angelzash: (Sherlock/John Center of Gravity)
[personal profile] angelzash
Title: Three Years of Flowers
By: [personal profile] angelzash
Genre: Romance, Drama
Pairing: eventual Sherlock/John
Rating: PG
Warnings: Pretend Character Death, Post-Reichenbach
Word Count:~4,300
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Chapter: 1/4
Summary: Sherlock died at Reichenbach Falls, so who's sending John flowers and gifts? John searches for their meaning even as he tries to go on without Sherlock by his side.

Notes: This is a response to this prompt on the BBC Sherlock Kink Meme. I was actually writing this before the prompt, but it fit the prompt so well... I just tweaked it to make it actually for the prompt! XD Hope the OP likes!

This takes place during The Three Year Hiatus after Sherlock fakes his death at the Reichenbach Falls. All flower meanings can be found on this site. As always, I love any and all constructive criticism! Enjoy please!



Year 1

John didn’t think anything of it when he received the first gift. It was the day of Sherlock’s funeral and John was admittedly still in a grief-stricken haze, so it was understandable that he wouldn’t think much of a bouquet of flowers, even if it was a very large bouquet of roses. Truth be told, it wasn’t until Lestrade arrived that he actually noticed them.

“These are strange flowers to send for a funeral…” he noted, leaning in to smell them. “Why did they send them here and not the funeral home?”

John shrugged, moving stiffly out of the kitchen, his eyes automatically searching for the bouquet in question. He frowned a bit as he finally took it in: a dozen deep yellow roses surrounded another dozen blood-red roses with a final single white rose in the very center, all thornless. Interspersed throughout the red roses were blue forget-me-nots, white poppies, and purple hyacinth which stood tall and proud over the all the other flowers. It was a beautiful arrangement, though he had to admit the flower choices were a bit odd.

“Those had my name on them actually,” John told him. He gestured at the myriad arrangements of lilies, chrysanthemums, and carnations that also decorated the room. “I’ve gotten quite a few. It seems a lot of people are convinced we were…were…”

John trailed off, his voice choked, as his eyes began to water. He huffed a breath and looked away to swipe at his eyes.

Lestrade looked the bouquet over again, turning it slowly as he did. “Was there a card with it?”

John nodded and took a deep breath. “Somewhere towards the middle, I think.”

Lestrade reached into the many roses and pulled out the rose-shaped card. He flipped it over and stared at the gold calligraphy there.
John,
I’m sorry.

The card was unsigned and Lestrade frowned at it. “Sorry? Sorry for what?”

Shrugging, John moved to stare at the card with Lestrade. “My loss, maybe? That would make sense given that today…” John trailed off again, this time managing to control himself with just a clearing of his throat before continuing.

“Well, we should get going. Wouldn’t want to be late for this too, would I?”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Lestrade told him, putting the card back.

John set his jaw and picked up the bouquet. He carried it into the kitchen and set it down on the table by Sherlock’s abandoned chemistry equipment. “I’ll ask Mycroft if he knows who sent it.”

Lestrade watched him silently for a second before sighing in resignation. “You’re never going to believe that you couldn’t have done anything to save him, are you? He was Sherlock bloody Holmes, John! He wanted you to go back, to be safe, and you know he always found a way to make sure he got what he wanted.”

“I didn’t need protection, dammit!” John whirled to fix a furious stare on Lestrade. “And I knew, knew, better than to believe he’d be careful just because he promised he would! I should have—I should never have gone back! I should have attached myself to his bloody hip and stayed there! I should—“

John cut off as his leg folded under him. He threw out a hand to catch the edge of the table and fell sideways into it, nearly knocking over the flowers and sending several beakers and test tubes flying. The sound of them shattering mixed with Lestrade’s alarmed cry as he rushed forward to help. He stopped half way there, though, when John waved him off.

“No! No,” John told him through gritted teeth. “I’m fine. Just grab me my cane by the door, yeah?”

Lestrade turned and ran to grab it as John pulled himself upright. John was just starting to scowl at the mess he’d made when Lestrade came back.

“Here,” he said, holding the cane out. “I’ll help you clean up when the service is over.”

“Doesn’t matter,” John replied with a sigh. He took the cane and tested his weight on it, resigning himself to the life he would’ve had if he hadn’t met Sherlock. Only this was infinitely worse, wasn’t it? Because he’d met the infuriating man, and now he’d lost him too. “Cleaning it up will just help take my mind off…everything. Let’s go. We’re going to be late.”

