Wendy isn’t awake enough to deal with Stanley Hopkins right now. Sure, they get along pretty well these days and they’ve essentially much moved past all the messiness of last year, but he’s still Stanley Hopkins and it’s still before 7 AM and he’s currently blocking the coffee machine.
“Hey,” she says. “Coffee.”
He looks up from his phone, startled, and says, “Oh,” before taking rather more time than she would have deemed necessary to realize that he’s standing in front of the coffee maker before moving out of her way.
“What are you doing here?” She says, reaching up to the cabinet to get a filter and grounds.
“Couldn’t sleep. Jamie let me sleep on the couch. Sometimes I don’t do so well on my own.”
“That girl’s a saint.”
“Yeah,” Stanley says, and then there’s silence for a moment before he says, “Are you okay with me being here?”
“You just seem kind of annoyed.”
“Man, there is nothing on God’s green earth that doesn’t bother me at seven in the morning in the middle of the summer.”
“That’s fair. I just -- sometimes I’m still not sure you like me.”
Wendy scrubs her hand over her face, wondering why this is a conversation he would want to have right at this very moment. She contemplates various ways out of the conversation. Somersaulting out the window. Pretending to faint. Pulling the fire alarm. Then she looks at Stanley, and remembers what Jamie always tells her. Sometimes being nice to people sucks, but you should do it anyway. Jamie who so completely and strangely loves Wendy, in so many ways her opposite. Jamie who gives her patience. She isn’t sure how or when it happened, but sometime between the beginning of their relationship and now, Wendy has developed the ability to look at someone and see what Jamie would see. And what Jamie would see is that this conversation is pretty excruciating for Stanley too, even if he’s initiating it. So she takes a deep breath.
“You have people that you love.”
Stanley rolls his eyes. “Yeah, contrary to popular belief I actually --”
Wendy grits her teeth. “You know that’s not what I mean.”
Stanley shrinks from her, just perceptible, and she feels a little bad but she also feels tired and like she just wants him to get her side of the story. “You have people that you love,” she says again, eyes closed, hand pressed to her face. It’s hard to explain this while looking at him. “Sherlock, Langdale, Tabitha’s whole crew.”
“Yeah,” Stanley says softly, and Wendy takes her hand from her face because for the first time in their acquaintance, she feels like he’s actually listening to her.
“If one of them got hurt, and there was someone to blame for it. You would blame them.”
Stanley shrugs. “Yeah, I guess.” And then. “Yeah, I would.”
Wendy purses her lips. “I don’t have a perfect relationship with my brother. We fight. He pisses me off sometimes. But he’s my brother and --” She holds her voice steady, and she’s proud of it. “And he could have gotten killed. And honestly so could Jamie. So for a really long time it was hard to look Sherlock in the face, knowing that two of the people I love most in the world could have died because her and just -- be okay with that. Move on like it didn’t matter.”
“Jamie forgave her pretty fast,” Stanley says, voice still soft and low.
“Yeah, well, I’m not like Jamie.” She sets her jaw. “And neither are you. So do me the favor of acknowledging that you understand where I’m coming from.”
He nods. A small gesture, but enough for her right now.
“I wanted to keep Jamie safe. I wanted Sherlock to know she wasn’t God. In what version of the universe would I have been happy to see you last year?”
Stanley lets out a little huff of a laugh. “Maybe one where I wasn’t quite so --” He winces.
“Yeah,” she says. “But you’re not the kid who showed up at Jamie’s door a year ago. Sherlock isn’t the same either, and nor am I. So. We’re good. You can come sleep on the couch when you don’t want to be alone.”
He gives her a half smile, somehow more sincere than the big bright one he usually wears in public.
Her coffee is ready. She feels a bit like a superhero or an Olympic athlete for making it through the conversation. Too bad she doesn’t get medals for this sort of thing. She can imagine a row of them on her wall. Didn’t punch that asshole in lab. Texted Malcolm. Talked about feelings. The kind of tasks she suspects don’t feel to other people quite this much like wading through mud, though she’s beginning to wonder if Stanley often feels the same way she does. Not something she would ever have guessed she’d be thinking even six months ago, but she’s working on being pleased instead of annoyed when people surprise her. Jamie teases her relentlessly for how much she hates changing her mind about anything, but people, she’s learning more and more, are organic and restless and it’s just foolish to expect her view of them to be static when they are anything but.
“I’m sorry I never questioned whether Sherlock might be in the wrong,” Stanley says.
She raises her eyebrows. She hadn’t been expecting that. “Thanks.” She pours her coffee into a travel mug to take with her to work. Before she goes, she taps contemplatively on the lid with one fingernail. “Hey,” she says, “next time you can’t sleep, come knock on my door. Sometimes I don’t sleep too well either and I know it can be nice to have someone to talk to.”
Stanley brightens painfully at this. Maybe still too early and too uncaffeinated to deal with him, after all. “That’d be nice.”
“Get some rest,” she says.