A/N I'm as big of a Johnlock shipper as the next person, but if Mary is brought into the BBC Sherlock canon, I'd love for her to turn out to be Anthea. I mean, come on, Anthea is awesome. Anyways, I wanted to write out my take on how that might happen, resulting in this.
Rated T for language and violent references
Disclaimer I don't own Sherlock or any associated characters, events, etc.
June in London isn't particularly warm on an average year. Not cold, exactly—cold, as a term, stays confined to the earlier months, January, February, March—when snow is thick in the air and ice constantly underfoot despite the city's constant efforts to keep the place clean and safe. (Like the darkened metropolis could ever stay free of lurking dangers.) But June, June is a month of transition. Gradually shifting into summer, welcoming the tentative heat, the last hints of frost becoming hard to imagine in their long-faded state. The coldness is departing without the warmth arriving, and what's left behind is a sharp sort of chill, stark bleakness under a sun whose light shines icy.
It is June 17th, and the city is mourning.
Not everyone in London knows, but the press and television have tried as hard as they can to make it so. His face is everywhere: the face of Sherlock Holmes, heavy eyebrows, chiseled cheekbones, pale skin, silvery green eyes. Scowling. Wary. Peering out from the surfaces of newspapers left in garbage bins, glowering down on diners at a breakfast joint.
The publicity is exhausting, especially considering that there's nothing to lament.
Mary Morstan notes this to herself as she passes the most recent of four pedestrians with a newspaper tucked under his arm, the inked-in curls of Sherlock's tousled head just barely visible amongst the heavy pages. This much attention is something that she hates to deal with, seeing as, like her boss, she prefers to work in the most covert manner possible. Difficult when the business she's currently wrapped up in is displayed in seemingly every public location that finds it fitting to feature a dead man's visage.
It's frustrating, because now all of London knows what he looks like, and that means that someone's all the more likely to notice that he's not freezing in the morgue of St. Bartholomew's hospital, but rather tucked away in a mansion in Switzerland—or, at least, Mary reflects with a quick glance towards her watch, hopefully. She's learned far too well from her observations of him that he gets bored easily, and the walls of said mansion are more likely than not to be riddled with bullet holes at this point, the result of his disinterest in his current situation.
While Sherlock is lazing away, though, his brother is doing the opposite. Mycroft worked hard to ensure that the younger Holmes could properly fake his suicide, but it wasn't over when he jumped off the hospital roof. There are all manner of official documents to deal with, funerals to avoid, morticians to bribe, and Mycroft needs Mary's full time, promising wearily that he can pay her extra if she needs it for the additional hours.
She's not dealing with something as simple as paperwork, though. Which is why her gait is slightly less brisk than usual—she's letting her feet drag, letting her enthusiasm drag, because she honestly doesn't know whether she's up to the task that Mycroft has given her. Of course she's used to watching people—it's most of what her job entails, in fact; tracking subjects of Mycroft's interests, selecting a nice-looking black car to come pick them up in, and bringing them to wherever her boss is waiting.
(She always uses fake names. Leila, Jody, Madeline, Anthea.)
This is different, though. She can still hear Mycroft's voice echoing in her ears as she hesitates at a street corner, ignoring an empty soda can that rolls past her feet in the insistent wind. He was almost apologetic when he told her—he knew that she didn't want to do this, but he "Didn't have anyone better—"
"—You're the only one who's associated with him before, Ms. Morstan, other than myself, and I have much bigger things to be taking care of. I know it's not much, but there's no one else to do the job."
"You want me to keep an eye on John Watson?"
"Somewhat. I have connections with his therapist, so I'll be giving you her records, and keeping them up to date—he's returned to her, which is at least a smart move. It's an unnecessary complication, you see, but I'm concerned for Dr. Watson. He was very attached to my brother, and, well… you know that we can't possibly tell him the truth; he simply can't be trusted not to slip up."
"Of course, sir."
"Good, yes. Well, you see, he has a history of emotional damage. Some call it post-traumatic stress disorder; I know otherwise. John Watson has a very unique mind, a very strong mind, but not one immune to damage. Something like this could push him over the edge, and it could result in… health risks."
"Possibly depression, or something of a similar vein. I'm not going to rule out the idea of him… following in his flatmate's footsteps, if you garner my meaning."
"So, make sure that he doesn't end up on that roof, himself."
"Precisely. That's what I'm going to ask you to do, Ms. Morstan. It could end up unnecessary to do more than watch him—of course you'll have access to the usual cameras, and I've had a couple more planted in 221b Baker Street, additionally. If you see him acting oddly, do what you need—as I mentioned, I have ways to contact Dr. Ella Thompson, and there should be ways to anonymously or at least subtly communicate to her what she should be watching for. Hopefully, this won't be a problem at all. But Sherlock will most likely choose to make his return, eventually, and we want to make sure that Watson is still healthy and breathing when he does come back."