Lestrade looked torn, as though he wanted to say something more, but in the end he simply nodded. They turned and left the flowers there on the kitchen table.

Later, after John had cleaned up the glass and pawned off the majority of the other flower arrangements on Mrs. Hudson, he contemplated the mystery of the rose bouquet. Mycroft hadn’t been able to tell him who’d sent it, but then, Mycroft had also been just as evasive as he usually was, so it was hard to tell. John figured they were probably from a well-wisher who’d thought they’d been together as well.

The irony of that didn’t escape John. He only wished it were true. Perhaps then Sherlock would have been more careful. Perhaps he would have even gone back with John to the hotel. But he hadn’t, and there was no point in wishing.

John left the bouquet on the kitchen table. He thought it a fitting tribute to Sherlock: the one oddball, mysterious bouquet of roses. He pulled out the white rose and left it on Sherlock’s grave, but he didn’t move the rest from the table until they were blackened husks of their former selves. And even then, John felt a pang of guilt and remorse when he threw them away.
*******************************

The days passed slowly without Sherlock. To be honest, they crawled by, even with the job John managed to get at St Bart’s, where he helped teach a whole new generation of infinitely young doctors. He and Mike Stamford managed to restart their friendship, and John settled into his new, infinitely boring life.

After a couple of months, John realized the cane had most definitely returned with the intention of staying. It seemed that even his body now longed to follow after his flatmate. It made him all the more depressed, not to mention snippy, to think of just how much he’d lost when Sherlock had died.

The holidays rolled around again, with Christmas making John feel like the Grinch in disguise. He even caught one of his students calling him “old Ebenezer” behind his back. John gave him that one, but decided against a curve for the class grades anyway. There weren’t any curves for Christmas when people’s lives were involved, after all.

Christmas Eve came quickly, and John spent it at a Scotland Yard office Christmas party. He’d kept in touch with Lestrade, Donovan, and even Anderson from the force, but it was nice to see all the people he’d been in regular contact with while Sherlock was still alive. They seemed to have missed it too, welcoming him back in like he’d simply been away on assignment. The only thing off about it at all was that everyone avoided mentioning Sherlock. John couldn’t help thinking that even in his absence the man stuck out like a sunflower in a field of daisies.

The party ended eventually, and John made his way home. He stumped in the front door and shifted his weight to make standing without his cane to take off his jacket easier. He smiled sadly, running a hand over the blue scarf that still hung by the door. Neither he nor Mrs. Hudson had the heart to move it or wear it, so it continued to hang by the door, waiting in vain for Sherlock to return and retrieve it.

The scarf was soft and chilled from its place by the door, making it seem lonelier than ever. John took it down and held it up to his face, breathing in deeply. It still smelled of Sherlock: musk and chemicals and a faint hint of sweet almonds. The scents were only faint now, but they were still there. It brought tears to John’s eyes.

“John?”

John ripped his face out of the scarf so fast he stumbled back against the far wall. Blinking quickly to clear his eyes, he hoped it wasn’t apparent how close to crying over Sherlock again he’d just been.

“John? Is that you, dear?” Mrs. Hudson came trotting out of her flat, a brightly wrapped package in her hands. “John. There you are. I was beginning to wonder if you were ever coming back.”

“I’m back, Mrs. Hudson,” John reassured her. He moved back to the coat rack and hung the scarf up again. “Is something wrong? I thought we were exchanging gifts tomorrow?”

“Oh, John, dear…” she sighed sadly, her eyes lingering on the scarf for a long moment. “I miss my husband too, sometimes. It’s always hard to lose your other half.”

“He wasn’t—“ John huffed in frustration and shook his head. “No. No, what did you need, Mrs. Hudson? I think I’d really like to call it an early night. I want to be well rested if I’m to suffer through a Christmas dinner with Harry and her new girlfriend.”

“Oh. Oh, yes!” Mrs. Hudson hurried the rest of the way over to him, holding out the package in her hands. “This came for you while you were out. Now, I’m your landlady, not your housekeeper, but I took it in for you to keep it safe.”

“Took it in? Who’s it from?”

