John felt a lot better, both physically and emotionally, the next morning. He and Mary had managed to have a lovely evening: the dinner had been delicious and they had cleaned up the kitchen together, talking about the baby and revising their list of currently a good dozen names (he still liked Julia or Juliet, while Mary had grown quite fond of Evelyn; and they both laughingly cursed the fact that they couldn’t really go for Emma; Emily had come as the next suggestion - for some reason, Mary seemed to like the letter ‘E’ in particular).
They had gone to bed soon after that but, despite John’s earlier fatigue, they had not fallen asleep right away. They had made love and taken their sweet time with it. With Mary’s belly having become quite big it had been a bit more difficult to find a position they both liked, and the whole endeavour had been interrupted with quite a few laughs and amusedly annoyed groans. Mary had not been able to climax that way and so, most readily and to his own enjoyment, he had gone down on her. He really fucking loved doing it, always had. The taste of a woman - Mary in particular - and the incredible and unique feel of a wet cunt around two of his fingers, muscles clenching and contracting and her hard clit between his lips as she came with soft but rapid moans.
He didn’t need to think of something else, want something else, wonder if he’d even like it. He liked this, liked Mary, and that was all that mattered.
However, despite the great start to the day (they had got up quite early and enjoyed a nice breakfast together, as well) after some time in the surgery John could not fully prevent his mind from drifting back to Sherlock. His own shock about thoughts that had stirred, unbidden, yesterday had faded; it seemed far away now, too vague and surreal to have any impact on him now, and he was bemused for it even having risen like that in the first place.
What he could not dismiss as easily was his worry about and compassion for Sherlock, and he found himself once more looking at the ‘clues’ to answer the question that made him experience a great sense of guilt and regret every time he could affirm it. If Sherlock really was in love with him, if that speech, that completely mental but utterly lovely speech had been a testimony of his feelings (the two people who love you most in all this world; John had never expected Sherlock to actually say he loved him) then Sherlock was in a situation right now John wished upon no one, least of all his best friend. It was sad to think that such a brilliant mind - though he could be a colossal dick at times - hadn’t even thought it possible to be someone’s best friend, and it became likely that Sherlock had experienced these feelings in the past and never even tried to act on them out of the sheer conviction that they could never ever be reciprocated.
He quickly reminded himself not to wonder whether they could have been reciprocated - by John, and instead only tried to imagine Sherlock with other people.
Maybe that was also the reason why Sherlock had been so nonchalant about using Janine, and as a result, about breaking her heart like that. He probably didn’t even believe anyone could truly love him. How could the git be so wrong? Even if Janine hadn’t been the right choice for him - it also became more and more possible for John that Sherlock might, after all, be gay - he could have found someone, couldn’t he?
John regretted that this wasn’t the kind of topic he and Sherlock could just sit down and talk about, because this was something he should talk about and not be left alone with. Then John realised that he probably was the only person Sherlock ever would, maybe, under very specific circumstances, consider at all to discuss his own feelings with. But crying on the shoulder of your best friend about your object of desire who is also your best friend is never good; John had been in that situation once in his teen years and it had been horribly awkward.
It was much later in the evening when these thoughts resurfaced. He was meeting Greg for a pint or two at a pub. Mostly, they had meant to keep each other updated on any new developments regarding Moriarty - and that was the next thing that would keep John’s thoughts occupied on top of everything else - but, since there was nothing to say on the former, they also simply caught up on their private lives and enjoyed the company of a good mate.
During the two years of Sherlock’s absence - or the two years after his death, if John regarded it from his former viewpoint - he and Greg hadn’t been in contact very much. John had avoided a great many people then, and Greg had probably felt responsible for what had happened. Now, however, and especially since the wedding, meeting for drinks had become a somewhat regular habit of theirs, and John was grateful for it.
“So, how long until the little one is born?” Greg asked after he had taken the first sip of his lager.
“Four weeks, approximately,” John replied, feeling his heart beat a little faster in excitement, as every time he reminded himself that in such a short time he would, indeed, be a dad.
Greg grinned slightly. “Nervous yet?”
“Terrified,” John replied and smirked back.
“I’m sure you’ll do great. You’re a doctor, so at least you won’t pass out during the birth.”
“God, no. I hope not. But that’s the easy part anyway. After that it’s going to be at least eighteen years of worrying and fretting and hoping you do everything right.”
“Well, nobody does everything right,” Greg said.
“All right. True. Then fretting and hoping you won’t do something colossally wrong.”
“You’ll be fine. You’ll see,” Greg replied. “And I mean it. If you can turn Sherlock Holmes into a mostly decent man then raising a child will be a breeze.”
The smile on Greg’s features wasn’t mirrored by John any longer. He looked into his glass before he took a long gulp of the beer. “What if I havecocked up there, though?”
John quickly shook his head. “Nothing. Never mind. So… what about you then?” he asked, putting that smile back on.
Greg regarded him with a quizzical look for a moment longer, but then, after another sip of beer, a tiny and rather involuntary looking smirk made the corners of his lips twitch upwards. “Well.” He shrugged as if he had nothing interesting to respond, but the vague hint of a smirk became a rather obvious one.
