Landing on Your Feet

Up until the crowd of people holding him back, John thinks it must be a joke. And it would actually be quite a good one, if he were in the mood.

Sherlock on the roof of St. Bart’s Hospital. Sherlock saying goodbye to him over the phone, looking so sad standing there alone with a dead Jim Moriarty behind him. He really looks like a man about to die, and he would have been convincing to anyone but John.

But when Sherlock plummets off the roof, John watches carefully, and he sees exactly what he expects to see. Sherlock’s heavy, breakable human body rotates in the air. His coat swirls in the wind, making him look more like a blurry grey mass than a recognizable shape. Then, there is a moment– just at the point when the grey mass touches the ground– that Sherlock’s long limbs are no longer visible, in fact the coat is the only thing that is visible, strangely deflated except for a small bump in the centre of the pile of cloth. Then, quickly enough to make anyone but John question that they had seen anything at all, Sherlock is there again, eyes closed and blood starting to seep out over the pavement, and even though he knows Sherlock is fine, he must be, his heart still jumps into his throat at that sight, and he starts to run.

Later– after the bicycle and the screaming and the concerned onlookers holding him back, after the ambulance that whisked him away too quickly for John to force his way into the back alongside the body, after the morgue and Molly crying and Mycroft being very still and solemn– John stands at the window of the sitting room at 221b Baker Street.

“Okay, seriously,” he says.

The flat is silent and still.

“Sherlock,” he says, “Cut it the fuck out. It worked, okay? Whatever you needed to do, whoever you needed to convince that you’re dead, it worked. You did it.”

John tries not to fidget. There’s no reason to get anxious. Sherlock will be back soon, and he’ll explain– whatever the hell that was. Then John will grab him and fuck the human Sherlock roughly up against the sofa, and then he’ll fall asleep curled protectively around the cat version, the detective’s low, even purring soothing him to sleep like white noise.

There’s nothing to worry about, John tells himself when he finally gives up and lies in bed by himself, cold and sleepless. Sherlock is coming back. He must be.


Sherlock doesn’t come back.

After a week, John is terrified. After a month, despondent. After six months, he has settled into a sort of base state of constant, simmering anger.

He figures there are two possibilities. The first is that Sherlock is alive, and is ignoring him for reasons unknown. John cannot contemplate this possibility for long without wanting to wrap his fingers around Sherlock’s throat, so he tries to keep his mind off of it.

The second is that John is crazy. His confidence in Sherlock’s survival is entirely based off of the idea that his former partner could turn into a cat at will. That is not, objectively, possible. If Sherlock were here, he would remind John that once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. John being well and truly crackers is not even all that improbable. It’s really by far the likeliest of the two options.

It’s actually something of a relief to admit to himself that he’s totally lost it, or more likely never had it in the first place. Perhaps he’s been like this ever since he came back from the war. It’s okay, he tells himself as tries and fails miserably to stay up-to-date on his spreadsheet detailing the markings on the cats in every cat video posted to youtube, sorted by new uploads. I’m crazy, I’m allowed to do stuff like this. John Watson has left the building. This is only to be expected.

The thing is, accepting that he spent the last two years hallucinating that his best friend and lover was also a cat doesn’t really do anything to change his day-to-day situation. He still has memories– which must not really have happened, or have happened substantially differently– of Sherlock. He remembers meeting Sherlock that first time, when the small white cat demanded entry into his shitty old flat, and saved his life. He remembers stakeouts where where he watched the blurry feline speck through binoculars, heart pounding in his chest with worry and excitement and love. He remembers waking up in the morning to the feeling of light paws on his chest and a scratchy tongue on his eyelid.

Whether or not it happened, he wants it back.

One morning, nearly a year after Sherlock disappeared, John wakes up with a sudden flash of inspiration, like his mind had been coming up with the idea all night, and only saw fit to wake him once it was fully-formed.

It’s the kind of plan that seems to warrant saying out loud, and John has accepted that a part of him still believes that Sherlock either has the flat bugged or is hiding in a box in a cupboard somewhere, so he states loudly and clearly, “I’m going to make you jealous.”

There’s no answer, but of course he’s used to not getting an answer when he talks to Sherlock. He doesn’t let it affect his good mood, just shaves thoroughly and pulls on a real button-up shirt with a vest overtop. It seems silly to dress up, but John stopped being self-conscious about his own insanity quite a while ago. He’s going to adopt a cat, and he needs to look his best.

