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The Summoning

By Ellie

Humor / Drama

The Summoning

The house was too silent, Mary observed when she was making herself a cup of tea, still in her dressing gown, even though it was already near three pm. But it was her day off, and there didn't seem to be any point in dressing when the house was empty. Too empty. Normally John would be here, filling the house with all the insignificant noises of someone living in it. As it was, the only thing she could hear were her own thoughts, and they were increasingly depressing her.

It was less than twenty-four hours since her world had truly started to crumble around her, less than twenty-four hours since John had found out about her and had looked at her with that look in his eyes that she wanted to forget instantly. Of course it was the very thing that her mind's eye kept showing to her.

She'd lost him. If there was one thing Mary was certain of, it was that. She had lost John, just as she feared she would. How could he not push her away after what she had done to him? She had lied to him from the day she had met him. He didn't even know her name. Well, he might know by now, if he had read the contents of the USB stick. It had been a last attempt, a last attempt at being honest with him, even though she knew there was no chance that he would still love her when he had finished reading. Too little and too late. Now she could only wonder if he would not have rejected her if she had told him right away that her name was not Mary Morstan and that she was not really a nurse. Well, she was one now, with qualifications – real ones, not the faked kind – and everything, but it was not what she had done for a living until five years ago.

But wondering about that didn't matter anymore, not now. It could have been that John would have forgiven her for the lying, but Mary was convinced that he would never forgive her for shooting Sherlock Holmes. She knew what Sherlock meant to John, she'd seen him mourn for him before his miraculous return from the dead. They were best friends, as close as friends could be. John would never forgive her for attempting to take Sherlock's life.

Not that she had been trying to do that. Of course Sherlock himself had been the one to point that out. No, Mary had really not meant to shoot anyone ever again, with an exception being made for Magnussen, and so she had incapacitated Sherlock and knocked out Magnussen, after which she had phoned for an ambulance. The plan had worked fabulously, but she should have known better than to think Sherlock would keep such an important piece of information to himself. He didn't keep anything from John.

The ironic thing was that he was also the only one on her side now. He may have spilled the beans about her activities and her lies to John in his own ingenious way, but he was also the one who told John that she was to be trusted, about the same time that his heart gave out and it had to be restarted. And judging by the look in John's eyes, he blamed her for that, as only he should.

And now he was gone. She'd received one text, telling her that he would be living in 221B Baker Street while Sherlock was in hospital, claiming it was closer to the hospital. Mary had deleted the text, unwilling to be confronted with it time and again. John's priority wasn't with her anymore, and had she really the right to expect any different?

And so here she was, stirring her tea, wondering what on earth she should do now. Magnussen was still alive, and had even more things to blackmail her with than he'd had before, she could probably consider her marriage over and done with, and she was pregnant. She couldn't have made a bigger mess of her life even if she'd tried.

She was dangerously close to sliding towards self-pity, something she hadn't indulged in since she was six years old and her mother wouldn't let her have another chocolate cookie, when her phone buzzed, signalling an incoming text.

Hospital. Come if convenient. SH

For a moment Mary could only stare at the words, trying to make sense of them, assuring herself that he had really texted her. Of course he could have texted the wrong Watson. He would be on the morphine and certainly not in a fit state to remember her phone number, or John's.

The phone buzzed a second time. If inconvenient, come anyway. SH

Mary shook her head at it. No, that sounded way too much like something he would send to John when he required immediate assistance on one of his many cases. His brains must have been too clouded by the drugs to remember the right number.

I am not John. Wrong number, Sherlock. MW

She pressed send before she could change her mind. Somehow texting Sherlock didn't feel right after everything that had happened, and Mary certainly didn't know if she still had any right to sign MW. Maybe she should start using AGRA again; as it was, Magnussen would probably bleat that fact to the world within weeks anyway. Sherlock may have said that he was taking her case, but that had been before he had been transported to hospital with internal bleeding and a failing heart. He was not capable of doing anything more taxing than lifting his head from a pillow at the moment, much less taking on the king of blackmail.

Another incoming text drew her attention back to her phone. I'm never wrong. Get dressed and go to the hospital. SH

It was strange that she could almost hear him say the words. And she wouldn't even begin to wonder how on earth he knew that she still wasn't dressed. It was Sherlock, and that was all the explanation needed. Still, she wasn't certain that she would answer his summons, because that was what this was. Sherlock seldom said please anyway.

