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The first time you met Sherlock Holmes had been in the middle of a case. Well, he was. You had been in the middle of a large café americano and a reread of your favorite classic while you enjoyed a sunny afternoon on a bench in the park. With a twirl of a grey trench coat, someone sat beside you, much closer than proper for a stranger.

 You glanced up in surprise and immediately recognized the man. Beyond the fact his face had graced the paper more than once, you were an acquaintance of John Watson. You’d had the occasion to discuss his roommate once or twice. “What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?” you asked, feigning disinterest and turning your attention back to your book.

From the corner of your eye you saw the brief look of surprise that crossed his features. “As you know who I am, this will be much simpler than I was fearing. The man I am following is at the café across the way. He appears to be waiting for someone. It is imperative I remain undetected.”

You made a sound of agreement and nodded your head. “And as anyone looking for a tail would suspect a person on their own, you chose to sit beside me in the hopes he’ll overlook you. Is that about right?”

“Precisely.” You weren’t sure if Sherlock’s tone was more confused or surprised.

You slid your bookmark into place and closed your book to turn your attention to the detective. “You don’t seem as confident as John describes you.”

He rolled his eyes at that and laid one arm across the back of the bench behind your shoulders. “Let me guess. Another fan of that bloody blog.”

“Nope. Friend of John’s.”

He tilted his head and ran his eyes over you. “He hasn’t mentioned a teacher to me.”

Your lips twitched. “Wrong. I did present a lecture today which is where the chalk dust came from.”

A crease formed on his forehead before smoothing itself out. “That’s the third time you’ve surprised me in a matter of moments. It is most unsettling.”

You sipped your drink before giving him a small smile. “John keeps telling me that it would do you good to meet me. Perhaps that’s what he was getting at. Your quarry is leaving.” You gestured toward the man leaving the café.

Sherlock looked at the man and back to you. “How did you…never mind. I must go.”

Your gaze followed him as he hurried away but you had the feeling you’d be seeing him again.

***

Your second encounter with the consulting detective was a week later. John had requested talking over lunch.

The two of you had just finished your meal and your conversation about Sherlock when the man himself appeared.

John glanced up in surprise when his friend appeared beside your table. “Sherlock? How did you know where to find me?”

“He either followed you or looked at your texts, John,” you supplied. “Does it matter?”

The doctor sighed. “No, I suppose not.”

“Have a seat, Sherlock,” you said, gesturing at one of the empty chairs at your table.

The man did as you suggested, his gaze never leaving yours. You glanced at John in amusement as Sherlock had yet to say a word to either of you.

When he finally spoke, you leaned back in your chair in amusement.

“You are Y/N Y/L/N,” he started. “You are an author of some note though you are between books at the moment. You have a cat. No. Two cats. You are not currently seeing anyone though you were married once. Widowed.”

His eyes searched you, daring you to tell him he was wrong. “I am assuming my name and occupation you got from John. I am between books as you no doubt ascertained from the fact I have the time to read in the park and meet friends for long lunches. I have a fish but no cat. The couple next door is on vacation and I’ve been taking care of their two cats, Oatmeal and Cornflake. Hence, the cat hair. You are correct that I am not seeing anyone at the moment, but I have never been married. The ring on my right hand belonged to my father.”

Pleased at having flabbergasted the great Sherlock Holmes once more, you stood. “It was lovely as always, John. I’ll see you soon.”

“Of course, Y/N,” he agreed and stood to give you a kiss on the cheek.

“Dinner?” Sherlock called out as you stepped away from the table.

You turned back in surprise. “What’s that?”

“Dinner. Tomorrow night. 8 o’clock?”

“That would be lovely,” you agreed. “Get my address from John.”

***

It was around the tenth time you saw Sherlock that you realized you were beginning to fall in love with him. That was certainly unexpected, but it didn’t surprise you. You’d always been a sucker for an intelligent man and Sherlock Holmes was amongst the most brilliant. The two of you could spend hours in conversation. Or, just as easily, he could call with one question, hanging up as soon as you’d answered it.

That day you’d met him at a small café where you often worked on your books. You had befriended the owners and they would often let you set up at a table in the back corner. They kept you fed and in coffee so you could just focus on your work. Sherlock had come to meet you for lunch.