He finds he doesn’t need the cane today, but he takes it along anyway. Potential flatmates ought to know the worst of each other, after all, and he wouldn’t want the new cat to think that he is going to be up for running around with a ball of string on a regular basis.

“Hello,” he says to the woman at the front desk of the animal shelter, giving her what he hopes is a friendly, normal-looking smile. “I’m very lonely. I was hoping you could help with that.”

The woman, whose nametag reads “Mary,” leans her chin on her balled fist on top of the desk and stares at him. She wide blue-green eyes and her full lips are turned up at the corners, just a little, in amusement. John tries not to twitch under her gaze.

“Direct, aren’t you?” she says.

“I, um. Well. Figure there’s no point in being coy about it,” stammers John. He’d assumed it’s pretty normal to walk into an animal shelter and ask to adopt an animal, but perhaps he’d gotten it wrong. His senses aren’t particularly trustworthy, after all. Perhaps he hadn’t even said what he thought he’d said.

“My shift is done at noon,” says Mary, and she’s grinning now, like they’re sharing a joke. “I’ll meet you at the pub three doors down for lunch. What’s your name?”

“John Watson,” he says, and it suddenly seems like a very good idea to grin right back at her. He laughs a little. “Yeah. Okay. I’ll meet you there.”

He walks right back out of the shelter, standing in front of the door and wondering how to kill a few hours before lunchtime. He starts by looking up at the sky and saying, “Well, that wasn’t what I’d planned, but– are you watching, you infuriating creature? I just got a date.

Sherlock doesn’t hiss at him from a rooftop, but a man walking by does mutter “Well bully for you, mate,” and John decides to interpret it as sincere.

Mary arrives at the pub a few minutes after noon, carrying a large binder full of pictures of cats. “You did want to adopt a cat, too, right?” she teases, and John shrugs. “I’ll take a cat or a shag, I’m not particular,” he admits, because something about Mary’s knowing smile makes him want to be honest with her, and also test her boundaries. She swats him on the arm and sits down beside him, instead of across from him, so they can pore through the binder together.

They spend a pleasant two hours looking at the cats in the binder without making any firm choice, going through a frankly alarming pile of chips, and when the waitress finally brings them a bill unprompted John pays it, which causes Mary to scowl and slip twenty quid into his back pocket when they stand up, her hand not exactly lingering but also not avoiding contact with his arse through the denim. They end up standing on the pavement outside the pub, smiling at each other.

“So,” says John. “You probably need to inspect my flat. Make sure it’s, erm. Safe for cats.”

“Yes,” says Mary. “I definitely need to do that.”

They take the tube to Baker Street, and as soon as John pushes open the door to the flat there’s no pretence: Mary grabs him with one hand behind his head and pulls him in for a kiss, straightforward and assertive.

It’s strange, John, thinks, how easy this is. He had figured that he’d never kiss anyone but Sherlock again, and he was fine with it. He would have expected to lose the knack, somehow, like Sherlock were a completely different class of person, and any skills or experienced gained with the mad cat detective couldn’t possibly transfer to another set of lips, a less angular face, a softer frame pressing against his front. It does, though. Kissing Mary feels like coming home to something he didn’t know he’d missed.

She pulls back, her face open and playful and light. She glances around, taking in the flat. John had left the place pretty much as it was on the day Sherlock jumped, and simply allowed his own belongings to filter more and more into what used to be the common areas. The effect is terrifyingly chaotic, and John wonders what she must think of him.

Probably that you’re crazy, his mind supplies. Which is true.

“Your flat is perfect for a cat,” she says. “Lots of stuff to knock over. How about that shag, then?”

I’m going to shag someone who isn’t Sherlock. John feels fine. Great, actually. “God, yes,” he mutters, and pulls her into the bedroom. The downstairs one, the one that used to be Sherlock’s, and then became Sherlock and John’s. I hope you’re watching this, you bastard.