John took the package from her and looked around it for a card. He found it eventually, but all it read was, “John, Happy Christmas”, in the same gold calligraphy that had been on the card for the flowers the day of Sherlock’s funeral.

“I don’t know,” Mrs. Hudson said, wringing her hands. “The boy that delivered it just said it was for you. Don’t you know?”

“No,” John told her with a frown. “No, I don’t.”

He gave the package another careful inspection, but noted nothing more than brightly colored, shiny wrapping and a wide gauze ribbon that was tied around the package. There was also a thornless white rose with a couple of artfully splayed leaves that had been decorated with what looked like large grains of sugar and a stalk of purple hyacinth tied into the insanely huge bow. The whole thing looked utterly innocuous, if a bit ostentatious.

Deciding there might be something more inside, John carefully pulled the ribbon off, handed the flowers to Mrs. Hudson, and peeled away the wrapping. The gift box inside was one used for clothing from a very exclusive men’s clothier that had recently opened. In fact, it was so exclusive that John had only heard about it from Lestrade because of a case he had been working the month before. John’s frown grew at this discovery, and he pulled off the top. One handed, he brushed the tissue paper inside open to reveal an impossibly fine blue angora sweater.

John glanced over at the scarf he’d been holding not ten minutes before and realized the sweater matched it perfectly. Balancing the box on the banister, he pulled the sweater out and held it up, being careful to spy any letters or cards. There were none, just the sweater.

Mrs. Hudson made a sound of appreciation, reaching out to run a finger over the side of the garment. “That’s a beautiful sweater. I wonder who gave it to you? Surely one of your and Sherlock’s friends?”

“I don’t know anyone that could afford anything from here, though…” John said, his mind struggling to come up with a reasonable explanation.

“I think Sherlock used to shop there…”

John stared at Mrs. Hudson with wide-eyes for a long moment as it all clicked into place. “He must have bought it early… Arranged for it to be sent to me today…” Tears stung at John’s eyes, and he blinked furiously in an attempt to fight them back.

“Could he… Could he have known what he was doing then? That day, I mean?”

The betrayed hurt in Mrs. Hudson’s voice echoed his own, but the idea didn’t exactly ring true. Even Sherlock couldn’t have known what was coming. Suspected, yes, but not known and not that far in advance. Not to mention, John knew Sherlock wouldn’t have wanted to die. It was John’s own fault for not protecting him better that he’d died at all.

“No,” he choked, unable to stop a tear, then two, then three, and then a whole flood from falling down his cheeks.

Mrs. Hudson murmured something soothing and pulled him in close, moving to tuck his head into the side of her neck. She continued murmuring to him as John cried, clutching at the sweater and thinking of how, even from the grave, Sherlock managed to keep a firm grip on his heart.

Slowly, John began to calm to the feel of Mrs. Hudson’s hands rubbing over his back, patting it lightly. He stayed where he was for a moment, and then pulled back, wiping an arm over his eyes as he did.

“I’m sorry. I didn’—“

“No, no,” Mrs. Hudson waved him off. “Don’t apologize. You’ve been so strong since Sherlock…passed. You have nothing to apologize for!”

John shook his head, but decided he didn’t feel like arguing the point. Instead, he looked back at the sweater in his hands before folding it up and carefully placing it back in the box, still balanced on the banister. He covered it with the tissue again, and then took the flowers from Mrs. Hudson, placing them gently on the tissue.

“I don’t think Sherlock knew what was coming, but he probably did order this in advance. For just in case, maybe? I never did understand him.”

“You understood him better than anyone else ever did,” Mrs. Hudson said. She knelt down and picked up the box lid, handing it to him. “I think that was part of why he looked at you that way even from the beginning.”

“Looked at me in what way?” John frowned at her, uncertain what she meant and unreasonably desperate to know.

“Like you were the best thing on Earth and the only thing that mattered,” she replied with a small, sad smile. “I’m glad he had you to brighten his life in his last couple years. He always seemed so sad and lonely before you.”

Incredibly, John found the tears welling up in him again, the hot lodestone that had rested in his chest since Sherlock’s death becoming a fiery boulder for several long seconds. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply to get himself back under control.

Finally, John managed to choke out, “Thank you, Mrs. Hudson. I should get to bed now though. Happy Christmas.”

