“Oh, good. What are you doing on this side of town?”

“Had a drop-off at UCLH and came over here for our stake-out. And food.” She shrugged and offered him her bag of crisps. “Been kind of quiet on our end, how’s yours looking?”

“You know how mine looked, thanks.” He rolled his eyes and took a couple of crisps.

“Still polite to ask, isn’t it?” John grinned at Greg, who snorted, leaning around the side of the ambulance.

“Hey, Bill?”

“Yeah, Inspector?” Her partner poked his head out of the cab.

“You might want to teach your driver some manners, she’s a little mouthy.”

“Nah, she don’t bite.” Bill just chuckled. “Hard.”

“Wanker.” John muttered.

“Oi.” Greg gave her a dirty look. She waved him off with one hand, her mouth was full and she didn’t care enough to flip him off. Suddenly, she heard something, a small, muffled pop. She froze, very familiar with that sound.

“What was that?”

“Did you hear that, too?” She looked at Greg, “Don’t tell me that’s what I thought it was.”

“Fucking hell.”

“Bill!”

“Yeah, I know! Run!” He was already on the radio and she grabbed her kit, made sure she had her P230, and took off at a sprint. Reaching the house, she didn’t bother with her key. It was too easy to get the door open, and she stood at the bottom of the stairs, kit across her back and gun trained on the upstairs.

“Sherlock!” She yelled, “Anyone in this house, declare yourself right now! Police!” There was a commotion upstairs and the sound of something breaking, a shout.

“Shit. John, go!” Greg hissed, giving her a shove. She ran up the stairs and kicked the door in, startling the people inside. No one was hurt, at first glance, but Sherlock was definitely in trouble.

“Hey!” She snapped, “Get your hands off him!”

“John!” Sherlock choked, having seen her as he was flipped over by his assailant. 

“Ah.” It was an unsteady, sinister chuckle of an exhale as he recognized her in turn. “Captain John Hamish Watson. What a pleasant surprise.”

“Wish I could say the same, sir.” She ground out, “Thought you were dead, Moran.”

“Oh, no. No I wasn’t.”

“Shame.” She took one step into the flat, but froze when Sebastian Moran brandished a pistol.

“Don’t take another step. Or you watch him die.”

“Don’t do that.” She stayed still. “You really don’t want to do that.”

“Oh, but I do.” He sneered, “After all, isn’t it natural to want revenge on the man who single-handedly ruined your life?”

“By doing…what?”

“He’s the one who killed Moriarty!”

“Oh my god.” John knew exactly what had happened that day, she had seen footage and pictures, had later heard the whole sordid tale directly from Sherlock, and she looked at Sherlock, who was absolutely still beneath Moran, shaking.

“John.” Greg was behind her, but she held out one arm to hold him back. She thought of an audio-file she had on her phone, a clip sent to her by Mycroft from Sherlock’s phone.

“Moran, I think we both know that’s a lie.” She reached into her pocket.

“Don’t move!”

“I’m getting my phone, you moron!” She snapped, “Don’t you dare tell me what to do, you disgraced wash-out, and if you pull that trigger, so help me god they will never find your body!” Beneath Moran, Sherlock made some choked sound that had his shoulders heaving, but he stilled when Moran pressed the muzzle of his pistol to the back of his head.

“That means you too, genius.” Moran snarled. John swiped into her phone, isolated the audio-file, hit play, turned up the volume, and set the phone on the floor between them as it began to play out. It was audio of that last encounter on the Saint Bart’s rooftop. It wasn’t anything she wanted to listen to, not right now, but she had to, she had a point to prove.

“Sherlock, your big brother and all the King’s horses couldn’t make me do a thing I didn’t want to.”

“Yes, but I’m not my brother, remember? I am you – prepared to do anything; prepared to burn; prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you.”

“Naah. You talk big. Naah. You’re ordinary. You’re ordinary – you’re on the side of the angels.”

“Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.”

“No, you’re not. I see. You’re not ordinary. No. You’re me. You’re me! Thank you! Sherlock Holmes. Thank you. Bless you. As long as I’m alive, you can save your friends; you’ve got a way out. Well, good luck with that.”

““Well, good luck with that.”” She snarled, picking her phone up again as the file played out five minutes later, ending as Moriarty shot himself in the head and then Sherlock placed a final, frantic phone-call to John, who had been five thousand miles away in Afghanistan at the time. She still remembered that phone-call, the despair and fear on both their parts, the resignation that there was only one end in sight.

“It was a fucking set-up, Moran! Every bloody fucking minute of it! You get your hands off of Sherlock Holmes or I swear I’ll put a bullet in your skull as a favour! Get up!” Moran was blank-faced. Everything he’d spent two years in hiding for, plotting his perfect revenge, had been a lie. John cocked her P230 and re-levelled it between his eyes, “I said. Get. Up.” 

Sherlock, in an act of suicidal desperation, managed to knock his assailant off balance enough Moran reared back on his knees. Without wasting a breath, John lined up her shot and fired once. Twice. The sniper toppled, hit the floor dead, and John rushed to Sherlock’s side, tearing the rope away and rolling him onto his back after dragging Moran’s body out of the way.

“Sherlock, stay with me!” She took his hand, “Please, focus! Focus here, on me. Look at me.” She tapped his cheek, “What’s your name? What’s your birthday, day, month, year? What is your address? Who’s the Prime Minister?” These were standard questions she asked innumerable times every day at work. He stirred, groggy and semi-coherent, squinting as he tried to bring her into focus.

“Name…William Sherlock…Scott…Holmes. Birth..day…9 January 1976. Address is…221…b…Baker Street, Marylebone…London, NW1 6XE, UK.” Well, that was pretty accurate, most people barely remembered their house-number on a good day. “And…our Prime Minister is an idiot.”

“That was not the question I asked you. Who is the Prime Minister?”

“David Cameron.”

“Good enough for me.” She sighed, not really all that pleased. “Sherlock?”

“John.”

“Back with me yet?”

“I…think so. What happened?”

“You were attacked by a madman.” She sighed and helped him sit up as sirens sounded on the street downstairs. She saw lights reflected in the window and raised an eyebrow.

“Greg?”

“I might have called for backup. I guarantee you Bill did.”

“Great.” She groaned and rubbed her forehead. “Any questions you have for Sherlock can wait until tomorrow.”

“Absolutely.” He looked down at them, “You okay?” She nodded and looked over her shoulder at thundering footsteps on the stairs. Sally Donovan charged into view with a full team behind her.

“You alright, boss?” She looked at Greg first.

“I’m fine, Donovan. Watson.” He made a sharp gesture with one hand and John got up, helping Sherlock sit down on the couch.

“Hey.” She reached up and touched the side of his face, brushing a bloom of discolouration. “Hey, you okay, Sunshine?”

“John.” It was a soft exhale of her name. “Oh, god.”

“I’m right here, Sherlock. I’m fine. You’re…well, probably not fine. He didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“Didn’t…make the shot. I tackled him.”

“That was a stupid thing to do. He must have ambushed you. And I was right down the end of the block, not even that far away! I didn’t see him!”

“I’m alive, right?” He looked down at her, eyes glazed. She nodded and squeezed his hands.

“Yes, Sherlock, you’re alive. Come on, let’s get you checked out. I doubt you’re going to need hospital, but let’s make sure.”

“Okay.” He let her get him up and help him down the stairs. She heard Donovan ask about Moran, and Greg telling her they were going to need the coroner’s van. They got as far as the door before Bill met them. He had moved the ambulance up pretty fast, so he was ready for them. Getting Sherlock situated in the back of the ambulance on the gurney, they closed the doors and did a thorough exam. Greg stood guard outside the ambulance, directing the scene from there. Sherlock was unharmed for the most part, but it was clear he was shaken up by the encounter. John kept him for fifteen minutes, hooked up to fluids and oxygen, waiting for his system to stabilize. She had kind of dozed off watching over him when she was aware of a soft tapping sound and raised her head. Sherlock stirred, but she squeezed his hand and touched his chest.

“Shh.” She whispered, turning her head. “It’s just Mycroft. It’s alright, love.”

“Captain.”

“Mr Holmes.” She nodded to her brother-in-law as he climbed into the ambulance.

“How is he?”

“Not quite stable, but better than he was.” She glanced at the monitors tracking Sherlock’s vitals.

“Will he have to be admitted?” Mycroft studied his brother’s still form carefully.

“No, I shouldn’t think so. He wasn’t injured beyond some bruising, and there’s no internal disruption that I’ve detected.”

“Very well.” Mycroft sighed and stroked the blanket covering Sherlock, shaking his head. “Oh, Sherlock. The trouble you get into.” John smiled as a muffled sound came out of her fiancé. His sluggishness and lack of repartee were noticed and Mycroft looked at her.

“You’ve sedated him.”

“Standard procedure for potentially combative patients, and he was starting to panic. It was for our safety and his.”

“Thank you, John.” A slight upturn of the lips, a gentle but firm squeeze of her shoulder. “You’ve been very good for my brother.”

“I try, Mycroft. I don’t know how Moran slipped my notice, I’m usually far more observant than that.”

“Don’t concern yourself with that. You did a brave thing, a good thing.”

“Thank you, Mycroft.” She sighed and looked at Sherlock, running her gloved hand through his damp curls. “Sherlock didn’t deserve this.”

“You were on hand to prevent a worse tragedy, my dear, that is commendable.” Mycroft took his brother’s wrist, subtle but concerned.

“Well, for what it’s worth, Greg was right there, he wouldn’t say anything about it.” John was kind of surprised she hadn’t automatically opened fire on Moran when she got the door open. But she supposed that had something to do with the fact that she hadn’t wanted to miss and hurt Sherlock. Which is why she had waited until she had that clear shot.

“Self-defence.”Greg growled from the open doors, “If there’s any question, that was self-defence.”

“Thanks, Greg.” John put her head down for a minute.

“Assault, menacing, and trespassing were just a few of Moran’s crimes today.”

“Yeah, they were, weren’t they?” She felt a tightness in her chest and rubbed at it.

John was on-scene with her ambulance for as long as The Met had cars on Baker Street, watching over Sherlock and waiting until he was stable enough to discharge. She did not want to take him to hospital, not tonight, not if he didn’t need to go. He hated hospitals, and she respected that and would never ever assume she knew better until she had no choice otherwise. And right now, she had a choice otherwise to wait. Any calls that came were passed to other teams, they had taken the Baker Street situation and were on-scene there until further notice.

-^-

The scene was shut down in stages, starting with the arrival, short stay, and departure of the coroner’s team after forensics had swept the flat, and the processing of the scene by The Met as evidence was collected from Baker Street. Greg was among the last to leave nearly two hours after a call had been put out for back-up and assistance to 221B Baker Street. In that time, John had traded places with Mycroft and with Bill watching over Sherlock while she answered questions and gave a statement. She gave her P230 to Greg for evidence, he promised to return it ASAP. The gun was properly warranted and registered, and this had been a clear-cut case of self-defence as far as he was concerned. He’d been there, he’d broken into the house with her, he’d watched everything unfold. However, if the question came up outside of their small circle, he had been the one to open fire, having taken John’s gun from her early in the stand-off. And really, for all anyone else on scene knew, he had. John wore gloves at work, so her fingerprints wouldn’t be on the gun anyway and the only people who had been in the room when shots were fired weren’t going to tell. One was dead, one was compromised, and one wouldn’t out the guilty under oath if it was the last question someone asked him. As they waited to be dismissed, John sat in the treatment-bay with Sherlock, watching him sleep.

“Hey.” She looked up at the sound of Bill’s voice.

“Hey.” She tried to smile. “What’s up?”

“They’re about done here, just talked to Lestrade.” Bill pulled himself up into the bay, “How’s he holding up?”

“He’s stable. Sleeping right now.”

“Jesus. What a night, huh?” He glanced at the monitors, “How are you holding up, love?”

“I’m okay.” She made a face. “It’s not every night I sit on a stake-out and end up breaking into my own house to save my fiancé from a maniac henchman with a grudge to bear and a misguided sense of honour.”

“How’d he slip notice for so long?”

“Not a clue. Don’t really care, though. He’s gone, won’t be back to give us any more trouble.” She took Sherlock’s hand, “I get the feeling we’ll be living with Mycroft for a while after this. They need to clean the house.”

“That’ll happen quick, if I know anything about your brother-in-law.” Bill smiled and put a hand on her shoulder, “Think you’re ready to hand him over?”

“Did a call come in?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. I’ll get him up and hand him to Mycroft.”

“Good girl. Need a hand?”

“Do you mind?” She was capable of doing it herself, but she didn’t mind the help. Bill just shook his head and they quietly unhooked Sherlock from the IVs, monitors, and oxygen. While Bill got him awake and helped him get dressed, John hopped out of the ambulance to get Mycroft, who stood by the taped-off open door of Baker Street with Greg, heads together and voices low.

“Hey.”

“What’s on, kiddo?” Greg held out one arm in invitation, she took the offered hug.

“We got another call coming in, so we need to discharge Sherlock. Can we leave him with you, Mycroft?”

“Absolutely. I’ll take him home.”

“Thanks.” She sighed, feeling a heaviness in her body that was the last ebb of adrenaline wearing off. “Jesus, I’m almost afraid to say it can’t get any worse than this.”

“Come to Chelsea when your shift is over, John. You’ll stay with us until further notice.”

“Thanks, Mycroft. I hate asking you to take us on like this, but until Baker Street is cleaned up again, we can’t really…” She trailed off. Mycroft just shook his head and hugged her.

“Think nothing of it. It is, after all, the least I can do.” He was very good at giving hugs if you could get him in the mood for it. This, apparently qualified as one of those times. John pulled back and turned as Bill came up with Sherlock, groggy and disorientated but unhurt. For the most part. He didn’t say anything to her, he just pulled her into his arms and hugged her so tight her feet left the ground a bit and she had to catch her breath. It was fine. It was all fine. He was alive, she was alive, he was safe, and no one from Moriarty’s network would ever bother them again. John did not miss when his head dropped to her shoulder and he started to cry. John just held onto him, let him have a moment of weakness. She stroked his hair and the back of his neck, not bothering to tell him not to cry, that it was over. He knew it was over and, for once, it was perfectly acceptable to cry.

“John.” Bill called softly. John grimaced and felt Sherlock’s arms tighten. She leaned up.

“Hey. I’ve gotta go. Work to do. I’ll see you in a few hours, okay? Stay with Mycroft, he’ll take care of you now. I’ll be home later.”

“Where?”

“Chelsea. It’s okay, Sherlock. It’s going to be okay.” She touched the side of his face, “God, I love you.”

“I almost…”

“But you didn’t.” She gave him a stern look. “It’s fine, Sherlock. Give me a kiss and go with Mycroft.”

“Okay.” He leaned in and kissed her, shaky, off-centre, and slick with tears. John reached up and held him still, taking over the kiss to do it properly, the way it needed to be done. After a tearful goodbye kiss, she climbed into the ambulance while Sherlock went with Mycroft. As they pulled away and headed for their next call, Bill looked at her.

“I didn’t even think to ask if you wanted the rest of the night off, John. I’m sorry.”

“No, Bill. I need to work that off. I’ll be fine in a bit.” She looked at her partner, “I promise. I’m not going to fall apart.”

“Because I’m alright with it if you need to be with Sherlock. That would have scared the sin outta me, personally.”

“It was…terrifying. But I knew what I had to do, and I did it.” She shrugged, “Besides, for all anyone else out there tonight knew, I never pulled the trigger on my own weapon.”

“Guess your fingerprints wouldn’t be on it, would they?”

“Nope. And you know Lestrade will make sure the only prints they find are his.” Greg would cover for her, protect her as he had to. An officer-involved shooting was much easier to handle than the likes of John opening fire on a trespasser trying to kill her fiancé.

“He’s a good one, he is. Best they’ve got. Good head on his shoulders.”

“Definitely the best they’ve got.” She sighed. “What are we up for now?”

“Uh, they called it for…female subject in distress. Severe low-abdominal and low-back pain. Constant nausea and she’s sicked up several times in the past nine months, apparently.”

“Age?”

“Thirty-seven, by the report. Lives with her boyfriend.”

“Hmm. That could be a few things. We’ll see when we get there.” John had a sneaky suspicion she was about to render aid to a labouring mother-to-be, but after what she’d just seen and done, she could use that kind of change-up.

 

When they got to the house the call had originated from, John grabbed her jump-kit and a couple of towels and headed for the front door, which flew open as they pulled up. A man about her age came charging out of the house in a panic.

“Oh, thank Christ you made it! Please, you have to help! She’s in the loo, locked herself in and won’t let me in! Please, do something!”

“We have this under control, sir. It’s alright.” John looked at the man, “What’s your name, sir?”

“Peter, I’m Valerie’s boyfriend. We’ve been together since uni.” He was a nervous wreck, and she didn’t blame him. “We…we’re engaged, see?”

“Oh, good for you!” She squeezed his hand and looked towards the house, “Show me the way?”

“Yeah! Absolutely!” He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her towards the open door.

“Bill, have the gurney ready! I’ll let you know if we need it!” She called over her shoulder.

“You got it, Captain!” Bill tossed off a lopsided salute as she was dragged into the house and rushed upstairs to a second-floor loo. The flat looked about right for a mid-thirties couple settling down together, messy but homey, with odd little personal touches everywhere. She was an artist, he was a soldier and a musician. She saw the familiar deployment bags in a corner. And he was wearing fatigues. Just home from somewhere? There were signs of a cat around, as well. The cat in question was parked outside the door of the loo, crying pitifully and scratching under the door. John smiled and reached down, scooping the distraught creature into one arm.

“Oh, stop making that kind of noise, you silly thing. It’s alright. No need for that sort of carrying on.” She scolded, tucking the cat against her body as she knocked on the door. “Valerie, can you open the door for me? Medics.” All she got in response was a muffled groan of pain. Hmm. She tried again.

“Valerie, love, open up. We can’t help from out here, unlock the door and let me in.” Valerie was in distress, and needed help very badly, but she couldn’t move to unlock the door. John sighed and dropped her kit, handing the cat to the boyfriend.

“W-what are you doing?”

“She can’t get up to unlock the door. How long has she been in there?”

“An hour? She’s been in pain all day, awful cramps, she said. I don’t have a clue what’s wrong.” Peter shook his head, “I’ve…been out of the country most of the time, so…”

“When were you home last, then?”

“Nine months ago? Almost exactly.”

“Hmm.” John dug up her lock-pick kit and opened it, looking for what she needed. There was a pretty good chance this baby was Peter’s, and Valerie hadn’t had time to tell him properly before he got home.

“What did you do, or…do you do?” She looked over her shoulder, “Fusiliers, are you?”

“Uh, yeah. How’d you…”

“Was Royal Northumberland myself until this year.”

“Oh.” He got quiet, “Um. Where were you stationed, then?”

“Afghanistan from…ah, here we are.” She found the proper tool and set to getting the door open. “2006 to this year. And before that from 1995 to 2000.”

“You were gone for five years?”

“Did some government work.” She looked over her shoulder quickly, “Special Forces?”

“Oh. Right. Good…uh, good for you. That’s…brave.”

“It was decent work.”

“Why are you driving an ambulance?”

“Because the other job I did wasn’t my idea of fun anymore.” She heard a click and nodded. “And really, when you’ve seen the mad shit we’ve seen, would you want a regular nine-to-five job in a general clinic somewhere if you were me?”

“No, ma’am, I don’t think I would. You were RAMC, weren’t you?”

“Yep.”

“Oh, you’re one of those, then.” He nodded. “Door get open?”

“I…think it did. Yep.” She pushed against the door and it clicked open. “You stay out here, I’ll holler if we need you.”

“Thank you so much, Captain Watson.” He breathed, “Thank you for everything.”

“One of mine, were you?”

“Yeah. Doubt you remember me, but…yeah. I was. Braller. Peter Braller.” He smiled and gave her a hand up, “Good to see you again, ma’am.”

“Oh! Lieutenant Braller! You made it home!” John recognized him now and knew why she hadn’t before, “I was wondering what had become of you! Give me a bit, you and me need to catch up, son!”

“Anytime, Captain!” He stepped back as she slipped into the bathroom and carefully closed the door again. Sure enough, it was just what she’d thought. The woman curled up on the floor in agony raised her head and as soon as she saw John, she reached out.

“It’s alright, love. I’ve got you.” John set her kit down again and knelt by the struggling woman, “How long’s it been then, dear?”

“All…day. It’s…please.”

“Well, let’s see what I’m up against here.” John just smiled and squeezed the woman’s hand before she put on nitrile gloves. Sliding the woman’s pants down to her knees, she got a quick look and drew a sharp breath. “Oh, sweetheart.”

“I know! Please!”

“Okay, first off, you are not giving birth in your bathroom. No, ma’am.” She put Valerie back together and looked at her, “It’s Peter’s right?”

“Oh, yes. I got a positive right after the last time he deployed.”

“Excellent. He’ll be thrilled, I bet. Used to talk about you all the time, too, y’know? Carried your picture everywhere, bragged about you to any who’d give an ear. Said you were the prettiest, best thing ever in his life.” John got the door open and slid her arms under Valerie, “On my count, nice and slow.”

“Okay,” Valerie whined, struggling, and John soothed her verbally as she got to one knee, lifted Valerie, and got to her feet from there.

“Peter!” She yelled out the door.

“Captain?” In a heartbeat, he was there.

“I have a very important job for you, son.” She gave him a stern look. “I need hot water, towels, and a clean sheet. Sheet and one towel on the bed, double the sheet if you can.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“And the way to the bedroom.”

“There, ma’am! I’ll…be right back!” He pointed to an open door and rush off again. John got into the bedroom and laid Valerie down on the sheet and towel Peter had put down for her. Rushing back to the loo for her kit, she heard a strangled scream. Oh, this was bad. Her radio chirped, and she took the call-in.

“MacLeod to Watson. What’s going on in there, sweetie?”

“Watson. Got an R18/R19.” She responded, returning to the bedroom. Getting Valerie situated, she gave Peter his orders and got ready for that baby to come. Bill let himself into the house and came up to give them a hand, helping Peter brace Valerie’s feet for pushing.

“Valerie, push.” John looked up, “Push until I tell you to stop.” Peter soothed his fiancée as she pushed against their hands, struggling against the pain.

“And stop. Rest.” She ordered. “I can see the head.”

“Oh god.”

“You can do this, Valerie. You did it all day already. You can do this.” John squeezed Valerie’s ankle. “Push until I say stop.” Valerie strained, and the head popped free of the birth-channel. “Stop. Rest.” John ordered, moving quickly. When she was ready, she looked up again and nodded. Valerie’s head fell back and she screamed, but the baby slid out smoothly and landed in John’s waiting hands. She moved quickly again, clearing the airway, unwinding the tangled umbilical cord. She clamped the cord and took a pair of medical shears from Bill, clipping and tying off the cord while Peter held Valerie and told her what a good job she’d done. After the placenta had been delivered, they moved Valerie to the gurney and got her situated in the ambulance. Mother and baby were doing fine after the birth, but John wanted them taken to a hospital to be looked after properly.

“Peter!” Valerie croaked, reaching for the open doors of the ambulance.

“Can come with us. He’ll ride back here with you and Bill.” John stroked the sweat-soaked hair, “You are one of the bravest women I’ve ever met Valerie Stevens.” A minute later, Peter appeared with two bags over his shoulder. John smiled and moved past Bill, who patted her on the hip and followed.

“I’ll take the bags, you get up there.” She held out her hand to Peter. “Did you know she was pregnant?”

“No! I had no idea! It’s…”

“It’s yours, don’t worry.” She took the bags from him. “Listen to Bill, do whatever he tells you. I’ll get you to a hospital.”

“Thank you so much, Captain.” Peter looked into the bay, at the sight of his fiancée and their newborn. John smiled and took the bags to the cab. Tossing them onto the seat, she went back around to make sure Peter got situated. He hugged her, thanked her again, and clambered into the treatment-bay. Bill had him sit on the fold-down jump seat for the drive, got him buckled in, and set about securing the gurney for the trip. The baby went into a special bassinet, bundled in receiving blankets. Making sure everything was secured for the drive, John hopped into the cab and called in to Saint Mary’s Hospital to see if they had bed-space for the family. They did, by miracle, so she made the seven-minute drive from the little flat on Lancaster Gate to Saint Mary’s A&E and dropped the family off there. A team came out to meet them, John made the hand-off and gave Peter the bags she’d kept up front for him, and they parked the ambulance to clean it out after that run.

-^-

After the excitement of the Baker Street standoff and delivering the Braller-Stevens baby at home, John was just glad the rest of her shift was quiet. When another call came in right at 10.45 pm, John looked at Bill, rolled her eyes, rolled up her sleeves, sent a text to the brothers, and dove into another shift. It was just 3.00 am when Bill dropped her off, John could barely see straight, let alone walk in a straight line, but she managed to get her house-key for the Chelsea house and let herself in, waving to Bill as he pulled away once he was sure she was inside safely. Closing the gates, she got to the house, let herself in, locked up, dumped her jump-kit, and reset the home-security panel one-handed by automatic motions as she unzipped and shrugged out of her parka and untied her boots. She hung her parka and set her boots haphazardly by her kit, kind of kicking at them to get them out of the way of foot-traffic so they weren’t as much of a tripping hazard, stuffing her gloves and cap into a pocket on her parka before she made her slow, staggering way upstairs.

Getting to the bedroom-suite she and Sherlock had been assigned ages ago but rarely if ever stayed in, she stripped in fumbling, automatic motions, dumping her uniform, and took a hot shower. She needed one, badly. After nearly falling asleep in the shower, she got out, dried off with a fluffy towel nearly the size of a bedsheet, and made it as far as the bed before she collapsed. John let out a soft, long groan, buried her head in the pillows, dragged the blanket into place so she wouldn’t freeze, and passed out. She was barely aware of long, familiar arms wrapping around her from behind, and felt a little bad that she’d woken Sherlock up.


 

Chapter Text


Despite the night’s excitements, despite working a full eight-hour shift and half of a second, John was up at 6.15 am. Having already taken a shower, she simply got dressed in a clean uniform and made her way downstairs to the kitchen to get breakfast before meeting Bill on the kerb for a day shift. She couldn’t remember if it was an 8 or a 12, didn’t really care either way. It was work. To no surprise, Greg and Mycroft were both in the breakfast room. Greg handed her a cup of coffee, Mycroft a plate full of food. She sat down and ate in silence.

“You were in late this morning, John.” Mycroft said quietly, looking at her over the laptop before him. She snorted.

“Ended up working twelve hours straight last night. Didn’t even get in til around three. Sorry if I woke anybody up coming in.”

“Don’t apologise, you were very quiet about it.”

“Did leave your gear wherever it landed, though.” Greg raised an eyebrow as Sherlock shuffled in, half-asleep or more, and sat down next to her. “Thought you knew better than that.”

“I kicked my shit out of the way, so you stop it.” She growled.

“She can make it look like an accident, Lestrade.” Sherlock said softly, leaning over to put one arm around John’s shoulders as he kissed her sleepily on the temple. “Morning, love.”

“Hi.” She turned her head for a proper kiss, “Think you can stay out of trouble for me today?”

“Yes.” He promised solemnly, speech slightly slurred with sleep.

“I’ll keep him plenty busy, John. Don’t you worry about it.” Greg promised from across the table. “Got a few cold-case files need solving, and if anything comes in, I’ll take him along.”

“Thanks, Greg.” John smiled at her brother-in-law. Once she finished eating, and Sherlock had eaten something, John took their dishes to the kitchen, did a quick wash-up, and went to collect her gear for the day.

 

She was sitting out on the kerb when Bill pulled up, Sherlock was sitting next to her, just leaning against her while she tied up her bootlaces properly. She kissed him on the cheek and temple and got up, grabbing her jump-kit.

“Alright, you. I have a long day ahead, no clue when I’ll be home. Be smart, be safe, be in touch.”

“I will.” Sherlock promised, taking her hand briefly, “Be safe, be smart, and be in touch.”

“I will.” She kissed the back of his hand and ran to the ambulance, hopping into the cab after tossing her kit to Bill, who just smiled a little sadly as she got them underway.

-^-

That day was relatively low-key, there were no really exciting calls, and she went home at 7.00 pm after a Day-12. Bill dropped her off at the Old Church Street house at the end of their shift and promised to pick her up tomorrow at 7.00 pm for their Night-12 shift.

“Thanks, Bill. See you tomorrow.” She waved over her shoulder as she hopped out of the ambulance.

“Take care of yourself, lass.” He called as she let herself into the house. This time, she took a minute to hang up her gear and arrange it properly.

“Hey! I’m home!” She called out as she untied her boots. It was awfully quiet, and a second hail went unanswered, so she searched the house. Well, apparently, she was the first and only person home. Not a huge surprise. Going to the kitchen, she got a drink and fired off a text to Sherlock. Of course, no sooner had she sent the text than she heard a door slam upstairs.

“Typical.” She rolled her eyes.

“John!” Sherlock yelled, “John!”

“Kitchen!” She called back. In a minute, they joined her.

“John!”

“Hi. Whoa.” She grunted as Sherlock hugged her tight, “Have a good day, did we?”

“It was brilliant! Of course, that one got himself two weeks of admin leave for last night, but could have been worse.”

“Sorry about that, Greg.” John peeked around her clingy fiancée to her brother-in-law, who just shrugged and got himself a beer.

“Nah. Better I take that fall than you. Not that your gun isn’t licensed properly, I just didn’t want you taking the fall for shooting Sebastian Moran.”

“Thanks.” She grinned, “What’s gotten into this one?”

“He had a good day.”

“Well, I figured that. Did you get to show off?”

“A little.”

“Mhm.” She rolled her eyes and squirmed out of his arms, “Put me down.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes.” She got her feet back on the ground, “Boy, you are clingy.”

“Is that…not good?”

“No, it’s fine. I’m just a little surprised you’re so touchy.” She unzipped the jumpsuit and tied the sleeves around her waist, “Never mind the fact that I desperately need a shower and several hours of sleep.”

“Why does that matter? It doesn’t matter to me. I missed you.”

“I can tell.” She raised an eyebrow, “Touchy bastard.”

“Your touchy bastard, Captain. How was your day?”

“It was fine. Not nearly as exciting as last night.” She inspected the bruises from last night, the ligature marks on his throat, “How’s your throat?”

“Sore, my voice comes and goes. It’s…annoying.”

“You sound a little rough. Hot tea with honey, lemon, maybe a bit of brandy. It’ll help.” She rubbed at a mark on his neck, hating that he’d been hurt last night. He caught her hand in his and leaned in to kiss her, moving to lift her onto the centre island work-top. This put them eye-level and she wrinkled her nose.

“Sentiment.” She muttered, no heat in her voice. He just smiled at her and kept kissing her.

“Alright, alright, you two. Take it easy.” Greg scolded, taking a sip of beer.

“We are not in public, Inspector.”

“And you’re damn lucky we’re not, or I’d probably have to write the pair of you silly kids up for public indecency. Let the poor girl breathe, Holmes.” Greg just shook his head. What eventually separated them was her phone ringing.

“Oh, you have to be fucking kidding me.” She groaned and leaned her head against Sherlock’s shoulder. He retrieved her phone and answered smoothly after glancing at the id.

“John Watson’s phone, this is Sherlock Holmes.” That was one way to answer a phone-call. She snorted and cocked her head a bit. There was only one person who would be calling her right now and she very much did not feel like more work. Sherlock rubbed her shoulders and the back of her neck as he spoke to the caller.

“Ah, Bill. Good evening. Do you need John again?” A pause, a slight hesitation, just the slightest, and she heard him take a soft breath in. “I see. I understand. Of course. Yes, I’ll tell her. Thank you, Bill. No, it’s no trouble. No trouble at all. Thank you for calling first.” There was a soft click as he hung up and both arms went around her.

“I do not want to work anymore. For the love of fucking Christ.” She groaned.

“Go get a clean uniform on. You have time for a very quick shower.”

“I’m going to need it.” She looked up at him, “I’m so sorry, Sherlock.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Because I wanted to spend time with you for once, I didn’t…” She trailed off. She was wasting time making excuses. Sherlock lifted her down and she ran upstairs to get in a quick shower and change her uniform. Sherlock met her at the door with her jump-kit, boots, and parka. She grabbed her gear and a takeaway cup of hot coffee.

“Bad luck, old girl.” He whispered as he took a kiss. “Here’s some good luck.”

“Thanks.” She shoved her feet into her boots, laces untied.

“Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“Absolutely.” She promised, running out to the waiting ambulance. Bill had already switched seats and was ready to go. She didn’t even bother to ask what the occasion was, she just handed over her gear and got situated. Driving to a stake-out, she took a minute to tie up her boot-laces properly and drink some of the coffee.

“What are we up against?” She asked as she messed with her laces.

“Night-8.”

“God damn it. What was it?”

“Quota.”

“You’re fucking kidding me. After the overtime we worked last night and this morning? We were under quota?”

“I don’t make the rules, kiddo.”

“God damn it.” She huffed, “Well, at least my family’s used to this kind of bullshit. Jesus, I got…” She stopped and cocked her head, doing some mental math. “I got three hours of sleep. Three hours, Bill.”

“I know.” Bill was not amused, but neither was John.

“This is going to be a long night.” She muttered into her coffee. It was going to be a long night.

 -^-

They took a couple of low-key calls and found another stakeout in Westminster over on Caxton. She could see The Met’s Victoria Street offices from the back of the ambulance, where she sat with the doors open. Because they were staked-out on Caxton Street, because she was watching the street while Bill got some shut-eye in the cab, she saw the marked car come up Caxton slow-like. The lights weren’t on, but it was clear they had a mission. She was used to seeing Met vehicles on the job, anywhere in London. So, when this car slowed and came to a stop, it’s lights flipped on but no sirens, she wasn’t that surprised. She was curious, but she stayed put.

“Hey, Bill? We’ve got company.” She called in on the radio, feeling bad for waking her partner.

“Trouble?”

“Uh.” She squinted as the driver of the car appeared. “Make that a negative. It’s Donovan.” She shrugged and clicked off, hopping down from the step.

“Watson.”

“Donovan.” She could be nice to the woman, “What brings you round these parts?”

“I had something for you, I went to Baker Street but you weren’t there, and you weren’t at the house on Old Church Street, either.”

“Yeah, we won’t be at Baker Street for a while. Probably not until after Mrs Hudson gets back.” She shrugged, stifling a yawn. “Sorry. So, what’s up?”

“This is yours.” Donovan held out a small white cardboard box, “We processed it and cleared it, I wanted to return it to you before we lost it to the archives.”

“Is this…” She opened the box and raised an eyebrow. “Oh. Thanks for that, Donovan.”

“Yeah, that’s private property and you…well, you kind of need it on your job.” Donovan made a face, “You look awful.”

“Three hours of sleep between shifts, love.” She yawned, couldn’t help it. “I worked twelve last night, then twelve today already, and I’m squared up in the middle of an eight right now.”

“Jesus. Have you eaten?”

“Not…ugh, sorry. Not recently.” She leaned against the step of the ambulance. She checked her radio, but nothing had come across for them yet. Donovan’s eyes narrowed and she looked around. John happened to look up just then and caught a startling glimpse of a remarkable clear stretch of sky.

“To the people who look at the stars and wish.” She murmured.

“What’s that?” Donovan had overheard her. She shook her head and refocused.

“Nothing. Sorry, did you say something?”

“Right. You need to eat something. There’s an Indian restaurant down that way.” Donovan pointed down past the ambulance. “Radio in your meal-break and come with me.”

“God bless you, Donovan.” John slammed the doors of the treatment-bay and went around to put the evidence-box in the cab. John took the P230 out of the box, inserted the clip, which someone had been kind enough to reload for her, and tucked the pistol into its holster. She radioed in that her crew was going on meal-break, there hadn’t been any calls in the last ten minutes and they needed an on-roster break. They were off-duty, radio-on, be back in an hour.

“Come on, Bill.”

“Who’s buying?”

“Donovan, apparently.” She zipped up her parka, “Come on, I’m exhausted and starving and not about to turn down a free meal.”

“I thought you and Donovan didn’t get along?” Bill raised an eyebrow at her in question. John shrugged as she looked for Donovan, who was waiting on the other side of the street. Locking up the ambulance, she pocketed the keys and darted across the empty street. Catching up with Donovan, they ducked into the well-lit, warm restaurant and joined a short queue of people.

 

When their turn came, they grabbed a table for three. At this hour, it was fairly quiet, so they didn’t have to wait very long. Once their food came, John set in like a woman starving.

“Slow down, Watson.” Bill scolded, “Chew, don’t inhale. We’re not savages.”

“Sorry.”She apologized.

“What is it with you people forgetting to eat? Jesus.” Donovan scoffed, “I mean, I know Holmes doesn’t eat, but I thought that was just kind of…his thing.”

“Not quite.” John swallowed her current mouthful. “I’ve got a D-LED*, so I’ll go quite literally days without a solid meal. That one hates it.” She poked her fork at Bill, who didn’t deign to answer that. It was quiet for a while as they ate, each of them keeping an ear to their radios just in case a call came through. But there was nothing.

“So, what…are you on Patrol duty while Lestrade’s out?” John asked after a bit, having noticed Donovan’s uniform. The sergeant nodded.

“Just temporarily. I run Patrol occasionally, so it’s not like this is new.”

“Oh, nice.” She nodded, taking a sip of water. “I can see you being rather…effective as a Patrol officer.”

“Highest arrest-rate on the force outside of Homicide.”

“Wow! Nice work, Donovan.” John had to smile. That really was kind of impressive. “So…that doesn’t include your Homicide arrests? Or does it?”

“Outside.”

“Holy shit.”

“If I catch you breaking the law, I will arrest you for it. I’ll run you down if I have to.”

“Thought that was my job,” John grumbled. She hadn’t actually meant to say that out loud and blamed her state of exhaustion on the slip. Donovan choked, Bill coughed.

“Oi!” Donovan gave her a look, “Who’s got the badge here?”

“Just sayin’.” She sniffed. “Pretty sure I can beat you in a chase any day, Donovan.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Girls, girls. You’re both pretty.” Bill scolded, rolling his eyes. John shrugged and they finished eating. After Donovan paid the bill, waving off any offers to split the cost, they left the restaurant together. As they walked back up Caxton to get back to their respective vehicles, John heard what sounded like someone struggling. Instinct kicked in and she reached out, grabbing Donovan.

“Oi! What…” She cut Donovan off as she swung around to block the sergeant and push her back a step. A minute later, someone sprinted past them going south on Palmer Street. Before the perp was out of sight, John and Donovan looked at each other, smiled, and took off.

“Bill! Take care of the vic!” John yelled over her shoulder as she took off down Palmer in pursuit.

“Watson! Donovan! What…oh hell.” He trailed off and went up Palmer going north to look for the victim while John and Donovan went for a bit of a run.

“He’s gonna jog right down Butler! Go down Victoria and cut him off at Christchurch Gardens!” She snapped, giving Donovan a push to go straight. She would go right and follow the suspect, run him into Donovan.

“Right! You got him?”

“Go, Donovan!” She snarled, taking that right at a healthy clip. They ended up running the suspect all the way to Vauxhall Bridge. John was really, really hoping he wouldn’t jump the bridge, she didn’t feel like going for a swim.

“Don’t you jump.” She snarled as she and Donovan closed in on the suspect, “Don’t you fucking jump! I swear! Don’t…oh, fuck!”

“Watson!” Donovan skidded. John sped past her, reached out for the suspect, and closed her fingers around some fold of cloth. This bastard was not getting away, not after the run-around he’d given them so far. She put her arms around his legs and heaved. The bridge was slick and her foot slipped out from under her, and when the ground gave way, she held her breath. So much for staying dry. Hitting the water was not a pleasant experience, but John was a pretty good swimmer, she had to be with her background, and she kept her head above the surface. The suspect tried to drown her twice before they were dragged from the water by an MPU cutter. As she sat on the floor of the boat, spitting water and soaking wet, a blanket landed around her shoulders.

“Well, well. Look what fishie I caught tonight.” She recognized that voice and leaned her head back.

“Stanley.”

“John Watson.” Stanley Hopkins stood in front of her, beaming. “You’re an idiot.”

“Yeah, think that’s been established.”

“Good work, though, getting our mister here. Where’s your running-buddy?”

“She was smart, stuck to dry land. I was the moron and went swimming.” She coughed and spit out a mouthful of water. “You tell me that bastard’s innocent and I will not believe you.”

“Why? Because innocent men don’t lead foot-pursuit on a mile-and-a-half run for shits and giggles?”

“Yeah, right about that.” She glared at the suspect, who sat in handcuffs on the other side of the boat. “Fucking bastard. What was he thinking to outrun the two of us?”

“Good bloody question. Who were you with?”

“Donovan and MacLeod.”

“Ah. That explains it.” Hopkins helped her up and she sat down on the bench as he dropped a towel on her head. He flashed her a grin and got them underway. Once they were back at docking, she hopped onto the jetty and took the tie-off from Hopkins, making the boat fast against the jetty. A fleet of vehicles waited for them, including two ambulances. John saw Bill and almost cried.

“Have a nice swim, John?”

“Shut up.” She hissed. “I’m freezing.”

“And I’m taking you home. We got four hours, that’s enough for tonight. You take it easy tomorrow and I’ll see you on Monday, kiddo. We’ll make up the other half of our quota next week.”

“Fine. With. Me.” She muttered. Once she was cleared and had given a brief statement to the police, who didn’t seem as surprised as they probably should have been to have fished John Watson out of the Thames on a Saturday night, Bill drove her home to the house.

“See you on Monday, love. Get some rest.”

“Thanks, Bill.” She waved and headed inside. As soon as she showed herself, all three of her housemates jumped to their feet.

“Where have you been?” Sherlock gasped, “You’re soaked!”

“You don’t want to know. I need a shower.” She headed upstairs. “Talk to me in twenty minutes.”

“Jesus.” She left behind three wide-eyed men and wondered if they would call Bill for the details.

 

Thirty minutes later, clean, warm, and dry, John trudged downstairs to get something hot to drink and found everyone congregated in the kitchen, where she also found Bill and Donovan.

“Oh, what are you two doing here?”

 “John!”

“I’m alive. Leave off.” She muttered, getting a cup of tea for herself. Sherlock was on his feet in a heartbeat and following her around.

“You took a case without me?”

“I didn’t do that, I took after a suspect as he fled the scene of a crime. Donovan was with me until we got to Vauxhall Bridge.”

“You ran a suspect a mile and a half through London, at night, in December, and then you jumped off Vauxhall Bridge? What part of that seemed like a good idea?” Greg gave her a long, stern look. She debated flipping him off, but she didn’t have enough energy.

“I didn’t jump off the fucking bridge, I slipped and the suspect pulled us both over the side.” She took a sip of her tea and looked at Bill. “How’s the first vic?”

“She’s just fine. Just a few scrapes, nothing too serious. It was a purse-snatching gone wrong, she fought back and he ran like a coward.”

“She lose anything?”

“Nope.”

“Good.” She leaned against the counter and closed her eyes. “That. Sucked.”

“Are you sure you’re alright, John?”

“I’m fine. I don’t need to go to a hospital.” She looked at the others, “I never lost consciousness. Ever. He tried to drown me twice but never managed.”

“Oh, John.”

“Stop it! I’m fine!” She snapped, “Alright? I’m fine! My chest hurts, but that’s from exertion. Jesus.”

“Bill?”

“She’s fine. If she takes a turn for worse, you know what to do with her.” Her partner just shrugged, wisely staying out of it.

“John.” Sherlock’s voice was soft as he rubbed her shoulder, almost…sad.

“I’m. Fine.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Well, I’m sure as fuck not dead! So leave off!” she snapped, pulling away. Emptying her cup in a few gulps, she rinsed it, set it on the drying-board for morning, and left the kitchen.

“Good night.” She said bluntly, not looking at anyone as she left the kitchen.

Going upstairs to the room she shared with Sherlock, John took a Sominex and went to bed. She was tired, sore, and suspected she would probably have a nightmare or two tonight.

-^-

Sure enough, unaware of what the time might be, John found herself fighting awake several hours later after a disorienting, terrifying nightmare of drowning. She couldn’t get to the surface, something was dragging her down, she couldn’t move her arms or legs, she seemed to be caught in…something. It felt like rope or a net or something. Then, suddenly, something grabbed her by the hand and pulled. The weight on her ankle fell away, she could suddenly move, and her head broke the surface just as she came awake to consciousness with a startled, flailing gasp, coughing.

“John. John, focus. Look at me, love. I’m here. Calm down.” A soft voice was in her ear, the hand that had pulled her out of the water in her dream was real. John squinted and realized with a start that she was safe. She was nowhere near the Thames, she was dry, and…Sherlock was there. She took a deep breath, one hand pressed against her chest.

“Holy shit.” She gasped, “I thought I was drowning.”

“You were. You got tangled in the blankets after I let go of you when you started struggling.” He stroked her hair as she leaned against the headboard, “John, what happened tonight?”

“I almost died.” She put her head down on her knees, shaking. “He almost killed me. He tried, Sherlock, he tried so hard. He was so desperate to get away.”

“Oh, John.” He carefully hugged her, pressing his lips to her temple. “I have you, love. You’re safe now.”

“What time is it?” She asked, genuinely curious. “I don’t even know how long I slept.”

“It’s just 1.00.”

“Oh, god. I’m so sorry, Sherlock.” She groaned, putting her head down again. “I didn’t hurt you did I?”

“No, you did not hurt me. I promise.” He touched the back of her neck. The blankets had been kicked or pulled out of the way, she noticed, and Sherlock had never really let go of her hand. That was fine.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t apologize. You didn’t hurt me. And even if you had, it’s nothing to apologize for.” He tugged until she let herself fall sideways. They got comfortable, Sherlock holding John against him as they pressed together shoulder to hips, his longer frame tucked around hers in a way that was both comfortable and unrestrictive. John wrapped her hands around the arm around her chest, tucking her head back against his on the pillow.

“I’ve got you, love. Go back to sleep.” He murmured, kissing the side of her neck, “It’s alright.” John let herself doze off, knowing she was safe, loved, and the luckiest woman in London. Probably in the world. That was fine with her.


 

Chapter Text


The next time John woke up, it was properly morning. Sherlock was sleeping behind her, snoring softly. John yawned, stretched, and pulled the blanket higher. Rolling over, she tucked her head under Sherlock’s chin and went back to sleep. She didn’t have to worry about work, which was lovely. At least, not work with the Ambulance Corps.

It was noon before John and Sherlock properly showed themselves, Greg was working on cold cases in the study since he was on administrative leave. They solved a few of the cases for him and spent the day at home. It was nice to have a day to themselves, where they didn’t have any obligations elsewhere and could do pretty much whatever they damn well pleased. Sally Donovan stopped by with a stack of reports for John, who promised to fill them out and return them as soon as possible. She also informed them that the suspect was being held on charges of attempted burglary and assault with a deadly weapon, fleeing arrest, resisting arrest, and assault with intent to kill. Long story very short, he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Thanks, Donovan.” John sighed as she sat on the stairs leading to the staff-flat with Donovan.

“Anytime, Watson.” Donovan smiled at her, handing over the cigarette they were sharing. “Hey, that reminds me. Have you made any progress planning?”

“Oh, lord.” John put her head down. “No! We have a guest-list that’s mostly his side of the family, mine’s a little lacking, and mutual friends and work acquaintances. You’re invited, by the way.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely.”

“Thanks for that! Get me the date when you can, I’ll make sure I get the time.”

“No problem.” She smiled.

“Have you thought about dresses?”

“Nope.”

“Are you doing anything this afternoon?”

“I didn’t have plans to. Why?” She raised an eyebrow in question. Donovan looked at her watch, checked her phone, made a radio-call, and nodded.

“That settles it. Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“Get your wallet and coat, we’re going out.” Donovan was doing something on her phone as she got up after stubbing out the dog-end of the cigarette, focus elsewhere for the moment.

“Going. Where?” She rolled her eyes as she got up and went into the house to get her things.

“Are you going somewhere?” Sherlock asked, looking up from his laptop as she came through.

“Apparently, I’m being kidnapped for the afternoon. I’ll be in touch.”

“Donovan?”

“Yep. She won’t tell me what she has planned.”

“Hmm.” He narrowed his eyes, tilted his head in that endearing way of his, and smiled after a minute. Getting up smoothly, he followed her back to the door and hugged her.

“Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“I will.” She promised, going down the steps to join Donovan, who waited by her car. John waved as she ducked into the car. As they got underway, she buckled her seatbelt.

“Surprised he didn’t deduce you.”

“He did, he just didn’t say anything.  I’m not sure he knows, because I don’t know.” She tugged on the collar of her coat.

“Did he give you that?” Donovan asked, indicating the scarf around her neck.

“Yep.” She rubbed the soft material between her fingers. It was a blue scarf Sherlock had given her for Christmas, one of his old scarves that didn’t get worn anymore and she had stolen once on a cold day at work.

“That’s his, isn’t it?”

“Yep. I kept stealing it for cold days at work and he finally just gave it to me for Christmas, said I wore it more than he did.”

“I thought it looked familiar.” Donovan smiled.

“So, are you going to tell me where we’re going?”

“Nope.”

“Figured it was worth a shot.” She sighed, “Well, I guess a surprise is acceptable.”

“Trust me, you won’t mind this.”

“Are we having any company on this kidnap-outing of ours?”

“Yep.”

“Anyone I know?”

“Yes.”

“Fine.” She sighed. Whatever Donovan was up to, she’d have to wait and see.

-^-

Forty-five minutes later, they parked in the covered car-lot at Westfield Stratford City.

“What are we doing here?”

“You’ll see.”

“Donovan.”

“You’ll. See.”

“I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you.” John huffed, getting out of the car. They went inside, met up with Molly Hooper and Irene Adler, and she was blindfolded.

“You can’t see, can you?”

“Not a bloody thing. What are you up to?”

“Trust us, dear. We won’t lead you astray.” Adler cooed, tightening the blindfold just a touch, one hand between John’s shoulder-blades. “Sherlock Holmes is a lucky, lucky man.” John would never admit to the little inhale, the gasp. She was comfortably bisexual and appreciated a fine specimen of any gender. Adler was beautiful. And, in a different lifetime, would have made a perfect partner for Sherlock. In this lifetime, that honour went to John.

“Come along, dear!” Adler tugged on her hand and she followed them to whatever final destination they had in mind. After a while, they stopped and John blinked as the blindfold was removed. She was surrounded with yards and yards and yards of white, in every shade imaginable. Lace, silk, chiffon, every fabric known to man was probably here. Beads, pearls, embroidery, overlays. It was a little overwhelming.

“Oh my god.”

“Hello, welcome to David’s Bridal! How can we help you today?” A cheerful clerk hailed them from the half-circular desk dead ahead of them.

“Yes, we’re here to meet with Rebecca.” Donovan stepped up to the desk, “The name is Watson.”

“Oh, yes! Here you are! If you ladies will just follow me, Rebecca’s waiting for you!” The clerk just smiled and stepped from behind the desk to lead them upstairs.

“You know what?” John had an idea. “Forget invitations. You’re the wedding-party.”

“Fine with me!” Molly was beaming, “Oh, you’re going to look so pretty, John!”

“I hate dresses. Absolutely hate dresses.”

“Well you sure as hell ain’t showing up to your wedding in fatigues, love!” Donovan rolled her eyes, “And you know you would, if we let you.”

“I hate you.”

“No you don’t.”

“Kind of.” She huffed, “Sherlock’s going to absolutely die when he finds out about this.”

“He does not get to see your dress before the wedding!” Molly got serious.

“Don’t worry, he won’t.” They met up with a cheerful, middle-aged associate, Rebecca, who sized up their little foursome and just smiled like she’d won a lottery.

“Is this all of you, then?”

“We’ve one more, but she may or may not be able to come.”

“Oh, no worries! You can bring her back another time!” Rebecca just beamed at them, “So, who’s the lucky girl, then?” All three of them pointed at John, who was wondering how she could possibly get away with payback in some form.

“Oh, aren’t you a handsome one! Well, come on then! Take a look around, see what gets your fancy! When’s the wedding, then?”

“At this rate things are going? May. Or April.”

“April would be nice. A bit cold, though.”

“I’d say March, but…” John made a face. March had a special significance in her personal life.

“When in March?”

“Around the 31st.”

“That’s a specific date. What’s so special about that day?”

“It’s my birthday.” She rifled through a rack of dresses, “And, um, it’s the day I met my fiancé.”

“Oh, you didn’t say you’d met him on your birthday!” Molly was helping her look, “John, that’s lovely!”

“It was a rather unusual day.” She remembered the curly-haired photographer with the media ballistics vest and a camera-bag, taking pictures for two hours. “It was a special day.”

“I’ll say!” Donovan was smiling. “John, what about this one?” She had taken down a dress and held it up. John tilted her head in study. The dress itself was a satin A-line gown with side-draped bodice and asymmetric skirt. No train.

“Ooh. That’s…I like that one.” She reached for it, “What size is it?”

“Looks like it’s an 8?”

“Yeah, that one’ll do for a first try.” She handed it to Rebecca, who just went off to set up a  changing stall for her. “I don’t usually go strapless, but that had a nice…feel to it.” They picked out a few more in different styles just for variety, but there was something about that first dress that John liked. But she didn’t try that dress on right away, she tried the others first. She tried on a floor-length A-line gown with illusion mesh sleeves, a flattering, wide-set V-neck and low back, and tulle skirt that added a softly voluminous finish. It reminded her a bit of the wedding dress worn by Kate Middleton on her wedding day. Which, somehow, John had snagged an invitation to. She had no idea how they’d gotten her name, who she knew that they knew, but she’d shown up for what had been quite the party. She wasn’t sure if Sherlock knew about that or not. She remembered seeing him there, with Mycroft, but she didn’t think he’d seen her or known who she was if he had.

 -^-

Finally, after trying and discarding the other dresses, John tried on that first, very promising dress. As soon as she got it over her head, she knew. She just…knew.

“Oh, wow.” She ran her hands down the material of the skirt. “Oh. Wow. Wow.”

“John, sweetie?” Adler tapped on the door from outside, “Everything okay in there?” John looked at Rebecca, who had helped her into the dress.

“Y-yeah. It’s…great. I’m great.”

“Are you sure?”

“Go out and show them! I’ll finish up the back for you.” Rebecca just smiled and opened the door for her. She stepped out and as soon as they saw her, the girls congregated.

“Oh, John! You look beautiful!  This is perfect!” Molly was almost giddy, “It’s the perfect everything!”

“You know what I like about this dress the most?” Donovan went around behind to help Rebecca.

“Besides the fact I think I found a strapless dress I want to wear? Look at this thing!” John looked at her reflection.

“It shows off your ink. I did not know you had so many tattoos!” Donovan touched the lines of her Evenstar.

“And those are just the two you can see. I’ve got two more.”

“You do?”

“Yep. One here.” She touched her ribs where the Kun-ut-Shal hid under her dress, “And here.” On her flank where the otter-and-lotus curled around her hip and thigh.

“What’s the one on your ankle for?”

Long story.” She rolled her eyes. “Remember that missing-persons case that took us to Utah, of all places?”

“Oh, yeah, that one.” Donovan made a face, “You got into some trouble on that one, I remember. Sherlock was not happy about that.”

“Neither were my friends, who helped out on that case.” She sighed and twirled in front of the mirror, “I need to make sure they get an invitation, I want them to be there for me.”

“Your wedding, you can invite anyone you damn well want to.” Donovan adjusted the back of the gown, “I think this is the one, John. I really do. I like the vibe.”

I like the style.” Adler pitched in, adjusting the front. “What about you, love? It’s your dress.”

“I want this dress. I like the way it looks, I like the way it feels, I like the way it makes me feel.”

“Then this is it. This is your wedding dress.”

“What other colours do you have in your wedding?” Rebecca asked as Adler went hunting for headpieces and veils.

“Ivory, plum, and…champagne.” She looked over her shoulder as the girls giggled.

“That wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain shirt of his, would it, Captain?” Adler chirped.

“Abso-bloody-lutely!” She rolled her eyes, “That’s my favourite shirt, you know? I love that thing!”

“Have you stolen it?”

“One or two times.”

“Now, do you love the shirt, or the man who wears it?”

“Both.” She was not ashamed to blush.

“Well, you make a handsome couple.”Molly took a headpiece from Adler, “Try this.” It was a tiara-style headband embellished with crystals and pearls. It was beautiful, but something was telling John to hold off on any hairpieces.

“Do I need a headpiece, though?”

“Well, you’re going to wear something.”

“I know, I know. It’s just…I’ve got time, yeah? I don’t need to get a headpiece right now, today.” She looked at the array of headpieces and shook her head. None of them felt right. 

“You don’t, but try this. Just for kicks and giggles.” Donovan held up a veil, “Try this one.”

“I don’t know if I want a veil.”

“It would be a nice, traditional touch.” Donovan helped get the veil in place. It was a two-tier elbow length veil with no embellishment and raw edges. It was actually very simple and very lovely. John decided on the veil and the dress, and they went shoe-shopping. A message had come through from Sherlock to let her know that Baker Street was livable again after the incident the other night, so she had arrangements made to have the dress delivered to Baker Street in a week. As for shoes, she wanted something comfortable, not too high, and, possibly, in one of the colours of her scheme; some in-store searching landed her a pair of peep toe pump featuring a classic knot design and a 2½-inch heel in ivory to match her colour scheme. Content with the day’s haul, which had been surprisingly successful for a last-minute shopping-trip, John decided to treat the girls to an early dinner and took them to Angelo’s. He was, of course, thrilled to see them and treated them like family while they were there.

But, as John and Donovan had both known, the peace that had trailed them all afternoon simply was not to last and when a call came through for Donovan, none of them were surprised. There was a communal groan of dismay as she stepped out to take the call and John finished her wine.

“Well, I could have predicted that happening.” She shrugged, “Ladies, it was a pleasure.”

“It was ours, my dear.” Adler just smiled as they collected their coats. John left a couple of bills under her glass for Angelo, who just waved as they left.

“I’ll be in touch, I guess.” John zipped up her coat and fluffed her scarf.

“Absolutely.” Adler kissed her on the cheek, smiling, “You’re going to be a beautiful bride. I can’t wait.”

“Thanks for…well, thanks for stepping in as my bridal party.” She looked up at the sky, “It’s going to be a long night. I can feel it.”

“Good luck, dear.”

“Thanks. Safe travels.” She waved as Adler headed down the street to get a taxi, Molly in tow. Donovan didn’t even ask if she was coming, she obviously was and it was kind of a silly question anyway.

“You know the boys will be there, please don’t say anything.” John looked out the windscreen as she retied her boots, “Damn.”

“They won’t hear it from me, I promise.”

“Thanks, Sally.” She rubbed the back of her neck. “Who called us?”

“Gregson.”

“I…don’t think I’ve worked one of her cases yet.”

“First time for everything. She knows who you are.”

“Is that a good thing?” John raised an eyebrow. She and Sherlock had a bit of a reputation in The Met, especially in Homicide. Sally gave her a look.

“Don’t worry. She likes you.”

“I’ll worry. For my own sake.” John sighed.

 

When they got to the scene of the crime they had been called to, John followed Donovan under the tape-line, nodding to the stern-faced constable. By now, they were so used to seeing her it didn’t really faze anyone when she showed up on a scene like this.

“Gregson’s up there by the house, ma’am.” The constable said, pointing the way for Donovan and John, “We’ve already called Anderson’s team.”

“Good. Thank you, Richardson.”

“Ma’am.” The constable touched the brim of his peaked cap. John had no idea what they were up against and was a bit nervous about working a case without Sherlock. If they needed him, she was more than happy to call him and get him out. Gregson was waiting for them outside the house they had been called to, just as promised.

“Donovan. Sorry to interrupt your night off.”

“No, ma’am. When duty calls.”

“Right then.” Gregson looked past Donovan to John. “Watson.”

“Inspector Gregson.”

“Where’s your partner-in-crime?” Gregson asked as they shook hands.

“He’s at home, ma’am. If we need him, do I have your permission to call him?”

“I don’t see why not. Get in there and tell me what I’m looking at, because I can’t make heads or tails of any of it.”

“One of those, then.” John sighed. “Great.” Going inside the house with Donovan, John got a good long look at the scene. At first glance, it was kind of hard to tell how the victims had died there was so much blood, but John knew right away it wasn’t a triple-homicide, which is what it was supposed to look like.

“Double-homicide and suicide. This isn’t a triple homicide.”

“What’s that, Watson?” Gregson asked from the door as she circled the scene.

“Look.” She stepped around and approached the third body, “This wound is self-inflicted.” Pointing out a bullet-hole in the victim’s skull. She studied the other two bodies. “These two were stabbed to death, that one shot herself. Staged it to look like a homicide.”

“Oh.”

“There was anger here. The way these two were slashed up.” She wrinkled her nose at the smell of so much blood, “Too bad we can’t get answers.”

“Might still be able to. We need to talk to friends and family of the victims.” Gregson rubbed her chin, looking at her carefully. “How did you do that, Watson?”

“Do what?”

“How can you tell that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted?”

“The angle. It was inflicted by the non-dominant hand in an effort to make it look like a homicide, but most shootings of that manner are usually to the back of the head or the forehead. Right here.” She indicated where typical GSWs could be found on a homicide victim. “Also, look at the angle of the victim’s arm, the way she’s fallen. The gun is still in her hand. Rigour hasn’t quite set in, this was recent. Who called it?”

“One of the neighbours reported hearing shouting, screaming, and a gunshot.” Gregson watched them, curious and intrigued.

“Which, unfortunately, is not that unusual in this part of town.” John rubbed her nose on her sleeve, “I mean, no offence, but we’re smack in the middle of Plaistow, not the best part of town over here.”

“Figures. We did get a name from the neighbours.”

“A suspect?”

“Well, more like a person of interest, if you’re right and this is a murder-suicide.” Gregson folded her arms across her chest.

“Name?”

“Uh. Cafarella.” Gregson consulted her notes, “Lorenzo Cafarella?”

“Sounds Italian.” John frowned. “Well, I’ve done all I care to. Do you need anything else, Inspector?”

“Uh, no. I think…I think we’re good.” Gregson looked at her notes again, “Thanks for that, Watson.”

“Of course. I’ll be in touch, Lestrade or Donovan can reach me.” She stood back from the bodies. “I would like a copy of the autopsies, if you don’t mind.”

“Yeah, no problem. I’ll let Anderson and Doctor Hooper know.”

“Thank you, Inspector. I was glad to help.” John smiled as she shook hands with Gregson again and left the house as Gregson summoned Anderson and the forensics team.

“Now what?” Donovan stood with her on the other side of the tape-line, well aware of the curious stares.  She’d just pulled Sherlock’s trick on a scene, most of them weren’t used to that.

