I have no idea where this one came from, but it arrived in my head late last night, and I didn't argue. As per usual with my post S3 fics, it explores the relationships between Sherlock, John, and Mary. Because I just can't get enough of the three of them.

Pairings: John/Mary, Sherlock&John friendship, Sherlock&Mary friendship

I don't own anything, of course, or else we'd already have S4.

Thanks for stopping by!


John Watson goes to his own funeral. It is a somber affair, and well attended. He is surprised and touched by how many people sit in the pews at the church, dressed in their best and whispering quietly among themselves about how he was much too young to go, and what a nice service.

Mike Stamford is there, of course, in a suit and tie, chatting solemnly to another of their old classmates from Bart's whose name John can't remember.

Mrs. Hudson's eyes are wet—she keeps dabbing at them with a handkerchief, but her efforts to dry them are failing miserably.

There are several lads in uniform, looking sharp and crisp, shaking hands with each other and casting melancholy smiles at the sleek ebony casket at the front of the room (John hasn't dared approach it yet, and he's not sure he wants to).

Greg, standing with Molly Hooper and a few other familiar faces from the Yard. Greg and Molly have a different sort of solemnity about them, the grief of people who had known the deceased well, but don't feel quite comfortable sitting with the family. Molly keeps wiping at her face discreetly, but like Mrs. Hudson, her efforts are fairly useless.

And then there's Harry, looking remarkably sober, standing with several of her friends. She doesn't interact with anyone else, and she refuses to look at the casket.

Mycroft is, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be seen.

He had been killed two blocks from 221B. He'd taken the tube from the clinic and decided to walk the last few blocks. The weather was decent, and he'd walked briskly enough to keep his hands and feet warm.

Ironically, he was hardly a stone's throw from the flat of a man who had the criminal class of London on its toes when he was hailed by three men lurking in the mouth of an alley. He caught the flash of the muzzle of a gun peeking out from a shabby overcoat on the tallest man and his heart sank.

His first thought was an exasperated what-did-Sherlock-do-to-these-ones, and his second was of Mary, and if he should tell her before or after their dinner date, and bugger it all, he'd forgotten to make reservations and would they still get a table?

He stepped into the alley, sizing them up surreptitiously.

"Now look, I don't even live with him anymore, I don't have anything to do with…"

But they cut him off and demanded his wallet, looking around them wildly with the air of the amateur. They were younger than he'd thought, and the one holding the gun was shaking visibly.

That was when he realized that this was nothing more than a simple mugging, and he almost started to laugh.

"No way," he said. "Alright, alright…you can take it. It's fine. Just calm down."

He reached for his pocket slowly, careful to maintain eye contact with the one holding the gun. He didn't like how jumpy the kid was, how his finger kept flexing on the trigger.

"Do you even know how to use that thing?" he asked, keeping his tone light and friendly as he pulled his brown leather wallet from his pocket. "You want to be careful. Might hurt someone."

"That's the point, innit?"

He stretched out his hand slowly, calculating. If he took the one with the gun out first, the others would more than likely scatter. They weren't professionals; they were just kids, and he'd dealt with far worse.

But just as he placed his wallet in the palm of a cold, dirty hand, his phone rang and everything went to hell.

He heard the gunshots, felt the bullets like two dull, concentrated punches to the chest, and then he fell gently back against the dirty brick wall behind him and slithered ungracefully to the ground.

He knew in those few seconds before he lost consciousness that he had just been killed. He had seen too many deaths, and he knew there was nothing to be done.

Trigger finger.

Three scared, cursing kids pounding away, leaving his wallet and the gun lying in the dirt.

His phone, still ringing in his jacket.

If it had been the movies, he would have managed to pull it from his pocket and answer it, giving whispered, ragged, instructions to his location and help would have arrived just in time to save his life.

But this wasn't the movies.

And so John Watson died.

Sherlock and Mary are sitting together in the front pew, and Mary is gripping Sherlock's hand tightly. His fingers twitch occasionally in hers, tighten reflexively and then loosen, but it is the only part of him that moves. He sits tall and straight, looking impeccably put together in a black suit and tie, shoes spit-polished, unruly hair clean and falling casually against his starched collar. He looks straight ahead, staring just over the coffin that contains John's body, and his face is white and waxen. When he swallows it's a surprise, like watching a mannequin in a window display move unexpectedly.

Sherlock arrived too late.

By the time he'd followed John's trail, skidded to a halt and flung himself to his knees beside the crumpled, blood-soaked body, the light in John's dull, blue eyes was already fading.

"Stay with me, John," he commanded, but his voice was weak and cracked, and caught in his throat. His strong, lean, capable hands had hovered helplessly over the holes in John's chest that were still leaking red, red life all over John's shirt and jacket. "John? John! Stay with me!"

But even with Sherlock's scarf pressed tightly over the wounds in his chest and Sherlock's steady stream of increasingly panicked pleas, commands, questions, demands, John had not responded. And by the time the ambulance arrived, the medics pronounced him dead on arrival.

Sherlock refused to accompany the body in the ambulance.