As he sat across from you, discussing the latest case he’d solved, that’s when you knew. This was becoming serious for you. You didn’t dare ask if he felt the same. You knew enough about Sherlock to know that conversation would likely run him off. Besides, you could be patient.

“What is it?” he asked with a small smile and you realized you’d been staring.

You shook your head and smiled back. “Nothing.”

***

The twenty-third time you met was for dinner at a small, quiet restaurant. You were nearing the end of your meal when Sherlock received a call from Lestrade. Of course, you told him to go, as if there was any other option.

“Thank you, Y/N,” he said as he stood and shrugged on his coat.

As he passed your chair he paused to give you a soft kiss on your lips which made you smile.

“I’ll call you later. I love you.” He was gone before you even had time to process the unexpected words.

It was only when your phone rang that you were pulled from your stunned contemplation.

“Hello?” you answered without looking at the screen.

“I meant it, you know,” Sherlock’s voice drifted through the line. “I do love you.”

“I love you, too, Sherlock,” you responded, finally saying the words that have been on the tip of your tongue for weeks.

***

The fifty-seventh time you met Sherlock Holmes was on the same bench where your first encounter took place. Once again, you sat with your café americano and your book. He joined you with a twirl of that coat he loved so much. This time when you looked at him you gasped. The book dropped from your lap forgotten as a hand flew up to your mouth. The ring in his hand robbed you of all intelligent thought.

“You know that I am not good with romantic words and gestures, Y/N, but would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

You nodded and he smiled as he slipped the ring onto your finger.

If you were too elated to notice the look John gave Sherlock when you told him the news later that day, well…who could blame you?

***

It was two weeks later and you were waiting for Sherlock to join you for lunch when your phone rang. A glance at the screen had your brow lifting in surprise. “Andrew?” you answered. You hadn’t talked to your brother in months.

“Y/N, I need to talk to you.”

You couldn’t remember the last time you had heard him sound so serious. “Okay.”

And with your permission, your brother started to bring your world down around you.

Sherlock took the seat across from you when he arrived. His smile faded as he took in your appearance. It was obvious you’d been crying. Your laptop sat unused in the bag to your side and your hands were folded in your lap. “Y/N? Are you all right?”

“Tell me he’s lying,” you said, not looking up at him. Your voice was low and he might not have heard it if he hadn’t been so focused on you.

“What?”

“Tell me you didn’t know, Sherlock.”

He reached across the table for you only to have you jerk away from him. “Y/N, explain to me what is going on, please?”

“I talked to my brother.” You didn’t bother to mention that Andrew had informed you that Sherlock had been trying to locate him for months before the two of you ever met.

His entire being stiffened and he leaned back in his seat. “You’ve never mentioned a brother,” Sherlock said.

You looked up then, met his gaze. “But you knew, didn’t you? You knew before you ever talked to me. Was it all a ruse, Sherlock? Did you care for me at all?” You had to ask though you already knew the truth. He had hoped you would lead him to Andrew. That was all.

“Y/N, you must understand—”

You placed your hand on the table and pushed it toward him. You pulled away leaving your ring behind. “I do understand, Sherlock. I really do.” You stood and gathered your things. “This…you aren’t the person I loved, but if you see them, tell them I’m done.”

Chapter Text

As if losing Sherlock wasn’t bad enough, John had let it slip that he had an inkling that Sherlock hadn’t been serious about your relationship but he’d never said anything to you. So, you hadn’t talked to one of your best friends in several weeks. Truth be told you’d always been a bit of a loner, but you’d gotten used to having Sherlock around and to seeing John all the time. Suddenly, you felt very alone.

You hadn’t heard from your brother since the day he told you why Sherlock was really interested in you but that wasn’t unusual. You didn’t approve of most of his choices and he was more than aware of it. You were sat at your favorite table in the little café you frequented, your computer open in front of you, but you hadn’t written a word in days. Your heart still hurt too much you supposed. If you didn’t pull yourself together you were going to miss your deadline.

Someone sat in the seat opposite you and you glanced up in surprise. Mycroft Holmes, appearing as regal as ever, looked over you with dark eyes and a frown on his face. You frowned and leaned back in your seat. You’d only met the man a handful of times while you were still with Sherlock and you had no idea what he could possibly want with you.

“You are well?” he finally asked.