“We have to prove Lorenzo Cafarella is innocent of killing three people.”

“How, though? Where would we even start looking for him?”

“I…have no idea.” John sighed, kicking at the pavement. Donovan rummaged in her pockets for a few things. A soft, victorious “hah” produced a lighter and a nearly-empty pack of cigarettes. John indulged in several vices, some worse than others. Drinking and smoking were at the top of her list, she stayed away from recreational drugs but never judged those who used. Either hearing the soft sigh or reading other signals in her body-language, Donovan offered up both the items from her pocket. John accepted both. It was an occasional habit of hers. They stood with their backs to the line for fifteen minutes, trading ideas about the motive of the suicide-victim and what would have driven her to kill two other people so violently before killing herself, and then frame whoever Lorenzo Cafarella was for the crime.

“Kind of a weird little girl’s night out, wasn’t it?” John blew a stream of smoke at the sky.

“I’m not sure I know what a normal girl’s night out is supposed to be like, actually.” Donovan made a face, “What does that say about me?”

“That you found a partner who’s perfect for you because she understands your crazy schedule and keeps the same hours. Cancelled dates and long overnights are just a way of life.”

“Yeah, no fucking kidding.” Donovan snorted. “By the way, how’s your shoulder?”

“It’s a little sore, but I’ve been worse.” John gave an experimental stretch of her shoulders, “Honestly, it was the nightmares that gave me the most grief last night.”

“God, I can only imagine. I didn’t think you’d actually go in, and suddenly…you were gone.”

“Yeah, as scary as that was for you, it was worse for me.” John shuddered, “But you know, I would do it all over again, the same fucking way, if I had to.”

“And that’s what makes you one of the bravest people I know. Possibly misguided, not quite right in the head, but you’re braver than most of us and you don’t carry a badge.”

“I save the city another way. Besides, it’s not like we don’t see plenty of each other while we’re out on our different jobs anyway.” She smirked, “How many times have we seen each other just in passing in the last two months?”

“More than I’m going to consider.” Donovan rolled her eyes.

“I rest my case.” John just smiled. After finishing the cigarette, she decided to head for home. Donovan had to stick around and help out on-scene, so John went to get a cab.

“I’ll come by in the morning to file my reports, Sally.”

“Sounds good to me. Thanks for helping out.”

“My pleasure. Thanks for getting me out of the house and off my arse.” John just smiled and gave Sally a hug, “It was fun.”

“Adler was right, you’re going to look absolutely stunning in that dress.” Sally gave her a look, one she was familiar with. “What are you going to do about a headpiece?”

“Not a fucking clue. I’ll worry about that later.”

“Fine with me. Give me a call if you need any help with anything else.”

“Don’t say that, I’ll put you to work. God, there’s so much we still have to do.”

“You can do it. Lock your date down first and the rest will happen naturally.”

“You sound so sure of that.” John rubbed her wrist and looked up and down the street, “Well, I’m off. See you in the morning, Donovan.”

“Get home safe. Let me know when you do?”

“Yeah, sure!” She knew why Donovan wanted her to call or text her. Waving, she went around the corner and walked a block before a familiar black car pulled up at the kerb next to her. She stood still as it came to a stop and the door was opened for her by the driver.

“Thank you, Charles.”

“Ma’am.” The driver touched his cap to her and she peeked into the interior before she slid into the dim, warm car.

“Thanks, Mycroft.”

“I saw that you were in this part of town and came to fetch you.”

“Which is just fine with me.” She pulled the door closed and yawned.

“Did you manage to solve the case?”

“Sherlock’s going to be insanely jealous. But we could probably use his help on this one. I’ve got a double-murder/suicide on my hands that was staged to look like a triple-homicide.”

“How did you know it was otherwise?”

“The third victim was shot in the side of the head. The angle was kind of telling.”

“Ah.” Her brother-in-law smiled, “Do you have a person of interest?”

“Lorenzo Cafarella. We really need to talk to him. Well, The Met needs to talk to him.”

“Well done, John.” Mycroft smiled, “Shall I take you back to Baker Street?”

“Is Sherlock home?”

“Yes, he has been for quite a few hours. I’m not certain what he’s been up to, but I imagine it’s nothing terrible, or we would have heard something.”

“Probably not a bad guess.” She chuckled and leaned against the bench, putting her feet up. “Mycroft?”

“Hmm?”

“Would it be weird to get married on my birthday? Or on the day after?”

“No, I shouldn’t think so. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, I was just thinking. 31 March is kind of an important day, but not just because it’s my birthday. That’s the day I first met Sherlock, back in 2006.” She thought of that day, “I had no idea who he was, what he was doing there, I just…saw him, kneeling in the dust, in the sand, with his camera, taking pictures as everything unfolded.”

“And you made a point of hunting him down after and spending time with him. He never forgot that.”

“Neither did I.” She smiled, “It’s funny how we kept ourselves connected over the years, even if he did write me under an alias.”

“Did you know it was him?”

“When he started talking about solving crimes and working with The Met, I kind of suspected maybe it was the same person.” John tucked her head against her chest for a minute. “And then I save him. Twice, at least.”

“And you never questioned.”

“I’m a soldier, it’s my job to follow orders, to adapt as necessary to the situation at hand.” She studied Mycroft, “Besides, saving your brother’s sorry arse in a tough situation is not the worst thing I’ve ever done, and he’s not even the first operative I’ve rescued.”

“No he is not. But he was certainly one of the most important, wasn’t he?”

“Oh, absolutely. Thankfully, he’s been rather good about staying out of trouble since I moved into Baker Street. Discounting the few incidents on record, but we were both involved in those cases and I did just exactly what I said I would.”

“You got into trouble right alongside him and then got him out again.” Mycroft smiled, “I’m not sure we deserve you, John Watson. You’re such a rare individual, it’s…refreshing.”

“If we’re going to talk about deserving things, that’s my job to be worried about it, not yours.”

“Oh, nonsense.”

“Lower-middle class kid from the council estates? Yeah, I think I can worry about that kind of thing.” John leaned her head back and closed her eyes, resting until they pulled up to Baker Street. As she got out, John thought of something kind of important.

“Oh, hey, Mycroft?”

“Yes, dear?”

“I’m pretty sure you know exactly where I’ve been all afternoon, could you…keep it to yourself? I really don’t want Sherlock to know about the dress until the wedding.”

“Oh, of course I won’t say anything. It really is a very lovely dress, though. Very fitting for you.”

“That’s kind of what I was thinking. I’ve got the dress, the shoes, the veil, now I just have to worry about a few other small details. But, I’ve got time to get that taken care of, so I’m not really in a rush.”

“Of course not. Shall I inform Mummy that we have a date?”

“Let me talk to Sherlock, I don’t think he’ll have any problem with it.”

“I’ll be in touch. Good night, John.”

“Good night, Mycroft. Thanks for the ride, and…everything else.” She slid out of the car and got her keys. Letting herself into the house, she was glad to note that it was warm in the house. She knew Sherlock was home, she’d seen the lights on upstairs. Locking up for the night, she pocketed her keys and headed upstairs to find the door propped open and light spilling out into the landing.

“Sherlock?”

“Did you solve the case?”

“More or less. How the hell did you find out?”

“I know how you behave when you’ve been on a case.” He looked up at her, “What was it?”

“Double-murder/suicide.”

“Ooh, that’s delightful! Tell me everything!”

“Yeah, yeah, let me get my coat off first. I need tea.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged out of her coat, hanging it up as she went into the kitchen, “Do you want some?”

“Yes, please.”

“Will you drink it?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm.” She got her tea-box down and pulled down their mugs. Once the tea was ready, she went back out to the sitting-room and sat down in her chair after giving Sherlock his tea. “So?”

“Start at the beginning. I want everything.” He took a sip and closed his eyes for a minute. “Oh, how are you so good at that?”

“No magic involved, I promise.”

“I am not certain of that.” He smiled, “But, case on.”

“Alright.” She knew he wanted the details, he wanted to be involved. So she laid out everything she had seen and done at the scene.

“Crime of passion. She was trying to hurt her ex-husband.”

“By framing him for murder.”

“She was mentally unstable, obviously, but she managed to convince three doctors that he was the danger.” Sherlock stopped pacing and looked at John, his eyes bright. “I couldn’t have done better myself. I’m very proud of you, John.”

“I happen to be rather good at solving puzzles.”

“And crime.”

“Well, I am engaged to a consulting detective, and I’m not a complete idiot myself.”

“No, no. You’re one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.” Sherlock smiled and came over to her chair, leaning over to kiss her, “My brilliant John.” John rolled her eyes but kept her mouth shut. It was kind of hard to object when he was kissing her. He probably knew that, too, the smooth bastard. John ran her fingers through Sherlock’s hair, not missing the soft sound he made as he relaxed into her a little bit more. Pulling back, she touched noses with him.

“Bed.” She said softly. “Now.”

“Of course.” He just gave her that smile and took her by the hand. Getting to the bedroom, she kicked the door closed and they got to the business of undressing each other. Clothes were left where they fell and she pushed him back onto the bed, he dragged her down on top of him and muffled her indignation with a kiss as he smoothly rolled them so she was on her back.

“Do forgive me, my dear.”

“Bastard.”

“Oh, you don’t mean that, love.” He just smiled and set about driving her wild.

“Dear God, I love you.” She sighed as he kissed the inside her of her left thigh.

“I know.” He rubbed his cheek against the soft, pale skin. “I must be the luckiest man in the world.” John moaned as he kissed his way up, making for a certain target. Who was the lucky one here? While Sherlock put that rather talented tongue of his to perfectly good use, John felt her mind go blank. This was hers for a lifetime. Lucky John Watson.

“Oh, why are you so good at that!” She muttered once she had her head back on a bit. Sherlock just chuckled and slipped from bed, padding into the loo to brush his teeth. When he came back, she tasted the toothpaste. Taking her turn, she joined him under the covers and they cuddled for a while.

John slept without dreams to trouble that night, and was awake the next morning at her usual time. Sherlock waited on the stoop with her until Bill arrived at seven with the ambulance. Taking the takeaway cup of coffee, she kissed her fiancé and switched places with Bill. They had hours to make up, after all. Sherlock would probably spend the day at Saint Bart’s with Molly, which was fine. Molly wouldn’t tell him anything. There was nothing spectacular that day, and John got back into the groove of work.


 

Chapter Text


The rest of that week was fairly standard, a decent mix-up of private cases and a few for The Met as they ran for Gregson, who had liked what she saw with John and was more than willing to take on Sherlock as well.

Come Sunday, John was working a Day-12, and Sherlock had a private case, so he was gone as well. Adler offered to pick up John’s dress and take it to Baker Street, which John was more than happy to let her do. Or…she would have, if it hadn’t already been picked up. Which was a little strange. No one in their very small circle had it, she got negatives from everyone including Mycroft. It hadn’t been stolen, she was fairly certain of that. A quick call to David’s Bridal reassured her that it hadn’t been stolen. Someone had come and picked it up on her behalf. Apparently, whoever it was, the staff wasn’t going to question. Her entire bill, her dress and accessories plus her bridesmaid’s dresses, had been paid for by the same person who had picked up her dress, which was both generous and alarming. Hanging up with the clerk, John stared at her phone for a minute.

“Well, then.” She shrugged and pocketed her phone, “I have a patron, apparently.”

“What’s that?” Bill looked over from going over their log.

“I went dress-shopping with the girls last Sunday, and apparently, my entire bill has been settled and whoever paid my bill also picked up my dress.”

“Really?”

“I didn’t press, they didn’t seem keen to give up any names, but whoever it was must have had a good reason.”

“And you’re sure it wasn’t anyone we know?”

“I’ve asked everyone who knew I’d gone! Molly’s at work, and so are Stella and Donovan! Mycroft doesn’t have it, none of his people have it, and Adler went to pick it up! And I just called David's Bridal, so I know for sure it's not there!”

“Who on earth would do something like that?”

“I have no idea. What I want to know is, how did they find out? Not just who are they, but how did they find out? Sherlock doesn’t even know.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Yep.”

“Well, damn.” Bill grimaced, “Hope you find out soon, yeah?”

“I’ll find out eventually. I have some questions. Who, how, and why.”

“Good questions. I hope you get answers.”

“Well, I’m gonna go sit in the back. Holler if you need me.” She kicked her door open and got waved off by Bill, who was consolidating their hours. Opening the bay doors, she climbed into the treatment bay and went through an inventory and equipment check. Their day had been pretty quiet, but John was almost certain there was something on the horizon. Nothing bad, she didn’t think, but…something.

-^-

It was several hours later before anything actually happened, John was reorganizing the treatment-bay as they sat on a stakeout by Buckingham Palace. They’d staked out here before and usually took care of tourists who needed a hand for something. As they sat on the far side of the Queen Victoria Memorial fountain, John was aware of an approach. She ignored them as long as she politely could, they would explain their business eventually.

“Captain Watson?”

“Yeah.” She kept her back turned. “Who’s asking?”

“Ma’am, can you turn around please.”

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” She turned to look over her shoulder. “Mycroft.”

“John.”

“Hey.” Straightening up at the sight of her brother-in-law, who looked caught between emotions, she wiped her hands on a rag, which she tossed towards a small linens bin. “What’s up?”

“I am so very sorry to bother you, my dear, but it seems you have been summoned.”

“Summoned? Summoned where, exactly?” She sat on the step, knowing she was supposed to stand in the presence of an Equerry but not particularly caring to do so just at the moment.

“You are to report to the palace, by Royal summons and official decree.” The Equerry said stiffly, holding out an envelope with one gloved hand. He obviously didn’t want a thing to do with John, which was probably why Mycroft was along. “At your leisure. Captain.”

“What is this?” She took the envelope, thick, high-quality, and…expensive. Private stationary, hand-written summons. She broke the wax seal, wondering who the hell even used wax seals anymore, and extracted a sheet of parchment. On it, sure enough, was what amounted to a personalized royal summons.

“Wait…what?” She had to reread a few lines. “What is this?”

“A mystery has been resolved, I’m afraid.”

“Oh my god.” John looked up from the letter and past the memorial to the palace beyond. “Buckingham Palace?”

“As soon as you can step away.”

“Jesus Christ, good thing we staked-out here! I can’t imagine what it would be if we were somewhere else in London!”

“I would have been happy to accommodate you, my dear.” Mycroft looked almost sorry, “I was not expecting this degree of…intervention.”

“How did they even get my name? I mean it. How? I am a legitimate nobody to these people!” She shook the summons in one hand, “What is this?!”

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“Jesus.” She took a deep breath and looked at her watch. Grabbing her radio, she touched base with Bill. “Hey, Bill.”

“What’s on, Watson? We got some interesting company back there.”

“Yeah, about that. They’re here for me.” She squinted, “I promise I didn’t do anything wrong, but I’ve been…formally informally summoned.”

“For what?”

“I have a bit of an idea, but I have no idea at all. And, um, since this is the second time I’ve gotten one of these, I’m not about to ignore it.”

“The second time? What was the first one, then?”

“Invitation to the Royal Wedding back in 2011.” She cleared her throat, “Anyway, I’ve gotta step out.”

“That’s fine with me. We’ve made up our hours for today anyway. You get on, and, uh, good luck.”

“Thanks, Bill. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“You’ve got a Swing tomorrow.”

“Excellent. See you tomorrow.” She clicked off and went to get her jump-kit. Bill didn’t say anything, he didn’t have to. John looked at her watch and marked the time for 7.00 pm. Slinging her kit over one shoulder, she folded the summons into the pocket of her parka and looked at Mycroft and the Equerry, who made a face at the sight of her kit. And her general state of appearance. She just stared him down until he backed off and led the way back towards Buckingham Palace. It wasn’t the first time she’d been inside the palace, but it was the first in a while. Surprisingly, John wasn’t that nervous. She was curious, but not terribly nervous. That could change, and quickly.

 

Once inside the palace, quiet for the hour and lacking it’s summer crowds of tourists, John followed Mycroft and the Equerry to a private sitting-room. Mycroft told her to sit and asked if she needed anything. Answers, but she would get those, so…no. Not momentarily.

“Someone will be to get you shortly.” He made a short bow and was gone again. John was left alone, but she didn’t sit down. Instead, she paced, wondering who was behind this summons, and how the hell they’d found out. She was familiar with Sherlock’s standing with the Royal Family, but…it didn’t quite make sense to her. She was no one. Despite her past history, she was no one at all. Serving as part of the Honour Guard for the Royal Wedding in 2011 had been…phenomenal, and a tremendous honour John hadn’t expected to receive. So, whatever this was, had to be something rather important.

Ten minutes later, short of John wearing a hole in the rug, Mycroft came back for her and took her to another room. Before he let her into the room, she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back around the corner.

“Mycroft, wait.” She looked past her brother-in-law for a minute. “What’s this about?”

“I know as much as you do.”

“Names, Mycroft.”

“Is that important?”

“I’m meeting royalty! I’d like to know which members of the Royal Family are waiting for me in there!” She pointed at the doors beyond.

“Her Majesty, The Queen, and Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”

“That means it’s William and Kate.” She heaved a sigh of relief, “Thank God.”

“Come along.” He took her hand and led her back towards the doors.

“How did they find out?”

“About what?”

“Well…all of it?”

“Your engagement to my brother is no state secret, my dear. They found out very quickly.”

“But we just announced it to your parents on Christmas!”

“Believe me, they have their ways of finding things out. And Her Majesty has always been rather…fond of my brother for reasons I never quite understood.”

“Which must have made things very interesting during the Adler scandal.”

“To say the least.”

“What a mess,” John muttered, following Mycroft into the room. They were in the Music Room, John recognized it in the quick glance she got before she dropped her gaze to the floor and bowed to the members of the Royal Family. But there was something different this time.

“Mycroft.”

“Shh.” He hushed her. Arranged around the room were display-stands, on each one was a crown. In the middle was a dress-form, and on that dress-form was John’s wedding-dress.

“Oh no.” Everything suddenly made sense. “Oh my god.” John stood up, at parade-rest with one hand over her heart.

“Captain Watson.”

“Captain Wales,” John remembered to use his title properly as she exchanged a salute with him. Barely. “Thank you, sir.”

“You’re welcome.” He just smiled. He had his mother’s beautiful smile. She was brave enough to ask one question.

“What am I doing here, Your Highness?” To which she got a very unusual answer. Any of the privately-owned Crown Jewels, the tiaras passed down, were hers to have as a bit of a wedding present on loan.

“That’s something borrowed!” She couldn’t believe it. “Any of them?”

“Any of them.”

“Oh, how many times have I seen these in pictures, on telly.” John let out an unsteady breath, “Oh my god.”

“Breathe, Captain.”

“Sorry! Sorry, it’s just…oh my god. Thank you!”

“See what takes your fancy, dear.” Why did the Queen seem so much like a cheerful grandmother just now? It wasn’t supposed to be that way. John wandered among the displays, studying and handling the crowns. She was allowed to, and it was…humbling. Commoners didn’t get to do this, ever, none of them had this kind of chance. She picked up the beloved Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, which had been a personal favourite of the late Lady Diana until it was returned to the Queen in 1996.

“It’s prettier in person.” She breathed, “Can I…?”

“Absolutely.” Kate came over and took it from her, carefully setting it in place. It was heavier than she’d expected, but that weight on her head made her stand up straighter.  She swore she heard Mycroft chuckle and made a face at him.

“Don’t you dare laugh.”

“I would never.”

“Tosser.” She muttered.

“You can talk to him like that?”

“He’s going to be my brother-in-law, I can talk to him however I damn well please.”

“Your brother’s fiancée is a spirited girl, Mr Holmes.”

“Oh, you have no idea, Your Majesty,” Mycroft said quietly, smiling in that way of his.

 

In her wanderings of the displayed crowns and tiaras, John came upon something rather understated. In fact, she nearly walked right past the damn thing the first time.

“Oh, hang on.” She paused and went back, “What’s this little wonder?” It was a coronet, set with diamonds in silver and beautiful blue sapphires in gold. It was gorgeous, understated, and...

“Perfect.” She breathed, lifting it from its cushion, “What is this? I feel like I’ve seen pictures of this somewhere.” This had history, it had been taken care of and maintained, but there was history to this coronet.

“That, I believe is Queen Victoria’s Sapphire Coronet.” Mycroft came over to look at it.

“Oh my god.” She was right, then. “Did...um, was this one of the pieces Prince Albert designed for her?”

“Yes, it is.”

“It’s beautiful.” John looked over her shoulder at the dress form. She could knock two things off of that silly little rhyme with this. If she was allowed to borrow it for her wedding.

“Do you want to try it on all together?”

“Can I?”

“Yes, you can.” He set the coronet on its stand and beckoned to the other three. “Her Highness will stay, call when you need us back.”

“Thank you, Mycroft.” John followed Kate behind a folding dressing screen she hadn’t noticed before that closed off part of the room to provide privacy.

“Sherlock’s never going to believe this.” She whispered as Kate helped her into the dress and zipped up the back. John was trembling when Kate fixed the Sapphire Coronet in place.

“How do you want to wear this with your veil?”        

“I don’t...I don’t know, actually.” She stayed very still. “I mean, I don’t want to hide it, but...”

“Don’t worry. You’ll make yourself sick doing that.” Kate scolded. “Have you settled a date?”

“31 March.”

“That’s a special date for you?”

“It’s...my birthday. It’s also the day I met Sherlock in Afghanistan.”

“That’s beautiful.” Kate smiled and adjusted the set of the coronet. “There. Now, come see yourself.” Pushing the screen aside, Kate let her out into the open again. A full-length mirror had been set up and the first thing she saw was her reflection. At David’s Bridal had been one thing, but this was something completely different.

“That doesn’t look like me.”

“You look amazing.” Kate smiled over her shoulder. The coronet was a little spark of colour, holding the veil in place. The blusher would cover the coronet until it was pulled back, John liked the way it looked, the way it fell.

“This is how I wore mine on my wedding day.” 

“I feel a little silly.”

“Nonsense.”

“My brother is the luckiest man in London, perhaps a bit beyond it.” Mycroft studied the way John looked, smiling like he did when something pleased him. “None of this will reach him through me.”

“Thanks, Mycroft.” John tucked the blusher back and looked at her reflection some more. “Can I borrow this one? It’s...kind of perfect.”

“Yours for one of the most important days of your life.” The Queen said solemnly. “I’m not certain your Passing-Out Parade was this important.”

“I don’t think it was, Your Majesty.” John had to agree with her. After settling the matter of borrowing a tiara for her wedding day, and getting one with history attached, John changed back into her work uniform. The dress and accessories were appropriately packed away for return to their rightful places, Mycroft took charge of them and offered to have everything delivered to Baker Street discretely. John did not say no to that. Thanking the Royals for their generosity to a complete stranger, which had even the Queen shaking her head, John took her leave of Buckingham Palace.

“Well, I can safely say that for the second time in my life, I’ve rubbed elbows with royalty.” She looked over her shoulder as she got into the waiting car. “They’re so...normal.”

“They are human only.”

“No kidding.” She sighed. “Wow.” She held the blue velvet box containing the priceless coronet in her lap and opened it to look at it again, unable to help herself. It was small, simple, and gorgeous.

“I can’t believe they let me have this. Queen Victoria, the Queen Victoria, wore this! It’s so beautiful.”

“How does that bridal rhyme go?”

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” She stroked the lines of the loaned coronet, “This will stay in my safe until the wedding. Sherlock never goes in there. He doesn’t have the combination and he won’t try to break into it.” Mycroft just smiled to himself.

Sherlock was home when she got in, but she didn’t bother him until she’d put her things away upstairs. Locking the coronet in her safe, John concealed the dress in the back of the closet. The upstairs bedroom was mostly storage for John’s belongings, so Sherlock tended to leave it alone. When she went back downstairs, he was in the kitchen working on something.

“What was my brother doing here?”

“Dropping me off.”

“I thought that was Bill’s job?”

“Shift-end came while we were in that part of town. He happened to be in the area and offered me a ride home.” John fixed tea. “How was your day, then?”

“Unremarkable.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well, I solved more cases for Gregson and Lestrade, but that was all.”

“Did you solve that case you took this morning?”

“I had that solved by noon.”

“Of course you did.” She rolled her eyes. Sherlock made a face at her and she gave him a cup of tea, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. “You’re kind of ridiculous.”

“You’re home rather late, though.”

“I had business to take care of. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.” She smiled and sat down across from him, “I don’t suppose you had a chance to tell Mummy we settled on a date, did you?”

“Yes, I did, and she was thrilled. We’re finalizing the guest-lists right now.”

“Good. Did you give her all of the names we had between us?”

“Those I could remember. If you can think of any we missed, just call her.”

“Did you remember the Winchesters?”

“Of course.”

“And Donovan. I need to make sure she’s invited.”

“Of course she’s invited, she’s in your bloody bridal party!” Sherlock rolled his eyes at that. “Have you picked a Chief Bridesmaid?”

“No. Not yet.” She sighed, “I feel like I should ask my sister first, but I think I know what she’ll say.”

“Speak of the devil.” Sherlock muttered as John’s phone rang. She looked at the number and groaned.

“Damn it. If she’s drunk, I’m hanging up on her.” She swiped into the call and braced herself for a potentially unpleasant encounter. “Hey, Harry.”

“John!”

“Hey, no shouting. I can hear you fine. What’s up, sis?” She couldn’t tell from background noise where her sister might be, and dreaded that lack of knowledge. “You don’t usually call without a good reason.”

“Hey, I need a hand! Are you busy right now?”

“No, I just got home from work. Where are you?” Please don’t tell me you’re in the drunk tank, for the love of God.

“Yeah, about that. Sorry! Um, I need you to come get me.”

“Where, Harry? Where are you right now?”

“I’m over at, uh...hang on.” She heard a commotion in the background. “Oh. Sorry. Hey, Jyp?”

“Fuck you, Harry.” John put her head down, “Where. Are. You? And do I need bail money?”

“How mad would you be if I said yes?”

“Jesus Christ, I don’t need this right now.”

“I’m your goddamn sister!”

“And I’ve been hauling your sorry arse out of the drunk tank since I was sixteen, Harry! Fuck you!” She rubbed her forehead. “Listen, if I know you, you’re over at Wood Street. I’ll be there in...twenty minutes.” She looked at her watch and timed the drive from Baker Street to Wood Street Police Station. It was about twenty minutes at this time of day, traffic pending. Hanging up on Harry, cutting off a rant, she got up, pocketed her phone, found her wallet and keys, and grabbed her parka.

“Wait for me.” Sherlock got up, “I’ll come with you, you shouldn’t go over there by yourself.”

“I don’t need you to come with me to get my sister out of the clink, Sherlock.”

“I’m coming with you.”

“Fine.” She didn’t want to argue about it, that phone-call had put her in a foul mood. Which was a bit of shame, considering how much she had enjoyed herself earlier. Sherlock came downstairs five minutes later, shrugging into his Belstaff.

“Going out, Mrs Hudson, be back in a bit!”

“But you just got back, John!”

“My sister called.” She held the door for Sherlock.

“Oh dear. Well, good luck!” Their landlady ducked back into her flat and left them to it. Sherlock conjured a cab and John gave the driver the Wood Street address. It was a quiet, tense drive over and John worked over several scenarios that could have potentially landed her sister in the drunk tank like this. It was Monday, at 9.00 pm, she could only imagine. When they got to the station, John found her way by memory to the proper division. At the proper desk, she gave her name and the inmate she was bailing out. They waited ten minutes for the bailiff to bring Harry out. John knew something had happened, Harry looked pretty awful.

“Oh my god! Harry!” John got to her feet, “What happened?”

“I’m fine.”

“No you’re not.” She grabbed her sister by the arm and looked her over, “Jesus, what’d you do? Start a fight with somebody twice your size?”

“Leggo, I’m fine.”

“Shut up, you’re not.” She turned her sister’s head, “Jesus, Harry.”

“There was a brawl over at The Three Sisters. We rounded up a whole lot.” The bailiff offered as he unfastened the handcuffs around Harry’s wrists. “This one was one of ‘em. Instigated the whole mess, we heard.”

“Damn it, Harry.” John sighed and took her sister’s hands, rubbing the marks on her hands and wrists, “You bloody moron. Come on, you’re coming home with us.”

“No, I’m not.”

“I am not giving you back to Clara looking like this. You’ll stay at Baker Street tonight, I’ll get you cleaned up and sober, and you can go home tomorrow.” She took the bag of belongings the bailiff handed her, “Here, put your coat on, it’s cold.”

“You’re not my mum.”

“You’re lucky I’m not Mum! She’d have beat you silly for this shit! Come on, let’s go home.” She got under her sister’s shoulder and led the way out. “You can’t just pick fights with people because you’re bored, Harry, you’ll get in serious hurt doing that.” When they got to the street, John noticed a cab pulling up. It wasn’t unusual, she couldn’t be the only person here to collect one of the brawlers.

“John.”

“I see it.” She sighed, “Come on, Harry, one foot in front of the other. Take it easy.” As they got to the pavement, Clara Oswin charged out of the cab that had pulled up, nearly frantic.

“Harry!”

“Clara?”

“Oh boy.”

“I told you not to go! I told you it was a bad idea!” John slipped out of reach before Clara nearly tackled Harry to the pavement.

“Sorry, Clarabell.”

“Shit, you’re a complete mess! Look at the state of you! What happened?”

“Bar-brawl, Clara.” John folded her arms across her chest.

“John, did you bail her?”

“Yes I did. She called me.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” Clara turned to hug her, “God, I’m so sorry about this, John. You have better things to do than drag my wife out of the drunk tank for me.”

“How did you find out?”

“I called her.” Sherlock was doing something on his phone, “I thought she should know.”

“Oh. Thanks for that.” John looked at her fiancée, “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I wanted to. It was important.”

“John, can I take her home?” Clara touched John’s arm.

“Yeah. Make sure she drinks water, give her paracetamol and you know what to do with these.” John handed over a bottle of over-the-counter paracetamol and a few homeopathics.

“Arnica?”

“Yep. As the bruises heal, use the topical. She didn’t break skin except a split lip, miraculously.”

“You should see the other bloke.” Harry slurred, “He looks worse.”

“Yeah, I’ve seen you pick a fight, Harry Watson, I’ve got a pretty bloody good idea what “the other bloke” looks like.” John rolled her eyes. “Alright, you two, get on back home. Harry, call me in the morning.”

“Why?”

“Because I told you to.” She sighed, “Clara.”

“Yeah?”

“Concussion protocol.”

“I was going to. I’ll call you in the morning. Thanks for...well, thanks for doing this.”

“It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing right off a Day-12, but I knew leaving her there would be worse.” John shrugged, “Look after her for me?”

“I’ll do my best.” Clara put an arm around Harry and looked at Sherlock, who was standing behind John. “And you, thanks for calling me. I’m sorry if I was rude.”

“I’m used to people treating me poorly, either over the phone or in person, Miss Oswin.” Sherlock didn’t seem much fazed by any harsh words that may or may not have passed between them.

“You never really explained yourself before I rather rudely hung up on you. How do you know my sister-in-law?”

“Keep an eye on the papers in the next few months.” John rocked on her heels.

“What for? You’re in the papers an awful lot these days.”

“Clara, Harry, this is Sherlock. You probably know his name from the papers.”

“Yeah, we know you. Done my sister a good turn, you did right, Mr Holmes.” Harry blinked a bit owlishly, “Thought she was off her rocker movin’ in with the likes of you.”

“You wouldn’t have been the only one, Harry.”

“So, what’s changed on it, then?”

“We’re getting married at the end of March.”

“You’re...what?”

“Getting. Married. On my birthday.”

“Holy shit! What?” Harry reached out and grabbed John by the hand, “When did that happen?”

“Two months ago. We told his family over Christmas, and you weren’t talking to me at all two months ago, so I never got a chance to tell you.”

“You could have told Clara!”

“You told me to leave your wife alone or you’d get a restraining order on me.” John pulled out of her sister’s grip, “You haven’t really been there for me, Harry. To be fair, we didn’t tell anyone until right around Christmas, so don’t think you were special.”

“Have you picked a dress?”

“And a bridal party. The position of Chief Bridesmaid is up for grabs, if I thought I could trust you to show up at all, or come sober when you did. You’re invited regardless. You’re family, even if you don’t act like it.”

“Who’s walking you down the aisle?”

“Haven’t figured that out yet. Da sure as hell can’t, and good riddance to ‘im.” John looked up, searching for stars in the cloudy sky, “I’ve got a few choices for an alternate.”

“Who?”

“Well, I’d ask Mycroft, but he’s standing in as your Best Man.” John looked a Sherlock, “And Greg’s a groomsman, so he’s out of the question.”

“Dad would do it, if you asked him to.” Sherlock said thoughtfully.

“Or do you think Bill would do it?”

“He’d love to.”

“Who’s...Bill?”

“My partner and boss.” John heard her phone ring in her pocket and groaned, “You have to be fucking kidding me.”

“Not again.” Sherlock looked sad, “Can’t you say no?”

“Not while I’m making up quota hours.” She retrieved her phone and looked at the number. It was Bill. “Sorry, I have to take this.”

“Of course. I’m sorry about this, John. We’ll be in touch, alright?” Clara took her hand as she swiped into the call. “Call if you need any help.”

“Thanks, Clara. Bye, Harry. Get some sleep.” John called softly, turning to the phone-call.

“Yeah, Watson. I’m in City of London. Where are you?”

“I’m coming down Wood Street towards St Alban’s. Where are you, exactly?”

“At the police station. I’ll meet you by the church.” John sighed and hung up with Bill. Pocketing her phone, she looked at Sherlock, who just shook his head. No need to say anything, The Work was important, whatever it was.

“Well, I’m sorry to cut this little rendezvous short, but I have to go back to work. Again.” She sighed and gave Clara a hug, “I’ll be in touch, okay?”

“Sounds good. Good luck.” Clara kissed her on the cheek and got into the cab that idled at the kerb. Sherlock stayed with her until Bill arrived.

“Be smart, be safe, be in touch.”

“I will.” She leaned up to kiss him. “Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“I will.” He held her close, taking a minute to be selfish. She headed for the ambulance and switched places with Bill before getting back on the road.

“Night eight.” He handed over a cup of coffee, “Sorry, love.”

“I’ll get over it. Could have done without my idiot sister getting into a brawl so I had to go get her out of the clink, though.” She merged with traffic, there wasn’t much of it at this time of night, and looked back to see Sherlock standing outside the station, watching them leave. John got them to a stakeout in Marylebone, parked down from Baker Street because she wanted to and because she could. Spotting them on the drive-by, Sherlock retrieved and delivered John’s jump-kit and radio, both of which had been left behind when she left in a hurry to go spring Harry from jail. He also brought down her P230, just in case.

While they waited for a call to come through for them, John sat on the back of the ambulance with Sherlock, going through that day’s papers looking for cases. She sat on the step, he sat above her, reading over her shoulder and giving commentary as she read the articles off to him, all the while braiding her hair. She wasn’t sure where he had learned how or why he knew how to, but it was something he enjoyed doing, and she enjoyed having her hair played with regardless, so it was kind of a bonding thing they did together. Usually just like this, she read off articles, he graded and solved them, and Sherlock braided John’s hair. A call came in right as he finished a rather elaborate cross-braided bun.

“You hold still.” He scolded, slightly muffled due to the hair-pins between his teeth. She rolled her eyes but let him finish what he was doing. Pinning the tails in place and securing a few fly-aways, he patted her on the shoulder. Bill came around to close up the bay, smiling when he caught the two of them.

“Man of many skills, Holmes.” He circled John, “I can usually tell when you’ve had something to do with her get-ready routine.”

“I try.” Sherlock just smiled as he zipped up John’s parka and fluffed the scarf tucked under the jumpsuit. “There. Gloves. Hat. Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“I will. See you in the morning, love.” She smiled and kissed him, squeaking when he purposely rocked her off-balance and into the side of the ambulance. “Oi! Cheek!”

“You love me.”

“Damn right I do!” She rolled her eyes, “That’s just not on, Holmes.”

“I apologize for nothing.” He just smiled and crowded her a bit. “I have to share you. I don’t like that.”

“You don’t have to like it, but I’m not quitting.”

“I would never ask you to. You love the work, maybe not always the hours, and you’re doing something you’re quite good at.” He kissed the side of her neck. “I’ll see you in the morning, love.”

“Behave yourself while I’m gone.”

“I won’t make any mischief.”

“Good.” She pushed him out of her way and hopped into the cab. He climbed onto the running board and stole a kiss through the window, he always did, and waved until they were at the end of Baker Street.

-^-

John had a few exciting calls but nothing really all that remarkable, and when Bill dropped her off at 7.00 am at Baker Street, she promised to be waiting on the kerb by 7.00 pm and went inside. Going upstairs, she found Sherlock in the kitchen working on...something. John switched her radio off and dumped her gear by the door, hanging her parka haphazardly on the hook next to Sherlock’s Belstaff. Kicking off her boots, which landed somewhere near her jump-kit, John retrieved her phone from the pocket of her parka, using her free hand to undo her jumpsuit and tie it around her waist as she shuffled into the kitchen.

“Hi, you.” She leaned over the back of Sherlock’s chair and kissed him on the cheek.

“Good shift?”

“Busy one. Nothing too exciting, thankfully. Did have a patient try to bite me.”

“Again?”

“Yep.” She sank into the chair next to his, “Didn’t get me, though.”

“Good.” He got up and fetched something from the range, setting down a plate and cup in front of her. “Tea. Toast. Sominex. Eat first, then take a shower and go sleep.”

“Bless you.” John set in on the small offering, noticing that he had burned the toast a bit. He always did, and it was always charming when he got flustered. John ate the toast and finished the tea, taking the Sominex with a second cup of tea. After finishing her small breakfast, John did a quick wash-up and went to take a shower, leaving her uniform in a pile outside the door. After a hot, soothing shower, she got dressed in pants and a vest and went to bed.


 

Chapter Text


After several hours of good sleep, helped along by a dose of Sominex and Sherlock playing something soothing on the violin, John was up by 2.00 pm and getting her day started, more or less. Getting dressed in denims and a jumper, she kept a uniform handy, putting one in her jump-kit to take with her on the outside chance she was out of the house when her shift started. So when they got a call from Gregson with what promised to be a fine 6 just ahead of 4.00 pm, John rolled her eyes, grabbed her gear, and followed Sherlock down to the street. They got a taxi and headed for a scene in Paddington. It was the promised 6, an exciting puzzle for Sherlock, John just watched him flit around the scene like a little kid, spouting deductions faster than most people could form a coherent thought. And when a particular deduction led them straight to the suspect (it was the victim’s brother), John was on hand for the take-down, which she ended up pulling off by herself when the suspect got one good look at them as they asked if he would mind coming with them for some questions and took off on them.

“I’ll go get him.” John just sighed and rolled her eyes as she pushed away from the car.

“Hey, Watson!” Donovan, on the scene for crowd-control and first responder to the scene when it was called in, called as she was halfway in pursuit. John turned mid-stride and caught the handcuffs. Shoving them into her pocket, she took off at a run.

The suspect ran her for nearly two miles before she caught him in Notting Hill. After pursuing him to the rooftops, John ran him down in a mews house in Colville Mews. It was a rather grave miscalculation on his part if he thought she would stay on street-level when, thank you, she was rather a pro at this kind of nonsense. One minute she had him in sight, the next he disappeared. Breaking glass was the only warning she had and she went in after him. She had no idea whose house it was and felt bad for basically breaking and entering, but to be fair, he broke the window first. Grabbing him by the ankle as he tried to run again, not quite light on his feet, John wrestled with the suspect, crashing through a bannister and down to the next level. Well, he went through the bannister, John was quick enough to stop herself. A gallery reception room had been their first landing-pad, the kitchen was the next for the suspect. As John shoved to hands and knees, fully prepared to pursue this moron for as long and as far as necessary, footsteps from the lower floors sounded on the stairs. Of course the owners were home. Of course. Desperate to escape, he got his feet under him and made a break for it. Not that he got very far. The click of a pistol cocking was a galvanizing sound.

“You, don’t you dare move.” That was to the suspect. John peeked over the edge of the gallery into the kitchen below, one eyebrow raised. She knew that voice. She was in better shape than her quarry, having landed on an overstuffed couch positioned almost right beneath the skylights. She snickered and sat up so her legs hung over the ledge.

“Hello, James. Sorry about the mess.” Just her luck they’d broken into James Bond’s flat. Well, at least it wouldn’t be the strangest thing that had happened to either of them.

“John Watson?” The homeowner stepped over the cowering suspect, and stood below John, tucking his Walther PPK into his waistband. “Are you alright, love?”

“I’ve been better. Handcuffs.” She tossed him the handcuffs Donovan had given her at the start of this madness and he made good use of them on the suspect.

“Don’t you fucking move, do you hear me?” He growled, tightening the bracelets just a bit more than strictly necessary, “What were you thinking, running from John Watson? Bad move, son.”

“I’m sorry! Don’t kill me! Please!” The man whined. John snorted, coughed. It hurt.

“Son, that’s what we did for fun back in the day.” She groaned, “God. Ow.”

“Anything broken?”

“Doesn’t…ow. Doesn’t feel like it. Think I got lucky.” She rubbed her side. Her ribs hurt, but nothing felt broken.

“Mind if I ask what you were doing when you crashed into my kitchen?”

“Chasing a suspect.”

“Well, you caught him.”

“I think you’re the one who did most of the catching, 007.” John coughed, grimaced. She hadn’t broken anything, she was damn sure, but it still hurt. Bond shook his head as he placed a call to 999. It took a bit for them to pick up, but he sent Q for their first-aid kits as their call was taken.

“Yes, hello. I need to report a break-in at 11b Colville Mews. No, nothing’s been stolen. I need police and an ambulance, please, fast as may be. There are two parties in need of patching up. I have the suspect, yes, he won’t be going anywhere before you lot get here. Yes, I’ll stay on the line. Thank you.” He rolled his eyes and took a headset from Q so he wouldn’t have to hold his phone the whole time. John made her way down to the kitchen, taking the stairs and taking her time. She let Q and Bond move her to a kitchen chair. They also moved Harwood, who had figured out pretty quickly that trying to run would be a very bad idea. While they waited for authorities to arrive, more questions were asked. As Bond treated John’s injuries preliminarily, he frowned at a question asked of him.

“What’d they ask?” John whispered.

“Where were you?”

“Oh, um. We have Gabriel Harwood, he ran from police over in…Paddington. Wanted for murdering his sister Rebecca.” She grimaced, “Ask for Ambulance 1026.”

“Why?”

“That’s my ambulance. I’m on the clock in fifteen minutes.”

“And you thought it was a good idea to chase a suspect through London?” He raised an eyebrow and put in that request.

“Bill’s going to kill me for this.” She took the tea Q offered, and a cold compress. “I don’t need any stitches, do I?”

“Just a few. I’ll do them for you before the ambulance gets here.” Q promised as he carefully brushed some hair out of her face, “It’s not the worst I’ve seen.”

“Ow!”

“Sorry.”

“Not…you. Ow.” She hissed, “I don’t think I broke anything, it just hurts.” Q administered stitches to a head wound as sirens sounded on the street.

“I’ll go meet them.” Bond murmured, going downstairs to let them in. It wasn’t long before Gregson arrived with Donovan and a couple of constables in tow to take Harwood into custody.

“You alright, Watson?” Gregson gave her a long look, not as surprised as she probably should have been. But John had a reputation in Homicide and her antics were practically water-cooler gossip fodder after something like this. It wouldn’t be the first time, and it was very unlikely to be the last.

“I think so, ma’am. A little banged up and sore, but nothing’s broken.”

“Yeah, I’ll let the docs make that call. Can you walk?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’ve got MacLeod downstairs with your ambulance. He’ll do the driving until you’ve been cleared, do you understand?”

“Yes, ma'am.” John knew she wouldn’t be driving until she was cleared by an A&E surgeon. She had some time collected, so this wouldn’t eat into her shift too badly. She would work tonight if it killed her. Unless Bill sent her home. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Donovan helped her get downstairs, she apologized to Bond and Q for the mess and bother, they told her not to worry about it.

“You take care of yourself, don’t worry about us.” Bond scolded, “Let me know when you get home?”

“Yeah, I’ll…have Sherlock text you.” She winced as she shuffled out of the house, right into her fiancée’s arms. Of course he had come with them.

“John! Oh my god, are you okay?”

“I’m alive?”

“What happened?”

“Fell through 007’s skylights and took out a railing. I feel like I got hit by a tank.”

“You kind of look like it, too.” He looked her over, “Oh, John.”

“You should see the other guy.” She couldn’t help herself.

“Not nearly what he deserved.” Sherlock looked over her shoulder as they hustled Harwood out of the house and raised an eyebrow. He ushered her over to her ambulance, where Bill was shaking his head at her heroics. “Come on, let’s get you looked at.”

“Damn it, Watson.”

“Yeah, sorry, Bill.”

“You are not working tonight. I’ll take you in, but you get the next two days off to recover. I’ll see you on Thursday.” Bill gave her a thorough exam and decided it really was best to get her looked at by someone a little more experienced. It was a quiet drive to the hospital, Sherlock followed in Donovan’s car after she offered to take him in so he could wait for John.

 -^-

John spent four hours in the A&E, which included x-rays, a CT scan, and concussion protocols despite no obvious evidence of a concussion. She hadn’t broken anything, no sprains or fractures were noted, there was no concussion to be noted, and a couple more stitches really were the most she had to worry about. She was going to be in excruciating pain later, so they prescribed pain-killers to be taken on an as-needed basis. John had retained her old kits, and she had her jump-kit, so she had a few things at home that would just about do the trick. When the surgeon assigned to her case handed her the scrip-sheet, she looked at it and then handed it to Sherlock, who looked at what they had prescribed her and smiled. She had something better at home, in a far more potent and useful form.

When she was discharged, it was quite late and she was sore, slightly nauseous, and exhausted. Mycroft sent a car for them and John fell asleep on Sherlock’s shoulder during the drive back to Baker Street. When they got home, Sherlock got the door open for her and Charles helped get her upstairs to 221B before going on his way. Mrs Hudson came up with tea and biscuits while Sherlock went to fetch up dinner, having called in a delivery from the local Chinese down at the end of Baker Street.

“How is your back, dear?” Mrs Hudson asked as John sipped her tea.

“All of me hurts right now, Mrs Hudson. I fell through a sky-light, y’know?”

“You brave girl. Going after that man like that? But no good to us if you’re too hurt to work for anything. Just take care of yourself, John Watson. You’re too important to too many people.”

“Yes, Mrs Hudson.” John smiled as Sherlock returned with food in hand, “Sherlock will take care of me.”

“Absolutely!”

“See you do, young man.” Mrs Hudson scolded, leaving them to it. As soon as she was gone, Sherlock locked the doors and John ran for her jump-kit, shedding her uniform at the same time. After a quick shower, she got dressed in sweats and a regimental tee, one she had worn during a 5k charity race she had run with her unit three years ago. With her hair in a towel, she trooped back out to the sitting room where Sherlock had distributed the food and laid out what they were going to need for managing John’s not-insignificant pain.

“What’s with the box in the bedroom?” She had noticed a few packages by her side of the bed and wondered what they were.

“Mycroft.” Sherlock looked up at her, eyes dark. “He knows.”

“I bet he knows.” She sighed, wincing as an ache started in her lower back. “It’s going to be a miserable night, Sherlock. I’m covered in bruises.”

“You’re lucky you weren’t more seriously hurt. What broke your fall?”

“A couch, actually.” She had been fortunate to land on a rather soft couch, and quietly blessed Bond and Q for having a fondness for soft, overstuffed furniture. “The first time. Harwood will be in hospital for a few days, he fell through the banister and into the kitchen.”

“Good riddance to him.” Sherlock shook his head. “I’m sure Bond was surprised to see you.”

“Should have seen his face when he realized it was me.” She picked up the sterile-packaged IV cannulation and adapter kit. Breaking it open, she handed it to Sherlock. “I can’t begin to tell you how many of these I’ve put in on a patient. I could probably do this in my sleep.”

“You’re rather good at it, aren’t you?”

“My nurses were a patient, accommodating lot.” She thought of Bill Murray, who had more or less been her right-hand go-to man in Afghanistan and an on-off boyfriend of sorts over the years. When she had asked him to teach her everything, he had been a willing instructor. She watched Sherlock apply the tourniquet and did her best to make a fist when he told her to. Her hands hurt, along with most of her body, so it was a little harder, but she managed.

“Sharp stick. Don’t hold your breath, love.” Sherlock coached as he placed the line, and John watched, she couldn’t really turn away. There was something satisfying about the slide of steel against the resistance of living flesh into a vein, of a stick well-done.

“You’re surprisingly good at that.” She murmured, impressed with his skill. He just looked up at her, eyes a soft grey. After placing the line and saline lock adapter and taping everything in place with a Tegaderm dressing, Sherlock removed the tourniquet and picked up the prefilled syringe of sterile saline. Did he know how to flush a line before administering any medication? Where on earth had he learned how? And why? There was a method to how he did things, an order of operations that he worked by.

“This is going to feel cold for a moment. I’m sorry.” He looked up at her, apologizing for the unpleasant sensation.

“My problem isn’t the cold. It’s the taste.” She grimaced as he flushed the line and tasted that awful tang in the back of her throat.

“Taste?”                                                                                                                   

“Smells like lemon, tastes like...dry salt. It’s disgusting.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I was an idiot on occasion.”

“Was?” An eyebrow went up, “I don’t think this is a “was an idiot on occasion”, my dear. You’re still an idiot.”

“Oi.” She glared at him as he picked up the sterile-packaged needle and syringe. After prepping the syringe, he went for the diclofenac sodium.

“You’re an idiot, John Watson, but you know what the difference is?”

“Do tell.” John watched as he examined the colour and consistency of the solution and gave it a gentle shake before drawing it into the syringe.

“You’re my idiot.” He looked up at her and smiled softly, “Idiot John Watson belongs to Sherlock Holmes.”

“Yeah, yeah, sod off.” She rolled her eyes, hissed as he pushed the diclofenac sodium. “Oh, god, I hate that. I hate it.”

“You’ll feel better in no time. This is rather effective.”

“Double that efficiency with an opioid, but we can’t keep those in the house.”

“And yet, we have them. In the house.” Sherlock just broke down and disposed of everything properly, setting a timer for six hours, and handed over one of the takeaway containers. It was quiet as they ate, a DVR’d match on telly for background, solving a couple of cases while they were at it. It was really just a typical night in for Baker Street, and John appreciated the...normalness. When she kept picking at the Tegaderm dressing, Sherlock put an arm-band used to protect a PICC-line over the dressing.

“Leave it alone.” He scolded, covering the site with his hand, “Don’t mess with it.”

“Sorry. It just...it feels weird.”

“You’re not used to it, is all. But since you’re going to be taking any necessary medication through IV, that stays in place until further notice.” He took her hand in his, “You’re a bit of a trouble-seeker, John Watson. I can’t leave you alone.”

“You can too.” She wrinkled her nose, “But, really, how did you get so good at doing this?” She tugged on the arm-band. Sherlock rubbed along the underside of her arm, quiet for a while before he pulled his sleeve back and showed healed track-scars. Nothing very recent, certainly not in the last few months, but...

“Oh, Sherlock.” She traced one scar, “Why?”

“My mind tears itself apart when I don’t have something to do with my time. I need puzzles, I need stimulation.” He looked at her, eyes sad, “You know this about me, this is not news to you. I poured my heart out to you in letters.”

“From here and... from rehab. Oh, Sherlock.” She had several stacks of letters from Scott Williams, Sherlock writing under an alias, written from rehab centres in London and from Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland. John also had call-logs with him, not very many, but each phone call had been important. She had talked “Scott” out of suicide at least three times, walked him through self-care on more than one occasion when he called with some question or other regarding the like, and one phone call with Sherlock as himself. She had been his “final phone call”, essentially.

-^-

~ Five thousand miles away in Afghanistan, five and a half hours ahead of London time, John was on-base by some stroke of sheer, stupid luck. 6.30 pm on a Wednesday, she was in the mess-tent when she got a phone call from London. She was teased by her mates, but blew them off and went to see who wanted to talk to her, hoping to dear God it wasn’t Harry. It was not Harry. It was Sherlock Holmes, and he had a big problem. John tried, so hard, to talk him out of what he was about to do, but he didn’t have any other choice, he didn’t see any other option, and she just sat there and let him talk to her for ten minutes.

“Please, will you do this for me?”

“Do what?”

“This phone call – it’s, er...it’s my note.” A distant voice broken by static and thousands of miles, begging her not to hang up. “It’s what people do, don’t they – leave a note?”

“Don’t do this, please, don’t do this.”

“This...is my note, John.”

“No. Don’t.” She begged, covering her eyes with both hands, “Please don’t do this, Sherlock! You don’t have to do this, you don’t! Please, please listen to me!”

“I have to, John. I have no choice. I am dead anyway. Please.”

“Don’t do this, Sherlock. Please? Please don’t.”

“Goodbye, John. I’m so sorry. Thank you for being my friend.”

“No.” She raised her head, “Don’t, Sherlock.”

“Goodbye, John Watson.” She heard a faint clatter and then…nothing.

“Sherlock. SHERLOCK!” She tried to get him to say something, but the line went dead. A call-back went unanswered, going straight to his voicemail. She left him one, it felt like the right thing to do even if he never got that message.

The next day, London time, it was all over the news: “Disgraced detective commits suicide at Saint Bart’s”, “Fraud Sherlock Holmes Dead”. John made a few phone-calls to people she knew and got the story, a visit from Mycroft Holmes a week later to take her back to London for the funeral was for show. She knew, and Mycroft knew, that Sherlock wasn’t dead, but no one else was allowed to know. ~

-^-

After The Fall, John had gone on to continue her service in the Army, occasionally getting pulled for jobs with MI6. She had transitioned to Special Forces in 2009, so it was a hop-skip-jump from there to MI6 on contractual work. Not that anyone there batted an eyelash, she was one of them. And now, she was home in London, she had two jobs, one a bit more stable and reliable for income that the other, a small flat she shared with her fiancée and had made a home of it, and plans for a life of interesting adventures, quiet moments, and seeing where the future took them. She drove an ambulance, she solved crimes, ran down suspects for The Met when and if the occasion arose, and was in the process of planning her own wedding. None of these were things she had ever really seen for herself, not six years ago when she had first met Sherlock, not when she had joined the Army at the age of sixteen, or gone to service at the age of twenty-three after medical school, and certainly nothing she had seen for herself as a child.

But the change of pace was welcome, she enjoyed her work, the people she met, the people she worked with, and she had a place to come home to at night. A stable, if highly unusual, place to call home. Baker Street was unlike anywhere she had ever lived before, but she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It was cluttered, messy, and there was always something questionable in the kitchen, but John found ways to just sort of…fit herself into Sherlock’s life. There were little nooks and crannies for her, space to spread out and belong. In two months, she had gone from a struggling, jobless veteran to…well, a decently well-off, engaged, double-employed veteran with a decent future ahead of her.

“John?” Sherlock’s voice interrupted her musings and she stirred.

“Hmm?”

“Did you fall asleep on me?”

“I…don’t think I did. Did I?” She yawned and tried to sit up, but he had one arm around her in such a way she couldn’t. “Sorry.”

“Nonsense. You needed it.” As if it was no matter of his that she had completely zoned out, passed out on him, and slept for who knew how long. She remembered eating takeaway, she remembered watching Manchester United take on Arsenal (Arsenal won that match, too, bully for them), she remembered Sherlock taking care of her. Now, the telly was turned off, most of the lights were off, the fire had burned low, and they weren’t sitting up anymore. Sherlock had moved, laid out on the couch, and taken John with him. She was tucked against the back of the couch in a little niche, half-covering Sherlock, her head on his shoulder. No wonder she’d fallen asleep.

“I think we both fell asleep, actually.” She looked around and saw signs of some housekeeping. “Was Mrs Hudson here?”

“Must’ve.” He rubbed the back of her neck, “It’s…ah, there’s the alarm I set.”

“Six hours?” She groaned and shuffled and squirmed until she was more or less upright. “It’s 5.15 am, Sherlock. Bed.”

“Come on, you.” He got up first and helped her stand up. Grabbing something from her jump-kit, he led the way to the bedroom.  She knew what he’d stopped for and just smiled, letting him take the lead again. While he set up in the bedroom, John brushed her teeth and did her business. She heard him moving around in the sitting room again and poked her head out.

“Sherlock?”

“Yeah?”

“What are you doing?”

“Making sure the fire’s banked properly for the night.”

“Oh. Okay.” Shrugging, she retreated and made her way to the bedroom. Sherlock came through the bathroom, taking time to finish his routine before taking care of John. Flush syringe, two syringes and two needles, and two vials: diclofenac sodium and…Buprenex. Oh, she would sleep well. Bless him. The packages from Mycroft were opened and revealed to be pillows of various sizes and constructs, a heating pad, and referral for a very good masseuse for after she healed up if those services were desired. Arranging the pillows just so, John got comfortable and waited for Sherlock. When he came out and all he could see of her was the very top of her head, a peek of her hair among the blankets, he chuckled.

“Nesting, are we?”

“What about it?” She cracked an eye open as he pulled the covers aside to get at what part of her he needed access to most. John let him have her arm, watched with detached, sleepy interest as he went through the routine quickly and smoothly. After finishing up, he disposed of everything properly and returned to bed, switching off the lights before he curled up next to her. The body-pillows provided a buffer, so he could still touch her but it didn’t hurt. She was stiff, so very, very sore, and she imagined she would be very cranky in the morning when she woke up again.

-^-

John slept six hours and woke up to Sherlock in clean-up after administering another dose of diclofenac sodium.

“Good morning, love.” He kissed her on the temple, “How do you feel?”

“Ugh.” She couldn’t find words to describe her pain. It was deep, consistent, and…everywhere.

“I’ve got you, love. Just a mo.” Sherlock touched her shoulder, giving a careful squeeze. She whined and curled away from his touch. Sherlock soothed her and went to fetch something. He came back with Buprenex. He also had toast with butter and jam and ginger tea. John didn’t feel like moving, everything kind of hurt after falling one story and running two miles beforehand, but Sherlock helped get her into a semi-sitting position so she could eat and drink what her stomach could handle. She managed both slices of toast and two cups of tea. Then he helped her get to the bathroom so she brushed her teeth and used the facilities. After doing her business, she shuffled back to bed. The diclofenac sodium was helping, but she felt terrible. Sherlock carried her back to bed and got her comfortable. Making a nest out of the pillows, John found what hurt the least as far as positioning went. Sherlock gave her the Buprenex and told her to get some sleep. Her bruises were darkening nicely, she would be stiff for a good long while. John eventually fell asleep, helped along by a dose of Sominex and Sherlock playing something lovely on the violin.

 

Another six hours came and passed, John got up and walked around a bit, stretching stiff, sore muscles, her range of motion prohibited and hampered, and looked at the map of bruises on her skin.

“Ugh. I feel like I got hit by a Foxhound. I look like somebody took a swing at me with a two-by-four.”

“What’s a Foxhound?” Sherlock queried from the kitchen.

“Protected Mobility Vehicle. Based on the chassis of a Land Rover.” She groaned and dropped her shirt, “One of the vehicles I’m qualified to drive. I can drive PMVs, I can drive Land Rover Pulses, and the Wolf.”

“That explains why you have no trouble handling a Land Rover or an ambulance.”

“I thought you knew what I was qualified to drive.”

“I know very well what you have the qualifications to drive, thank you.” He rolled his eyes at her as he got up to look for something. “Sit.”

“Did I miss anything while I was asleep?” She ruffled her hair and went to sit down in her chair. It was 5.15 pm by her watch, Sherlock had spent most of the day by himself.

“Gregson called again, had a rather interesting 6 that I solved for them. And Bill called.”

“Oh.”

“You’re off for the next week. He wants you back in top shape.”

“Fine with me, I didn’t really want to go back to work two days after a fall like that.” John shrugged, “I’ve got the time saved, anyway.”

“More or less.” Sherlock came over with tea and leftover Chinese. It was a quiet evening, for the most part, she worked cold cases with Sherlock and they got a bit more done regarding wedding-planning. They finalized the guest-lists and looked at stationary samples Mummy had sent along for them. Their colour-scheme had been settled as ivory, champagne, and plum. Sherlock was having a special shirt made just for the wedding.

“That reminds me.” She peeked over his shoulder at a draft of the guest-list. “We have the when, but…where are we getting married? Here in London?”

“I have…no idea. Does it matter?”

“Well, we’re not getting married in a church, I know that much. No thanks.” She made a face at the thought of getting married in a church. Sherlock just smiled.

“Where would you like to get married, then?”

“I don’t know. I kind of feel like getting married in Scotland, but I’m not sure why I want to do that.” John leaned against Sherlock and thought about how the wedding-day would probably go. As far as she knew, he had no idea about her connection with the Royal Family, or the very, very expensive, exclusive “something borrowed, something blue” she was hiding in her safe.

“Have you decided on bridesmaids dresses?”

“Yep.” She rubbed her cheek against his shoulder, “Do you want to see?”

“May I?”

“Sure!” She took the laptop from him and pulled up the David’s Bridal website, finding the dress and then picking out the colour, “There’s the dress my girls are wearing.”

“Oh, that’s a beautiful colour. Who did you ask?”

“Molly Hooper, Sally Donovan, Stella Hopkins, and Irene Adler. I still don’t have a Chief Bridesmaid so if my idiot sister doesn’t pull herself together and pull her head out of her arse, I’ll give it to Sally, she’s been a huge help already.”

“Just have Sally do it, then. You trust her, obviously, and she’s far more reliable than your sister.” Sherlock studied the dress, “That would quite a lovely colour on Sally.” John smiled and rested her chin on his shoulder.

“You should see her in it.”

“Do you have your dress, then?”

“Yep.”

“And of course I’m not allowed to see it before the wedding. I don’t want to.” He smiled and put an arm around her, “So, that’s your party settled, and  I have mine alright.”

“Who did you pick?”

“Mycroft is my Best Man, of course, then I have Lestrade, Anderson, and Hopkins lined up.”

“Oh, right. That’s right.” She smiled, “So, what are you lovely, lovely boys wearing for the wedding? Should we go traditional? Morning suits?”

“Are we getting married in England?”

“Hmm. Why does that matter?”

“Because if we’re getting married somewhere in England, my party will wear morning suits.”

“Yours, of course, will have that gorgeous purple shirt we’re having made.” John couldn’t wait to see it, she had given the tailor a swatch of the colour to match. “But what if we get married elsewhere?”

“Then Mycroft is probably going to hate me, and Mummy will be so excited.”

“Why is that?”

“Because if we get married in Scotland somewhere, then my party is dressing up appropriately.”

“Kilts.” John couldn’t stop smiling. “Oh my god, really? You really would?”

“Of course I would!”

