John Watson was filling Minnie's food dish when he was suddenly paralysed by a flash of blinding clarity. Holding a bowl of cat kibble, John realised his marriage was over.
He stared at the silver dish in his hand and thought about how his wife had shot his best friend and how nevertheless he was standing in their kitchen, like an idiot, feeding her obnoxious cats. A wave of disgust coursed through him and he slammed the bowl back on the worktop, oblivious to the yowls of protest coming from near his feet.
It had been ten months since Sherlock shot Magnussen in the head, and thirteen months since Mary shot Sherlock in the chest. And god he'd tried to forgive her. Cooking dinner at her side, watching movies on the couch, pushing his palms into his eyes until he saw white spots he'd tried to forgive her. But he'd given it a year, and each day the concept of 'domestic bliss' seemed to move further out of reach. Pretending wasn't working.
He remembered telling Mary at the Holmes' house on Christmas day, "You know I'm still basically pissed off with you. I'm very pissed off and it will come out now and then." Unfortunately, 'now and then' had turned out to be more like 'now and then and again and again and again…' He had thought it would go away. It hadn't.
John had lost all of the newlywed weight he'd initially gained and more. And the nightmares had worsened. Some nights he was back in Afghanistan—in the field seeing his troopmates fall beside him. Some nights he was back on the side street of Barts hospital, struggling through restraining hands to get to the body on the pavement. And still, some nights, to his surprise (it had been so long ago), he dreamed of the pool: the bright red of the sniper's laser sight on Sherlock's forehead and then the much deeper red that ran from the same point. He remembered the dream well—a recurring nightmare that had started after the confrontation with Moriarty: Sherlock falling into the water and John jumping in after him, but the pool was vast and the vest full of explosives weighed a ton and it was pulling him down and he couldn't reach Sherlock's hand and he couldn't breathe.
But more often lately his dreams found him in Magnussen's office, watching Mary smirking and pulling the trigger and blood staining Sherlock's shirt as he fell backward, fell through the floor, fell away where John couldn't follow him, couldn't save him...
His unconscious mind cycled through these scenarios almost every night, depriving him of any rest. The dark circles under his eyes and his thinner frame prompted more questions from the nurses at his surgery than he cared to answer. He'd even considered wearing makeup around his eyes to try to avoid them. The moment he'd found himself eyeing Mary's concealer had not been a high point in his life.
John leaned forward, gripping the edges of the kitchen worktop. He would have left Mary then and there last year. But Sherlock, of all people, had persuaded him to forgive her, manipulating him with his infuriating Sherlogic. 'Sherlogic' was John's not-quite-endearment for Sherlock's theoretically logical but completely impractical way of reasoning. It worked quite neatly as long as you discounted emotion and human nature in general.
For example, according to Sherlogic it was perfectly all right that Mary had shot Sherlock because she'd also dialled the ambulance. According to Sherlogic, it was forgivable that Mary had shot Sherlock in the chest because she'd also intentionally missed his heart. According to Sherlogic, shooting someone was a valid way to avoid a confrontation with your husband.
Sherlock's words to Mary echoed in his mind: One precisely calculated shot to incapacitate me in the hope that it would buy you more time to negotiate my silence.
John's gaze was locked on a kitchen window he wasn't seeing. That's right, much more convenient for Mary to shoot Sherlock than to tell John the truth.
How could he have fallen for such nonsense? In what alternate universe did Mary's distaste for being honest with her husband justify her shooting Sherlock through the chest? Sherlock-world. Apparently Mary-world too. You two should have got married, John recalled his own bitter words from the night everything fell apart.
But in truth Sherlock and Mary weren't that similar. Sure, Sherlock could reason the same warped logic that had led to Mary's decision to shoot him, but in practice, if the situation had been reversed, John knew without a doubt that Sherlock would never have shot Mary. He would never harm someone John loved. Especially not over something so petty as trying to avoid getting caught in a lie. Because despite being self-involved, Sherlock was not selfish in the same way Mary was.
