When John first meets Mary, it’s a cold, rainy day in April.
She walks in on her first day of work soaking wet, her blonde hair turned dark from the heavy rain and laughing as she shakes out her umbrella indoors. "This is rather ominous for the first day of work, isn't it?" She jokes, white teeth on show. The other doctors and nurses laugh with her and introduce themselves, welcoming her to 'the clinic family'. (Complete bullshit.) John pays her no interest. New nurses are always coming and going, after all, when NHS salary turns out to not be enough and maternity leave takes priority. He feels her eyes bore into the back of his head as he sits, unresponsive, and going through paperwork, sticking out like a sore thumb among the rest of the staff who have already fallen for her charms.
After Sherlock's death, when the alcohol became more of a nuisance than a suitable distraction (there's only so many times a week one can wake up sobbing and vomiting before one decided enough is enough), his next solution was work. Extra hours, extra effort, his hands and mind kept busy as he scribbled out prescriptions for patients, refusing to let himself think of how much the boy with the dark curls and pouty eyes, the woman with the sharp cheekbones, the old man with the long dark coat reminded him of Sherlock. He keeps those feelings of grief and nostalgia tightly locked away, letting it sit heavy on his chest until it is time to continue with work again. There isn't time for considering an office friendship or romance. Just constant working.
He often wonders if Sherlock would be proud of him or scoff at his hypocrisy.
When John doesn't approach her of his own accord, Mary comes to him the next day at lunch with a bright smile. Everything about her was bright and blinding and luminescent: green shirt, blonde hair, blue eyes, white teeth. Like the sun. "Hi, I don't believe we've been introduced properly. I'm Mary," she says as she holds her hand out. It’s entirely unremarkable: small, soft, nails neatly and practically trimmed.
John accepts it, forcing himself to smile back. "John Watson. Welcome to the clinic."
"Thanks. I really think I'm going to enjoy it here. Everyone here is so lovely - much lovelier than my last job."
He hums and nods, not entirely sure how to respond. He was never really that good with people except when stood next to Sherlock.
She continues, determined, “Yeah, no one there ever really… socialised. I love going out for drinks.”
John knows this is his cue for him to ask her out. He hums and nods again, and a brief flash of annoyance contorts her features before she smiles again.
“Would that be something you’re interested in? This Saturday, maybe?”
He shakes his head. “Sorry, Mary. Sounds great, but it’s my sister’s birthday. I’ll be in Edinburgh all weekend.”
She tilts her head, almost pouting. “Oh, shame. Still, have fun at your sister’s. Another time perhaps?”
She asks him out for drinks the next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. Each time, he politely shook his head - no, I have too much work. No, I'm visiting my cousin. No, it's my mate's wedding. No, I’ve got a headache. She’s pretty, and charming, and has a wonderfully dry sense of humour, but for once John is immune to those things. Sherlock would definitely be proud.
He ends up asking her out the month afterwards, when he sees her flirting with one of the male nurses and decides to break the pattern of letting second chances of happiness slip away.
As the summer turns cool and the leaves turn dry and brown, Mary remains a constant, standing by his side even when he wakes her up with night terrors, letting her eyes glass over in sympathy when he brings Sherlock up of his own accord without her prompting, jovially saying 'whatever you like!' whenever John asks what they wanted to do for date night every Saturday. She is warm and inviting and as predictable as the sun's rotations. (No - Earth's rotations. Dear God, Sherlock is probably laughing in his grave.)
Like the sun, she is also blinding.
Several months later, after Sherlock returns (surprise!), after John and Mary get married, after Sherlock nearly dies (yet again), John finally realises this, and even then, Sherlock hands this vital information to him on a silver platter.
"How good a shot are you?"
"How badly do you want to find out?"
John's heart hammers as she cocks the gun and points it into the shadows where he is sitting without hesitation. He restrains himself from making a noise, from any kind of movement, following Sherlock's plan. (Always Sherlock's plan.) But God, how much he wants to yell, to scream, to punch the wall and demand why the hell she would try to shoot him - no, try to shoot Sherlock. That's who she thinks is there, sat directly in front of the bullets, obscured by shadows.