Mary shucks her clothes with no self-consciousness at all, and gestures towards him as she’s pulling her panties off her foot in a “come on, then” motion. John undresses quickly, his breath hitching nervously for a moment as he pulls off his shirt. Nobody’s seen the scar in this way besides Sherlock, he realizes. The first time he’d showed Sherlock, of course, had been their first meeting, before he had any idea there was a human intelligence behind the cat’s great big green eyes. But later, John had thought a lot about how Sherlock must have seen him, that night. About the fact that the first thing he did when John took off his shirt was climb up on his chest and lick the scar, grooming him like John was also a cat.

Mary doesn’t pretend not to notice the scar, and John is glad of it. Instead, she pulls him forward by the shoulders and runs a cursory hand over the lumpy skin, glancing down briefly and then back up at his face. “Nice,” she says, and her voice really does sound admiring and very, very horny.

“Got shot,” says John by way of explanation, as she jumps a little backwards onto the bed, lying down and making it clear with her hands on John’s hips that she wants him on top of her. John obliges, his erection settling between her thighs, and he’s staring down at her when she says, actually laughing a little, “yeah, I guessed that from the huge bullet wound on your shoulder, actually.”

John can’t help but laugh too, and damn, it feels good to laugh about his scar. To laugh during sex. He trails a hand down, rubbing over the curls covering her mons and down to sink into her heat and wetness. Mary moans a little and relaxes back into the mattress, and he circles his fingers around her clit, and everything feels easy until– oh.

“Haven’t got…” he mutters, and trails off, awkwardly. There’s no reason he should be embarrassed about not having condoms in the flat; he was expecting to bring a cat home today, not a woman. Still.

“Haven’t got what?” pants Mary. “A tongue? That can’t be right. Your diction is impeccable.”

“Erm. Yes,” says John. “I have got… one of those, yes.” He obligingly pushes up onto his knees and starts making his way down her body, trailing his face over the warmth and softness of her belly.

“Good. So have I,” says Mary. “So we should be fine, then– oh, yeah.”

John starts with the alphabet; he’s not too proud for an old classic. Mary is vocal, and orgasms quickly; the moment she’s come, she pulls him up and pushes him onto his back, muttering “I’ll want another later,” and swallows John’s cock like she’s been waiting all day to do it.

After, once John has come and languidly stroked her easily to another orgasm, they lie beside each other, staring at the ceiling but with their hands intertwined companionably. John feels his heartbeat gradually slowing, his body calming into contentment, and sighs.

“That was nice,” he says. “Good suggestion. Thank you.”

“Was your suggestion, I think,” she returns. She turns her head, her short blonde hair sticking up at odd angles, and kisses him on the cheek. Friendly. Innocent. “Who was he, then?” she says.

For a moment, John opens his mouth to respond, instinctively, like it’s completely normal for him to be lying in bed beside someone who knows things they haven’t been told. Then he closes it, his brain catching up to the situation. He hadn’t told Mary about Sherlock. How had she known? Is that a stupid question? Can everyone but John deduce things on sight, and he’s the only one in the world left in the dark? No, that doesn’t make sense. Sherlock had been, if not unique, at least… special. In many ways.

“Hey, sorry,” says Mary, seeming alarmed by what she sees on John’s face. “Sorry, that was rude. You don’t have to tell me. It just looks like another bloke used to live here, is all.”

John looks around, though he doesn’t need to. The poster of the periodic table is still on the wall, like anyone who’d been through medical school would voluntarily use that as decoration. The closet door is open, showing hangers of slim-cut black trousers and silk button-ups pushed aside in favour of a riot of cotton, denim and wool. And that’s just in the bedroom. It’s not hard to see how Mary could deduce, or perhaps intuit, that someone else used to live here.

John sighs. Mary is nice, and fit, and all in all this day has gone much better than he ever would have guessed. It can’t last, though. If she can look at his flat and see the echoes of Sherlock in a glance, she’s going to do the same with John. Sherlock is written all over him, on his skin and in his blood and etched into his heart, and she’ll see it. She’ll never be more than a one-time shag, and that’s the way it should be.

Well. If that’s the case, he’s got nothing to lose. The truth of Sherlock, or the truth as John remembers it, ricochets around inside him like a caged animal. At least he can let it out, this once, since she’ll be gone soon anyway.

