Title: Courting is Over – part 3
Author: Ariane DeVere
Word count: 2832 (this section)
Warnings: Major character deaths (offscreen), threat of violence
Light-touch beta thanks to verityburns. Any glaring errors are all mine.
Back to Part 1
Thanks for the kind comments on earlier parts of this fic, and I’m sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond. Real Life is an itchbay right now, plus when I do attempt to post replies LJ promptly eats them. I do read all your comments and have really appreciated them!
Just as the car reached Baker Street, Sarah realised that John wouldn’t be back from the surgery yet. If she’d been thinking straight she would have already realised that, and now she wondered whether to ask to be taken back home but decided to brave it out and rang the doorbell. By the time she realised that Sherlock either wasn’t in or was ignoring the bell, the car had driven away and she was about to stomp off to the nearby Tube station when Mrs Hudson came around the corner with her shopping bag. They went indoors together and the landlady escorted her upstairs to check whether Sherlock was indeed around, but a quick search found that he had gone out and left all the doors unlocked – again, as it was something John complained about on a regular basis. Just as Sarah was about to go back downstairs with Mrs Hudson her phone beeped with a text message from John telling her that Sherlock was bouncing up and down outside his consulting room window like an over-excited Great Dane puppy while repeatedly texting him to come out and accompany him on his latest investigation. John continued that he hoped she had already escaped safely from Mycroft and promised to call her as soon as possible. Sarah smiled and explained to Mrs Hudson that her tenants wouldn’t be home for a while, and she was about to head for the stairs when the older lady spoke up.
“I don’t think they’d mind if you stayed and waited for them, do you?” She smiled at Sarah a little wickedly. “You don’t strike me as the sort who will search their rooms and rummage through all their unmentionables while you’re alone.”
Sarah giggled. “I dread to think what sort of unmentionables might be in Sherlock’s room,” she said, “so I’m not going to have any problem resisting that temptation!”
She offered to make a drink for both of them and texted John from the kitchen telling him where she was, then the women sat and chatted for a while until Mrs Hudson went back downstairs to prepare for her bingo night. Once she had gone Sarah began to feel the impact of the day creeping up on her and, after struggling to stay awake for a while, she eventually curled up on the sofa and let herself drift off to sleep.
She was awoken several hours later by the sound of feet thundering up the stairs accompanied by John’s happy giggle. Opening her eyes just as they arrived in the living room she looked up to be greeted with the sight of the two of them panting breathlessly, covered in mud, dripping wet, and grinning like a couple of school kids whose recent escapade had been the most brilliant adventure ever. “My boys,” she murmured affectionately, then got up to tend to the newly acquired cut over John’s left eye.
They were ‘my boys’ in her mind from that day on. Sherlock would always throw her a withering look whenever she used the term out loud, but John found it totally endearing.
After the boys had cleaned themselves up and ordered in enough takeaway to feed at least six people, they obviously wanted to know everything about her afternoon with Mycroft but now that she had the chance to talk about it, she found herself not wanting to tell them too much, feeling a strange sense of loyalty to the man who – after all – really did appear simply to have his brother’s best interests at heart. In an attempt to distract them, she told them about the amazing apartment she had been taken to – although the moment she started talking about the interior, Sherlock’s expression darkened and he muttered, “Victor’s place,” unhappily. He refused to elucidate when John looked quizzically at him, and Sarah continued to babble about the winter garden and the journeys with not-Chloe until she couldn’t sidetrack them any longer and John’s repeated demand of “But what did he want?” was starting to become annoying.
“He just wanted to talk,” she snapped a little irritably. “He knew I wouldn’t be his spy but he still wanted to just chat about Sherlock and you, and he didn’t want to know anything confidential and I didn’t tell him anything confidential.”
John looked taken aback at her vehemence and she calmed down a little.
“I think he’s lonely,” she said, then ignored Sherlock’s snort as she turned to him. “Does he have a lot of friends?”
“How should I know?” Sherlock shrugged.
“Very helpful – thank you,” she told him sarcastically. “Anyway, he’s asked if we can have lunch occasionally, and I’ve agreed.”
John drew in a sharp breath and she turned back to him. “Easy, tiger,” she said soothingly. “He has guaranteed me that his only intentions are conversation and sandwiches, and the occasional cup cake. Your terrible secrets will forever be safe with me, and if you even think about trying to forbid me, John Watson, we’re going to have a very big argument indeed.”
