Author's note: I know I never update, well, basically any of my stories ever, so the biggest of thanks to anyone still reading this. This chapter is dedicated to alfiesurprise101 because quite frankly, without them, I would probably not have had the motivation to write this. I hope this continues to measure up to what you want in this story! Please review and leave any critiques.
"So there was enough talk about me today. Why don't you tell me some about you?" suggested John.
"I object!" she replied with a teasing smile, "The talking today was much more about Sherlock Holmes. In fact, you spoke very little about yourself. You're very humble about your part in each of those adventures." John shrugged.
"It really isn't humility, I simply didn't have a large part in many of them. I was always just there, observing Sherlock in constant amazement."
"I think you did more than you give yourself credit for," replied Miss Morstan softly. Her expression was so sincere and her words so kind that John felt a wave of happiness wash over him. Though she hardly even knew John, she was already expressing this high opinion of him. John hadn't felt appreciated at all in that way since... well, since Sherlock. He didn't even mind the fact that there was really no way for her to know whether he'd done much or not, it was her confidence that struck him.
Realizing that he was staring into her eyes in silence, John jolted himself and gave a nervous chuckle, snapping his gaze down at the table briefly to regain his thoughts.
"Thank you, Miss Morstan. It's very kind of you to say so."
"Please, it's... it's alright if you call me Mary," she assured him, "That is, well, I mean... may I call you John?"
"Oh! Of course, yeah sure, that would be... that would be good." John cleared his throat and nodded formally. "Very good."
"Alright then, well John... I truly should like very much to hear more about you."
"Well, sure, ok. So... I served in Afghanistan as an army doctor. I got shot in the shoulder and I was sent home. I uh... came back to London, met Sherlock, and then... we got a flat together. Just like that. It was... odd, but it was a nice arrangement. Sherlock then started bringing me along with him on cases—he didn't get on very well with the police force, particularly Anderson on forensics—and so... I don't know, it just became our habit. Working together. I contributed what I could. I was never brilliant or intuitive like him of course but I always... was there to support him and I helped keep him in line a bit, when I could.
"Then the rest I reckon you know from the papers. Moriarty came into the picture and then... well. Anyways, Sherlock is... gone now and I've only recently returned to the flat we once shared. It's been hard, but I'm learning to cope. But God, I do miss him. He was... my best friend."
John's voice began to choke with emotions and he stared firmly into the table, willing himself not to tear up or lose control. She must think him a bumbling, sentimental fool- but no, that would be Sherlock's reaction, not Mary Morstan's reaction. From what he knew of her just from this one day, her heart was probably already reaching out to him. That thought was somehow comforting.
"I can see that he meant quite a lot to you." John glanced up and met Mary's eyes as she gave him a gentle smile. "I'm so sorry for what's happened."
"I'm... I'm sorry for dampening the mood like that; that was terrible of me, truly, I'm sorry," he stuttered.
"No!" she exclaimed instantly. "Please, don't be. I... I know there isn't much I can do to help you, but you can always tell me anything. I truly do want to know. I'm glad to listen."
"Thank you Mary. And... you do help. I know we've only just met today but..." John gave a slight chuckle as he considered whether his next words would sound nice or just creepy. It was probably stupid to say something like this when you'd only known someone for a few hours, but John decided for once to throw caution to the wind. "...your smile is absolutely beautiful and stunning and... genuine, and it alone has already made me feel better."
Mary's cheeks flushed with color and a smile burst onto her face, too large to be contained. John, in turn, could not help but to smile back.
"Thank you, John. I... I'm flattered. And I'm very glad of that." John cleared his throat, slightly embarrassed, though massively relieved that she hadn't found him too forward or any such thing.
"So. I believe it is your turn to speak," he said lightly.
"Oh! Yes, well... I've always known that I wanted to be a teacher. I studied and got my degree in education. For now I enjoy working with the younger children, but I want to keep my options open and flexible. I live with my father, and we're very close. I can't imagine how hard that it will be to leave him if I ever do... move out. I'm an only child and my mother died years ago.
"Frankly I... don't have much of a social life." Mary emitted a quiet, seemingly embarrassed, laugh at her own expense. "I have few friends to speak of."
"I find that incredibly hard to believe," interjected John softly.
"Well I don't have any trouble getting on with people, and I certainly am friendly with my colleagues but... certainly no one important sticks out in my life, like Sherlock does for you. Other than my father of course, but that isn't the same at all."
"Mary, I've decided!" proclaimed John suddenly, a determined expression on his face. Mary was startled a bit by his sudden intensity, so she watched him doe-eyed as he continued speaking. "You and I shall spend many more afternoons getting coffee together, and then we shall branch out and partake in other similar activities such as strolling in the park or grabbing a sandwich from the deli, and we shall become the closest of friends."
Mary laughed energetically at this new plan.
"Oh is that so John?" she asked coyly. "You've simply decided that at this very moment and all on your own?" John's face relaxed and he smiled sheepishly.
"Well... I know that I'd like that. Would... you... like it?"
Mary met his gaze silently, still smiling.
"You know, John... I think I would like that very much."