“Sherlock Holmes in a kilt? That’s something I’d love to see! Please?”

“Where in Scotland?”

“Well, that’s kind of dependent on who we talk to about it.” She hummed, thinking about it. They would have to file with Register Offices in London and wherever they decided to get married in Scotland, and soon. Maybe register in London this week, and sometime in January for Scotland. They would have to look into venues and hotel rates and such things as that, but that was the kind of thing they could delegate to other interested parties.

“Does this mean we’ll celebrate our anniversary on 31 March and your birthday on 1 April? Or would we celebrate your birthday on 30 March?”

“Y’know, I don’t really care either way? My birthday was never a real big deal for me, it was just kind of another day on the calendar.” She shrugged.

“So, you have your dress, the bridesmaids have their dresses, your sister and her wife are invited, but they’re not in the wedding party, and…”

“Who’s walking me down the aisle?”

“Dad would do it, or you could ask Bill?”

“I could, but it feels odd to ask him a favour like that. I feel like there’s someone else I should be able to ask who could step in for me.” She looked at the guest-list as if it held the answer. Who did she trust, on either side, enough to walk her down the aisle? Worst case, she was absolutely fine with Siger Holmes walking her down the aisle at her wedding, but there had to be someone she hadn’t considered. Someone in the roster of names they had scraped together from a small group of family, both immediate and extended, and close friends and acquaintances. John’s list consisted mostly of her Watson relations, most of whom resided in Scotland, a few important friends, and most of her unit, those who had survived.

She had been keeping track of her Army mates, they had been a close-knit group and she wasn’t sure how many would make it, but they were all getting invitations. Bill Murray and his partner were getting invitations, she would drag him out of whatever dusty hole he was hiding in if she had to march into Bost by herself and get him. The Stamfords were definitely getting an invitation, and the MacLeods had all but promised to be there, they just needed a date. There was one person John had sent an invitation to, but she wasn’t sure if he would show up or not. If she could draw James Sholto out of retirement isolation for her wedding, that would be a lifetime accomplishment. Getting him out of hiding for her Passing-Out Ceremony had been hard enough, could she strike twice and get him again? She wanted him to be there, he’d been so important and so instrumental during her years in the Army, until he was retired out after a scandal that John had gotten to the bottom of and cleared his name with the same dedication she had afforded to Sherlock.

“What are you thinking, love?”

“Sholto. He may not come.”

“Who?”

“One of my commanders. Best man I knew, smart, funny, treated me like I carried the world.” She sighed, “I’m not expecting him to come, though, he’s not…really fond of public gatherings.”

“But a wedding isn’t exactly public, is it?”

“No, but it’s the people that bother him. He’s…I don’t know.”

“John?” Sherlock took her hand, “What is it?”

“He was the closest thing I had to a father for almost fourteen years.” John rubbed Sherlock’s arm where it wrapped around her midsection, being very careful of the bruises covering John’s body. She was starting to feel that distracting ache again and shifted her weight, trying to get comfortable. Just then, Sherlock’s six-hour alarm went off.

“Oh, thank God.” John was not ashamed of the whimper. Sherlock chuckled and disengaged himself to go get the next dose of diclofenac sodium and Buprenex. He also had Sominex. Bedtime. Thank God. Closing down the flat for the night, John brushed her teeth, did her business, and retreated to her nest of blankets and pillows. Sherlock dosed her via the IV, she swallowed the Sominex with chamomile tea, and she buried herself in her nest, hugging a body-pillow to her front. Sherlock got cosy behind her, and it was quiet. John slept relatively well that night, which was a small blessing. Tomorrow was another day to tackle, and she would do her game best to get more done than just…sleep.


 

Chapter Text


 Two weeks after getting herself rather seriously hurt, minus any broken bones, John returned to her duties driving an ambulance and saving the city of London in her own way. Another week past that saw her once again sitting on a scene for The Met, kicking her heels on the back of the ambulance while she waited for the signal. Her radio chirped and she went for it right away.

“Watson.”

“We’re ready for you, Captain.”                          

“Roger that. Be right there.” She clicked off her radio and hopped down, going around the ambulance with her kit over one shoulder. She was still terribly sore and stiff from her crash-landing in James Bond’s house two weeks ago, but her mobility was far better than it had been. Making her way into the house in question, she followed the sound of voices up a set of stairs, taking it slow when she had to, and finally got to the top.

“Watson.”

“Lestrade.” She huffed, eyeing up her brother-in-law, “What the hell happened to you?”

“Ask your fiancé.”

“Damn it, Sherlock.” She took one good look at the two of them, wearing identical guilty expressions and a few new bruises, “Jesus Christ, you two. How’s the suspect?”

“In there. Didn’t kill ‘im, but boy did we want to.”

“Four-month manhunt and he drops in on London thinking he’ll sneak in unnoticed? Not bloody likely.” She rolled her eyes and went into the indicated bedroom, where the suspect of the hour was under guard by Sally Donovan and a couple of constables.

“Donovan.”

“Watson.” Her Chief Bridesmaid grinned, “Got one for you.”

“I can see that. Looks like he took a serious beating.”

“Did you see the other two?”

“Yeah, I did. Morons, the both of ‘em.” She snickered and dropped her kit, digging into it for the things she would need for this exam. Kneeling before the chair to which their suspect had been secured, she touched his knee once she had her gloves on.

“Mr Ronson, I’m with the medics. How are you, sir?”

“Feel like I got my head kicked in.”

“Well, to be fair, I can’t say you wouldn’t deserve that.” She made a face and did her work. “You know, there are a couple of things on a short list of incredibly stupid things to do if you’re a London criminal.”

“Yes’m.”

“And running from police is definitely on that list, but you know what’s worse than that?”

“No, ma’am.”                                                       

“It’s who you ran from. Not sure why you thought you’d get away from ‘em in the first place.”

“Who’s that, ma’am?”

“Sherlock Holmes and Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade? Two of the best I know, in or out of The Met.” She turned his head to look at a gash on his temple, “What’s this from?”

“Jumped through the window.”

“Right. You know, last time I jumped through a window, I didn’t look half as good as you do.”

“You…”

“Yep.”

“Why?”

“Same reason I’m sitting here patching you back together before we ship you off to a hospital and then off to holding. Four months we’ve been looking for you, Mr Ronson, and you had the guts to come back to London in the first place?”

“I thought…I thought it was safe.”

“The charges you ran from? No. Not safe.” She snorted, “Hey, Donovan?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Do you remember when we had smart criminals?” She looked over her shoulder at Sally, who watched over the whole exchange.

“Smart? Or suicidal?”

“Or both?”

“Mm. Only one comes to mind is that lunatic who tried to off Holmes a couple years back. Moriarty?”

“Lunatic’s a nice word for that piece of work.”John grimaced, “Good riddance to him.” Donovan snickered and John heard an audible gulp from her suspect-patient. Once she had him decent, they moved him to the ambulance. Not to John’s ambulance, but another that had also responded.

Once they had Peter Ronson on his way, John turned to the shame-faced pair behind her.

“Alright, now it’s your turn. Who’s first?” Sherlock and Greg just looked at each other and gulped. She just folded her arms, still stiff in the shoulders, and raised an eyebrow. “At your leisure, gentlemen. You’re not leaving this scene until you’ve been properly seen to. So, sometime this century would be lovely.” It was Sherlock who went first, handing his coat and jacket to Greg to hold. Shaking her head, John climbed into the bay behind him and pulled the door closed.

“Shirt off, you know the drill.” She picked up a pair of nitrile gloves, keeping her back to him. “Why, Sherlock?”

“I’m sorry, John.”

“I don’t like hearing a shots-fired, officer-involved call come across my radio, love. I half-expected them to report officer-down next.” She looked over her shoulder, taking in the sight of a familiar body. Bruised and bloodied from the chase, a shallow gash on his ribs where the suspect had taken a swing at him with a knife. John sighed and picked up the suture-kit. Sherlock sat quietly on the gurney while she administered a local anaesthetic and waited for it to take effect.

“Oh. I got an interesting inquiry on my blog yesterday.” He hissed as she started the stitches.

“Sorry. What made it interesting?”

“It was a comment congratulating me on my upcoming nuptials.”

“Why is that interesting? It’s not like it’s a secret we’re getting married.”

“It’s how they worded it that got my attention. We might have a problem.”

“Oh?” She raised an eyebrow.

“Do you have your phone?”

“Yes.”

“May I see it?”

“Here.” She gave him her phone, put on clean gloves, and kept working. “Try to keep still if you can.”

“I will. Let me…here.” He found his blog on the browser, found the entry in question, and scrolled to the comments, looking for the one that had gotten his attention. “Here it is.” He held it up for her to read. She squinted at the screen.

“‘Dear Mr Holmes. We are most excited to offer our congratulations on your upcoming nuptials. As for your delightful, gorgeous fiancée, we extend our best wishes for a happy, well-deserved future to Captain Watson. We are both fans of her blog as well, and fond of her. May you both have the settled life you deserve, together.’” John refocused on her work, having taken a break to read the comment in question. “That’s pretty personal, isn’t it? No name?”

“Nothing.” He let her look. Nothing but a three-character screenname.

“W/K.” She frowned, “This was written from two people.”

“I got that, but…who? Who knows you that well? I thought I knew all of your friends?”

“Um.” She tilted her head as she finished up her work. “Well…”

“John.”

“I’m not keeping anything from you.”

“Yes, you are.”

“Well, not on purpose! They did me a huge favour and I don’t have a clue how I’ll thank them for it! I mean, besides inviting them, which seems kind of silly in hindsight, they’re so busy.”

“Who is it? Who wrote this?”

“W/K?” She raised an eyebrow, tied off the suture after placing the last of them, and clipped the thread. Cleansing and covering the wound-site with a proper plaster, she stripped off her gloves and discarded everything appropriately.

“John.”

“One hint: Buckingham.” She rummaged in the shelves for the change of clothes she’d started keeping for Sherlock. “Here, get dressed.”

“Ta. Buckingham?”

“You’re not an idiot, Sherlock, and you didn’t hit your head.” She smiled, “I knocked a couple of things off of my bridal rhyme thanks to them.”

“Bridal…rhyme.” He sat up slowly, wincing at the pain, and got dressed in slow, careful motions.

“Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”

“Oh!” He smiled, “Of course! So…who helped you knock down some of those requirements, then? Someone you know, but not very well. Not personally, not before this. Hmm.”

“Use your brain. Clues are all over this one.”

“Buckingham…Buckingham Palace?”

“Bingo.”

“That means…oh, John, you…”

“I was on the Honour Guard in 2011 when William and Kate got married, God knows how they got my name for that.”

“John! They must have gotten your name from one of the gazette listings! Didn’t they arrange for your Passing-Out Ceremony?”

“Someone did.”

“My God.” He grinned as she helped him with his buttons. “You know the Royal Family.”

“So do you. Probably better than I do.”

“So, what did they give you? It must have been something significant.”

“Molly was on me about headpieces when we went dress-shopping, I kind of shot her down. I didn’t want one from David’s Bridal, but hell if I knew where I’d find something decent.”

“So, what happened?”

“Mycroft was involved, of course, but we were on a stake-out in Kensington, sitting on the east side of the Victoria Memorial just minding our own business and I get this visit.”

“Let me guess, you didn’t stand in the presence of the Equerry, did you?”

“Nope. He didn’t like that. Mycroft didn’t mind terribly.” She smiled, “But anyway, I was at the end of my shift, so it didn’t really matter that they were more or less kidnapping me. Mycroft wasn’t very forthcoming on details, but he did tell me that the interested parties were Her Majesty, and Their Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.”

“You lucky fiend.” Sherlock smiled and took her hands, “So?”

“Any of the privately-owned Crown Jewels, those tiaras you see in so many pictures? Any one of those I wanted, I could have on loan.”

“Which one did you take?”

“Well, I tried on four of them, just because I could. But, you’ve seen the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet?”

“Yes?”

“I’ll show you which one I borrowed when I get home. It’s in my safe for now.”

“John, you lucky bastard!” Sherlock just smiled, “Wedding Honour Guard, and now they’ve let you into the private collection.”

“More or less.” She shrugged and pushed the door open, “Out you go. See you at home.”

“Of course.” He kissed her before he hopped to the tarmac. Greg was next, and she cleared him out pretty quick.

-^-

After her “intervention” for Sherlock and Greg, the rest of John’s shift was routine and fairly unremarkable. Bill dropped her off at Baker Street at 11.00 pm, she had worked a Swing-8 that day, and she waved over her shoulder as she let herself into the house.

“I’m home! Sherlock?” She called up the stairs as she made the climb.

“John!” The door to the flat, propped as always, flew open and he appeared on the landing. She smiled and cleared the stairs, stepping right into a hug. She was careful of the stitches as she leaned up for a kiss.

“Hi.”

“How was the rest of your shift?”

“Boring.”

“Good. Hungry?”

“Starving.”

“Angelo brought dinner.”

“God bless him.” She couldn’t stifle a selfish moan as she followed him into the flat and dumped her gear by the door, hanging her parka and kicking her boots to one side with her jump-kit. Sherlock had paracetamol and tea, and a plate of food.

“Sit.” He instructed, indicating the couch. John collapsed on the couch, groaning as sore muscles objected. She only took diclofenac sodium on days she didn’t work and they didn’t have a case on. The rest of the time, a heating-pad and paracetamol had to do the job. Taking the tea and paracetamol first, John sighed, taking the plate of food next.

“Ow.”

“You fell one story, more or less. Your body is going to hurt for some time.” Sherlock said quietly, taking her hand in his, two fingers to the underside of her wrist.

“It doesn’t help that I ran two miles before I jumped-cum-fell through James Bond’s skylight.” She took a sip of tea. “You know, he didn’t seem all that surprised to see me?”

“It takes an awful lot to alarm a double-oh, my dear.” Sherlock smiled and kissed the back of her hand. “I should know.” John rolled her eyes around a mouthful of angel hair pasta with alfredo sauce.

“You live with one?” She raised an eyebrow in challenge. He just gave her that sweet, boyish smile that she adored the most. He had this way of smiling when he was truly happy about something that caused his eyes and mouth to crinkle in the best ways, little smile-lines and crows-feet, badges of happiness on a man who had so little to be happy about and smiled when he could. John liked being able to make Sherlock Holmes smile, being able to make someone else so happy. It was quiet while they ate, John’s legs and feet draped across Sherlock’s lap, a DVR’d match on the telly for background.

After they had finished eating, John collected plates and cups and did the wash-up, and it was back to the couch to unwind. Before that, John grabbed the blue velvet box from the safe so she could show Sherlock the tiara she had settled on for the wedding. She took her spot on the couch back, an American police procedural documentary was on now, the match was over and Sherlock had switched programs for her, and she took the glass of wine he offered.

“Ta.”

“Welcome. What’s that?” Indicating the box. She smiled and took it into her lap.

“This is, until further notice, my “something borrowed, something blue” for the wedding. And it’s the only part of my outfit for that day that you get to see before the wedding.”

“Fair.” His fingers twitched as he studied the box, deducing its contents or trying to. “It’s something you were gifted, but not by the Cambridges.”

“No. They did help me pick it out, but…they didn’t give this to me.”

“May I?” Reaching for the box. She handed it to him and let him handle it. Before he opened it, he looked at her carefully, studying her.

“What?”

“Has Mycroft seen you?”

“Yes. He has seen the dress.”

“And he would never tell me.”

“No, he promised.”

“Good. I want to be surprised.” He smoothed one hand over the box, “But I’m dying to see this. It’s so rare someone outside of the family is allowed access to these, allowed to see them, handle them, wear them.”

“Open the box, then.” She took a sip of wine, tucking her feet under his thigh. He carefully undid the latch and lifted the lid. When he saw the tiara, he couldn’t stifle a gasp.

“Oh my god.”

“Mhm.” She just smiled.

“Oh my god. John.”

“Yep.”

“This is…”

“It is.”

“This…this is…”

“The Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet.” She said in unison with him. Very carefully, he set the box on the coffee table and removed the tiara, standing up to study it better.

“Oh, John. This is gorgeous! Oh, it’s beautiful! It’s…”

“Perfect?”

“So perfect.” He studied the tiara from every angle, admiring how the diamonds and sapphires caught the light, “Oh, I can’t begin to imagine. Oh, John.”

“I tried on the Cambridge Lovers Knot, and the Spencer Tiara. I’m not sure how they came by Lady Di’s family piece, but it was there.” She took the tiara from him, “I just kind of fell in love with this one.”

“It’s…gorgeous.” He looked down at her, “I can’t wait to see you wear it, you’ll look absolutely stunning.”

Putting the tiara back in the box, and the box back in her safe until the wedding, a check of the time showed that it was past midnight. John had work tomorrow, but not until 3.00 pm, so it was a good idea to sleep now. So, taking turns through the loo as necessary, John and Sherlock turned in for the night after shutting the flat down.

“Good night, John Watson,” Sherlock whispered against her neck as she fell asleep, nuzzling against her with a kiss to her shoulder.

“Good night, Sherlock Holmes.” She murmured, taking the hand that snaked around her waist.


 

Chapter Text


Between them, John and Sherlock managed to stay out of trouble relatively well between 20 January and the end of March, when the wedding was set to happen. Scottish relatives got wind of plans and without any further discussion or prompting, they had a venue. That matter was settled over email and one unusual in-person visit to Baker Street. John would have missed it, except she happened to come home from a Night-12 literally not five minutes after their visitor was shown upstairs to 221b by an amused, mildly-puzzled Mrs Hudson. As she kicked the door shut, wincing at the noise, she sighed and started pulling off her gear as she headed upstairs.

“John!” Mrs Hudson scolded from 221A.

“Sorry, Mrs Hudson!” She waved a tired hand at her landlady, “Forgot.”

“No mind to that, dear. It’s a door, it can take a bit of abuse.” Mrs Hudson smiled, “But you’ve a guest, dear. He’s upstairs with Sherlock.”

“A…guest? Not Mycroft, is it?”

“No, dear. Rather unusual fellow, really, barely understood a word out of his mouth with that accent.”

“Accent?” John paused on the stairs, taking the opportunity to loosen her bootlaces.

“Scottish, I think. Lovely man, he is, rather easy on the eyes.”

“Did…he give you a name, Mrs Hudson?”

“Iain?” Mrs Hudson tilted her head a bit, “Said he was a cousin?”

“Oh my god!” John looked up the stairs to the door of 221B, propped open a bit as always. “Iain?”

“Good luck, dearie!” Mrs Hudson chirped, ducking into her flat again as John charged up the remaining steps to B, throwing the door open rather roughly.

“Iain!” She barely contained herself. Sure enough, sitting in her chair, looking a bit travel-worn and smug as a bastard, was Iain MacKelpie.

“’Ello, love.” He purred, rising from his perch like a cat stretching after a nap in the sun.

“Oh my god. What are you doing here? Where…fuck, where did you come from?” She kicked the door shut, winced at the exasperated “John Watson!” she heard from downstairs, and dumped her gear in a messy heap by the door, kicking her boots off, throwing them haphazardly aside as she nearly tackled her cousin.

“Came from Syria yesterday. Found you today.”

“Jesus, Iain! Give me a heads up next time, I’ll take a day off from work. Shit!”

“Where’ve you been, then, lovie?” Her cousin pushed her back at arms-length to look her over more thoroughly. “You look terrible.”

“I drive an ambulance now, Iain, I thought you knew that.”

“Oh, right. Save the unworthy.” He chuckled, “How on earth are you still on your feet?”

“Used to it, by now.” She yawned, leaning against her cousin just to stay on her feet. “Jesus Christ, it’s good to see you, Iain. What are you doing here?”

“Came to see what nonsense you had in your head thinking you were getting married anywhere but Scotland.”

“Oh.” She looked past her amorous cousin to her fiancé, who just watched behind folded hands, his eyes bright. “Has he been behaving himself, Sherlock?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Sherlock just beamed at her, “You were right, y’know?”

“Right about what?” She pulled away from Iain and unzipped her jumpsuit, tying the sleeves around her waist.

“If I got along with you, I’d get along with your cousin. You were right about that.”

“Oh. So, what have you two been discussing, then?”

“Swapping war-stories, believe it or not.” Iain smiled and kissed her on the cheek. “You need a shower, love. Go get cleaned up. I’ll get tea on.”

“God bless you, Iain MacKelpie.” She sighed, hugged Iain, and went to give Sherlock a kiss before she went to take a shower. Normally, she would take a shower and go to bed, but with Iain visiting, she was willing to postpone her sleep-schedule by a couple of hours.

After taking a hot shower, John got dressed in denims and a regimental tee-shirt before joining the boys in the sitting-room. She went barefoot, seeing no reason to go all-out for her cousin, who had admittedly seen her in a great deal less than denims and a tee-shirt over their lifetimes. Taking a cup of tea from Iain, John sat with Sherlock.

“So, where exactly do you expect we’ll be getting married, Iain, if not somewhere in England?”

“Well, I’m no idiot, John Watson. You’ve both got plenty of family in Scotland, and plenty that would be far more than happy to host you.”

“Where?”

“You’ll be getting married at home, like all proper Watsons have since we started to matter.” Like it was the most obvious thing in the world, and really the only option she should have considered entertaining.

“But…” John trailed off, not that she was against the idea of getting married in Aithernie Castle, but she was going to be the first of the clan to marry there in…well, she was forty-three, so it had been twice that since anyone she knew in the family had gotten married at the family estate in Leven.

“Where did you sister get married?”

“At Clara’s parents’ home in Hastings.” John sighed, “That was a bit of a disaster.”

“How are they doing, by the way?” Iain inquired carefully.

“They’re…stable-ish.” John grimaced, “I had to pull Harry out of the drunk tank a couple of weeks ago, it was not fun.”

“Jesus. And Clara stays with her?”

“Yeah, she does.”

“Well, it does say “for better or worse, good times or bad, sickness or health”, doesn’t it?” Sherlock mused thoughtfully.

“I guess.” John sipped at her tea. Sherlock squeezed her wrist, made a noise when he got a finger on her pulse, and put his head down against her shoulder.

“John.”

“I know. I’m so tired I’m cross-eyed. Sorry.”

“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Iain set aside his empty cup and shoved to his feet. John got up and collected their cups while Sherlock collected Iain’s coat and she saw her cousin to the street. Sherlock got a cab for him and John took a moment on the kerb to say goodbye to Iain.

“Thanks for coming over, Iain. I know you just got back yesterday.” She smiled at her cousin, “You have better things to do with your time than marshal your wayward Watson cousin.”

“I just wanted to stop by and pass the word along from the rest of us up north.” Iain just hugged her tight. “Come home, John Watson.”

“I’ll sure try, Iain. My love to the rest of the family.”

“We’ll be in touch, love.” He kissed her on the cheek and got into the cab, giving the driver his address. Once the cab was out of sight at the end of the street, she sighed.

“I’m going to bed, Sherlock. Let Mummy know we have the venue, we can send the invitations.”

“Absolutely.” He kissed her as they went back inside and locked up. Getting upstairs, John retreated to the back bedroom and left her denims on the floor, crawling into bed, asleep in moments.

  -^-

Following Iain MacKelpie’s visit to settle the matter of venues, John and Sherlock finished up a few last-minute details, locked down dates, headcounts, and venue availability, and kept themselves busy enough they didn’t really have time to panic.  As a gesture of good-will, and as thanks for their incredible generosity, John extended a special invitation to William and Kate. She wasn’t expecting them to come, but it felt right to invite them. After all, the Royal Family had been so generous with John, letting her borrow one of the privately-owned tiaras and one that hadn’t been seen publicly in quite a while. At least not since last year, when it had been seen in possession of Wartaski’s, a London dealer who built collections of royal treasures just like it. It had passed through the Lascelle family for years, as they were descendant of Victoria’s line, but it hadn’t seen royalty since Victoria herself had worn it, it seemed. So John was curious to know how the Royal Family had arranged for the tiara’s return. It was a historical piece and absolutely gorgeous, John was actually a little bit afraid of wearing it.

 

Finally, it was the week of the wedding, and both John and Sherlock were respective emotional messes. John had gotten rather short-tempered in the last few weeks leading up to the wedding itself, snapping at people for next to no good reason at all. Sherlock was no better, and Mrs Hudson kicked him out to stay at Mycroft’s until the wedding while John was subsequently banished to stay with…someone else. Mrs Hudson didn’t want either of them in Baker Street until well after, she said the tension and hormones were driving her batty. So, John and Sherlock packed their bags and prepared to leave Baker Street until further notice. She had no desire, at all, to stay with her sister, she could stay with Sally if it came to that. 

John stood on the kerb out front of Baker Street with Sherlock, who had one bag over his shoulder. The rest of his things were being loaded into the boot of the car by Mycroft’s driver. Sherlock was going to Chelsea, John was going to work. 

“I’ll see you in Scotland.” She promised, hugging him tightly.

“It’s only a few more days, love. Just…try not to kill anyone?”

“I make absolutely no promises.”

“I thought that was my job.” He wrinkled his nose, “You’re stealing my job.”

“That’s enough from you, Mr Watson-Holmes.” She rolled her eyes and poked him in the ribs. He retaliated with a subtle reach-around and she squealed when he caught her on the hip.

“Oi! Cheek! Foul play!”

“You love me.” He just smiled at her and leaned in for a kiss.

“Yes, and you’re bloody fortunate I do.” She scolded, threading her fingers into his hair and tugging, “You’re a sly bastard sometimes, but I love you.”

“Love me at my best, love me at my worst, stay with me forever?” One eyebrow went up in question and she giggled, leaning up to touch noses with him.

“Only if you promise to do the same for me, love.” She breathed against his lips before kissing him, enchanted again and always by how he could make her smile at the smallest thing he did.

“Of course I will. Didn’t I promise already?”

“You might have to remind me often. I forget sometimes.”

“I will be more than happy to remind you. As often as I must. John Watson is loved by Sherlock Holmes, let no one doubt or dare rend asunder.”

“That’s old-fashioned for you!” She smiled and leaned against him, kind of wishing they didn’t have to be separated for so long.

“I’ll see you in Scotland, love, I promise.”

“Damn.”

“Where are you staying until the wedding?”

“Uh, I think…I think I’m staying with Bill and Lydia? I mean, I’m working up until the day before the wedding, I’m working a Day-8 the day before.”

“They’ll travel with you to Aithernie Castle?”

“Yes, they will. My girls are travelling with us as well.”

“Good.” Sherlock tightened his arms around her, and she nuzzled under his collar. He chuckled and returned the favour against her temple, a bit of stubble scratching. She squeaked and tried to pull away, but he didn’t let go right away.

“You make the prettiest noises.” He purred, taking great glee in her reaction.

“You, sir, are downright cruel! Shame on you.”

“You don’t mean a word of that, love.”

“No, I don’t.” She squirmed out of his arms and stood back. “My ride’s here.”

“Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“I will.” She picked up her jump-kit that sat between them on the pavement, “Be smart, be safe, be in touch.”

“I will.” He promised, taking one last, lingering kiss before he ducked into his brother’s car right as the ambulance pulled up behind.

“Borrowing the bachelor, Mr Holmes?” Bill called to Mycroft, who stood on the other side of the car, watching John and Sherlock with a sly smile. 

“Just for a few days, Mr MacLeod. Just for a few days.” Mycroft said calmly, brolly in hand as always. “You look after that one for us, will you? Keep her out of shenanigans? We need her whole and healthy for the wedding.”

“I will do my damn best, sir. You have my word.” Bill declared solemnly, giving a passable salute as John hopped into the driver’s seat after putting her kit in the treatment-bay. They already had a call coming in, so they pulled away first, blues-and-twos going. It was the first call of many on what turned out to be a badly-needed busy night. Not that her other shifts hadn’t been busy, but this close to the wedding John badly needed the distraction work provided for her. Her watch read 3.00 pm, she was on a Swing-8 tonight. John was working her regular schedule of Swing-8/Day-12/Night-12/Swing-8/Night-8/Swing-8/Day-8. She had already worked the first three days, she was in the middle of her week, and had three days left until she was off for the wedding and gone after that for the honeymoon for at least two weeks. It was anyone’s guess what they would do for the honeymoon, she certainly hadn’t made any grand plans and she wasn’t sure Sherlock had anything planned either. Which was fine with her. Knowing them, they’d end up working anyway. And really, that was okay, too. Routine was established and they didn’t do well when they were bored, so to speak. As the last week had shown, rather badly.

Of course, she suspected that just because she and Sherlock had moved out of Baker Street for the rest of the week, didn’t mean she wouldn’t see him before they rendezvoused at Aithernie Castle, her family’s clan-seat outside of Leven. And she was not disappointed. One of her calls overlapped with one of Greg’s cases that night and when she and Bill ended up pulling a Night-8, right on the heels of their Swing, she was not surprised to pick up a call for assistance on behalf of The Met. At this rate, she hardly bothered asking who the requesting DI was anymore, it was usually her brother-in-law or Gregson. It was fair game for a coin-toss on who it was, but she usually didn’t bother anymore. A call from The Met was a call she was happy to answer any day.

-^-

John’s watch read just past 2.00 am as she pulled the ambulance up under the tapeline of the scene they had been called to, an address in Kennington, and she was desperately hoping it wasn’t for anyone they knew. She’d gotten in a couple of brief catnaps during her Swing-8 shift, so she wasn’t completely useless, and after living with Sherlock for the past five months, her sleep-habits had been adjusted accordingly. She slept when, where, and however she could as the occasion presented itself. Many nights had been spent sleeping in Greg’s office, breaks had been wasted sleeping in the back of the ambulance, she had fallen asleep on the couch in Baker Street more times than she cared to admit to when she couldn’t make it to the bedroom before she passed out. Tonight? Not a night for sleeping, or sleeping well. But when she saw Sherlock and Greg standing next to each other, heads together, her fiancé’s form misshapen by something in his arms, sleep was the last thing on her mind.

“What is Sherlock holding?”

 “He’s holding something?”

“Yeah. But…what?” She couldn’t tell if it was an animal or a child from this angle. Then she saw something huddled on the tarmac between Sherlock and Greg and her heart plummeted. “Oh, shit.”

“Captain?”

“Uh, can you…can you wait a second?” She kicked her door open, “Let me…get a feel for things first.”

“Sure, I’ll get the gurney ready.” Bill just squeezed her hand and she bolted from the ambulance, grabbing her kit from Bill and booking it to catch up with Sherlock and Greg, who both saw her coming.

“They told us you were coming.” Sherlock couldn’t hug her because of his burden, but that was okay with her.

“Yeah, we were in the area when the call came in. I didn’t even ask this time, I just headed straight here from our stakeout.” She looked at her fiancé’s burden first, reaching for the blanket that covered most of his torso but not pulling it away. “What’s this?”

“We found her in the closet, she was screaming. We think they might have let her alone because she can’t talk. And now she won’t let go of me.” Sherlock swayed a bit, but not because he was going to fall over, he was soothing his burden. John had figured it must be a child, quite young if it couldn’t talk yet, but she needed a visual. Moving slowly and carefully, she pulled the blanket away enough to bare the head, shoulders, and arms of a three-year-old child currently wrapped tightly around her fiancé. The poor thing had fallen asleep on his shoulder, breathing in erratic hiccups after what had to have been a spectacular meltdown. Sherlock was rather good with children, especially very young children, so it made sense that he would have taken charge of the minor until medical could arrive, which was what John and Bill were here for. She noticed that the child, from initial observation, was healthy-looking, a bit grubby but not terribly undernourished.

Aware of the blanket being moved, of a new presence, bleary eyes that John couldn’t exactly tell their colour in the lights of the police and first-responder vehicles blinked open. John smiled at the child.

“Hi, sweetheart. I’m a friend of yours. Are you okay?” She got a sleepy shake of the head and a very soft, slurred “Not okay.” She hadn’t expected an affirmative response to that question, so she wasn’t surprised to get the negative. John stepped closer to Sherlock, not missing how the child clung tighter and whined.

“It’s alright, love, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m with the medics, I’m here to make sure you’re not hurt. Can I hold you?” She brushed messy blonde hair out of the girl’s face.

“Vangie, can I give you to Doctor Watson? She wants to help. You need to go with her for a while.” Sherlock stroked the child’s shoulders.

“No.” That was very clear. John raised an eyebrow and looked down a minute at the huddled dog cringing between Sherlock and Greg. It was some indeterminate breed she couldn’t make out just at the moment.

“What about this one?”

“Found guarding the girl,” Greg said gruffly. “Just about took out two of our guys before I called it off.”

“What breed?”

“German.”

“Really?”

“Solid coat.”

“Oh, that’s what threw me.” She nodded and looked at Sherlock, “Get Vangie to Bill, he’ll get started with her.”

“Thanks for coming.”

“I know better than to turn away a call from The Met by now. I’ve been living with you for five months, how many times have I patched you up after you did something stupid?”

“She’s got a point, Sherlock.” Greg mused, “Get on.” Sherlock nodded and carried Vangie to the ambulance, where Bill introduced himself to the little girl and engaged her. While Bill took Sherlock and Vangie, which was probably a nickname for something longer, John decided to make friends. She and Sherlock were both shameless consummate animal-lovers, so any case involving animals was usually a pretty rough one for them. And it had already been a very stressful week, this was just one more notch on the belt. She noticed an interesting dynamic that came up almost as soon as Vangie was out of sight around the ambulance. The German Shepherd, up until that moment tense and alert but quiet, suddenly started barking and whining, growling, pulling on the lead Greg was holding. In fact, the dog pulled so hard that Greg actually lost his grip.

“Whoa! Hey!”

“Dog loose, dog loose!” John yelled, “Sherlock! Bill!”

“Got it!” One of them shouted from the other side of the ambulance. There was a startled yell from the back of the ambulance, a shouted command in German, and…nothing. It was quiet. Everyone in earshot and line-of-sight of the incident had stopped dead in their tracks as soon as the dog got loose, prepared to get out of the way or intervene if they had to.

“What happened?” Someone whispered. John looked at Greg and Anderson, who had run up on her right and stopped when she grabbed Greg.

“Was that Sherlock?”

“Sounded like it.”

“Come on.” She broke away and jogged back towards the ambulance. Clearing the door, she saw something incredible. Vangie was sitting on the gurney, hooked to monitors and fluids, arms around the German Shepherd, who had jumped into the ambulance and gotten up on the gurney with her.

“What happened?” She looked at Sherlock, who stood by the door with his arms folded.

“Valkyrie must have panicked when I took Vangie away. Not that I blame her. So she came after us to make sure we weren’t going to hurt Vangie.”

“You know German?”

“Enough to calm down a dog.”

“It’s always something.” She smiled and looked at Bill, who just shrugged and worked around the massive black dog. “I like the name.”

“I know. So do I.” Sherlock was paying closer attention to Valkyrie than Vangie, which didn’t really surprise John.

“Sherlock Holmes is a dog-lover.”

“You knew that.” He shook his head.

“So, what’s the story?”

“Do you want to take a look?”

“Do you need a second opinion?” She raised an eyebrow. She would never turn down an opportunity to work for The Met, not if she was already on-scene.

“Wouldn’t mind another set of eyes.” Anderson rocked on his heels, “We think we know what it is, but we could use another opinion.”

“Sure.” She pushed away from the ambulance. “Bill, I’m going in. I have my radio if you need me.”

“Roger that, dear.” Bill just smiled over his shoulder, “I’ll manage this lot, you go on.”

“Be back in a few.” She waved and headed for the house with the other three. She ran into Sally and Stella at the house, not that she was surprised to see them either.

“Just a proper party, ain’t it?”

“Watson.”

“Girls.” She smiled, “You got your time off, right?”

“Oh, yeah! Did that ages ago! Don’t worry about us, dear.” Stella just beamed at her, “Here for a look at the scene?”

“Yep.”

“After  you.”

“You’ll want one of these.” Sally handed over a blue PPE coverall and John pulled it on over her uniform. The primary scene was in the master bedroom, Vangie’s room was at the other end of the hall in a nursery room. John drew a sharp breath when she saw the deceased.

“Oh, God.”

“Yeah, sorry. Should have warned you.”

“Oh. God.” She circled the scene, “Um…what…what happened here?”

“We thought the dog had gotten them.”

“No. Not even close. The dog would be covered in blood if she’d freaked out on her masters.” John crouched near the massive king bed, “This was brutal. They were asleep when this happened?”

“That’s what we think. We…obviously, we can’t really tell because of the blood everywhere.”

“Not to mention it’s taken a photograph to identify the victims positively. Jesus Christ.” John went closer, “Slashed, stabbed, um…what was used on the head and face?”

“Something heavy and blunt.”

“Bat?”

“Doesn’t look like it.” She leaned over, inspecting the face, or what was left of it, of the wife. “Metal. Something heavy, something metal. Ornate. Are there any candle-sticks in this house?”

“All over the place. These people had a thing for wrought-iron and brass.”

“See if any sets are missing one of a pair. Was anything stolen?”

“Not that we saw. All jewellery is here, and none of their wallets or such was missing, either.”

“Not a burglary, then. Personal. This was personal. Was there anyone they knew who had a grievance with them? For any reason?”

“Not that we’ve found, no.” Greg was standing behind her. “What are you thinking?”

“Did the neighbours report anything unusual prior to this happening? Was there anything out of the ordinary at this house that got their attention? Cars here that weren’t the family’s, people they didn’t recognise coming and going, odd hours kept by callers? That sort of thing?”

“The couple was clean, no funny business anywhere.” Greg shook his head, “We’ve looked. Not a thing.”

“Get their records. Go back as far as you must. This was…motivated. Someone wanted them dead.”

“Who would kill adults in cold blood but leave a toddler unharmed?”

“Not all killers are heartless.” Sherlock mused. “Good work, John.”

“Thanks.” She yawned, “God, why do I function better when I’m exhausted?”

“Your mind is sharper because you’re compensating for physical exhaustion, mental capacity hasn’t been compromised yet if you maintain sleep-routines of five or ten minutes every hour.”

“Which is about what I get during an after-dark shift.” John sighed and leaned forward on her elbows. Her radio crackled, so she checked in with Bill. He’d done his bit, and family had arrived for Vangie. There was one big problem, though.

“What’s that, Bill?”

“They can’t take Valkyrie, they’ve explained it to Vangie. I guess she knows this family-member doesn’t have dogs and is okay with it, but she’s…well…”

“Yeah, I get it. She’s not taking it well. What about the dog? We’re not leaving Valkyrie to chance.” That was not a question, that was a statement.

“Did you have something else in mind, lass?”

“I might.” She looked up at Sherlock and Greg, “I…might. I’ll be out in a bit. Are we taking her in?”

“Just to be cleared through quick. She looks alright, but I’d rather have a real doc do the exam.”

“Me, too.” John sighed and shoved to her feet, “I’m on my way. Watson, out.” Clicking off, she turned from the bodies on the bloody sheets.

“John?”

“Question neighbours, close friends, and look at any family they had. This was intimate.” She stripped her gloves and headed out of the bedroom, stopping by Vangie’s room to get a bag for the little girl. A few changes of clothes, a blanket, a stuffy, things to make her transition easier.

“I would personally start with the family who came to get her, see if they know anything that might help get this case off the ground.”

“And once we’ve established the groundwork, I’ll hand it over to Gregson if I don’t solve it before Monday.” Greg followed her out of the house, “Thanks for helping out, John. I’m glad you showed.”

“I always will. All you have to do is ask.” She smiled and kissed her brother-in-law on the cheek. “Just keep that one out of trouble until Monday?”

“I can try.”

“Good enough for me.” She chuckled and took Sherlock’s hand. Getting back to the ambulance, they met some of the family. An aunt and uncle, who were devastated to hear and happy to help any way they could. Greg gave the family his card and told them to come by The Met later, he wanted to ask them a few questions and he wanted to talk to Vangie. She would have seen or heard something before her parents were discovered, she might even know the identity of the killer.

“What about that dog? We can’t take her.” Janice Christian looked sidelong at Valkyrie, who sat quietly by the ambulance. “My son’s allergic.”

“What would you do with her?”

“Probably send her to the shelter. We barely have the means to take Evangelina.”

“That’s what I suspected. Don’t worry about Valkyrie.” John shook her head. “I’ll take her on. We've got the room and the means to look after her.”

“And Mrs Hudson certainly won’t mind, when we explain it to her.” Sherlock piped up, having come up behind them. He looked over John’s shoulder at the Christians, “Don’t worry about your sister’s dog, Mrs Christian, we’ll take care of her for you. And don’t worry, whoever killed your sister and brother-in-law isn’t going to get away with it.”

“Was it really awful?”

“We had to use a photograph to identify them.”

“Oh god.” Janice’s husband looked a bit pale, “Vangie didn’t see anything, did she?”

“No, we don’t think she saw anything, not when it happened. We found her hiding in her wardrobe. She was…screaming for help.” And for Sherlock, it would have broken his heart to realize she had been screaming for help in an empty house, for who knew how long. 

“Can I ride in with Vangie? Just so she’s not by herself?” Janice’s husband asked tamely. John looked at Bill, who shrugged. It was her call, she was the one doing the driving.

“Yeah, you can go with her. Bill will help you get settled.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” The man climbed into the ambulance and Bill shook his hand, expressed his condolences, and got him settled. John closed the doors of the ambulance and turned. She folded her arms across her chest and studied Janice Christian, taking note of several things at once, deducing and filing away the data presented. John was exhausted, but even she didn’t miss how Janice wasn’t reacting the way a sibling should to the news. The woman’s whole attitude had kind of struck her as odd. There was something off about Janice, and it was bothering her. Given the sheer volume of blood on the sheets and the state of the bodies, John had suspected that the killer would be covered in blood. One thing she noticed was the cuts on Janice’s hands. And a spatter of blood on her neck under her collar.

“Mrs Christian, what happened to your hands?”

“Oh, what?”

“Your hands, ma’am.” She indicated with a tip of her head. “Those look a bit like they hurt.”

“Oh, this?” Looking at her own hands like she’d just now noticed. “That’s…it’s nothing. Nothing. Stupid cat, that’s all.”

“You own a cat, then? I thought your son was allergic?”

“To dogs!”

“A simple misunderstanding, ma’am. I’m sorry.” John put up one hand in a placating gesture. “Do you mind if I take a look at your hands, ma’am?”

“Why do you care? You’re the driver!”

“I’m a certified Paramedic, Mrs Christian. I’m more than qualified to look over a couple of cat-scratches. If you don’t mind?”

“Why does it matter?”

“Because if you leave those alone, they might become infected.” Said matter-of-factly, unaffected. Businesslike.

“I have more important things to be doing than pander to a washout medic! What do you think you know?!”

“Nothing, ma’am. I simply noticed that you had wounds on your hands and thought you might like to have that taken care of.”

“If I agree to this waste of time, will you get off my case? Please? I have a family to take care of!” The woman’s combativeness had John thinking she might just have their suspect, and she wondered what the motive was.

“This won’t take long, ma’am. Just come with me, please.” She led the way around the ambulance to the cab, not missing when Janice got nervous.

“I really don’t want anything to do with that dog.” She said shortly, passing off nerves as rudeness. “Do you mind? Do I have to be around it?” Sherlock had stashed Valkyrie in the cab of the ambulance until they headed for the hospital, at which time he would keep the dog in Greg’s car until the scene had been shut down to the point Greg could leave the scene and get started on paperwork and interviews. Then Valkyrie would stay in Greg’s office until they left The Met until further notice.

“Don’t worry about the dog, ma’am, the dog is not your concern anymore.” She said calmly, pulling the door open. Valkyrie, who had taken over her seat she noticed, perked up. John smiled and gave the dog an ear scratch. “Hi, girl. Bad night for you, huh, lovey?”

“Don’t be nice to it! Jesus, it’s a monster!”

“Valkyrie is no such thing. She was protecting her family, what was left of it.” John looked over her shoulder, “Come here, Mrs Christian.”

“No! I will not!”

“Ma’am.” John closed one hand around Valkyrie’s collar. Just a precaution. Valkyrie, seeing Janice, suddenly went into full attack mode. John had to let go or get seriously hurt. She ducked, Valkyrie used her as a spring-board and launched.

“Valkyrie! Na!” John snapped, “Lass das sein!” In a heartbeat, Janice was down, Valkyrie was on top of her, and they were surrounded. Greg and Anderson had moved on, there was still plenty of work to be done, but Greg was leading the charge.

“Stay back!” John barked, holding off The Met. “Greg, handcuffs!”

“What happened?”

“Give me a minute.” She took her brother-in-law’s handcuffs and whistled once, sharply, with a field-whistle she had learned from a Military Police K-9 handler in Afghanistan. As fast as she had attacked, Valkyrie froze. John nodded and gave one more command.

“Valkyrie, stehen platz.” Obedient, Valkyrie fell back. John gave her the signal to heel, and she came back to John’s side. Another hand-signal had her going into a down from standing, and John gave her the signal to stay. Once she had Valkyrie under control, she went to Janice Christian and flipped the woman onto her front, kneeling between her shoulders as she cuffed her.

“What are you doing? That dog attacked me for no good reason!”

“Oh, Valkyrie had a very good reason.” John snarled, getting a good look at Janice’s hands, “You don’t own a cat, you don’t have pet-hair on your clothes. But you will answer any questions Inspector Lestrade asks you. If you have any decency in you, which I somehow very much doubt.”

“But, I didn’t…”

“Honey, you have blood under your fingernails, defensive wounds, and you cut yourself when the knife slipped. If we search your car, will we find the missing candle-stick and the knife? What happened to the clothes you were wearing before? Did you throw them away?” Unsurprisingly, she had seen this happen with other suspects when they got caught red-handed, Janice broke down sobbing. Guilty as charged, this would be fun to talk about later. Amazed at the way some people could act sometimes, John looked up at Greg.

“I think we’re going to need another ambulance.”

“Shit.”

“Why are you surprised, Lestrade?” Sherlock had Valkyrie’s lead in both hands, standing over her so she couldn’t make any more trouble. His eyes were absolutely glowing and he was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. John chuckled and called into dispatch to put in a request for a second ambulance. One arrived ten minutes later and she handed Janice over to the other team, who just looked at her suspiciously.

“What’d you do this time, Watson?”

“Solved a case for The Met. Get her seen to, they’ll be along to collect her. She has a few hard questions need answering.”

“You’re mental, Watson. You know that, right?” The driver of the other team shook his head at her, “You get all the weird ones.”

“Keeps things interesting, and I get the weird ones so you regular blokes don’t have to worry about it later.”

“Mental, I say.”

“Go on, Morgan.”

“Yeah, yeah, see ya ‘round, Watson.” Blaire Morgan just waved her off and got his bus back underway. Once they were gone, John returned to her ambulance and pulled the doors open.

“Sorry about the delay.”

“What happened?”

“It got interesting. Nothing like a suspect getting combative.”

“Oh, you’re kidding me.” Bill didn’t even look that surprised, “Do I want to know?”

“You can probably guess.” John looked past Bill to Janice Christian’s husband, who seemed to know exactly what happened.

“Have you arrested my wife, Doctor Watson?”

“I put her in handcuffs, someone else gets to read her.”

“Jesus Christ. I knew she was off her rocker, I knew it. I knew she would…”

“It’s alright, Mr Christian.” John climbed into the ambulance and took his hand in hers, “You were afraid for yourself and your family, weren’t you? She was violent before?”

“Many times, she wasn’t…I don’t know what was so wrong with her, nothing made her happy. She was so…petty.”

“Inspector Lestrade would be very happy to talk to you if you want to speak to him about any of it.”

“Oh, I do! I have records! Audio-files and emails! Text-messages, whole threads!”

“Evidence. Good.”

“But…you’re not a cop?”

“Nope. I’m an ambulance driver who moonlights as a consulting detective.” She smiled, “One of two in the whole city of London, in the UK, probably in the whole world.”

“Consulting…detective?”

“Kind of came up with the job on our own.” She heard a short bark outside and looked over her shoulder. “Let her in, Sherlock.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. It’s fine.” She waved him to let go of the lead and Valkyrie jumped into the ambulance again. She got up on the gurney and licked and nuzzled Vangie, and went to give Enver Christian some affection.

“You’re a good, fine girl, Valkyrie. You did my brother-in-law good in Afghanistan, now you be good for Doctor Watson. Alright? She’ll take care of you now.”

“Was your brother-in-law with the military, Mr Christian?” That would explain why Valkyrie had responded so well to field-commands and hand-signals.

“He was. Best man I knew, Valkyrie was his partner. They were with one of the divisions out there, I don’t remember which.”

“I used to know a few, I might have known your brother, but that would have been years ago.”

“Think he was attached to the Fusiliers.”

“Oh, we had MWD teams, absolutely. Loved them.” John had played with the dogs attached to her unit, being a dog person herself, and they had known she was a dog person so they kind of gravitated towards her anyway.

“Were you in the military, then, Doctor Watson?”

“Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Fighting Fifth, attached through the Royal Army Medical Corps.” She rubbed Valkyrie’s ears, “I always wanted a dog of my own when I was little, and even more when I worked with dogs in Afghanistan. Had a dog just like Valkyrie save my life once.”

“I’m glad you’ll be taking care of Valkyrie. She’s so very fond of soldiers, seems to know ‘em even when they don’t have a uniform on.” Enver smiled a bit sadly, “She behaved for you, too.”

“We have room for Valkyrie, better she comes with us.” John shook her head, “I don’t want her going to a shelter, that wouldn’t be fair to her or anyone else. She wouldn’t be easy to adopt out with her background.”

“Thank you, Doctor Watson. Thank you so much. For tonight and…everything else you’ve done.” Enver squeezed her hand.

“My absolute pleasure. I’m sorry about the mess you’re in right now, but better we found out now than later after she did it to someone else, maybe to you or someone in your family.”

“I know. I’m sorry she…”

“Not the first time I’ve been up against the likes of your wife, sir. See it all the time, believe it or not. I’ll get you and your niece to the hospital so she can get looked after.”

“Thank you, so much.” He let her go and she stopped to tell Vangie that they were leaving now and she would be nice and safe and warm soon, she just had to be a good girl and be patient a little bit longer. She got a timid, whispered “Okay” and she kissed the girl on the cheek.

“You’re a brave girl, Vangie. It’ll be alright, you’ll see.” Hopping out of the ambulance, she got a hand down from Sherlock, who reattached Valkyrie’s lead and stepped on it before he lifted her onto the tarmac.

“There.”

“Thanks.”

“So, you solved the case?”

“I guess I did. Didn’t mean to, but I did. I hope the Christians can sleep well now, I don’t think Janice Christian is going anywhere but prison after this.”

“Probably not. Do you think she’ll talk?”

“She might. It’s obvious she’s guilty, we just need a motive. And if she won’t talk, Enver will.”

“You’re almost better at my job than I am.”

“You’re not marrying an idiot, Sherlock Holmes.”

“I knew that.”

“Go on. I’ll see you…well, later, at any rate.”

“Back to work, you.” He kissed her, long and soft, and gave her a hand into the cab. Radioing back to make sure everyone in the bay was set to go, John called to dispatch to let them know she was leaving the scene and on her way to the nearest hospital that could take them.

 -^-

Ten minutes after leaving the scene in Kennington, she pulled into the ambulance bay at St Thomas’s Hospital outside of their A&E Department. Getting Vangie unloaded didn’t take long, and John carried her into the hospital with Enver Christian behind her. When they got to the reception desks for the department, John was greeted by the receptionists.

“Doctor Watson!”

“Good morning, Victoria.” John just smiled at the woman. “Quiet night?”

“Well, it was. What mischief are you up to, young lady?”

“Not my fault this time.” John looked at Vangie, who had fallen asleep on her shoulder, “This sleepy young lady needs to be seen in the UCC.”

“Oh, that’s all?”

“That’s all, Victoria.”

“Well, that’s simple!” Victoria just smiled, “Who’s the guardian?”

“I am, ma’am.” Enver stepped forward, “I’m the girl’s uncle.”

“Parents?” Victoria arched an eyebrow. John shook her head and made a slicing motion across her throat.

“Ah, I see. Well, sir, if you’ll just fill out this paperwork for me, I’ll get everything set for you.” Victoria collected the papers and gave them to Enver, who nodded gratefully. John smiled and went to help Enver. She held Vangie while he filled out the paperwork, singing a French lullaby to keep the girl asleep and calm.

“You’re very good with children, Doctor Watson.” He said softly as he filled out the papers. “Do you ever want any of your own?”

“Not particularly. I enjoy interacting with other peoples’ children, but I’m not sure having my own would be wise. My lifestyle isn’t…suitable. Pets, on the other hand?”

“Of course.” He smiled sadly, “Thank you for everything. For…saving Vangie, for taking on Valkie, for…helping my family.”

“The card Inspector Lestrade gave you? Keep it close. If you need anything, call him, he’ll help. Anything you need, Enver.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely.” She reached over and squeezed his hand, “I hope you find peace soon. And don’t worry, your family will not be separated because of what your wife has done.”

“You can’t make that promise, Doctor Watson.”

“Yes, I can. Trust me, Enver? Trust me.”

“I must, I think. You’ve…been so kind to us.” He tried to smile, but couldn’t quite. Once he had the paperwork filled out, John traded him Vangie for the papers, took them back to Victoria, and got a blanket for them. Victoria gave her the treatment card for Vangie.

“They can go wait in the UCC if they want to, there’s no reason for them to sit out here.”

“Thanks, Victoria. You’re an angel.”

“Not particularly. You, young lady, need to go home and rest. I’ve seen you four times already.”

“I know, I know. I’ve got about four hours left on this shift, Victoria, then I’ll go home.”

“Good. You need sleep.”

“God, yes I do.” She sighed and took the card, “I’ll see you later, Victoria.”

“Good night, John.” Victoria waved her off and she went to escort Enver and Vangie to the UCC. Once she had them settled, explaining the situation to the receptionists there, John gave Enver the treatment card and wished him luck after giving him her business-card as well. She hugged him, kissed Vangie on the temple, and left the hospital by herself. Returning to the ambulance queue, she checked in with Bill and took a nap on the gurney until their next call came in. They parked the ambulance at St Thomas’s Hospital to wait, it was secure and there wasn’t a big crowd of ambulances jockeying for position at the moment. It was ideal, and they usually staked out at hospitals outside of meal-breaks just because it was easier to park. John liked stakeouts on the streets, but those weren’t always possible. Make do with what you have when you have it.


 

Chapter Text


The rest of the week passed without any real incident, and finally, it was Sunday afternoon. As John pulled the ambulance into Headquarters at the end of her Day-8 shift, a call came in for them. John grabbed the radio from Bill and made the callback.

“Driver Watson to Despatch. Go.”

“Sorry, Watson? Another call came through. Can you take it?”

“Sorry, Despatch. Not this time. Pass it to another team. I’m off the schedule for the next two weeks after today.”

“You got it, sweetheart.” The dispatch clerk didn’t seem to mind. “See you in two weeks, dear. You’d better have pictures when you come back.”

“I will, my cousin’s taking the pictures.” She had to smile. “See you in two weeks, Josie.”

“Safe travels, John.” The dispatcher just chuckled and John shut her radio off. She and Bill made short work of clocking out and getting out of dodge. Lydia came to pick them up, per their arrangements, and they drove to King’s Cross to meet the girls. Sherlock and the lads had flown up earlier in Mycroft’s jet, so it was up to the bridal party to get themselves to Leven in a timely manner.

Getting to King’s Cross didn’t take very long, and rendezvous happened quickly. In the absence of anyone who actually wanted the job, Sally Donovan had taken over as John’s Chief Bridesmaid, which John didn’t mind at all. As they organized their luggage for the trunk car, John couldn’t help but notice a bit of boosted security. Specific security, subtle and unnoticed if you didn’t know who they were. But she made a living on observation and most of her party did as well. If they hadn’t noticed the body-guards and extra members from the Royalty and Specialist Protection Division, they weren’t paying attention.

“What’s up with the extra uniforms?” Bill muttered, eyeing up a pair of RaSP officers. John narrowed her eyes.

“That’s RaSP, Royalty and Specialist, they’re usually deployed for the Royal Family.” John straightened and brushed off her hands. “Your guess is as good as mine, Bill.”

“Boosted security like that? Hard to miss so many in one place.”

“There’s a lot of ‘em, too.” Sally mused, “Wonder what the occasion is?”

“Oh, wait. Hang on.” John suddenly remembered something. “Oh, no.”

“What, John?”

“Er, can…shit, can you…hang on a second?” She had just spotted the reason for the extra security, and there was only one reason she could think of that they would have any business at King’s Cross. This would be very interesting indeed.

“What? John! Where…the train’s leaving in five minutes, where are you going?” Sally yelled after her as she split off from the rest of her party. She felt bad for being in uniform still, but she hadn’t had a chance to take a shower before making the train. And she would never, ever consider them good friends, but…well, apparently, they were coming to the wedding. Surprisingly, despite the extra security, no one had really seemed to notice them, and John wasn’t going to raise a big fuss about it. As soon as she was clear of a knot of passengers, she waved. William saw her first and smiled, waving back.

“Jesus! Guys! Hi!” John gasped, reaching them finally. “What…what are you doing here?”

“We’re coming with you.”

“Holy shit, you…okay! That’s…you’re coming?” She managed to hold it together, but barely, “Does anyone else know you’re here? That you’re coming to the wedding?”

“No.”

“Not even my all-knowing brother-in-law?” She raised an eyebrow. The couple just looked at each other and smiled. Apparently not even Mycroft. Well, she was fine with a bit of royal wedding-crashing, that was absolutely just fine with her. A whistle sounded over the crowds and John groaned. Time to go.

“That would be the signal. Well, if you’re coming with us, after you.” She let them take the lead, nodding to the personal security who had accompanied them. Sneaky arrangements had been made behind her back and John’s entire party had been bumped. They all had First Class tickets, but now they had a whole coach to themselves. Thanks to John’s subtle connections with people who had pull where it mattered. It didn’t take her party very long to work this out, and the look Sally gave her as they pulled out of the station was worth every minute of it.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“What’s going on?”

“What’s what?” She looked up from the book she’d brought for keeping herself occupied. She also had her laptop. They were in one part of the coach, the Royals were elsewhere. John was giving them their space and privacy. She would go say hi again once they were well underway.

“This. What’s all of this?” Sally gestured at the nearly-empty coach, “We’re practically the only people in here!”

“Oh. Friends.” She smiled, “Rather…influential friends.” She coughed discretely.

“Influential friends? Honey, you’re marrying a Holmes, I can only imagine what your idea of influential friends might be!” Sally rolled her eyes. John looked across the aisle at Adler, who knew exactly who was behind this. The dominatrix just smiled like she knew a great big secret. Which, to be perfectly honest, she did.

“I’ll introduce you once we’re well on our way. I need to thank them, anyway.”

“For what?”

“For this, for coming to the wedding at all when I know they have much better things to do with their time, for…giving me something priceless.” She remembered the tiara she was borrowing from them for her wedding day, for tomorrow. Suddenly, a sharp, high-pitched wail broke the quiet. John almost jumped out of her seat.

“What the hell was that?” Sally perked up.

“That…sounded like a baby. Real young.” John coughed, “Sorry, Sally.”

“Jesus!” Her friend made a face as the ruckus carried on, “How young, do you think?”

“Oh, I’d say…eight months? Maybe.”

“That’s not a happy baby.”

“That’s not exactly pain, though.” She wondered what the fuss was about. She found out rather quickly when William suddenly appeared.

“Captain Watson.”

“Captain Wales.” She looked up at him, “Is everything alright, sir?”

“Are you any good with children?”

“That one?” Sally raised an eyebrow, “She’s the best I know. Do you need her?”

“It’s…my son, he’s inconsolable.”

“I travel with my work, sir.” John grabbed her jump-kit and got to her feet. Sally grabbed her hand as she prepared to follow William.

“John!”

“What?”

“Is that…was that…Prince William?” Sally kept her voice down.

“Yep. I’ll explain in a minute, duty calls.” She slung her kit over her shoulder and tagged after William. It didn’t take long to reach the seats occupied by the Royals, and John figured out pretty quick what was wrong with eight-month-old Prince George. He’d eaten too quickly and air had gotten trapped in his diaphragm. As an adult, it was awful, John felt so sorry for the royal infant.

“Let me see him.” She said quietly, holding out her arms for the tiny prince. Under the eagle-eye watch of the bodyguards, John took baby George into her arms.

“Oh, you’re alright, little Highness. You’re alright. I’ll have you set to rights in no time. There we go.” She loosened the blankets wrapped around him and propped him up against her shoulder after putting a flannel over her uniform. Once she had him positioned, she patted him firmly but gently on the back.

“There we go, my lad. That’s a sweet little thing. There you are.” She kept talking as she worked. Suddenly, and thank god for it, he belched and spit up. “Oh, that’s alright, my lad, that’s a love. You sweet thing, it’s alright.”

“Oh, thank you, Captain!”

“That was my pleasure, Your Highness.” John smiled at the relieved parents, “This little sir swallowed a bit too much air is all.” Tugging the spit-rag off her shoulder, she bundled it after wiping off George’s little face. The nanny travelling with them took the rag from her and she put a fresh one down over her uniform, rubbing the infant’s back as he cried.

“It’s alright, little gent, calm yourself down now. That’s a good lad, it’s alright. There we go. There we go.” She smiled as the crying trailed off. John loved children, all ages, but infants were her absolute favourite and she was in a special happy place right now. As George began to calm down, John began to sing a particular Gaelic tune. Just very softly, as she rocked and paced with her tiny, royal burden.

“You’re very good with young children, Captain.”

“I adore them, infants are my absolute favourite.” She just smiled at William, who seemed in awe of her handling of his son, “I hope you don’t mind this?”

“No, of course, I don’t!” William just shook his head quickly. “He’s…quiet. How did you do that?”

“He had air trapped in his diaphragm, and he’d eaten a bit too much. Those by themselves hurt, combined is quite a bit worse. And we’re adults. For him it was agony.” She rubbed the tiny shoulders. “He’ll be alright now.”

“You don’t want any children of your own, do you, John?” Kate asked, watching her with her son.

“No, Highness.” John shook her head, it was the same conversation she’d had with Enver Christian just a few days ago, “I enjoy interacting with other peoples’ children, but I’m not sure having my own would be wise. My lifestyle isn’t…suitable.”

“Not everyone needs to have children, the choice is theirs. Don’t let anyone pressure you into a choice you aren’t ready to make.”

“Children are a commitment, not a commodity.” John sighed, “Sherlock and I love children, but we…”

“You have careers that would not benefit from having a family. And not everyone needs children to make a family.”

“I’m glad someone else understands.” John just smiled at Kate. “Your son is adorable. He’s going to look like his dad when he’s older, I bet.” She’d be damned if William didn’t blush. John chuckled and adjusted her grip on George, who snuffled and twitched in his sleep, he’d dozed off on her shoulder. The occasional sway of the train provided motion for her pacing, so it hadn’t really taken that long to get George to sleep.