In the end it was the lack of alternative that made up her mind. Well, she supposed she could remain on the sofa feeling sorry for herself, but that was no charming prospect at all and so she got up. On my way. MW

Dressing took her less than ten minutes. There used to be a time when she could do it quicker, when she had to be able to do it quicker, because sometimes she needed to leave at a moment's notice. But this was not a life-or-death situation, and so she could take a little time. Mary tried to stop herself from wondering what Sherlock wanted her for, though. It was always the unexpected with him anyway. She had expected him to be mad at her for shooting him – any other person would have been – but instead he had taken her case and had even more or less thanked her for saving his life, even though she had been the one to put the bullet in him in the first place. Mixed messages, I grant you.

Well, he was giving her mixed messages as well, Mary supposed, so that was only fair. He betrayed her secret to John in one of the worst ways imaginable, and then he took her case, even gave the impression of being on her side. The man she had almost killed was the only one on her side, while her own husband kept his distance from her. There must be some irony in that.

Mary took it as a good sign that there was no sign of any police to arrest her when she arrived. Part of her had expected it. It could be a trap Sherlock lured her in, even though she didn't think that was likely. Her fears lessened when she was pointed in the right direction by the elderly lady behind the reception and she could walk straight through, just another visitor among the many.

Sherlock had his eyes closed when she entered the room, seemingly asleep. Just her luck, arriving at the hospital just when the drugs had gotten the upper hand and dragged him under. Well, it was not as if she had places to be right now. She might as well wait. The chair in the corner didn't look very inviting – chairs in hospital seldom were – but the only alternative was perching on the bed, and that was out of the question.

'Pass me a pen, will you?'

Sherlock's voice startled her when she was just about to sit down. Mary swivelled around to find Sherlock wide awake, holding out a hand for a pen. He'd not been asleep then, just wandering around his Mind Palace. John said he did that from time to time.

'Don't feel the need to tell me I startled you; it's obvious from your expression.' The tone of voice was definitely dismissive. There was no other word for it.

'Most people apologise for such a thing,' she pointed out.

'Most people don't apologise for shooting someone,' Sherlock retorted.

Mary's eyebrows shot up of their own volition. This was rapidly turning out to be one of the strangest conversations she'd had in her life, and that was saying something. 'So, we're not most people? Is that what you're trying to say?'

'Obviously,' Sherlock said. 'Pass me that pen, will you? I rang the nurses for it, but they refused to.'

She hadn't done any real smiling for well over a week, but this made her come dangerously close. The way Sherlock was talking to her would almost make her believe that last week hadn't happened, and that this was just another normal day in the presence of Sherlock Holmes, with the minor change that the venue was usually 221B and not a hospital.

'Why?' she asked. 'Why wouldn't they pass you a pen?'

'They think I'll overexert myself,' was the reply. From the tone of voice it was clear that he didn't share the nurses' opinion.

'I think you'll overexert yourself,' Mary pointed out, still wondering if she was even allowed to banter with him now, wondering if she wasn't crossing some boundaries here. 'And I'm a nurse.'

'Exactly,' Sherlock said. 'You'll be perfect.'

Confusion ruled supreme. 'Perfect for what?'

'The job. Obviously.'

Well, it certainly wasn't obvious to her. 'What job, Sherlock?'

'My nurse, obviously.'

The thing was, nothing about that was obvious to her. And by now his trademark word was starting to really get on her nerves. They hadn't exactly been in a state of calm for the past week, and she hadn't had much sleep last night. Correct that, she didn't have any sleep last night. As a consequence she really wasn't in the mood to play the guessing game with him.

And so she glared at him. 'Sherlock, if you say obviously one more time…'

'You'll shoot me?' he helpfully supplied. He almost seemed amused.

'If I have to,' she retorted. And you can take that hint and run with it. With his deductive powers, there was no doubt that he would do exactly that.

To her surprise he snorted, eyes sparking with mirth. 'Oh, please. Shooting me is so one week ago.' If he was trying to tell her that he knew that she wouldn't shoot him, then he succeeded. Mary didn't think she could do it a second time, especially now that he was the one man she could probably rely on to be on her side. She was opportunistic enough to see that, a legacy of her days in the intelligence branch.

'What am I doing here, Sherlock?' she asked, seriously.