Mrs. Hudson smiled gently and gave him one last hug. “Stop in and see me for some hot cider when you get back in tomorrow night.”

John promised he would and made his way up to bed, resolving to check out his theory about Sherlock ordering the sweater ahead of time after Boxing Day. He made himself a cup of tea with a splash of whiskey and curled up in his warm bed with an old book for the night. When he left the flat again the next day, John was not only wearing the sweater, but Sherlock’s old scarf as well. For some reason John would never be able to fully articulate, it made him feel better to wear them both. Especially on Christmas Day.
***********************

John’s birthday was not an occasion he cared overly much about celebrating. To him, it was just a day for his sister to give him a drunk phone call if he was lucky and a drunken fight in person if he wasn’t. Still, it was always nice to know he was cared about enough for someone to deem it important to remember the day, so if asked he’d always say a card was good enough for him. Most people respected this, even if they did tend to add in a gift card or a bookmark as a present.

So when he answered the door on the day of his birthday, he knew something was very, very wrong. A man stood on the other side, one hand raised to knock again while the held the lead to a small English Bulldog puppy. Said puppy was tiny, wrinkly, and white, and determinedly chewing away on the metal links of the leash. Around his neck was a collar braided with ivy with, in obvious place of a bow, a corsage consisting of a sprig of white heather, a stalk of purple hyacinth, three snowdrops, and a daisy.

John blinked at the puppy for a moment and then back up at the man, finding a white card with very familiar gold calligraphy and a manila envelope held out to him along with the handle to the puppy’s lead. John blinked again even as he automatically reached out to take both the items.

“Happy birthday, sir. I hope you enjoy your new puppy,” the man told him in a cigarette-roughened voice. “He’s a bit of a shy one, though. I recommend socializing him early and carefully.” Then, with a polite nod, he turned on his heel and began walking away.

“What?” John stared down at the puppy (Did timid puppies usually chew on their chain leads like that?) and then back up after the man, panic beginning to take hold of him now. “Wait! Who are you? Why are you giving me a puppy?”

The man stopped and turned back to him. “You’re Dr. John Watson, right?”

“Yes, but—But I never asked for a puppy! Why are you leaving me one?”

“Because that’s what I was told to do. It’s all been arranged since last month.”

Who arranged it? And who the bloody hell are you?”

The man shrugged as he flagged down a taxi. He opened the door and moved to get in as he replied with a quick grin, “A very hungry man. Good luck eating with that bottomless stomach around.”

Then he was gone, and John was left standing in his doorway with a puppy still chewing on his leash. He narrowed his eyes at the tiny bundle of skin and fur, glaring at him as though he was personally to blame for the situation John now found himself in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t helping the situation any, so John turned his attention to the card. The calligraphy and ink looked exactly the same as last time, but this time it read:
Happy Birthday, John.
May Gladstone be good company.



John blinked down at the card, his brain stalling out before it rapidly, and finally, began making the connection between this card and the one from Christmas. This time his mind was (mostly) clear from the overwhelming grief he’d still felt then, so it wasn’t hard to make the jump all the way back to the rose bouquet at the funeral. He had kept those for as long as they had lasted after all. All three cards were white, came with flowers, and had identical calligraphy in gold ink. All three said his name, a salutation, and were unsigned.

For one brief, insane second, John thought Sherlock had come back from the dead. Who else would know his birthday and send him such expensive gifts in such a subtle and mysterious manner? Except Sherlock never apologized, and he was circumspect about remembering any special occasion.

And he was dead.

It was a little hard to come back from that. Yet… Here John was, holding the keys to a mystery. And there was no way Sherlock could have set this up before he died; the puppy wasn’t even born yet! John glanced at the birthdate; nope, seven weeks old! And the man had said this had been set up only a month ago, so it couldn’t have been him.

Of course, if Sherlock had had help…

Berating himself for not having followed up on who’d sent him the sweater at Christmas, John stooped to scoop up the puppy in his arms and rushed back upstairs to his flat. He tossed the papers down on the kitchen table (clean even if John had never had the heart to clean out all of Sherlock’s chemistry equipment) and snatched up his cell phone. The pup had started squirming in his arms, so John gently set him down on the floor at his feet before calling the private number Mycroft had given him after Sherlock’s funeral. It had only rung twice when Mycroft answered, his cultured voice making John’s heart pump yet faster with hope.

