AN. This is the third post-Reichenbach fic I started and the only one I've (so far) finished. It's also by far the least sad of the three. Does that mean I'm getting over it?
Sherlock is not mine. (He is John's. And the show belongs to Mofftiss and the BBC and the late, great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.)
If you asked him how often he went to visit Sherlock's grave, John Watson would tell you, "Oh. Now and then. Whenever I feel like having a shout at him."
This is not strictly true, though it is perhaps what John believes. He isn't sure exactly when "now and then" became precisely twice a week, on a Wednesday afternoon and a Saturday morning. He isn't sure when "having a shout" became everyday, friendly conversation with a marble slab. Oh, he still shouts sometimes. But it's usually more at himself than at Sherlock.
The point is, John's got a routine now. He's found, quite by chance, two slots of time where no-one ever seems to be about, where he has the graveyard more or less to himself.
He isn't the only visitor to Sherlock's grave; he knows Mrs Hudson goes quite regularly, because the flowers are never allowed to wither. He's even spied Lestrade there a few times, and once, bizarrely, Sally Donovan. But as a rule, John is alone here, he's used to it, and perhaps that's why he doesn't notice her straight away.
He's already given Sherlock an update: two shifts at the surgery, Mrs Hudson fully recovered from her hip replacement, Molly's got a new boyfriend, it rained yesterday but not for too long. Now he's at the silent part, where he just sits and stares at his friend's name picked out in gold on sombre black and wonders where it all went wrong.
It's then she coughs, and he looks up and sees her for the first time. Short, slender, soft brown hair and a kind face (that's not an observation John, it's an opinion, do try to be objective), clutching a small spray of flowers wrapped in cellophane.
"I'm sorry," she says, "Um, but could I just put these..."
"Oh. Yes." He stands quickly, allowing her to get closer to the grave and deposit the flowers. She does so. There's a pause. She doesn't leave.
"Did you...did you know him?" he asks casually.
She turns to face him. "Not really. That is, I wish I could have known him better." She shakes her head. "It's not true, everything they say about him, you know. None of it is. He was a brilliant man."
He swallows. This is still hard, every time. "I know."
She looks at him again, closer this time. "Oh... But you're, you're Doctor Watson. Sorry. Of course, of course you'd know that."
He smiles weakly. "Mm. It's okay. It's just nice to find someone else who...doesn't believe the lies."
She nods. "He cleared my father's name. There was some mix up, with his business. One of his partners was murdered, all the money gone, my dad blamed. I mean, this was years ago, dad was already dead by the time... by the time Sherlock got involved. But he found out the truth, and well, like I said, cleared dad's name." She sighs. "I never got to thank him properly."
He says nothing, just stares. That makes two of them.
"I'm sorry," she mumbles, "I don't know why I'm telling you this."
He coughs. "No, no, it's fine. It's good."
"It makes me so angry," she says after a while. "The press, and everything. Saying he made it all up, arranged all the crimes he said he solved. He didn't arrange my family. No-one listens."
John is not going to cry in front of a stranger but oh, it's so good to hear somebody else say this.
"I'm Mary, by the way."
"Oh, yes. Sorry."
She smiles. "Are you... I mean, I was just going to go and have coffee. Somewhere. Do you..."
"Yes." It's out of his mouth before his brain even understands what she's saying and something feels wrong about this, about going off with someone he's known for five minutes and leaving Sherlock... But he reminds himself that Sherlock has already left.
Before he follows her away he rests a hand on the top of the gravestone, smooth and stable beneath his fingers. "See you on Saturday, Sherlock."
And then, "She was right, you know. Never got to say thank you."
Traces the 'S' with a finger. "Thank you."
If you asked him how often he went to visit Sherlock's grave, John Watson would tell you, "Oh. Now and then. Whenever I feel like saying 'thank you'."