'Well, you won't go back to the surgery for a while,' he observed, making Mary feel a bit uncomfortable, because that was true. Seeing John now would be more painful than she thought she could manage at the moment. 'And you'll be needing a job. You're a nurse, a capable nurse, and you're not as much of an idiot as the nurses this hospital employs.'

'Are you calling me an idiot?' she asked sharply.

'I just said you weren't. Do keep up.' He sounded a bit irritable now.

'You're asking me to be a private nurse,' Mary realised, wondering when exactly the world had stopped making sense. 'This place is crawling with nurses.'

'They're idiots,' Sherlock reminded her. 'Will you take the job?'

Mary snorted. 'I shot you and now you're entrusting me with your health?' Bizarre didn't even begin to cover it. Insane was more like it. But then, most of Sherlock's schemes didn't make any sense, not to normal people anyway. John had told her that he had gotten engaged to Janine to break into Magnussen's office, ring and everything. Of course the engagement hadn't lasted long enough for him to put the ring on Janine's finger, but the thing was that he had done it. 'Some people might start to think you have a death wish.'

He deflected that objection with hardly any effort at all. 'At the moment I am the only one who can help you, and you're clever enough to know that. Killing me won't be in your interest. In fact, it would be in your best interest to make sure that I get out of this hospital as soon as possible. The pen, please.'

She chuckled, handing him the pen that was just out of his reach. 'I am not your personal assistant. You have John for that sort of thing. And he's a doctor.'

'I asked him. He said he had work to do.' The announcement was followed by an eye roll. 'Dull.'

So, that's how he knew she wouldn't be at the surgery. She would have found it all very impressive, if it hadn't been so very annoying at the same time. She had a good poker face and some acting skills, and she'd really thought Sherlock couldn't see straight through her like he did with everyone else. Of course he could, he'd just chosen not to show it. But the truth was that she had come to enjoy his company, and not just because he was John's best friend.

At the same time this was most absurd job offer she'd ever had, and considering her past, that was quite the achievement. But then, he was right; she wouldn't go to work for a while, not until this situation was resolved, one way or the other. As it was, she may have to look for another job altogether. In the meantime, she could use the money, and she needed the occupation. Idleness didn't suit her. Sherlock was bound to know that.

'You knew I was going to say yes, didn't you?' she asked.

'Obviously.' Sherlock didn't even look up when he answered; he was already scribbling something on a piece of paper. 'And no, you won't shoot me. You've left the gun at home. The bulge in your handbag is made by a fake pistol.'

Mary suddenly felt the urge to laugh. 'And here I thought I was being clever.'

'Keep it out of sight of the nurses,' was the only reply she got. 'The one with the curls would faint.'

There was more than one occasion in the next couple of weeks when Mary wondered how it had come to this, her nursing the very man she had shot back to health. Maybe it was an atonement of sorts, or maybe she was just preventing the hospital's nurses from going collectively crazy. They had arranged it so that Mary would take the morning and most of the afternoon, so that she always left hospital before John arrived after work, but the hospital staff still needed to deal with him when she wasn't there, and they all avoided him if only they could. Sherlock had done Ivy – the one with the curls – the "favour" of informing her that her boyfriend was only dating her to conceal the fact that he was secretly gay and having an affair with his boss, resulting in bouts of crying. When Lisa – the one with the freckles – had come in to see what was happening, Sherlock cheerfully repeated his deductions in front of both the nurses, after which he had managed to insult Lisa about her looks and her taste in clothing. Of course, that particular bad mood had been brought about by a visit from Mycroft, but still, ever since rumour had it that the staff was drawing straws to see who would see to Mr Holmes. Mary could hardly blame them.

Sherlock was an awful patient, with no patience whatsoever for medical treatment when he had a case to solve, even though the doctor had forbidden him from doing any work. In the end Mary had a quick word with him and then with Sherlock, announcing the deal that Lestrade was allowed to bring in pictures of crime scenes and statements of witnesses if he promised to eat and take his medicines. Sherlock had muttered something about digestion slowing him down, but Mary had pointed out that he was not exactly going anywhere, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Today she was running late. Her car had gotten the idea of not doing what she wanted and she'd wasted ten minutes trying to get her engine to work before it finally worked again. The hospital knew she was coming, and Ivy, who'd answered the phone, had offered to bring Sherlock his breakfast.