“Mycroft! It’s John. John Watson. I—um…”

His brain skidded to a stop as he realized he had no idea what to say to Mycroft. I think your brother’s alive and sending me gifts? Or maybe messages in flower arrangements? Would Mycroft even believe him? So many people had given him such a pitying look after Sherlock had—had—But Mycroft never had. Would he now?

John stared at Gladstone as though the pup sniffing and pawing at his shoes could give him the answers he needed. It seemed as good a place as any to find them, especially if he had come from Sherlock. But even as he thought it, John knew he was being irrational. He couldn’t help it this time though. He’d thought he was healed, that he’d started leaving the past behind him, but he still needed to believe in this desperately.

“Yes, I remember you, Dr. Watson,” Mycroft said, a smile that John had somehow learned to hear in his time living with Sherlock evident in his voice. “Was there something you needed?”

“I—uh—“ John took a deep breath and steeled himself, determined to forge ahead with the truth. If it was Sherlock sending him these gifts, then he might be in trouble. And if he wasn’t….If it wasn’t, John needed to know so he could kill this hope before it could kill him. “I’ve been receiving…flowers. And gifts. I don’t know who they’re from, there’s no name, but I—“

He found he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it. Hope was such a fragile thing, but it fought harder than any actual human being to survive sometimes. Now, it used a surprising strength to choke John into a silence that might preserve it just a little longer.

“You have a secret admirer then,” Mycroft commented, his voice slightly distracted. “Perhaps you should give them more time to approach you?”

“No!” John cleared his throat and leaned down to give a comforting pat to the startled Gladstone at his feet. “I mean, it’s not a secret admirer. They’ve only come three times: the day of Sherlock’s funeral, Christmas, and today—my birthday. And today’s gift was a puppy. I didn’t think puppies were a standard gift from a secret admirer. Or expensive sweaters like the one I got for Christmas.”

There was silence on the line for a long moment. Papers rustled in the background on Mycroft’s end, and Gladstone jumped up to stand leaning against John, whining as he attempted to reach John’s hand.

“Perhaps it is an admirer you’ve known for a long time then? Or a rich man who wishes to show you how he feels?”

A sudden, horrible thought struck John and he said it aloud before he could even register he was speaking. “They’re not from you, are they?”

“No, Doctor,” Mycroft said, sounding only mildly affronted. “I can promise you that they are not from me. I do think you should allow your admirer to remain in the shadows for now, however. And do move on with your life. Sherlock would not want you to mourn him forever.”

The words seemed to strike like arrows, lancing more painfully into John’s heart than the bullet that had invalided him from the army had into his shoulder. He flinched, totally unable to help it, and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Right,” he said, his voice hoarse with pain and unshed tears. “Sorry to bother you. I’ll let you get back to work then.”

Another pause met him, this one devoid of any activity on Mycroft’s side.

“It’s no bother, Doctor. You…were an important part of my brother’s life. Let me know if the gifts don’t stop or if your admirer shows himself.”

“How do you know it’s a man?”

“They gave you a puppy.” Now Mycroft sounded amused and John was nearly heartbroken all over again at how very much like Sherlock he sounded then.

“Ahh…Goodbye then, Mycroft.”

“Take care, Dr. Watson.”

The line went dead and John sank to the floor. Gladstone happily climbed into his lap, washing away his tears with kisses that still stank of puppy breath. Impossibly, this made John actually feel somehow better. He wasn’t sure why, but he hugged Gladstone to him, happy for it all the same. Perhaps this was why Sherlock—

But Sherlock was dead. Even Mycroft said so.

Wait… No he hadn’t. Not directly. In fact, everything he said could still be true even if Sherlock was alive. Or it was possible that Sherlock hadn’t let Mycroft know, that he’d only contacted John.

Smiling, John wiped away his tears, attempting to fend off his amorous new puppy.

“Leave off,” he laughed, pushing Gladstone half-heartedly away. “I have to go get you some food, and then… Then we’ll start hunting down my mad best friend.”

He patted Gladstone’s head and rubbed his ears. “So what exactly did his sending me you mean, hmm, pup?”

Gladstone gave a high-pitched bark which set John to grinning as he stood.

“You’re right. We’ll soon find out.”

John went to the store after that with little Gladstone tucked under one arm and his cane carried forgotten in his other hand.
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