"Of course, sir. I'll get to it right away."
"Excellent. I'll have the cameras hooked up to the computer in your usual office, then, they should be there by the time you arrive… record what you can't watch live, view it in fast motion, if you must. Just don't miss a single minute—that much time could be vital."
The light switches from a dismal red to an equally drab green. Mary reaches up absentmindedly to adjust the mahogany scarf draped loosely along her shoulders, heels clicking as she starts across the street. It really is a cold day, she reflects once more—too cold to be dressing like this. No matter, though; the office building that she spends most of her time in is only a block or so away now, and she's sure she has a heavier coat stowed there somewhere. Her breath mists in the air and weaves in front of her, reaching the door of the building before she does and fogging up the brass numbers arranged on it. She reaches into the pocket of her woolen skirt, fingers running over the edges of several key chains stuffed inside—keys that, if some branches of the government knew her to possess, she'd surely be arrested for. It takes several seconds to locate the right one, and she then hastens to let herself in.
It's much warmer inside, which she breathes a sigh of relief to acknowledge. The lobby is Spartan, plain, but still manages to echo a subtle sense of wealth, like many of Mycroft's establishments. There's a secretary behind a wide desk that spans across the length of the room, but she and Mary mutually ignore one another as the latter paces over to an elevator and allows herself up onto the third floor, the location of her personal office.
John Watson, she reflects idly as the lift ascends, a gentle beep issuing as it passes each level. She doesn't remember much about John Watson—his face melted into all the others; even on the day when she had delivered him to Mycroft, he'd been her second pickup of the afternoon, the first of which was a dark-faced criminal with access to far too much money for his own good. Watson took about the average attitude when confronted with Mary—(Anthea. That was the name she chose for herself that time. She'd never used it before, and hasn't since.)—pathetically flirty, blankly confused, entirely ignorant.
But if Mycroft doesn't want him to die, she supposes that it's her job as well to care, and so she forces a sense of determination on as she strides out of the lift, into her room, which is waiting across the hall.
It's her own space, but she keeps it as free of personal belongings as possible. This is her work, and she wants to be sure to completely differentiate it from her home, because they're two very separate places—she's not even the same person here as she is there, not really. At home, she's Mary Morstan, a young woman with too much money and not enough time on her hands, with a fondness for medical dramas and pedicures and Brontë novels. At work, she's nameless, referred to only by her surname if any, a devoted worker who never questions her orders and always keeps her tasks carefully ordered and prioritized and thinks in numbers instead of images.
(She's not Mycroft's only young female worker, but she's damn well one of the best.)
And this room reflects Ms. Morstan, not Mary. The carpet is pale cream and flat, even though she personally prefers them absurdly fluffy. A swivel chair is parked in front of a dark wood desk hosting with a top-line computer, humming softly, a yellow light on its sleek side indicating sleep mode. The walls, rather than being taken up by artful papering or choice framed images, are entirely covered by file cabinets and bookshelves stocked up with bulging folders. The only side clear of paper stacks is that right behind her computer—arranged across it instead are four television screens, wide and thin, each currently showing a different angle of the same room. 221b Baker Street, presumably.
Unwrapping the long scarf from her neck, she paces across the room, letting the door shut behind her and tilting her head up, drinking in the color images playing out before her. The first screen is focused on a bedroom—twin bed, dresser, window with a heavy curtain pulled over it that leaves the space in relative darkness. The second has a street view, one that she's more familiar with. She remembers only faintly, but this is the door that she dropped Dr. Watson outside of nearly two years ago. It's relatively nonchalant, painted green and tucked next to an awning for "Speedy's Sandwich Bar and Café." Visible on the final two screens are more interior views, a haphazardly arranged flat that seems to have acid stains on every surface and a bright yellow smiley face spray-painted onto the wall over the slender sofa.
The place looks empty.
It's almost disconcerting. Because Mary isn't the type to be put on edge easily—she sees much, much more than a woman her age should. She's seen death, she's seen illness, drugs, violence, crime. She's used to them by now, in fact. Barely gives them a second thought. She can't afford to associate her emotions with her job—she learned that long, long ago.
But this… this is just upsetting. Watson's not even home right now, and yet the dusty sense of loneliness is undeniable. And, for the first time, she can almost feel what Mycroft fears will become of the doctor—if she were him, if she lived in a place as dismal as this without the fiery energy of Sherlock Holmes (She has met Sherlock Holmes, two times, to be precise. They were not altogether pleasant experiences, but she supposes they were necessary.) to keep it alight, then she would absolutely have a therapist on call.
She gives her head a slight shake, attempting to dislodge the ridiculous thoughts piling inside of it. It may be her assignment to watch John Watson's actions, but she can't see into his mind, and there's no reason that she should try to.