“John!” A soft, startled exclamation of her name brought her attention up and she saw Sally standing behind her.

“Sally.”

“What’s…sorry, you didn’t come back. What’s on?”

“Just doing a bit of impromptu babysitting.” She smiled, “Come here, Sally.”

“Are you…sure?”

“Absolutely.” She looked at the Royals, who just smiled at each other, “Besides, I owe you answers and an explanation.”

“I…yeah, yeah you do.” Sally ventured over, very much out of her element but hiding it well. She was a cop, she could adapt to a situation like this. But she had never been in the presence of royalty before, so she was a little uncomfortable. She peeked at George, whose head now rested over John’s heart, her expression going soft.

“Aw, who’s this little fellow?”

“Sally Donovan, meet His Royal Highness Prince George.”

“God, he’s little! All that noise came out of this tiny thing?” Sally wrinkled her nose, “Healthy set of lungs on this one, yeah?”

“Very.” John smiled.

“So…what’s the story here?”

“Royal Wedding Honour Guard.”

“Really? You…oh, you lucky bastard!” Sally kept her voice down so she wouldn’t disturb George.

“And, my “something borrowed, something blue” came from Buckingham Palace.”

“It did?”

“I never showed you, did I?”

“I…don’t think you did. Jesus, I can’t imagine.” Sally shook her head, awed, “You know the Royal Family.”

“Part of it.” John shrugged, “Sally Donovan, my rather useful friends of influence. Their Royal Highnesses, Prince William and Kate Middleton.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Sergeant Donovan.” William smiled at Sally, “If you know Captain Watson, you must be in Homicide.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Sally shook hands with the Royals. “Jesus. It’s…it’s an honour.”

“Donovan is one of my contacts at The Met.” John just smiled, “A very useful friend, this one.”

“Thank you for your work to keep London safe.”

“Someone has to.”

“Ladies, sit down.” Kate indicated two empty seats, so John sat down. Sally sat down next to her.

The rest of the trip was quiet, John and Sally sitting with the Royals at their invitation and keeping the conversation running. They covered everything from politics to their respective jobs, such as they were, and John ended up falling asleep in her seat. She felt a little bad about that, but no one seemed to mind. She had eaten dinner, had given George another bottle before handing him off to the nanny, and had two beers under her belt. She was allowed to sleep if she felt so inclined, it was unlikely anyone she was travelling with would really mind either way.

 -^-

It wasn’t until Sally Donovan heard a soft grunt that she realized John Watson had fallen asleep on them. She raised an eyebrow and looked over at her friend. If someone had told her five months ago that she would be friends with the sassy, slightly-hostile veteran following Sherlock Holmes around at crime-scenes, she would have laughed at them. But John had become one of her best friends and she looked forward to Pub Nights when she knew John would be there, and she was nearly every time. And now, now she was getting ready to stand for John at the girl’s wedding. John Watson was getting married, and not to just any bloke, she was getting married to Sherlock Holmes. Who would have believed that would happen? Sally sighed and shook her head, taking a sip of her drink.

“That’s a heavy sigh, Sergeant.”

“Nah.” She shook her head, looking at the gentlemen across the small table from her, “I’m just thinking.”

“About what?”

“John. And Sherlock. If you’d told me five months ago that I’d be in John Watson’s wedding party, I’d have laughed at you. And if you’d told me nine years ago that Sherlock Holmes would get married, I’d have thought you were mad.”

“You weren’t friends with him, were you?”

“No, I wasn’t. But can you blame either of us?” She thought of the first time she’d met Sherlock, what a mess he’d been.

“A strung-out heroin junky spouting theories and evidence sight-unseen, and a straight-laced by-the-book constable? I can only imagine.” She saw a sly smile, “You would have both been quite a bit younger, and you would have been very new to the force, perhaps not even in Homicide yet.”

“Nope, I was still two years away from that when I met him.” She sighed, “I thought he was starkers, y’know?”

“You had no reason to think otherwise, did you?”

“I guess I didn’t.” She frowned, “I didn’t even meet him on a scene the first time.”

“Oh?”

“No, I…well, I arrested him. I was still in Patrol at the time, looking to transfer to Homicide if they’d let me near it, and I get this call for some homeless junky insulting passers-by and talking nonsense.”

“Was he?”

“Insulting people? Oh, of course, he was.” She chuckled, “It was the nonsense that they got wrong.”

“How?” William Wales, Duke of Cambridge and friend of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, just tilted his head.

“He was spitting out details on a case that was two weeks cold by then, details no one would have known if they hadn’t been there when we responded initially or committed the crime in question.”

“So you arrested him on suspicion?”

“He kept telling me we had the wrong man, he wasn’t the one we needed to be arresting and gave us a name. I thought he was crazy, but I gave what he’d told me to Homicide. He told me to talk to…Greg Lestrade. After that, it smoothed out and he was bailed forty-eight hours later. I didn’t see him again for a few months.”

“Was he right about the suspect?”

“Yeah, he was right about the suspect. I thought it was a fluke, but he kept showing up at crime scenes, and he kept knowing things that no one else could have possibly known. I must have cuffed him dozens of times until I finally realized what his game was.”

“What did you do?”

“I cuffed him, put him in my car, and let him rant. He was damn smart, but such a prick about it, I hated him. He made it look so easy, and then he insulted the rest of us because we “missed the obvious, it’s right in front of you”.”

“And when he suddenly got himself a partner?”

“I thought she was just as cracked as he was, you’d have to be, to stick with the likes of Sherlock Holmes.”

“What do you think now?”

“She’s just as smart as he is, but she’s got street-smarts, and she’s nicer about it than he is. He’s gotten better in the last couple of years, but he’s still a stuffy know-it-all. He can’t help it, though.” She sighed, “I never thought I’d be friends with the heroin junky I arrested in 2003. I never…thought we’d be friends enough his fiancée would ask me to be part of their wedding.”

“Are you John’s Chief Bridesmaid?”

“Not really. I mean, yeah, but that’s only because no one else wanted the job and I know how to get things done efficiently.”

“You didn’t want the job.”

“She deserves better than me, we’re just friends.”

“What of her sister?”

“She’s coming to the wedding, but she’s not in the party. John vetoed that idea after she got a drunk-dial call at 3.00 am during a Night-12. Her sister was almost uninvited because of it.”

“What’s a Night-12?”

“Twelve-hour Night Shift.”

“Ah.” William nodded. Sally knew John didn’t really get along with her sister, and having met her sister, she didn’t blame her at all.

When they pulled into Edinburgh-Waverly, Sally nudged John awake.

“What? We here?”

“Just pulling into Edinburgh.”

“Oh. Thanks, Sally.” John sighed, ruffled her hair with one hand, and yawned. “I’ll do the driving.”

“Are you sure?”

“I know where we’re going. I think we’ll be doing this caravan-style.”

“We’ll have to, considering our party’s a little bigger than we anticipated.” Sally rubbed the back of her neck, she was a little stiff from the trip. Once the train had pulled into the station, they got up, collected their bags, and gathered on the platform. Porters had collected and consolidated the group’s not-insignificant luggage, Sally helped John go through an inventory of everything they’d brought up with them and didn’t miss her removing a blue box from one of the suitcases. John put it in her backpack, whatever it was.

Leaving the station, Sally realized that everything had been planned for. There was a van for the luggage, another two vans for the security-staff and attendants, and two cars. John gave everyone their assignments, Sally was her copilot and they were driving the Royals while Bill and Lydia MacLeod would take Stella, Molly, and Irene. If the security staff didn’t like that, they were free to bring it up with John, but she knew where they were going and she was in charge. Radios were handed out to the drivers and their copilots.

“Saddle up, lads! We’ve got a bit of a drive ahead! We’ll lead, Bill’s car will follow us, the attendants’ vans will fall in behind, and the cargo-van will bring up the rear. If anyone gets separated in traffic, and yes, there will be traffic at this hour, I promise you, radio in and rejoin as soon as you safely can. I’ve given you the address and GPS coordinates, so you shouldn’t get too lost.” John stood on the running-board of the Land Rover they were driving to Leven, “Safe driving, I’m on Channel 3 for the radio. Move out!” Sally watched an organized hustle as their group scattered to their vehicles and hopped into the front passenger’s seat of their car.

“Nice work, Captain.” William chuckled from the back-seat.

“This is far from my first caravan, sir,” John said, looking over her shoulder. Call-ins were made from the rest of their group, and John got them underway.

“Do you always drive lead, John?”

“Every time. Whether here at home or overseas in Afghanistan. That way I can see what’s ahead of us and I don’t have any surprises I didn’t see first.” She checked over her shoulder to make sure the rest of their caravan was in position, which they were. Sally chuckled and settled in for what promised to be an interesting drive.

 -^-

An hour after leaving Edinburgh and five and a half hours after leaving London, John Watson was leading her small caravan of five vehicles onto her family’s estate two miles outside of Leven, Fife. It was 9.45 pm as she made the turn onto the drive that led from B297 to the house, using a remote to get the gates open.

“Nice gatehouse.” Sally Donovan whispered. John chuckled and looked over her shoulder. Somewhere along the way, not that she was surprised by it, her passengers had fallen asleep. As the other four vehicles queued up behind her, she nodded. The end of the road had been reached and John was legitimately home for the first time in nearly twenty-two years. Her visits to Aithernie Castle were few and far between, and she was never home for more than one or two days. And never for something this important. When they came into view of the house, John stopped off the side of the approach. She kicked her door open and got out, standing on the running board to get a good long look at the house. It was dark, but the place was all lit up.

“John?” Sally called curiously as John climbed up on the bonnet and then onto the roof, standing there to get a better look at a place that had always sort of been home.

“This is it. This is Aithernie Castle. Watsons have lived here since time immemorial. My family’s clan-seat is here. This is home.” She took a deep breath, “I’m…home.”

“Are you alright, Captain?” William asked from below, standing on the running-board.

“I’m fine. I’m just…relieved. I’m so glad my cousin insisted that I come home to get married.” John smiled and turned, getting down again. She hopped from the roof and swung into the driver’s seat in a move she must have executed hundreds of times in Afghanistan. When they finally pulled up at the house, John threw the Rover into park and got out. She pulled open the back doors to let out her passengers and grabbed her backpack from the boot.

“John!” That was all the warning she had before she was tackled off her feet by Sherlock.

“Whoa!” She caught herself, “Hi, you.”

“John, you made it!”

“Of course I made it, are you kidding me?” She chuckled and put her arms around her fiancé. “Has my family been treating you well while you’ve been here?”

“The Watsons are good people, but I already knew that.” He smiled and leaned in, framing her face with his hands, “God, I’ve missed you. Why do I have to wait another night for you?”

“Because tradition is tradition and we’ll be damned if we break with tradition the night before our wedding.” She leaned against him, putting her hand on the back of his neck, “Welcome to Scotland, my love.”

“Shouldn’t I be saying that to you, John?” He grinned, eyes bright. He looked past her at the cars, “You came with an entourage?”

“My party grew by a bit between London and Leven.”

“I can see that.” Sherlock raised an eyebrow at the Royals. “William. Kate.”

“Sherlock. Thanks for the invitation.” William just smiled, a little worn out from the long journey to get here, and shook Sherlock’s hand.

“Of course you’re invited.” Sherlock smiled in that way of his. And arrangements had been made on the outside chance they did come. 

“John Hamish Watson! As I live, breathe, and die!” The family’s long-time steward, who had been old when John was in her twenties and had a son her age ready to take over for him when he died, emerged from the house with a gaggle of staff to collect luggage and guests alike.

“Gordy!” John pulled away from Sherlock to hug the old man who had been looking after the family seat longer than she’d been alive, “Hi!”

“What’s this nonsense I hear about you getting married, missy?”

“No nonsense, Gordy.” She chuckled, “It’s for real, I promise.”

“Hmph.” The stubborn old steward snorted and looked long and sharp at Sherlock, who had probably gotten quite a talking-to, “Well, at least you picked a good one. I’ve seen worse than him in my day.”

“Gordy, mind your manners!” John rolled her eyes, “We have guests.”

“Aye, we do! What’s this you’re bringin’ us now?” Gordy looked past her to William and Kate. She’d be damned if he didn’t know who they were, and the way his eyes widened said everything.

“John Watson.”

“Yes, Gordy?”

“You brought us guests alright! Royalty! How? I thought that was just a rumour!”

“They came up with me, Gordy. More than a rumour, they’re really here.” She smiled, “I spent most of my trip up from London holding their son.”

“You lucky bastard! Well, we’ve got room ready for ‘em.”

 “Thank you, Gordy.” John sighed and turned to their guests. “William, Kate, I want to introduce you to the most important person in Aithernie Castle, even if he won’t admit it.”

“Oh, you flatterer.” Gordy blushed.

“Philip Gordon, may I take the pleasure to present Their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Gordons have been looking after Aithernie Castle for as long as there have been Watson living here. Gordy’s been here longer than I’ve been alive, if  you can believe that.”

“Nah. My son Nick is going to take over for me one of these days.” Gordy waved her off. “Don’t listen to this one, Highnesses, she’ll talk your ear off if you let her.”

“Gordy!” Now it was John’s turn to blush, but she couldn’t help it.

“Oh, she’s been fine company! And a miracle with our son, Mr Gordon.” Kate was having none of that. John covered her face with both hands.

“Well, you’ve all had a very long day. I’ll get you settled. Our lot will manage the luggage, we know what goes where, my boys will take over with your entourage.” Gordy clapped his hands, beaming. “John, you know where to go?”

“Yes, Gordy, I know where to go.” She rolled her eyes and took Sherlock’s hand. Going inside the castle was like coming home. John headed for the top of the house with Sherlock in tow and the porters behind. Thanking Gordy’s boys for carrying her things, she made herself at home. 

The girls had her dress and shoes, she grabbed the box with the tiara in it from her backpack and went downstairs to leave it with the rest of her things. They had taken over a small boudoir on the first floor as a bridal prep-room for tomorrow, the lads were getting ready in another bedroom on the second floor. John found her dress and the dresses for her bridesmaids set up on dress-forms. She did a headcount and had to recount. She knew all of her bridesmaids, she’d picked them herself and made them her party when they went dress-shopping almost three months ago: Sally Donovan, Stella Hopkins, Molly Hooper, and Irene Adler. Four bridesmaids, no real Chief Bridesmaid despite Sally taking over most of those responsibilities just because no one else wanted to and John didn’t trust Harry. And yet…she counted one, two, three, four…five dresses? The four were the familiar gorgeous purple she and Sherlock had settled on, but the fifth dress was completely different. Same style, different colour. The wedding colours were plum, champagne, and ivory, the fifth dress was the soft champagne of their colour scheme. John could see herself missing a change of leadership, but the question was…who? Who did she know who knew about the wedding, would have had time in the three months since she had decided on her wedding-party to find a dress, and who would keep it quiet? 

 

The door opened behind her as she set the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet on the special holder attached to her dress-form.

“John, what are you doing?”

“Getting everything ready for tomorrow.” She looked over her shoulder at Sally and Kate. “I’m allowed to be in here, it’s Sherlock who can’t see anything until the ceremony.”

“Hmph.” Sally huffed and came over to help her with the veil, “Have you figured out how you’re going to wear this thing?”

“Probably the way Kate wore hers.” John touched the tiara with careful fingers, “I still can’t believe they let me have this. It’s…priceless.”

“It’s gorgeous.” Sally breathed, “What is it?”

“This is the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet.” John sighed, “And I’m the lucky bastard who gets to borrow it for a day.”

“John! My god!”

“Yeah, I know.” She looked at Kate, who was holding George, “That one sound asleep?”

“Out like a stone. Fell asleep on the way up and slept the entire drive out.” Kate just smiled, “You’re the one who rocked my son to sleep, John.”

“I didn’t mind at all.” John shook her head, she had enjoyed her time with the infant prince. “I love children.”

“We know.” Sally rolled her eyes, “But I’ve got to admit, you’ve got a special touch with them. Even if you don’t plan on having any of your own, you’re aces with other people’s children.” As if on cue, George began to fuss. He wasn’t hungry, John didn’t think. But when he didn’t re-settle after Kate tried to soothe him, John just held her arms out. Kate had no problem surrendering her son, she knew John was good for it. Taking George into her arms, she propped him up against her shoulder and rocked him, stepping out of the room to pace the hallway outside.

“There’s a lad, no fuss needed here, dear. That’s a little gent. Shh.” She put her head down near his and kept her voice low, “You’re alright there, little prince. In good hands. There’s a good lad.” His nappy was clean, he had eaten just prior if she had any idea of a feeding-schedule followed. He was just…fussy. And infants by their nature were fussy little creatures, even royalty. John could handle this. She walked the halls of Aithernie Castle, singing the same Gaelic tune she had hushed him with on the train.

“You have a gorgeous voice, did you know that?” Sherlock’s quiet voice startled her and she flinched.

“Sherlock!”

“I heard the fussing and came down.” Her fiancée sat on the stairs leading up to the second floor, watching her with that familiar soft expression on his face. “You’ve been entrusted with the heir to the British throne?”

“Wouldn’t be the first time.” She kept moving. George snuffled against her neck and whined, but he didn’t wake up again. “Spent most of my trip from London to Edinburgh doing exactly this. He’s an absolute joy to handle.” John couldn’t help a smile.

“Makes you reconsider not having children, doesn’t it?”

“Sometimes. But I like having the freedom to give him back when I need to.” John rubbed the tiny shoulders, “Every woman experiences a maternal urge at some time in their life. Whether we do anything about it is different. I know plenty of women who were never fit to be mothers and never should have been entrusted to the care of infants. And I know twice that who should be lauded for doing their best against odds unfavourable.”

“Your mother?”

“For one. On the should never have been side.” She sighed, “But if that was true, I wouldn’t be here.”

“And we would all be worse for the lack.” Sherlock smiled and got up, coming to join her. “May I?”

“Sure.” She knew he was good with children, she had seen the evidence over and over on different cases. Getting George transferred from her arms to his didn’t take long, there was a bit of fussing done about being moved, but Sherlock was quick to soothe the infant in his arms and George quieted down in no time at all. John couldn’t keep a smile off her face at the sight of her fiancée with a baby in his arms. It was another fifteen minutes before the nanny came for her infant charge, thanking Sherlock and John for taking care of him when it wasn’t anywhere in their responsibilities. Not that either of them minded, they loved children.

Once they had the hand-off completed, Sherlock took John by the hand and led her back upstairs to the suite of rooms they were sharing. They had one more thing to do before the ceremony tomorrow, and now was as good a time as any to do it. Getting settled in the anteroom, Sherlock retrieved the box. Inside were several yards of cordage in different colours and styles all roughly the same diameter. There were cotton cords, soft as silk, dyed in the wedding colours, and bundles of sturdy, military-spec paracord. The paracord was John’s and came in black, green, and grey. They were building a hand-fasting cord for the ceremony tomorrow and alternated strands of cotton and paracord before they began braiding. John braided a strand of black and grey paracord with ivory cotton, and Sherlock braided a strand of plum and champagne cotton with green paracord.  When the contrast cords were done, John braided a solid central cord out of black paracord, and then braided all three together with Sherlock. All the while, Valkyrie slept between them, her head on John’s thigh.

After finishing the hand-fasting cord, John coiled it and threaded it through the bracelets of a pair of handcuffs they had “borrowed” from Greg. Putting the cord back in its box for tomorrow, John took the box downstairs to the prep-room set aside for the groom’s party. Mycroft would be in charge of the hand-fasting cord until it was needed during the short ceremony. There was still time before she had to part ways with Sherlock, and they decided to go to bed. Doing nothing else besides cuddling, they slept until just before dawn, when John went to her own room to sleep until breakfast.


 

Chapter Text


Come morning, John joined the rest of the wedding party for breakfast. They convened in the Morning Room of the castle, none of them terribly done-up, the hard work put towards appearances would come later. John showed up wearing denims and a regimental tee-shirt, Sherlock came down in his usual trousers and button-down, the rest of the party showed in…well, just about whatever they damn well felt like wearing. They were joined by John’s cousin Iain, who had been instrumental in bringing them to Scotland, and by William and George, who was accompanied by his nanny and spent most of the breakfast in John’s arms. She fed him bits of her food, scrambled egg and grilled tomato were a big hit and he demolished a strip of toast pretty thoroughly. He also got a taste for sausage. John was terribly fond of the infant royal, and it seemed to be mutual. She still had no desire for her own children, but she was more than happy to spend time with George and his parents seemed fine letting her do so.

After breakfast, the day was fairly quiet and quite busy. John and the girls started getting ready around 10.00 am, taking showers and convening in the prep-room to get dressed and get hair and makeup done. Well, the girls did, John had a special arrangement for her hair. Just because she “wasn’t supposed to see the groom” before the ceremony, she wasn’t about to pass up on a well-established tradition and bonding exercise. Someone else would do her makeup, but she would not trust her hair to anyone but Sherlock. So when she let herself into the lad’s prep-room to fetch Sherlock, she got a few looks.

“Sherlock?”

“Coming, dear.” He looked up from helping his brother get ready, “Your turn, is it?”

“You know the rules, Sherlock.” Mycroft rolled his eyes.

“He’s not going to see the dress, Mycroft, it’s behind a changing-screen until I put it on.” John knew what Mycroft was worried about. Chuckling, Sherlock tugged on a fold of fabric and adjusted the pleating so the kilt fell properly.

“Lestrade, you take over for me until I get back.”

“Where are you going?”

“Sherlock is surprisingly good at braiding hair, did you know that?” John smiled at the boys, who traded looks.

“Sherlock Holmes braids hair?” Anderson adjusted the cuffs of his shirt, one eyebrow raised. Sherlock was the only one of the party who didn’t have his kilt on yet, but that was for the same reason John wasn’t wearing her dress. They didn’t want to see each other’s outfits until the ceremony.

“And rather well. Any time you see me with a complicated-looking hairstyle, that’s thanks to this one. Now, if you gents will excuse me, I need to borrow the groom for a few minutes.” She took Sherlock’s hand and led him downstairs to the bridal prep-room. The girls knew he was coming, so they were all decent when he arrived. Sherlock greeted the girls, who were awfully disappointed he wasn’t wearing his kilt yet.

“Damn it, Holmes! When are you going to make good on your end of the bargain?” Sally scolded as she helped Stella. Sherlock just grinned at the clever detective sergeant and blew her a kiss.

“The ceremony, dear. I promise.”

“Oh, you’re no fun! I’m dying to see the tartan you two came up with, I saw the planning-stages but never the final product!”

“You’ll see it when it’s time, not a minute before.”

“Spoilsport.”

“Oh, knock it off, Sally.” John rolled her eyes as she sat down. “I’m wearing a sash of the tartan with my dress, you’ll see it soon enough.”

“I sure hope so!” Sally was not content with that, but she would have to make do. Sherlock got started on John, who kept her head down per his instructions, applying styling gel to her hair to keep it manageable. John had taken a shower and left her hair damp, knowing it was easier to manage that way.

“I’d ask what you’ve got in mind, but I don’t know if I want to know.” She stayed still as he got to work, separating out the bottom section of hair from the rest, used to this process after so long.

“Why not?” He brushed her hair out and spritzed with hairspray for good measure before further separating the bottom section into two and clipping aside the section he wasn’t working on right away. This was apparently a multi-stage process, and she could only imagine what he was up to.

“I kind of want to be surprised.” She smiled, “You’re surprisingly gifted at braiding hair, God knows the wonders you’ve worked with mine.”

“You are not allowed to cut your hair, I will do the styling for you.” He scolded. John chuckled, one of her girls snickered. If she’d been left to her own devices, she would have cut her hair ages ago and regretted nothing. She could manage a braid, a standard braided bun, a standard bun, a ponytail, and that was about the extent of her styling expertise. Sherlock, on the other hand, could work legitimate miracles with her hair. After he was done with the bottom section, tying it off after braiding from nape to crown, she sat up and he secured the remaining sections of hair into a high ponytail. This included the recently braided under-section that he had done first. One section on her crown was clipped out separately. Once he had her hair sectioned appropriately, she got comfortable for the long haul.

“Do you want to see what I’m doing?” Sherlock asked when he noticed she was keeping her eyes closed.

“Not particularly.”

“Sally, there should be a sleep-mask in her bag, can you give that to me, please?” He turned away to Sally, who found the requested item and brought it over. “Thank you, dear.”

“So, since when could you braid hair, Holmes?”

“Since long before you and I met. I’ve always been rather good at it.”

“I wonder why, you never had sisters.”

“No, but I had plenty of female cousins.” She could tell he was smiling, even though she couldn’t see. And that was fine, she didn’t need to be able to see.

“Well, I guess that’s fair. I just don’t know that many blokes who know how to braid hair or well enough they’re comfortable braiding a girl’s hair for her.”

“I’m not most blokes you know, am I, Donovan?”

“No, you are not, and thank God for that. Don’t try to be normal, Sherlock, it’s not worth the trouble.” Sally must have moved away, she didn’t sound as close as she had before. John just smiled to herself and sat still while her gifted fiancé did her hair for her wedding day. Whatever he was doing, it was quite elaborate. She was aware of the others coming over to look, to watch, and comment. It was all good, all praise. Even the professionals they’d brought in to take care of her girls were jealous and said so.

“I’m simply intimately familiar with the length, texture, and attitude of my fiancée’s hair.”He said matter-of-factly. John snorted. Attitude was one word for it.

Finally, twenty minutes later, he was done. To let her see the finished product, he removed the sleep-mask.

“Whoa.” She blinked at her reflection, “Oh, Sherlock. I think you might have outdone yourself.”

“Special occasion and all that, you know.” He just smiled, very pleased with himself and the final product.

“I take it back. You have outdone yourself.” She got a look at the back, “You reverse-braided the under-section and then did a braided bun? That’s, to date, the most elaborate you’ve ever gotten with my hair!” And not just a braided bun, he’d done a double dutch braided top knot with a lace braided bun! Talk about elaborate! The under-section of her hair had been braided from nape to crown in diagonal dutch braids, which had been pulled into a high ponytail that had then been used to create a beautiful lace braided bun. Special occasion and all that, indeed!

Sherlock showed her how the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet had been secured in place with special combs that had been carefully attached by a private jeweller who had modified the tiara specially for the wedding. The combs were detachable for future removal without damaging the tiara in any way, but they were solidly anchored to the bottom of the tiara until then. In addition to the combs, Sherlock had secured the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet in place by threading pieces of hair through the bottom of the tiara before adding them to the braids. Well, she wouldn’t be in danger of losing the tiara before she found a way to take it off, it was quite well locked down.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it!” She leaned her head back, “Are we really getting married in a few hours?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay, good. I don’t like sharing.”

“You’ve said.” He chuckled and leaned over to kiss her. One of the girls made a soft sound. Pulling back, he raised an eyebrow.

“Ah. Now I get it.”

“Get…what? Jesus.” Leave her loopy with a kiss, thanks.

“Why you call that Spiderman kissing.” He smiled and kissed her again, “Clever name. My clever Watson.”

“Well, it’s official, you two are the most disgustingly in love couple I know.” Sally had her arms folded across her chest, a goofy smile on her face. John and Sherlock both flipped her off, not meaning any of it, and she snorted.

“Aww. You don’t mean that.”

“Lucky for you, we don’t.” John sighed as Sherlock pulled away. She looked up at her husband-to-be. “You’d better scram, or there won’t be a wedding.”

“You’ll kidnap me and make off for the Highlands to do unspeakable nefarious things with me?” He just smiled at her.

“Just a few. Jesus, you’re good at kissing. Who taught you how to do that?”

“She did.” Pointing at Adler, who didn’t seem all that ashamed of it.

“Oh. Well, in that case.” John smiled and got up, hugging him tightly. “You need to go get ready. And so do I.”

“Yes, you do.” He just smiled, that silly, soft smile he seemed to save for her. They left together and kissed at the bottom of the stairs. The next time they saw each other would be at the ceremony.

Once Sherlock was out of sight up the stairs, John ran back to the prep-room and slammed the door.

“Alright, you, sit.” Sally dragged her over to one of the stations set up for hair and makeup, “Your turn.”

“Am I really getting married in two hours?”

“Hour and a half, dear.”Her cousin Iain pointed out. He was taking pictures of the process to get ready.

“Shit.”

“And yes, you are.” He kept snapping pictures, “You’re beautiful, you know that, right? Gorgeous, you are.”

“Iain, stop.”

“Love you.” He just smiled at her and snapped a shot of her flipping him off. “I’ll go get a few shots of the boys and come back for that dress.”

“Works for me.” John shrugged and let the makeup artists do their work.

“You don’t wear makeup, do you?” It wasn’t so much a question as a statement. John raised an eyebrow.

“With my job? Nope.”

“What do you do again?”

“I drive an ambulance for the Greater London Ambulance Corps. Also, I work for The Met.”

“Doing what, exactly?”

“She solves the cases the rest of us can’t figure out. And she’s bloody good at it, too!” Sally piped in, “One of our best, really. Her and that know-it-all fiancé of hers!”

“Sherlock Holmes?”

“Mhm.” John smiled in the mirror, “Holmes and Watson.”

“Oh, lord, that was him in here, wasn’t it? The one who did your hair?”

“Yes, it was.” John closed her eyes when told to do so.

“He’s…surprisingly good at it. This looks a better job than we do for the same thing!”

“Like he said, he is quite familiar with my hair. We spend hours at home like that, the days we’re not working, I read the papers and he grades the cases while he does my hair. And he does it for me on the days I have work with the Ambulance Corps. Simpler styles, naturally, but always something quite stylish.” John blushed, she couldn’t help it. She didn’t get to brag about Sherlock very often, especially when he wasn’t in the room.

“You wouldn’t know that looking at him, would you?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Close your eyes again.”

“Yes, ma’am.” John closed her eyes and stayed still. Her makeup consisted of foundation, lipstick and blush in neutral tones, eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow in champagne and purple. But it was done smoky-eye style and really quite subtle.

-^-

Finally, it was time to put the dress on. She sent Iain a text and he came right down from upstairs. She didn’t ask about the boys, she wanted it to be a surprise. In the place of her own mother, who was years in her grave by now and not dearly missed, John was helped by her mother-in-law and the surviving grandmothers. Getting the dress over her head took Amelia standing on a chair while the grandmothers flanked John, who had her arms up. Once the dress was over her head, they did up the back. The dress had come with a zipper back, John had modified it to have a corset-back instead, so she held onto Kate while Amelia secured the laces properly. She grunted as a particularly hard tug rocked her a bit off her feet. Once the dress was on, Sherlock’s grandmother, Lorrena Holmes, brought over the tartan sash. As they pinned it with a kilt brooch fashioned after her uniform’s cap-badge from the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, John heard the door open behind them.

“Who is it?” She whispered to her grandmother, Fiann Watson, who glanced over John’s shoulder and raised an eyebrow.

“Not certain, love. One o’ yours, for sure. Got a uniform on.”

“Uniform?” John turned her head.

“Oi!” Kate snapped, “Hold still, you!”

“Sorry,” John muttered. Whoever it was, obviously no one anyone in the room already had recognized, came into the room, making sure to close the door behind them. John closed her eyes as Kate placed the veil and listened. It had gotten very quiet in the room, so it wasn’t hard to track the foot-fall. Soft, uncertain, but steady. A slight shuffle, a bit of a limp. Favoured the...right side? One of hers, Fiann had said, but that didn’t really help. She had invited quite a few of her Army mates to the wedding, and nearly every single one of them had responded with affirmatives. Of course, they would be there, she was getting married. That was a big deal. Without meaning to, John pulled her shoulders stiff and stood up as straight as she could. She had the feeling the man behind her wasn’t just anyone. As Sally and Adler helped her get her shoes on, John heard a soft chuckle.

“Some things never change. And some things do change, for better. Not a bleeding clue who came in and you go up straight as a tack. Always the soldier, Watson.” John knew that voice, she knew that laugh, and it was honestly the first time at all today she had wanted to cry.

“You’re not going to cry, are you?” Sally whispered. Her makeup was sweat- and cry-proof, for what that was worth.

“I make no promises.” John was kind of surprised her voice worked at all. The girls stepped back and John, taking as deep a breath as she could manage, finally turned around. As soon as she set eyes on the man standing behind her, hands behind his back as he stood at-ease, she nearly lost all composure.

 “Oh my god.” She swayed and felt hands on her shoulders. Just in case. “James.”

“Hello, John.” He just smiled, that soft, patient smile she had missed for so long. “I’m sorry I didn’t call or say something.”

“You...you must have told someone! You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t!” John was aware that she was shaking, but she didn’t quite care as much as she should have. “Oh my god.”

“Do you need us, John?” someone asked, she wasn’t sure who it was.

“No. I’m...I’ll be alright. No, you can...you can go.” She didn’t dare look away from him, almost afraid if she did he might vanish in a puff of smoke.

“Come along, ladies. We can leave them.” Amelia touched her on the shoulder and kissed her on the cheek, “John, I’ll be right outside if you need something. I’ll go round up the lads, then.”

“Thanks, Mum.” John didn’t even think as she said it, but she waited until the door had closed and they were the only people in the room before she moved. Kicking off her shoes, John closed the distance between her and James Sholto. He just opened his arms to her. She threw her arms around him and held on tight, pressing her forehead to his collar-bone. John thought she felt her knees give out.

“James.”

“I got your invitation.”

“You’re...here? This is real, this isn’t in my head?”

“I’m just as real as you are, my dear Captain.” Sholto promised, rubbing her shoulders, “You weren’t expecting me, were you?”

“No, sir!” John felt a tear slide down her cheek, but she couldn’t be arsed to care. Might as well put her makeup’s durability to the test, yeah?

“Well, you got the rest of the unit out for this, I figured I might as well make an effort.” He stroked the back of her neck, “Got that invitation, gorgeous piece of work it was, and said to myself ‘James, your girl needs you for this. She wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important, and you made that girl a promise.’”

And he had, years ago after John had cleared his name. He had made John promise that if she ever needed anything, anything at all, she would call him. He might be all but useless no thanks to the injuries that had precluded his discharge from the Royal Army, but if there was anything he could do, if that was just sitting on the other side of a phone-call to let John talk, he would do everything possible. He had been the first person John called after Sherlock’s jump, she just needed someone to talk to, and he had been there for her when she came home for the funeral, he had talked her through weeks of grief. He knew about Sherlock, he knew how special he was to John, news of their wedding would have been some of the best news Sholto could have received. Of course, he would make an effort to come out.

Nudging John back a bit, Sholto guided her to a handy chair and sat her down, fetching a bottle of water for her. She took a few sips and set it aside as the door creaked open again. This time, it was Iain with his camera. He took a few quick snaps, refreshed John’s makeup, and took more pictures. He never said a word, he just worked in silence getting what he wanted.

“Major James Sholto, my cousin Iain MacKelpie. He’s our wedding photographer. Major Sholto was my commander in Afghanistan.” John introduced them and Iain gave Sholto his card. The two shook hands and Iain told Sholto he could find the pictures at the website listed, he would have them up in the next two days after he finished reorganizing the shots and discarding duplicates, bad shots, and test-shots of floors, ceilings, windows, the like.

“You look familiar, son. What is it you do, exactly?”

“I’m a war-photographer, sir. I go where they send me, do what they tell me. Try not to ask too many questions.”

“Ah. That explains it. I thought I’d seen you somewhere, Afghanistan?”

“Yes, sir. More than once.” Iain smiled crookedly, “We were plentiful as flies on a dead horse sometimes, sir.” John choked on a mouthful of water, glaring at her cousin.

“Iain!”

“What? It’s true, ain’t it?” Iain just shrugged. John rolled her eyes at her cousin, who had almost no manners sometimes. John finished the bottle of water, by which time she felt much better. It was nearly time for the ceremony by then, so Iain fetched one of the makeup artists and had a professional retouch John’s makeup for the ceremony. Then it was downstairs to the ceremony.

 

They left the house by the castle’s South Hall, going out and around to meet the rest of the party. Sherlock was already inside, the rest of the party had gathered and waited for them to arrive. The attendants entered as a recording of Canon in D played. At some signal John did not see, once the Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man had reached the front of the assembly, it got very quiet.

“Please stand for the entrance of the bride.” The minister said, followed by the sound of rustling as the guests got to their feet. The sound of a violin played solo filled the air. That was not a recording. John looked at Sholto, who smiled, lifted her veil, and kissed her on the forehead.

“You can do this, love.”

“Okay.” She took a deep breath, slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow, and followed his lead. She had followed him into enemy fire, she could follow him to the altar for her wedding. By the time they reached the front of the assembly, John was almost in tears, and if Sherlock wasn’t about to cry. He looked absolutely stunning, she had kind of known he would, but the way he reacted when he finally saw her was…it was worth it. He was playing a song he must have composed while she wasn’t around, so he couldn’t really do much, but as soon as she reached him, he handed the violin off to Mycroft, who looked ever so pleased with himself and with everything else, and the first thing he did was cover his mouth. He was smiling, but the reaction was worth every trial and lovers’ spat in the last month. And there had been a few of those. Sholto stopped just short of giving her to Sherlock.

“Who gives this woman to this man?” The minister asked.                                         

“I do,” Sholto said softly but firmly. The minister nodded and stepped aside. Sholto lifted the veil again and kissed her, hugging her tightly. Then, he gave her to Sherlock, who couldn’t stop staring.

“Welcome to all, to the clansfolk of Clan Watson and Clan Home, on this blessed day.” The minister welcomed the wedding party and the guests, signalling the start of the ceremony. “We are gathered here today to celebrate one of life’s greatest moments, to give recognition to the worth and beauty of love, and to add our best wishes to the words which shall unite John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in marriage. Should there be anyone who has cause why this couple should not be united in marriage, they must speak now or forever hold their peace.” At this point, he stopped and gave any potential naysayers a chance to speak their minds. No one did, of course.

“John and Sherlock, know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal and sacred bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that to you, give meaning this ceremony and to the institution of marriage.” The minister took John’s hand and then Sherlock’s, “With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be handfasted before your friends and family, but you speak that intent also to your creative higher powers. The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?”

“Yes.” They answered in unison and the minister nodded.

“Life is given to each of us as individuals, and yet we must learn to live together. Love is given to us by our family or by our friends. We learn to love by being loved. Learning to love and living together is one of the greatest challenges of life – and is the shared goal of a married life. Do you have a token or symbol which you wish to exchange?”

“We do.” At this, the rings were delivered not by any human hands, but by Valkyrie, who had a box attached to her collar and sat patiently by Nick Gordon waiting for the signal. The minister held the rings in his open hand once they had been retrieved.

“Sherlock, will you give your token to John and repeat these words: I, Sherlock Holmes, take thee, John Watson, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for fairer or fouler, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth.” Sherlock took the ring he was giving to John and took a deep breath.

“I, Sherlock Holmes, take thee, John Watson, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, for fairer or fouler, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth.” Somehow, he managed to avoid dropping the ring and slid it onto John’s hand.

“John, will you give your token to Sherlock and repeat these words: I, John Watson take thee, Sherlock Holmes, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth.” John smiled and took the ring she was giving to Sherlock.

“I, John Watson take thee, Sherlock Holmes, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom at bed and at board, to love and to cherish, till death us depart, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereunto I plight thee my troth.” John slid the ring onto Sherlock’s hand, shaking almost as badly as poor Sherlock, but she didn’t drop her ring either. With those words spoken, the minister looked to Kate and Mycroft next.

“Will the Best Man please stand forward?” Mycroft stepped out and the minister showed him where to stand. This was the important part of the ceremony, this was the hand-fasting. The minister took the handfasting cord from Mycroft, unable to help a chuckle when he saw the “borrowed” handcuffs. They had only managed to meet with him a few times before the wedding, but the significance and symbolism of the handcuffs today did not escape him.

When Greg caught sight of them, his expression was priceless and John very clearly heard him mutter “I was wondering where those had gone!” John looked at Sherlock and smiled, tried not to laugh. Their habit of stealing Greg’s handcuffs was not a secret among their Met coworkers, so it wasn’t long before the rest of their wedding party was snickering. The wave trickled down to their guests as those closest to the altar spotted the handcuffs and there were whispers and chuckles among those who knew John and Sherlock the best. Others who were unaware were brought up to speed and the good mood continued to spread.

“Sherlock and John, I bid you look into each other’s eyes.” The minister cleared his throat meaningfully, still chuckling, and it calmed and quieted in the marquee. “Will you honour and respect one another, and seek to never break that honour?”

“We will.” They spoke in unison. There was an air of the carefree now, a release of tension no one had really noticed.

 

“Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?”

“We will.”

“Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?”

“We will.”

“Will you share each other’s laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?”

“We will.”

“Sherlock and John, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Above you are the stars and below you is the earth. Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light, and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow.” The minister laid and tied the cord around John and Sherlock’s hands once in a figure-of-eight, binding their hands together. “John and Sherlock, you have exchanged your promises and given and received tokens in my presence. By these acts, you have become wed. According to the laws of The Commonwealth of Great Britain, I hereby pronounce you are married. You may seal your promise with a kiss.” And by god did they ever. Sherlock took great pleasure in raising the veil and tucking it back for that bloody kiss. Kate had to brace her hand on John’s shoulder when Sherlock’s kiss almost knocked her off her feet

“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr and Mrs Watson-Holmes.” The minister was absolutely beaming. It couldn’t have been more perfect. John and Sherlock walked down the aisle together as their wedding-march played, leading the procession out of the marquee tent where the ceremony had taken place and where the reception was going to take place shortly. Dancing would take place in the ballroom, dinner in the marquee, and the conservatory that connected them would be spill-over and a place to congregate between the two rooms. There were two bars set up, one in the marquee and one in the conservatory, and more alcohol than you could shake a stick at.

-^-

Iain kidnapped them for pictures before things got underway. In a typical fit of unpredictable weather, it hadn’t rained but a fog had rolled in earlier in the day. The wedding-party pictures took place inside the castle, but once he had the shots he wanted of the whole party together, and really they were a handsome lot, Iain took John and Sherlock outside. John wore a scarf cape in their tartan, which they had registered under the name “Marylebone” as a nod to their home on Baker Street, Sherlock had a fly-plaid. In building their family tartan, John and Sherlock had simply decided to combine their existing family colours. They were both allowed to wear the Ancient tartan of their clans, which had the same base blue colour, and they had combined the yellow and red hatch-striping of each to alternate in what had turned out to be a gorgeous pattern.

Most of their couples’ photos were taken in the castle’s extensive gardens, which had been duly maintained and decorated for the wedding with solar-powered fairy-lights and path lights fashioned as hanging coach lanterns. Ninety percent of the shots Iain got them together were sneaky, pap-style candids, occasionally he would give them a direction for a particular shot he wanted. There were a couple of goofy shots John absolutely loved, one of them was a semi-staged shot of John and Sherlock holding hands from behind. What made it special was the pilfered handcuffs. Their hands were all you could see, backed by their outfits, left hands joined in a way you could see their ring-sets. Nothing of their faces. It was a spectacular shot, and out of sight of the lens, John and Sherlock were giggling like teenagers.

 

Finally, after a half-hour of pictures, they rejoined their guests for the reception. John and Sherlock did a receiving-line in the conservatory, they had plenty of guests to have one. First were Sherlock’s parents, and Sholto, followed by the surviving grandparents, and then came Mrs Hudson with her plus-one. Mrs Hudson was just beside herself, all tearful and overjoyed. Of course, Mr Turner, their next-door neighbour, was just so very pleased with the whole mess. He’d watched Sherlock for years, commiserated with Mrs Hudson when she needed a friendly ear, and when John had moved into Baker Street he had come over the very next day and introduced himself. He told John she was a good person to stay with Sherlock, the kind of friend everyone deserved. It didn’t hurt that she was very pretty, either.

“And where on earth did you find that beautiful tiara, John? It’s just gorgeous, such a lovely thing!” Their landlady reached for the Sapphire Coronet, which had remained firmly in place throughout the ceremony.

“My “something borrowed, something blue” came from Buckingham Palace, Mrs Hudson,” John admitted, blushing.

“Oh, that’s just lovely! How on earth did you manage that?”

“Luck?” She looked over at Kate and William, who stood just a bit apart from the receiving-line looking every inch the royal, handsome couple but not uncomfortable with it. This was a last-minute, low-key favour for who knew what reasons. John was not taking it for granted that they had not only come to the wedding but had generously given her the tiara on loan.

In the spirit of the occasion, William looked very dapper in full wedding kilt in the Balmoral tartan, which could only be worn by the Royal Family or with special permission from the Queen. Kate had worn a sash of the Balmoral tartan with her bridesmaid’s dress likewise. Mycroft and Greg had worn their family-tartan, Anderson had worn his clan tartan, while the rest of the party wore the Black Watch tartan. John and Sherlock, of course, had worn their Marylebone tartan.

-^-

After everyone had more or less filtered back into the marquee, their Master of Ceremonies announced the entrance for the wedding party, which included Sherlock’s parents and James Sholto. John did not miss how both Siger and Sholto escorted Amelia, one to either side, and didn’t she look so bloody pleased with herself? It was a lovely touch, and a subtle way to acknowledge his part played in John’s life and involve him more intimately with the wedding. Then the respective members of the party with John and Sherlock bringing up the rear.

“Ladies, gents, and others! Please stand and put your hands together for the bride and groom!” The Master of Ceremonies boomed, bringing everyone not already standing to their feet, “I give you Mr and Mrs Watson-Holmes!” Their guests made quite a lot of noise, but what startled John more than that was the Honour Guard. Twelve soldiers in parade dress-uniform, two in No. 1 Dress Blues and the remaining ten in the khaki Temperate Parade Dress, with ceremonial sabres. It was a call-back to the Honour Guard John had been part of in 2011, it was the very same thing. An added bit of ceremonial circumstance was the song she and Sherlock entered to. Someone had gotten hold of a good-quality recording of the British Grenadiers Quick March, the parade march for the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. John wasn’t sure if she wanted to laugh or cry, or both. Of course, she had invited all surviving members of her original unit, so there was that to be considered. If she had to guess, she could lay square blame for this on Bill Murray and James Sholto, they would do just this kind of thing for her on her wedding day. In fact, she knew it was Murray’s fault when she passed him, with his partner Nathan Lockhart on the other side of the aisle, beaming like the idiot he was. That stupid, sly, know-it-all smirk he wore when he knew he’d gotten something sneaky past his captain. Murray and Lockhart, being the senior-most officers among those gathered, wore their No. 1 Ceremonials. Reaching out, John pinched Murray’s waist. He flinched and caught her hand, dropping a quick kiss to the back as she passed.

“Twat.”

“Bastard.” He muttered, beaming. John couldn’t help snickering.

“John.” Sherlock scolded softly. John snorted. They finally got to the head table, and then it was time for dinner.

 

John’s watch read 7.30 pm before the MC announced the first dance, which was to be followed by the father-daughter and mother-son dances. John had originally planned to dance with Siger, but with Sholto in the picture, that responsibility had been passed on to her former commander. They had decided to combine the parent-child dances into one, for simplicity and time, and John and Sherlock had long ago settled on Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” for their combined dance. John and Sherlock, however, were up to something a bit more complicated for their first dance: Dmitri Shostakovich’s Second Waltz, which was not for the faint of heart with choreography that took professionals months to master. Not many people were comfortable with ballroom dancing enough to take on the precise choreography. Now, the steps of a standard waltz were acceptable if you didn’t know the exact choreography, but John knew the original steps for this song. She and Sherlock had been practising for months, having danced to this very same song in Baker Street on more than one occasion before deciding it was going to be their First Dance song. They knew exactly what they were doing, and this was a chance to show off a little. John didn’t mind that at all and kept her focus on the choreography, letting the music guide her.

“Oh, that’s worse when you’re so much taller!” John gasped as Sherlock lifted her off her feet into one of the daring spins, held on, and waited for her feet to touch the ground.

“You never mind it, my dear.”He just smiled and pushed her into one of the many complicated turns.

When the music finally came to an end, John was dead certain she had worked off every calorie she’d consumed that day, certainly everything she’d had at dinner. After bowing to an ecstatic crowd, and to her husband, John was absolutely giddy and completely out of breath. John took the glass of water someone handed her. She also accepted a small towel, she had worked up a sweat dancing like that. Sherlock never let go of her hand, she noticed, but that was typical. After giving them a bit of time to recover, the MC announced the joint dance. John and Sherlock moved back out to the ballroom, having taken a few minutes in the conservatory, and joined Amelia and Sholto on the dance floor as the first strains of “Tears In Heaven” played.

“May I have this dance, Captain Watson?” He asked as he offered her one hand with a bow.

“You may, sir.” John just smiled and let him take the lead. This would not be the first time she had danced with Sholto at some event or other, but it had never been this important. As they danced together, John couldn’t help crying a bit. She wasn’t sad, but...well, it was emotional.

“What’s wrong, love?” Sholto whispered as he held her close on one turn.

“I didn’t think you’d come, I wasn’t sure if I could get you to come out twice.” She sniffled, “And here you are. You...stood up for me on the most important day of my life, and I didn’t have the guts to ask you for it myself.”

“You never had to ask, sweetheart.” He promised, spinning her on one step, “I would turn the world and heavens over if you asked me to, all I need is you to be happy. Are you happy?”

“I’m...I’ve never been happier.” She chuckled shakily, “God, I never thought I’d get married!”

“None of us thought you would. You were such a feisty little piece of work, we took bets on anyone brave enough or stupid enough to try and take on Three Continents Watson.” He just smiled at her, “You earned that nickname in more than one way, love.”

“Oh, Christ.” John had completely forgotten her old Army nickname. She had more than one, but the one that had stuck was Three Continents Watson. It had a history in her service on three different continents, in several countries involved. She had served in Europe, Asia, and Africa. But it also had a history in her romantic background, she had a reputation as a bit of a femme Casanova. If she wanted, she usually got. She had always been careful, of course, but her list of former romantic liaisons was a little ridiculous.

When the song ended, Sholto bowed, kissed the back of her hand, and kissed her on the cheek.

“My girl got herself married off to a good man. You’re a lucky woman, John Watson, you deserve to be happy.” He whispered, hugging her tight.

“Thank you for coming, James. I...I missed you. It’s ridiculous, but I missed you.” She sighed and leaned against him for a minute. With the first dances out of the way, the ballroom was opened up to the rest of the assembly and it was time to get the party started. John was rarely off her feet the rest of the night, either visiting or dancing.

-^-

The Royals departed relatively early, but she and Sherlock were happy to see them off. Before they left, however, they had one more gift for John.

“You came to my wedding, you were my Chief Bridesmaid, you let me spend time with your sweet little boy.” Who had subsequently spent almost all of the dinner sitting in John’s lap and sharing her food as he had this morning at breakfast, and any time she was off her feet and sitting. “What else could you possibly give me?”

“This is for you, Captain.” William set something on the table, a package wrapped in unadorned paper. “We want you to open it before we leave.” It was a box of particular dimensions, and John looked at Sherlock, who was trying to deduce the contents just by the size and wrapping. He’d been doing it all night and the two of them had deduced a majority of their gifts between them. This one was a complete mystery.

“What is this?”

“Open it. You’ll understand.” He just smiled and folded his hands behind his back.

“Is this for both of us, or just for me?”

“It’s a gift for you, Captain. A sort of reward, if you will, for your numerous services to The Crown, as many and as varied as they have been. But it is also personal.”

“Just open it, John.” Sherlock whispered, “Before I do.”

“You wouldn’t dare.” She looked at him as she tugged on a corner of the wrapping paper. The minute she saw blue, John’s heart jolted. “Oh...no. Oh my god.”

“What is it?”

“William!” She looked up at the Royals, “You can’t be serious!”

“Absolutely.”

“Jesus!” She carefully and quickly tore away the rest of the wrapping-paper and revealed the now-familiar blue velvet box the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet was usually stored in, when it wasn’t on display somewhere or, as in John’s lucky case, being worn by someone. The box, John knew well, was empty at the moment. She was still wearing the tiara, with every intention of returning it to the Royal Family as soon as she had a chance to do so. Opening the box, John gasped. It was still empty, but there was a letter inside. A handwritten letter from Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II, written by the Queen herself. John read the letter to herself and showed it to Sherlock as she got up from the table and went around it to hug William.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“It’s yours, Captain.”

“But why? I’m as far from royalty as you can get! I grew up in the council estates, for God’s sake!”

“Because you appreciate its history. And we would rather it stay in the UK. No one in our family has use for it, and the dealers are just as likely to sell it off.”

“An overseas buyer wouldn’t be able to take it, though!”

“Now they certainly won’t.” William just smiled and kissed her on the cheek, “The Sapphire Coronet is yours to keep. With the blessing of Her Majesty.”

“Oh, my god. But when will I ever have an occasion to wear it? I don’t...I don’t really spend much time in those circles.” John still couldn’t believe it. The Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet was hers to keep, she wasn’t expected to return it to the Royal Family. She would, someday, of course, but...a piece of history belonged to lowly John Hamish Watson-Holmes until she saw fit to part ways with it.

“Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of occasions to bring it out of storage.” Kate just smiled as she hugged John tightly, “And we look forward to every one of them.”

“Jesus. Thank you. I mean...is “Thank you” even close to enough for a gift this important?”

“Of course it is. Many happy returns, Captain Watson. Blessings to you and your husband.”

“Thank you, Your Highness.” John squeezed his hand. Sherlock returned the box to the gift-table and joined John as she went to see their royal guests off.

As the vans carrying the Royals and their entourage departed the estate, John took Sherlock’s hand and looked up at the slightly-overcast sky.

“Did that just happen?”

“Yes, it did.”

“Did I just inherit a piece of Crown history?”

“Yes, you did.”

“Jesus Christ.” She let out a slow breath, “I wasn’t expecting them to just...give it to me!”

“That was a surprisingly generous gift, wasn’t it?”

“No kidding!” She looked at Sherlock, “Well, shall we go back to our guests?”

“Absolutely, before someone comes looking for us.” He just smiled and they returned to the reception. There was a bit of a commotion as they stood in the conservatory, chatting with Sherlock’s parents.

“Hey! Watson!” Someone yelled. John raised her head at the bizarre salutation. Obviously, it wasn’t directed at any of her gathered Watson relatives.

“Who was that?”

“John?” Sherlock had spotted them, and he was starting to smile.

“What?”

“They’re here.”

“Who’s...whoa!” She didn’t get a chance to ask because a blur of black just about knocked her off her feet. “Oi!”

“John!”

“Dean!” She’d been tackled by Dean Winchester, who looked very sharp in a dark suit, “Holy shit, you made it!”

“Damn straight we made it! You think we were gonna miss this?” Her demon-hunting Army buddy just gave her that sly smile of his, “God, you look gorgeous!”

“Speak for yourself, you handsome bastard.” John chuckled and took a kiss from Dean. “Hi, Winchester.”

“Watson. Speak of handsome.” He just tightened his arms around her, “Love the party, by the way.”

“Thanks for coming, Dean.”

“Thanks for inviting us.”

“John, are you going to introduce us to your amorous friend?” Amelia was quite amused by Dean’s behaviour.

“Right! Dean Winchester, may I introduce Amelia and Siger Holmes? My in-laws.” John made introductions and let Dean pay his respects to her in-laws. Dean, in turn, introduced them to Sam, Cas, and…John had to do a recount of Archangels. Was that Gabriel?

“Hey, Dean?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s Gabriel doing here?”

“He’s with us. Well, technically he’s with Sam.” Dean just grinned at her, “He’ll be fine, I promise.”

“Hang on, you brought two Angels?”

“Yep.”

“That was gutsy of you!” John chuckled and shook her head, looking over Dean’s shoulder at Castiel, who seemed a little uncomfortable around so many people. “Hi, Cas.”

“Captain Watson.”

“Sam!”

“Heya, Jen.” Sam gave her a hug.

“So, mind introducing your rather attractive friend, Winchester?” John looked over at Gabriel, who was enjoying himself far more than Castiel.

“Yeah! Gabriel, come here.” Sam beckoned to the Archangel, properly outfitted in a Black Watch kilt in the spirit of the occasion. “John Watson, Gabriel Richards. Gabriel, this is John.”

“The soldier, yeah. Heard all about you, sweetheart.” Gabriel was very flamboyant, very cheerful, and very tipsy, “Loving the party!”

“Always happy to share a day with friends.” John chuckled, “Nice to meet you properly, Gabriel.”

“Oh, the pleasure is all mine, lovely. Your husband’s a fortunate man.” Gabriel smiled as he bowed over John’s hand for a kiss, “Pretty thing like you?” Gabriel was a bit of a flirt, it seemed. After introducing her family to her friends, John found herself more or less kidnapped by Gabriel, who had been charming the guests all night and had decided it was the bride’s turn. Sherlock was fine with it, so off she went. Gabriel, it turned out, was a very good dancer.

“You’re rather good at this, aren’t you?” He smiled as he took the lead through a fast-paced reel.

“Speak for yourself, Archangel!” John laughed. Gabriel spun her through one of the steps of the reel and she had to catch her breath.

“Are all angels good dancers, or are you special?” 

“We can be if we want to be.”

“Damn.” She huffed, “Never thought I’d dance with an Archangel at my wedding! You’re surprisingly good at it!”

“You know they call me The Trickster.”

“Oh, I know about you, Mr Richards. Never thought I’d get to meet you, this was a lovely surprise.” John chuckled. When the song ended, Gabriel gave John back to a bemused Sherlock.

“Your wife is a lovely woman, Mr Holmes, you’re a very lucky man.”

“Thank you, Mr Richards. I think she’s pretty special.” Sherlock took John’s hand briefly. Gabriel kissed the back of her hand and went off to sweep some other woman off her feet. John watched him go after Sally Donovan, of all people.

“Oh boy.” She chuckled, “Sally’s never going to know what hit her!”

“Well, she certainly won’t forget tonight, will she?” Sherlock smirked, “I wonder if Stella’s okay with that?”

“Doesn’t look like she minds much.” John spotted Stella Hopkins chatting with a cluster of John’s lads, having a blast. She didn’t really seem to mind her girlfriend getting swept off her feet by an Archangel. John loved dancing, absolutely adored it, and had very much enjoyed herself already at the reception. She danced with Sherlock, Mycroft, Sholto, Siger, both of the Winchesters, nearly every single one of her soldiers, Q, James Bond, Alec Trevelyan (who swore he was here under threat of physical violence if he didn’t behave himself and was going to because he knew John would be the first one in line to kick his arse for being an idiot), and she even got awkward Castiel to come out for a few minutes before the end of the night.

-^-

John was exhausted by the time Last Call was sounded, she and Sherlock left shortly thereafter. They went back to the suite of rooms they shared, taking a worn out Valkyrie with them. The first thing John did was remove and store the tiara.

“I can’t believe they gave it to me.” She murmured, closing the box carefully.

“I believe the Lascelles family passed it to a dealer due to inheritance taxes sometime after 2011.”

“That’s fine, but…why did I get it? Why did they give it to me?” She shook her head, “I’m a nobody!”

“That’s not true and you know it.” Sherlock came and put his arms around her from behind, resting his chin on her hair. They would watch Baker Street from the windows just like this, he seemed to enjoy doing it.

“Sherlock?” She turned her head a bit.

“Hmm?”

“I know what you’re doing, why are you doing it?”

“Because I like doing it. And because you let me.” He kissed the back of her neck and across her shoulders. “This dress is gorgeous, but the woman wearing it is stunning.”

“Bastard.” She sighed, leaning against him as she put her hand against the back of his neck.

“Come to bed, my love.” He whispered against her temple, “It’s been a very long day for both of us and I want to spend time with my wife.”

“All you have to do is ask nicely, love.” John leaned her head back and looked up at him. He smiled, that soft, silly smile that made his eyes light up, and swept her off her feet.

“I am going to carry you into our bedroom and you are going to let me.”

“Was I going to complain?”

“You don’t like to be picked up.” He leaned in and kissed the bridge of her nose, carrying her across the threshold of the bedroom, which had been done up during the ceremony and reception by castle staff especially for the wedding night. There were LED candles everywhere, the main lights were dimmed, the bed had been turned down with fresh linens, and a fire blazed in the bedroom hearth. Someone had gotten creative and laid rose petals on the duvet cover. John giggled as Sherlock tossed her onto the bed, grunted as he came down on top of her.

“What are you thinking?” She caught her breath, studying him. “I can see those wheels turning.”

“Just thinking that I must be the luckiest man in the world tonight.”

“You might be.” She smiled, reaching up to touch his hair, “You just might be.” John ran her fingers through his hair, something she loved doing, smirking when he knelt back and got rid of his shoes and hose. She kicked off her heels, groaning in relief as a familiar ache bloomed in her arch.

“Dance a little too long, love?”

“Just a bit. Oh, but it was worth it.” She reached for the champagne-coloured silk tie Sherlock had worn with his get-up. “God you look so handsome in this thing. This is coming back to London with us.”

“Of course it is.” He just smiled and kissed her on the forehead. Following the tie, his jacket, waistcoat, and dress-shirt landed in a pile on the floor. It was a bit of a struggle to get John out of her dress, but that ended up on the floor with the rest of it, and she took a wicked pleasure in the awed gasp when he saw what she had worn under the dress. Which, admittedly, wasn’t a whole lot.

“John Hamish Watson-Holmes, you naughty girl.” He stroked the brocade fabric of the corset, fingers skipping along the busk clasps down the front, “No wonder your posture was so good all night!”

“Couldn’t wear standard lingerie with that dress, could I?”

“Suppose not.” He beamed, fingers skimming low to track along the barely-there panties, “But these are scandalous!”

“I had the slip on by the time any of our elders were in to help me, so they never knew,” John smirked, thinking of the sneaky secret she and her girls had snuck past everyone else at the wedding. The brocade corset and crotchless panties had been Adler’s idea, a bit of subtle, naughty fun on the wedding day. The lingerie had also been one of John’s “something new” accessories. A gift of sorts from her bridesmaids, gifted to her that very morning before any of the elders showed themselves to assist while they were all getting ready. It didn’t take a genius to know why they had waited to give the lingerie to her out of sight of the more straight-laced likes of Amelia Holmes.

“You naughty little thing.” Sherlock breathed. That turned into a gasp when he realized exactly what the naughty secret of the lingerie was. “Oh. John.”

“Like it?”

“Are you kidding me?” He shuffled down and parked right between her thighs, “This is fantastic! Is this real?”

“Oh, yeah. You can thank Adler for this, it was her idea.”

“God bless Irene Adler.” Sherlock whispered, kissing the inside of John’s thigh, “God, I love you.”

“I know.”

“May I, my dear?” He looked up at her, his eyes bright grey and sparkling in the dim lights. John chuckled and made a broad “after you” gesture with one hand.