“I had a boyfriend, yeah” says John, the word feeling strange on his lips. Despite that being very definitely what they were, they’d rarely used the word boyfriend to describe their relationship. Friend, colleague, partner, lover, or simply, possessively mine– all of those fit them. Boyfriend, though, is what he forces himself to say to Mary, the bald truth of it easily understandable to someone on the outside. “He was a detective. He could turn into a cat. That’s how I met him, actually– I was buying a gun to off myself with, and he followed me home and meowed his way into my flat. Bit of a shock. He faked his death, I think. Fell right off the roof of St. Bart’s, I saw him, but he was a bloody cat, I know the bastard survived. I think he’s hiding from me, and I don’t know why, and it makes me livid. He always was infuriating, though. He was–” here John stumbles, can’t quite figure out what he meant to say, but there’s something else, at least one more thing that Mary has to know about Sherlock, or at least that John has to say about him. “A good man,” he finishes finally.

He doesn’t look at Mary, can’t stand to. He loosens his grip on her fingers, giving her tacit permission to leave, to get up and walk away from the raving lunatic whose cock she’s just sucked.

“I was an assassin,” she says instead.

John blinks, the white, lightly patterned ceiling going dark and then winking back into view. Perhaps she’s making fun of him. She thinks he was joking and is responding in kind. John’s heart sinks; he was prepared for her to to leave, but he hadn’t considered the possibility that he might be mocked, and he doesn’t like it. Madmen ought to be left to their delusions in peace.

He turns to look at her, then stops short. She’s not mocking him. John can’t be sure how he knows, but there is something about her that is different, a cold steel showing through that wasn’t there before, and he knows that what she’s just said is something she believes to be true.

John swallows. “An assassin.”

“Killed people for money, yeah.” Her eyes are wide and guileless, and she’s looking at him nervously. She’s not nervous that he won’t believe her, though. She’s nervous that he will.

Thank God, thinks John, a wave of pure affection washing over him. She’s just as insane as I am. He suppresses a wild, joyful laugh. The thought that, out of all the people in the world he could have met today, he managed to walk straight into the life of someone just as crazy as him is absolutely magnificent.

Mary is shrinking away now, misinterpreting John’s elation as revulsion, and he places a hand on her arm, pulling her back in. “Sometimes I killed people for free,” he admits easily, “Sherlock was never all that fussy about extracting payment from the Met, and we had a tendency to take the law into our own hands when we needed to. God, I miss him.” It hurts a little to admit that it out loud, but not as much as he thought it would. Mary seems reassured by John’s reaction, so he continues somewhat bemusedly, “So, you… got tired of killing people and decided to take care of cats instead?”

Mary tilts her head back and forth in a “kind of” motion. “Not really got tired, no. Went out with a bang, not a whimper. But yes, I’m done with it. We’re even a no-kill shelter.” She chuckles a little at her own joke. “I’m sorry about your bloke, though.”

“Don’t be,” says John, and tries to sound convinced when he says, “He’s not dead. He could turn into a cat, for god’s sake. Falling off a roof wasn’t enough to kill him.”

“Cats do always land on their feet,” muses Mary. “Just like buttered toast always lands butter-side down. What would happen if you strapped a piece of buttered toast to your boyfriend’s back and tossed him off a roof, do you think?”

For months, John has heard nothing from anyone about Sherlock that isn’t accompanied by a sad tilt of the head, a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, all of the little movements and sayings that are supposed to express socially-appropriate sympathy to the loved ones of the deceased. He hates it; he would hate it even if Sherlock really were dead, and he hates it all the more knowing that he isn’t.

And now, Mary is joking about it.

John throws back his head and laughs. The image of Sherlock, furry on one side and slippery on the other, rotating forever above the pavement outside of St. Bart’s Hospital, swims in his mind. Mary is laughing too, now, seeming delighted with herself that she’s managed to make a grieving man laugh over his not-dead cat boyfriend.

Once he’s got a hold of himself, John manages to choke out, “Will you stay for dinner?”

And Mary says, “Sure, why not.”


Being with Mary is easy.

John had forgotten that knowing someone could be easy. He’d never had much time for anything serious before the Army, and the few times he tried to bring someone home to his shitty, pre-Sherlock flat were significantly encumbered by the fact that he didn’t want anyone to stay the night lest he accidentally attack them in his sleep.

The first time Mary sleeps over, he nervously mentions his nightmares, and the worry that he might injure a bedmate who isn’t capable of slithering away from an attack in feline form. She just gives him a sharp-toothed grin and says, “Haven’t been attacked in my sleep in months. Sounds refreshing.”