When they pronounced the victim deceased, he rose gracefully to his feet, turned, and walked away from the body with his coat wrapped tightly around his torso without a word.

No one saw him for two days.

He watches them and wonders if they will stay together now that he is gone. Some part of him has always known that he is the glue that holds them together. They would have never met, never come so close, never learned to enjoy each other's company, never tolerated each other's quirks and oddities, if it were not for their mutual love for him.

He sees their fingers laced together and hopes that maybe, maybe Sherlock will stick around, and maybe, maybe Mary will let him.

They need each other.

Sherlock and Mary are the two most intelligent, clever people he has ever met, but they can both be so incredibly thick. And he does not think they realize that now that John is gone, the only piece they have left of him is each other.

Sherlock showed up at Mary's doorstep two days and 9 hours after he had found John's body in the alley, and when she opened the door her red, puffy eyes overflowed with fresh tears. One hand whipped out and cracked across his cheek—his head snapped to the side with the force of the blow, but he did not protest.

"Where have you been?" she demanded, standing in the doorway, fists clenched and tears spilling down her face. "Where in the name of…" but her voice broke and she choked on a huge sob. She pressed her fists to her eyes, and then one hand reached out blindly and found Sherlock's lapel.

He pushed her gently into the house and closed the door behind him. He wrapped one arm tightly around her shoulders and led her into the sitting room, where he sat down on the couch and pulled her to him. Her fingers burrowed into his shirt, and she buried her face in his chest and wept silently.

Neither of them spoke for a long while, but when Mary's tears finally dried up she sat up wearily and wiped at her face.

"We've made the funeral arrangements, Mrs. Hudson and I. It's on Saturday."

"Funerals aren't really my thing."

"This one is."

"I'd rather not."

"Not going won't make it any less real."

She fixed him with a steely glare, but he couldn't meet it.

"It might."

"He was your best friend," she said, and though her eyes glistened again she pressed on, one hand now locked around his wrist. "And you're going. Please, Sherlock. For me, if not for him. I need you there."

He was silent for a long moment, and then his other hand moved hesitantly across his body and rested gently on hers. "I'd do it for no one else."

If his life had been a movie, Sherlock and Mary would have moved in together, taken up the old rooms at Baker Street, perhaps, and been each other's support. They would have grown closer together, become best friends, learned to laugh again. Then they would have woken up one morning to discover that they had fallen in love, and they would have gone through all sorts of angst and guilt until John's ghost came to them and told them he didn't mind if they got married.

They would have lived happily ever after, and named their first son after John, and the final shot before the end credits would have been their new family enjoying some nostalgic activity in the living room of 221B with John's framed picture in the foreground, smiling at the camera.

But his life hadn't been a movie, and Sherlock and Mary were the sort of people to love once and never again.

They had both chosen to love John. And that was that.

Sherlock showed up at John and Mary's flat in plenty of time to make it to the funeral. He escorted Mary down the steps and out to the street, where he had a cab waiting.

"Just you and me, I think," he said. "Let's avoid the others. They'll only cry and talk, neither of which will do any good."

Mary squeezed his arm. "Just you and me."

Partway through the service, John is still watching Sherlock and Mary. When the orator at the podium mentions something about an immortal soul and the mortal body that has contained it, Sherlock's eyes flicker to the coffin and away again. He seems to be struggling with himself, but John considers that a step in the right direction.

He is almost looking forward to a Sherlock outburst, because that would mean that Sherlock is still Sherlock, and John will feel less guilty about leaving him behind.

Sherlock shifts restlessly, and his eyes flicker contemptuously to the reverend. The fingers of his free hand tap a restless beat against his thigh.

Mary glances at him, and her eyes are sharp and fierce.

"Don't you dare," she whispers. "It's a nice service."

"It's pointless," Sherlock hisses back, not quite softly enough, and Mary slaps his wrist gently to quiet him. "Not really how I care to memorialize John."

"It's a funeral. There has to be a funeral."

"Would John have wanted a funeral?"

"Well, yes, of course," she says, but she blinks and frowns, like she's trying to convince herself. "Of course he would."

"You know as well as I do he wouldn't."

"He never said either way." But she is relenting, and Sherlock pushes on to victory.

"The John Watson I knew wouldn't have wanted this."

"Then what do you suggest?"

Their whispers are hardly audible, but they are still attracting glances from the congregation, who are casting them pitying, curious, uncomfortable glances.

John can only smile. The two people who are supposed to be mourning him most are sitting together in the front row, heads bent together, plotting a way to sneak out of his funeral. He wouldn't have it any other way.

Greg Lestrade had volunteered to tell Mary. She was dressed in one of her favorite evening dresses when she opened the door, the earrings John had given her for her birthday glittering in her ears. They had been going out, then. His heart constricted, and as she invited him in he wished he were anywhere else. He cannot get the image of John's pale, still, horribly dead body out of his mind.

He had made sure she was sitting when he broke the news. The blood had drained from her face instantly, but all she had whispered before breaking down in tears was, "Does Sherlock know?"