John raised his eyebrows.
“I may have asked Molly Hooper out for dinner,” Greg replied somewhat sheepishly.
“Yeah. I thought… the thing with Tom has been over for almost half a year now. So…”
“About bloody time!” John said, genuinely happy.
Greg chuckled faintly and lowered his head, arms propped onto the bar. “You know, I’m not awfully good at this sort of thing. My wife and I were really young when we got together, and it was mostly her who… well, had taken the initiative in everything.”
“Well, great that you finally mustered the courage, then. No really, Greg. I think you guys could be wonderful for each other.”
John leaned back slightly to take a closer look at his friend, his brow furrowed. Greg had always struck him as a rather confident and mature type of bloke, but right in this moment he did remind John a bit of a 16-year-old schoolboy.
“It’s not just a casual dinner date, then? You actually have been pining for her for quite some time?” It didn’t even really need answering. Thinking about it now, Greg had seemed awfully disappointed when Molly had introduced her fiancé.
“Pathetic, I know”, Greg chuckled and took another large sip.
“No, it’s not. It was a bit of bad timing, too, wasn’t it?”
“I suppose. First I was still trying to fix things with my wife. Then there was the whole thing with Sherlock, well, you know. It threw us all off course, I guess. And then Molly had Tom.”
“Blimey, that long?” John asked and Greg nodded. “And, this may make me sound like a dick, but I’m kind of thinking it was for the best that it didn’t work out with Tom.”
Greg shrugged. “Well, he was a nice bloke. And he looked like Sherlock.”
“He dressed like Sherlock,” John corrected. He couldn’t quite keep a giggle in and shook his head in amusement.
“I thought that was it, you know? That’s her type. I’ll never measure up to that.”
“You know, Greg, you don’t have to measure up to anyone. You’re a great bloke, and I hope Molly will be able to see that.”
Greg laughed faintly, visibly moved. He cleared his throat before he continued after a pause. “Well, we’ll have to see how dinner goes. Though… she did seem sort of, well,” he made a waving motion with his hand. “Delighted?”
“Good. That’s good. Keep me updated. And all fingers crossed for you.”
It really did make John very happy to hear about such a positive prospect. He cared about both Greg and Molly and could really imagine them being a perfect match. However, it also made him think of Sherlock, and regret and sadness filled him once more for his best friend who could not call himself that lucky - even to only see a possibility. He quickly pushed away any thought of what might have been if their timing hadn’t been so bad.
“Pining for someone you can’t have really must be horrible.”
“Yeah,” Greg agreed, though his gaze drifted back to John instantly with a questioning look. “How’s Sherlock doing anyway? Moriarty business aside.”
For a moment, John wasn’t quite sure if Greg was implying what he thought to have heard there, and it caught him by surprise that someone not nearly as close to Sherlock as John should have seen through it all much sooner. Then again, since the very beginning, everyone had always assumed there was something going on between them in one way or the other.
John shrugged. He briefly considered brushing it all off; after all it wasn’t really his place to go spilling personal details about Sherlock to everyone. Then again, Greg was a good friend and cared about both of them, and John felt desperate to talk to someone, even if not about all the details.
“I don’t really know, to be honest. I mean… you mean he’s actually…” John left it for Greg to complete the sentence. At least that way he couldn’t be blamed for spilling secrets he should better keep to himself.
Greg looked at him with a crooked smirk, less amused than regretful. “In love with you?”
“God,” John groaned and looked away, focusing his glance on the rows of various bottles behind the bar. “So you really do think it’s that? Not just some kind of, I don’t know, fear of loss?”
“Well, I could be wrong, but... You were the first and only person I’ve ever seen him being close to like that, and I’ve known him for much longer than you.”
“Which could still mean I’m just an awesome friend,” John smiled, a bit unconvinced of his own words.
Greg shrugged. “Yeah, but whenever people assumed you were a couple he never corrected anyone. And you know how he loves gloating about how intelligent he is and how stupid all the rest of us are.”
“True,” John admitted.
“Then there was this whole speech at your wedding which had almost everyone in tears. Mind you, it almost had me there too.”
John chuckled faintly and his chest felt both warm and heavy at the memory of Sherlock’s words.
“And then there’s also the fact that he shot a man in cold blood and risked everything for you. His freedom, his work, he gave it all up.”
“He did that for Mary, though,” John replied with an undeniable feeling of doubt for his own words.
“Bollocks. He did that for you,” Greg said. “She’s your wife and she’s having your baby. I’d never thought it possible, but - believe it or not - Sherlock actually cares about your happiness more than his own.” He shook his head at his own words. “You did make a good man of him, after all. A better man than most, and that’s saying something.”
John smiled at Greg briefly, but the heaviness in his chest became stronger. It was gratitude and a bit of surprise, but mostly a deep sadness for Sherlock whom John wished to be happy as well, but there was nothing he could do to help him achieve it.
“I feel responsible, you know. You’re right. He did give up everything, and it’s my fault it got that far.”