They don’t spend all their time together; far from it. The first time Mary answers his invitation to come over with “Would rather be alone tonight– coffee tomorrow?” John wonders if he’s done something wrong, but everything is fine between them the next day. And so the next time that Mary invites him out after a 10-hour clinic shift that leaves him dead on his feet, he replies “Not today– call you Friday” and falls into bed without a second thought.

Mary is kind and funny and not needy and utterly, utterly crazy, John has to keep reminding himself. At some point, their sharp edges are going to brush up against each other, and all of this will fall apart spectacularly. He can practically hear the psychological case study being written about them– an outwardly normal couple, reinforcing each others’ impossible delusions about their own pasts. He’d quite like to read it, when it comes out, but by that point he’ll be too far gone to read medical journals, he expects.

Then one day, about five months into his and Mary’s romantic arrangement, he gets a text from her in the middle of the day which reads, Come to the shelter. Now.

John is on lunch break from the clinic, and about to grab a sandwich from the Pret and then head back to work. He stops on the pavement, staring at his mobile. It’s a very, well, Sherlockian text, and he feels the familiar almost instinctual pull to obey it, then the subsequent annoyance and impulse to ignore it out of spite. But this isn’t Sherlock, it’s Mary, and Mary doesn’t do stuff like this.

He goes back to the clinic to collect his bag, and Sarah is entirely credulous when he pulls a face and says he’s felt a fever developing all morning and needs to tap out. “I’ll find someone to cover your shift tomorrow?” she says anxiously, and John nods, too worried about whatever it is that Mary is summoning him for to feel bad.

The Tube ride to the shelter is only about ten minutes, and when John emerges he has another text: I’ve got him caged in the conference room off the main hallway. Come straight here.

That doesn’t make a lick of sense, and John begins to suspect that this is it, this is the moment he’s been waiting for: Mary has well and truly cracked. It’s too bad she had to go before he did, John thinks ruefully; he’d rather have company for his own complete breakdown, when it happens. Ah well. Can’t be helped.

The front desk is unstaffed, Mary having abandoned her post to the conference room. John hurries down the hallway and pushes open the door.

Mary is sitting comfortably large chair, shoes off and legs crossed on the seat. She’s resting her chin on one hand, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

She is keeping watch over a large wire cage set on the table.

Inside the cage is Sherlock Holmes.

John does a million things at once. He faints. He throws open the cage and pulls Sherlock into his arms. He punches him in his stupid fucking furry little face. He turns and walks out of the room, never to return. He cries with relief.

He doesn’t do any of those with his actual body, though. On the physical plane, John just blinks once, then sits down in the chair next to Mary.

“He’s good, I’ll give your bloke that,” she says contemplatively. “I was almost convinced by his alley-cat act. Was this close to scheduling him in at the vet to get his shots.”

“What gave him away?” John’s mouth seems to work of its own volition. His lips might actually be numb. Actually, most of him is numb.

Mary tilts her head. “Just something about him,” she says. “A little too curious about my personal belongings. A little too convenient, for a cat precisely matching your description of Sherlock to show up right at the beginning of my shift. All cats are judgemental little fucks, but you should’ve seen the look this one gave me while I ate a candy bar from the vending machine for lunch. And this is what I’m trained for, anyway. Dangerous people. Trusting my gut.”

Inside the cage, the cat wrinkles his nose, as if to say Well, there’s always something. Then his eyes lock with John’s and he starts to lick his paw slowly.

It’s definitely Sherlock.

John nods slowly. Either he and Mary are existing in the depths of a hallucination so deep and twisty that there may not even be any point in attempting to extricate themselves from it, or… this is real. Sherlock was real, is real.

Which means that Mary very possible was actually a professional assassin, which is more reassuring than it should be right at the moment, because he might need the services of one pretty soon.

Mary sees the whole realization, can probably see it play out on his face, and John further realizes that if what she says is true, then she’s probably known this whole time that most of him still doubted, that he was only sticking with her because he thought the two of them were insane. She puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I’ll give you two some space, okay?” she says. “I’ll be back at the desk if you need me.”

The door clicks shut behind her, and John and Sherlock are alone.

