Warnings – Eventual warnings for violence, major character injury, angst, drama, dirty words, and probably others as I come across them.

A/N – Nothing really to say except I was feeling the urge to be mean to John, so there you have it. Sorry (not really). Title taken from the Dante novel Vita Nuova.

Disclaimer- I don't own, don't claim to own, and don't really want to own…I'm just playing with them. I'm responsible I'll return them just as I found them, which is honestly more boring that they would be with me. Just sayin'.

Here Begins a New Life

Harry is already standing outside the café when I walk up. She is looking good, very good actually. She's drinking less and eating better. The divorce from Clara has been a good thing after all.

She called me, wanting to go to dinner the day it was finalized. She stared at the glass of water that she'd ordered. "I loved her John, still do probably, but we are like oil and water. It was never going to be pretty." I doubted her then and feel a guilty about it now. No matter how much I loved Clara and disliked Harry's drinking I should have been supportive of my sister. She's the only relative I have left, well for right now anyway.

She smiles when she sees me and I lean over and place a kiss on her cheek.

"So what is going on little brother, why the sudden lunch date?" She glances over her shoulder at me as I hold the door open for her. She has a mischievous glint in her eye. She knows something is going on.

"Can't I just have lunch with my sister?" I smile.

She sits down and I settle across from her. "Not usually, no." She replies, but there is nothing harsh in her words.

She's right, of course. I should make more of an effort, but then so should she. It shouldn't be so difficult.

"John, I'm not complaining. What did you want to talk about?" She's always been able to read me like a book. Very similar to Sherlock, just more annoying.

I reach into my pocket and set the jewelry box in front of her. She reaches for it and a quizzical look crosses her face. She opens it and stares.

"I'm actually scared out of my mind and was hoping you could help give me some courage. I don't really have anyone else to go to." I shrug.

She's staring blankly at the box. She gently runs her fingers over the rings, and starts to laugh. I'm taken aback.

"I'm sorry John." She says between gasps of air. "It's just, I'm probably the last person to ask about anything like this. I have one failed marriage and more unsuccessful relationships than I can count. I could give you words of wisdom, but I'd suggest you do just the opposite."

She looks down at the rings again, a smile on her face. "They're beautiful," she whispers before meeting my eyes again, reaching to hand the box back. "When are you going to ask him?"

"We are going out tonight. He realized the other day that we didn't have a celebration of our one year anniversary as a couple. He's been doing 'research' again and feels this was a failure on his part. He's taking me to dinner and has a present for me. It is 'standard procedure' after all." Harry smiles at this, familiar enough with Sherlock to understand his actions without being critical of them. She's never been critical of him, even in the moments when I have been.

I take a moment and study the rings. It was probably the most stressful decision I've ever made but I am happy with them. If Sherlock agrees to marry me I think he'll like them as well. They are polished platinum, each with 2 dark titanium inlays. High quality and durable, I've heard Sherlock rant about enough wedding rings to know what he values in them. I've already had his engraved, a simple message that I think he'll appreciate. I wonder if he'll do the same to mine. I hope so, because it really is a ring I want to wear forever.

Harry has a knowing smile on her face as I look up. I'm thankful she won't make fun of me. I sigh, close the box and put it back into my coat pocket. "I decided I'd try and surprise him with something as well."

Her smile grows, as she removes her silverware from the napkin. "You know he'll say yes right? He loves you very much. You have little to no reason to be nervous." I let out a deep breath, relieved to hear it even though I won't admit it. I'm by no means as confident as she is, but it's nice to know that I'm not a complete lunatic for hoping.

The waiter comes over, we order, and an amiable silence falls on our table. It's nice to be at a point where I can enjoy my sister again. I'm glad that she's happy. She pulls her mobile out of her purse and quickly checks her email. The life of a solicitor rarely stops for lunch. She's efficient at checking the messages though, taking only a matter of moments to scan through them.

I let my mind wander over ideas of technique and wording. I've never done this before, never even thought about doing it before. It's terrifying. I'm also certain that I won't be able to pull it off as a surprise. It isn't easy to surprise Sherlock. He's able to tell when I'm nervous about football matches; I'm not going to be able to slip 'making forever plans' past him. I can't quite believe that I'm going to try it.

"Relax," she says. I look back to her and there is laughter in her eyes. I nod, trying to redirect my thoughts.

"I'm glad you shared this with me, John. I'm glad you included me." Being suddenly serious makes me a little nervous. We don't do that very well.

"You are my sister." It is as simple as that. We haven't always agreed or even been civil, but when I was in Afghanistan she sent me emails constantly. She'd send care packages every six weeks, extra-large ones that were easy to share on my birthday and Christmas. If someone needed something from back home, I'd ask her and she'd get it, no questions asked. She kept me connected to home and was the person in the London hospital room when I woke up after being shot. She is my sister.

She nods, looking away for a moment. I am just about to reaffirm my sentiment when she speaks.

"I'm really happy for you John. I know it hasn't always been easy between us, but I've always wished you happiness. You deserve it more than anyone. I hope you've always known."

"I have. And I have always wanted the same for you." I respond, surprised the conversation has gone this way. Harry and I are professional at avoiding conversations like this, have been since we were kids.

She nods accepting my words as the food arrives. The conversation instantly turns back to the more superficial, safe. She's having some remodeling work done on her home and she starts explaining the changes she is making. I'm slightly relieved and slightly regretful at the change. I can't help feeling that I'd missed an opportunity to heal some of the older wounds.

As we say our good-byes 30 minutes later she wraps her arms around me and gives me a real hug, holding on for a few seconds longer than comfortable. I won't complain; it feels good. When she finally pulls away she cups my face for just a moment before saying. "Give Sherlock my love and have a great time tonight. Don't worry, he's going to say yes and when he does I better be your first phone call." She kisses my cheek and takes a step back.

"You will be. I promise. And who knows I might need a couch to sleep on if he says no."

She lets out a small chuckle at this. "I have an extra bedroom and you are welcome to it anytime, but you won't need it tonight."

She turns and walks back towards her office. I watch her for a moment before turning and heading back towards the clinic. I feel good about what happened here and smile as I catch myself fidgeting with the jewelry box in my pocket.

I turn onto the street the clinic is on. I let my mind wonder to thoughts of growing old with Sherlock, smiling at the image of grey curls and the comfort of such a long companionship.

I don't notice the man in the alley as I walk by, or his friend. I notice the hand on the back of my neck, but there isn't enough time for me to react. It only takes a fraction of a second for him to drive my head into the wall. I'm vaguely aware of hitting the ground hard and of the image of two men standing above me. They are saying something but I can't make out the words. The vision out of one of my eyes has a red tint. I try to move my head, but can't.

One of the men grabs my collar and we are moving, the concrete pulling on my clothes. We stop suddenly and I see a cricket bat.

The man swings it and the world goes black.