“How?” Greg asked, brow furrowed.
“Well.” John didn’t quite know how to explain what seemed obvious to him. “I’m the reason, aren’t I? I mean. Where I am right now. Everything. Mary and the baby.”
“Doesn’t work that way, mate,” Greg replied. “You didn’t do anything on purpose. Things just happened as they did. That’s life.”
John was quiet for a while, just taking a few more sips of his beer and staring at the few remaining foam bubbles on its surface.
“Do you think it could have been different if you hadn’t met Mary?” From any other person and in any other situation John would have found the question quite untoward, and he had to chuckle at himself as he briefly felt the impulse rise to say he wasn’t gay.
“I honestly don’t know. I don’t want to think about it.”
“Sorry, yeah,” Greg replied.
“I mean there’s no point. So why wonder. I’ve just never… you know.”
“Well, these things aren’t always set in stone for everyone. And it doesn’t matter.”
Again, John was silent, and he couldn’t help but wonder. He had never actively imagined anything of the sort with Sherlock, never felt a physical attraction to him, at least not consciously, but in the brief moment he actually pictured himself with Sherlock, kissing Sherlock, he was shocked at how much it did not put him off.
No, there’s no use.
“So what do I do now?”
Greg let out a faint sigh. “I don’t think there’s anything you can do. I mean, usually the whole ‘be cruel to be kind’ routine works out quite well, but I don’t think… I could be wrong, but I’m not even sure Sherlock would pick up on it or that it would change anything about his feelings. He probably just needs to get over it by himself.”
“Why does he have to be like that, though?” John asked, frustration at how helpless he was surfacing. “If this were happening to you or me we’d have friends and other people to focus on.”
“And Sherlock thinks he’s just got you,” Greg concluded. “I’d offer to talk to him but then again… He’d probably throw a fit or tell me I was being stupid.”
They both laughed helplessly.
“Yeah, that wouldn’t work,” John replied. “I’d suggest he could go see a therapist to get over that crisis, but they’d probably need therapy themselves after one session.”
“Oh God, yes,” Greg replied. “Normal rules simply don’t apply to Sherlock Holmes.”
“No, they don’t.” And we wouldn’t love him as we do if that were the case. John didn’t say that out loud.
“Don’t beat yourself up about it like that. Sometimes things just don’t turn out a certain way,” Greg said. “You’re happy where you are and that’s all that matters.”
Yes, John was happy. He had every reason to be.
Just why could that heavy, dull ache of having lost something so immensely important not stop?
The black limousine stopped at the side of the dark street, its tyres coming to a halt almost soundlessly. The quiet was disturbed only by the high heels that clattered over the cobblestones until their echo was numbed by the interior carpet of the backseat.
“Good evening. I’m glad you made it to our appointment in time.” The male voice was polite, almost sweet, but with an undeniable snideness underneath it.
“I told you I had a busy schedule the other night,” the woman replied in equal politeness, though she was hardly perturbed by her companion’s attitude.
“Very well. We should get right to the point then, as we don’t have much time,” hr continued matter-of-factly. “You will get on the underground in precisely fifteen minutes, get off at the terminal station and take a taxi to the destination as discussed.”
“And he’ll be there?” she asked, the smallest hint of nervousness surfacing in her voice.
“He’ll be there,” he confirmed. “We’ve been monitoring his steps for the past five weeks. He’s been coming back to the old hideout every other evening.”
“Good. And then I give him the documents?”
He raised his eyebrows. “I do hope you’re doing more than giving him the documents. You need to convince him of your affiliation to his former employer first. We did go over the specifics of your strategy. Please don’t let me repeat them.”
The woman briefly rolled her eyes but let out a chuckle. “Don’t worry. I remember that part.”
“And you’re sure we’ll be able to lure him into the trap?” she asked. With each mile they drove her nervousness rose, but also excitement.
“I am quite certain.”
“Quite or completely?”
He looked at her with exasperation but it became never fully apparent, neither in his facial expression nor his tone. It was just an underlying vibe he gave off that was impossible to miss but equally impossible to lay a finger on it. “I am certain.”
She eyed him for a moment and smirked. “You know, you’re quite unlike your brother. A proper cold and calculating bastard.”
The smile on his features lost a bit of its unpleasantness. “I know, and you are quite unlike yours. How lucky for all of us.”
“Well, then,” she said and took a deep breath. “Operation SM is go.”
His glare was icy as he looked at her. “Please don’t call it that.”
She chuckled and bit her lip. “If this succeeds you owe me one.”
“I believe if this succeeds I won’t owe you anything since the success of the mission is to the benefit of all of us. Don’t you agree?”
She shrugged. “I meant like inviting me to one of your fancy dinner parties.”
Cool contempt turned into something almost shocked and affronted. “Do not attempt to flirt with me. It would be a futile endeavour.”
She had to bite down another chuckle. “Relax. One disaster with your kin is enough for a lifetime.”
“I am relieved. Now, as we’ve got such mundane topics out of the way, do you have any more questions?”
“Loads,” she replied but didn’t elaborate on any of them.
- TBC -