John stands up, walks towards the cage. His hand reaches for the latch, then he pulls it back. He wants Sherlock to talk, to explain what the fuck had been so important to justify putting John though losing him. But more than that, John wants to talk. He wants to talk and know that Sherlock is listening.

He leaves the cage locked, and pulls his chair up closer to the table. He tries resting his elbows on the table, but it feels too casual. He pulls them off and puts his palms on his thighs. They’re sweaty and shaking. He takes a deep breath, and that shakes audibly, too.

“I love you,” he says. He hadn’t chosen to say that first but somehow it just happens, bursts out of him like an accusation, angry and vicious. He can’t stand the way the anger is tempered by the tremor in his voice, the one that threatens tears. Just anger would be acceptable, and just crying would be too; then at least Sherlock would know what he had done to John, would be able to see it in the pain he’d caused in the shudders and tears. But the combination makes him feel out of control, makes him feel desperately afraid that he’s sending mixed messages, that somehow Sherlock won’t understand.

“I love you. I love you. Do you even understand that? How did you– how could you? How did you know I– god, Sherlock, you remember what I was like when we first met. When you first saved me. How could you leave me? What on Earth could be that important?”

He’s shaking now, and his fingers and toes are starting to feel cold, and John distantly realizes he’s going into shock. He doesn’t think he could say anything more even if he wanted to, so he just lurches forward and unlatches the cage with fumbling fingers, stepping back quickly in expectation of Sherlock immediately launching himself out of the cage and assuming human form.

Sherlock doesn’t. Instead, he steps out almost tentatively, one paw and then the other on the smooth wooden table, looking at John cautiously out of pale green eyes. John sinks back into his chair, exhausted with the effort of not collapsing from his brief stint at standing up.

Sherlock jumps into John’s lap and buries his head between his thighs.

“Oh god,” John groans, his arms curling protectively around the tiny figure automatically. “Oh god, love. You’re killing me. I missed you so much.” He buries his head in the fur of Sherlock’s back, squeezing him tighter than can possibly be comfortable, but John doesn’t care. The fur of Sherlock’s back is wet now, and John feels the sounds the cat is making before he hears them, high and plaintive and absolutely heartbreaking.
“Goddammit,” John whispers into Sherlock’s neck. He runs both hands down his sides, feeling the prominent ribs and slightly matted fur. He has no idea how the analogue between the state of Sherlock’s human and feline bodies might work, but he definitely doesn’t seem healthy in this form. “Dammit. I can’t stay angry at you when you’re like this. Can you– can you be human for me now, love? I really need to see you human.”

For a moment, the doubt returns, a single suspended second when John wonders if he’s just been crying into the fur of a random alley cat, but then the wind is knocked out of him when a newly minted human elbow flails into his stomach, and the lapful of Sherlock Holmes is suddenly much heavier.

Sherlock is sitting, naked and wild-eyed, legs splayed on either side of John’s lap and John’s hands now curled around his back. Sherlock’s eyes flicker up and down John’s body, taking him in with a different set of colour receptors, and Jonn feels the prickle of tears again. “Why?” he whispers.

Sherlock shrugs. The movement causes John’s hands to slide slightly where he’s gripping his back, and there is a texture to Sherlock’s skin that hadn’t been there before; lumpy and knotted in thin strips down his back. “To save your life,” he says, and his voice sounds rusty with disuse but guileless, simple. “What other reason? Really, John. There was a sniper trained on you. I needed Moriarty to think me dead, and for long enough to dismantle his back-up plans. I thought you would have guessed.”

It should hurt, with anyone else the callousness would hurt, but it’s Sherlock. He’s back. And despite the intentionally casual tone, Sherlock reaches around and pulls John closer, burying his nose in John’s hair, and John can feel the detective’s ribs pressing against his chest, god Sherlock is thin. He’s starved and he has scars all over his back. “You’re back for good?” John whispers.

He feels rather than sees Sherlock nod, and then he pulls back a little. “Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”

Despite the most co_m_plete emotional exhaustion in recent memory, John chuckles a little at that. “Seems like you’ve already met Mary.”

Instead of smiling, Sherlock winces. “I… I owe you an apology, John,” he says hesitantly. “I never meant to… I didn’t mean for our reunion to happen this way. Of course I wanted you to be the first person I saw, the moment I got back to London. But I had been keeping tabs on you, of course. And I just wanted to see– well. If you were happy. If I would perhaps be… intruding on something.”