She scowled fiercely at him and although he tried to look stern as he returned her gaze, he couldn’t hold the expression for long and eventually laughed ruefully and pulled her into his arms.
“I don’t have the faintest idea whether you’re the bravest woman I’ve ever known or whether you’re playing right into his plans,” he told her, “but right now all I want to do is cuddle the stuffing out of you.”
Sherlock sighed in exasperation and stood up. “I’m going to bed,” he said.
Later, Sarah couldn’t even find the words to describe the next few months of her life. There were times when she stood back for a moment and stared in awe at what was happening to her. Her not-quite-a-relationship with John became warmer and more affectionate as they shared more experiences of and with his lunatic flatmate, while their times alone and away from him were precious and rare and then eventually tinged with a realisation that after a while they were actually missing the lunatic flatmate. Occasionally they even persuaded the lunatic to come out for a meal with them, and neither of them minded as much as they ought to if he ruined the experience by loudly discussing gory details from recent cases while they were trying to eat.
Sarah had three more lunches with Mycroft, each at a different location but each of the venues strange and unusual enough to be a fascinating topic of conversation in its own right – and while he was always interested in anything she had to say about Sherlock or John, he would never push for information that she didn’t want to supply. It didn’t stop him kidnapping John occasionally, who would complain bitterly afterwards that he was still being dragged off to empty warehouses and other spooky abandoned places and yet was never offered so much as a bag of crisps.
Meanwhile John introduced her to Greg and Toby, the two football-mad detective inspectors with whom he spent many a Saturday afternoon either standing on a freezing terrace at a local home game or sitting in a warm pub shouting at the telly and wishing that they were there on the freezing terrace. Sarah politely declined the invitations to join them outdoors but was happy to sit in the pub with them, especially when Toby’s wife Hilary often came along – and the women struck up a friendship shared by most ‘football widows’ who might as well not have been there when the timing of the referee’s last visit to the optician required detailed discussion.
She didn’t spend all of her free time with John; sometimes they wouldn’t see each other for over a week if he was busy with Sherlock or if she had other people to visit. In the same way that she had told Mycroft how John needed an occasional release from the insanity of life at Baker Street, she made a deliberate point of going out with her own friends at least two or three times a month, although after a while she discovered that sometimes she was struggling to enjoy the typical banter and was missing Sherlock’s intensity and John’s concentration as he tried to keep up with his flatmate’s line of thinking. The first time that she was out with her friends and received a text message from Sherlock demanding clarification on a particular medical condition, she laughed with such delight that one of the girls squealed and asked if John had just proposed. When she realised a couple of hours later that she had probably been more excited at receiving Sherlock’s text than she would have been if John had proposed, she paused and waited to be shocked at the revelation ... then shrugged and simply accepted it as just another weird thing in the day of the life of a friend of Sherlock Holmes.
She wasn’t quite so relaxed about it when, a few days later, she was dragged out of her bath by repeated ringing on her intercom and found Sherlock staring into the one-way camera and demanding that she buzz him in immediately. When he reached her front door he was indignant that she wouldn’t let him in, snorting that it was obvious that she was hiding behind the door in just a bath towel but then insisting that she get dressed quickly and come with him.
“Sherlock!” she protested. “I’m ...”
“Three minutes,” he interrupted. “I’ll wait in the taxi.” And with that, he swirled away again.
It wasn’t worth even considering a refusal, she realised, and despite her irritation she climbed into the cab with wet hair two minutes and forty six seconds later. Sherlock nodded approvingly, then deigned to inform her during the journey that Lestrade had called him to a crime scene, there were two dead bodies and John had absolutely refused to come home from Harry’s to assist him. Sherlock sounded almost hurt as he relayed verbatim the phone conversation that had ensued, and Sarah had to hide her giggles as he did a more than passable impression of John’s fractious tone.
But again it was only later, after she had had to crawl around under a table with Sherlock to examine one of the bodies and then had noticed and shown him some inconsistencies with the injuries on the other which had produced his trademark “Oh!” as the clues fell into place in his brain, and after he had rattled off a long list of deductions and instructions to Greg and then swanned off out of the room, and after Greg had chased after him to stop him leaving in the taxi without Sarah, and after Sherlock had dropped her off at her flat with a murmured, “You did well tonight,” that she sat down on her sofa and stared ahead of herself in amazement at how calmly and rationally she had just dealt with such a bizarre situation. As a G.P., it was only very occasionally that she was required to be in the same room as a dead body and yet she had followed Sherlock’s instructions and done the job required of her without hesitation.