“As well as I can be given the circumstances. What can I do for you, Mycroft?” If he was here to plea on his brother’s behalf you were going to lose it. It wouldn’t be the first person Sherlock had sent to talk to you, but it seemed so out of character for the man in front of you, you didn’t want to chase him off until you heard what he had to say.

He cleared his throat and pursed his lips. “I need your help.”

Your brows flew up in surprise. “You need my help?”

His tongue darted out to lick his lips. “To be more precise, Sherlock needs your help.”

You huffed in annoyance. “Well, that’s unfortunate for Sherlock.” You grabbed your belongings and stood. “Goodbye, Mycroft.”

A hand on your arm stopped you. “Just hear me out. Please.”

You swallowed past the lump in your throat and while you didn’t move toward the door, you also made no move to resume your seat.

“If it makes any difference, he doesn’t know I’m here. I came on my own behalf as well as his.”

You nodded once and sat back down. If nothing else, you could hear him out and appease your own curiosity. “Talk.”

He glanced down briefly before looking up to meet your gaze. “Sherlock has always been rather emotional.”

You arched a brow but said nothing. Mycroft may very well believe his brother emotional compared to himself. They were both far removed from the normal human spectrum of feelings.

When you didn’t respond, Mycroft cleared his throat. “My brother has often struggled with self-destructive behavior though it had been some time since his last episode. He believes dulling his emotions heightens his mental abilities. Of course, all he is doing is destroying himself and taking his brain with him.”

You frowned. John had mentioned Sherlock’s addiction issues to you before but you found it hard to believe someone so smart could be so stupid. “Are you saying that Sherlock is using again?”

Mycroft pursed his lips and nodded once. “I am and I believe you to be the only person that may be able to reach him.”

“Why would you even think that? He lied to me Mycroft and used me in an attempt to find my brother. I mean nothing to him so why would you think he would care?” It broke your heart all over again to say the words and you were proud of yourself that you made it through without your voice breaking.

He shook his head. “You are wrong, Y/N. My brother cares for you deeply. Your estrangement has nearly broken him.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you.” You couldn’t believe him because if you did, then all the things you’d told yourself to get through the last few weeks would be a lie and you’d slowly fall apart.

“Your lack of belief does not make it any less true I’m afraid.” He sighed. “Just talk to him. That is all I ask. Do that and I will never bother you again.”

The silence stretched as he awaited your answer. “All right, Mycroft.”

***

You pulled your jacket more tightly around you and knocked on the door to 221B. Mrs. Hudson swung the door open and immediately pulled you into her arms. “Oh, Y/N. Thank goodness you’re here. He’s got me worried sick.”

“Hello, Mrs. Hudson.” You patted her lightly on the back and pulled away.

She wrung her hands together. “He’s just been so distraught since you left. And—”

You placed a hand on her shoulder to cut her off. “It will be fine, Mrs. Hudson.” You didn’t give her a chance to respond before you headed up the stairs. You loved the woman but all your energy was already expended just keeping you moving forward.

After taking a deep breath, you knocked on the door to Sherlock and John’s flat. As expected, John was the one to answer. His eyes grew wide when he saw you. He offered a hesitant smile. “It’s good to see you, Y/N.”

You nodded once. “John.”

He glanced over his shoulder before looking back to you. “Are you here to see me or…” he trailed off.

“Mycroft asked me to come.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I’ll just make myself scarce then, shall I?” He grabbed his jacket off a hook by the door and slipped out with a nod.

You stepped into the flat and shut the door behind you. Sherlock was in his chair, fingers steepled in front of him as he stared off into space. He didn’t even glance in your direction. “If that was a client, I hoped you informed them we weren’t taking any cases for the foreseeable future.”

You didn’t respond, instead using the opportunity to look over your former fiancé. The skin beneath his eyes was dark with fatigue and he was more than a little disheveled. You wondered when he’d last cleaned himself up. But nothing about the man in front of you screamed addiction. There were no obvious indications that he was using again.

“John, are you going to—” His eyes fell on you then and he was on his feet in seconds. He closed his robe and tied the belt before raking his hand through his hair in an effort to bring some sort of order to it. “Y/N. I didn’t realize you were here. Why are you here?”

You arched a brow but still said nothing as you were finding it difficult to decide exactly what you wanted to say to him.

“I mean…” He huffed out a breath. “I thought you never wanted to see me again. What changed your mind?”

“Your brother.”

