John is on the phone as I walk into the kitchen. It's 6:30 and he'll be leaving in a few minutes for his shift at the clinic. He smiles at me as I sit down at the table. He holds up the coffee pot and I nod my head. He pours a mug and hands it to me.
"Yeah," he says. "Well we're having a few boxes shipped home. Sherlock found quite a lot of things he wants to keep. The only big thing was one of Dad's New Orleans pictures."
He's obviously speaking to Harry. I feel the cold metal of the dog tags beneath my t-shirt. I'd fallen asleep with them on last night. They are the best thing I brought home, although the baby pictures of John are a close second.
"Well we'd love to meet her; we'll set up dinner next week."
Her, Harry must have a new girlfriend. Twelve weeks ago, she'd ended a relationship with a woman after a few months. It was her first relationship since Clara. I know that John is happy that she's going out more. I'm glad he's not worried about her as much.
He hangs up and turns his attention to me.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of you being up early this morning?" He stands with his hand on the fridge and smiles over at me.
I sip my coffee and meet his eyes. I used to get up with him every morning, before we got married. Now the only time I see him is if I happen to still be up, or getting up for a case. I like seeing him before he goes to work; I'll have to make a habit of it again. It isn't as if I can't return to bed once he leaves.
I shrug my shoulders. "I was awake, obviously," I say. He opens the fridge and grabs a few items tossing into the lunch box that he takes to work with him.
He's moving with ease. Returning home from Wellow has improved his disposition a great deal. He was better the last day we were there but is back to normal now. The burden of those people has lifted from him.
He hasn't asked me anymore about Stephanie so I haven't volunteered anything. But I have confirmed with Mycroft that my belief was correct. I know where she is if John wants to find her. Mycroft volunteered to keep a passive eye on her and I've agreed to let him, at least temporarily. Thankfully, as this is for John and for not me, Mycroft will not expect anything in return.
He grabs his jacket, his lunch box, and his wallet from the table.
"I'll be home around 4," he says as if I am unaware of the time that he habitually arrives home. I just nod, grabbing a last sip of coffee before he bends down to kiss me good-bye.
He brushes his tongue across my bottom lip quickly, surprising me. I open my mouth, welcoming more, but he pulls back.
"I'll see you later," he says. "We don't have any food and I'm not going to the store so think about what you want for dinner." He walks past me, brushing a hand over my shoulder as he does so.
We'll have Chinese for dinner, I decide immediately. And I make a mental note to order John's birthday present today. It'll take a few weeks to arrive, and I can hide it until his birthday. John, for reasons I don't understand, doesn't try and figure out what his gifts are. He insists that he likes to be surprised. I could probably put it in a box on the table and he wouldn't….
I remember it suddenly and stand up. I walk to the closet in the corner, but there are no cleaning supplies there. I frown then remember that they are in the same closet with the towels, upstairs.
I climb the stairs two at a time and open the closet door. I find the box exactly where John said it would be, behind the supplies. I push them out of the way, making sure none of them spill on the floor. John would be displeased if there were stains on the floor because of the cleaners.
I rearrange them quickly and reach in for the box. It is a small shipping box, larger than the cigar box I found in Wellow. I feel a quick flash of pride as my box is bigger than the other, but push that away. The size is irrelevant, in some things.
I return to our bedroom and settle cross-legged on our bed. I tentatively open the lid, finding myself suddenly anxious. I wonder what from our life John has decided to set aside.
Immediately on top I see the few items he brought back from Wellow. I'd watched him secure them in a bag before he packed them in his suitcase. I'd been concerned about him leaving the cigar box behind, but he'd happily packed all of the photo albums to be shipped to us, so I dismissed it. He was not seeking to completely avoid the unpleasant memories; he just doesn't need the mementos.
I set the ticket, the rose, and the ring aside. I am familiar with them already. Underneath is another concert ticket and a restaurant napkin. They are from our second anniversary 6 months ago. I smile remembering that evening for a number of different reasons, but John managed to make it all wonderful.