“You might want to hold onto something.” He murmured as he got to work. Finger-play came first, and once he had her good and riled up, panting and cursing him in three different languages, off came the panties and corset. Off came the kilt. John tossed aside the kilt, she wasn’t sure where it ended up and didn’t particularly care. It was a matter of practised routine to roll on a condom and John moaned as Sherlock made a slow slide home. She loved this, the intimacy and closeness they shared in the simple act of sexual intercourse. It wasn’t just sex for them, it was more than that. It was bonding, an affirmation that theirs was a love fully shared, a release of stress when that was needed.

John had always been a very sexual creature, Sherlock far less so, and she had taken great pleasure in teaching him all of the ways to enjoy physical intimacy from simple kissing to far more involved moments like this one. Their first night, the night he had proposed to her, had been a perfect learning experience and they had built upon their foundations in the many months since then. With weeks and months of pent-up frustrations of all manner behind them and the knowledge that everything was momentarily over, John knew this was a way of seeking relief from the tension and angst and an outlet for the many varied emotions just of today. It was perfect. A bit rougher than their norm, but still careful and loving.

 

John reached her climax first, she often did, and held Sherlock through the last stretch of his drive to climax. She could see the exact moment he went off-line, when his mind went blissfully blank and his brain slowed its almost-ceaseless running. He came with a series of stuttered grunts, hips jerking as he filled the condom, and collapsed against her, panting. John just smiled and held him as he recovered, rolling them a bit so his full weight wasn’t all in one place. She stroked the back of his neck and shoulders, damp with fine sweat, and sang in French until he had rebooted. He stirred under her touch and lifted his head.

“Did I wear you out that much, love?” She smiled, it wasn’t often she watched him pass out after sex. 

“What happened?” He blinked bleary eyes at her and frowned.

“You rebooted, sweetheart. The day caught up with you.”

“Jesus. I’m so sorry, John.” He put his head down, forehead against her collar-bone, “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, love. Let’s get cleaned up, shall we?” She pushed damp curls off of his forehead, smiling softly.

“Please, let’s.” He nodded and carefully pulled out, wincing at the change of position and pressure. Shuffling to the loo to discard of the spent condom and wash up, they discovered a hot bath waiting. There were more candles, and more rose petals, the wall-mounted room heater was running, and there were fluffy oversized towels on the warmer. The water was just the right temperature, which meant two things: 1) it had been drawn recently, and 2) it had been drawn purposely hotter than needed in order to cool to the proper temperature by the time John and Sherlock needed it. God bless the discretion of the staff. John and Sherlock looked at each other and broke down in a fit of giggles. Whoops.

“Well, at least we were quiet about it,” John muttered, groaning as she lowered herself into the hot water after a brisk soap-up/spray-off in the stand-up shower. The water was just borderline too hot, but it was glorious.

“Oh, god, that feels so good.”

“The claw-foot tub is a lovely touch, isn’t it?” Sherlock smiled against her skin and got to work letting her hair out of the elaborate bun that had held up a perfect treat. She let him wash her hair, it was something he enjoyed doing nearly as much as he enjoyed braiding her hair, and then returned the favour for him. Having time to themselves was bliss, and it was nice to unwind with Sherlock. There was nothing quite like a hot soak and a glass of chilled wine to wrap up a very hectic, very busy, very exciting day – and someone had thoughtfully provided two glasses and a bottle with its bucket of ice, all perfectly chilled, for their consideration.

John had dozed off a bit when Sherlock nudged her.

“John.”

“Hm?”

“John, look. The fog’s lifted and the stars are out now. Look.” He squeezed her shoulder and pointed towards the ceiling. There was a skylight in the bathroom, and when she looked up, she saw a span of clear sky. Thousands of stars were visible.

“Oh. Wow. Look at that, Sherlock. Aren’t they beautiful?” She leaned her head back and smiled. As they watched, she saw a brief streak of light. A meteor. There were no showers in March, but meteors fell year-round regardless of the month or particular day. Seeing one tonight made John smile. It was kind of special, and hopefully a sign of good luck.

John’s grandmother Fiann had always enjoyed regaling John with stories of the night she was born. Apparently, despite it being late-March, Fiann had seen six meteors the night Lavinia Bennet was in labour with John. According to Fiann, and several other equally superstitious family members who cared about such things, two of those meteors had flashed across the sky within minutes of each other at the very stroke of midnight between 31 March and 1 April, skimming the horizon and chasing each other for quite a while. Her grandmother purported that the odd pair had remained visible above the horizon for nearly three minutes before disappearing below the horizon.

“What are you thinking, love?” Sherlock murmured.

“Wondering if I was born under lucky stars or not.” She saw more brief tails. Two. Close behind each other. Moving rather slowly. “Gram swears she saw six of them the night I was born. Two of them were right at midnight, and visible for a long time right above the horizon.”

“How many?”

“Six in all, two at midnight.”

“John, you were born at midnight.”

“And those two stars were apparently visible for nearly three full minutes before they disappeared below the horizon.” She watched the stars overhead.

“Like those?” Sherlock had seen them, had noticed, “Are those shooting stars?”

“They’re too bright to be satellites, too big.”

“Happy birthday, my love.” Sherlock smiled against her shoulder. John chuckled and decided that it had been a very good birthday. She had been born right on the cusp of the new month, but she had always celebrated her birthday on the 31st, just to avoid the stigma of having her birthday on such an inconspicuous day dedicated to mischief.

 

When the water had cooled beyond use, John and Sherlock got out, drained the tub, rinsed off in the shower for good measure, wrapped up in warm towels, and left the bathroom after shutting off the heaters. Retreating to the bedroom, they were not surprised to find Valkyrie had inserted herself into the equation while they had been gone and fallen asleep on the bed near the foot. John chuckled and looked at Sherlock, who just smiled and shook his head. Pulling a lace-and-silk chemise set out of her suitcase, John pulled the nightie over her head. It barely hit her thigh at its longest, the matching panties barely covered much else underneath. It was another gift, this time just from Irene Adler.  She smiled at the glassy-eyed awe on Sherlock’s face when he saw it.

“Where on earth…?”

“Adler.”

“Jesus. I should thank her.”

“Feel free to, she had fun with this.” John leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Now, come on, I’m exhausted.”

“Right behind, love. Right. Behind.” He got comfortable, patting the empty space next to him. John chuckled and slipped under the covers. It wasn’t long before Sherlock fell asleep, the steady, regular rhythm of his sleep-cycle breathing lulling John to sleep in no time at all.


 

Chapter Text


John woke up the morning after her wedding in a familiar position. She had fallen asleep with her back to Sherlock and woke up to a familiar, warm weight against her back and shoulders. It was the same way he’d woken her up on Boxing Day morning while they had been with his parents for the Hols, spending Christmas Day and Boxing Day at the Holmes estate outside of Ripley.

“Good morning, my love.” He whispered against her ear.

“Morning, Sunshine.” She murmured, rolling over to face her husband. Her…husband. What a mad thing that was! John Watson was married to Sherlock Holmes. He smiled and leaned down to kiss her. It started slow, it usually did anyway, but John loved the lazy rhythm of an early morning shag. She rocked against Sherlock, who set the pace as he always did, and after a brief pause for a condom, he slotted into place and began to push. It was amazing, and really quite a perfect way to wake up on the first day of the rest of their lives together. They took it slow, in no rush to be anywhere, making it matter in the best way, ensuring that each of them would be wearing matching, shit-eating grins most of the day.

 

When they joined the rest of the family later that morning, there was very little physical evidence they’d done anything, but it was obvious if you knew what to look for. Not that anyone else had much room to talk. They were joined by the Winchesters and the Angels, and even Castiel looked satisfied. Weddings really did bring out the best in some people, didn’t it? John just smiled, all pleased with herself, as their American guests made themselves at home at the table.

“’Morning, gents.”

“’Morning, Jen.” They all chimed.

“Sleep well?” She raised her eyebrow over the rim of her glass, she was drinking a mimosa.

“I somehow doubt there was much done in the way of sleeping, my dear,” Sherlock said matter-of-factly, as if they were discussing the weather. John snickered.

“What, is it stamped on my forehead or something?” Dean asked, completely innocent and cheeky. On the other side of John, Greg choked on his coffee and she had to smack him between the shoulders.

“Easy, Greg. You’re supposed to drink coffee, not inhale it.”

“Damn it, Winchester!” Greg coughed.

“Sorry, not sorry?” Dean wasn’t sorry at all, and they all knew that, too.

“Feisty young Hunter, ain’t he?” Fiann Watson was watching their dynamic and grinning. “Clever thing, too, I bet.” The quiet that fell over their end of the table wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was heavy. John stared at her grandmother, wondering if she’d heard that correctly.

“Gram?”

“Oh, I know all the need-to-know Hunters by name and reputation on either side of the Atlantic, don’t look at me like that. I’m not a doddering old woman, y’know?”

“Jesus, John! Your grandmother’s a Hunter?” Dean looked at John, his eyes wide.

“That’s news to me! How long has this been a thing in the family, then?”

“Longer than you’ve been alive, dearie.” Fiann just chuckled, “I like your friends, it’s nice to see the next generation making a difference. And such handsome company, too.”

“Anybody else at this table a Hunter and didn’t think to tell me?” John looked around the table, most of the Watsons were cousins. Besides Fiann, Iain and one other raised their hands.

“Well, that’s not too many, but…really?”

“Nice. No wonder it’s so quiet in this part of the world.” Dean smiled, “Cases from the UK are kind of spare, and if there’s a community of Hunters established here, they can take care of business themselves.”

“It’s lovely to finally meet you, boys.” Fiann smiled at the Winchesters, “You’re a bit legendary in the community worldwide, aren’t you?”

“In the States, definitely.” John nodded, “Kind of a toss-up between who’s more scared of Dean and Sam: the monsters or the other Hunters.”

“Depends on the day.” Dean shrugged, “Some days it’s one, some days it’s the other, and some days it’s both. And both want us dead on most days, so there’s that, too.”

“Yeah, you two do have a bad habit of dying, don’t you?” John snickered.

“It’s not dying that’s a pain, it’s coming back,” Sam muttered, staring at his coffee like it had personally insulted him.

“Literally.” Dean made a face.

“That’s not something you hear every day.” Greg raised an eyebrow. John looked at her in-laws, who weren’t sure what to make of the conversation they were overhearing. But she knew that Amelia and Siger would never judge John’s choice of friends or anyone in her family. They couldn’t afford to.

“Hey, John.”

“Hmm?”

“Any plans for the Honeymoon?” Dean very smoothly turned the conversation around and John shook her head a bit at the redirection.

“We have two weeks, but no real plans. I’m not going back to work until two weeks from now, but that’s not going to stop us from working anyway.” John looked at Sherlock, who was momentarily scouring their blogs for new cases on his phone.

“You deserve a break if anyone I know does.” Dean shook his head, “Don’t burn yourself out.”

“Same could be said for you, Winchester.” She raised an eyebrow and took a bite of scrambled egg. Honestly, even with two weeks off from the Ambulance Corps, and that had been time John had collected and time that others had donated, John and Sherlock didn’t have any concrete plans for a formal honeymoon. They would very likely travel a bit, maybe to France, undoubtedly they would work a case or two while they were gone.

“Have you thought of anywhere, in particular, you would like to go, John?” Amelia asked, genuinely curious.

“Well, I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my life, and Sherlock’s seen parts of the world himself. There’s nowhere really particular I can think of spending any time.” She shrugged, “Although, I have been meaning to revisit France. I spent time there on leave several times while I was with the Army, and I took assignments there while I was with the SIS.”

“Oh?” Well, that got her mother-in-law’s attention. “Where in France?” John knew there was family in France that had not come to the wedding, for varied and asunder reasons, but had sent lovely gifts and their genuine regrets they couldn’t make it.

“I’ve been to Paris, I spent time in Marseille. One of my lads had family in France, we visited for Holiday Leave when we could work it out.”

“Can you speak any French?”

“I can speak fluently enough the natives don’t scoff at me.”

“You speak two dialects, of course they don’t scoff at you.” Sherlock looked up from his research, “I didn’t know you had spent so much time there.”

“Yep.”

“Maybe…” He narrowed his eyes, “I suppose a visit is in order?”

“At the very least to thank your relatives for their kind gifts.” She set her silverware down on her empty plate and put it aside.

“Well, they obviously already know about you, and my cousins have been clamouring to meet you for years.”

“Years? Not months?”

“Years.” His expression was vaguely pained and John chuckled. Apparently, the French relatives were a pushy bunch and had been very forward about their desires to meet John. That reminded John, she apparently had family of her own somewhere in France, but she had never done the research to find them. Her mother had practically forbidden it but had never explained why she was forbidden to reach out to another branch of the family. She had been cut off from the Watsons, and also from unknown family somewhere in France.

“John? What are you thinking?” Sherlock touched the back of her hand and she realized she had wandered off in her head.

“Sorry. I just…I have family there. And I’m not sure if I’ve ever met them properly.”

“You have family in France? Where?”

“See, that’s it. I don’t know. Mum wouldn’t let me talk to them, wouldn’t even tell me their names. I have no idea who they are, if they even know about me, if they’re alive or want to see me if they are.”

“That’s kind of strange.” Greg frowned into his coffee-cup. “And selfish.”

“I wasn’t a Watson until I turned eighteen, Greg. My mother was not the best example to live up to.”

“Looks like you found the Watsons alright.” Her brother-in-law motioned to their current location, “Nice place you’ve got to come home to.”

“I know. Having family to talk to while I was in the Army was nice.” John sighed and thought of how she could go about reconnecting with a branch of the family she had never had a chance to connect with if she didn’t know anything about them.

“And we were happy to have you back, love!” Iain pointed out from the other side of the table. John just smiled at her cousin. At the very least, they could pay a visit to Sherlock’s French relations. Maybe go looking for hers?

 

After breakfast, John dug out her laptop and started researching. What she needed were her mother’s records. And she knew how to get those. Sherlock found her scouring newspapers, birth-records, obituaries, and census records for six different regions and three districts just inside Paris alone.

“Any luck?”

“A little. I’m not sure if it’s the right people, but I’ve found a Leclaire in Paris.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Take a look.” She let him look at what she’d found on a man named Valéry Leclaire.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“He looks like you.”

“I know he does. That’s why I’m wondering if it’s the right people.” She rubbed her forehead, “I’m thinking I was never a Bennett to begin with.”

“It would explain so many things about your childhood, wouldn’t it?” Sherlock rested his chin on her shoulder and read the information at their disposal, “And why your mother didn’t want you reaching out to any of your French relatives. She didn’t want them to know about you.”

“They probably don’t, which is a big problem.”

“Does Mr Leclaire have any family?”

“Quite a bit.” She opened another browser-tab that contained a listing of every member of Valéry Leclaire’s family. There were a few deceased, but more were living than dead and if they were right about this, John’s family was about to get a whole lot bigger. If they were right about this, John had cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and, amazingly, great-grandparents, on top of her potential unacknowledged father. That was a lot of family members for a girl who’d grown up with no family at all.

Inside of two hours, John and Sherlock had everything they could get their hands on about Valéry Leclaire, who he was and what he did and had done. They had also found some very interesting birth-certificates with the name of John’s mother on them listed as the mother of the child in question and Valéry Leclaire as the father. The child had been born Lilith Émeline Persephone Leclaire; before she had filed for change-of-name, John had been named Lilith Emily Janine Bennett. And inside of four hours, they were on their way to Paris. Mycroft had given them use of his jet for their potentially misguided adventures, wished them luck and had promised to help if they needed anything. If nothing else, John had another clue. And another reason to hate her mother and the Bennett’s.

-^-

Six hours after starting a search for John’s missing French family and discovering an entire existing family, and two hours after leaving Scotland, John and Sherlock touched down in Paris on a small civilian airstrip at Paris Airport – Le Bourget. They were met by a private car, arranged for them by Mycroft, and taken from the airport to a residence near the Eiffel Tower in the 7th Arrondissement. Once they were settled, John did some more research and got her biological father’s permanent address. She was a Leclaire, if only because looking at pictures of the family was like looking at different versions of herself. There were subtle differences here and there, of course, but overall, it was eerie and uncanny how much she looked like these people. Her hair was a great deal lighter than anyone else in the family, but just looking at her face, it was clear. And Valéry had blond hair, so it was a good guess she might have gotten it from him considering Mara Watson-Bennett had been possessed of red hair, and her sister had inherited that genetic mutation from Joseph Bennett and Mara Watson-Bennet. John had been the odd duck with her blonde hair and blue eyes and treated as such. But she had survived, her mother and step-father were both long dead (far as she knew, at any rate), and she was busy building and rebuilding her own family.

She had no plans to approach Valéry right away, and she was getting stuck in her head trying to make connections that had never really been there in the first place and were now trying to take root. So, with one reliable failsafe that he knew worked, Sherlock did some case-hunting and found them something. It was a distraction, at the very least. So, with a potential 6 on the docket in another part of Paris, John grabbed her coat, wallet, and made sure she had her P230 as she followed Sherlock out onto the streets. They hailed a cab, Sherlock gave an address, and off they went.

“Are you nervous, John?” Sherlock asked quietly, taking her hand in his.

“Wouldn’t you be, if you were in my place?” She looked at him, wondering if her inner turmoil showed. “Sherlock, I have an entire family that doesn’t know I exist! How am I supposed to introduce myself to these people, should I ever have a chance to meet them?”

“You are far better with people than I am, love. You’ll find a way.” Sherlock smiled and squeezed her hand.

“I don’t mean to intrude, sirs, but are you looking for someone?” Their driver glanced over his shoulder at them. John looked at Sherlock, who shrugged. This was her ballgame.

“I’m…it’s kind of silly, actually, but I’m trying to find a, um, a friend.” It wasn’t a friend she was looking for, it was someone far more important than that.

“Do you have a name?”

“Uh, Leclaire. Valéry Leclaire.” John cleared her throat and looked out the window. The cabbie made a strange sound and gave her a look.

“Oh, good luck! He could be anywhere in the city! And at any time, too!” He shook his head.

“What does he do?”

“Police. Commandant. A good one, too. Very good.”

“Hmm.” John narrowed her eyes and did a rank-comparison in her head based on what she knew of the Paris Police Prefecture, which was staffed and run by the Police Nationale. A Commandant of the Police Nationale was the equivalent of a Detective Chief Inspector at The Met. So, she was the daughter of a police detective? That was kind of ironic, considering she’d just married herself off to a consulting detective yesterday.

“There’s some irony in that.” Sherlock murmured.

“Tell me about it!” John chuckled, “He’d outrank Greg!”

“Oh, easily.” Sherlock was smiling now, “This will be…interesting.”

When they got to their destination, John spotted the lights and tape and uniforms and shared a look with Sherlock. No one knew they were coming, so they would have to play their cards carefully. John paid the fare, thanked the cabbie, and followed her husband. There was a small crowd gathered, and they moved to the front of it to watch.

>“Excuse me, sir. I need you to step back, please.”< A young woman with a single white chevron on her shoulder-board approached Sherlock and John. She was a Gardien de la Paix stagiaire, part of the Management and Enforcement Corps. In London, she would have been a constable.

>“Oh. I’m very sorry, ma’am.”< Sherlock obediently stepped back and let the peacekeeper set up barriers to keep the curious crowds out of the crime scene. >“What happened here? There’s an awful lot of police.”< God bless her husband’s eternally inquisitive nature. They couldn’t actually see the scene, it seemed to be located in a nearby house that had been cordoned off with police-line tape and was identifiable by the people moving around in and out of the house in uniform and in familiar Tyvek PPE coveralls. John was willing to bet a house-breaking/burglary gone wrong or a domestic took a violent, deadly turn. The peacekeeper gave them a suspicious look, but surprisingly gave them plenty of information when they asked nicely. John and Sherlock looked at each other with matching expressions. Most of the time, police officials unfamiliar with them weren’t quite so talkative. Not that they were complaining, of course, it was just a little strange for someone like the peacekeeper to be so forthcoming. Now, she obviously didn’t know everything, but she knew more than enough and was rather quite a bright girl.

>“How long have you been out of the college, then?”< John asked the girl as she watched the activity beyond.

>“Just six months, ma’am.”< The girl shook her head. >“I’ve been told I’m too young for it, they say youth is no guarantee of innovation.”<

>“And age is no guarantee of efficiency.”< Sherlock’s eyes narrowed at that, in a dangerous way. >“You’ll do just fine. You seem a very bright young woman, do not be afraid to use your intelligence.”< It was probably one of the nicest things he’d ever said to a stranger. John was kind of surprised by that.

Thinking of something, the gardien suddenly perked up and pulled something from her vest and looked at it before handing it to Sherlock. It was a business-card, her business-card with her name, collar-number, rank, division, phone-number, and email address as well as the physical address for Headquarters. John took the card from Sherlock and read it for herself. Their very helpful young peacekeeper was Lyria Cartier. She was at least fifteen years younger than John and Sherlock, so quite young indeed, and John could see how her age might be a point of contention with older officers on the force. They were interrupted by a shout from elsewhere on the scene as Cartier’s radio crackled.

>“Sorry. Excuse me.”< She looked a little shamefaced as she reached for her radio.

>“Not at all, Miss Cartier.”< Sherlock just gave her a benign smile and indicated with a tip of his head that she could attend her regular duties.

>“Sorry. Yes, Inspector?”< She addressed her radio next. There was a slightly-muffled exchange that John and Sherlock listened in on. It was the on-scene senior inspector checking in to make sure everything was in order down by the line on their end. Yes, sir, no one had tried to sneak past the line while she had been on guard. Content that things were momentarily in order, the senior inspector signed off. John had been paying attention to the other bystanders, watching behaviour and body language. She made her living in London off the misfortunes of others and had gotten quite good at reading people.  John had made a living beyond London doing the same thing, a moment’s inattention could have gotten her killed at any time in any situation.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“The gentleman behind us, your age, Greg’s height. Wearing a business suit and overcoat.”

“Suspect?”

“Look at how he’s acting.”

“Oh, clever.” Her husband chuckled, “I love the stupid ones who come back to watch the police bang their heads against the wall on a dead-end or wrong clue.”

“Because they always lead us to the right conclusion,” John smirked and they watched the man in question turn and leave the scene. Without hesitating, John carefully and subtly nicked Cartier’s handcuffs and pocketed them. Time to make their own subtle escape.

>“We have other business in Paris, so we’ll leave you to yours.”< Sherlock offered his hand, and his card, to the helpful young gardien. >“Keep up your hard work, my dear. You have a promisingly long career ahead of you.”<

>“Thank you, sir.”< Cartier’s smile turned shy. She looked at the card and her eyes got wide. >“Consulting detectives?”< Her awe and curiosity were almost adorable.

>“We consult for The Metropolitan Police Service in London, but we are not formally with the police ourselves.”<

>“Oh, you’re not…”< The girl trailed off, looking over her shoulder at the rest of the uniforms.

>“No, no. Not in Paris, at any rate.”< Sherlock smiled at the girl who had been surprisingly helpful to them, folding his hands behind his back as he rocked on his heels.

>“Thank you, Gardien Cartier. We will leave you to your work.”<.

>“Of course, sir. Enjoy your stay in Paris.”< Cartier just smiled at them.

>“Oh, we will.”< Sherlock promised slyly. Cartier waved as John and Sherlock walked away from the scene together, John waved back. As they were out of earshot, Sherlock leaned close.

“Did you take her handcuffs?”

“Yep. Didn’t even know I’d done it.” She felt a little bad for stealing from the pretty young gardien, but only for the trouble the girl would get into once it was discovered her handcuffs were in fact missing. John put her hands in her pockets and scouted the crowded streets for their suspect. He wasn’t quite stupid and was quick to pick up on them following behind him, but he did make one mistake. He ran.

“Feeling up to a bit of a jaunt, dear?” Sherlock’s voice was level and unaffected as if they were discussing the weather.

“I’d love to.” John just smiled.

They broke into a jog and then into a run and took off after their suspect. He led them on a pretty significant jaunt through Paris, crossing busy, crowded streets, rooftops, and a couple of bridges. John was quick on the pursuit and had absolutely no problem going after the suspect when he made the decision to jump into the river. She seemed to do that rather a lot. Not that she really minded, it was only when the suspect in question tried to drown her that she had a problem going into the water. It didn’t take her long to catch up with the suspect, who, it turned out, couldn’t even swim. Getting under him, she boosted him above the water and looked for somewhere to get out of the river. There were ladders dispersed along the retaining walls for river-access, and she struck out for the nearest one she saw. Putting her runaway suspect over one shoulder, he wasn’t in the mood to fight very hard at the moment, she climbed to dry land and heaved him ashore. The first thing she did was roll her coughing suspect onto his front and cuff him.

>“Innocent men don’t run from the police.”< She snarled as she tightened the bracelets and sat him up. >“And they don’t try to kill themselves by jumping into a river when they can’t even swim. You, sir, are a complete idiot. And quite guilty.”<

>“You’re not the Police!”< The suspect spat, glaring at her. John rolled her eyes.

>“Not in Paris, I’m not. I drive an ambulance for a living, but when the police need my help, I am more than happy to give them a hand.”< She coughed and spit over the side. >“Up on your feet, scum.”< Heaving the water-logged suspect to his feet, she hustled him to street-level and chuckled when she saw where they were.

>“Oh, look at that! That’s convenient!”< She grinned and made for a cluster of police personnel she saw nearby. Sherlock was among them, of course, and she waved at her highly amused husband.

>“What happened to you?”< One of the officers gaped in horror at the sight of John escorting their suspect, both of them soaking wet.

>“Chased this moron off the Pont au Double and into the Seine. Dragged him out of the water just down that way.”< John pointed to where she and their suspect had come out of the river. Sherlock, by contrast, was beaming. This was business as usual for them, and John escorting a suspect from the river was nothing unusual to him.

 “Nice work, Mrs Watson-Holmes.” He just smiled and gave her a towel, which she ran over her face and hair. “Bit of a show-off, aren’t you?”

“I learned from the best.” John shrugged, “Surprisingly, the police didn’t seem to mind me dragging their suspect out of the river.”

“You made their job rather simple. This is a plain case of in flagrante delicto, and you not only pursued the suspect, you caught him.”

“We’ll see if it’s our man, but innocent men don’t run from the police.” She shrugged. Ambulances had been called, standard procedure, and Sherlock shuffled her over to one of them to get checked out. The medics were friendly, and kind of impressed by John’s willingness to chase down a suspect no matter the threat to her personal safety.

>“I don’t mind. It’s kind of part of my job anyway, back in London.”<

>“Is that where you’re from?”<

>“Mhm.”< She sat still while her vitals were re-checked. >“I’ve lived in England all my life, but I’ve travelled pretty extensively.”<

>“Did I ever get your name, dear?”<

>“I gave you my i.d., or…well, my husband did.”< She looked towards the doors where she could just see Sherlock, talking to someone on the phone. It wasn’t a current i.d., they hadn’t had time to get new ones with the change-of-name. They were leaving that to Mycroft, who would be more than happy to take that task for them.

>“Date-of-birth?”< He had located her license and was looking at it. John chuckled.

>“31 March, 1971.”< She wasn’t likely to ever forget her birthday, and she had a damn good reason not to.

>“You seem very sure of that.”<

>“It’s very unlikely I’ll ever forget my own birthday. I was a cusp baby, born right between 31 March and 1 April, practically an April Fool’s baby.”< John looked for Sherlock again, >“Also, I got married yesterday. And yesterday was 31 March.”<

>“You said Watson?”< There was something in the way he said her name, as if he wasn’t sure it was her name. John remembered her discussion with Sherlock, the revelation that she had family here.

>“John Watson. I wasn’t born a Watson, and I wasn’t born in England.”< She had the birth-certificates to prove it.

>“Do you have family in France, then?”< The medic was staring at her like it was the first time he’d actually bothered to look at her.

>“A lot of family, actually. We didn’t have any plans for a real honeymoon, but I think we’ll probably spend some of our time here visiting his family, at least.”<

>“Lovely. What do you do in London, then?”< The lead medic, who kind of reminded John of Bill MacLeod, looked at her, studying her eyes for proper focus and dilation. John couldn’t help a chuckle, a smile. She looked around the treatment bay.

>“I’m sitting in it right now.”< She kicked her heels a bit.

>“Oh, you’re a medic?”<

>“Paramedic. I drive an ambulance for the Greater London Ambulance Corps.”<

>“When you’re not chasing down suspects in foreign countries?”< An eyebrow went up, but he wasn’t judging her for chasing down the man she and Sherlock had pursued from the crime-scene in the 8th Arrondissement. John just shrugged. Yeah, that was part of the job description, too. She rubbed her wrist, realizing that her clothes were still wet. She’d kind of forgotten about that.

>“You need dry clothes, don’t you?”< He must have seen her expression.

>“Don’t ask how I forgot I was soaking wet.”< She sighed, >“Nothing worse than wet clothes and no dry change handy. Usually I have an extra change of clothes in my bag.”<

“John.” Sherlock’s voice got her attention and she looked over to see him standing by the step, behind him was Lyria Cartier.

“Sherlock.”

“You need dry clothes. Try these.” He held out a stack of dark blue material. It was a uniform. A police uniform. John wasn’t going to be picky about clothing right now, they were dry and it looked like they were going to fit. The team lead smiled and clapped her on the shoulder before hopping out, closing the doors to give her some privacy. John didn’t take long to change, drying off with towels before she put on the dry clothes provided for her. They must have come from Cartier, who was just about John’s size.

Once she had dry clothes on, she pushed the doors of the ambulance open and sat down on the step to tie her boots. Without a word, Sherlock climbed in and sat behind her. John just smiled and let him do something with her hair.

“I’m still going to need a shower, but at least I’m dry now.” She looked out past the ambulance, “They do things a bit differently here.”

“You’re a trained Paramedic, but you were being treated by a certified physician. This is one of their SMUR units.” Sherlock worked a comb through her hair, following with a brush.

“What magic are you working today?”

“Double Dutch braids and high buns.”

“Simple yet elegant.” She chuckled, “I don’t deserve you, Sherlock Holmes.”

“If we’re going to talk about deserving things, that’s my problem to worry about, dear.” He scolded, continuing to work. While they sat on the back of the ambulance and did something completely normal in a very different setting that really wasn’t so far off from the standard they were used to, John wondered how easy or difficult it would be to find the Leclaire family.

“I can hear you thinking.”

“I know. Sorry. I just…how are we going to find my family?”

“I would say by looking for them, but we’re not certain they’re even aware of your existence.” Sherlock tugged on her hair to get it to behave properly. John made a face.

“Hey, take it easy, will you?” She scolded. He just tsked and told her to sit still for a minute.

“Lilith Leclaire?” They both looked up at the name John had never really had a chance to own for herself. The man leading the ambulance team who had been taking care of John had come back. Someone else was with him. John recognized him right away, she didn’t even have to look at the picture on her phone to know it was her father. They didn’t seem at all surprised to see John sitting on the step of the ambulance with Sherlock behind her braiding her hair.  John looked at Sherlock, who finished what he was doing and nodded.

“Go on.”

“Too easy.” She breathed, hopping down from the ambulance. Sherlock stayed put, standing by the ambulance but not intervening. John looked at the two men and realized they were brothers. The dark-haired brother, the doctor, was her uncle Laurent Leclaire. The blond-haired brother, the police detective, was her father Valéry Leclaire. The two looked at each other and then at John. She really did look just like Valéry, it was almost scary. All her life she had wished for a stable family, a father-figure to guide her. She had found the Watsons, her mother’s family, changing her name to honour them. But now? Had she found the other side of her family?

“They say you are an ambulance driver and a consulting detective and a paramedic.” Valéry took one step closer.

“Yes, sir.”

“A secret agent and a soldier.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And they say you had to change your name?”

“I was born a Leclaire, I became a Bennett because Mum was already married, and I made myself a Watson when I was eighteen.” She stayed still. “Then my sister copied me because she couldn’t be her own person and couldn’t make up her fucking mind.” John and Harry did not share the same paternal genetics, they had been born to different fathers. Harry had been a Bennett until her twenties, around the time John had changed her name from Lilith Bennett to John Watson. The Watsons had been just as welcoming to John’s troubled older sister as they had been with her when she came to them, but technically she and Harry were legitimately half-Watson regardless of who their fathers turned out to be. And that was fine with them.

“They say now that you are married.” This didn’t seem to bother any of them. There a number of channels he could have gotten the news from.

“I am.” John looked over at her uncle, who might have been one of those channels, “It was yesterday.”

“Where?”

“The Watson seat at Aethernie Castle in Leven.”She rocked on her heels. “Who told you, sir?”

“Your cousin.”

“My…cousin?” She tilted her head.

“Well, she’s properly your husband’s cousin, I suppose.” Valéry Leclaire just smiled and pointed over at Lyria Cartier. Who, on closer study, did look a bit like a Holmes. Just not as tall. Over by the ambulance, behind John, Sherlock perked up at attention. He was in better touch with his French relations than John, for obvious reasons.

“Oh! Cousin Lili!” Well, that worked, too. John supposed it must have been a long while since Sherlock had seen any of his French relatives. Watching him hug Lyria was kind of sweet.

“I didn’t know.” John looked at the Leclaire brothers. “Mum never told me anything. She said it didn’t matter.”

“Your mother was always a severely misguided woman, even and especially when she was very young.” Valéry shook his head almost sadly, “But you survived your childhood and became a very fine young woman, a true hero.”

“I didn’t have any good role models when I needed them.” John shook her head. Positive role models had only been a fixture in her life after she joined the Army.

“You are far more than the ghosts of your childhood troubles. We are family, no matter how much distance is between us or how many years it has been. If you need us, we will be there for you.” Laurent looked a bit angry, but not with John or Sherlock. Rather by the way John had been treated as a child, by the way she had been raised to think of herself as less-than, to believe she didn’t deserve to be safe and happy and loved. She wondered how much they knew, and who might have told them what little they did know.

“There was one question I had for you, John Watson.” Valéry used her full name for whatever reasons made sense to him, but John appreciated the effort. She would answer to Lilith if addressed that way, but it wasn’t her name anymore.

“Yes, sir?”

“Do you make a regular habit of running suspects off of bridges and into rivers in the course of your work?” She would be damned if he wasn’t smiling. “Because, I would imagine that in the course of a standard work-day, you would not see as much action of that sort. Would you?”

“You would be surprised. And really, sir, someone has to.”

“But must you be the one to do it?”

“To be fair, I’m usually the only one who’s close enough to take down the suspect. And since I can swim, never mind I know how to make a safe jump into water without hurting myself, I have no problem going in after a suspect who thinks he’s safe by going into the river.”

“Reckless.” Valéry shook his head.

“Soldier.” John just shrugged. Sherlock snorted. She was probably one of the most reckless people on the force and she wasn’t even formally with The Met, she just consulted for them when they needed an extra pair of eyes or two.

“Do me, and yourself, a favour. Do not tell my partner.” That expression. She was familiar with that particular expression. John saw it on Bill MacLeod, usually when they were making up quota hours, and quite a bit more often on Greg when a particular case kept him away from home more often than he or his husband would prefer.

“Tell them what, sir?”

“That you ran my suspect to ground and chased him into the Seine before you dragged him out of the Seine and handcuffed him in the course of a six-mile foot-chase.”

“We hadn’t planned on telling anyone.” Why would she be in any danger of saying anything to Valéry’s significant other? And why would she have anything to do with his partner in the first place? He had said “partner”, John suspected he was not speaking of a traditional spouse. It wouldn’t surprise her to know that her father was far afield of heterosexual, and she didn’t particularly care if he was. Some of the best, most selfless people she knew weren’t straight. She wasn’t particularly straight herself, and Sherlock certainly wasn’t. And that was fine. It was absolutely fine. As long as he was happy and loved his partner and was loved in return.

“Your man was willing to talk, by the way,” Valéry said, drawing her back to the present moment.

“Was it the right man?”

“We found evidence on his person that suggested he was our suspect. You saved us the trouble of having to get his name from someone else and then find him. By that time, he could have been anywhere in the country or outside of it if he was motivated.” Valéry smiled, “I suppose it shouldn’t be too terribly surprising that my own daughter is a clever enough woman, observant enough, to notice small things and act on them. What gave him away?”

“It was mostly his behaviour that gave him away. Suspects returning to the scene of their crimes have a certain way of behaving, unaware of doing it at all.” John shrugged. “He was eager to see the response, but he was also nervous. Also, the defensive wounds on his face and neck where the victim must have scratched him were obvious.”

“At least to the likes of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson?” Valéry fetched his phone from his pocket. He had received a text alert. Upon reading the text, he smiled and instead of sending a reply, he made a phone call. John shrugged and stepped away to give him a bit of privacy. Whatever the nature of the call was, it was none of her business until he made it her business. A very short five minutes later, John heard him say goodbye and turned as he ended the call. A quick check of the time showed that it was nearly 8.00 pm in Paris and 7.00 pm in London. Where had the time gone like that?

“John, I know you have living arrangements already in place.” Valéry looked up from his phone briefly, “But I imagine it's been quite a few hours since the last either of you ate something.”

“You wouldn't be wrong.” John put her hands in the pockets of her borrowed coat. It had taken four hours to hunt down leads on her French family, two hours to get to Paris, and she had been out on the streets of Paris with Sherlock for two and a half hours. She hadn't eaten since breakfast, but that was kind of typical for her so she wasn't terribly hungry.

“What would it take to convince you and your husband to come home with me for dinner?”

“Saying please would about do. We never turn down free food.” John looked over her shoulder, “I can make him behave if I must.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Valéry shook his head shortly and gave her a card. On it was a set of coordinates. Not an address, coordinates.

“Where do you live?” John studied the coordinates carefully, committing them to memory.

“You’ll see!” No question John was Valéry Leclaire’s daughter, they had the same smile! “Go home and take a shower, I’ll see you in an hour.”

“Do you want us to bring anything?” John gave the card to Sherlock. She would research those coordinates later, it was interesting that he hadn’t given them an actual address. Even if he said no, she figured a bottle of wine wouldn’t go amiss.

“Bring yourselves.”

“I knew you were going to say that.” John had to roll her eyes. It was something she would have said, and had said in the past, to friends or family invited to dinner, and the guests in question nearly always brought something with them. Valéry offered to drive them back to their apartment to save them cab-fare, they gratefully accepted. Sherlock promised his cousin that there would be plenty of time for them to catch up with each other, they had two weeks to themselves away from London and the responsibilities of John’s job at least. No doubt they would find other cases to solve, in Paris and London alike, while they were on their honeymoon.

-^-

Getting back to their apartment, John took the first shower. Once she had washed the Seine off, she got dressed in denims and a black version of the sweater she had worn for the Christmas party at Baker Street. She was lacing on her boots when Sherlock came out of the bedroom buttoning his shirt. She looked at what he was wearing and smirked. Tailored dark-wash jeans, her favourite purple shirt, and a black brocade waistcoat. Casual yet dressy and still very true to her husband’s flawless sense of style. Lovely.

“Well, you look handsome, as usual.” John chuckled, “Going a bit casual tonight, are we?”

“Why not?” He tugged on the cuffs of his shirt. John just shook her head and finished what she was doing. Checking the time, she was pleased to note they still had time to get to their destination.

“Where are we going?”

“You’re going to love this.” She handed him the card, on which she had written the physical address connected to the coordinates Valéry had given them at the scene.

“Where is this?”

“On the other side of Pont de la Concorde, off of Quai des Tuileries.” She collected their coats, made sure she had her P230, and Sherlock held the door for her. It was a ten-minute walk from their apartment on Rue Bosquet to a liquor store, where they bought a bottle of wine as a gift for their hosts, and fifteen minutes on foot from there to the location on Quai des Tuileries. That was when they learned it wasn’t a specific “where” but a “what” that Valéry Leclaire lived in.

“It’s a houseboat!” John looked at the barge tied and anchored alongside the wharf. “He lives on a houseboat.” It was a nice vessel, clearly well-maintained as both a means of transportation and a permanent residence.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“I’ve seen this boat before.”

“Really? Where?”

“In London.” Sherlock was studying the barge, eyes narrow. “Recently.”

“How recently?” John cocked her head, genuinely curious.

“Five months ago. You were with me.”

“That would have been in December. We didn’t have very many cases that month.” She looked up at the dark sky, trying to think of any particular case in which they might have seen something like the Stralend.

“It was a joint-case with The Met, but we did most of the legwork ourselves. You were rather cross with me once we returned to Baker Street.” Sherlock scuffed at the pavement. “John, we’ve met them before, we just didn’t know who they were at the time.”

“The Jasarevic Gang?” She remembered that desperate, miserable three days as they had first staged a daring infiltration and escape from a local Bosnian gang that dealt in human trafficking and money-laundering, and then spent the next two days trying to get back to London. It had been rough, with Sherlock more or less completely out of commission, but when John had been hailed by a passing boat, she had very quickly admitted that they were in desperate need of help. The boat had turned around and headed back towards London, putting out a call over the radio on proper channels to alert the police that two missing persons of interest, declared missing two days ago, had been recovered and were safe for the moment.

“They saved our lives.” Sherlock shook his head dismally. John looked over her shoulder as a car pulled up behind them and parked in a marked-off slot along the wall.

“Valéry’s here.”

“We were good on timing.”

“Good, you made it!” Valéry emerged from the car, pocketing his keys after locking up the car. “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”

“No, we found it alright.” John smiled and took a surprisingly warm hug. “We were just admiring your rather unusual home. How long have you owned it?”

“Oh, this old thing?” Valéry looked at the barge and smiled, “Ten years or so. She serves a good purpose. Home enough for the likes of us.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who actually lived on one of these full-time. At least, not someone who wasn’t trying to hide something first.” John had boarded plenty of houseboats in London on different cases, and had admired some of them, but that had always been for work. She had never been aboard one for pleasure.

“Come aboard! Arjen’s been dying to meet you.” Valéry smiled and led them aboard the Stralend. As they boarded the houseboat, a converted barge turned permanent residence, Sherlock offered John a hand. She was no slouch on a boat, he was just being a good husband. Once inside, Valéry took them below decks to the reception-room and kitchen and introduced them to his partner, Arjen Langer, who called out in Dutch as he heard their footsteps. It was one language John didn’t speak. She could speak Serbian, German, and Russian, but…not Dutch. She knew how to say “I don’t speak Dutch” and “I speak English”, but that was the extent of her knowledge of the language. A bit of a shame, that. She looked at Sherlock as Valéry responded in like.

“Go sit! We’ll be right out!” He waved them towards a cluster of couches. Sherlock took John’s coat and hung their things on hooks along the wall, having seen Valéry hang his gear there just now. John remembered the wine and retrieved it from the small daypack she had brought with her. With the wine in one hand, she made her way to the small but surprisingly spacious kitchen.

Valéry and Arjen didn’t see her at first, so she took a moment to observe. Unmarried but committed, they both wore rings, but on their right hands instead of their left. Civil partnership? Arjen would have come to France to live with Valéry, or else her father would have lost his citizenship by automatic default. Arjen Langer was handsome, in very good physical condition for his age (Valéry was in his late-sixties/early-seventies and she wouldn’t have put Arjen much older or younger than three years within that), unusually tan for the season (thanks in part to his darker olive skin-tone, no doubt), dark hair gone salt-and-pepper and cut high and long in the fringe as it was slicked off his forehead in a stylish swoop, but what got her attention before his looks or his age were his tattoos. He wore “Daguet” fatigues, a pattern distributed to the French Army starting in 1989 and carried through into present-day operations. John had seen it while serving in Afghanistan alongside troops from the French military. Good blokes, them, half-decent and good at their jobs. That explained why Arjen was so tan, if he’d come home from deployment somewhere in the Middle East. Arjen must have become a French citizen at some point to be wearing the fatigues like that, at the moment with the sleeves rolled back to reveal rather elaborate sleeve-tattoos that disappeared under the fabric of the jacket. Of course, he noticed John first, and when he did, his eyes lit up.

“Captain Watson!” She managed to set the wine down before he just about bowled her over with a hug. “Hello, welcome! I’m so glad to see you again somewhere besides Afghanistan!”

“Oh my god.” John coughed and put her arms around him. “Colonel Langer!”

“My silly little British.” Arjen lifted John off her feet just a bit, knowing damn well she hated that unless Sherlock was the one doing the lifting, and kissed her soundly on the cheek. “What is this I hear about you getting yourself married off?”

“Rather good intel, sir.” John squirmed until her feet touched the deck again, “You know I don’t like being picked up.”

“I cannot help myself. You weigh nearly nothing! My gear in total weighs more than you do!”

“Oh please.” John rolled her eyes, “You know I’m damn well capable of putting you across my shoulders and hauling your sorry corpse across the desert by myself if I have to, sir.”

“Only because you have, on at least one occasion to memory.” Arjen just beamed and looked her over. “You look very well. What are you up to these days? Driving ambulances and solving crime, are you?”

“Yes, I am.” She retrieved the wine before it was forgotten completely. “And I brought this for tonight.”

“Oh, lovely! Thank you, my dear!” He took the bottle and located a bottle opener. John didn’t miss Valéry sneaking out of the kitchen so he wouldn’t be in the way and simply took the opener and the bottle when they were handed to her. Glasses were fetched up and she poured the wine for the four of them after pouring a small taster.

“Mm. I picked a good one!” She set the bottle aside, not quite empty, and looked out into the reception room. “Do you need a hand with anything else, sir?”

“Four plates, if you don’t mind, my dear? That cabinet there.” He indicated one of the uppers and she fetched down four plates and then located silverware and four more glasses for water. Setting the glasses on the table for wine and water both, and telling Sherlock and Valéry to sit down (they were busy talking business), John went back to help Arjen plate the food. Coq Au Vin was the dish of the night and he’d done it the old-fashioned way, going just by the smell. She could smell the Burgundy wine in the sauce. Unable to help herself, she stole a spoonful to taste as he plated the stew.

“Oh, Arjen.” John couldn’t help herself. It was damn near perfection and tasted like the kind of childhood she had wished for. “Three days?”

“Absolutely! Only way to do it proper!”

“Three days prep-time.  Dark meat, deboned thighs and legs, Burgundy wine. Lardons, the good stuff, not plain bacon, two types of onions, fresh garlic. You grow your own herbs and you get the rest fresh from different places around the city nearby. ” John was fairly certain this could be her last meal and she would die a very happy person. There was fresh-baked bread to go with it, brushed with oil and butter and sprinkled with herbs, and perfectly crusty on the outside but soft on the inside. Someone definitely knew his way around a kitchen! And they were on a bleeding houseboat! That was not fair.

Taking two of the plates, loaded with food the likes of which John hadn’t seen or eaten in a while, she sat down across from Sherlock after giving him one of the plates. She gave the second plate to Valéry and returned to fetch the other plates. John wasn’t sure what she had expected when she was reunited with a family she had never properly known in the first place on a crime-scene in Paris, but having dinner with her biological father and his partner was definitely nothing she was going to complain about. Considering she had a small bit of history with Arjen Langer, as short-lived and distant as it was, it wasn’t that hard to get comfortable on the Stralend.

 

After dinner, John and Sherlock did the wash-up despite the protestations of their hosts and they retired to the reception room for after-dinner drinks. They discussed all sorts of subjects, from religion to politics to their respective similar jobs. By the time it was late enough to consider going home, neither John nor Sherlock were in any condition to go much of anywhere. Instead of calling a cab for them, Arjen and Valéry offered them one of the spare bedrooms onboard the houseboat. John and Sherlock had both slept in far worse places in their lifetimes, and the cabin was rather spacious for what it was. A small double bed provided enough space for two people to be comfortable and enough length for Sherlock to have some room to stretch out.  It didn't take long to make up the bed, and John fell asleep to a subtle rocking motion provided by the current of the Seine and the familiar sound of her husband's breathing.


 

Chapter Text


The next morning found them waking up to an unusual sight. John was awake first, as was standard in their household, and she made her way to the kitchen, following the smell of breakfast. Arjen had coffee and was making...crepes? Fresh seasonal fruit, heavy cream whipped to within an inch of its existence, and made-from-scratch crepes. There was also bacon. John took a cup of coffee and stole a piece of bacon from the plate set to one side, getting a scolding smack on the hip as she ducked out of the kitchen.

“Thief!” Arjen scolded, “What nonsense is that? Have you no manners?” John just gave him a winning smile and munched on the bacon.

“Where’s Valéry?”

“Up in the wheelhouse.” Arjen handed her another cup of coffee, “Take this to him, will you, love? He asked for a fresh cup and I haven’t had time to go back up.”

“No problem!” John grinned and headed up to the wheelhouse, where she discovered that they had moved from their mooring overnight.

“Holy shit! Where are we?”

“Good morning, John.” Valéry just smiled as she came up alongside him. “Welcome to Paris.”

“Yeah, no kidding! Where are we?”

“We’ve sailed west from our mooring by a mile.” Valéry pointed out the windscreen, “That’s the Passerelle Debilly.” Almost dead ahead of them was a narrow pedestrian bridge that connected the 16th and 7th Districts. And off to the left, to port, was...

“Is that the Eiffel Tower?” John had seen the landmark before, she knew what it looked like, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever seen it from this particular vantage-point before. A bit of commotion was Sherlock coming up the stairs, sleep-tousled and clutching at his coffee like it was a life-line.

“‘Morning, love.” John smiled at her sleepy husband. She got a monosyllabic grunt and snickered.

“Not a morning person, I take it?”

“Oh, no. It’s kind of rare he’s up before 10.00, barring a case.” John shrugged and decided to get a better look at the landmark they were coming up on rather quickly. It was a hell of a view to wake up to.

“Where are you going?” Sherlock muttered as she passed by him.

“I want a better look at the Eiffel Tower, we’re about to pass it just to port. You can join me if you want.” She headed out and down, moving along the side of the barge carefully until she reached the bow, where she climbed a short ladder to sit on the deck raised deck and watch the city wake up around her. As they came into the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, John was aware of an arm around her waist.

“What a view.”

“Have you ever seen it from this angle?”

“Nope.” He took a sip of coffee, “Gorgeous, isn’t it? Massive piece of architecture.”

“Tell me about it. I’m not exactly afraid of heights but...that’s a little high even for my liking.” She sniffed and they sat on the deck until they had passed the Eiffel Tower and were motoring west and south again. Going back inside, they joined Valéry and Arjen for breakfast. Valéry had the day off from work, so they weren’t a big hurry to get anywhere and ended up sailing until they reached Boulogne-Billancourt, where Valéry pulled in and tied up at a mooring. They were within forty-five minutes’ walk from Bois de Boulogne, and it was a six-minute cab ride.

Having run one case already, Sherlock felt like exploring a bit, so John packed a few things into her daypack and they set off after making sure they all had each others’ numbers. Sherlock called a cab and they drove to the park instead of walking, John figured there would be more than enough walking done once they were inside the park itself.

 

When they got to their destination, John paid the fare and followed Sherlock into the green space. They explored the former royal parkland, stopping at noon to join other couples who had brought blankets and picnic lunches. It was surprisingly warm for early April, in the mid-to-high teens, so they found an open stretch of grass not too close to anyone else and spread out their blankets. After a light but filling lunch Arjen had prepared and packed for them once it had been decided they would be visiting the park, and he really was quite a fantastic chef, they checked their phones. Nothing from Arjen or Valéry, nothing from London.

With nothing on, they decided to just enjoy their free time. There were a few tourists like themselves, but most of the visitors were local Parisians. Technically, John and Sherlock were both locals, both of them were French citizens by birthright. But you didn’t know that just by looking at them. John ended up sitting with her back to Sherlock, listening to him sing as he braided her hair for her, just because he wanted to and because he could.

“I think I know where you got your intelligence from, John.”

“Hm?” She had dozed off a little and pulled herself back to awareness at the sound of his voice. “What?”

“You’re one of the smartest people I know who wasn’t family the first time we met. I couldn’t understand why, the more I learned about your family the less it made sense that someone so smart could have possibly been related to any of those terribly stupid people. The Watsons are a very bright lot, of course, give credit where due.”

“But the Bennetts weren’t so much? Yeah, I know.” She rolled her eyes, “What changed your mind, then?”

“It’s not that my mind was changed, it’s more that I found the genesis. Valéry Leclair is quite possibly one of the single most intelligent people I’ve ever met, with the same caveat as yours the first time. And I know you must have gotten your intelligence from him. Where else would it have come from? You are, of course, an independently clever woman, but it was inherited as well.”

“I don’t consider myself especially intelligent. Smart enough to get by, yes.” John grimaced at a particularly firm tug.

“You’re smarter than most people, and more than smart enough for me, love.” Sherlock scolded, kissing the back of her neck to make his point. John rolled her eyes, but she didn’t say anything. Sherlock kept at his task, she had no idea what he was doing but she knew he had something in mind. It was quiet between them for a while longer until he finished what he was working on, and after he had tied off and pinned up the last of his latest masterpiece, John leaned her head back.

“Why are you so good at that? It’s a little unfair.”

“I just happen to be very, very good at braiding hair.”

“Lucky me.” John smiled at him and looked around, “God, it’s so nice out here. Not only is the weather behaving, but it’s not too crowded.”

“The lack of a set schedule is both annoying and very liberating, isn’t it?”

“That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to be anywhere in particular, barring a call from my father, which is unlikely given that it’s his day off but we both know crime never takes a day off.”

“No, it does not.” Sherlock chuckled and pulled on her shoulder until she leaned back a bit more. Some adjusting got them situated with John’s head in Sherlock’s lap while he sang. John thought of something and cracked an eye open.

“Sherlock?”

“Hmm?”

“How long do you think it’s going to be before someone from your side of the family comes looking for us? How long do you suppose it will take for word to get around that we’re here?”

“Oh, not long at all. I guarantee you most of the family knew as soon as you and I left the crime-scene last night.” His expression was rather telling. This side of the family had sent along genuine regrets that they couldn’t make it to Scotland, and lovely gifts as well, but John wouldn’t be one bit surprised if someone insisted on a much smaller ceremony in France. That’s where their dual citizenship would come in handy. If and when it became a point of interest and a subject of conversation. But John wasn’t going to worry about that until she had to.

“What are you thinking, love?” Sherlock stroked her forehead, knowing she’d gone wandering.

“Just thinking. Do you suppose anyone, on either side of our families, would insist on a second wedding here? For those who weren’t able to come to Scotland, whatever their reasoning?”

“I don’t see why not. Would you be comfortable with something like that?”

“It doesn’t bother me. We’re already married. At this point, it would be ceremonial, a great big party.”

“Not that we didn’t already have a “great big party” in Scotland.” Sherlock’s eyes crinkled in that way of his and she giggled. Yes, they’d already had quite the celebration in Scotland. And technically, this would be the third time they’d gotten married, seeing as they had gotten a legal marriage ahead of time in London just to make sure everything was done properly. Bill and Greg had been their witnesses in a small civil ceremony with a registrar in January. John and Bill had been on a Day-12, Sherlock and Greg in the middle of a case that had landed on the docket on Boxing Day.

John had worked that case on her off-hours, and even while she was at work. Bringing the suspect into custody had been a work of patience, a sixteen-hour stakeout on the suspect’s location after three days of surveillance to get an idea of his routine, and a near failure when he spooked and tried to run. But John had been on-location when the suspect made a break for it and she had brought him down after a few blocks. Sherlock and Greg were after him from the primary scene, John had been posted on an ambulance stake-out nearby, and had simply taken off in pursuit when she got the word over her Met frequency that the suspect was on the run. John had run him to ground in a dead-end alleyway and quickly found herself in a bit of trouble when she discovered that the suspect had a gun. But she had dodged the shot when he fired into the wall during a scuffle for the gun, and when Sherlock and Greg arrived, screaming, she was already sitting on his back and telling him to stop squirming or she would make him properly sorry for more than just running from the police. That incident had spurred Sherlock to propose a civil ceremony just the two of them, sooner than later. They were already each others’ emergency contacts, but this would take it one step beyond that on the outside chance something worse than a few scrapes happened in the course of a chase. Like it very nearly had that day.

So, a few phone calls and some documentation later, John and Sherlock had met up at the Chelsea Old Town Hall at 3.00 pm on New Year’s Day. They had been separately interviewed by the registrar who would be marrying them and didn’t see each other until the ceremony itself. John hadn’t set eyes on Sherlock before then either because she and Bill had arrived at the venue first, and Sherlock had driven in with Greg from an unrelated scene over in Camden. One hour and eight hundred and forty-four quid later, John and Sherlock had signed their names to the certificates, followed in turn by Bill and Greg and both of the registrars. It was time and money well spent and after the ceremony, they had all gone out to dinner at a nearby restaurant to celebrate. It had been a good day and a much-appreciated break from routine and work. Calls had been rerouted to other ambulance-teams for three hours, from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm, and duty had eventually recalled them to their jobs. Time had been made up for when John and Bill took on another half-shift, so it wasn’t really a concern that they might have lost hours to the civil ceremony and its aftermath. That ceremony, the marriage certificates they had gotten from it, were going to be useful if they decided to go ahead and get married in France. And John couldn’t think of a reason, outside of timing, why they shouldn’t be able to.

-^-

The quiet was only disturbed again when someone called out to them. John groaned.

“Are you kidding me? Please tell me it’s no one from the Prefecture.”

“No? I don’t think so.” Sherlock sounded a little unsure of that, so John opened her eyes and sat up. It didn’t take her long to locate the source of the disturbance and when she found it, she turned to Sherlock and raised an eyebrow.

“Your family?”

“I’m…not sure. I don’t recognize them. And my father’s parents are both many years deceased, may God rest their souls with the worthy.” Sherlock tilted his head and they watched the approaching couple. They were on horseback, and John had the sense to get to her feet. Sherlock wisely followed suit and they waited for the couple to reach them. Sherlock quietly packed away their things and shouldered the daypack. On first glance, John knew they were up against grandparents. With Sherlock’s grandparents deceased, that left it to the Leclair side.

“Boy, that was fast,” John muttered. “I wonder if Valéry told them.”

“Would he have done that?”

“Nothing to stop him, is there? Spread the word to the rest of the Leclairs that the prodigal daughter missing from the family practically since birth is in Paris?”

“This should be interesting. I take it these are your Leclair grandparents.” Sherlock studied the couple. They were both in very good health, in their seventies or eighties (so, about Mrs Hudson’s age), clearly very active in outdoor activities, and surprisingly happy to see John, who could, again, see the family-resemblance in the face.

“I was wrong about one thing.” She murmured.

“What’s that?”

“Hair-colour. Valéry and I were the only two with fair hair in the family.”

“Not as much.” Sherlock smiled. John’s paternal grandfather had an amazingly full head of wavy, sandy-coloured hair that was damn near the same colour as John’s and Valéry’s hair. Or, had been in his younger years. Now it was almost completely grey. Her grandmother had the darker auburn the rest of the family seemed to have in varying shades of intensity, beautifully streaked with threads of silver. John wouldn’t be surprised at all if these people called her Lilith. And she would let them. This was a family she hadn’t even known about until yesterday, so they could call her whatever they damn well felt like.

>“John!”< Or not. John rocked back a little bit under the force of an incredibly enthusiastic hug. >“Oh, you dear! Look at how pretty you are! You have Valéry’s eyes, don’t you? Oh, just look at you! Handsome thing! And such a brave girl!”< John had to laugh, there wasn’t really much else she could really do. So, apparently, she and Sherlock had just met Valéry’s parents, Charles and Marinette Leclair. For a family that hadn’t been likely to know much about John’s existence before yesterday, they were very welcoming and very affectionate.

>“How on earth did you find us? Who told on us?”<

>“Your father never could keep a secret. Not when you were born, and not today.”< Her grandfather just beamed, >“You grew up properly handsome!”< John grunted as he hugged her tightly enough she had to catch her breath. Her French was enough to pass as a native, but she hadn’t spoken it in years and her command of the language was a bit rusty, so she kept losing the conversation. They spoke a dialect, so that didn’t help much either. Squeezing her grandfather’s wrist, she shamefacedly admitted that she wasn’t quite as fluent in French as she had been in recent years despite being able to hold a decent conversation in French with two separate parties just the day before. That just made them laugh.

“Oh, we’re so sorry! We forget ourselves!” Marinette waved off their embarrassment, “But we really are so very happy to finally meet you, John!”

“I wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome from a family I didn’t even know about until yesterday. But never ever let me complain about it! I didn’t have much of a family to speak of until I was eighteen.”

“And then you found the Watsons and made up for it.” Charles shook his head, “They are very good people.”

“And I always appreciated having a family to go home to.”

“My son tells us that you are married now.” More of a question than a statement, and good intel.

“Yes, I am.” John looked at Sherlock, who wore that silly, boyish smile. “This is my husband, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Ah! Yes, we know you! Amelia’s boy! You were a feisty little thing, weren’t you?” Marinette let go of John and grabbed Sherlock by the arm, looking him up and down and judging. He must have passed muster, she smiled up at him and patted him on the cheek before giving him a kiss. “You’re a good one, Sherlock Holmes, and you take very good care of John. She needs looking after, so you just keep a sharp eye on that one.”

“I...do my best, ma’am.” Sherlock blushed.

“Ma’am! Oh no, you don’t! Do not “ma’am” me, young man! We are family! You must call me Mémé!” John and Sherlock just looked at each other, a bit helpless. Well, if that’s what Marinette wanted, that’s what she’d get. Besides, family was family and they really couldn’t afford to be picky about things. But anything else they might have wanted to say or do with Charles and Marinette was put on hold when John’s phone rang. It was Valéry’s number. Which meant his day off had been cut short and whatever it was, he needed their help. She sighed.

“I am so sorry. Can you excuse me for a moment?”

“Of course, dear!” Marinette just kissed her on the cheek as she stepped aside from them to take the call.

“Ask him where he needs us to meet him,” Sherlock whispered, catching her by the hand. She nodded and swiped into the call before it rang through to her voicemail.

“This is John Watson.”

“John? I am so sorry to bother you.”

“No, Valéry, it’s fine. What’s come up? Do you need us?”

“I fear I might. Can I lure you away from your honeymoon for some work? I am so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, it’s what we do! We’re not consulting detectives for nothing! If the police need us and they ask for our help, we will do our best for them no matter what city we’re in.” John reassured him. “So, where can we meet up with you? Where are you?”

“I’m on my way to The Catacombs.”

“Oh no.” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Yeah, we’ll, um. We’ll...meet you there, then.” John had been to The Catacombs, she could only begin to imagine what grisly discovery they’d made there.  

“Thank you, John.”

“We’re detectives, it’s what we do. We’ll meet you in...twenty minutes.”

“Alright. I’m sorry to do this.”

“Don’t be sorry. We have to speak for the victim now.” John rubbed her forehead and hung up with her father. One good thing about this was timing. It was April, The Catacombs of Paris weren’t open to tourists until July, so they didn’t have to worry about dealing with traumatized patrons. Just...whichever unfortunate custodian had stumbled across the grisly find. She had no idea what they were up against, what was waiting for them, but there was one way to find out.

“Sherlock!” She turned as she pocketed her phone. “Case!”

“Where?”

