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business as usual

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He loves her.

Oh shut up. Not in that overly-sappy, always-romantic ultimately American way, that ends with a long lip-lock and a pan back over the streets of New York at sundown, to the soaring strains of whatever a run-of-the-mill, uninspired conductor could extract from a similarly beleaguered orchestra.

He loves her truly madly deeply, for all the things she is, and does, and has done, and will do because she is staying, and she is extraordinary.

He loves her because of who she was before; exceptional; and how she remains to be so. She is of Asian descent in a nation 'settled' by whites, and a woman in a society created by and for people like him - white and rich and male. All supposedly created equal. She was valedictorian of her medical class, and lauded and loved, and she cared so very much. She still does.

She could cut people open and put them back together again, a star surgeon. He questions how the loss of one patient could make her go supanova - no surgeon has a 100% success, or even survival rate - and perhaps that is because in one instance, she cared too much. And yet here she is again, caring for a living (or is it a calling now? she's certainly not making a living).

He loves her because she built herself again, anew, a surgeon, and an addict-sitter, and now a budding detective - though she hasn't quite admitted that to herself yet - and here she sits, not part of his orbit but affecting it. Equal and opposing, she is warm where he's cold, controlled where he is wild, and serenity when all he can feel is rage.

He loves her the same way he loves the painting of a master, fine brushstrokes and carefully preserved paint and peeling veneers, subtle and violent colours of those long gone to make her who she is today.

And he loves her because of what she is becoming, those rare flashes of unsurpassable beauty and brilliance, like a sting, or the longer wonders. An ancient tree, yet still green and vital. She becomes a fierce, finely-attuned predator, hunting and stalking and selecting. She is a million years of evolution and intelligence compressed into one small form.

He also loves her because she peels her apples and he only likes the skins.

He loves her like a parent loves a child - not patronising, no - seeing her grow and be moulded and also mould him into a greater investigator and a better person. She brings in murderers like gold-star book reports and kidnappers like well-constructed dioramas and muggers from the street like an unexpected pop quiz even he wasn't prepared for.

She is brilliant and sharp and warm and human and everything he wishes (now) that he could have been, if family and country and tradition and life hadn't intervened.

He tells her this, one day, as a serial rapist - black and blue and bleeding from an unexpected but not unwelcome trip down a flight of stairs - is taken away in handcuffs. It was her who spotted him, saw the eyes of a stalking predator and so she hunted the hunter.

"I love you," he says, trying to pass it off as matter-of-fact, his shoulders slumped and hands balled in his pockets. He watches her face contort with confusion. Her mouth forms an upside-down U, eyes confused, and he swallows, extends a hand, top button curiously tight about his throat for once.

"Not like that," he hastily tacks on. "Though if you wanted me to, I would, but you don't, so I, yes. I love you because you are brilliant, and exceptional, and I made you better. And you, you made me better. I've said it before, I am better with you, Watson. And I mean it and now that little phrase has an addendum, which is that - "

"I love you," she finishes. She watches him, and he watches her with snowflakes dancing round like cherry-blossoms and apple-red cheeks in the cold.

She says his name like it's a question, and stops.

"You find it hard to say what you want, emotionally and for yourself," he says. "And so this is not a request, nor me searching for a reply, and I don't expect one. We still communicate primarily through body language - though there are intricacies in our conversations especially that require the spoken word - and I know, and you know." He peters out, gestures awkwardly at her and replaces his hand in his pocket.

It's hard for her to say what she wants and how she feels, and it's because she is a woman, and non-white in a society that listens to little but the overloud voices of the white and rich and male. And it is because she is Watson, wonderful, brilliant Watson, who conducts light and emits it all on her own. She's a beacon in a world that he feels, has nearly always let him down. He will admit, he's let down those in his world before. Not her, though. Never.

She says his name again, and this time it's like a password and petname, and then she smiles. She looks at her feet and the snowflakes on her toecaps, and around and up at him again.

"I know," she says, and rests her right hand on his upper arm. He must imagine the warmth emanating from it, through four layers of coat and jacket and shirt, but it's there all the same. "I feel the same way."

He sighs, suddenly relieved and warm beyond measure. He covers her hand with his, dwarfing it - she's so small, sometimes, but commands the stage whenever she chooses to do so - and they stay that way until Gregson cautiously interrupts. Tact like that, he could never be bothered with.

And then it's business as usual. He's better with her. He loves her. And she knows it.

She loves him.