So she searches for other work to distract herself with, to occupy her attention rather than letting her watch the screens pointlessly and broodingly. A few file folders are stacked on top of her desk, beside the keyboard of the sleeping computer, each stamped with a name or coded project title. More than one has the words TOP SECRET scrawled almost casually across it, like a last-minute reminder of her high status among Mycroft's operatives.
She sighs, settling into the swivel chair and letting it creak underneath her. The first folder is a pale rosy cream color, titled Reginald Walters in dark blue ink. Upon opening it, she discovers a number of photographs, all depicting a scowling, classically evil-looking man—heavy brows, pale skin, dark hair shot through with silver, thin streak of a mustache. A couple are high-quality, but the rest appear to be taken from grainy security cameras, and mostly show the man on the streets or stepping into buildings, almost always with a paranoid glance over his shoulder. After the series of photographs, the folder is packed tight with text documents—briefings on the man, suspicious activities, shady organizations that he's apparently involved in. At the end, a Post-It note is stuck to the final sheet of paper—scrawled across it in high-quality ink are a few brief words in Mycroft Holmes's distinctive script.
Meeting needed Jun 17—Diogenes priv. room
A welcome distraction. She squints into the faint reflection on her computer's dark screen, fluffing her hair slightly. There's nothing that needs to be changed about her appearance, she figures, for a procedural "retrieval"—Mycroft's euphemistic term for what is, more or less, a kidnapping.
She barely spares a glance at the still TV screens as she rises again, tucking the folder under her arm and pulling out one specific sheet, printed with the usual haunts of Reginald Walters. It's good—calming to get back into a usual job, other than staring at the eerily blank screens and allowing the opportunity for something almost resembling emotion to climb up inside of her.
If he asks, she decides, her name will be Elaina.
Keeping that in mind, she leaves, and doesn't give another thought to Dr. John Watson for several hours after.
When she comes back, he's at home.
She freezes for a moment in the doorway, her eyes wide and one hand grasping her other wrist, which is slightly bruised from one of Walters's alarmingly violent escape attempts. (He was far from compliant, and that's all too visible in her mussed hair and the dark cut running along one cheek, which she only hopes won't leave any sort of scar.) For a moment, her stomach swerves anxiously—has she missed anything important?—but then she focuses enough to see that he's only just entering the sitting room of the flat, a shopping bag hanging from one arm.
Shopping. That's good, she reminds her frazzled thoughts. Shopping is normal. Healthy.
She rearranges the contents folder under her arm, moving to tuck it into a bookshelf, along with all of her other completed subjects. (There are hundreds of them.) She makes sure to keep an eye on Watson, though, and as she walks rapidly across the room to retrieve a hairbrush from her purse dangling from the coatrack, she never looks away.
If she was hopeful at the sight of him returning from a shopping trip, it's all downhill from there. Rather than taking the groceries into the kitchen, he drops them unceremoniously on the ground, and though she can only see him from behind, the slump in his shoulders and tilt of his head is painfully visible.
She positions the hairbrush at the base of her dark locks and begins to pull it through, slowly, methodically.
He moves towards the couch. His steps are vague, like a man sleepwalking.
It really is tangled, she reflects with mild frustration. Far too windy to go outside without any sort of hairspray. Her pull becomes firmer.
When he reaches the couch, he flops down heavily onto it, as though his muscles have been stretching themselves up to this point and are grateful for a release. His hands move up to cover his face, elbows braced on his knees.
Her teeth push down on her lower lip in a nervous bite, and the bitter taste of her lipstick fills her mouth. The strand of hair she's currently working on is clear—she moves onto the next section.
He runs his hands over his forehead, slowly.
She yanks the bristles through the stubborn tangles with increasing speed.
John's shoulders shake in a dry sob.
Mary tears through a particularly determined mat.
And it's like he breaks down from there. For what seems like several minutes on end—long enough, in any case, for her to finish taming her wavy hair—he simply shudders, his back heaving with heavy breaths that she can't hear from the soundless television screen. When he finally draws his hands away, leaving his face visible, his eyes are reddened, tearful. It's the first time she's gotten a good glimpse of his face, and if she expected some sort of sudden recognition, it's not there. Yes, he's vaguely familiar, but there's nothing about his appearance that's particularly outstanding.
No, he looks normal—absolutely normal; someone she could encounter in the street, push by without a second glance.
Maybe that's why it unsettles her so much to see him like this, in such a wreck.
It's a dull, stabbing reminder—if this is what John Watson is hiding, then perhaps others have things to cover, too. Maybe Reginald Walters had a reason for fighting so hard.
She feels intrusive.