“You’re going to love this. The Catacombs.” As she’d suspected, his eyes lit up. He was in equal parts disgusted and intrigued.

“Rate?”

“I’d say a good, solid 6. Might be higher, I have no idea what we’re up against.”

“In The Catacombs, you said?”

“That’s where Valéry’s going. Whatever it is, he’s asked us to come along.”

“Hmm. I could do with another bit of case-work, this could be fun!” Sherlock grinned, “Can we go?”

“I already told him we were on our way.” John turned to her grandparents, “I am so sorry, I wish we could stay.”

“Oh, don’t! No, no, no! You have work to do! We will see you again, I promise!” Marinette scolded, hugging John and then Sherlock, “Don’t you two be strangers, alright? We are family.”

“Of course! We’ll try our best to stay in touch once we return to London.” Sherlock promised. “If you can travel, you must come and visit us at Baker Street, we would love to have you.”

“Hmm. I think we can make time to see you.” Charles got a thoughtful look on his face, “You two be safe, Paris is not London and the people are quite different.”

“The crimes are the same, the people committing them are not quite,” John remembered her quick swim yesterday. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be any jumping off of bridges today.

“Good luck, and we will be in touch!”

“Absolutely.” John just smiled at her grandparents. If they wanted to see her again, she would be far more than happy to carve time out of her schedule to visit them. If that was on Baker Street or here in France, wherever they kept their home here.

Parting ways with her grandparents, John and Sherlock called a cab and headed for The Catacombs to meet up with her father to help out with this latest case he’d called them on. The street that fronted the entrance to The Catacombs had been roped off and the place was crawling with police personnel. Sherlock’s cousin Lyria was there and lifted the police-tape for them, radioing in to let Valéry know they’d arrived.

“Thank you, Lili.” Sherlock smiled at his pretty cousin.

“He’ll meet you at the entrance.”

“Of course. Thank you.”

“Up that way. Do you need me to take you up?” She pointed the way for them, willing to leave her post for their sakes.

“No thank you, Lili.” Sherlock just shook his head. “Stay on your post for now.”

Valéry met them at the entrance to The Catacombs just as Lyria had said he would, looking quite properly grim.

“You’re going to need PPE gear.” And it could be for any number of reasons.

“What do we have down there?” John asked. They were used to this kind of procedure, so it wasn’t difficult to trade their coats for the blue coveralls.

“It’s not actually in The Catacombs, bad as that is.” Valéry shook his head. “It was called in initially by a passerby as a trespassing/loitering. They thought it was a homeless person sleeping on the grate-cover over the RER line.”

“An RER train runs past here?” Sherlock cocked his head.

“There.” Valéry pointed to a gated exhaust-outlet not far away.

“That’s the RER B train. And that’s Denefort-Rochereau Station that way.” John could see the train station from where they were standing, just a bit of it. “Where’s the body?”

“I’ll show you. This way.” Valéry led them towards the exhaust-outlet and they joined a small crowd of personnel on this side of the barrier. It didn’t look like anyone had gone over the other side of the fence yet, and the body looked untouched.

“What do you think, Sherlock?” John asked her husband, who was studying the not-so-distant body.

“Something isn’t right here. I don’t know what’s off about this, but…”

“Did anyone mention a smell when they called in the body?” John crouched on her heels.

“That’s what got their attention. But there is a cemetery a few hundred yards that direction, the smell alone is not unusual.”

“Cimetière du Montparnasse.” Sherlock nodded sagely. “I need a closer look at the body.”

“I don’t know how you think you’ll…what are you doing?” Valéry trailed off as John and Sherlock got to their feet and John began climbing the fence just a short way down from the body so they wouldn’t land on top of it. The prevalent stench of decay was worse on this side of the fence, somehow. It wasn’t just the decay of a decomposing body, it was the stench of old decomp. Like, the body had been exhumed from a grave.

“We don’t need missing person reports, we need death certificates and burial lists.” Sherlock muttered, “How long?”

“Oh, god, given the rate of decay? Embalmed, which this poor soul has been…a month?” John shook her head, “The clothes are in good condition, though, so…why go to all that trouble to dig up a dead body and dump it in the middle of the 14th District?” Due to the rate of decay, the body was fairly badly decomposed, but embalming had staved off the worst of it and the facial features were still fairly identifiable. The skin was typically discoloured and shrunken, as happened when a body reached this state. John coughed and tasted a bit of bile. That wasn’t unexpected this close to a body in this exact condition.

“On second thought, not even a month. Look at the skin-colour.”

“Bruising but not blackened.” Sherlock made a sound in his throat, “Who was this poor bastard? And why in Hell’s name did they dig him up and dump him here?”

“Not a fucking clue.” John shoved to her feet and climbed back over the fence. Once on the other side, she braced her elbows against her knees and put her head down. “Jesus.”

“What happened? Are you alright?” There was Valéry. John shook her head and took a deep breath, wishing she could clear that stink from her nose.

“The 14th District has a grave-robber, I’m afraid. Our anonymous mister there was interred for at least three weeks before they disturbed him as recently as yesterday.”

“But…”

“Believe me, I’ve seen enough dead bodies, I know what it looks like.” John squatted on her heels, “The victim’s clothes are in relatively decent condition, the wear on them is typical of a body that has been interred for more than a week.” At least the body was intact. Some family, somewhere in Paris, was blissfully unaware that their loved one had been posthumously disrespected in an awful, gruesome manner. She wanted to keep it that way as long as possible. In fact, if she could help it, the family in question would never find out. They would solve the case, find the suspect, arrest them, and lay the dead to rest once again. Sherlock suggested starting near the scene and fanning out in their search for clues and suspects. Valéry assigned the two of them to start in the nearby cemetery, specifically to look for any recently-disturbed graves and to see if they could get a list of any burials in the past two weeks.

“We can do that,” Sherlock promised, retying his scarf as he handed John her coat. They had discarded their PPE gear already. So, with an assignment and a body to identify, John took Sherlock and headed six minutes northwest of The Catacombs to find out if they could make any headway. When they got to the cemetery, they did some reconnaissance first.

“Too bad we don’t have badges.” John muttered, “Sweet-talking the wardens isn’t going to work that well.”

“Pity.” Sherlock frowned. John reached into her pocket for her phone, but her hand closed around something else.

“Hullo? What’s this?” She frowned and pulled the object from her pocket. It was a badge-case.

“Oh, hello.” Sherlock looked at her, “Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Whose name is on it?”

“Er. Mine, actually.” She read the name on the badge. “John Watson.”

“Well, there you go! Come along!” Sherlock smiled and took her by the hand. When they reached the booth where you could request maps of the cemetery, they had to wait through a short queue of people. Sherlock discovered his own badge, with the name Sherlock Holmes, as they waited. Well, that worked, too. When they got up to the window, John had no problem at all showing her badge to the clerk.

>“Police.”<

>“Oh. Can I…help you, detectives?”< The clerk’s eyes got very wide as she looked at their badges, forged but still very official.

>“Yes, we were hoping someone here might be able to provide some information for us. We’ve a case just on, see.”<

>“Oh! Let me get my supervisor! He can be of more help to you! Please wait a moment!”< The woman nodded a little frantically and reached for a phone on her work-space. John and Sherlock quietly stepped out of the way of anyone coming or going. The conversation was very short-lived and five minutes later, an American-built pickup truck pulled up. The man who got out introduced himself as Martin Valentin and they told them who they were and what they were here for. He led them to another outbuilding just down from the booth and showed them log-books.

>“We need any surveillance tapes you might have, as well.”< John flipped through the log-books. >“A grave was desecrated in the past forty-eight hours, and we need every lead we can get our hands on.”< Valentin made copies of the relevant pages, giving them everything from the past three weeks, and handed over copies of the surveillance footage in question. There were cameras in several locations, and they had access to that footage with the copies from Valentin.

Putting the evidence in John’s backpack, they went to do some hunting, to see if they could locate any recently-disturbed graves. Using the log-book pages and a map of the cemetery, they checked off each name as they came to the markers. They split up to cover more ground, but it wasn’t until John was halfway down the third page of her log pages that they got anything. She came to a grave that had been sealed two weeks ago, the name read “Gabriel Duhamel” in standard script. John pulled up a photograph she had taken of the victim’s face and then looked up Gabriel Duhamel. What she came up with was almost a perfect match. Oh boy. There was a big problem in the fact that some of Mr Duhamel’s family were visiting the grave just at the moment. He had died fairly young. He had been military, it looked like, Army. Oh. Uh oh. Thinking on her feet, John copied the image she had found online of Gabriel Duhamel and fired off a quick text to her step-father. If anyone would know about her young victim, Arjen would be the most likely. She also sent the picture to Valéry with the following text attached: >“Victim is Cpl. Gabriel Duhamel, age 36, French Foreign Legion. No idea what killed him, suspect cause of death overseas. Will be in touch when I have more.”<

 

Giving the family their privacy, she stayed close enough to eavesdrop a bit, making sure she didn’t look like she was eavesdropping. There were two women and a very young child, not more than a few years old. John’s heart plummeted. Uh oh. The younger of the women stood before the grave and John could see she was struggling to hold onto her calm. She wore a ring-set on her left hand and John knew this was Duhamel’s wife. That made the older woman either his mother or mother-in-law, and the child was his. It had to be. Shit. Shit shit. She snapped a quick photograph and sent it to Valéry to let him know the family was visiting either an empty grave or the grave containing the corpse of a stranger. This was not good at all. As Duhamel’s young wife collapsed with a sob, the older woman set a framed and folded flag on top of the grave, along with a framed photograph. It was Duhamel, alright. While the women were busy with the grave and their grief, the child began to wander off. John intercepted and found herself hip-to-nose with a four-year-old girl who looked just like Duhamel. Apparently unafraid of strangers, the child looked up at John with wide, trusting eyes, and then held up her arms.

>“Do you want to be picked up, then? Is that it?”< She asked in French. She knew better than to address these people in English.

>“Pick me up, please.”< The little girl said softly. >“Where’s Daddy?”<

>“Oh, love.”< John obligingly scooped the child into her arms and got a good hold on her. >“Didn’t your Mum tell you anything?”<

>“She said he went to sleep, but he didn’t wake up.”< The girl blinked, >“He promised to read me a bedtime story, but he never did.”< John’s heart broke for the family, and she stroked the girl’s hair. She could only imagine how heartbroken the girl had been when her daddy didn’t call to read her a bedtime story like he had promised, and then to find out it was because he was dead must have been so devastating.

>“You poor little thing.”< She rocked the child, >“What’s your name, sweetheart?”<

>“Gay.”< Probably a nickname for something much longer.

>“Come on, back to your Mum now.”< John headed back towards the women with Gay content in her arms.

>“I’m sorry to bother you.”< John said quietly, >“But I think your daughter wandered away a bit.”< Duhamel’s wife looked up from her tears and when she saw John standing there with Gay in her arms, she looked devastated.

>“Oh, Gabrielle Rhys Duhamel! You do not bother people like that! How many times have I told you?”< The woman shook her head and got unsteadily to her feet, >“I am so sorry if she bothered you, ma’am. I didn’t even see her wander off on me! I am so sorry!”<

>“She wasn’t bothering me at all. And don’t apologise, you are clearly grieving. Your husband?”<John indicated the photograph.

>“Yes. He was…such a very good man. He loved Gay so very much, all he wanted…was to come home!”<

>“I am so very sorry for your loss, Mrs Duhamel.”< John put one hand on the woman’s shoulder. This close to the grave, she could see exactly where the top slab had been removed and replaced, it was just slightly off-center. Not enough that anyone else would really notice, it wasn’t at all unbalanced, but someone with John’s sharp eye and awareness would certainly notice. So there had been a grave-robbery, but it was very carefully done. If they were fortunate, the surveillance tapes would give them some idea of who the suspect was.

When Sherlock came to find her a few minutes later, he came up short at the sight of John with one arm around Gay Duhamel and the other around her mother Veronica as the woman sobbed into her shoulder. She had never said a word about finding Gabriel’s body on top of the exhaust-outlet at The Catacombs, and she would make sure they never knew. Sherlock simply waited at a polite distance until John could excuse herself from the family. Offering her condolences again, she gave Gay one more hug and then returned her to Veronica. Wishing them peace, she rejoined her own husband and as soon as they were out of sight, she pulled him to a halt and just hugged him as tight as she could. He didn’t ask why or comment, he simply returned the embrace. It was terrifying to realize that at any point in the past seven years, it could very easily have been either one of them in Veronica Duhamel’s position, mourning the death of a beloved.

“That could have been us, Sherlock,” John whispered hoarsely when she finally had control of herself enough not to simply break down in tears.

“It should have been. We were fortunate.” He murmured, stroking the back of her neck as he leaned in to kiss her on the temple. “Both back then and more recently.”

“Our jobs are hazardous, but…leaving you behind. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about that.” John shook her head and put her ear against his chest to listen to the living heartbeat.

“Let’s get the evidence we have to the police and go home. If they need us for something, they know how to find us.” Sherlock kept one arm around her as they left the cemetery together. Getting a cab, they returned to Headquarters and turned their evidence over Valéry’s team. After writing their preliminary reports, they went back to their flat on Rue Bosquet to regroup and recover.

-^-

Following the discovery of Gabriel Duhamel’s body, John and Sherlock took it upon themselves to see the case to its close and were on hand two nights later for the private reburial of the young Legionnaire who had given so much for so many so selflessly. Arjen and Valéry were also present, but aside from three Gardiens, Mr Valentin, a detachment of the French Army's Colour Guard, and a burial-crew, it was just them. The family had been kept in the dark regarding the incident, John had required the communications blackout after encountering Veronica Duhamel the day they had discovered the body at The Catacombs. The only thing the media had been told was that an unidentified man’s body had been found at The Catacombs, but they had no pictures or an idea of who he might have been.

As they prepared to lower the casket back into the grave, John and Arjen folded a French flag with the Colour Guard’s help and she laid the flag inside the casket once it was done. A crane had been employed to lift the top slab off and lower the casket, with the burial-crew standing by on six guide-lines. As the casket was lowered, John and Arjen saluted. In the spirit of the solemn occasion, they wore the dress-uniforms of their respective militaries, a show of solidarity to one of their own. It was satisfying to know that the men responsible were behind bars and that no one else’s family would have to suffer the indignity of their loved one being disrespected like that. And that the next time Veronica Duhamel and her adorable daughter visited, they would be visiting their loved one and not an empty grave. That was more important to John than seeing the men who had desecrated a veteran’s grave successfully arrested. Gabriel Duhamel had not been their only victim, but he would be their last.

Once the top slab was back in place, carefully repositioned so that it sat dead center over the tomb, Sherlock replaced the flag and photograph left behind two days ago by Duhamel’s family, having held the items during the small ceremony, making sure to leave them where and how they had been placed before the reburial. It was so important to leave no sign anything had been done, and if you hadn’t been aware of the issue it was impossible to tell even now that someone had been working on the grave. The way it should be. With the last of their involvement in the case concluded, John was glad to put this behind them and add it to a long roster of bizarre cases The Baker Street Detective Agency had worked on.

 

In the wake of the Duhamel case, John and Sherlock settled into a routine. They had only anticipated taking two weeks off, but days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, John put in for indefinite leave from her job with the Greater London Ambulance Corps as a driver quite early on, and they began house hunting in earnest in Paris. They ended up finding a houseboat, a fully navigable 50ft. x 17ft5 Humber keel houseboat partially furnished and in operational condition, for a very reasonable price and renamed it Nicodemus. John looked into licensure and they went ahead and took the necessary steps to get their private boating licenses so they could take the boat on cruises when they felt the wandering bug. They managed to secure a mooring along Quai des Tuileries next to the Stralend. It was an ideal arrangement, and they took little trips along the Seine when they weren’t working alongside the Prefecture. It wasn’t unusual at all for them to pull up stakes in the morning and take off, going wherever they felt like going and sailing until they felt like stopping. They made a point of reconnecting with John’s French relatives, who were all far more warm and welcoming than she had expected them to be towards a complete stranger, and spent time with Sherlock’s family as well.


 

Chapter Text


One crisp November afternoon, feeling particularly bored and rather adventurous, Sherlock proposed an outrageous trip: cross the English Channel by boat and travel from Paris to London that way. Just for the hell of it, just to say they had done it.

“I’m sorry, you want to do what?” John stared at him over the top of her laptop.

“Oh, you heard me!”

“Sherlock, are you crazy? That’s a trip of at least three days from port to port! Maybe longer! Not to mention, the Channel isn’t exactly the kind of thing a couple of rookies take head-on! Never mind it’s the dead of winter right now. It’s almost December, Sherlock!”

“Please, John?”

“But why? I’m not saying no, I’m just wondering why you thought this was a reasonable thing to do.” She raised an eyebrow at her impulsive husband, “Are you bored?”

“Maybe.”

“Do you miss London?”

“Maybe.”

“Are you homesick, Sherlock?” John studied Sherlock carefully. He just stood quietly before her chair, looking almost...sad. After a bit, he just nodded. That would make a lot more sense. They had been living in France for a little over a year and even John had to admit she kind of missed London, the people and the work they had done there.

They were consultants for the police in Paris, under her father’s control and at his beck and call if he needed them. Which, he often did. Even if it was a simple case, he called them. John had picked up a part-time job driving her uncle Laurent’s ambulance, so they really were doing the exact same job in Paris that they had done in London. And Mycroft had sent Valkyrie along about a month after they had decided to stay in Paris, flying her in on his jet so that she could be with them. It was an ideal arrangement, but even John was starting to miss London.

“Well, if you really want to go home that badly, then let’s go home.” She set her laptop aside and got up, “Valéry and Uncle Laurent knew this wasn’t a permanent arrangement for either of us. I can hand in my resignation tomorrow and we can go home.”

“You would...do that for me?”

“Sherlock, I would move the world for you.” John smiled and took his hands in hers, “I’m your wife, it’s my job to support you no matter what. Now, if you’re being silly about something, I will tell you that. But this isn’t silly.”

“It’s not?”

“No.” She put her arms around him, “I miss London, too. I miss Baker Street.”

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Can we go home now?”

“Yes, we can go home.”

“Okay. Tomorrow?”

“I’ll write my letter of resignation right now and send it to the ambulance company, and I’ll give Uncle Laurent a physical copy, too.” John leaned up and kissed him on the cheek before she went back to her seat and retrieved her laptop.

It didn’t take long to compose a letter for her employer explaining that she was turning in her resignation, two weeks effective immediately. She wished them the best in the future and was grateful for the opportunity they’d given her driving an ambulance for their company, but it was time to move on again. She would happily be in touch if they needed anything, but she would no longer be driving for them after tonight, she would finish out the twelve-hour night shift she was scheduled for and that would be her final shift.

They spent the rest of the day preparing the Nicodemus for the trip from Paris to London. There were places along the route from Paris to the coast where they could stop to stock up and rest, and they plotted out a course of action. They would take the Nicodemus from Paris to Le Havre, stopping along the way as necessary, and weather pending, would cross from Le Havre to Portsmouth before sailing up the coast to the Thames Estuary and from there to London. It would take roughly a week, at least, to get home. One thing they managed to arrange was a place to tie up once they got to London. Mycroft came in handy for that, and they managed to get a berth in St Katharine Marina in the City of London. They would keep the Nicodemus tied up in the Marina and take 221B Baker Street back as their permanent residence, but there were plenty of adventures to be had on the waterways of their home if they felt so inclined.

 -^-

John reported to her last shift with the private ambulance company she had been with for nearly as long as she had been living in France, worked until it was time to clock out, and turned over her badge and keys at the end of her shift. Valéry picked her up from work and drove her to where the Nicodemus and the Stralend were tied up alongside to each other on Quai des Tuileries. Sherlock had the Nicodemus ready to launch, so John boarded the converted barge that had been their home and helped Valéry untie the Nicodemus from the Stralend.

Before they set off, she hugged her father and promised to be in touch. If he ever needed their help, an email or phone-call would about do the trick. It was rather simple to get from London to Paris, they could fly or take the Eurostar and be in Paris within hours.

“We’re consulting detectives, it’s what we do. Just call if you need us, and we’ll help out.” She leaned back to look at Valéry so she could make eye-contact. “If that’s long-distance from London or making a trip to Paris for hands-on legwork. You have our numbers, you have our email addresses.”

“Thank you for spending so much time here, for giving so much of your time and resources.” Valéry just smiled a little sadly. “And don’t worry, if we need you, we will call you. Don’t be strangers.”

“We won’t be. Promise.” John made a promise she intended to keep. “It’s nice to know my family’s a little bigger than I thought it was.”

“And we were so happy to have you back. Please come back and visit whenever you want to.”

“We will. We have enough family here between the two of us that one or two trips to Paris wouldn’t be out of the question.” Sherlock promised, “Thank you for opening your homes for us.”

“Of course! Safe travels.” He tried so hard to smile, but it wasn’t easy. “Please let us know as soon as you make it to London?”

“Absolutely!” John kissed him on the cheek and stepped from the Stralend to the Nicodemus after saying goodbye to Arjen, who was not much better than Valéry about them leaving. But it was time to go, they had a long journey ahead of them. Valéry helped them push off into the current with a boat hook, John had another, and waved until they were out of sight.

As soon as they were out of sight, John went below to the main cabin. Sherlock could manage without her for the moment, had done in the past when they went on excursions along the Seine. Taking a shower, she crawled into bed and let the motion of the boat and the hum of the engines lull her to sleep.


 

Chapter Text


It took them four weeks to get from Paris to London, and it was split between them just taking their time and the amount of time dedicated to reaching their destination. When they got to London, it was right at sunrise and John and Sherlock had to admit that there really was nothing quite like coming home. They had spent the past two days in Queensborough Creek on the Island of Sheppey to recover a bit from crossing the English Channel. The crossing hadn’t been terrible, but it had taken a bit longer than anticipated and John would be the first to admit that if she never had to cross the Channel in a boat ever again, that was just fine with her. Once was plenty, thanks. Planes or trains would be her preferred method of getting back to France in the future. Faster and a bit safer.

Still, seeing the sun rise over their city was such a relief and John leaned against the hull of the wheelhouse as they passed by Canary Wharf. As they got closer to the City of London, she noticed an unusual amount of traffic on the river. Well, more than usual for the hour. The sun had just come up, just cleared the horizon, barring shipping traffic there wasn’t usually much movement at this time of day. And yet...there seemed to be something different this morning. She kept seeing what looked like Marine Policing Unit boats on the water, both small boats and bigger vessels.

“Sherlock?” She picked up her radio, “Can you do me a favour?”

“Sure. What’s on, love?”

“Can you dial into The Met’s frequencies and find the MPU’s channel?”

“Why?”

“I keep seeing their boats out here.” Right as the Nina McKay II came close alongside off to port. Someone waved from the top cockpit, a signal she had seen before. “Cut the engines, we’re being hailed.”

“I can see. Hang on.”

“Drop to idle, they mean business.” She got to her feet as the Nicodemus slowed down and went idle. A rope was thrown from the MPU vessel and John caught it, making a quick-release knot and stepping on the slack with the rope in both hands. It didn’t take long for someone in a position to ask questions showed themselves. Greg, looking like he hadn’t slept in a week.

“‘Morning!” he called out, hoarse with God alone knew what. No sleep, too much nicotine and caffeine, maybe coming down with something. “Where you folks coming in from?”

“Queensborough Creek, Sheppey. What’s on?”

“We’ve got a situation in the Marina.” Pointing upstream to Saint Katharine, “Found a body in the water an hour ago.”

“How long had it been there?”

“Couldn’t tell you.” Greg shook his head, “I was hoping you might have seen something.”

“Might’ve. We see a lot. What were you looking for, specifically?”

“Any boats going east or west. We think the suspects might have gone east.”

“Names?”

“The vessel in question was the New Horizon. They were at moorings until last night, gone this morning.”

“Hmm.” John had seen a couple of boats on the trip up from Queensborough Creek. “That puts the body in the water around…it took us two hours to get this far? Sorry mister gets dumped in the Marina around 3.00 am and the suspects make tracks heading east towards the Thames Estuary. The body wouldn’t have been called in until around 6.00 am, means you’ve been trawling the same forty-seven miles of river since then. These lads have been on the move since before the sun started coming up and you were probably pulled out of a warm bed for a nasty call the day before Christmas Eve.” She cocked her head and looked down at her brother-in-law, she was in a slightly-elevated position relative simply by default of the size-difference between the MPU boat and the Nicodemus. “Some poor family’s going to have a very miserable Christmas.”

“Might be mine! It’s freezing out here!” Greg stomped his feet for emphasis, “Wh-where’d you say you folks were from?”

“Came up this morning from Queensborough Creek.” She looked over her shoulder as the door of the wheelhouse opened. “Crossed the Channel two weeks ago.”

“In this thing?!” Greg just about choked. “That’s either brave or downright stupid! What were you thinking? And where the hell did you come from?”

“Crossed from Le Havre to Portsmouth two weeks ago, waited for the weather to clear a bit on this side, and motored north as soon as we had a chance.”

“From…where?”

“Paris to Le Havre, Le Havre to Portsmouth, Portsmouth to Queensborough Creek, and Queensborough Creek to…well, to London.” John shrugged, “If you’re looking for the New Horizon, Inspector, you’ll find them in Queensborough. They arrived right as we were getting ready to leave. We helped them moor up.”

“You’ve seen the New Horizon? Her crew?”

“Did more than just that, son,” John smirked and knew she’d done right following the hunch that had led to the current state of affairs aboard the errant New Horizon. “We buttered those bastards up good and proper and took ‘em down easy.”

“How?”

“5 milligrams of diazepam in their tea.”

“Wow.”

“Breakfast and drugged tea for that lot of half-wits.” John shrugged, “They never saw it coming.”

“Well, damn.” Greg shook his head, “Thanks, I guess?”

“Hey, always happy to help.” John grinned, “Wasn’t expecting to run into your lot first thing in London, but I guess if there’s one thing I learned, it’s always expect the unexpected. And considering what I do for a living, that’s a good rule to live by.”

“Yeah, I’ll say! Boy, I’d give a ransom for a couple of mine, though. Pay good money for it, too.”

“You’ve got all the MPU out this morning! Wager you’ve got dogs, too. Who the hell are you missing?”

“CIs. Useful bastards, they were.” He looked so put out, too. John snickered and tugged on the rope.

“You seem kind of disappointed.”

“Oh, no, they just kind of went off and moved to Paris.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Bastards.”

“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad without them, is it?”

“We’re missing the Baker Street detectives! It is that bad!”

“Oh, sweetheart.” John just about laughed out loud. “Hey, Greg?” He had his back to her, muttering to himself and generally just hating his existence. “Hey. Lestrade.”

“What!”

“Jesus, you must be absolutely exhausted! Would you just turn around for a minute?” Shaking her head, John looked over the watchful crew. There was Stanley Hopkins. She smiled.

“Hey, Hopkins!”

“What?” He turned her way in a heartbeat.

“Follow me.” She tested the knot before she moved on, “We need a proper tie-up.” When she reached the point along the Nicodemus's hull where the bow of the MPU vessel ended, she stopped. Spotting the coil of rope on the deck, she looked at Hopkins, “Toss me that rope, I’ll throw one of ours.”

“Yeah…that’s…thanks. Thanks a lot.”

“No problem.” She smiled and took the rope he passed her, giving him one of theirs. They were tied off at three points in no time and John cleared the distance from the Nicodemus to the Nina McKay II in a calculated jump. Hopkins caught her as she made a solid landing, she compensated for the rocking of the boat under her weight.

“Steady on there. Jesus, Watson, you’re half-mad!”

“I saved you a manhunt is what I did.” She batted off her denims. “You’re welcome.”

“Yeah, thanks. Welcome back.” He just smiled and gave her a hug, “God, you look good. How was Paris?”

“Beautiful.” She looked over her shoulder, “We kind of made ourselves at home there.”

“We noticed.” An eye-roll said everything. “We’ve really missed you two while you were gone.”

“I make no apologies.”

“You never have!” Hopkins snickered, then sobered. He looked her over closely as if trying to remember exactly what she looked like. “God, I missed you, John.”

“Hey, you can’t miss me anymore. I’m home now.” John scolded. Stanley Hopkins had always been one of her good friends, that didn’t look fit to change anytime soon. And that was fine with her.

“Hey, Hopkins!” Greg called from the shelter, “I got Kent on the ball, it’s in their court now! They’ll take care of the New Horizon and her crew and get them back to us ASAP!”

“Yes, sir!” Hopkins offered a salute and looked at John, “I wonder if that means I can go home and go back to bed.”

“You and Anderson both. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t think he was called in on this, too.”

“Oh, he was not happy. Not at all.”

“Crime never takes a holiday. Why is it always Christmas, though?” John shook her head, “Damn. We’ll be over later to file our reports.”

“Thanks. Baker Street if we need you?”

“Saint Katharine’s or Baker Street.” She yawned and rubbed the back of her neck, “We’ve got a mooring in the Marina, we’ll probably use today for shut-down and start moving back into Baker Street.”

“Good.” Hopkins smiled and gave her a kiss. “You’d better go see Lestrade next.”

“I wasn’t going to leave without saying hi to my own brother-in-law, Hopkins.”

“Just making sure.” He grinned and gave her a push, “Off you go!”

“Bastard.”

“Love you, Watson!”

“You’re lucky I love you at all, Hopkins!” She shot back. By the time she got to where Greg was hiding in the cockpit, she was giggling. She poked her head into the shelter and grinned at her pouty brother-in-law.

“What are you smiling at?”

“It’s Christmas!”

“I kind of hate you.”

“Oh, no you don’t.” She rolled her eyes, “I handed you your suspects. And I’m your sister-in-law. You can’t hate me.”

“I damn well can! You’re a right little bastard, John Watson, I hope you’re happy.”

“Don’t worry, Greg. You’ll be able to spend Christmas with your husband. I promise.”

“Really?”

“I promise.” She gave him a hug, “Go home and sleep for a few more hours, go in when they bring back the suspects.”

“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Jen.” Greg sagged against her, “God, this was the third case in a week that had me out of bed before sunrise.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s part of the job.” He nuzzled her cheek, “Think you’ll go back to work for the Ambulance Corps?”

“If they’ll take me.”

“I saw Bill MacLeod yesterday. He misses you. He’s trained six new drivers since you left, but he didn’t keep any of ‘em beyond a couple months. Said you were the best he’s ever had, and he’s had a lot of partners. Wants you back.”

“Well, I’d love to have my old job back. It’ll take some getting used to, they do things very differently in France, but if there’s one thing I know how to do, it's driving an ambulance.”

“Yeah, you do. And you’re bloody good at it!” Greg smiled, “I kind of couldn’t believe it when I heard you’d gotten yourself your old job in Paris. Who were you driving for?”

“One of the companies attached to the hospitals. I drove my uncle’s ambulance, if you can believe that.”

“Your…uncle?”

“Yep.”

“Uncle? Your uncle, not Sherlock’s?”

“Not Sherlock’s uncle.”

“Um. Once we’re back to docking and you’ve tied up that rather handsome boat of yours, I think we need to talk.”

“Throw in breakfast and we’ll say whatever you want.”

“Deal.”

“Deal.” John hugged Greg and he gave her a boost back onto the Nicodemus.

“I’ll pick you two up in a bit, then. Thanks, John.”

“Absolutely no problem.” She just smiled and helped Sherlock untie the ropes. Once The Met was on their way back to base, John and Sherlock headed for Saint Katherine Docks to find their mooring.

-^-

Twenty minutes later, Greg picked them up on St Katherine Way and took them to breakfast. They ended up at a 24-hour joint called VQ Bloomsbury on Great Russell Street. They were able to tie Valkyrie up by the front and get a table by the window so they could keep an eye on her and on the city passing them by. It was so good to be back in London, better to be with family.

Out of long habit, John and Sherlock talked among themselves in French. It was just what they had gotten used to and did without thinking much of it. She didn’t even realize it until she caught Greg chuckling into his coffee.

“What are you laughing at?”

“You two! Did you realize what you’re doing?”

“Doing what?” Sherlock arched an eyebrow.

“It’s only because I speak French that I can follow your conversation at all. Did you even know you were doing it?” He just smiled at them.

“I guess we got so used to it in Paris that we didn’t even think about it in another city.” John shrugged, “You knew I spoke French.”

“I knew both of you did, but I wasn’t expecting you two to have a whole bloody conversation in French!” Greg shook his head, “You were both passably fluent before, but if I didn’t know any better, I would think you two were locals on holiday in London the way you two are going on!”

“It’s going to happen for a while, I think, before we get ourselves back online properly.”

“I don’t mind! It’s fine with me, I just think it’s funny you seem to be doing it without really noticing.” Greg just smirked, “But I guess that’s only to be expected when you’ve lived in a foreign country for the past year?”

“It doesn’t seem like we were really gone that long, and yet...it seems like an entire lifetime ago that we decided to take two weeks off and go to France.” John picked up her coffee-cup, “I don’t think either of us were expecting to stay as long as we did.”

“I don’t think anyone was expecting us to stay as long as we did, love,” Sherlock said calmly, John was pleased to note that he’d cleared almost half of his plate. “Our families certainly weren’t.”

“Yeah, about that.” Brown eyes narrowed, “You owe me some answers, you two.”

“Just ask the proper question. We have all the answers you could want, you just have to ask the right questions to get them.”

“Sherlock, be nice.” John scolded her husband, “Jesus, you’re awful.”

“You knew that when you started dating me, and it never bothered you.”

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“God bless you.” Greg looked a little sorry for her, but John had known damn well what she was getting herself into when she’d decided to say yes to Sherlock Holmes. It was never a decision she had regretted, and she would be there for him for as long as he needed her.

“So, what exactly did you want to know about our families?”

“Well, it was more like I was curious about John’s family. I knew about yours, Sherlock, I’ve met your cousins. But I didn’t know John had any family in France.”

“Neither did we, to be fair.” John shrugged, “But we did a bit of research before leaving Scotland and when I got to Paris, I had names and faces. But I had no idea how to find these people or even if it would be worth my time to try reaching out.”

“So, who were you looking for?”

“Valéry Leclaire.” John wasn’t expecting that name to mean anything to her brother-in-law, so when he suddenly choked, she was a little surprised.

“Holy shit!” Greg gasped, once he had his breath back. It had taken a few solid whacks between the shoulders to get him back to rights. “Oh my god, John! You didn’t tell me you were a Leclaire!”

“I didn’t know! How do you know them?”

“Jesus Christ, I should have seen it! You look just like Val! Oh, fuck me! You’re Valéry’s daughter! Sweetheart, oh my god!”

“Greg, how do you know the Leclaires?”

“I grew up across the street from them until I was twelve and Mum moved us away to London!”  Greg shook his head, “I always knew there was something about you, John Watson, but couldn’t for the life of me make heads or tails of it! You’re a bloody Leclaire! They must have been thrilled to see you!”

“That’s a word for it.” John chuckled, “They had no problem making me feel like proper family. And I appreciated that.”

“So, after what had to be one very bizarre reunion, how did that go?”

“It turns out law enforcement’s kind of a family business.” John set down her empty cup, “Valéry’s been with the Prefecture probably longer than I’ve been alive.”

“Yeah, we always said we were going to be cops together when we were kids. Then I moved away to London and life got in the way.” Greg’s smile turned wistful, “We went to Police Academy in our cities at the same time, promised we’d do it proper.”

“You went to The Met, he went to the National Police, and the rest is history.” John was kind of impressed, “You must have kept in touch, though? Even after all these years?”

“Oh, yeah. We’ll call each other around Christmas, on our birthdays, he came to our wedding, we went to theirs.”

“And we were out of the country when that happened.” John still felt bad about that, but a case in Italy had taken them on a bit of an adventure. But no one in her family had ever complained about her absence, they understood that she was working.

“They understood.” Greg just smiled, “I like your step-father, he’s respectable.”

“That’s a good word for Arjen Langer.” Sherlock nodded, “One of the kindest, wisest men I know.”

“And you know a lot of people, don’t you?”

“Just a few.” He shrugged. John smiled, unable to help feeling a bit of pride. The Leclaires were good people and had been very open and very loving with John and Sherlock, bringing them into the family fold almost without question.

After breakfast, Greg took them back to St Katharine’s.

“We’ll be in touch, Greg. Let us know when you’re in the office again and we’ll come by for reporting.” John leaned in through the window of Greg’s car, “We’ll be based here for a couple of days while we get things settled.”

“That’s fine. I know where to find you.” Greg smiled and took her hand, “Thanks, John. I’ll let you know when they bring the suspects back up from Queensborough.”

“Thanks, Greg. See you in a few hours. Get some sleep, will you?”

“Absolutely. See you in a few hours, John.”

“Bye, Greg.” John smiled and kissed her brother-in-law on the cheek. “Drive safe. Let me know when you get home.” Once he was on his way home, John returned to the Nicodemus. She and Sherlock spent the rest of the day reconfiguring the boat for extended mooring and occasional excursions. They wouldn’t be making any major expeditions like crossing the English Channel for a long while.

-^-

After helping out with a missing-persons case turned murder, John and Sherlock waited to hear back from Greg before making their way to the Victoria Street offices to file their reports.

“John! Sherlock! What are you doing here?” Sally Donovan popped out of a cluster of cubicles in the bullpen as they headed for Greg’s office, “I thought he was joking! You’re home!”

“Sally.” John hugged the gifted sergeant, “Hi!”

“Boy, I didn’t think you two would ever come back!” Sally looked at them, eyes narrow, “Especially not after word got my way that you two were on the rosters for the National Police in Paris! How did you do that?”

“My father is one of their commandants, and he brought us on as formal informants. If they needed us, they called us.”

“So, just like we did before you moved to Paris?”

“Just like you did before we moved to Paris.” John smiled, “We’re home now, and I don’t think we’re going anywhere for a while.”

“Good! Because God knows we could use you, it’s been rough without you around.”

“And yet, we came back when you asked nicely?”

“Yeah, well, having you in a different country made that kind of hard to predict if you’d make it over or not.” Sally shrugged, “But you sure made an effort. I’m really glad you’re back. I missed you.”

“Both of us?” Sherlock was just teasing, he was smiling too much.

“Oh, stop it, Holmes. You know I missed you. I can’t rag on anyone else like that, they’re all too soft-bellied.”

“Sally!”

“Oh, please. You know I’m right.” Sally rolled her eyes, gave Sherlock a push. “Go on, before Lestrade comes looking.”

“And he would, too.”

“Yep. Thanks for helping out with the Vanderbilt case, we’d been running for a week before his body turned up in St Katharine Marina.”

“I feel kind of sorry for the coroners, he was in bad shape when they dragged him out of the marina.” John hadn’t seen the body for herself, but she had seen pictures. “And it wasn’t that he was in the water a long time, because he wasn’t, it was whatever they’d done to him before they dumped him.”

“Y’know, as soon as Lestrade called us in, I knew they’d found Vanderbilt.” Sally frowned, “And I thought of you two. It was just the kind of case you’d always loved to be called in on, and you were god alone knew where. Where were you, by the way?”

“Spent the last two days in Queensborough.”

“Not that far away. How’d you get across the Channel?”

“Come by St Katharine Docks and we’ll show you!” John grinned, “Hell, we’ll even give you a proper tour if you want one.”

“A proper tour of what, exactly?”

“Come visit, you’ll see!” Sherlock was beaming. His eyes brightened as something occurred to him. “Oh, do you think we should throw a Christmas party?”

“On the Nicodemus?” John raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t that the houseboat didn’t have room, she just hadn’t ever considered the fact that there might come a time when they would have friends to entertain.

“Well, I didn’t have any plans for Christmas, and Stella and I both made sure we had the Hols off. For once.” Sally rolled her eyes, “You wouldn’t believe the arm-twisting I had to do to get someone to take my shift.”

“I can, actually.” John smiled. “I don’t know about anyone else, we don’t quite have the room we used to and I would be an idiot if I didn’t think Mrs Hudson was at her sister’s for Christmas, so, where else are we spending Christmas?” She shrugged, “See you tomorrow, then?”

“We’ll bring wine.”

“And I’ll make sure you know how to find the damn thing.” John chuckled and gave Sally a hug, “Thanks, Sal.”

“Thanks for coming back to London. Go on, you two.” She let them go and they stopped by Greg’s office to file their reports. He didn’t really seem to mind the delay, just gave them the proper reports and let them get to work.

It was quiet in Greg’s office while they filled out their paperwork, but it was a fond, familiar quiet that all three of them had kind of missed over the past year but hadn’t really realized what it was or why they missed it.

“So, when do you think you’ll take the Nicodemus out again?” Greg asked after a while.

“Oh, probably in the summer.” Sherlock looked up from his reports, “There’s nothing wrong with winter cruising, God knows we did plenty of that, but it’s far more enjoyable in the summer.” John had to agree, they had greatly enjoyed summer expeditions with the Nicodemus, and she was kind of looking forward to the chance to make similar ventures in the waterways of England and, quite possibly if she could swing it, Scotland. Taking the Nicodemus to Scotland would be fun. She wasn’t sure how they would get the barge up there, but it would certainly be interesting to plan it out.

-^-

Once they had their reports properly filled out and filed to be added to the case-files later, John and Sherlock stuck around The Met to help Greg cut down on the stacks of files on his desk. Greg confirmed for them that Mrs Hudson was visiting her sister for the Hols and wouldn’t be back until January, so after they finished up at The Met, John decided to pay a quick visit to Baker Street. They didn’t stay long, all John really wanted was the box of Christmas decorations.

“Is there room for the tree?”

“I think so. Should we bring it?”

“I don’t see why we can’t. At least we can set up lights.” Sherlock took one of the two boxes dedicated to Christmas decorations. John located the box for the tree and they took it with them back to St Katharine’s. The rest of the day was spent decorating the Nicodemus for Christmas. They found a spot for the tree in a corner and did it up properly. In the end, their tree was hung once again with glass balls, plastic icicles, silver tinsel, multi-coloured lights, and crime-scene tape. And on top was that silly, lopsided craft stick-and-glitter glue star.

“I still think it’s the strangest tree I’ve ever seen.” Sherlock mused, head tipped a bit sideways as he looked at their odd little tree.

“Oh, you don’t mind it at all! There’s nothing wrong with our Christmas tree.” John scolded.

“I suppose not, but our decor might raise some eyebrows among the unsuspecting.”

“That’s their problem, not ours.” She folded her arms and looked up at him. “Are we at all what might be considered “usual” or “normal” around here, Sherlock?”

“Absolutely not. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He just smiled at her and pulled her into a hug, “The Paris Police Prefecture tape was a rather lovely touch. Where did you get it from?”

“Found a roll of it in the boot of your cousin’s patrol-car once and took it when she said I could have it.”

“John Watson, you stole police-tape?!”

“Oh, please! I took that roll from The Met ages ago! Besides, it’s not like they don’t have scads of it anyway, who’s going to miss one roll? And I asked nicely instead of just stealing it.” She rolled her eyes and they studied their rather unorthodox Christmas tree, rather proud of its oddness. John had spent some time twisting together strands of police-tape from The Met and Le PP, which she had then draped along the branches of their tree. It was a nice addition, she thought. Inspired, she snapped a picture of the tree and sent it to her relatives in Paris and to Greg and Mycroft with the caption “Christmas comes to the Nicodemus.” Sherlock had the brilliant idea to set up her phone to take a picture of the two of them and Valkyrie sitting in front of the tree, for the sole purpose of sending it to his parents. Valkyrie, an obedient dog who had adapted so well to the unusual, slightly-nomadic and inconsistent lifestyle of her masters, decided that they were on her level so she wanted to play. One of the pictures they ended up sending to Sherlock’s parents was one of Valkyrie with her paws on Sherlock’s shoulders from behind and the end of his Santa hat in her mouth a split second before she knocked him over. It was so perfect and John couldn’t stop laughing for a solid five minutes.

John sent a quick email to their London friends to let them know that they were back in town for the indeterminate future and Christmas was happening at their mooring if anyone felt like visiting. They didn’t have a whole lot of room, but they were more than happy to host guests for Christmas. It turned out to be a very small, work-based group. The Stamfords were on holiday in Spain, so plans were made to rendezvous with them after New Year’s, but Mycroft and Greg, the Hopkinses and their partners, and Molly and Irene all said they could certainly carve out some time to visit. They were, of course, nearly all of them at the mercy of their jobs but a break was always welcome, especially around Christmas. John and Sherlock had been gone for such a long time it was worth making the effort in the first place.


 

Chapter Text


 The next day, Greg had a simple 5 come up that they had solved in no time at all with time to spare before the party. Mycroft and Greg were the first to arrive, of course, followed by Stanley and Anderson. They were followed by Stella and Donovan, and Molly and Irene were the last to arrive. Well, nearly the last. They got some party-crashers a bit later. John was alerted to their guests by a commotion above-decks.

“Were we...expecting anyone else?” Sherlock asked, a little tipsy. John had managed to recover a pristine copy of Mrs Hudson’s mulled wine recipe and tried her hand at making it. The consensus was good that their dear landlady might have a bit of competition. John wasn’t going to tell anyone that she had added double-shot of Connemara to the pot just to spice things up. You couldn’t actually taste the whiskey, but it was definitely there and it added a delightful bite. No one at this party was driving themselves home afterwards, thank you very much.

They had room enough for one couple to stay over if that was needed, one of the couches was a sleeper and moving the coffee-table gave them plenty of room to pull the bed out. There might be room for another two if they made up the second cabin. So, really, it was more or less just like Baker Street, room on the couch and a potential second bedroom. Whatever worked. At the moment, though, she had a slight problem. Making her way up the ladder to the deck, she poked her head out and blinked when she spotted the foursome standing on the deck. There was nothing awkward between them, but John was a little surprised to see them.

“John!”

“Bill!” John scrambled out onto the deck, “Hi! How did you find us?”

“A little birdy told us there was a Baker Street Christmas party.”

“Just…not on Baker Street this year! Hi, god it’s good to see you! Hi, Lydia!”

“Hello, John, dear. You look wonderful!” Bill MacLeod’s wife just gave her a firm hug, “We’ve missed you.”

“That’s the sentiment we’ve gotten from a lot of our friends and family. Sorry we were gone so long, we didn’t actually intend to stay there beyond two weeks, I swear we didn’t.”

“But you enjoyed yourselves?”

“Oh, immensely. I, um, reconnected with some family of mine in Paris, actually, so that was a very nice little bonus to our trip.”

“Oh, that’s lovely!”

“Go ahead down, everyone’s down there! Find a place to sit or stand, room’s a little snug, but we have enough for all!” John indicated the hatch behind her. As the MacLeod’s made their way down, John turned to the other two guests who had remained on dry land while Bill and Lydia had simply come aboard by themselves, and wondered what on earth brought them.

“Captain Watson.”

“Captain Wales.” She traded salutes with Prince William, “Happy Christmas, sir. Welcome to our small, unusual home. Can you stay long?”

“Yes, we can. May we come aboard?”   

“Absolutely! Please, come aboard!”

“What on earth possessed you to live on a houseboat, Captain?”

“My father owns a barge on the Seine in Paris, and it’s a very unusual but rather delightful way to live.” John led them down the stairs, “Careful on the stairs.” Sherlock had found extra seating for their many guests, not that too much was needed.

“John, love? Who was it?” Sherlock piped up from the kitchen as they made it down.

“Special guests!” She called back with a giggle. None of them were strangers to each other and nearly everyone in the room had been at their wedding, so the sudden arrival of the Royals didn’t really cause that much of a stir. The state of inebriation might also have helped a bit if she was being completely honest. Lydia MacLeod, of course, was her cheerful, motherly self and probably the soberest of their whole lot, having just arrived, but John noticed that William and Kate didn’t seem to mind the very casual hugs they were subjected to by Lydia, who told Kate she was still just the prettiest girl and such a lucky one, too. She took two glasses of mulled wine from Sherlock and gave one to William and Kate, who had found seats and were chatting with Greg and Mycroft. Kate didn’t take wine, and John knew exactly why, so she gave the duchess ginger ale instead. Kate just smiled and squeezed her hand.

“How do they keep finding us and involving themselves?” Sherlock asked as they took a minute in the kitchen and simply watched their guests interact.

“I have no idea, and I don’t particularly mind. It’s fine with me if they want to relax a bit among friends. Not that I would ever consider us dear friends, but what do I know?”

“And why did you give Kate ginger ale instead of wine?”

“She’s almost three months pregnant, wine would be a very bad idea.”

“She is?”

“Mhm. So is Molly, if I’m not mistaken.” John leaned against her husband, “They made the formal announcement back in September, I saw it in one of the papers.”

“I must have missed it completely. Do they know what it’s going to be?”

“You can’t usually tell this early, it’ll be fun to find out, though.” John smiled into her wine.

 

Someone decided to start a betting pool and bets were placed regarding the due dates and genders of the expected children. Toasts were drunk to the unborn royal and to the child Molly was carrying. For her frame, she carried very well. John only placed bets on gender, and bet a girl on both.

“You don’t want any children, do you, John?” Lydia asked.

“Oh, god, no! I love children, but I don’t want my own.” John shook her head, “I’ll spoil other people’s children, my nieces and nephews and little cousins, the children of friends and acquaintances, but I don’t want my own. My lifestyle can’t support it.”

“Well, that’s fine! You can spoil ours!” Molly chirped brightly, “Any time!”

“I’d love to.” John just smiled. She was dying to know the story behind that, there had to be something. It was obvious in the year since she and Sherlock had moved their lives from London to Paris and back, Molly had settled into a comfortable if unusual domesticity with Irene Adler, and going by that ring she wasn’t single anymore. Married? Definitely in a relationship that meant something more than dating.

-^-

The rest of the evening was enjoyable and everyone had a good time. There was story-telling, bragging, casework was discussed, and they all made sure that the Royals never felt left out. Mycroft and Greg decided to stay, just as they had last year, but everyone else managed to find a way to get home safely. John personally walked William and Kate to their car, nodding to the hovering security. She recognized them from the wedding, and it was clear they remembered her. They would have been properly subtle about their presence in the Marina, but it would have been obvious to anyone who cared to really pay attention that they weren’t just there for the hell of it. Not that too many people would be paying attention to an unobtrusive black sedan, so there was that. Besides, you would really have to be paying attention to realize it was, in fact, the Cambridges and not someone else. That was fine with John.

“Thanks for coming, you guys. I’m so glad you came by.”

“We’re sorry for party-crashing, but when word came that you were back in London, we decided to pay a visit.” Kate took her hands and squeezed, “Don’t be strangers, John. Please? Promise me.”

“Alright, alright. We’ll try.” John promised, knowing Kate meant it. “You know how to find us, just stop by if you need something. Even just to talk.”

“Of course we know how to find you.” William just smiled. John snorted and rolled her eyes. Behind the public mask of propriety, the Duke of Cambridge was really a very normal human being just like almost everyone else. He had likes and dislikes, hobbies and concerns, and he made a phenomenal father and husband. Hugging the Royals, John waited until their car was out of sight before returning to the Nicodemus’s mooring. She found Sherlock and her brothers-in-law sitting in the lounge with a final glass of mulled wine before turning in for the night.

“Did you get them on their way safely?” Mycroft looked up as she came down the steps after securing the wheel-house and closing the hatch for the night.

“Yes, I did.” She smiled and sat down with Sherlock, taking the glass he offered her. “I still don’t have any idea what I did to get their attention like I did, but I’m not about to question a bit of good luck.”

“If that’s what you want to call it.” Sherlock wrinkled his nose. John pinched the underside of his wrist, just smiling into her wine when he stifled a yelp.

“Oi.”

“Behave.”

“Nice work, Watson.” Greg muttered, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

“Oh, don’t encourage her.” Sherlock grouched.

“Finally found someone who can handle your moods for more than a few hours, did you, little brother?”Mycroft looked smug. John snickered.

“Oh, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I said yes, Mycroft. Someone’s got to keep him in line, keep him company. Might as well be me.”

“Better you than someone else, I suppose.”

“Who else would bother?”

“I think the question should be, who else would he be willing to put up with long enough to let them get close enough?”

“Oh, thanks for that.” John and Sherlock rolled their eyes together. After finishing their wine, they decided to turn in for the night. Saying goodnight to Mycroft and Greg, they retreated to their cabin after making sure everything was shut down and secure for the night.


 

Chapter Text


After returning to London, John and Sherlock returned to a familiar routine in a city they hadn’t seen in what felt like far too long. There was nothing about their time in Paris that either of them regretted, but it was very nice to be back in London. John went back to work for the Greater London Ambulance Corps and Sherlock decided it was time to go right-side to the law and became a legitimate police detective with The Met. He got in through the direct entry programme for outsiders who wanted to be part of something but had no applicable law-enforcement background. Sherlock did have an applicable law-enforcement background, however. He had been a member of the National Police Civil Reserve in Paris as a Deputy Judicial Police Officer. It was a natural next step to become a full-fledged Detective Inspector with The Met, and through the direct entry programme, he had a decent shot. Greg got wind of it and suggested that Sherlock apply for a transfer instead. That way he had a better shot at getting the experience he really needed, and his previous experience would put him in the ranks as a Detective Constable. The probationary period would take about two years, he would most likely be promoted to Detective Sergeant at that time. Further promotion to Detective Inspector would happen rather quickly if things went well. So, they filed the proper applications and waited to hear back regarding future employment with The Met.

They waited a month before anything came of it, by which point John was fully anticipating a negative response if they got a response at all. She had a full roster of back-to-back shifts with the ambulance corps, so she told Sherlock to stay in touch if he heard anything back from The Met. Two days past the date they were supposed to have heard back “yea” or “nay” about Sherlock’s application to transfer to The Met, John was sitting a stakeout on Caxton Street again, sitting on the back of her ambulance, when she saw an unmarked car coming up Caxton from Broadway. It was Greg’s car, she could always tell her brother-in-law’s car on the streets. There were another two cars behind the BMW. Both were marked with the standard Battenburg livery stripes of blue-and-yellow chequer-squares, but one was base-painted white while the other was silver. John raised an eyebrow and radioed back to the cab, where Bill was consolidating their logs.

“Hey, Bill? We’ve got incoming.”

“I see them. Any idea what they want?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” John shook her head. “Three cars is a bit much for a social-call.”

“When’d you hear from Sherlock last?”

“This morning when I left for work. He was off to help Greg with something, he said. We haven’t run for The Met outside of my involvement on a given scene in a while. And we haven’t taken any private cases we couldn’t solve from Baker Street.” And that had been by mutual agreement between Sherlock and the DI’s they ran for. Any cases he solved were solved anonymously through tip-calls.  Their private cases had been restricted to cases he could solve from Baker Street, involved cases were turned down. It was very unusual for Sherlock to turn away cases that ranked above a 7, but if it could be solved without going out on the streets, he’d take it. And she still saw enough of him in the course of her own work-day it didn’t matter either way. He was keeping himself busy with…something.

Greg parked in front of the ambulance, the other two parked behind. John just kicked her feet and waited. If Sherlock wasn’t with Greg, he would probably know where her husband was. But what was up with three cars? The marked vehicles parked behind them were another BMW identical to Greg’s except for markings, and a Mitsubishi Shogun.

“John?”

“Yeah?” She took a call from Bill while waiting for their Met cohorts to show themselves.

“Did Lestrade say anything about getting a new partner?”

“Um.” John frowned. There had been whispers of promoting Sally Donovan to DI, which would open up a position on Greg’s team and leave her brother-in-law without a sergeant.

“There was talk of promoting Sally Donovan to DI, but I don’t know if anything ever came of that.” She eyed the marked cars suspiciously. “Just out of curiosity, why’d you ask?”

“I think we might have a problem?”

“A problem, or the solution to a problem and God help London’s criminal class?” John couldn’t help herself. It didn’t take long for the drivers to show themselves and John burst out laughing.

“You have to be joking!”

“Why?”

“Who the hell thought it was a good idea to give you a set of keys and a marked car? Or even a badge!” John just grinned at the smug, newly-minted Detective Constable leaning against the Mitsubishi. “Guess you got the job, huh?”

“Oh, I’ve had the job for a while!”

“You’re a fucking bastard, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Yes? I thought that was already established?”

“Come here, you overgrown pest.” She hopped down from the ambulance and let her smug, secretive husband come to her. Well, he sure made the uniform look good, didn’t he?

“Can you forgive me for not telling you right away?”

“Kiss me like you mean it and I’ll consider my options.” John leaned her head back and smiled at Sherlock, “That’s an order, Constable.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He just gave her that sly smile of his and did what she told him to. Sally made a noise as she watched them.

“Aww. You’re adorable.”

“Rack off, Donovan.”

“Is that any way to talk to a superior officer, Holmes?” 

“Alright, that’s enough out of you two.” Greg appeared around the side of the ambulance just then, breaking up the moment.

“Yes, sir.”

“Donovan, be nice to the constables.”

“All of them, sir?” Donovan just smirked.

“All of them, Donovan.” Greg was smiling too broadly to be seriously upset with their antics. And really, it wasn’t like this was the first time he’d had to pull Sherlock and Donovan apart. This time it was all barking, there were no teeth involved and they didn’t actually mean a damn word. John snickered and looked over at the marked cars.

“So, which one’s yours, then?”

“The Shogun is mine.”

“Is it going to be parked at Baker Street?” She asked only because she didn’t know if uniform officers were allowed to take their department vehicles home off-hours. It would certainly stir things up on Baker Street, absolutely. All three of them nodded and she sat down on the step of the ambulance again.

“Does Mrs Hudson know about this?”

“Not yet.”

“So you didn’t just conveniently forget to tell your wife you had landed the job you’ve been wanting since we filed your application?”

“I did not forget to tell you.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Why would I keep something so important from you?” He looked genuinely confused, “This affects us both, I would never, ever keep something like this from you on purpose.”

“But why didn’t you tell me?”

“He wanted to surprise you, John.” Sally pitched in. It wasn’t that John was losing her temper, but round-about answers annoyed her. Sherlock knew this and delighted in messing with her when she asked a fairly straight-forward question.

“You wanted to clear Stage 1 before  you told me?”

“Yes. Was that Not Good?”

“I’m not mad at you for not telling me right away. I’ve just spent a whole month wondering where the bloody hell you keep going all the time when we haven’t taken any major cases with the Agency since January when you filed, and if they saw your name and decided to turn you down out of sheer petulant spite.”

“There were a few who would have been happy to do that, but their voices were neither heard nor heeded.” Greg smiled reassuringly, “The job’s all his if he can mind his manners and keep his hands clean and his boots tied.” That meant Mycroft had involved himself somehow and kept the voices of dissent quiet.

“I can only imagine they didn’t like someone from Intelligence telling them what to do. They hate it when the agencies interfere.” Sherlock and Greg looked at each other and smiled in that weird way that meant John, not out of blatant ignorance but out of situational ignorance, had completely missed something.

“What did you do this time?”

“Who says we did anything?”

“You’re smiling at each other like you know something I don’t, and you’re enjoying every minute of it.”

“Because we might be.”

“I hate you.”

“You love me.”

“Bastard.” She checked her radio, nothing for them yet.

“Oh, look! It’s M!” The abrupt change of subject startled John and she nearly gave herself whiplash trying to look for Gareth Mallory’s car. She knew what kind of car he drove, and what kind of car he hired, but the car she saw was neither of those.

“That’s not Gareth Mallory’s car.”

“No, it’s not.”

“What did I miss?”

“You’ll see! Relations between The Met and MI6 will be far more…amenable in the future, I suspect.” Sherlock just grinned and climbed into the treatment-bay behind her. “I’m on call until something comes across the radio, I’ve been solving cases off our blogs all day.”

“Damn it, Sherlock.” She sighed, “Second cabinet above the workspace. You know the drill.”

“Yes, dear.” He chimed, rummaging in the shelves for something specific. She checked her radio, nothing for them yet. Sherlock quietly got her out of her parka and tossed it up onto the gurney, adding his gear to it before he sat down behind her. Their radios were turned low, but there were enough people on-location if a call came through for either of them they would know regardless. John looked up as Bill appeared with her logs and took them as he handed them over.

“Sherlock.”

“Bill.”

“See you got the job, son.” Bill just smiled at the sight of Sherlock in uniform, “Does this mean we’ll see more of you on the streets? Or about the same as we have been?”

“Might depend on the day.” Sherlock just shrugged and took the logs from John to put them where they belonged. From the car that had pulled up and parked behind Sherlock’s RPU, they finally got a glimpse of the driver.

“Is that Mycroft?” John didn’t move beyond raising her head a bit, Sherlock was in the middle of something.

“Yep.”

“Shit. Did we miss another shakeup in MI6 while we were gone?”

“Yep.”

“Fuck.” She tried not to smile, “How long has he been after that position?”

“A while. He’s nearly insufferable, he’s so fucking pleased with himself.”

“I bet he is!” John chuckled and kept her head down when Sherlock gave her a nudge. “Do I want to know what you’re doing?”

“You’ll see.”

“Because it feels like you’re doing that double Dutch braided top-knot you did for the wedding.”

“Minus the complicated top-knot.” She felt more than saw him smile.

“Hi, Mycroft.”

“John. Sherlock.” Her brother-in-law greeted them calmly, “I suspected I might find you together if I looked.”

“This was kind of unplanned, at least on my part.” John shrugged but stayed still. She was using her logs to keep her head down, filling out reports as necessary. “I don’t know about that one, but I knew something was up when three cars pulled up and parked.”

“Not quite a standard social-call, was it?”

“Nope.” She raised her eyes to her brother-in-law, “What’s up? Just doing the rounds and getting eyes-on?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I’m not used to you driving yourself, the car kind of threw me a little bit.” She sniffed, “Is A with you?”

“She always is.”

“I guess this means she’s not just technically your secretary anymore.”

“No, my dear.” Mycroft chuckled. “Not that she ever has been.”

“How much did you have to boost her salary to convince her it was worth the trouble to stick around as your assistant?”

“Quite a bit, but nothing I wouldn’t have been willing to pay her regardless.”

“She can bargain with the best.” Sherlock mused quietly. John had to wonder what any passersby might think of their strange little tableau. There were three Met police officers, all three of them detectives, two paramedics, and the current Director of MI6. As it was, a couple of passing civilians slowed down a bit at the gathering around John’s ambulance. But it only took a moment for one of them to recognize John and she saw a flash of understanding. It was one of her former patients, actually.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Isn’t that Valerie Braller?”

“Um.” She lifted her head a bit more. “Oh! It is! That’s Valerie and Peter! He must be back from Afghanistan!” She remembered getting an invitation to the wedding, but they hadn’t attended. Sherlock finished what he was doing and patted her on the shoulder. John hopped down from the ambulance and went to intercept the Brallers.

“Valerie! Peter!”

“Hi, Doctor Watson!” Valerie smiled, “We thought that was you!”

“Yeah! Hi! What are you guys doing out here?”

“We live around here now.”