When the choir and congregation rise to sing The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended, Sherlock and Mary stand too. Mary holds Sherlock's arm, and his shoulders are finally relaxed under his stiff suit collar. He looks down at her and John sees one side of his lips curl up affectionately.

Mary catches his eye and smiles too, and though it is a little weepy and tremulous, there is a sparkle to it that has been missing for the past several days.

She nudges him a little, leaning into him, and Sherlock sways a little and his eyes fall on the casket. He seems to see it for the first time, and now he seems determined to burn a hole through it with the intensity of his stare.

"It's not really him," Mary whispers, and the singing is loud enough to drown out her voice this time. "In that box. Not really."

Sherlock doesn't answer. John almost expects him to launch into a discourse about the unreality of God and souls, but he doesn't. Instead, he gives a noncommittal jerk of his head, swallows, and looks away, the edges of his mouth tightening. Something glistens in the corner of his eye, and his face is a cold mask again.

They had dressed John in his army uniform because people expected it. He looked handsome, lying there in the casket with his medals pinned to his chest, arms straight at his sides, face pale and serene.

People thought that Mary and Sherlock had wanted to commemorate John Watson the soldier, the doctor, the wonderful pillar of the community, and they commented on how peaceful and noble he looked.

But Mary and Sherlock knew without having to discuss it that they had agreed to bury him in his uniform because neither of them had ever seen him wear it.

Dressing him in a suit, or his favorite jumper, or his black Haversack, would have made it John Watson in the casket.

And neither of them could bear the thought.

John watches as they sit back down, and his heart is aching for them. There is a barrier between them again—he can feel it, see it in the way Sherlock's shoulders are stiff again, in the way Mary now leans slightly away from Sherlock instead of towards him.

He wonders again if their friendship will survive his death, and what will happen to both of them if it does not.

He does not care if they move into together, and would rather they didn't get married, but he does want them to be SherlockandMary just like it had once been SherlockandJohn, and later, SherlockandJohnandMary.

John has always been a patient man.

So he sits down next to Sherlock and folds his arms. He is content to wait for as long as it takes to know that they are going to be all right.

It doesn't take long.

Come to the flat, Sherlock's text had said. Mary says you've got dinner but this is important. M says she'll murder us both if you're late so make it quick. -SH

He had read the text just before his last appointment and immediately begun to debate whether or not he would stop by. He'd promised Mary a nice night out, as they hadn't had one in too long, and he'd been looking forward to a nice, quiet evening together.

On the other hand, he hadn't been on a case in several weeks, and surely it wouldn't hurt to stop by and see what was going on at 221B before he hightailed it home.

This had better be good, he'd texted Sherlock. The things I do for you. He sent it off before he could change his mind, instantly felt guilty, and figured he'd better swing by the floral shop and pick up some roses for Mary to make up for it. Or maybe he'd better just text Sherlock again and tell him he really, really couldn't make it…

I know you've already told Sherlock you'll come, so don't bother canceling on him, her text said. So go stop by and see what he wants. I'll expect you at 7:30. Don't be late.

He'd smiled at the phone, feeling a sudden surge of affection for his beautiful, perfect wife and wondered how he'd ever gotten so lucky.

I love you, was all he sent back.

It was the last text he'd ever send.

Just like John hopes they will, Sherlock and Mary do not take long before they are relaxed again, sitting close enough that their shoulders are touching, although they are no longer holding hands.

As he watches, Mary leans against Sherlock's shoulder, and he glances sideways at her and lifts his eyebrows, arching one higher than the other and rolling his eyes ever-so-slightly heavenward—the reverend is waxing eloquent again, and even John is wondering how much longer the service will go on.

Mary smiles involuntarily and lifts one hand to her mouth to cover it, glancing around to see if anyone has noticed. Sherlock's mouth twitches.

John heaves an obligatory sigh at their lack of respect, but he really doesn't mind. He knows that they are coping the only way they can. They will get through their grief by remembering him in their own way and in their own time. The funeral is a show, a game, a play in which they must act for decorum's sake.

They will mourn in private, not in public. They will remember him alive, not dead. They will talk of him between the two of them, but never to anyone else. They will giggle at his funeral and mock the service. They will leave his shooting jacket hanging in the closet, his favorite mug in the cupboard at 221B, and they will bury the empty body that is not John Watson in an army uniform they have no attachment to.

No one else will understand the way they grieve, but John does, and he loves them for it.

The weather was warm enough, and John decided to walk the last few blocks to 221B. He got off a stop early and walked briskly along the sidewalk. Sherlock had a case, and Mary was waiting at home, and John Watson was happy to be alive.

John Watson attends his own funeral. It is a somber affair, and well attended. People are crying, and the music is lovely, and his own body is in a casket draped with lilies of the valley at the front of the room.

Sherlock and Mary sit close together at the front of the chapel in companionable silence. Sherlock tips his head towards Mary and whispers something in her ear that makes her eyes crinkle and flicker towards the casket with a look that is grief, humor, and adoration all at once.

John Watson smiles.

Thanks again for reading, and I'd love to hear from you!