'It's no problem,' she said. 'I can do it?' The uncertainty about her own abilities made the supposed statement come out as a question.

Mary had frowned at the phone. 'Are you sure?'

'Well, I can bring it and you can make him eat it,' was the response. 'Anyway, he was right about Henry. My boyfriend.'

Obviously, as Sherlock would say. Mary had never expected him to be wrong. He may be in hospital and on the morphine, but that clearly had no influence on that brain of his. It was why she had liked him in the first place. Even Sherlock had admitted that she was clever, on the phone, just before their meeting at Leinster Gardens.

She had hardly dropped her bag at a locker when Ivy cornered her. 'Mary, thank God you're here.'

'Sherlock being difficult?' she asked. 'Is Mycroft here?'

Ivy looked puzzled. 'Mycroft? His brother? No, he isn't here. He's just…'

'Being himself,' Mary finished. The longer she did this job, the more she came to see that there really was no reason to panic about her mothering abilities; she'd spent the last two weeks mothering the most difficult child in existence. She only hoped that when her child was born, the father would be there with her.

She tried not to think about that, but it crept up on her all the same. Being a nurse gave her something to do during the day, but at home she could practically feel the walls closing in on her. The house was too silent and she still hadn't heard from John. He was maintaining radio silence, and she didn't dare text or call him for fear he would not take well to it. In public she could pretend that all was well; it was a part of the job she'd done until five years previous. She made small talk with the hospital staff, smiled at Sherlock's visitors and told the neighbours John had gone to stay with his sister, who was very ill and needed a doctor on hand. None of them as much as suspected something was not as it should be. But they couldn't see behind closed doors.

And so Mary craved the distraction of the job, and at least she was never bored looking after Sherlock. Ten to one that he knew that and that was the exact reason why he had employed her.

She donned her best bedside manner and entered his room. 'Good morning.' She took care not to make it too cheerful, a mistake commonly made by hospital personnel, because Sherlock absolutely loathed it.

'Is it?' the consulting detective growled. 'Mary, I need a case.'

'The doctor's got one for you,' she replied, giving a pointed look at the tray on the table. 'The Case of the Unfinished Breakfast.'

A dismissive snort. 'Eating. Boring.' It was one of those days, wasn't it? Well, that was good. Mary needed it.

'The doctor doesn't agree.'

'He's an idiot. He forgot to shave and lost his car keys, so he had to cycle to work this morning, which is why he was late, just like you – car didn't start; there're smudges on your fingers you forgot to wash off before you got here, because obviously you were in a hurry – but, unlike you, he didn't try to actually fix the problem. Of course the car keys were in the left pocket of his jacket, which he didn't check, because he always puts them in his right. He only changed the habit because there was a hole in the right pocket and he needs to get it mended, which he constantly forgets. So, he's an idiot.' It was a minor miracle he wasn't out of breath after saying all that without pausing.

'So said all of that to Ivy?' Mary was equal parts amused and annoyed. Showing off really didn't get old, did it? And it was a sure sign that he was bored out of his mind. 'The one with the curls,' she added when the name clearly didn't ring any bells.

'No, to the doctor.'

'So, that's why he's stalking the corridors with a face like thunder.' She brought the tray over to his bed. 'You'll have to eat, Sherlock. It's part of the deal. The longer you refuse eating, the longer he's going to keep you here.'

She was rewarded for her efforts with another annoyed look. 'You've been taking lessons in blackmail from Magnussen?'

That hurt, a bit. She hadn't heard from Magnussen since the shooting, but no doubt that would change soon. She was starting to think it wasn't her he wanted anything of, though. If that was the case, he would have acted already. No, the longer this dragged on, the more she began to think that it was either Sherlock or John he wanted something from. And as long as Sherlock was in hospital, there was nothing he could do with him. In a way, she may have bought them time.

'Oh, you think that was insensitive,' Sherlock observed, saving her the need to say it.

'Perfect deduction, Sherlock. You still need to eat breakfast.' Sometimes it really had its perks being a nurse.

He frowned at her. 'When did you become so annoying?'

Mary grinned, enjoying the feeling of winning this round. 'Since you hired me and I am apparently your private nurse. It's my job.'

Sherlock's nose wrinkled in disgust. 'I sack you.'

'The hospital will probably re-hire me the next second. None of the other nurses will have anything to do with you,' Mary pointed out. 'You're unofficially hailed as the most difficult patient of the last century.' She handed him a fork. 'You will eat this, Sherlock.'