“Mycroft?” He was unable to hide his genuine surprise.

“He’s under the impression you’re using again. Are you?”

His brow furrowed. “What? Of course not.”

“I’ll just be going then,” you said and turned toward the door. Sherlock darted in front of it to block your way. You crossed your arms over your chest as you looked up at him.

“Just…since you’re here let me say what I need to say. Please.”

You turned your gaze to the floor uncertain if you wanted to listen or not. You were still broken, still fragile. One wrong move on his part and you’d shatter all over again.

He reached out a hand then let it drop. “Please, Y/N. Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking.”

Instead of answering, you walked over to sit in John’s chair.

There was a brief pause as Sherlock processed that you were actually going to hear him out. “Yes, fantastic,” he said as he stepped away form the door. “Can I get you something? Tea, maybe?”

You darted your eyes up to meet his gaze. “You’re losing time, Sherlock.”

“Of course.” He took his seat with a flourish then leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “When I first met you, I had no idea who you were. By the time I asked you to dinner, I knew you were Andrew’s sister. And, yes, that is why I asked you out.”

Your heart twinged with the admission. It wasn’t anything you didn’t already know but the reminder hurt just the same.

“But it only took me a couple of dates to realize that you rarely heard from him and you weren’t likely to be of any more help than anyone else.”

“So, what? You kept dating me on the off chance he’d show up, or I’d let something useful slip?” Bitterness dripped from your words.

“No. I kept dating you because you fascinated me. Everything I discovered about you only made me want to know more. When I realized that I would never grow bored with you, I asked you to marry me. Our relationship may have begun because of your brother, but he had nothing to do with why it continued, I promise you.” His tone was practically begging you to believe him. And you wanted to. God, did you want to believe everything he was telling you, but if it was just another ruse, you wouldn’t survive the heartbreak again.

“How do I know any of this is the truth, Sherlock? Maybe you’re just saying what you think I want to hear to win me back. Maybe you’re still using me to find Andrew.” Your chest ached and you sucked in a ragged breath.

“I already found him and turned the information over to the police.”

You weren’t particularly surprised to hear your brother was in jail again. You were surprised he hadn’t contacted you to ask for bail though. Maybe he believed you when you told him the last time was it. No more money. You shrugged. “Am I supposed to be grateful for that? Thank you, Sherlock for arresting my brother. All is forgiven?”

He gave a sharp shake of his head. “Of course not. I merely wanted you to know that finding him cannot possibly be the reason I want you because he has already been found and I still yearn for you. Please, Y/N. I should have told you from the beginning that I was looking for your brother. I should have given you no reason to doubt my feelings for you were sincere. Are sincere. I love you, Y/N. Nothing will change that.”

Moisture flooded your eyes and you closed them to keep the tears at bay. “You broke my heart.”

“If it helps, I broke mine as well. Please give me another chance. I beg of you.”

A tear ran down your cheek. Sherlock’s thumb was there immediately to wipe it away. God, you’d missed him. When he would have pulled away, your hand found his and pressed it against your cheek. “No more secrets, Sherlock.”

“No more secrets.”

You opened your eyes to look at him then and found nothing but sincerity and hope shining back at you. You leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against his lips. He hooked a hand around your neck and pressed his forehead against yours. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” Before either of you could say anything else, Sherlock’s phone rang interrupting your moment.

He huffed out a breath and glanced at his phone. He rolled his eyes and answered. “Mycroft, would you mind telling me why you told Y/N that I was using again?”

“It was for your own good, Sherlock. You haven’t been yourself since the end of your relationship.” His voice was distorted, but you could still hear easily enough.

Sherlock’s gaze narrowed. You knew that look. He’d just figured something out. “Is this because I wouldn’t take the case you wanted me to?”

“Don’t be absurd. However, if you and Y/N have resolved your issues I do wish you would reconsider.”

You pulled Sherlock’s phone from his hand. “Goodbye, Mycroft,” you said and disconnected the call. You sat the phone aside and stood. Sherlock’s eyes trailed your every movement. You held out a hand.

“Come along, Sherlock. Let’s get you cleaned up.”

He took your hand and intertwined your fingers as he got to his feet. “Dare I hope that you intend to help?”

“Well, you obviously can’t take care of yourself so someone’s got to.” You tugged him down the hall to his bathroom, grinning the whole way.