For a moment John just blinks at Sherlock, that utterly dumbfounded, idiotic expression he knows Sherlock hates but he’s just going to have to put up with when he says something astounding. “Intruding?” he mouths.

Then a wave of nausea hit him at the realization of what he’d done, what he’d succeeded in doing only because he had assumed he was not capable of it. Making Sherlock jealous. Not only making him jealous, but actually convincing him that he had been replaced.

“No,” he groans into Sherlock’s chest. “No, no, no– Sherlock, she was the only one who believed me. We would get together to– for me to tell stories about my cat detective, and her to tell stories about her most elegant kills. Do you seriously think–”

“Yes!” Sherlock hisses. “I knew it! It was so obvious.”

“Come off it.” John is jolted out of his guilt by Sherlock’s delight. “You– you seriously guessed that she was an assassin?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “I didn’t guess, he says. “I observed. Come on now; let’s go home.”


“Mary!” John exclaims, hastily shutting the closet door where he’s just hung her coat, “You can’t– Jesus, don’t give him that! He’ll be running all over me tonight!”

“I know,” says Mary, grinning as she tosses the plastic bee with the pouch full of catnip inside at her feet, and then sits down on the carpet as Sherlock bats as it. “You’re going to leave lots of nice scratches all over John, aren’t you?” she sing-songs to him in the stupid baby voice that no-one besides Mary has ever gotten away with using to address Sherlock.

John sinks down on the couch, watching his ex-girlfriend get fairly scratched up herself as she tries to play a game of keep-away with his boyfriend. He can’t help but smile as Sherlock finally wrests the toy away from her, Mary giggling as she ends up flat on her back trying to protect her face from his claws.

Well. As long as nobody else in the room is bothering to have any dignity, John might as well join in.

He slithers down to lie on the floor beside Mary, and Sherlock ends up curled between their chests, writhing around with Mary’s ridiculous gift. It’s not the most convenient position to catch up from, but John grins across at her and says, “Well? Are you fired, or did you get a promotion?”

Mary rolls her eyes and bats away the tail flopping around in her face. For some reason, management at the animal shelter had decided that an afternoon of laser tag was exactly the team-building exercise that their employees needed, and Mary had been texting John videos of her ruthless kills as they took place the entire time. “I don’t think I’m invited next time,” she says. “And you? Did you guys get that money launderer?”

John nods. The fuzzy blur in between their bodies stills somewhat, and John places a reassuring hand on his belly, getting nipped for his efforts: “I’ll let him tell you all about it, he likes that bit way too much.”

They chat for a while longer, taking turns rolling around with the frenzied ball of fur that is Sherlock, until Mary’s stomach grumbles and the oven chimes and John manages to grasp Sherlock’s head and say, “alright, time to eat. Go get dressed and you can tell Mary all about how brilliant you are.” Sherlock licks John’s nose in some sort of very feeble show of defiance before he trots off to the bedroom, and John picks himself up off the floor to check on the lasagne.

He hears footsteps follow him into the kitchen, and Mary is leaning against the counter and smiling softly as she says, “You seem well, John.”

John sets the dish down and pulls off the oven mitts. “I am, yeah,” he says, turning to look at her. She’s put on a bit of weight in the three months since Sherlock’s return, no longer the spare muscular killing machine that John had tried not to think about too hard when they had first met. The last time the three of them had got together– a late-night takeout run that had turned into a rooftop chase, in which Mary had proven to be, embarrassingly, much faster than either of them– Sherlock had informed John afterwards that Mary was sleeping with someone, or more likely two different people, and that she had recently purchased three new bookshelves, a set of blackout blinds, and an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner.

“So do you,” he says, and means it.

Sherlock enters the kitchen, bare-footed but now in trousers and a silk shirt. His eyes are still somewhat crazed, and he grins a little more loopily than normal as he says “Hello, Mary.”

“Sherlock,” she says, pulling him in for a hug, “Come here, you adorable thing.” John meets Sherlock’s eyes over Mary’s shoulder, and smirks at his irritated expression. Apparently being called “adorable” while human is one step too far. His expression softens when she pulls away and continues, “So, tell me about the money-launderers!”

John gently shepherds the two of them towards the table, half-listening to the chain of deduction that had led to their third solved case this week, and smiles.