'Or what?'

'Or I'll call your mother,' she responded promptly. She'd met Sherlock's mum and dad only once, about a week ago. They were heaven-sent – and really nice as well – because they allowed Mary to discover Sherlock's weak spot. His mother was the only one the consulting detective did take orders from, albeit with the utmost reluctance and unwillingness.

That seemed to do the trick, although it earned her another glare, but Mary was used to those by now. Sherlock was never a very easy person to deal with, and being forced to spend all his time in hospital, without having the options of doing experiments, playing the violin or dashing off to crime scenes, made him worse. Well, she supposed she could be blamed for that at least.

'George phoned,' Sherlock announced when Mary was in the process of opening the curtains.

She turned around. 'Who?'

'George Lestrade,' Sherlock said impatiently. 'Scotland Yard, fancies himself a detective.'

'His name is Greg,' Mary reminded him. 'And he is a detective.'

'In a manner of speaking.'

'What'd he want?' With Sherlock, there was always a reason why he told people things.

'He has pictures of a crime scene. You'll need to collect them at lunch time.' He didn't even look up from breakfast as he told her that.

'I'm not your personal assistant.' Not that he wasn't using her as one. She'd been running errands for him on and off, another thing his mother had scolded him for, since that wasn't something one did to a pregnant woman. Mary enjoyed it, though. It kept her busy, and it stopped her from thinking about things she didn't want to think about. 'You should have kept Janine around.'

Sherlock grimaced. 'That didn't work out.'

'Because you used her to break into her boss's office and she told lies about your non-existent bedroom activities to the papers. Yes, I can see where that went wrong,' Mary remarked. Not that she was one to lecture Sherlock about using Magnussen's PA. The minor difference was that Janine just didn't know what Mary had done, and they were still friends.

'Whereas your reasons for befriending her were entirely free of any ulterior motives.'

Mary ignored that. 'You can ask John to collect the pictures,' she said. 'He'll love it.'

Sherlock looked at her. 'You haven't talked yet, have you? To John?'

That was a sore point. 'Are you asking or are you deducing?'

'From which I can deduce that you haven't.' Sherlock looked way to smug for someone all but tied to a hospital bed – he was under constant surveillance and the window had been locked, so that he couldn't escape that way again – and it grated on Mary's every nerve, because she wanted to talk to John, because she wanted everything to go back to how it was before, and because she also knew that would never happen. 'Why? Isn't he answering your phone calls?'

Mary decided to ignore him.

'Oh, I see. You haven't called him at all, have you? Possibly because you feel too ashamed to talk to him, more likely because you don't think he'll welcome you.' He leaned back against the pillows with that easy confidence of someone who knew they could swing things their way whenever they wanted. Sherlock clearly was too used to getting his way, which was quite possibly the reason why he got so frustrated with the hospital personnel, because the world didn't revolve around Sherlock Holmes in this place and he had to do as he was told. 'I'll talk him round.'

Mary folded her arms in front of her chest, recognising the words she herself had spoken when John didn't feel like communicating with Sherlock. 'You will?' She felt a bit stupid for answering with Sherlock's own reply to that.

'He'll come round,' Sherlock said, which wasn't the exact same thing. 'Will you go and get the pictures?'

Mary all but glared at him. 'And you say I'm the one to blackmail you.' She shrugged. 'Fine, I'll get them. If you eat lunch in my absence and don't drive any of the nurses crazy.'

Maybe she should have realised he agreed a bit too easily, and the fact that he didn't even insult the nurses' intelligence should have been a dead giveaway as well. So why she was surprised when she came back and found that Sherlock had taken himself for lunch in the café across the street, she'd never know. She wasn't entirely sure she bought his excuse of it being "for a case" either.

Only when Sherlock was released from hospital did Mary realise that she missed it, the excitement, the distraction. She still had a few weeks left until she would go on maternity leave, and so she had returned to the surgery, to have something to do. It also meant that she had seen John again. So she behaved as if nothing at all was amiss, and for some reason John went along with it, which somehow made things worse. There was a tension below the surface that made things awkward, and that actually only served to make her keep her distance. They both seemed to be more comfortable with that. He still lived at Baker Street, so Sherlock's talking him round hadn't been very fruitful thus far.