Mary had been prepared to kill his best friend just to have her own way. And then, to add insult to injury, if Sherlock hadn't survived (which he almost hadn't), she'd been prepared to pretend to grieve with him. To imitate the comfort and support she'd given him the first time he'd had to cope with Sherlock's death. She would have put her arms around him, let him cry on her shoulder… Sherlock's murderer: tricking him, acting out grief for his benefit, and getting away with it. Every. Single. Day.
John put his elbows on the kitchen worktop and his head in his hands. This wasn't the first time he'd been caught off-guard by these thoughts. They ambushed him unexpectedly, time and time again, and now he recognised the automatic sensations of disgust and hatred coursing through his body. He'd survived the last year mainly by blocking out these thoughts, working double shifts at the surgery, spending more time at the gym than he had since university—he'd even joined an amateur rugby team just to get out of the house on Saturday afternoons—but they always caught up with him. And each time his barriers broke down and the flood of arguments, the knowledge of injustice, washed over him he'd had a blow-out row with Mary.
"Tell me again why you shot him?" John asked on one of those nights. One of those dreaded, poisonous nights when the thoughts seeped past his defences, tainting his blood until he shook with barely controlled rage.
"I've told you so many times! I thought I would lose you if he told you about me! I didn't want you to leave. I wanted-"
"Remind me, Mary, why it is that what you want is so bloody important? You didn't want to deal with the consequences of your lies, and Sherlock deserved to die for that?"
"I didn't kill him! I knew he'd be all right-"
"IF YOU LIE TO ME ONE MORE TIME SO HELP ME GOD!"
Mary flinched, so John had done his best to adjust his voice from explosive to seething. "I know how stupid you think I am; trust me, I know. But I am actually a doctor. A doctor! Wow! For someone as stupid as you think I am, I did somehow manage to pass medical school and gain a decent reputation for being good at what I do."
She lowered her eyes.
"I was a surgeon, in a war, Mary. I know bullet wounds. I had one myself. Or did you forget? You missed his heart by less than an inch—that's still a fatal shot nine times out of ten. He was fucking flatlining. I have no idea what brought him back; he should have been dead. So if you lie to me now, there will be nothing left of this fucked up marriage to salvage. Admit you knew it was more likely he'd die than live."
"I knew there was a good chance the shot would kill him," she'd said quietly, keeping her eyes down. "But I hoped—"
"Right. You hoped he would survive your attempted murder. Where's your medal?"
"I'm not squeamish about guns. I know sometimes there are good reasons to use them. But shooting my best friend to avoid talking to me—to avoid telling me the truth—"
"What? Is there something else you want, Mary? Since we know that what you want is all that matters—"
John's replaying of the argument was cut off by a vicious swipe of claws across his shin, which thankfully was protected by denim. The other cat, Bonkers, had appeared and when John looked down at the kitchen floor he saw both cats glaring up at him. A flash of hatred shocked through him. He didn't like cats. He'd never liked these cats and they'd never liked him. But he'd put up with them because they were Mary's; because he'd loved her. Now he briefly fantasized chucking Bonkers out the window like a discus.
He took a deep breath and reminded himself that the cats, hateful as they were, were innocent in the matter. So he settled for dumping the cat food on their heads, grabbing a throw pillow from the adjoining living room, and squeezing the life out of it instead.
John had always had a hot temper. Sherlock, Mary, his therapist, Harry, pin machines… They all knew that a row with him usually resulted in collateral damage. He'd never hit anyone he cared about (unless Sherlock hit him first, or unless Sherlock pretended to be dead for two years), but there were enough wounded coffee tables and tea mugs to testify that his anger was not something to be trifled with.
But the past was nothing compared to now. He'd never been more furious than he had been this past year. And he also knew, with a conviction that made him squeeze the pillow harder, that his anger had never, never been more justified than it was now.
She had killed Sherlock. His best friend. But no, not his best friend. Sherlock was so much more. He was everything. The hero of his stories. Sherlock had given him a reason to live at a time John was sure he had none. He'd cured his limp and turned his world upside down within a day. The man who'd saved him. The man who he devoted all his time and energy to protecting in return. And she—the woman he'd chosen to love—she'd killed him—
"I didn't kill him!" He immediately heard Mary's voice in his head from another of their seemingly never-ending arguments.
