Chapter 1

{The Sun Rises And Sets} In which a reunion of sorts takes place

It's been three years or maybe more,

Feels like a day,

Still you make my heart ache.
My words are frozen

All this hurt runs down to my feet.

Walking away is the hardest thing to do

But I must leave.

{Will Young – Silent Valentine}

Sleep lulls him – strains of sunlight through curtains. Dimmed room, smell of Mary next to him. Inhale. He despises the sun sometimes. It rises and sets as it always has these three years. June, hot, drowsy, torturous. It's the anniversary of Sherlock's fall –

It's today, but Mary's hand (long, pale, freckled) squeezes his, interrupts his thoughts.

'Go back to sleep,' she croons, half-asleep, eyes closed.

She knows him too well, feels that he is thinking – but of what – he has never specifically told her. Still, she is comforting, and he credits her for his recovery since Sherlock's – no - too soon to say the word – still raw and fresh in his mind. But at least he is moving on. Mary Morstan, dark blonde, medium height, delicate, light – she is not who he's imagined next to him in bed, waking up to this almost-fairy-creature in the rush of morning light.

She is the very opposite of Sherlock in appearance: he's dark, she's light, he's tall, imposing; she's dainty, small in comparison. They are, John thinks, two Graces full of elegance come to lure him into a repetitive trap. He responds to Mary's squeeze, tucks her head under his chin, fingers her hair. He cannot lose more people…

Yet he thinks, were Sherlock alive, he might almost approve of her – no one can match his intelligence (Irene and Moriarty found themselves circling the same sphere), but Mary is bright. Unlike Sherlock, she has the patience to pass on knowledge…

For such a sprite-like frame, she is anything but temperate.

When John first meets Mary, it's on reluctant case lead by Lestrade. John's therapist – who Mrs Hudson pushed him to see – recommended following a case or two to cure his limp (which had come back in full vengeance three months after Sherlock's fall).

It started with a text message from Lestrade to meet him at the police station. He remembers sitting there, impatiently – a void between him and a chair and Lestrade. What is the point, he thinks, without Sherlock? He taps his fingers on the table in front of him, his coffee an impolite stale brew – and Lestrade is kind enough not to say anything because he knows it's not impatience John is suffering from, it's grief – the kind that has kept the DI up for months (or is that guilt? God – no, he never believed Donavan and Anderson – was reluctant to even arrest Sherlock – to chase after him.)

'Mary Morstan,' Lestrade says, handing John a A4 file with information inside. '26, born in India to British parents, school teacher. Her mother died as a result of giving birth to her, and her father's a captain in the navy in India. He's - '


Lestrade and John look up, follow the light, punctuated English accent in the room. Mary, bright-faced, searching eyes, dressed in a man's attire. John just about sees her small face under the shadow of the straw trilby hat, trails the dark shabby suit across her frame, the over-sized tweed jacket.

'What the-?'

Lestrade is cut off before he can interject with expletives.

'It's the only way I could assure people wouldn't follow me here – who ever has taken my father is mostly likely tracking me,' Mary says in a very matter-of-fact tone. 'I've got a slight boyish build – I thought I'd get away without anyone noticing me.'

She says this all to Lestrade. She flickers her attention to John – but only for a second.

'Lestrade, who's this?'

'John Watson…' he extends his hand, she takes it curtly, unsure. 'I thought I'd help, if I can.'

She narrows her eyes at him. The look between them does not have romantic intent; there is no sign of attraction between them yet. Just an acute sympathy from Mary, a hint of admiration from John.

'John Watson – yes, Sherlock Holmes's friend. I'm sorry for what happened. In fact, I was going to consult him.'

And that's it – such a short, insignificant meeting – and here they are, lying next to each other. Her disguises never parallel Sherlock's, but at least she isn't a puzzle, a knot to untie. She is Mary, he is John. And the simpler things are, the better he feels.

'Are you sure you're ready to go back to him?'