She was lonely. It took her a few weeks to figure out the feeling. It wasn't something Mary was used to feeling. When she had still been an intelligence agent, she had spent days or ever weeks on her own, and it had never bothered her. Now, even though she was surrounded by people all day long and Janine sometimes popped by after work, she was incredibly lonely, more so than she had ever been, because this time there was something missing. It was knowing exactly who was missing that was the problem.

But she had never been a quitter, and so she battled on, told herself to get out of bed in the morning, to wash, eat, work and keep to her appointments with the doctor. When he inquired where the baby's father was, Mary told him the same thing she had told the neighbours. It was a façade, but all of Mary Morstan had been a façade, like the fronts of Leinster Gardens. Ironic that Sherlock should have chosen just that exact spot, but then, he was a drama queen. And she'd never had any time for that.

The loneliness got worse the closer the date came to Christmas. Kate from next-door told her that she was having a Christmas party because her son was off the drugs, Mrs Vernon from across the street informed her she was off to her daughter's – so could she please look after the cat? – and Mr and Mrs West from next-door on the other side were having a huge family Christmas. Whereas she was probably doomed to spend it on her own. No, solitude had never bothered her, but it did now.

It was Sunday and Mary was making tea for herself when her phone signalled an incoming text. Make another cuppa and open the door. SH

Mary was still frowning at the screen when the second text came in. And open a packet of biscuits. SH

She had learned long before now that there was never anything normal when dealing with Sherlock Holmes. He always had his own way of doing things, the more dramatic, the better. So, if he sent her texts like these, there was possibly a reason for it. Maybe he wanted to discuss the case – her case – without John there to overhear him. Maybe he just didn't want her anywhere near Baker Street. Anyway, Mary was curious enough to do as she was told. She made the extra cup of tea and then went to the door and opened it just in time to see Sherlock Holmes getting out of the cab that had stopped in front of the house, putting his coat collar up before he crossed the street and waltzed right into the house without as much as a hello or a by-your-leave.

'Yeah, charming, Sherlock,' she commented as she closed the door and followed him into the living room. 'You know, most people just ring the doorbell.'

'I'm not most people.' He had already installed himself on the sofa, biscuit in one hand, cup of tea in the other. He seemed wholly out of place, just as he had seemed out of place in that hospital bed. It was difficult imagining Sherlock Holmes anywhere that wasn't either Baker Street, a crime scene, a lab or a morgue. A house in the suburbs didn't sound like the place for him.

'I've noticed.' Mary walked into the room and took the chair, since Sherlock had obviously monopolised the sofa. 'Why are you here?' Too unkind, she told herself a second later. Not that she would admit to any of this out loud, but she was glad of the company, and the last thing she wanted was to chase him out of the house before five minutes had passed.

'My parents are inviting you over for Christmas,' Sherlock told her.

'Why?' She had only met them once, and most of the time of their visit had been spent in pacifying a very angry Dr Daniels after Sherlock had gotten it into his head to have one of his homeless network smuggle his nicotine patches into the building without his explicit permission.

Sherlock shrugged. 'She's a simple woman, she doesn't need a reason other than liking you.' There was some disdain in his voice, but also fondness. He was putting on a show, Mary assumed, to make it look as if he didn't particularly care, which she thought he did, though. John said he did that, pretending he didn't care, but if she'd heard it right, then the reason he had faked his death in the first place was to save the lives of his friends. She even had a lingering suspicion that she may just be more than a puzzle for him to solve. At least he regarded her as less stupid than the average British citizen.

'Maybe she is,' Mary allowed. 'But you're not. You have a reason. Your mother didn't just happen to invite me when she barely knows me.'

'Okay, I suggested it,' Sherlock admitted.

Now there was something to be careful of. 'Why?' Another idea crept up, made her look at Sherlock suspiciously. 'John's going to be there.' It wasn't a question as much as a conclusion. 'That's your idea of talking him round, by forcing us to meet in a place where we can't fight?'

'You've done very well at the surgery,' Sherlock pointed out. 'And it'll be Christmas. Isn't that the time that people usually…' He threw his hands in the air, possibly to signal that it went far beyond his understanding. 'Forgive each other? Peace on earth?'

Mary's eyes had narrowed. 'Fibbing, Sherlock,' she said. 'There's something you're not telling me. You don't even like Christmas, do you?' If she had remembered correctly he had tried to ignore the whole thing last year. 'Why are you of all people going to a Christmas party?'