And so her life was strange and wonderful and weirdly inexplicable to others. It was mostly fun, though occasionally harrowing ... She could definitely have done without the time when, approaching her flat one evening after a late surgery session, she was abruptly grabbed from behind by a man who spun her around and slammed her back against the wall while glaring at her angrily. “You’re Sherlock Holmes’ bird,” he said. “I’ve seen yer with him and that other bloke he hangs around with.” He leaned even closer, huffing foul breath into her face. “Holmes put my brother in prison. Let’s see how he likes it when someone messes with his friends.”
Pulling out a flick-knife, he waved it in front of her face several times. “If I cut your face to bits, d’you think it might make me feel better?” he asked her, then immediately answered himself. “Yeah, I think it might. An’ it might make Holmes think twice before he stitches up other people in future.”
Sarah’s gaze had been rapidly flicking to either side in the faint hope that somebody may be approaching or even looking out of a window but she knew that her street was fairly quiet at this time of night. She looked up desperately at the CCTV camera on a nearby street light but knew that the chances weren’t good that anyone was watching the feed from that particular camera at this very moment. Suddenly she was furious.
“Did he do the crime?” she demanded. The man looked surprised and she pressed her advantage. “Did your brother do the crime?” she asked again even more firmly.
“What the bloody hell has that got to do with it?” he asked stupidly, but the hand holding the knife was starting to droop and she went on the attack again in a bid to keep him distracted.
“Sherlock Holmes doesn’t ‘stitch people up’,” she said firmly. “He tracks down genuine criminals. If your brother did something illegal and got caught for it, then whose fault is it that he’s in prison?”
The man gawped at her in disbelief, then launched into a long rant about how his brother didn’t deserve this, and if only that stupid Holmes hadn’t come along, then his brother wouldn’t have been caught because the police didn’t have the first bleedin’ clue, and how she didn’t understand what it was like and his brother was a good bloke ... It was a complete stream of self-contradictory rubbish and finally Sarah had had enough.
“Oh, for goodness’ sake, you can still visit him!” she interrupted him. “And unless he committed murder, presumably he’ll be out again one day. And then maybe you can have a conversation with him about his bloody life choices!” She glared up into his face furiously. “And if he did commit murder, then it’s no surprise that he’s in prison!”
There was a flicker of movement in her peripheral vision. She tilted her head slightly to get a better view without taking her eyes off her assailant, and before the man could draw a breath to argue with her again she deliberately leaned closer to him.
“If you get away, tell your brother and everyone else you know that the friends of Sherlock Holmes are protected.”
He frowned. “Get away?” he repeated blankly.
Sarah pointedly shifted her gaze to her right. The man turned his head to see what she was looking at and jolted in surprise at the sight of the black van which was slowly and silently rolling towards them even as various reassuringly large men began to climb out of it.
“Run,” Sarah said flatly.
Fortunately for her, he was too startled to consider the merits of using her as a hostage or a shield and he instantly released her and raced off with most of the men in pursuit. Sarah resisted the urge to yell, “Run!” after him and instead turned to the team leader who was approaching her.
“Do you need an ambulance, Doctor Sawyer?” he asked her.
“No, I’m fine,” she said a little shakily. “He didn’t hurt me.”
“Where would you like to go?”
“I’m already home,” she told him, gesturing down the street. “How did you get here so quickly?”
The man gestured up to the CCTV camera. “Mr. Holmes likes to keep an eye on his brother’s friends,” he explained. “This isn’t the first time that one of you has been endangered.”
He offered her his arm. “May I escort you home, ma’am?” he asked, and once again Sarah didn’t know whether to dissolve into tears of laughter or just into tears.
And still she didn’t consider for one moment whether her life might be better if she extricated herself from John’s and Sherlock’s insane world. She was beginning to understand John’s addiction to the danger and the crazy hours and Sherlock’s ludicrous demands – and she wouldn’t give her boys up even if somebody offered her a huge amount of money and Victor’s flat to do so.
She kept Mycroft’s phone number in her handbag at all times but found that she couldn’t bring herself to programme it into her phone. On the couple of occasions she thought about doing so, she got the giggles as she imagined her phone melting down into a puddle of components and goo two minutes afterwards. Whenever she came across the card in her purse it always gave her a flash of anxiety about what sort of terrible situation might force her to use it, but strangely she also had a small sense of comfort that it was there if she did need it.
But before she ever needed to call the number, Greg arrived at her flat to tell her that her boys were dead.