Sherlock purses his lips. Mycroft's question is not answered. Mostly because Sherlock finds Mycroft a simpleton – of course the answer is yes, otherwise he would not be here. Deduction is not his brother's forte.

'Things have changed for him, Sherlock.'

He places his palms together, prayer-like, eyes closed. 'Whatever has changed, don't tell me. It's irrelevant. I must reveal myself to him either way. It's time.'

He hears an exasperated sigh from Mycroft. His mouth quivers into a sharp smile: oh, how he's missed exasperating his big brother. On a list of things that give him immediate pleasure and calm, nicotine patches, solving crime, and John, 'Mycroft exasperated' is surely somewhere near the top.

'I've realised since we were children that I cannot change your mind…'


'221B is vacant.'

Sherlock opens his eyes sharply. He hears Mycroft go on, but his brain has no time to analyse his words.

'Ah,' Mycroft says, 'this was the one piece of information you missed.'

'It's evident that he moved out recently – I had only, two weeks ago, checked our flat.' Mycroft looks at him intently, the word 'our' is sour in the air. Sherlock knows he's said the word, that it's too late to take it back.

Mycroft is clearly not finished discussing this with his brother, but Sherlock is restless – with a swish of his coat, he glides out of the room, leaving his brother in his shadow.

There's only one reason John could have moved out – a woman. It's been three years since the fall, and John could have left 221B years ago if he felt inclined too. No. A relationship with someone – it's serious. He must be in her home. Mycroft, he knows, would have told him the address – but he has already worked it out, knows that John would not have gone far from Baker Street and Mrs Hudson, who is like a surrogate, sometimes over-bearing, nevertheless affectionate, mother.

Two weeks ago, when he – when he gets the chance and is in London – surveys 221B and checks in on John – a couple of streets down – Crawford Street, that is – he witnesses a clutter of vans, workmen moving furniture into someone's new home. Though is no sight of John – or the woman he now lives with, nor did he see her (thank God) at 221B.

John's leaves Mary's house (or is it their house now?) to get 'the milk and eggs'. A slither of guilt punctures his chest. He knows, as well as Mary probably knows, that he is not. The fridge is full of milk and eggs, and a couple of roads away lies 221B Baker Street, the place he wiles himself away from as long as he can to try and forget. But forgetting is not an option…

It's the same, 221B. John imagines the many phantoms of Sherlock, as he watches what was once their home from across the street, shooting at the wall, searching for his 'stash', soothing his mind with gentle notes on his violin.

What's that he can feel at the corner of his mouth? A smile? So rare, he touches to make sure it's still there. His smiles are odd and strained in public – not the same when Sherlock was around – and even Mary occasionally sees a genuine smile of happiness on his face, or pats his back, when he can't smile, as if to say, 'It's OK. Tomorrow might be better.'

Something catches his eye – it couldn't be – someone in 221B Baker Street? It wasn't Mrs Hudson – not by the quick, soaring silhouette he sees. He hopes to God he's not going mad – the fear of it enters his mind on a number of occasions, when he thinks he sees Sherlock in the streets, in the supermarket, in the throngs of the city, in the private nightmare of his dreams. This will be one of those days when his mind has no relief. Sherlock's dead, and yet his head is full of him.

Soldier stance, he straightens his back against fear, marches up to the door of 221B. Mrs Hudson is out – the absence of her making the bed, putting the kettle on, watching her soaps on the telly, is eerily gone. It is silent.

He runs up the stairs (fear is betraying him now), war and adrenaline in his chest – opens the door to the flat.

A figure, he can see, tall, dark, violin arched in his hand – the dreaded deerstalker hat is on the mantle of the fireplace. John can see the figure's face in the mirror.

'Hello, John.'

There's not time to react, before John's knees buckle, before his body goes numb, cold.

He is the soldier undone, not by a Sarah, a Mary, but a Sherlock – he can almost hear his fellow comrades from the war laughing – or worse – pitying him.

The rest is darkness. And when John wakes, Sherlock's face is lit against the gash of light from the sun setting behind them on Baker Street, a familiar aching in his chest is rising again.