Sherlock grimaced. 'It was either that, or them coming to Baker Street for Christmas,' he replied. A look of absolute horror crossed his face. 'And Mycroft is coming as well.'

Well, that explained a few things, Mary supposed. 'And we're what? Distractions to help you through the day?'

He ignored her. 'Oh, and John will be moving back in here after.'

'Will he?' Mary asked. When last she had seen, John it seemed like he had gone out of his way to avoid her. That didn't look like he was about to move back in with her, not to her at least.

'I'm quite sure of it,' Sherlock said. He sipped his tea and avoided her gaze.

'How's that?' Mary asked sharply.

It was the other part of her that spoke up now, the part she had more or less successfully kept buried for five years. After all, Mary Morstan may be intelligent, but she was also kind, good-humoured and good friends with most people she met. The woman she had been before, the woman whose name she didn't even mention, not even to herself, was cynical, suspicious and not any good with people. In her line of work it had been best to keep people at arm's length. It was no good forming attachments. They only weighed her down. Mary Morstan had been the complete opposite, and she liked her. She found she liked her occupation better as well. Helping people was definitely better than shooting them. And even though she craved the adventure every now and then, she liked her new life. So then why was that other part of her resurfacing more and more? Because you need to survive, she reminded herself. So that meant at least until Magnussen was out of the picture for once and for all. This part of her may not have been good for much, but her survival instincts were as good as they ever were.

'I just know,' Sherlock said.

'You never say something without good reason.' She'd been around him long enough to know that. The incident with the crime scene photographs was such an occasion. Greg had told her he'd have been more than happy to stop by himself, but Sherlock had said he would send her over to collect them instead. Only upon her return to the hospital had she found that it had only been a way for him to get her off his back so that he could have lunch in a café, presumably with someone he didn't want her to meet or just because he fancied going out for a bit. There was no telling with him.

'All right, I'm kicking him out,' Sherlock confessed.

Now that made her frown. 'You're kicking him out,' she echoed. 'I thought you liked having him back at the flat?' That was why there had been such a fuss about the wedding, that was why he had been YouTubeing serviettes, of all things to do.

'His chair,' the detective explained, if such a thing could count as an explanation anyway, because it didn't make any sense to Mary. 'It's blocking my view to the kitchen.'

'Now I'm certain you're not telling me everything.' He was dancing around whatever it was that this was really about. 'I'm not coming, Sherlock. I'm not ready.'

Sherlock sighed dramatically. 'You're saying the same thing as John.'

Mary arched an eyebrow at him. 'And I'm assuming that he is going, judging by your earlier words. So, what'd you say to him?'

'The same thing I'll say to you,' he said, standing up and placing the empty cup back on the table. It was only now that she realised he'd never even taken off his coat. 'It could be dangerous.'

Mary frowned again, but she was doing the frowning to his back, because Sherlock was already well on his way to the front door. 'Why does that make you think I'll come?'

'John and you are remarkably alike,' Sherlock observed. 'You just won't be able to resist. Text me what time you want to be picked up.' The door slammed shut behind him.

Mary finished her tea, her mind made up. She meant what she had said to Sherlock, that she wasn't ready for this. How did one pick up the threads of a life, as Sherlock had suggested would happen? She'd never done that. When she had started fresh, she had buried her old life and created a new. That was something she could do.

On the other hand, she wanted John back, and she'd be a fool to deny it. She missed him. Her whole new life centred around John Watson. Without him in it, it all fell apart. And Mary loved him. She'd married him, they were going to have a baby together very soon. And she wanted him here, wanted him back in this house, back in her life.

And then there was that thing Sherlock said. It could be dangerous. The point was that she was curious, even when she wasn't entirely convinced that a Christmas party could be dangerous in any way, a legacy of her old life, a craving for danger and excitement that she never had managed to bury entirely. Not the best thing for a pregnant woman to do, but Sherlock wouldn't have asked if it would really endanger her baby, would he?

In the end curiosity won out. She gritted her teeth in frustration at realising that Sherlock apparently had been able to predict this, but she typed the message all the same. Pick me up at 10.30. MW

She pressed send before she could change her mind.

Of course it wasn't until after she woke up from a drugged sleep only to find that Sherlock had shot Magnussen in the meantime that she realised that when he said it could be dangerous, he really meant it.

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