When Sherlock reminds her that she could get arrested for his murder - a shocking revelation, apparently - she simply tilts her head in agreement, tosses a coin, and shoots a bullet directly through it. There is nothing of her left that could be recognisable - her voice is like steel, her eyes cold and grey as frost, as unpredictable as a storm.
He hates her.
He hates her as he moves back into Baker Street after the events at Leinster Gardens. He hates her as he sits by Sherlock's bedside, watching him rest and recover after his exertions (for John. Yet again.) and warily watches the lines of the monitor rise and fall with his heart rate. He hates her as he dresses Sherlock's wound, covers the angry bullet wound with clean bandages and resists the urge to kiss it and apologise profusely I'm sorry I brought her into our lives. I'm sorry I brought you so much pain. I'm sorry you had to leave.
He never hated her more than when Sherlock tells him, his eyes full of pain and his voice wavering, shattering the quiet bubble of domesticity that formed around them in their months of cohabitation, that he will have to go back to Mary.
John shakes his head firmly, placing the old bandages aside on the floor next to Sherlock's bed. He will move them later. "No. I can't."
"Mycroft has found some new intel on her. Though we're uncertain about most things, we know she's far more dangerous than I initially suspected."
"More dangerous than the fact that she shot you?!"
"Minor details. If you go back to her, it would stall her from leaving the country and give Mycroft time to find out more. Currently, all she has keeping her here is the baby. Once she's born..."
John sighs. He reached for the memory stick that he keeps in his pocket at all times, turns it around in his hand contemplatively as he does dozens of times a day. "Should we give this to Mycroft?"
"No. This memory stick means that the cards are in our hands. You can use it to prove your loyalty to Mary."
He scoffs weakly. "Loyalty. What does she care about loyalty?"
"She did marry you, John. For better or worse."
He scoffs again, then sat in silence for a few moments. "What happens if Mycroft does the research and she turns out to be dangerous?"
"Then he'll find the opportunity to arrest her, if need be."
John takes a moment to absorb this, inhales and exhales, before croaking out like a confession, "And if she's not? If she's genuinely changed and just shot you to get out of a sticky situation?"
"Then you reunite with her and continue to live out a life of domestic bliss, I imagine," Sherlock replies softly. He’s shirtless, naked save for pyjama bottoms, his wound dressed in clean, white bandages, leaning up against the pillows on his bed. He has never looked so vulnerable and John's chest aches in something akin to sympathy but more like longing.
"I'm not sure I want that," John confesses quietly and a crease forms between Sherlock's eyebrows.
"Why? You love her don't you?"
John opened his mouth to respond honestly, but then stops himself and exhaled softly through his nose. "It's complicated. I'll think about it. Get some sleep alright?"
He quickly adjusts Sherlock's pillows, pulls the duvet up to cover his exposed chest, feeling himself be watched curiously as he did so, then leaves the room before the conversation can delve deeper into the dangerous subject of does John Watson really love Mary Morstan?
On January 3rd, nine days after he and Mary reconcile with some reluctance on his part, on the day of Sherlock's exile for a crime he committed for Mary, John’s hatred has not shifted, not even remotely. After all, had it not been for Mary and the bloody Magnussen case...
He watches the plane take off with a hollow weight in his stomach and a lump in his throat. Six months, he reminds himself. Six months and Sherlock can come back if Mycroft's estimation is right. But god, how long that seems. Six months without cases or chases through London. Six months of his daughter's life that Sherlock won't be a part of. How many of the baby's milestones will Sherlock miss? First laugh? First crawl?
Mary's hand clasps around his, warm as frost and just as comforting. She squeezes it as the plane takes off. John feels like he was suffocating.
But then, a miracle by the name of James Moriarty occurs.
"But he's dead. Moriarty - you told me he was dead." Mary demands, the lines on her forehead creased with anxiety that John doesn't feel much like reading into, far too focused on his own cocktail of excitement and relief and fear and determination at the new of the broadcast. He shrugs, barely suppressing his elated grin. Christ, what has he turned into, if he is excited about the return of a bloody psychopathic criminal mastermind? “How can he be back?”
"Well, if he is, he'd better wrap up warm.” He smiles to himself. “There's an East Wind coming."
John watches the plane turn back around, not noticing how beside him, the blood drains from Mary's face.