"His heart stopped, Mary. He was dead!"
"But only for six minutes!"
"WHAT IS THE MINIMUM AMOUNT OF TIME A PERSON HAS TO BE DEAD FOR HIS FRIENDS TO BE UPSET ABOUT IT?"
Once these arguments came back he couldn't stop them. John squeezed the pillow tighter, bracing himself for the next memory being swept at him in the flood.
"How good a shot are you?" Sherlock asked in the corridor behind the Leinster Gardens façade.
"How badly do you want to find out?" Mary responded, blasé, cocking her gun, ready to kill him again. So fucking smug… John didn't notice the sounds of ripping fabric.
"I want to know how good you are," Sherlock said. "Go on. Show me. The doctor's wife must be a little bit bored by now."
John was jolted out of his revere this time by the realisation that he'd actually torn the pillow in half. He blinked at it, anger slowly draining.
No matter how many times he replayed the arguments, voluntarily or involuntarily, the conclusion was always the same: According to 'Sherlogic,' Mary had only done what she'd strategically needed to do at the time. According to non-crazy-people logic, his wife had chosen to murder his best friend rather than accept any consequences for her lies.
And John had tried, for a year and one month, to make himself believe in Sherlock's warped reasoning—that Mary could be forgiven. He'd tried to convince himself he could love the woman he married, who'd turned out to not to be the woman he married at all. How much easier would everything be if he could forgive her? But his unconscious mind, his heart, and his body were rejecting it.
He looked down at the two pieces of destroyed pillow in his hands, and at Bonkers and Minnie, playing around his feet with the little puffs of cotton that had fallen to the floor.
"Yeah," John said out loud, "that's it. I'm done."
Mary walked in the door that afternoon with her arms full of groceries. She took one look at John's face and knew her marriage was over. She placed the bags on the kitchen worktop and tried to compose herself. She'd known this was coming. She'd optimistically, desperately hoped it wouldn't, but here it was. John was standing motionless in the living room, staring at her, looking grimmer than she'd ever seen him, yet resolute.
She stepped forward to take what she knew would be her last chance. "He lied to you too, you know. He allowed you to believe he was dead for years without bothering to contact you. He's just as manipulative and deceitful-"
"Yes, he hurt me."
"And you forgave him," Mary pressed on. "Why can you forgive him, but not me?"
John dropped his eyes only for a moment, and when he looked up she could see clearly the pain in his expression mixing with his determination. He was so readable. So charmingly open. So unlike herself and the people of her world—the world she'd chosen to leave, the world she'd wanted nothing to do with anymore. She braced herself for his answer, and he spoke with measured words.
"Because he hurt me, Mary. Maybe I could forgive you for lying to me. I could forgive you for hurting me. But you hurt him. And I can't forgive you for that."
Mary's eyes welled up with tears. She'd been expecting this for so long, but now that it was happening she felt defenceless, shattered.
God, if she'd just shot Sherlock directly in the heart none of this would be happening. If Sherlock hadn't survived… And he shouldn't have. A moment of weakness had prevented the direct kill shot, but still he really shouldn't have survived. Anyone with even marginally less strength would have died. He himself had been at death's door, actually flatlining for six minutes before he had somehow managed to fight his way back. How? Why? It wasn't fair. A few more minutes and it wouldn't have been possible. Ten minutes was the maximum. A few more minutes and the doctors would have stopped trying. A few more minutes and right now John would still be in love with her. She would be the doting wife, comforting her husband. And he would have adored her for it, the way he did when they first started dating.
She bit her lip, more furious with herself than she'd ever been. She had miscalculated. When she'd turned from Magnussen and shot Sherlock she had placed a bet that if it came down to it, John would choose her over Sherlock. And a year later, standing there in the kitchen looking into John's icy, dark blue eyes, she lost that bet.