“Oh, that’s great!” John rocked on her heels, “Sorry about the bizarre coven-meeting.”

“Trust me, Captain. It’s not the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.” Peter grinned. He was in charge of the stroller, into which their little girl was carefully if haphazardly strapped. John recalled very clearly the day she had responded to a call for a woman in distress and delivered a baby at home.

“Not by a bloody long shot it wouldn’t be!” John chuckled, not missing that Peter’s rank insignia had changed. “So, what is it now? Captain Braller?”

“Yes’m.”

“Good for you!” She gave him a hug, “You’re ridiculously tan for the season, where have you been?”

“Where else?” An eye-roll said so much. John snickered, then turned her attention to the stroller’s curious passenger.

“And who’s this pretty girl?” She crouched on her heels so she was eye-level with the toddler.

“This is Jensen Hannah Braller.”

“You’ve sure gotten big, haven’t you?” She smiled, “How old is she now?”

“She’ll be two in December.”

“Oh gosh, she was a Christmas baby, wasn’t she? God, she’s gorgeous.”

“Jensen, can you say hi to Doctor Watson?” Peter leaned over a bit, “She’s a friend!” They got a soft, shy “Hi” out of Jensen, who looked an awful lot like Peter.

“You haven’t been around much, Captain. Where’d you go?”

“Paris. We didn’t mean to live there for a whole year, but we don’t really regret any of it.” John looked up from Jensen, who had decided to reach for John just at that moment. “Oh. Hi there. Did you see my coat?” She had put her parka back on before leaving the ambulance. It wasn’t that cold, but it was a bit chilly. Cold enough. Jensen had got hold of her sleeve.

“What did you do in Paris, then?”

“This, actually.” John chuckled as Jensen pulled on her coat, “Okay, you. Can I take her out, Peter?”

“Sure! What’s she doing?”

“She got hold of my sleeve and won’t let go. I think it’s the reflective tape that fascinates her.”

“Oh, sure! Go ahead. She’s not all that fond of strangers, but she doesn’t seem to mind you at all.” Peter smiled as she got the harness loose and got Jensen on her feet.

“Is she walking yet?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s Eleanor we’re worried about.” Peter rolled his eyes as Jensen toddled along the sidewalk a bit. John raised her head at that.

“Eleanor?”

“The baby of the family. They’re almost exactly nine months apart.”

“Oh my god.” John blinked, she hadn’t even noticed the tandem seat. “Oh, Valerie!”

“Don’t worry, we made it to the hospital in time for Eleanor’s birth,” Valerie promised. John got a better look at the little sister, who was still very shy but just as grabby as Jensen had been.

“Oh, aren’t you cute? She looks like you, Valerie!”

“We’re hoping Baby 3 is a boy. For Peter’s sake.” Valerie patted her midsection. She was six or seven months pregnant, so that gave them a good gap between Eleanor and the next baby. But good lord they were a fertile couple!

“Good for you! Can Eleanor come out?”

“Yeah, sure! Let me…give you a hand, it’s a little bit of a trick to get the harness off properly.” Peter pulled the canopy back and came around to help John get his daughter out of the stroller. Getting Eleanor on her feet was simple, getting her to stay there was difficult. John chuckled when tiny hands tightened.

“Oh, alright. Okay, okay.” She smiled and crouched in front of Eleanor, “Do you want me to hold you?” She got an affirmative, but she wanted to try something.

“Has she tried walking at all?”

“A bit, but not as much as Jensen. She won’t walk unassisted.”

“That’s alright. Every child is different. When did she start walking?”

“She didn’t start trying until she was almost fourteen months old.”

“So just recently, then? And she doesn’t like to walk unassisted?”

“The doctors say there’s nothing wrong with her.”

“Just being stubborn, then. The new baby might have a bit to do with that, I guarantee she knows something’s up.” John smiled at Eleanor and held out her hands to the toddler. Eleanor’s eyes lit up, and she reached for John, who pulled a fast one and got up instead, taking one step backwards.

“I’ll pick you up, love, but you’ll have to earn it first. Come along.” She coaxed. Eleanor blinked, screwed her face up, and started to whine, but John reached out until she was just outside of Eleanor’s reach. “That’s a good girl. Come on, you.”

“Captain?”

“Shh.” She held up one hand. “Don’t distract her. Get behind me if you want to.”

“Okay.” Peter didn’t move, and neither did Valerie. Instead, they fetched up their phones and started recording. John kept her focus on Eleanor Braller, wiggled her fingers in invitation.

“Come on, Eleanor. Come get me. That’s a good girl. Come on, now.” She kept coaxing Eleanor to come to her, to try. She was aware of motion behind her and knew without looking that Sherlock had come up behind them.

“Lose something, Watson?”

“She didn’t get very far, did she?” John just smiled, knowing that despite her wandering ways, Jensen had never once been in danger.

“No fear in this one. What are you doing?”

“Trying to coax Jensen’s sister into walking by herself.” John looked up at her husband, “Your happy, clingy burden is Jensen Braller. This one is her sister Eleanor. Their parents, Peter and Valerie Braller.”

“Oh. Pleasure to meet you both.” Sherlock stepped around them, dropping something into John’s lap as he did so, “This one belongs to you, then?”

“Yes, sir, she does. Did she make herself known?” Peter eyed up the sight of his eldest daughter situated in Sherlock’s arms, very happy to be there. Sherlock looked at his happy burden and chuckled.

“She might’ve.”

“Valerie, Peter, this is my husband, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Oh! Oh my god! Yes, of course!” Peter’s eyes widened, “Jesus, I didn’t even recognize you, sir!”

“Wouldn’t expect anyone to, not in uniform.” Sherlock just smiled. “This is a recent development.”

“Yeah, right.” John rolled her eyes and looked at Eleanor. “Recent development my arse.”

“Language, Watson.”

“Shh.” She snorted. “Eleanor, come on, girlie, come this way.” John wiggled her fingers and watched and waited. Eleanor, entice either by her coaxing or by Sherlock, shuffled. It got very quiet and John held her breath, moving her hand back just a bit.

“That’s it, love. Come on.” She whispered. “Come on, Eleanor. That’s my girl.” As they all watched, nearly holding their breath as one, Eleanor took one step forward, and then another.

“Oh my god, she’s walking,” Peter whispered behind them. John coaxed Eleanor to walk until she reached John properly and then let her stop.

“Oh, you marvellous little thing! What a brilliant girl! Good for you, Lelie!” John laughed as she hugged Eleanor, who tried to climb into her lap, “Oh, okay. That’s alright, now. Good girl! Oof.”

“You alright, John?”

“I’m fine!” She had been pushed back a bit by the weight-shift and ended up sitting on the pavement, “Oh, Eleanor, you did it! Peter, Valerie, you got that on video, right?”

“Oh, absolutely!” Valerie was just beside herself, “Oh, thank you, Doctor Watson! How did you do that?”

“I have no idea! I’m…I just happen to be very good with children.”

“We tried everything, she wouldn’t do it for us! Oh, my god, thank you so much!”

“I’m sorry she wouldn’t cooperate for you, but she’ll be running around like a mad thing in no time, I’m sure.” John smiled and got up without letting go of Eleanor. Retreating to the ambulance, she sat on the step. “So, you won’t walk for Mum and Da, but you’ll walk for me? I guess I’m special.”

“Children adore you, John, that’s no secret.” Sherlock was busy entertaining Jensen, who was fascinated with his radio.

“Speak for yourself!” John smiled, “Still don’t want any of my own, but I like being able to do this kind of thing.”

“You would be a very good mother.”

“And you wouldn’t be a half-bad father.” John looked up at her husband. He had that soft look on his face and she sighed. It would be a terrible idea to have a child right at this moment in their lives, their professional lives wouldn’t allow for it. But John’s biological clock was definitely ticking, and she was starting to feel the tug of maternal yearning.

“You feel it, don’t you?” Observant bastard. John just nodded and rested her chin on Eleanor’s hair while the little girl messed with her parka.

“But it would be such a bad idea right now.”

“But you want to?”

“Sort of.” She sniffed, “I guess.” Sherlock just smiled and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead. As recently as Christmas she had very boldly stated that she had no interest in having children of her own, she was perfectly content to spoil nieces, nephews, cousins, and the children of friends and acquaintances. But she was allowed to change her mind. And with close friends pregnant, it made the yearning more…stark? Not to mention Molly Hooper was serving as a surrogate for Mycroft and Greg, which had come as a complete surprise to John and Sherlock when they’d found out shortly after New Year’s. So there was that bit of familial pressure to provide as well. Not that her in-laws would lack for grandchildren, but it would be nice if they had a chance to build their own family.


 

Chapter Text


With one ear to his radio for any calls coming through, Greg Lestrade kept an eye on the couple over by the ambulance. How many times had he seen this before? How many times would he see it in the future? If someone had told him in 2005 that the strung-out junkie he’d just pulled from the streets for questioning would end up being one of his dearest friends, most reliable resources (a scandal to sully Sherlock Holmes’s name and reputation notwithstanding), and his brother-in-law, he probably would have laughed them out of the room. But now? Well, that was different. Not to mention he had never ever assumed that Sherlock would get married. That required someone who was willing to live with Sherlock and all of his many quirks and vices.

But in 2007, Sherlock had gone overseas on a job for his brother Mycroft, whom Greg had known for two years by that point. The exact nature of the job was unknown to Greg, but Sherlock came home from that mission a changed man. He spent hours scouring newspapers, websites, birth records, census records, everything he could get his hands on, looking for information on one person. It took Greg six months to learn a name: John Hamish Watson. Some preliminary research of his own pulled up results on a handsome specimen in uniform. When he finally got to meet John Watson six years later, when she followed Sherlock to a crime-scene, it was kind of amazing to watch them together. Greg had found himself desperately hoping Sherlock had finally found his someone, his equal, his balance. Apparently, the tall, rude genius had done just that. It took two months before Greg realized that Sherlock had not only found his someone in the feisty, pretty soldier he’d met in 2006, he’d gone ahead and proposed to her almost right away! That had been a pleasant surprise, and hope for the future! Planning that wedding had been one hell of a trip, but it had been worth every grievance in the end. A beautiful, small wedding at John’s family seat in Scotland, with some very unusual special guests. Apparently, John knew the Royal Family well enough she had invited some of them to the wedding! And that wasn’t the best of it! They’d actually shown up! And yet, Greg recalled that not a single person at the wedding had ever gone out of their way to treat the Royals with anything but respect. There had been very little if any awkwardness.

Then, John and Sherlock had jetted off to Paris for a honeymoon that had turned into a year-long sabbatical. They had been in regular contact, of course, but their rooms at 221B Baker Street had stood empty. Mycroft had continued to pay their rent while they were gone, not that Martha Hudson was about to let anyone else live there. God forbid. Greg used the place for a crash-pad when he needed a break from work, a day or two to recover from a case, and Mrs Hudson looked after him while he was visiting. He helped out around the place, fixing up things that broke, made sure she had her needs looked after. He had always been very fond of Sherlock’s landlady, and it was mutual. Mrs Hudson, along with the rest of them, had been very happy when John and Sherlock came back from their extended sabbatical.

John had reconnected with some of her family in Paris, which made her the third person Greg knew with family in France. And not just any family, she belonged to the family of a very dear childhood friend of his! It had made a lot more sense when it came out that John was, in fact, a Leclaire, not a Bennett. She was a Watson by birth, and proud to claim that heritage, but she had missed an entire half of her heritage and had decided to go looking for it. She’d found it, and when Greg had sent an email to Valéry Leclaire about John and Sherlock, he’d gotten back a response that took three printed pages. It had given him an excuse to get back in better touch with the Leclaire's, and he apologized to Valéry for being so out of touch recently. His old friend had told him no harm no foul, but weren’t John and Sherlock quite the pair? Damn effective, they were. Clever, resourceful, kind. So, he exchanged emails and phone-calls with Valéry a few times a week now, usually to talk about business, often to talk about John and Sherlock. 

Greg made a mental note to let Valéry know that Sherlock had made it to Detective Constable at The Met, figuring he would like to hear that. At the moment, Sherlock stood by the open bay-doors of John’s ambulance. It seemed like a strange job for a veteran, driving an ambulance in London, but John was rather good at it and she was a certified paramedic besides, so she had all the qualifications she needed to do her job. It kept her busy, it kept her happy, and still gave her time to help Sherlock on cases. Or, Greg, on more than one occasion.

 

There had been some concern that Sherlock joining The Met on a formal basis would eliminate The Baker Street Detective Agency, but in the month since he had been accepted as a Trainee Detective Constable, Sherlock had continued working cases with his private agency alongside his training with The Met. No one really seemed to mind, and since the agency’s work intersected with The Met’s more often than not, there was no reason to shut down.

“What are you thinking?” Mycroft spoke up quietly. Greg looked at his husband and smiled.

“Just thinking.”

“Anything in particular?”

“It’s always interesting to watch them with children, isn’t it?” He hadn’t missed how John and Sherlock had more or less monopolized the children of the couple that had come by. They were friends of John’s, apparently, Army mates, judging by the husband’s fatigues.

“You noticed?”

“They keep saying they don’t want any of their own, but I’ll be damned if John’s not hearing that ticking.”

“Oh, you know she is. And with Doctor Hooper pregnant, she’ll be feeling it more blatantly.”

“It doesn’t help much that Kate’s pregnant, too.”

“That was a friendship I was not expecting to flourish.” Mycroft’s eyes narrowed. John’s relationship with the Cambridges was unique, to say the least. They had come to the wedding in Scotland and had shown up at John’s impromptu Christmas party back in December. The Cambridges had provided John with her “something borrowed, something blue” for the wedding, which had then turned into an unexpected and very generous wedding gift when they gave her the loaned tiara she had worn with her dress. Apparently, with the blessing of Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Victoria Sapphire Coronet was John’s to keep until she saw fit to return it to The Crown, or someone else returned it on her behalf. For members of a Royal Family, Greg had to admit that William and Kate were very…normal. Refreshingly normal, actually, they didn’t really behave like typical Royals. And that was fine with Greg. He didn’t mind having that kind of connect to the Royal Family. Somewhere he had pictures from the wedding of John holding Prince George, who had been eight months and some at the time.

“You’re doing it again.” Mycroft scolded softly, reaching over to turn up the volume on Greg’s radio a bit more.

“Sorry.” He sighed, “What a world it is, Mycroft.”

“A better one for the work my brother and sister-in-law do on behalf of the city.” Mycroft just smiled. Greg had known the quiet wouldn’t last, it rarely ever did, so when his radio squealed in sync with the others, he just sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Well, that took long enough.” He shook his head and took the call. John and  Sherlock returned the children to their parents, said their goodbyes, and John made a promise to the father to be in touch. As a call had come in for Greg and the other two, a call had come through for John and Bill.

“Well, duty calls, so I will leave you.” Mycroft smiled and twirled his brolly, “I’ll see you at home, dear.”

“No idea when that will be. Don’t wait up for me, will you?” He felt bad that he wouldn’t be home any time soon, but it was part and parcel of the lifestyle he lived.

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Mycroft’s smile turned mischievous before smoothing over. “Be safe, will you please?”

“I’ll do what I can,” Greg promised as he took a quick kiss. Mycroft went to say goodbye to the others, and Greg got the particulars on this next case. It was a case that would rank at least a 6 on Sherlock’s scale, so at least he knew it would hold his new constable’s attention for more than a few minutes. Unless he solved it the minute he saw it, in which case it was anyone’s game. It sounded like there were surviving victims, so ambulances would be necessary. Greg just looked over at John, who was slamming the bay-doors of her ambulance as she got ready to take off.

“Hey, Watson!”

“Yes, sir?” She looked over her shoulder at him.

“We need ambulances on this one! Are you coming along?”

“Wouldn’t miss this for the world, Greg! We’ll be right behind you!”

“Yeah, I bet you will.” He chuckled and waved, “See you there, kids! Sherlock, don’t be stupid about it! You know the rules!”

“Yes, yes, I know. I’ll meet you there!” Sherlock was already on the move, of course. He watched Sherlock kiss John before he bolted for his car.

“Well, that'll be interesting.” He muttered. As he dropped into his car, his radio crackled again.

“Ambulance 1026, Driver Watson. Go for orders?”

“Yeah, I copy.” He huffed, buckling his seat-belt, “Are you gonna take lead on this, Watson?”

“Do you want me to? I mean, it’s not like we’re not all going the same place in a big fucking hurry. It’s up to you.”

“You take lead getting us out of here, I’ll take over when there’s room to pass you.” He waited while John pulled her ambulance out of its slot, blue-and-twos going. His own lights were already on and he flipped on his sirens as soon as he pulled out behind the ambulance. Sally and Sherlock fell into position behind them and it was a very strange little caravan they made. As soon as the streets opened up and widened to two lanes, they spread out a bit more. But Greg never tried to get ahead of John, letting her lead. For some reason, people were more likely to give way to an ambulance than a police car, at least it seemed that way.

-^-

Greg knew every street in the city, some better than others, but if there was one thing he knew so well he could do it half-asleep, it was how to get to Baker Street from just about anywhere in London. And he knew exactly where they were going, even though he knew Despatch had given them the address. Uh oh. Hoping he was wrong, he tapped John’s radio.

“Lestrade to Watson.”

“Watson. Go for orders?”

“John, what did the Despatcher say about the address of the call we’re responding to?”

“Said it was, um, 223 Baker Street. I think that’s Mr Turner’s.”

“Uh oh.” Surviving victims indeed. Well, that made this interesting. And personal. They made a twenty-five-minute drive in half that time, putting a little more effort into timeliness, and pulled up at Baker Street in no time at all.

It wasn’t obvious what exactly had happened when they arrived, but while Sally parked on one end and Sherlock at the other to set up tape-lines and corral the bystanders, Greg threw his car into park and kicked his door open. The doors of 221 and 223 both stood open. But which one had actually been burglarized? A sizable crowd had gathered outside of Speedy’s, and going by the pair of rather grim-faced civilians standing guard over another bloke who looked a bit worse for wear, he thought they might just have an open-shut case. That was fine. He was more worried about the landlords, to be perfectly honest. Grabbing his radio, badge, and gun, he let Despatch know that they were all on-scene and would be in touch if they needed additional backup. But Greg got the feeling that they could probably handle this just between the five of them no problem. And God help the poor fool who’d thought it was a good idea to break into the Baker Street residences. With Bill and John flanking him, ready to go into action, Greg approached the gathered bystanders.

“What happened here? Where are the victims?”

“Both in there, Inspector.” One of the lot pointed at 221B and Greg realized what had happened. Whoever had called it in had given the wrong address, but since it was the right street, they’d still come to the right place.

“You must have said there was a disturbance at Speedy’s.” He looked up at 221B, “Inside?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Right. I need everyone except you three to clear out behind the tape-lines. This is police-business now. Move on.” He turned, “Donovan! We’ll need a few more hands for crowd-control!”

“Yes, sir!” Sally saluted and put a call in on her radio for backup. Just a couple of Area Cars would do the trick, or any foot-patrol officers in the area.

“Watson, you head into 221, MacLeod, clear our mister here and then go check out 223.”

“Yes, sir.” John and Bill looked at each other and split up. Two more cars arrived and Greg put the new arrivals on line-duty and crowd-control while he took Sherlock and Sally. Sally went with Bill, Greg took Sherlock. They caught up with John in 221A, where they found Mrs Hudson sitting at her kitchen table with Mr Turner, both of them looking a little rough, but not too badly hurt.

“Oh, Sherlock!” Mrs Hudson took one look at Sherlock in uniform and began to cry.

“It’s alright, Mrs Hudson. Just tell us what happened.” Sherlock soothed, hugging Mrs Hudson tightly. While John tended to small hurts with a calm she couldn’t possibly be feeling, the landlords pieced together a story. The man sitting on the pavement outside was Mr Turner’s nephew, a rather unsavoury fellow with bad habits that put Sherlock’s vices to pale shame. He had come to ask for money, but Mr Turner was no fool and had turned him away. Said he wouldn’t fund a habit like his. The nephew had gotten violent and belligerent, had left after threatening to return and do them serious harm. Said he would shut them all up. The landlords and their tenants, all of ‘em.

“What kind of weapon did he have on him, Mr Turner? Could you tell?”

“No, we never saw anything. He went after mine first, scared ‘em proper.”

“Bill will take good care of Mark and Victor,” John promised. “Did they say what Grant had on him?”

“Said it was a knife or something.”

“We’ll probably recover it either on his person or in Mark and Victor’s flat.” Sherlock mused, eyes dark. No one harmed the landlords, not without paying for it dearly later. Greg sighed and rubbed his forehead.

“How are they, John?”

“They’ll be alright, we don’t need to take them in. Sherlock, go check out 221B. I doubt anything upstairs was disturbed, but knowing what I do about Grant Turner, better safe than sorry.”

“Be right back.” Sherlock smiled tightly and disappeared upstairs. Greg shook his head and looked at Mrs Hudson.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs Hudson. I think we might have scared you worse than Grant Turner did.”

“Oh, don’t you dare apologise, Greg! I’m glad it was you they sent! Where’s Sally?”

“She’s outside. I’ll send her in before we leave, though.” Greg smiled, knowing that Mrs Hudson was fond of Sally, who returned the sentiment. “Don’t you worry, Mrs Hudson, we’ll take care of you proper.”

“Of course you will! But how on earth did you talk Sherlock into going to The Met? I thought he said no!”

“I didn’t have to say anything, he decided it was the right thing to do on his own, I just pointed him in the right direction.” Greg looked up at the ceiling, “Things are going to change on Baker Street, Mrs Hudson. For the better.”

“Good!”

“Well, everything’s in place upstairs, but look who I found hiding under our bed.” Sherlock came back in with Valkyrie.

“Oh, Valkyrie!”

“She was a damn good dog, she was, John.” Mr Turner said proudly, “Went right for Grant when he tried to come back in here, she did. Took him out fast. Then a couple blokes from next door took care of the rest. The only damage he got was from her.”

“We’ll have him looked after before we take him in, standard procedure.” Greg smiled, ruffling the German Shepherd’s ears, “Good girl, Valkyrie. Did your job, didn’t you?” Valkyrie whined and licked his hand. He chuckled and tapped her on the muzzle. He remembered when John and Sherlock had acquired the faithful ex-ordinance detection K9 during the course of a case almost two years ago. It had been one of the last cases they had worked in London before the wedding and their sabbatical in France.  When they had moved to France, Mycroft had paid to have Valkyrie flown to Paris so she could live with John and Sherlock. He had missed having John and Sherlock around for help on difficult cases, but the arrangement had worked out in the end for all of them. His consulting pair had gone on to do the work they were so good at in London in Paris and made a decent living for themselves. But they had finally come home to London, back to the life they had started to build together and the future they were looking forward to. 

 

Once they had the landlords looked after, Sherlock stayed with them while John went with Greg, it was out to the street to get the rest of the story. Putting Grant Turner in handcuffs, he handed the idiot over to John to let her do the check-over. He’d seen worse in the aftermath of a K9 take-down, Grant Turner was a lucky bastard. While Sally questioned the witnesses, Greg watched over John.

“Ow! Take it easy, will you?” Turner tried to pull away from John, who wasn’t being very gentle with him.

“Trust me, sir, this could be far more unpleasant for you. I’m being nice.” John looked at her patient, “You owe us answers, Mr Turner. Straight, honest answers. But you don’t get to talk to me.”

“I don’t owe you nothin’!”

“Considering you threatened my landlady, your uncle, and my husband and I? Yes, I think you do. And we’ll get those answers.” She narrowed her eyes, “You can cooperate with us and it’ll be easy going, or you can pretend you didn’t do anything wrong and we’ll play a game of hardball you won’t enjoy.”

“I didn’t threaten you, did I?” Turner snapped. John looked at Greg over her shoulder and rolled her eyes. Grant Turner was an idiot.

“Hey, boss?” Sally called him away for a minute.

“Yeah, Donovan?”

“We found this in 223’s foyer.” She had something in a clear evidence-envelope. Greg beckoned her over and took the packet from her. Inside the envelope was a six-inch hunting-knife.

“Hmm.” Greg studied the knife and looked over at Turner, who went quite pale. “Is this yours, Mr Turner?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you threaten anyone with this knife today?”

“Yes, sir. But I wasn’t actually gonna…”

“Just stop before you dig yourself into a hole, son. I’ve got questions for you need answering.” He gave the evidence back to Sally, who took it back to her car, “And once Doctor Watson’s done with you, I plan to get those answers. We’ll have a bit of a chat at the office.” Turner audibly gulped. He apparently hadn’t done his research on Mrs Hudson’s tenants enough to know more than their names or what they did for their regular jobs. Everyone knew John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, but Grant Turner hadn’t taken into consideration that his assumed “targets” would be able to defend themselves and their landlords and have the means to make him very, very sorry for threatening anyone’s safety.

 

As soon as John had cleared Turner, Greg searched him down for further evidence and discovered a couple grams of cocaine and some Xanax tablets in a bottle in his pockets. Handing Turner over to a third car that had arrived on-scene, Greg stuck around for break-down of the scene. It had been an open-shut case that had been just interesting enough to be a bit of excitement for them. It had gotten personal when Mrs Hudson and Mr Turner turned out to be the victims in question, but everything had been smoothed out, no one was seriously injured, and Grant Turner wouldn’t be causing any more trouble for his uncle or anyone else for quite a long while. Breaking and entering, assault, intent to harm and/or kill, possession of a deadly weapon with same intent, and possession of illicit substances. His prior history didn’t help his case much, either. This would be a fun interview. He’d put Sally on that one, Sherlock could watch but not partake.

As he was taking down the tape-lines, he didn’t miss the dark car coming up Baker Street and just shook his head, waving them through the line. Using a multi-tool, he cut the tape and started winding it into a bundle. When Mycroft emerged and held out one hand, Greg just handed him the multi-tool and let him help out. It didn’t take long to finish shut-down, Sally had already returned to the office to start interviews, but Sherlock was still on-scene with John and Bill. They had taken statements from Mrs Hudson and Mr Turner, but Greg still needed to talk to Mark Selvig and Victor Nguyen. Sherlock’s neighbours were more than happy to come down and talk to Greg at the office, so he arranged to meet them in twenty minutes at the station to take their statements on the incident. Bystanders had already been questioned, so he was able to send everyone else on their way.

It didn’t take very long to disperse the crowds and once his car and Sherlock’s were the only responder vehicles still on the street alongside John’s ambulance, he took a few minutes to make sure the landlords were truly alright after the violent encounter with Mr Turner’s nephew. They were fine now, the response had come quickly once the call went out. As they sat in the Baker Street kitchen with tea, Mr Turner looked around the table and smiled.

“Y’know something, I don’t know if this house has ever been safer?”

“Hm?”

“John’s a paramedic, Sherlock’s a DC, and then there’s the two of you.” Mr Turner just nodded in Greg and Mycroft’s direction, “I always knew we were in good hands, just didn’t know how good those hands were.” Greg chuckled as Sherlock and John blushed.

“It was our pleasure, Mr Turner. And don’t worry about your nephew, he won’t be bothering anyone else by the time my lot’s done with ‘im.” Greg promised, “I’ve seen it too many times on the streets, I won’t let this one slide.”

“Of course not.” Mycroft just raised an eyebrow. Greg was kind of sorry his husband had missed most of the fun and wondered if he could convince him to come along for the interview, just to see how it panned out. John and Sherlock just looked at each other and an entire conversation was had without a word being spoken aloud. That happened quite often, but Greg didn’t really mind.

“Well, I don’t know about you three, but I’ve about done all the damage I care to on Baker Street for now.” He set down his empty cup and got to his feet, “Got a suspect to break down and all that. Sherlock, you’ll watch from the AV room.”

“Fine with me.”

“Mycroft?”

“Absolutely.” His husband just beamed at him. He didn’t even have to say it, Mycroft just knew.

“Well, you all be safe out there, alright?” Mrs Hudson and Mr Turner got up to see them on their way.

“We’ll do our best, Mrs Hudson.” Sherlock promised, kissing their landlady on the cheek as they stood in the foyer, “Be home late tonight.”

“Well, that’s fine. You’ve got your keys, I hope?”

“And I have spares just in case, Mrs Hudson. Don’t worry about us.” Greg promised, hugging the feisty old woman who looked after his in-laws.

“You’re a good one, Greg Lestrade.” She just smiled and patted him on the cheek. Someone had to keep the kids out of trouble, might as well be his job, seeing as he did it anyway.

“’Bye, Mrs Hudson.” John was next, “Sherlock will be home long before I am, I think.”

“Oh, you’re not on another twelve-hour shift, are you, John?”

“Picked up a Swing-8.”

“Well, you just take care of yourself, hear me?”

“Yes, Mrs Hudson.”

“And you, make sure she doesn’t work herself too hard.” This was to Bill, who just gave Mrs Hudson a winning smile and a kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll try, Mrs Hudson. Don’t worry about your girl, I’ll look after her alright.”

“See you do! And for God’s sake, all of you remember to eat something!” She called after them as they left the house and scattered to their respective vehicles.

“We will, Mrs Hudson!” They all called back in unison.

“Well, I guess we’ll be in touch, then.” John tugged on her gloves as they convened by the ambulance. “You know the drill, Greg.”

“Yep. If we need you, we’ll call.”

“I’ll have my radio on me, so just send the word.” John looked up at the sky. With work on the docket for all of them, a call had come through for John and Bill, they parted ways and went to their respective duties. Greg returned to The Met with Sherlock and Mycroft and sent the brothers to the AV room while he joined Sally in breaking down Grant Turner. It didn’t take very long to break him, he pretty much folded and confessed right away. After getting a full confession, they sent Turner to holding and started the paperwork for that case and a couple of others that had been sitting around. Not a bad day’s work, but even Greg knew better than to think he’d get to go home early. It was all part and parcel of the job and Mycroft was used to his unreliable hours. And since John was on a Swing shift, she wouldn’t be home any time before midnight at this rate, so Sherlock didn’t have to worry about her beating him home if something came up. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked for them. And none of them would have been content with a standard nine-to-five corporate desk-job, so the hours kept were normal for them. Sherlock stopped by with a stack of files and a fresh cup of coffee, rolling his eyes when Greg stared suspiciously into the cup before taking a sip. 

“Really, Greg?”

“Hey, how long have I known you?” He just raised an eyebrow. “How many times have you put something in my coffee?” His constable’s silence said it all and he snorted.

“That’s what I thought. Scram, you’ll know if anything comes up for us. Stay out of trouble.”

“I don’t make trouble, you know.”

“Yeah, you like to say that.” He shook his head and waited until Sherlock was out of his office to get back to work. What a world it was when Sherlock Holmes was a Detective Constable, hey?


 

Chapter Text


Following the arrest of Grant Turner, life at Baker Street took on a routine that wasn’t all that different from what it had been before. The only difference was that instead of Bill coming to pick John up when they had Day-8s and Day-12s, Sherlock would drive her to Headquarters and drop her off on his way to The Met and Bill usually dropped her off after their shift was over if Sherlock didn’t come pick her up. They worked private cases between shifts and on their rest days, managing any overlap between private cases and cases that came up during Sherlock’s shifts with The Met.

 

In May, things got a bit more exciting on John’s end of the arrangement. She was working a Day-12 when they got a call to respond to a private-transport request at Kensington Palace.  She shared a startled look with Bill and made the call-back that they were en-route and would be there shortly. As soon as she got the ambulance underway, she took a deep breath.

“They said Kensington Palace?”

“Yep.”

“Uh oh.”

“You know what that means.” She looked at her watch. John, after Christmas, had been added to a small team of medical professionals that attended to the Cambridges, especially to Kate during her pregnancy. She had no idea why, but she took it in stride. They drove with lights-only, John’s discretion, and arrived at their call ten minutes later. She had the bay-doors open as a car pulled up behind and she looked over her shoulder as she retrieved their jump-kits. Bill pulled the gurney out, eyeing the car warily.

“You seeing this?”

“Yeah. I think that’s Sherlock.” She recognised the marked car and shouldered her kit as they watched the car. Sherlock and Greg emerged together and John chuckled. Bill rolled his eyes when John took a minute to greet her husband. Going inside, they met with the family. John had seen her share of labouring mothers and was not afraid to admit that Kate was far and away one of the quietest mothers she’d ever seen and treated. William was calm, nervous but calm, but George was a little upset. John spent a few minutes distracting George once they got to the hospital and Kate had been successfully admitted to the proper wards. They had come in lights-only, with Sherlock’s car leading and a private car behind carrying William and George. They weren’t going to stay for long, they couldn’t afford to, but she knew they could take a few minutes to stay with the family and reassure George that things would be okay in the end.

-^-

After doing their part for the Royal Family, John and Bill returned to their regular duties. But she had made William promise to keep them in the loop, so when she got a text-message some several hours later right as they arrived at another call, John grabbed her phone.

“Who’s that?”

“I think it’s William.” John swiped into the message, viewing a couple of attachments. “Oh. Yep! Aw, cute!”

“Hmm?”

“Healthy little girl, they haven’t announced her name yet!” John put the ambulance in park and hopped out, grabbing her kit from the treatment-bay as she pocketed her phone. “I’ll let you see once we clear out of here.”

“Good with me! Glad they’re all healthy.” Bill just smiled as they headed for the not-so-distant line. This was another assistance-requested call, and she nodded at the young constable manning the tape-line.

“Up there, ma’am. You got here fast.”

“We weren’t that far away. What’s on?”

“No one’s hurt too bad, just a bit of a rough-up.”

“On our end or theirs?” She raised an eyebrow and dug into her kit for gloves, “If anyone of Lestrade’s team got involved.”

“Oh, uh. Yes, ma’am.” The constable blinked. John rolled her eyes and looked at Bill.

“What’re you willing to bet my idiot husband took off after this moron and ran him to ground?”

“How about I just buy the first round and we’ll call it square?”

“You’re no fun.” She snickered. “There’s Donovan.” She saw Sally Donovan, who waved and held the second line for them.

“Hey.”

“Sherlock again?”

“Have I ever told you your husband’s an idiot?”

“Yep. He’s not too badly hurt, is he?”

“Nope. He’s in better shape than the other guy.”

“Good. What was our mister running for?”

“Couple of nasty charges. I’ll let you take a look at his rap-sheet later.”

“Add resisting arrest and assault on a police officer to his charges.” John sighed and looked for Sherlock. She found him sitting in Greg’s car, looking a bit beat-up but nothing terrible.

“You, Mister Holmes, are an idiot. But that’s okay because you are my idiot.”

“John!” He looked up at her, grinning despite his condition.

“How’s your head, love?” She folded her arms and looked down at her husband.

“No concussion, I promise.”

“Good. Sal said the other guy looks worse.”

“Well, the other guy fell through a sky-light and crashed into James Bond’s kitchen. He wasn’t very nice to the bloke, either.”

“Oh, not again! You have got to be kidding me!” John looked up and recognized the house and groaned. “Well, damn. Once I’ve got you squared, I’ll go look after the other two.”

“They’ll be happy to see you.” Sherlock smiled and sat still for her. It had been a little under a year since her first, and regrettably only, visit to James Bond’s house. Once she had Sherlock patched up, John headed into the house. She stood aside for a couple of constables hauling out Sherlock’s suspect and she raised an eyebrow at Bill, who followed them out.

“Boy, Donovan wasn’t kidding, was she?”

“Can’t say he didn’t deserve it. Broke into the wrong house.”

“Yeah, he did.” She shook her head, “How’s it upstairs?”

“They’re alright. A bit shaken, but not seriously hurt.”

“I’ll clear ‘em quick.” She tugged on the strap of her kit and jogged up the steps. Up in the kitchen, she found Q and Bond examining the damage and discussing repair costs.

“Hey.” She greeted them quietly.

“John!” Q lunged past his boyfriend to hug her, “Hi! We asked for your ambulance.”

“So did Lestrade.” She hugged her brother-in-law, “You two alright?”

“We’re fine.” Bond growled, rolling his shoulders.

“I saw the other guy. Nice job, Bond.” John smiled at her replacement. “By the way, congrats on retirement.”

“It’s been interesting.”

“Not quite boring?”

“Oh, god no!” The former double-oh smirked, “Not with the job I do.”

“Yeah, I heard about your training methods. You and Trevelyan are keeping them on their toes?”

“Someone’s got to.”

“And who better than the likes of James Bond to give the recruits a run for their money?” She chuckled, “M must love and hate you.”

“Depends on the day.”

“Sounds about right.” John smiled. Since Q and Bond were unhurt by the break-in, she didn’t have much reason to stay. Leaving the house, and promising a get-together that didn’t include case-work, John rejoined Bill. They had to get the suspect to the hospital, so she gave Sherlock a kiss and warned him to stay out of trouble while she was busy. They took the suspect to Saint Mary’s, and Bill proposed a stake-out at the hospital. That was fine with John, no calls had come en-route. She showed Bill the pictures William had sent along earlier and Bill, of course, cooed over the newborn princess.

“Oh, she’s cute! God, she looks healthy, don’t she?”

“I always appreciate healthy newborns.” She looked over her shoulder at the building behind them, she and Bill were sitting on the steps of the ambulance at the moment. She was curious if they were taking visitors, but she wasn’t brave enough to ask. If they wanted visitors, they would say so. And she wanted the family to have some time together before crowds of well-meaning visitors descended either on Saint Mary’s or on Kensington Palace. They sat on-station for an hour before another call came through, and it was back to work.

-^-

The next day, John was working a Day-8 when her phone chimed as she finished a drop-off at Saint Mary’s. She thought it might be Sherlock, but when she checked, it wasn’t her husband. It was someone else. William, actually, telling her that if she was interested and had some time, they were welcoming visitors. Friends and family were always welcome. 

“What’s that?” Bill had heard the alert come through. John raised an eyebrow and looked over at her partner.

“Um, you feel like taking a short jaunt?”

“Where are we going?”

“Post-natal ward, Aleck Bourne II. You can come along if you want to.”

“Nah. I’ll man the helm, you take your time.” Bill just smiled and waved her off, “Got your radio on?”

“Always do. Thanks, Bill!” She hopped off the ambulance and headed for the street. Getting to the proper ward didn’t take very long, and she stopped off at the reception desk to sign the logs.

“Drop-off or pick-up?”

“Neither.” She glanced up, turning her radio down to low volume. “Visitor.”

“Patient name?”

“Uh, Cambridge. Or Wales.” She honestly didn’t know which name they would have been admitted under, she remembered William telling her but she couldn’t remember exactly. A check of her phone gave her the answer. “Cambridge.”

“Limit’s three visitors at the bedside.”

“I know.” She was quite familiar with the hospital policies, even the ones she didn’t have much to do with like visiting people in the hospital.

“You’re not feeling ill at the moment, are you?”

“No, ma’am. Haven’t been sick outside of a cold in a long time. Don’t come to work those days, y’know.” She smiled at the charge-nurse, who printed up a badge based on the information she’d written down and gave her a hospital bracelet as well.

“What’s the bracelet for?”

“In case you lose the badge. You’d be surprised how easily people lose their visitor’s badges.” The charge-nurse chuckled, “How do you know the family then?”

“Good friends of mine. Knew him in the Army, she was my Chief Bridesmaid.”

“Oh, that’s lovely!” The woman, about her mother-in-law’s age, looked her over as she found a place to hang her badge and put the bracelet around her wrist. “You look familiar. What’s your name?”

“Watson.” She looked up from fastening the bracelet, “Name’s John Watson. I run Ambulance 1026 for Greater London Ambulance Corps.”

“Oh! You’re the one! I thought you looked familiar!” There it was, that moment of recognition. “Oh, I thought I recognized  you!”

“Yep. That’s me, the other half of Holmes and Watson.”

“Oh, you lucky girl!” The charge-nurse just smiled, “Go on, love.” Handing over a card with a number written on it, the charge-nurse pointed her in the right direction. John ducked into a public bathroom to wash her hands first and hunted down the room. It wasn’t hard to find, there was someone from RaSP posted outside checking badges for visitors and medical staff alike. John’s badges were clearly visible, and she was waved through.

“Busy day, Captain?”

“Not busy enough I can’t take a few minutes to visit.” She smiled, “Thanks, Peterson.”

“No problem.” The RaSP constable just smiled and she pushed the door open carefully. It was a private room, of course, and it was awfully quiet. She didn’t think they were asleep, but she switched her radio off completely and put her phone on vibrate so she wouldn’t make more noise than necessary. The curtain separating the bed-space from the rest of the room rustled and a minute later, William stepped out. When he saw John, he just smiled and put a finger to his lips. She nodded and pushed the door close, wincing when it closed with a loud click.

“Sorry!” She whispered, “How’s Kate doing?”

“She’s fine. Where did we catch you?”

“On a stake-out across the street. Made a drop-off a bit ago, stuck around.” She looked around the room, “Has anyone else come to visit?”

“Not besides Harry.” He gave her a hug. “Can you stay a bit?”

“Yeah. I’ll know if anything comes across the radio for us.” She smiled and let him lead the way to the bedside. Kate was resting, but Harry was there, holding his newborn niece.

“Heya, Hal.” John smiled and gave the younger sibling a hug, “Good to see you.”

“Hey, Jen.” Harry gave her a kiss on the cheek, his arms were full. “Thanks for coming by.”

“I was in the area.” She peeked at his tiny burden. “God, she’s tiny.”

“Queen of the household, she’ll be.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” John whistled softly, “She’s adorable.”

“Do you want to hold her?”

“Oh! Sure, I’d love to!” John shed her parka and draped it over a chair before she took the infant princess from Harry. “What’d you name her? Have you decided yet?”

“Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.”

“Oh, William.” John looked at the proud, exhausted father. He just smiled. Named for her grandmother and great-grandmother for middle names. As with all newborns, Charlotte was wrinkly and pink, but she had a promised beauty. After a while, Harry left, John made him promise to be in touch. John relieved William, practically banishing him to go get something to eat, she was quite capable of keeping an eye on things. Putting Charlotte in the bassinet, she settled by the bedside and checked her phone and radio. Nothing. Good. Kate woke up while William was gone, but she didn’t seem terribly surprised to see John, who was quick to hand over Charlotte when she asked.

“Thanks for coming, John.”

“I was already in the area. My partner kind of kicked me out when William said you were taking visitors. I might be able to talk him into stopping by later.”

“I like Bill. He’s an interesting man.”

“He’s damn good at his job is what.” John chuckled and pressed the call-button when Kate asked her to. All she wanted was something to drink. The nurse looked at John expectantly, but she shook her head.

“I’m fine, thanks.” The raised eyebrow said a lot. “I never said you had to believe me.”

“I don’t. I know you, Doctor Watson. Go hours without eating if we let you. Bad for business.”

“Really, I’m fine. I promise.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You don’t have to believe me.”

“I don’t!” Rolling her eyes and muttering about stubborn ambulance-drivers and such, the nurse bustled out again and John waited until the door had closed to laugh.

“I should feel bad about that, but I don’t!” John snickered, “Oh, lord.”

“You are a terrible, terrible human being.”

“Downright despicable!” She giggled, “What’d you want to bet she’ll bring something back for me just because?”

“You know she will, did you see that look she gave you?”

“Yeah, I did! Hard to miss it!” She snorted, getting comfortable.

 

The door opened a short time later, bringing in William with some unexpected company.

“Which one of you is making trouble in here?”

“Sherlock!”

“Hello, dears.” Her husband, in the middle of a shift by the looks of him, just smiled and kissed John before going to say hello to Kate. “Kate, how are you?”

“I’m alright, Sherlock. And it’s your wife making trouble with the nurses.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Traitor,” John muttered. Spotting the little bundle in Kate’s arms, he leaned close for a better look.

“Oh. Is this the little princess, then?”

“Say hello to Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.”

“Oh, that’s a proper name for you, isn’t it?” He looked up at Kate. “May I?”

“Yes, you may.” Kate had no problem letting other people handle her children, specifically John and Sherlock. Most new parents would be leery of letting strangers, even friends and family, handle a newborn, but Kate and William didn’t really seem to mind. And it wasn’t like Sherlock didn’t know how to hold a newborn. He was quite good at it, actually. Once he got Charlotte situated properly, all that was visible of her was a glimpse of her receiving blanket with the rest of her obscured almost completely by her husband’s arms, John watched Sherlock walked around the bed-space, rocking Charlotte and humming along with some lullaby. Sherlock’s whole demeanour softened, the way it always did with the very young children. John sighed and folded her arms across her chest, subconsciously sliding down to cover her stomach. She still hadn’t told Sherlock, she didn’t know how to.

By her best calculations, this was seventeen weeks along and everything seemed to be fine. None of her habits had really changed, there wasn’t need for it yet, but she was careful around more violent patients and didn’t run as much as she’d used to when she was helping with cases. She knew there were suspicions, but no qualifications. She hadn’t said the words.  Her phone buzzed in her pocket, it was Bill. She sighed and knew it was time to take her leave. But not before that nurse forced something into her.

“Oh no, you don’t!” She scolded, back with a tray, “Not on my watch, Watson! You sit!”

“Yes’m.” John obediently sat down, ignoring Sherlock, who sniggered. The nurse gave her a cup of tea and a plate with a sandwich on it.

“You eat that before you even think about going anywhere, missy!”

“Yes’m.” John obediently tucked into the plate.

“How on earth did you get her to eat something?” Sherlock asked, genuinely curious.

“She knows better, that’s how!” The nurse folded her arms and glared at John, “Oh, I’ve known John Watson for years, son, longer than just about anybody in this room, I think!”

“Yeah, that’d be about right, wouldn’t it?” John looked up at the woman and smiled, “I’m glad you haven’t retired yet, Rose Marie.”

“Oh! You know each other!”

“Yep!” John smiled at her husband, “Rose Marie was a nurse over at Bart’s when I was in medical school. She was kind of in charge of the students over there, making sure we didn’t get in over our heads, didn’t accidentally kill any patients. That sort of thing. She looked after me.”

“Yes, I did! And I still do, you silly thing!” Rose Marie Celestin just planted her fists on her hips and gave John a stern look, “Always will! Somebody’s got to, you can’t be bothered to look after yourself!”

“I’m busy!”

“Not too busy to look after yourself, child! Good Christ, you try me! Always have!” The friendly Haitian woman shook her head, “Always will, I wager.”

“Sorry?”

“No, you’re not. Not sorry at all.”

“Oh, she’s got you billed, doesn’t she?” Sherlock snickered, “I like her!”

“Oh, you stop it! Rose Marie Celestin, that smug bastard is my husband, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Oh, aye, I know you, son! Handsome thing, aren’t you? Good for my girl Watson, yeah?”

“I certainly try to be, ma’am.”

“Good. Look after her, will you?”

“Yes’m.”

“Thank you.” Oh, the look Rose Marie gave John. The Cambridges were nice enough not to laugh out loud, but she knew they wanted to.

 -^-

After finishing her sandwich and tea, John checked in with Bill and promised she was on her way back, finally. Taking her leave, John headed for the street. Bill had her meet him in the Central Outpatients clinic across Winsland Street from the Mary Stanford Wing, which she could get to by going through the Clarence Wing to Cambridge, and from there to Mary Stanford, which then led her right out to Winsland Street and across to the Central Outpatients. It was an odd place to meet up, but she didn’t get the feeling this was a pick-up. Especially when she met up with Bill and Lydia in the ward. Oh, that’s right, Lydia MacLeod worked for Saint Mary’s Hospital, didn’t she?

“John, sweetheart!”

“Hi, Lydia.” John hugged the older woman, “What’s on?”

“You are, dear.”

“Me?”

“Sweetheart, how long have I known you?” Bill gave her a long look, “How long have we been partners, for Christ’s sake? I’m not a stupid man, y’know?”

“Oh.” They knew, then? How long had they known? “You haven’t...”

“Not a word, love.”

“Okay. Shit.”

“Come on, let’s see if your little one is up for a game of hide-and-seek.” Lydia took her by the hand and led the way. All John could do was follow them. Bill was right behind.

“Uh, h-how long have you known about this?”

“About as long as it’s been around. What are we up to now?”

“Eighteen weeks.” That was Bill.

“So...four months?”

“More or less? I mean, I...skipped right after Christmas.” John sighed, “Shit.”

“Sounds right.” Lydia nodded sagely, squeezing her hand. “Don’t you worry your head until you’ve got to, alright? I know you’ve stepped back on what you do for work.”

“Yeah, I just didn’t feel like...well...”

“That’s alright. You’re still the best in the city.”

“Doubt that.” She made a face, “God, I really don’t want to worry about taking maternity leave.”

“Doubt you’d have to until I said so, sweetheart.” Lydia scolded.

“That’s why you took over for this, isn’t it?”

“Yep. And I knew we’d raise eyebrows if I told you to stay put over there, so here we are!”

“Thanks, Lydia.” John sighed as Lydia let her into a little exam-room. Bill waited outside for her, and she wasted no time at all trading her uniform for a gown and drape. John felt a bit like Sherlock should be around for this, but he didn’t know. Or if he did know, he hadn’t said anything. But he would have said something, wouldn’t he? About the way she’d cut back at work to eight-hour shifts? Was that why...oh, was that why he’d stopped smoking all of a sudden? And why, whenever they joined The Met for Pub Night, he never let her drink? He was careful to hide the fact that she wasn’t drinking alcohol, and no one really bothered to ask what she was drinking, but she had to think back to the last time she’d actually been properly pissed. Probably New Year’s, actually. Or...the Christmas Party on the Nicodemus, that was really the last time she remembered getting properly drunk. A glass of champagne for New Year’s Eve as they sat high above London at the top of Big Ben watching the fireworks on the Thames, upholding tradition, and a glorious kiss at midnight. Hmm. As she sat swinging her feet on the exam-bed, waiting for Lydia’s nurse to show, John suspected that she hadn’t kept a single thing from her clever husband, he just hadn’t made it blatantly obvious to anyone else that he knew. This was a terribly private thing, wasn’t it? And she knew he could be prohibitively jealous. He would want to keep this a secret for a while.

A soft tap on the door was Lydia’s nurse, Blake, and...Sherlock. He knew, alright, she recognized the look on his face. Lydia looked questioningly at John, who just shrugged. It was Sherlock’s right to be in here, and she kind of really wanted him here anyway. Fingers crossed the baby was healthy and everything was as it should be. Everything was where it was supposed to be, ten fingers, ten toes, everything measured appropriately, but John’s age was cause for concern for problems like Down’s Syndrome and such. There was no clear evidence of it, but blood-testing could help with that. They did a Nuchal Translucency scan, which looked normal, and everything else was fine. It wouldn’t change their minds if there was something wrong, unless it posed a threat to the baby or to John. But they would leave that to blood-testing, the NT measurements were standard and there didn’t seem to be any sign there had been a problem beforehand. They were also able to date the pregnancy. Eighteen weeks and two days, or right in the four-month range. Smack in the middle of the second trimester.

“I don’t suppose you two want to know what you’re having?” Lydia asked, grinning.

“Does it really matter?”

“If paint-colour matters in the nursery.”

“It’d be nice to know what to plan for.” John shrugged.

“Well, as far as I can tell at this stage, you two have a handsome little boy on the way. If we’re lucky, our little mister isn’t hiding a sibling.”

“Wouldn’t we know?”

“By now? Most likely. But I’ve seen last-minute twins, where the one was practically sitting on the other in such a way we never saw it until right last minute.”

“Oh, god.” John covered her face, “I can’t imagine having twins!”

“Everything else looks fine, I’ll see you in two weeks for follow-up. Just to make sure we haven’t missed anything.”

“Okay.” John did some math in her head. She still kept her own hours, more or less, so that actually worked out fine on her end. She could just take that day off.

“I’ll take a rest-day that day. I want to come.” Sherlock was studying the image on the screen. “I wonder if he’ll look like you, or like me more.”

“You, probably. Boys almost always look like their fathers. Except you, you turned out looking a lot more like your mum.” John smiled at her husband, “I kind of hope they look like you.”

“A little boy with your looks would be adorable.”                             

“He’d probably end up being a redhead, knowing our luck. God help us all!” John couldn’t help it, there was a very good chance any child of theirs would have some manner of red hair. Sherlock stepped out to let them clean up and Blake printed off a couple of pictures for them, little keepsakes of a beautiful, unexpected miracle. John didn’t say anything to anyone else, and Sherlock carefully tucked an ultrasound photo into his innermost pocket for safekeeping. He wouldn’t tell Greg until she told him could. Not yet, she wanted to make peace with it herself first, before anyone else found out.

-^-

Almost exactly a week later, John took another call, and this time picked up Molly Hooper. They made it to the hospital just in the nick of time, and John made them promise to keep her informed. She also put out a call over the radio for Greg. Who placed a frantic phone-call to Mycroft and turned up thirty minutes later at University College with his husband and Sherlock in tow.

“So, I guess those two are going to be on paternity leave after this?” John thumbed over her shoulder at the pair of nervous fathers-to-be as she stood outside the waiting-room with Sherlock.

“Yep. But they’re ready for this, they’ve been waiting so long, planning everything out, trying so hard to find someone willing.”

“And they found Molly Hooper. Damn.” She sighed. One of the medical team appeared and summoned Greg and Mycroft. Apparently, Molly wanted them with her. So, that was the last they saw of those two, gone in a flash. John chuckled and hugged Sherlock. She didn’t miss how his hand snuck down a bit and he made a frustrated sound when he realized her uniform kind of defeated his efforts.

“You want to touch?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Give me a minute.” She rolled her eyes and unzipped her coat. She had worn a jumpsuit as part of her uniform for so long no one really noticed, but if you bothered to pay closer attention when her coat was off, it was clear she was gaining weight, that her body was changing. Without missing a beat, Sherlock put both hands on her mid-section, right where her body started to curve. Any movements were faint, but they’d become stronger in no time. She did feel a stir, and apparently, so did he. His eyes got wide and he looked at her.

“What was that?”

“A hiccup, I think. It wasn’t strong enough to be a kick, those are usually a little more obvious.”

“How long will you work?”

“As long as I can. I might stop running cases, but there’s really nothing that says I have to stop working as an ambulance driver.”

“Just be careful? Please?”

“I always am.” She smiled and leaned up to kiss him. “It’s a family we’re building, Sherlock.”

“A proper family, too! Wait until we tell Mummy, she’ll be so excited!”

“I know.” Her radio squealed and she sighed. Duty called. Sherlock saw her out and promised to be in touch. He was sticking around for Greg and Mycroft. John hopped into the ambulance, buckled up, and got them going to their next call.

-^-

Three hours later, she pulled up back at University College and helped Bill offload their patient. Transfer to hospital staff went quickly and she took a minute to catch her breath and check her phone. Sherlock had been blowing up her phone for a while. She’d been busy and unable to check her phone for more than seeing who was trying to get hold of her, but now she had time. Sitting on the step, very much aware of the way her body was changing, she swiped through messages.

“Oh my god.” She gasped, “Oh! Bill!”

“What?”

“I’m an aunt! Oh, Jesus! Look!” she handed him her phone, “Twins!”

“Oh, poor Molly.” Bill looked at the pictures, “God, they’re cute, aren’t they? Who do you think they’ll look more like?”

“Not a clue! From what I understand, those two were separately fertilized. So one might look like Mycroft, and the other one might look like Greg! But they’re twins!”

“Oh, god, they’re going to be cute, aren’t they?” Bill smiled, “God bless Molly Hooper.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” She sighed and rubbed her own stomach. Right then, her little one kicked. Not hard, but it wasn’t a hiccup.

“Oi.” She frowned, “None of that in there! I’ve got enough on my docket without you making things difficult! Knock it off!” Bill chuckled and gave her phone back.

“Yours making a fuss?”

“A  bit! Lord.”

“You’ll show soon.”

“Yeah, but that’s fine. I’ll work until I can’t.” John looked at the pictures for herself. The twins were adorable, but she really couldn’t tell who they looked more like right now. Apparently, it was a fraternal girl-boy pair with the girl born first, delivered by Cesarean Section. The pictures of Greg and Mycroft holding their children were sweet. There was one of Sherlock holding one of the twins, and the look on her husband’s face was almost heartbreaking. In four months and sixteen days, that would be him with their baby. John smiled and sent a reply.

 

Don’t worry, love, your turn is coming. – JWH

 

I know. I can’t wait. How are you feeling, love? – SWH

 

I’m fine. A little tired, but nothing terrible. – JWH

Today seems to be an okay day. – JWH

 

She smiled at his concern, but it made sense. He had every right to be worried.

John took some time to swipe through pictures of the twins, fraternal twins conceived through heteropaternal superfecundation during the IVF procedures. They were adorable. It was hard to tell just at the moment, but she suspected the twins would be a fair mix of Molly and each of the fathers. The twins would be in hospital with Molly for at least three days, so she had time to visit. Tomorrow would be soon enough.


Chapter Text


At the 20-week “anomaly scan”, John found out once and for all that the NT scan had all come back normal for a low-risk/normal pregnancy,  despite her age. HCG levels were kind of high, but not concerning. Even Lydia said some mums had higher levels than others. And, thank goodness, they were only having one. A boy. John was curious to know what he would look like, which one of them he would look more like. Temperament was anyone’s guess, John and Sherlock both had a tendency to be a bit short-tempered.

“Have you thought of names?” Lydia asked, beaming as she ran the scan.

“No, not really.” John narrowed her eyes. Sherlock was shaking his head. It wasn’t that they hadn’t thought of names, it was a matter of what seemed appropriate.

“Oh, and how are Mycroft and Greg’s kids doing?”

“Blessedly healthy, feisty, and hungry at all hours. They sleep if they’re not eating.” Sherlock grinned, “Molly’s been an angel, helping out.”

“Well, she’s got some claim to the twins, doesn’t she?”

“Yep.” John wrinkled her nose, “But, boy, are they cute!”

“Of course they are! I bet your parents are absolutely thrilled to be having grandchildren.” Lydia chuckled. “And never mind having so many so close together. What did they end up naming the twins?”

“Er. The girl was named Aurora Elaine Nastaliya, and her brother was named Charles Alastair Harrison.”

“Those are some names to grow into!”

“Greg’s a secret Disney fan, Sleeping Beauty’s his favourite cartoon.” John couldn’t help a giggle.

“Oi.” Lydia scolded, “Don’t move.”

“Sorry.”

“No, you’re not. Brat.” Lydia rolled her eyes and kept working.

Five minutes later, they were done and she gave them a stack of new photographs.

“I’ll see you at thirty-two weeks, then.”

“That soon?” Sherlock asked, head tilted a bit to one side.

“The placenta’s sitting a bit low, we may have a bit of a problem if it doesn’t move by thirty-nine weeks.” Lydia said matter-of-factly. John and Sherlock just looked at each other. Well, that would be a wait-and-see. They had the answers they wanted and needed for this round, so they thanked Lydia and made arrangements to come back in August for the 32-week check-up.

 

-^-

John felt tired more often and more easily as her pregnancy progressed, but working her job kept her occupied and in shape. She worked eight-hour shifts, alternating between Day-8, Swing-8, and Night-8 shifts, sleeping between her work-hours and helping Sherlock on paperwork for his cases. John ate when she was hungry, slept when she could, and tracked her pregnancy’s progress.

John asked for advice on what kind of things to put on the baby registry, what they were going to need and the likes. For that, she actually talked to her brothers-in-law. They were among the people she knew who had most recently had children. She also reached out to William and Kate, which was a gamble but a risk she was willing to take. She didn’t explicitly invite them to the shower, but she did let them know about the registry under the pretence of asking for advice. And since she knew what she was having, one request was for unisex clothes from newborn to one-year. John offered that age-range because there was no telling how fast the baby would grow once she delivered and some babies grew faster than others.

Her in-laws found out very quickly, she and Sherlock went down to Sussex the week after the 20-week scan to inform them that they were going to be grandparents again in September. They also made sure to inform their international family, grandparents in Scotland and their family in France. She didn’t run after she reached six months, and no one judged her. Her Met co-workers knew by then, and Sally Donovan actually threw her a baby shower. When John got wind of it, Sally asked her what days she wasn’t working, her only request was very simple: No. Games. If any of the lads asked, they were welcome to come. Her in-laws offered to host the party, on the principle that Baker Street was a bit cramped. There was far more room for the potential number of people at their home. John hedged at that, she wasn’t entirely sure their potential guests would be willing to drive all the way to Heathfield Hall for a baby shower, but Amelia and Siger told her not to concern herself, they had a home in London that they were happy to open up for John and Sherlock’s friends and loved ones on behalf of a party.

They ended up having a gender-reveal party/baby shower for their friends and family at the Holmes residence in Saint John’s Wood. When it came time for the reveal, Greg handed John a small package wrapped in white paper with pink and blue dots on it. He didn’t know, and they had sworn Lydia to silence. She wasn’t sure even Mrs Hudson knew they were having a boy. Despite that, they had entrusted him with the packaging for the reveal. It was no secret around The Met that John was pregnant, and she’d already had one shower thrown for her by a couple of the female officers who couldn’t make it to the party at her in-laws’ but still wanted to celebrate. When Greg handed her the package, he leaned in.

“Grant was in charge of this one. She took over from me and made me promise.”

“Really?” John raised an eyebrow and looked for the SCO19 sergeant, who had come to the impromptu party and this one. “Pip, what’d you do?”

“You’ll see!” Persephone Grant, called Pip by friends and co-workers, just beamed at her. “Careful opening the box!”

“You booby-trapped it, didn’t you?”

“I did no such thing!”

“I don’t believe you.” John rolled her eyes and carefully removed the wrapping paper. Sherlock snickered.

“She’s a recognized prankster, John. You know this.”

“Yeah, I do. That’s why I’m so worried.” She huffed and studied the box. It wasn’t about medium-size, plain cardboard, and when she gave a quick shake, something inside rattled a bit. John narrowed her eyes and looked at Pip.

“You know, don’t you?”

“Yep! Had to ask Doctor MacLeod, but she was happy to help!”

“Lydia!”

“Oh, you can stop.” Lydia scolded, too deeply amused to mean anything. Not that John was terribly upset either.

“Just open the damn box, Watson, nothing’s going to jump out and bite you.”

“For some reason, Grant, I. Don’t. Believe. You.” She muttered, setting the box down. The box was sealed with a few pieces of packing tape, so they used a multi-tool knife to get it open. John pried up one of the lid-flaps and peeked underneath. She hadn’t worked EOD in the Army, but she knew a thing or two about booby-trapped boxes. Sherlock passed her a small pen-torch and she looked for evidence.

“Ah. Clever Grant.” She chuckled under her breath.

“What’d she do with it?”

“Looks like a remote fuse, pull-ring fuse igniter attached to a short ten-second fuse, which I assume she’s tied into a smoke-bomb.”

“Sounds about right for Pip.” Sherlock smirked and straightened. “Bet you it’s coloured smoke.”

“Oh, definitely. Blue, if Lydia told on us.”

“Let’s see, shall we?”