But this is her job, and damn it, she's not going to let those personal feelings come up and encompass her again. So she straightens up, runs a hand over the back of her head and tucks the hairbrush back into her purse. The evening is stretching on—it must be past seven by now. She'll stay for another hour, she decides, and then go home. Hopefully Watson will have the sense to flip on the telly or something—anything other than the disturbing blankness that he's expressing now. The tears are past, and, instead, he gazes across the room with an entirely clear face—not serene, not peaceful, just empty. Empty of everything.
There are other things to be doing. She strides back to her desk, picks up the next folder in the stack and opens it, her eyes running over lines of text without drinking any of it in.
(This does not feel right.)
To be doing this, standing here, uncaring, passive, as a man rips himself apart from the inside out right in front of her eyes. Somebody should be helping him. Fixing him. Giving him whatever he needs to recover from this.
But Mycroft told her to watch out for dangerous behavior, potentially suicidal behavior. Not this. This, really, is to be expected—for God's sake, the man's best friend only just died yesterday, of course he's going to be distraught. There's no reason to believe that it should last.
That's comforting, somewhat, or at least she tells herself it is. Nevertheless, the next sixty minutes crawl by, each one seemingly unwilling to drag itself out. There are no windows in her office, but she can see the city darkening through Baker Street's windows, the night lights slowly flickering on, one at a time, until the last smoky rays of the already clouded sun dissipate entirely and the sky shines dark under a thick layer of smog.
He does start moving, eventually—doing things other than sitting and staring. Makes himself a pot of tea. (She pretends not to notice how his hand instinctively twitches towards the handle of a second cup, as though he's momentarily, blissfully forgotten.) Picks up the newspaper, ignores the Suicide of Fake Genius headline, seems to relax.
But there's still something in his face, something empty, distant. Or maybe he always looks like that. She doesn't know—she doesn't know him, and, for the first time, she's frustrated—frustrated with Mycroft for giving her an assignment like this merely because she was available. Somebody who actually knows him should be doing this—or, at the very least, someone who can identify what behavior could be considered "dangerous."
And yet for her to be designated as the right woman for something like this—it's ridiculous.
She ends up leaving ten minutes earlier than she told herself she would.
It's because she's tired, and has nothing else to do.
(Not because she can't bear the look in his eyes.)
(Of course not.)
Perhaps she'd told herself, foolishly, of course, that John Watson would be like every other task she ever received: forgotten the moment she crossed the threshold of her home.
She goes through the usual movements—enters the restroom before anything else, removes her earrings and rinses her face of makeup, erasing Ms. Morstan and bringing Mary back. Perhaps she lingers just a bit more than usual, considering her reflection in the mirror, the long, light brown hair, full lips, solemn eyes. She looks younger, she decides, without the makeup. More like a fragrance model than a personal secretary, occasional kidnapper, and—apparently—spy.
(What's he doing right now? Crying again, or has he really mastered himself for the night? Will he go straight to bed at a reasonable time, or break out the alcohol, deciding that tea's not enough? When he wakes up in the morning tomorrow, will he have that instant of forgetting?)
It's aggravating. She physically jerks her head, like doing so will somehow dislodge the thoughts from her mind. They remain clenched firmly in place, unwilling to let her go, circling round and round. Are you really that selfish? That you'll just forget about him now that you're home, disregard the fact that he doesn't have an escape, that he's stuck with himself and his memories?
But this isn't right. She's not supposed to grow attached to him.
(Those are Mycroft's morals, not yours.)
And she's not attached to him, anyways. Attachment—it's a stupid, inaccurate word, and she finds herself growing annoyed that she even let it into her thoughts. She's concerned. Like she'd be for any other human being who had to go through as much as him. And maybe she's inventing them, but she could swear that the memories are beginning to come back, nothing vivid, just teasing around the edges of her mind—memories of the night, the one night when she met him. He wasn't like this, then. He was alive. A bit weary, yes, but of course he would be, he was an army veteran, for God's sake.
Determined, though. She had overheard every word he had exchanged with Mycroft (Why are they so clear now? Has she been storing them away all this time, unconsciously, unknowingly?), and they were so vibrant, subtly excited. John Watson, however much he disguised it from everyone—most of all himself—was eager to be part of the shadow world centered around the Holmes brothers, that realm of crime and intrigue and night-cloaked gunshots. He was ready to see the battlefield again.
Mycroft's words, his most powerful words, rush back to her all at once, like a punch in the chest.
You're not haunted by the war, Dr. Watson. You miss it.
And now he's back to being a retired soldier, a veteran of a second war, one infinitely more brilliant and beautiful than Afghanistan.
Army doctor. Afghanistan. Psychosomatic limp. It's all coming back to her now.
Stop thinking about it.
She makes up her mind to shower. That'll clear her mind, surely. Wash away the stress. Then she can brew herself a cup of tea, dig her most absurdly fluffy bathrobe out of the closet, curl up on the couch and watch the most recent episode of her favorite hospital drama.
She hopes that it will work, and it does.
(She forgets when he can't.)