Next is a newspaper clipping about a case we had a Sussex last year. I'd travelled to Sussex alone because John had to work and I didn't anticipate the case taking very long. It didn't, but I ended up breaking my arm and waking up in the hospital with my worried husband staring down at me.
Underneath that is a plane ticket, pad of paper, pen, matchbook, and brochure from the hotel in Monaco where we spent our first anniversary. There is nothing else from Monaco, because we didn't leave the hotel room for 4 days. It was a wonderful holiday.
The items from Corsica and our honeymoon are next and I'm ecstatic to see a piece of material from the bumblebee tie among them. The tie was ripped not long after our honeymoon and I'd been distraught. I'd managed to find another tie with bees, but it wasn't the same. I can't believe he cut a piece of it off before throwing it away. I hold it up and squeeze it between my thumb and index finger. It feels soft and familiar and I vow I will once again continue my search for an exact replacement. The internet is amazing; it has to be out there.
There is also a small plastic bag with sand that he'd collected from the beach. I remember him dragging me down there and knowing that the waiter, Paolo, was watching us the whole way. Paolo - there better not be a memento of him in here.
There isn't, there are a few photos taken from our villa, and a series of souvenirs from the hotel along with our flight itinerary. There were no tickets from that trip because it was a private plane.
I pull out our wedding photo. It wasn't actually taken at our wedding, but at the lunch afterwards. Harry stood next to John and Mycroft next to me. The waiter took the photo. I remember thinking at the time wanting nothing more than to leave and get home with John. We'd taken a few more photos when we got back to the flat, but I am the keeper of all the dirty photos. I'll have to get the camera out when I am done here.
His wrist band from the hospital surprises me, until I remember that we became engaged in the hospital. I also pull out the jewelry box our rings were in. There is a newspaper article about the capture of a hacker; it takes me a minute to bring up the case. I remember then that it was after that case that John and I first became involved with each other. I smile at that memory, too.
There are a collection of other hotel souvenirs from different places that we've stayed because of cases along with a small collection of newspaper articles about cases I've solved. There is also an article about Sebastian's arrest, the Pool incident, and a label from a honey container.
There is a photo of us from New Orleans as well as the plane ticket, a map, and our ticket from Preservation Hall. He also has a picture of me eating a beignet. I have powdered sugar all over my face, fingers, and the collar of my shirt. We'd been eating outside and a stiff breeze had coated me with the sweet substance. John had laughed and laughed and laughed. I'd been annoyed and embarrassed. He'd snapped a photo anyway. Looking back on it, the experience was quite humourous.
I'm astonished that he's managed to collect all of these, and feel momentarily horrified that I have saved so few things from John. I pile all of his items back inside. I stand and cross the room to my dresser. I open the top drawer and reach for the envelope in the back.
I sit back on the bed and pull out the contents, my John mementos. There is a ticket from a Chinese circus, a bullet pulled from a wall after a cab driver was killed – Don't ask - a photo of John and I long before we became involved. Mrs. Hudson had insisted on taking it and later I'd insisted that she print me a copy. There is also a photo of us lying in bed together. John is asleep, head resting on my shoulder. I'd held the camera in the air and taken a picture of us. I'd done it simply because I was bored and unwilling to disturb John. The camera was the only thing in reach to keep me entertained. When I'd gone through the pictures later I'd been amazed at how pleasing I'd found this one. I'd printed it immediately and set it aside. I doubt John's ever seen it.
I set all of my items inside John's box and set the envelope aside to be thrown away later. I put the lid back on and return the box to the closet.
I replace the cleaning supplies so that it's obvious I've moved them. I want John to know that I've looked through the box. I want him to open it and see my few contributions. From this point forward I will be more diligent. I close my hand around the dog tags and decide not to take them off now. They'll be fine as I shower. I grab a towel and head into the bathroom.
A/N – Thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, and/or enjoyed this story. It was a true labor of love at points, but it's done. Woo hoo! And to ScopesMonkey who read every chapter, even the ones that didn't get published. I threw countless ideas at her and she just listened never telling me I was an idiot, even if I was. She made this infinitely better than it would have been. Thank you!