“Let’s!” John said, smiling at her husband as she reached for one lid-flap. He reached for the other and together, on John’s count of three, they pulled the lid open with enough force to trigger the fuse. There was a ten-second pause following a soft pop, then another pop, this one slightly louder, and smoke billowed out of the box. Blue smoke. John burst out laughing. The rest of their guests, those who hadn’t known beforehand, cheered and exclaimed.

“It’s a boy!” Someone shouted. Someone else started to cry, and was comforted. It was Amelia. John went to hug her in-laws. 

“John! How are you feeling!” Siger lifted her off her feet a bit, harder now that she was six months pregnant. “How’s the baby?”

“You can ask Doctor MacLeod, but he’s about as healthy as we could hope for.”

“You look fabulous, my dear! We are so happy for you.” Amelia kissed her on each cheek. “Have you thought of names?”

“We’ve started a list. I like the name William, so I think we’ll work that in somehow.”

“William…Hmm. I have an uncle Robert. Called him Uncle Hobbes all my life.”

“Uncle Rudy’s father?”

“Yep.”

“Hmm. That’s an idea.” She liked the name Robert, so she would put it on the list. She didn’t want the first name to be William, she knew that much. John also loved her father’s name, Valéry had such a nice ring to it. It was a derivative of Valerian, which had Latin roots. Things to consider. She still had three months to come up with something. Three months to get things in order, make any arrangements she needed to for maternity leave.

She would work until she couldn’t and take a month off following the birth. Worst case she took nine weeks off, best case she only took four. But she didn’t plan to use up all of her maternity leave all at once. That was fifty-two weeks, a whole year. John wasn’t stupid enough to think she could handle not working for that long. At the very least, she had to take two weeks off for regular maternity leave. She had been away from her job for a year and eight months during her sabbatical, she was not interested in doing that again. Granted, John had continued working as an ambulance driver, after the proper certifications and training had been accounted for, but…it was the principle. She liked her job, and she had the feeling it would be a good…well, a good break from raising a newborn. Not an escape, but something else to do with her time. And Sherlock had rights to at least two weeks of paternity leave, and he could pull from his Annual Leave allotment if he wanted to use that for extra time.

-^-

Valkyrie knew things were changing, and John realized that her dog had actually known well before the rest of them had, the way she’d been acting around John had been changing since Christmas. She had this bizarre habit of coming up to John when she was sitting down and just kind of putting her nose against John’s stomach. She also stayed very, very close to John when she was up and about, and could almost always be found sitting either on the landing or right by the door of 221B when John got home from work. Sometimes she was right inside the street-door, out of the way so the door wouldn’t hit her and no one would really trip over her, but it was obvious she was waiting for John to come home. On the nights John was home, Valkyrie would sit on the couch with them and lay her head against John’s stomach, which led to her getting kicked on more than one occasion. She didn’t mind at all, and just kind of nuzzled at the spot where the baby had kicked.

“Well, at least we know she’s good with children.” Sherlock mused when John brought up Valkyrie’s behaviour.

“She’s very good with children,” John said, rubbing the crest of the Shepherd’s head as they lay on the couch. She had taken Valkyrie on several walks and on more than one occasion had encountered William’s family on outings. George absolutely adored Valkyrie, which was a fondness returned. Whenever they visited Kensington Palace, she tried to take Valkyrie along and it wasn’t unusual to find the German Shepherd guarding the young Royals, she had kind of been doing it since George had been quite young. Somewhere, John wasn’t exactly sure what had happened to it, there was a picture of Valkyrie picking George up by the straps of his overalls as he was learning how to crawl and had decided that standing up was a very good idea, using a tall Oriental vase to pull himself up. Valkyrie had swiftly intervened and picked him up and carried him to another location, setting him down and watching him like a hawk in case he tried that stunt again. No harm had been done, and George had thought it great fun to be carried. Other pictures showed Valkyrie sitting with George either propped against her side or between her paws, usually one or both of them were sound asleep.

“You’ll have your own baby to look after soon enough, Valkie. Don’t worry.” John promised, petting Valkyrie on the muzzle. Valkyrie looked right at John’s growing belly and tilted her head as if pondering those words. Sherlock just chuckled and went back to his paperwork. Life, just momentarily, was very good at Baker Street.


 

Chapter Text


At the 32-week visit, Lydia declared that the placenta had moved away from the cervix, so it wasn’t covering anything. There was one interesting thing she noticed, and since Sherlock wasn’t with John this time, he didn’t see it. John briefly saw…something, and she swore on her grandmother’s longevity she heard two heartbeats.

“Was that an echo?” She looked at Lydia. On the scan, it was so faint it was almost missed.

“Probably. Everything looks alright. Your HCG is still a little higher than I’d like, but you don’t have any other symptoms and you absolutely do not have gestational diabetes. Your little one is measuring kind of small, but nothing too worrying. I’ve seen smaller.”

“What’s he up to now?”

“Just about three kilos.”

“Hmph.” John made a face. A second sweep with the transducer revealed another echo, and Lydia offered a transvaginal ultrasound, just to double-check. John wasn’t due to work that day until 3pm, she was working a Swing-8, so she had some time. It was uncomfortable, of course, but there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.

“John, you’ve got a ghost.” Lydia tried to target a flicker of motion, but it seemed the baby was just being especially squirmy and belligerent this morning.

“Maybe, but dear god is he just like his father. No manners at all.” She shook her head and tapped on her stomach, “You quiet down in there, you hear me? No more of this kickboxing business at 3am.” Especially bad business when she was working a Night-8 shift and didn’t get home until 7am. Lydia chuckled.

“Have you thought of a name for our belligerent mister?”

“Joshua William, we haven’t settled on a third name yet. And we might switch it up later.”

“Well, I don’t know what business is up with you, John Watson, but your body is a proper anomaly, isn’t it?” Lydia smiled.

“I’ve either got a ghost or consistent echo. Something’s definitely going on in there, isn’t it?” John chuckled. After finishing up the scans, Lydia let her get dressed again and then sat with her and they talked. Even if John stopped by outside of their appointments, Lydia always made time to talk to her about things. John appreciated having someone to talk to about not just the pregnancy but about other things going on in her life. It had kind of always been that way, for as long she had known the MacLeods.

“How are your sleep-cycles?” Lydia asked as they sat in her office ten minutes later with tea and biscuits.

“Sleep when I can, not that it’s easy when my ribs and organs are being used for punching bags at all hours.” She winced as one of the said flailings landed a blow on her kidney. “But for some reason, I keep having a dream about a little girl. There’s always a little girl with him.”

“Really?”

“She looks like me, I thought it was me when I was little.”

“That’s interesting. It’s not unusual for expectant mothers to have bizarre dreams. Have you heard names?”

“I keep hearing Rioban, Rowena, Jennifer.”

Girls names?”

“Yeah.  I keep hearing Fairfax, too.”

“Think you could name your feisty little one Joshua William Fairfax?”

“That has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?”John smiled and sipped at the tea Lydia had given her.

“Do you and Sherlock plan on having any more children after this one?”

“We’d like to, but it’s not really a priority. One is going to be enough of a hassle as it is.”

“Raising children certainly can be a bit of a hassle, can’t it?” Lydia chuckled, not judging John for using that particular word to describe things. “But you’re very good with children regardless, I imagine that will extend to your own.”

“I hope so. I’m so used to being able to hand them off to the parents when we’re done with them.”

“You’ll be a fine mother, John, don’t you worry. You’ve always had that special touch.”

“I just…” John paused, thinking of something. “I don’t…”

“What is it, love?”

“I don’t want to turn into my mother. She wasn’t there for me the way I needed her to be, it’s one thing I’ve always been so afraid, why I didn’t really want my own children.”

“Your mother had no business being a mother, that’s been well-established, but you turned out alright. You’ll be fine. If you need help, reach out for it. Ask for it. It’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to ask for help. Please, John, if you need help, please ask for it.”

“Okay.” John sniffled. “I’ll try.”

“How’s work going? Things alright on that front?”

“Bill’s been so good about my hours, and no one else at the company really seems to mind that I’m not able to do as many things as well as I did before. I mean, I kind of just up and left on them, and they kept my job for me until I could come back.”

“Bill made sure there was a place for you if you needed one, love. You’re the one partner he’s taken who stayed with him past training, who put up with his methods and odd hours.”

“I’ve seen and worked with far worse.” John shook her head, “Honestly, though, there were a few former commanders of mine Bill would’ve put to crying shame a few times.”

“He’s rather good at that, isn’t he?” Lydia smirked. “He was in the military, did you know that?”

“Really?” John raised an eyebrow, “Oh, well that explains a lot about him! Which branch?”

“Army. Just like you.”

“Damn. You think you know a bloke.” She huffed, it turned into a laugh, “Oh, lord. That explains a whole hell of a lot about him!”

“Doesn’t it?”

“Jesus, I thought…” she shook her head, “It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?”

“What’s ridiculous, dear?”

“When was Bill in the Army?”

“We met while he was in the Army, through a “Dear Soldier” programme.”

“Oh my god.”

“He was in until 1995, but he re-enlisted in 2001, that September.”

“After what happened in Manhattan?” John frowned, “I was in Kuwait at the time. I remember hearing about it, seeing the footage, and feeling sick to my stomach.”

“That was his first station, actually, after reenlistment. Moved around a bit after that deployment, but never minded it. Loved the work.”

“With his background, he would have been AMS. But he wouldn’t have gone to medical school before joining the Army. How old was he when he enlisted?”

“Oh, he didn’t enlist, dear.” Lydia smiled, “He got letters of recommendation and went to Sandhurst when he was eighteen.”

“Dear God.”

“Smart man, my husband.”

“Street-smart and people-smart.” John shook her head. “I wonder if I ever had a thing to do with him in the Army. We must have been in the same place at the same time at least once or twice. When did he leave for good?”

“When did you start working with him?”

“Um, 25 October 2013, I think.”

“He got home in September.”

“September? Jesus, I was home five months by that point. I left in March!”

“He remembered you. Came home after your first full shift together all excited, I couldn’t get him to slow down enough to put the words together properly. He thought it was you that day, but he couldn’t be completely sure. It wasn’t that you looked any different, but you didn’t act the same. You were restless, jaded. But he knew you, he knew how to handle you.”

“He asked for me, didn’t he?”

“He always rosters the new hires and interviews, and your name came up very quickly.”

“He sat in on my interview,  he was one of the employees in charge of interviews and such.”

“Part of his job.” Lydia smiled, “He gets first pick of the recruits and usually runs them into the ground within an inch of their sanity the first few weeks, most disappear, some stick around. You…”

“I wasn’t fazed at all by his method. He likes to pick on me sometimes about taking orders the way I do.”

“And you always say the same thing to him, don’t you?”

“He’s damn lucky I’m so good at taking orders and so used to taking them in the first place. Otherwise, I doubt he’d get away with half the shit he pulls on me.” She smirked, “I kind of missed having him around, y’know?”

“I know. We’re very glad you came home, and we cannot wait to meet your little one.” Lydia’s eyes were bright behind the rim of her teacup.

-^-

John ended up staying with Lydia until 3pm, which was fine because Lydia had a habit of blocking out her schedule whenever John was scheduled to see her, either clearing her entire schedule after or blocking a few hours depending on what time of day it was. Afternoon appointments were usually followed by a complete blackout, while earlier appointments got a few hours. A message came through for her at 2.45pm from Bill, asking where to pick her up. She told him to come get her at Saint Mary’s, she would meet him in the ambulance bays by the A&E. She got back a speedy “Roger that. See you in a few, love.” reply from her partner and she shook her head. Collecting her gear, she decided to make the walk from the Cambridge Wing to the A&E to meet Bill. Lydia walked her over, she always did, especially as John’s pregnancy progressed. As they crossed the sky-bridge, John had to stop.

“A kick?”

“I think so.” She frowned, “But it didn’t feel…right. Like it didn’t feel like it was coming from the proper place. During the scan, he was head to my left, feet to my right. It’s not saying he couldn’t have turned himself around since then, of course, but…that felt like a bottom-up kick, a glancing blow instead of head on like most of them have been.”

“Are you sure it wasn’t his hand?”

“Didn’t feel like it.” John waited for any further movement, but short of the familiar sensation of hiccups, she didn’t get anything else. Lydia put an arm around her shoulders and they finished their sojourn. When they got to the ambulance-bays, they were early by a few minutes, but Lydia waited with her. As they waited, Lydia asked her a very odd question, but it was a sensible one.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you think it might be twins?”

“It’s never twins.” She rolled her eyes as she mimicked her husband, “But…maybe. I mean, would that change anything?”

“No, I shouldn’t imagine it would.”

“Is that why you gave us two of everything?”

“Well, to be fair, it’s always wiser to have too much than too little. If there are two in there, the twin is very good at playing hide-and-seek.”

“Yeah, tell me about it.”

“I’m almost a hundred percent certain you’re only having one baby, but there’s that tiny five percent that wonders.”

“One’s all I can handle.”She huffed, wincing as the baby moved again. Why was it always when she was sitting still? Not so much when she was driving the ambulance, but…if she wasn’t doing anything? Lots and lots of movement. Now, to be fair, there was plenty of moving around while she was driving. She suspected the baby enjoyed the vibrations a bit, she just felt sorry for him if the sounds of the sirens were audible in there. They were quite loud and obnoxious.

Five minutes later, the ambulance pulled up and Bill hopped out to switch places for the shift. He came over to greet them, he usually did that when he picked her up at St. Mary’s, kissing his wife before he turned to John.

“Hi, sweetie.”

“Hi, Bill.”

“How’s it?”

“Going. We’ll see if it’s well or otherwise. Stable for now.”

“Good. We’ve got a stake-out ahead, we’ll wait out here until we get a call. Or head up to Baker Street.”

“Fine with me.” She shrugged, handing him her jump-kit as she headed for the ambulance.

“Keep an eye on yourself these next few weeks, love, if you notice any major changes or feel at all unwell, call me,” Lydia said as she helped John up into the cab.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Especially look out for false labour and early contractions.”

“They call those…um, Braxton-Hicks contractions, don’t they?”

“Yes, they do. And most women can’t honestly tell the difference between Braxton-Hicks and the real thing, but some can.”

“Well, trust me, if anything comes up, you’ll probably be the very first person behind my husband to know about it.” She winced at another throb. Hand, this time, by the feel of it. Lydia didn’t ask this time, she just knew what it was. She put her hand against John’s stomach and waited for a repeat performance. They got one and she just smiled.

“Alright, you mad thing, you behave.” Lydia scolded, giving John’s stomach a poke for emphasis, “Take it easy on the flailing, it hurts your mum.”

“Thanks, Lydia. Thanks for everything.”

“You have my number, love, call if you need anything or have any questions.”

“Absolutely. See you later.”

“Be safe.”

“You too.” She leaned over to hug Lydia and turned, swinging her feet around so she was properly seated and buckled her seatbelt as Lydia closed the door of the cab. She heard and felt the thud as Bill stashed their kits in the treatment-bay and came back around. He gave Lydia another kiss and hopped in. John put the ambulance in gear and carefully reversed out of their slot.

“So, where are we going for our stake-out?”

“I was thinking Baker Street or Caxton.” She checked traffic before merging. John decided to head for a stake-out on Baker Street. Sherlock was home today, it was one of his rest-days, so if they camped out on Baker Street, it was very likely he would come for them. He did that whenever they were in the same vicinity. They did a drive-by before parking down by Tolmer Square, and John took a nap on the gurney while they waited for a call to come through.

-^-

Spatial awareness and situational awareness had her alert to someone opening the bay-doors, which she had closed a bit for privacy. She had no idea of the time, no idea how long she'd slept. No threat, her instinct said. The hand on her hair was familiar, welcome, and it moved down from her scalp to her neck and down further to her shoulder. A careful initial assault, he had learned the hard way that John had a bad habit of lashing out in her sleep if she thought she might be in danger. But now, almost two years into her relationship with Sherlock, it wasn’t as much of a problem as it had been before. When his initial advance wasn’t met with rejection or violence, he followed up with a kiss to her temple as he reached around her body to take one hand in his. The feel of leather against her skin told her everything she needed to know. He was stopping by to see her on his way to a call.

“Case?” She whispered, turning her head.

“Sorry, love. Saw you on the drive-by.” He kissed her on the cheek, “How are you feeling?”

“I’m…good. Today’s a good day.” She smiled and turned her head for a proper kiss. “Be safe, be smart, be in touch.”

“Absolutely. Be safe, be smart, be in touch. I’ll keep you informed of things.” He promised after he pulled away from the kiss. Taking a minute, he stroked her stomach, even at this stage nearly concealed by her clothes. “How’s Joshua today?”

“Nice and big. Just under three kilos.”

“That’s still kind of…small, isn’t it?”

“Nothing’s wrong with him, Lydia swears it’s all in order in there, he’s just…”

“A little on the small side. But weren’t you a low birth-weight baby?”

“Yeah, but…I had a good reason to. I wasn’t the only child born to my parents, I had a twin who apparently didn’t survive childbirth.”

“Oh my god. John, that’s terrible!”

“So…yeah, I was a little on the small side of things.”

“You have no idea if your sibling survived?”

“Valéry never said anything, so either he doesn’t know or Mum never bothered to tell him there were two. He wasn’t…I don’t think he was at the hospital when I was born.”

“Jesus, you were an April Fool’s baby! Good and proper, you were born smack at the stroke of midnight! John Watson, you miraculous person.” Sherlock helped her sit up for a proper hug and another kiss. She noticed he didn’t ask if she thought they might be having twins, and she kind of appreciated that. Despite the lateness,  there really was no way of knowing even now.

“Lucky bastard.” John couldn’t help herself. A radio squealing got their attention and she chuckled as he buried a groan in her shoulder.

“Hey! Holmes, let’s go already!”

“Oh, did Greg come?”

“Yep.”

“Well, of course.” She held out her hands, “Come on, help me up.”

“Yes’m.” He gave her a hand up and lifted her out of the ambulance onto the pavement.

“John! Hi, love!” Greg was there to give her a tight, careful hug, “How are you?”

“I’m doing alright, Greg. Keep an eye on my idiot husband, will you?”

“Part of my job, ain’t it?” Her brother-in-law just grinned, he looked a little more worn-out than usual. John smiled and touched his cheek.

“Are the twins keeping you two awake?”

“I think Aurora’s sick, she’s been awfully fussy lately.”

“Have  you been to a doctor?” It was a reasonable question. Greg nodded.

“Yeah, Patricia Stamford’s our paediatrician.”

“I’m a little rusty with my paediatric specs, I’d just give her a call when you have a minute and give her a list of Aurora’s symptoms. Has Charlie shown any symptoms of his own?”

“Not that we’ve noticed.”

“Good. Keep it that way. Is Mycroft...”

“Yeah, his turn for SPL.”

“I’m so glad that worked out for you guys. How’s Molly?”

“She’s been a champion. Absolute angel for us.”

“Is she, uh, is she breastfeeding the twins?”

“Nursing, yep, and, um, she’s...I think she’s pumping, too. Building a stash for later.”

“Good for her.”

“What about you, then?”

“Oh, don’t worry. I went up a cup-size a few months ago. Sherlock was, of course, thrilled.”

“Not that you were small, to begin with!” Greg chuckled and kissed her on the temple, “Well, you take care of yourself, John Watson. We’ll be in touch.”

“Always. Good luck, boys!” She smiled and waved as they headed for Greg’s car. Once the silver BMW was out of sight, she shook her head, closed up the bay, and went around to the cab. A call had come in for them, so it was time to get on the road. Thankfully, it was an easy call and didn’t take long or require any serious exertion on John’s part.

It was 11.15 when Bill pulled up at Baker Street again, and John was sore and exhausted, but it had been a pretty good shift all things considered. She grabbed her kit from the bay, slammed the doors, and tossed the keys to Bill.

“See you on Saturday, love.”

“Thanks, Bill. My love to Lydia.”

“Always do, kiddo. Get some sleep.”

“I’ll try. See you later.” She waved and let herself into the house as the ambulance pulled away again. It was quiet and dark in the flat, so Sherlock wasn’t home yet. Knowing his hours, he likely wouldn’t be anytime soon. John shrugged, hung up her gear, took a quick shower, and crawled into bed.

-^-

When she woke up the next morning, Sherlock was snoring against her shoulder. She had no idea what time he’d gotten in, and considering the silly thing had fallen asleep in his uniform, probably not very long ago and so utterly exhausted he’d forgotten to do anything more complex than get to the bedroom before he passed out. John just smiled and took his hand in hers, kissing the scarred knuckles. He didn’t even twitch, he was that zoned out. Inspired, John moved out of the way and carefully and quietly went about the business of getting her husband out of his clothes and under the blankets properly. With nothing on the docket for her, at least, John climbed back into bed after relieving her bladder and tucked a body-pillow against her front. Sherlock provided ample support against her back and had a habit that predated the pregnancy of putting one knee between hers, which had provided further support as the pregnancy progressed and they were able to sleep together.

It seemed like his phone rang only five minutes later, and she groaned as it kept ringing. Reaching back, she smacked some part of him, giving a poke for good measure. He made an incoherent noise and she tried again.

“What?”

“Phone.”

“Ugh.” He huffed. Grumbling, he shifted and rolled, searching for his phone which she had put on the bedside table to charge. There was a pause as he looked at his phone, followed by a sigh, a muttered expletive, and his standard salutation as he answered, “This is Holmes.” John listened to their side of the conversation. It was...Sally. Had another case come up? Or, no, it was the same one he’d been on yesterday and last night. More evidence recovered or had the suspects been...ah, they had the suspect? Or someone who knew something about the case. As Sherlock hung up with Sally, John remained still.

“Work?”

“So sorry, my love. They found the suspect and brought him in for questioning.”

“Go do your thing.” She smiled over her shoulder as he got up and hunted for clothes. “What’s the time?”

“Barely 6.”

“6am?”

“Yep.”

“Jesus. What time did you get in?”

“4-ish?”

“Oh, Sherlock.” John buried her head in the pillow.

“I’ll be fine. I slept most of yesterday, so I’m not hurting too badly.”

“Hah.” She scoffed. But then again, her husband could get by on four hours of sleep, so that was a point in his favour for unreliable work-hours. John decided to get up and shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee for Sherlock. She had tea, and by the time he came through ready for whatever kind of day was ahead of him, she had a cup ready for him.

“Is Greg picking you up?”

“Sally.”

“Jeeze. You have Greg and Sally on your pick-up and Bill’s on mine?”

“It works. The system, for whatever reason, works.”

“In that case.” John fixed another cup of coffee, this one was for Sally. She tried to take care of Sherlock and whichever of the DIs he was working with on any given day. He rotated between Greg, Sally, Robert Dimmock, and Victoria Gregson, but worked primarily with Greg and Sally. Getting a hoodie and a pair of sweats, she followed Sherlock down to the street. He had a second cup of coffee for himself in a to-go cup, she was carrying Sally’s. She had a few biscuits from Mrs Hudson’s latest batch in a baggie, on the understanding that they would be duly consumed. When Sally’s BMW pulled up, John waited for the DI to emerge before handing over the coffee.

“’Morning, Sally.”

“’Morning, John. Sorry I have to steal your husband again.”

“No problem. Part of the deal being married to a DC.” She shrugged and leaned against the car, holding out the cup, “That’s for you.”

“Oh, bless you.” Sally took the coffee and just sort of held onto it for a bit.

“Go on, you two. Do your jobs.” She rolled her eyes at the sleepy-eyed pair. “What’s on, Sal? Suspect or witness?”

“Not...not actually sure just at the moment. Definitely a person of interest we really want to talk to, but I hesitate to call them a suspect.”

“One of those?”

“One of those.”

“I’m so sorry. Well, break them down, you’re ridiculously good at that.” John sighed and hugged Sherlock, then Sally. She stayed on the kerb until the car was out of sight, waving. Once they were gone, she went back across the pavement to the open door of 221B.

“Good morning, John!”

“Oh, good morning, Mr Turner.” John smiled at her neighbour, who had taken over ownership of Speedy’s from the former owner, “How’s business?”

“It’s rather good. How are you, my dear?”

“I’m alright, Mr Turner. I worked a Swing-8 last night.”

“God bless you, my dear. Sherlock off again?”

“Yep. Brought in a person of interest in whatever case they were working yesterday. He didn’t get in until about four-ish.”

“Oh, that boy.” Mr Turner rolled his eyes. “Well, I don’t know about him, but I know I can look after you this morning. Why don’t you come inside, dear?”

“Oh, are you sure?”

“Absolutely!”

“Okay. Yeah, thanks.” She shrugged, double-checked for her keys, and closed up 221B before following Mr Turner across to Speedy’s. This had happened before, if he caught her out right as Speedy’s opened, she was pretty sure the only reason she and Sherlock hadn’t starved in the last months was because of him. He was very good about feeding them and refused to let them pay for anything. And John’s changing appetite did not faze him at all, he never minded fixing something special just to make sure she got something to eat.

“There, you sit and let me do the worrying.” Mr Turner put her at one of the tables and made her stay there. She shook her head and wondered at the kindness of her neighbour as he disappeared into the kitchen after inquiring regarding her taste for eggs. She didn’t mind them too much these days, there were some days she could not stand the look, smell, or taste of them. It was a gamble, really, what she could stomach and what made her queasy on any given day.

 

It didn’t take long for the morning regulars to trickle in, she waved to those she recognized. Mr Turner returned after a bit with a cup of tea and a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. Green tea, by the looks, sweetened with lemon and a bit of honey. She smiled and thanked him, which he just brushed off. It was no problem, he reassured her, and someone had to make sure she kept herself fed up properly. It wasn't long before he returned with a plate of what was called a "Sherlock Breakfast" in the café. She had no idea how it had gotten that name, but that’s what they called the dish that consisted of scrambled egg, smoked salmon, grilled tomatoes, avocado, mushrooms, and toast. It was both tasty and filling, and a favourite of John and Sherlock when they ate at the café. She tucked into the meal under Mr Turner’s watchful gaze, wondering what it said about her status that she was hungry enough this morning to clean her plate completely. Mr Turner just beamed, all pleased with himself about the whole thing. After breakfast, she left a small tip under her plate for Mr Turner and left Speedy’s, thanking him as always for his kindness. He told her not to worry about it and saw her out. Once she had the door of 221B closed, she locked up and went back upstairs. A quick stop in the bathroom and it was back to bed for her.

John slept away most of the morning, woke up for Mrs Hudson to bring tea, and spent a few hours scouring the papers and their blogs for private cases. She solved a couple of cases for The MET, taking files from the boxes Sherlock brought home and working on them. After lunch, which she ate at Speedy’s, she leaded up Valkyrie and took a walk around Regent’s Park. It was a fairly unremarkable day, a standard day off for her, and she debated baby-names. Joshua William Fairfax had a certain ring to it that she liked.

She also wrote down a list of girl names that she particularly liked, trying out different combinations to see what flowed best. There was something to the names Rowena and Valerie that she liked, and she researched derivatives of Valerie, which was a further derivative of Valerian and a nod to her biological father. Who had broken down in tears when John had called him with the happy news. He was so excited to be a grandfather and he made her promise to call him or somehow let him know as soon as the baby was born so he could come and visit. He wanted to properly meet his grandchild. She had promised to keep him informed and they talked at least once every two weeks to catch each other up on things. It was fine with her that she had regular contact with her father, considering she had grown up without him. Sherlock had promised, to the best of his abilities, to always be there for their children as best he could.

It was all John could ask for, really, and a bit more than she felt she deserved. But it was a good life, and one she hadn't ever dared to hope for until just recently. Another adventure was afoot, and she was interested in seeing where it took them.


 

Chapter Text

Following the 32-week scan, John kept to herself. Sherlock looked after her when they were together, made sure she ate, slept, and stayed hydrated. He picked her up after work if he had to, and attended as many of the weekly scans that followed as he could. They started pooling names, coming up with ideas for the one they were expecting and just for fun for girls.

“So, what do you think of Rowena Jensen Valeriane?” Sherlock asked once as they sat on the back of the ambulance together, partaking of a familiar routine. John wrinkled her nose a bit. It wasn’t the oddest name she’d heard or even the strangest they’d come up with between them.

“Hmm. Actually...I kind of like it. What about Joshua?”

“Joshua...Robb Wilkes?”

“Joshua Robb William.”

“Nah. Robert Joshua Wilkes.” He was mostly just talking. John could focus better when he rambled, it didn’t matter what about, but there was something about the way that name sounded, like the way Rowena Jensen Valeriane had sounded a minute ago, that got her attention. She stilled.

“Oh.”

“Hmm?”

“Sherlock?”

“Yeah?”

“I like it! I...I really do! That’s...Jesus, that’s perfect! Robert Joshua Wilkes. I keep forgetting there’s derivatives of your name just like mine! That’s beautiful!”

“So, Robert Joshua Wilkes. He’ll show himself whenever he feels like it, won’t he?”

“I guess he will!” She smiled, “And in the one-in-a-million outside chance we have another child in the future, and it’s a girl, we’ll name her Rowena Jensen Valeriane.”

“You do realize that barring the last middle name, they have almost exactly the same initials?”

“Oh, they do, don’t they?”

“I don’t mind! I like it!” He leaned over from behind and kissed her on the cheek. “I swear, John, your hair is longer now than it was even in April! It’s certainly much healthier and thicker.”

“That kind of happens when you’re taking care of yourself and you’re pregnant.” She smiled and turned her head for a proper kiss, one ear as always to their radios. Their coats were tossed aside on the gurney behind them, she had eyes on Bill and Greg, who stood a few feet away by the cars.

“So, how do we change it up? Or do we bother?”

“Well, I like Rowena, and I love Jensen, um.” She worried her lip, one hand moving to her stomach. She waited for movement. She knew that her son’s head was to her right, her weekly scan had been that morning. They had run a few calls since 3.00 pm, it was almost 9.00 pm by now and they were sitting outside the A&E of Saint Mary’s on a break. She was on a Swing-8 again, which was actually kind of perfect. Between their calls, they sat at Saint Mary’s. Once, they’d sat at Caxton Street and once at Baker Street, but John didn’t feel like straying too far from the hospital. She sent regular texts to Lydia, who was chatting with Bill and Greg. He kept shooting the two of them suspicious looks. He knew something wasn’t quite on with John, but he didn’t know quite what it was.

“What’s wrong with Greg?”

“I’m...not sure. He’s been like that since I was thirty-two weeks on.”

“That was almost six weeks ago.” Sherlock frowned as he kept working, something rather complicated going by the amount of time he’d spent on it and the amount of tugging and arranging.

“Yeah, I know. I talked to Molly the other day, we had a drop-off at Saint Bart’s, and she said something a little unusual.”

“Hmm?”

“She wondered, through conversations with Greg who’s been talking, and her own experience, if I’m not pregnant with twins.”

“Do you think you are?”

“Honestly?” She leaned her head back at a tug, “I don’t know. I really don’t, and none of the scans since the anomaly scan have shown any evidence. Nothing that would raise a red flag has turned up solid. I’m just...”

“Something special.” Sherlock squeezed her shoulder. “Twins would be a kick in the teeth, wouldn’t they?”

“We are not prepared at all to raise twins.” She sighed, “And that would be a legitimate miracle.” John winced as a ripple of pain spread across her stomach. She’d had Braxton-Hicks contractions three days ago, had almost scared herself into thinking the baby was coming, but there was no sign of true labour.

“Another one?” Sherlock frowned, covering her hand with his for a minute. She waited, counting. They weren’t terrible, but they were getting closer together. She had been experiencing the pains off and on since 3.30 am, they had gotten progressively stronger as the day continued but never enough to stop her from working. Another one started, and she moved her hand so Sherlock could feel it. She heard a soft exhale as he went back to work.

“I know, I know, you don’t have to say anything.”

“John Watson, you are a machine. A beast. How are you not crying?”

“Because it doesn’t actually hurt that much. Believe it or not.”

“I don’t believe you! You’re telling me that didn’t hurt?”

“Not really.”

“You’re ridiculous. Are you sure you’re human?”

“Oh, that’s not the problem.” She chuckled, coughed, and winced at another pang. Contractions? God, she hoped not. Sherlock finished what he was doing and hugged her from behind, timing the pangs.

“Do you think these are contractions?”

“They might be, but...I can still work.”

“You’re mad, you know that?”

“Yeah, I know.” She sighed, “Well, that’s for you, I think?” His radio had just screeched and she saw Greg going for his.

“And yours just went. Back to work?”

“Until further notice. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure you know first.”

“Thank you. Be smart, be safe, be in touch.” He helped her down and kissed her. A different stirring got their attention and Sherlock chuckled, “Alright, alright. Your turn is coming, sir. You just be patient, Robert, hear? Don’t give your mum any trouble more than she can handle.”

“If he’s anything like you? That’s not going to happen.”  John said as she took Sherlock’s hand in hers.

“John! Sherlock!”

“We know!” They called in unison. Sherlock helped her into the cab and double-checked her seat-belt, patting her abdomen very carefully. As they set off on their call, Bill looked over at her.

“How’s it going, John?”

“They’re getting closer together. When’s...ugh. When’s the last time you delivered a baby?”

“Been a while. Why?”

“Depending on where we are in the city? We won’t make it to a hospital.”

“Oh no.”

“I make no promises, Bill.” She steered carefully through traffic and another contraction.

“Two hours, John. Two hours.” He reached across and took her hand briefly, “Think you can wait it out?”

“We’ll see.”

“Breathe, love.” He squeezed her wrist and reached down to touch her stomach.

-^-

The call they’d taken was relatively simple, taking about thirty minutes or so on location on top of the ten it took to get there with lights-only, eating into the time left on their shift. Their patient, an elderly woman who had fallen and broken her wrist, she was bloody fortunate it hadn’t been worse, studied John as they loaded her onto the gurney and strapped her in for the ride back to the hospital.

“Are you alright, my dear?”

“I’m alright, Mrs Baker. I promise.”

“You don’t look alright.”

“She’s stubborn is what it is, Mrs Baker.” Bill said flatly, shaking his head at John, “Damn stubborn she is, but wouldn’t trade her for the world.”

“Yeah, well, I think...I think after tonight, Bill, you’ll be doing without me for a while.”

“Well, tell me what I don’t know!” He just rolled his eyes at her. Getting the gurney into the ambulance, John had to stop.

“John?”

“Two hours. I can make it two hours. I have to.”

“John.”

“I’m...I’m fine.” She let out a shaky breath, “I promise.”

“Are you in labour, my dear?” Mrs Baker asked bluntly, eyes clouded by cataracts but still full of life and intelligence as she studied John’s body language and posture.

“Yeah. Yes.”

“Oh, and you’re still working?! You silly girl!”

“I’ve always been stubborn, Mrs Baker.” John climbed into the ambulance and helped Bill get things situated. Mrs Baker seized her by the hand, thin, gnarled fingers tight around her wrist. Faded blue eyes looked up at John from the gurney, lips drawn thin in disapproval.

“You remind me an awful lot of my grandson Oliver. He’s about your breed of stubborn. Never did know sense when it slapped him in the face.”

“Sounds like a few things my family’s said about me. And recently, too.”

“It’s something in your face, I think.” Valerie Baker tilted her head, “Your eyes, a bit, your profile. If you had shorter hair, you might be able to pass off as his twin brother.” John stilled and looked at Bill, who was one of a very small number of people who knew about her supposedly-deceased twin brother. Some careful research had revealed her twin to be a brother, which made her wonder if it was a family thing to have twins, and a name. Oliver Grayson Baker. He was another ambulance driver, drove for Greater London AC and sometimes showed up on the same calls as John if more than one ambulance was called. He was a familiar face on a Met call, for sure. And she had always wondered what it was about Oliver, there was just...something.

Before she’d become pregnant, she and Oliver had a reputation for taking on just about anyone willing to go up against a couple of ambulance drivers in a drinking contest, and soundly thrashing their competition into a stupor while they remained fairly stable. Shot-for-shot she could keep up with Oliver, who was at least a quarter-Irish and the rest of him was West Country. Like John.

“Is your grandson Oliver Baker?”

“Yes, he is.”

“This man is your grandson?” She found a picture Greg had taken of John and Oliver at a birthday party back in March, they had joint-celebrated together with their friends and co-workers, but John hadn’t had any alcohol. Of course not. Showing it to Mrs Baker, she waited for that recognition.

“Oh, that’s Ollie! My goodness, you do look alike!”

“Mrs Baker, was Oliver adopted?”

“Yes, when he was nearly newborn. Poor dear, he was sickly when we got him, but he didn’t give up.”

“I think...Oliver’s my brother.” She shook her head. “More family for me?”

“And glad to have you! He adores you, y’know that? All he talks about is you, says you’re the smartest, kindest person he’s ever met and the rest of London’s too stupid to know how lucky they are! Said Sherlock Holmes is the luckiest son of a bitch in the country and outside of it.”

“Oliver’s not the only one who thinks that way.” John smiled. “Oof.”

“Here, dearie.” Mrs Baker moved her uninjured hand, shaky and frail, to rest against John’s stomach. “I was a nurse in my day, worked labour wards until I was too old to be useful and retired. Volunteered for years after in the nursery wards to help with newborns and hold those sick babies who needed a loving touch.” So she would know, wouldn’t she? John timed on her watch, Valerie Baker timed by feel.

“Your babe is coming, my dear. Sooner than later, I think.”

“I can get us where we need to go, but I think I’d better take it easy after this.”

“No, no, no. You’ll stay here with me. He’ll drive.” She looked at Bill, “I assume you know how to drive this thing?”

“Absolutely, ma’am.”

“Good! You get up there and get us going!”

“Yes, ma’am.” Bill slipped past them and kissed John on the cheek before he hopped out and closed the doors for them.

“And you, sit.” She pulled on John’s hand until she obeyed. Bill radioed back to make sure they were good to go and she responded with an affirmative. It was a short trip to the nearest hospital, John tracked by turn where they were going and groaned, putting her head down for a minute. She had her arms across the rail of the gurney, and her head between her arms, trying to focus. All the while, Mrs Baker held her hand and coached her through each contraction as it came.

“Mrs Baker?”

“Yes, dear?”

“C-can I...uhh...is it a bad idea to...push?” She winced at a bad contraction, longer this time and stronger.

“What is your body telling you to do?”

“Push. My mind is screaming at me not to.”

“Do what your body tells you. Fighting the urges is the worst thing a mother can do. Breathe, John Watson.”

“Yes, ma’am.” John shuffled her position a bit more and realized that she could brace her feet enough to lift a bit off the chair, relieving the pain in her hips, but she was still stable enough not to fall over. Leaning forward until she could lift her hips, she braced and pushed. Mrs Baker coached her, told her when to stop and breathe.

“Are you having twins, John?”

“Yeah. I think I am.” She whined, “Think it might be a family thing, actually.”

“Oh?”

“Well, there’s me and...Ollie, who’s going to love this. And then my brothers-in-law had twins by a surrogate. And we picked up an echo at the 32-week scan. Ever since then, I’ve felt extra kicks and movement when I know exactly where Robert is.”

“Robert?”

“The baby I knew about. We’re naming him Robert Joshua Wilkes.”

“And his twin?”

“If it’s a boy, not sure. But if it’s a girl...Sherlock liked the name...Rowena Jensen Valeriane.”

“Oh, that’s a delightful name! What if it’s two boys?”

“Probably Oliver Jackson Fairfax.” She leaned forward, “Shit. I’m not making it two more hours.”

“When did your contractions get worse?”

“Uh. Around 9.15?”

“Oh, no, you’re not going to last. And you have an hour, my dear. Not two.”

“Fuck.” She buried her face, “Sorry, I can’t...”

“Don’t you dare.” Mrs Baker squeezed her hand, “John. Don’t hold yourself back.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She squeezed Mrs Baker’s hand in return and felt the ambulance slowing down. A contraction had just passed, so she was able to stand up. They were at University College London Hospital. Getting the gurney out was simple, and she helped with the transfer to the hospital staff. John winced as another contraction started.

“John Watson, you take care of yourself. Take care of those babies when they come.”

“I...I will, Mrs Baker. Thanks for everything.” She leaned over the hospital gurney and took Mrs Baker’s hand, kissing the old woman on the forehead, “I’ll let Ollie know, he’s my second.”

“Good girl. Good luck, dear!”

“Good luck, Mrs Baker!” she waved as the gurney wheeled out of sight and looked at Bill, who got her back into the ambulance and on their way...somewhere. They got to St Mary’s with what felt like minutes to spare, and John started to run. She got into the Cambridge Wing and stopped by the desk to make sure Lydia wasn’t busy.

“Are you alright, Doctor Watson?”

“Is Doctor MacLeod busy right now?”

“She...shouldn’t be. Her last patient left almost right after you did. It was a short visit. She’s on-call tonight, do you need her?”

“Y-yeah. But I’ll go get her, it’s kind of urgent.” She tapped on the desk, “Thanks, ladies.”

“Are you sure you’re alright, Doctor Watson?”                                                                

“I’m not, but...don’t...” She stopped dead in her tracks, almost went to her knees. Two nurses were on her in a heartbeat, keeping her upright. Getting her to a room was a work of momentary patience and even before they had the curtain pulled, she was stripping out of her uniform. Her radio and phone clattered to the floor on her duty-belt, she didn’t care. Lydia showed up five minutes later to find John curled up on the bed, being coached by the nurses.

“John! Oh, honey, I shouldn’t have let you go back to work!” Lydia looked her over and turned to the senior nurse, “How is she?”

“9.5 centimetres already.”

“John, when did you go into labour this morning?” Lydia rubbed John’s shoulder. She couldn’t talk through a contraction, but she was able to use British Sign Language to tell Lydia that the first contractions had started at 3.30 am and had gotten stronger respective to the hours she’d been awake.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did.”

“And I didn’t listen. I thought you were talking about Braxton-Hicks contractions, never mind you weren’t very active when I saw you this morning.” Lydia shook her head, “Well, they’re coming, ready or not.”

“Yep.” She squeezed Lydia’s hands, “Did someone...call Sherlock and tell him to get his arse over here before he misses the whole thing?”

“I put a call out over the radio, and I’m pretty sure Bill asked for a 10-24 to Sherlock’s car right after putting the word out to Oliver.”

“I bet he did,” John grunted. “Thank god for Oliver.”

“You know he doesn’t mind taking over for you when the occasion calls for it, dear.” Lydia coached, “Breathe, John. Onto your hands and knees, see if that helps at all.” It took Lydia and both nurses to get John over onto hands and knees, and she felt another urge to push, so she did. Going down until her shoulders touched the mattress, she rested between contractions.

It didn’t take long to realize that a supine position was uncomfortable and counterproductive. So Lydia got John up on her feet and had her move around. She had a foetal monitor in place, but it was wireless and she had freedom of movement. A wireless blood pressure cuff around her upper arm tracked her blood pressure, but that was about the grand total of monitoring being done at the moment. She did have an IV port in place, but it wasn’t being utilized. They had offered an epidural, but John was convinced that if she’d gotten this far without one, she could get the rest of the way just the same. A decision she may or may not come to regret later, but for the moment, she was doing without.

-^-

She was leaning against the bed, a nurse behind her, waiting for another contraction to pass, when she heard the door open. John couldn’t bring herself to lift her head and look, and she kept her eyes closed as she listened. Whoever it was didn’t speak, but Lydia didn’t try to stop them. Footsteps crossed from the door to the bed and paused nearby. The nurse moved away, her station taken over by the newcomer. John whimpered, but stilled when familiar hands landed on her hips. It was Sherlock, he’d finally made it from wherever he’d been when Bill’s 10-24 came through for him. She lifted her head, but his hand on the back of her neck kept her from moving too much.

“Trust me with your body?” He murmured, giving her hip a quick squeeze. She chuckled and nodded, let him move her. There were positions they had discovered were very effective relieving aches and pains, and would very likely be damn useful during labour. He slipped his arms around her, crossed over her chest, and slowly lifted her into an upright position. Then, once she was stable, he stood in front of her and held her while rocking side-to-side, occasionally making a short turn. John was more than happy to hold onto her husband, he coached her through several more contractions.

Suddenly, John felt an urge to go to her knees. She ended up in a squat, supported by Sherlock on one side and Lydia on the other, and pushed. Once the contraction had passed, Sherlock picked her up and laid her on the bed. Lydia checked her dilation again and declared that she had reached ten centimetres.

“I can’t do this lying down.”

“Then don’t.” Sherlock brushed damp hair away from her face and kissed her on the forehead. “I must be losing my touch, I had no idea you’ve been in labour since 3.30 this morning.”

“I didn’t want to worry you.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Your idiot.”

“Good.” He smiled, “What can we do, John?”

“John, do you want to try the tub again?” Lydia rubbed her ankle.

“Y-yeah.” She nodded.

“Alright.” Another scan was done to ensure the twins were in proper birthing position. No need for a C-section, thank god.  Satisfied that things were in order, Lydia got John up.

“Come on, girl. Sherlock, help me.” Lydia was keeping Sherlock involved, they both appreciated that. They were cutting it awfully close, but the twins were coming hell or high water. The water in the tub was nice and warm and soothed the worst of the contractions. John snickered, thinking of something rather clever just then.

“She’s smiling.”

“She does that occasionally.” Lydia checked John’s vitals and placed a waterproof foetal monitor to get an idea of things after double-checking to make sure the twins were in position by manual palpation. “It’s getting her to talk that’s the trick.”

“Ha ha.” John huffed.

“Share with the class, Doctor Watson?”

“Berk.” She muttered, shaking her head. “Just thinking.”

“You do that often. About what?”

“The twins. Coming hell or...high water. Or, uh, hot water. I think.” She clenched her teeth against another contraction. It took a moment for the irony to occur to her husband, but when he got it, he put his head down, shoulders shaking with laughter.

“Oh, John! You’re awful! I can’t believe you!”

“You married me, didn’t you?”

“What was I thinking.”

“Oi!” she reached over and smacked him, leaving a wet handprint on his shirt. He laughed and leaned over to kiss her. When it was time to push, he held her by the arms and coached her through. She hadn’t asked which twin was leading, it didn’t really matter at this point. Robert was first, Sherlock turned down the chance to cut the umbilical to hold John. When he asked for the placenta for later study, John almost choked.

“You...would ask for that!”

“Of course!”

“If you want it all that bad, Sherlock, it’s yours.” Lydia chuckled, “John, sweetie. Push if you want to.”

“’Kay.” She braced herself, the urge was definitely there, and pushed. Twin B popped out into the world five minutes later, shocking all of them except John and Lydia.

“It’s a girl!”

“Oh my god.” John collapsed against the side of the birthing pool.

“Oh, well done, John! Well done, you marvellous thing!” Sherlock squeezed her hand and kissed her on the forehead. The placenta was quick to come after the twins had come into the world. Oh god, they weren’t ready for twins! Were they?

“What are you naming this little lady, then?” Lydia was beaming as she passed the second twin off to the waiting nurses. A warming bed was ready for each twin, but John had made her wishes to hold off on intervention beyond a rinse-and-dry and well-check very clear. No poking or prodding until she’d had a chance to see the twins for herself.

“You liked the name Rowena Jensen Valeriane.” That wasn’t Sherlock. John fought to open her eyes.

“Bill?”

“Hey, sweetheart.” Her partner appeared in her blurry vision, “God bless you, John Watson. You’re a brave woman.”

“Mm, not sure about that.” She shook her head groggily. “Not...Rowena.”

“What sounds good to you, then, love?”

“I like Olivia.”

“Robert Joshua William and Olivia Jensen Valeriane.” Bill stroked her hair. He had more or less picked their daughter’s name for them, but John didn’t mind at all and she doubted Sherlock did either. He hadn’t known it was twins until now, and names had been tossed around casually. John had known, but she hadn’t settled on anything by the time she reached the hospital.

“Beautiful.” Lydia beamed at her, patted her on the shoulder, “Good job, John.” She was aware of being moved, asked about the twins, and was reassured they were alright.

“Tearing?”

“Amazingly, no. Your body stretched just the way it was supposed to. You’ll be awfully sore for a long while, I imagine, but no tearing.” John wasn’t really sore, but she was definitely tired.

“You can sleep a bit, John. You deserve it.” Sherlock was right there, holding her hand. She nodded and fell asleep on her own.

-^-

It felt like hours before she woke up again. When she woke up, she was feeling much better and far more alert. Taking stock, she was quite sore, but she felt like she could walk if she had to. John noticed that she had been hooked up to an IV with saline and a vitamin blend.

“Sherlock?” She turned her head. “What...what happened? Did I dream that?”

“Nope. You didn’t.” He smiled, showing her his tiny, blanket-bundled burden, “He looks just like you.”

“That’s...Robert?”

“Do you want to hold him?”

“Actually, do you know what?” John wrinkled her nose, “I want to take a shower. Can I do that?”

“I should think so, but you’d better ask Lydia first.”

“Well, of course. I’m not you, after all.” She rolled her eyes at her husband, he just grinned at her. The door opening turned out to be Lydia, who was just the person John wanted to see. She looked happy, so that was good.

“Oh, good, you’re awake!” Lydia beamed and checked the monitors and read-outs, “Slept like the dead for a bit there, didn’t you, love?”

“Yeah, I guess I did. Um, is there...can I take a shower?”

“Oh, absolutely! I take it you want one?”

“Yeah, I really kind of do.”

“Then go take a shower. You can cuddle your adorable little babies.” Lydia unhooked her from the IV lines and helped her off the bed. Shuffling into the en-suite, she dumped her gown and socks and took a shower. It felt glorious, the water ran a bit red, and after a brief, refreshing shower, John got a chance to properly meet the twins. It was hard to tell just now which of them the twins would look more like.

“Are they identical?” She asked Lydia as she held Olivia. Sherlock was cuddling with Robert.

“MoDi twins born opposite-gender generally are not identical, but I’d bet these two end up looking just a bit alike.” Lydia just smiled and brushed her thumb against John’s temple. Most midwives and obstetricians weren’t so hands-on, so touchy with their patients, but John had been friends with Lydia for a long time so the touchiness was welcome.

Robert weighed in right at six and a half pounds and measured nearly nineteen inches long. Olivia had weighed in at six pounds flat and seventeen inches, she was a bit smaller than her brother but healthy. Despite not knowing about her multiples pregnancy until much later on, John and Lydia had treated her pregnancy as a multiples pregnancy with the proper fail-safes in place, standards were followed, and testing carried out. But for whatever reason, Olivia had never shown herself on any of the scans. They got Olivia to start nursing, which was great progress. John looked for a clock, she had no idea what time it was, or what time it had been when the twins had been born.

“What time is it?” She looked at Sherlock. He just smiled and gave her back her watch.

“Lydia said you could put this back on once you woke up.”

“Thanks, Lydia.”

“There’s no reason for you not to wear it, I’m not even sure why you took it off or when you took it off.” Lydia just smiled, “Blake found it under the bed when we were cleaning up after the delivery.” John looked at her watch to get an idea of the time. It was 3.00 am.

“Oh, God.”

“What?”

“On a normal shift, I’d be in the middle of working right now!”

“Smack in the middle of a Nightshift, wouldn’t you?”

“Yep.”

“Well, I don’t know what it says about our luck, but Olivia’s just like you.” Sherlock smiled. “Came up flailing, howled as soon as we got her breathing, born right at the stroke of midnight.”

“Oh, Olivia Jensen Valeriane Watson-Holmes, you are going to be a handful. And your name’s a smooth bit of a mouthful!”

“Olivia Watson-Holmes. She’ll probably write her name that way, and if her middle names are involved, abbreviated. Olivia J. V. Watson-Holmes.” Sherlock said as he traded Olivia for Robert, who fussed and whined until he found the nipple with guidance. Greedy little bastard, wasn’t he?

“Which makes this little mister Robert Watson-Holmes. Robert J. W. Watson-Holmes.” She looked at the tiny bundle in her arms, still trying to make peace with the fact that she had done this, that this little creature was hers. Once the twins had been fed, they were put down in bassinets and the staff left to let John and Sherlock get some rest after Lydia had disconnected the IV lines, seeing as John was stable. She was still hooked up to a blood-pressure cuff and a heart-monitor, but those were recording normal stats. John was exhausted, rightfully so, and it wasn’t long before she fell asleep. The bed was big enough for Sherlock to sleep next to her, so she fell asleep with him to her back. It was surreal to sleep in the hospital, but the hard work was done, they were all healthy, more or less, and she could move on to motherhood full focus.


 

Chapter Text


Greg Lestrade was at his desk, waiting for the words on the screen to stabilise so he could read them properly, a stack of paperwork at his elbow and a cup of cold coffee by the monitor. Rubbing his eyes, he resisted the urge to check his phone. Again. For the hundredth time in who the fuck knew how many hours. Updates had been regular if sporadic since Sherlock Holmes had gotten a 10-24 request from John Watson’s ambulance while they were on a case in Whitechapel. They had a Code 40 with an 11-98 with John at Saint Mary’s as soon as possible. Greg had dismissed Sherlock from the scene and told him to be in touch if they needed anything.

So, when his phone suddenly buzzed, he just about fell out of his chair. Grabbing his phone, he barely glanced at the screen before swiping into the incoming call.

“Sherlock?” Something told him it was his constable, some long-ingrained instinct. He just hoped it was good news.

“How do you feel about being called Uncle Greg?”

“Oh, thank God! When?”

“Three hours ago. I have several pictures I’ll send you, but I waited to call you until John had a chance to see them.”

“It was twins!” Greg almost cried. He had suspected since early on that John was pregnant with twins, but he didn’t have a basis for that notion. And here he had been right about it.

“They’re typically ugly, all babies are, but they’re...cute. John was amazing.”

“Your wife is a champ, Sherlock. Do we have any idea how long she was in labour?”

“She went into labour at 3.30 am yesterday morning, worked two cases and a Swing-8 shift before she went off the clock at 11:45 pm and Oliver Baker took over her shifts for at least the next two weeks. I fully expect him to be among our first hospital visitors.”

“Jesus! Sherlock!”

“Go tell everyone else, and start collecting on your bets. I know you had betting-pools going.”

“Of course we did! I’ll split my earnings with you and buy you a round the next time we have a chance to get out, maybe next Pub Night when you get back. Fair?”

“Thanks, Greg. Can you tell Mycroft for me?”

“Absolutely! You get some sleep, son, you sound awful.”

“John and I both slept for almost three hours after the twins were born, but I can’t keep my eyes open.”

“Yeah, I can hear it in your voice. I’ll stop by after I get some sleep of my own, alright?”

“Please do. I’ll send you the information later.”

“Or I can just ask. See you later, Sherlock.”

“Good morning, Greg. Go home.”

“Yeah, I think I will. Go to sleep, Sherlock.” He let Sherlock hang up first and just about screamed. His door swung open and Sally poked her head in.

“Hey, Boss.”

“Hey, Sal.” He shut down his computer and started collecting his things to go home. “What’s up?”

“We got Bailey.”

“Oh, that’s great! Send him to Holding, I’ll deal with him in the morning.”

“Figured you were going to say that.” Sally grinned, “So, any word from the hospital yet?”

“Just got off the phone with Sherlock. News indeed.” He looked at his phone as he shrugged into his coat, there were new messages with pictures attached. “Guess who’s an uncle?”

“Oh! She did it!”

“Say hello to Robert and Olivia.” He handed Sally his phone and let her look at the pictures, “I’m going home for the night, and I’ll visit the hospital first thing after I get a few hours of sleep. Dinny Bailey can stew for a while, I have business to attend to.”

“Oh, they’re cute! Can’t tell who they look more like! Identicals?”

“Sure looks like it to me, but boy-girl pairs aren’t generally identical.” He took his phone back and kissed Sally on the cheek, “You’d be welcome to visit any time you were free, Sal.”

“Absolutely! Family first, though. I know my place.” Sally was almost vibrating she was so excited, “Can I tell?”

“Sure you can. And start collecting bets if you made them, I have some of my own to collect on.”

“Of course I will! Good night, Boss! Get home safe, and kiss those cute babies for me!”

“Mine or John and Sherlock’s?”

“Both! All of them!” Sally walked him out, she usually did, stopping by her office to grab her gear so she could go home herself. “By the way, I’m babysitting this weekend. You and Mycroft need a break and some time away.”

“Thanks, Sally.”

“My pleasure.” His former sergeant just smiled and took his hand. “You’re glowing, did you know that?”

“Figured I was, surprised I haven’t just kind of broken down in tears.”

“No one would blame you if you did.” The unspoken “I wouldn’t blame you a bit” was implied and understood. Greg considered himself damn lucky he had someone like Sally Donovan on his six, he wouldn’t trade her for any promise or money. He had relied on her since she was a constable and he a sergeant. Their moves and climbs had not always been analogous, he recalled his earliest days in Homicide when she had been in Patrol and would man the lines at crime-scenes he responded to. He had seen promise in her a long time ago and had enjoyed watching her mature and transition within The Met. When she had come to Homicide, he had snatched her up for himself before anyone else could get hands on her and the rest was...well, it was sort of ancient history. Her history with Sherlock was a little rocky, but those rough chapters were long behind them and it was fun to watch her interact with the former junkie.

“I can’t believe it.”

“Believe what, love?”

“Sherlock’s a parent. He’s a father.” Sally shook her head in wonder, “He never saw that for himself, and honestly, neither did we. But...he’s so good at it.”

“John Watson was helpful in that bit, she showed him it was okay to be nice to people.”

“He’s always liked children, but he didn’t really know how to behave around them. No one had ever bothered to show him. Then here comes this scrappy little veteran with a chip on her shoulder and a point to prove and...” Sally trailed off, yawning, “I didn’t ever think I’d end up liking her as much as I did.”

“You’re a good friend to John Watson, I’m glad  you two can depend on each other for...well, just about anything.” He smiled and squeezed Sally’s shoulder. “When did your dynamic change with John?”

“Back in...2014? We kind of bonded after the Vauxhall Bridge incident.”

“Oh, when John went into the river to catch your mugging suspect?” Greg remembered that incident, they were damn lucky John hadn’t suffered worse consequences. She could have died that night, but she had beaten the odds and snagged them a suspect with questions to answer. Thomas Creighton had paid a heavy price for his crimes, attempted murder usually didn’t make you any friends. He would be in his seventies before they let him out of prison, if he survived prison long enough to get there. The judge had slapped a twenty-to-life sentence on him for what had happened that night.

“Yeah. I...couldn’t stop them. But when Hopkins radioed in that they had both of them and John was just soaking wet and furious, not hurt that he could tell...”

“I bet you were relieved. I’ve watched her go over a bridge before, scares the spit out of me every time. But it’s just what she does, it’s how she operates.” Greg shook his head as he rummaged for his keys. Sally plucked them from his left pocket and dangled them with a smile.

“Looking for these?”

“What the...”

“Always double-check both pockets, Boss.” She smiled and unlocked his car for him, giving him his keys back, “Good night, Greg.”

“’Night, Sally. See you later.”

“Yep! My love to John and Sherlock when you see them before I do?”

“Oh, absolutely!” He chuckled and ducked into his car, waving as he pulled away. Time to go home, get some sleep, and tomorrow pay a visit to his new niece and nephew.

It was nearly 4.00 am when he got home, and he groaned. What a day. He parked in the stall near the turntable, and let himself into a quiet, warm house. Greg locked up on instinct and trudged downstairs to the master suite. He knew Mycroft was home, and probably asleep. Getting into the bedroom after checking on the nursery, he stripped, dumping his clothes and gear wherever they landed, making his way to the en-suite to take a shower. Making it fast, he dried off and pulled on a pair of pyjama bottoms and a tee-shirt. Brushing his teeth, he looked at the pictures again. God, the twins were cute. They would probably have the same colour hair, but he would be damned if their eyes weren’t different. Or maybe those would be identical too. Identical opposite-gender twins were very, very rare. But they were healthy, that was really the only thing that mattered. Going out to the bedroom, he plugged his phone in at the bedside and pushed the blankets aside enough to collapse. His husband was not a heavy sleeper, less so with the twins, and as he rolled into a semi-prone position, Greg was aware of movement and the blankets being rearranged and pulled into place.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. You’re home awfully late, it’s 4 am.”

“Yeah, I know.” He sighed and took Mycroft’s hand. “Heard from your brother. Used him as my excuse to leave the office.”

“Oh?”

“We’re uncles. Rory and Charlie have cousins.”

“Oh, thank God.” It was a soft exhale. “How long was John in labour?”

“Twenty hours and thirty minutes from the very first pre-labour contractions until Olivia was born at midnight.”

“That girl. She never said, never let on.”

“John Watson is nothing if not stubborn. You know how she gets.” He smiled, “I’ll show you pictures later.”

“What’d they name them?”

“Robert and Olivia. I’m going over to visit later, I need some sleep first.”

“Yes, you do. Did you ever get your suspect?”

“Yep. Right before I left the office, Sally told me they’d brought him in. He’ll sit in Holding until I can get to him. Not in a big hurry, y’know.” Greg leaned in a bit and touched foreheads with his husband, “Thanks for being with me, Mycroft.”

“You speak nonsense when you’re exhausted. Go to sleep, Gregory.” Mycroft chuckled, kissing him on the cheek. Greg shuffled closer and put an arm around his husband, falling asleep to the sound of his heartbeat. It had been a very long day, but it was a fantastic way to end it. He slept through the early-morning feeding, but he was up at noon and joined Mycroft in the kitchen for lunch. The live-in nanny they had hired to look after the twins was already fixing coffee and fried-egg sandwiches.

“Good morning, Naomie.” He murmured, greeting the friendly Haitian caretaker. She had a sister who worked at Saint Mary’s as a labour-ward nurse, and volunteered with the newborns, so she knew her business.

“Good morning, Gregory.” Naomie Jaques handed him a cup of coffee, “You look like you could use a whole pot of coffee. When did you get home last night?”

“Around 4 am. I was at the office until 3.30 ish.” He took a sip of coffee and sighed, “It was a very long day.”

“So I hear.” Naomie smiled and ordered him to sit down. He took one of the twins and handled the bottle. Molly Hooper, their surrogate, had been so good about everything and stopped by regularly to help with the twins. Aurora and Charles, called Rory and Charlie, were growing fast and healthy on a steady diet of breast milk. If they didn’t take it from the source, they got it from stock Molly supplied through pumping. It did the trick and saved a pretty penny on formula.

“Oh, do you think John will breastfeed?” He looked over at Mycroft as he took a sip of coffee with one hand.

“I know she’d like to. And she should certainly be able to.” Mycroft just smiled in that soft, wise way of his. He usually smiled like that if they were talking about their sister-in-law, who really was one of the most remarkable people Greg had ever met.

“Doctor Watson will have no problem breastfeeding if that’s what she wishes for her babies.” Naomie turned from the range, waving her spatula at them. “Have you seen them?”

“Pictures, Sherlock sent me a whole lot this morning after he called.” Greg went for his phone to bring them up, “I take it your sister spread the happy news the minute she fou