I've been wanting to write Sally Donovan fic since I first saw Sherlock, but couldn't find the right story to tell. Because I think she's fascinating - as I said in an email to my lovely beta, "One of the only complaints I have about the series that's lasted through all the rewatchings is how spectacularly it fails at female characters. Donovan in particular is such a failure because the potential is so great - why bother creating a kickass female detective who sees through Sherlock if you're going to limit her actions to huffing disgustedly and being shamed for her sexual activity (which Anderson, the ACTUAL adulterer, is not)? That really pissed me off."
And then along came my photo for this year's picfor1000 challenge, and I realized I could use it to tell part of her story.
Thanks to kate_lear for her sharp eye. Hopefully more will come later. (Also, it's clear from the story, but Vee is my OFC, Lestrade's wife. I still need to write the story of her and John bonding and Sherlock being a brat about it.)
"Fancy another?" she asks, getting up from Colin's nice warm lap. His hand comes up automatically to cover her arse and oh, that's delicious, the size and strength of him. Deep down, she knows too that she likes the possessiveness that the gesture implies, because she knows, and she knows he knows, that it works both ways. If his hand on her bum means back off to all the other blokes in the pub, it also means don't bother to all the girls twining their curls around their fingers and giving Colin the eye.
He tugs her back down and kisses her like he's been starving for her. "Don't get up," he says, voice rough. "Not when I've got you where I want you."
"You're a sweet talker, no mistake," she says, and bites at his jaw.
"Sal!" he says, and he has the gall to sound shocked.
"What?" she asks, unwilling to call him by his pet name, to let them be Sal-and-Col. Not now, not like this. Not after what he said.
He gapes at her for a moment, rhythm evidently thrown off. "I thought - I thought you'd be happy," he says, clearly floundering.
"To stay home and mind the flat and cook your suppers, while you're off being a barrister?" She doesn't let herself look at the shine of the diamond she can still see out of the corner of her eye. "Would you be, if I said I'd go out into the wide world, thanks, but you could just do the shopping and cleaning?"
He's shaking his head like she's misunderstood his words. "Listen," he starts to say, then interrupts himself to haul her close and kiss her. It's beyond tempting to just melt into him. She does love him, and he knows it because she's never bothered to hide it. But if he's kissing her, it's because he can't find the words, and that means she didn't get it wrong. That he could know her for so long and still be so fundamentally mistaken in her makes her shiver, and she gathers the strength to push him away.
"No," she says, because she's worked too hard to throw it all away on someone who thought she only had a hobby.
Detective Sergeant Donovan is her name now. She's built a whole life for herself, something sturdy, not a house of cards liable to tumble down at the first disturbance. She can clear some space in it for a man who'll look at her and love her and understand that she'd no more give up her job, the rush and the rightness of it, than she would appear on Strictly Come Dancing in nothing but silver spangles.
But the men she finds don't seem to want a girl like her. They want the quiet kind, who'll do the washing up without question and look properly grateful when she's taken out for the night. There are exceptions, but the good ones, Greg and Toby, pay her the compliment of seeing a copper and not a bird when they look at her, as if it had never crossed their minds that she might be different from the blokes she shares rank with. Greg's married, anyway, and she likes Vee, who's clearly all the woman Greg can handle.
Her pillowcase smells like smoke from a late night with the lads in a beer garden after cracking the Hammersmith case. She hasn't bothered to flip the calendar by her front door to the proper month, but she does like the picture for July: a single red balloon, drifting through a sky streaked by feathery clouds.
Ted Anderson's got a habit of bringing her his findings even before she can ring him up to demand them. On one occasion, that's been enough to catch the murderer in time before he jetted off to somewhere exotic and extradition-free.
He kisses her when she thanks him. The next day, she kisses him back.
He sits next to her at the briefings, closer than Toby or Greg on her other side. She'll look up from the files to see him watching her, intrigued by the attention she pays to the work. Here's one man who'll never expect her to give all this up, she thinks, and shoots him a smile.
Ted doesn't wear a ring; she thinks, later, it must be because it would be too easy to lose at a crime scene, poking about as he does. She finds out from Toby mentioning, with a glance at her that is anything but casual, Kelly Anderson, a catalogue model who's been pushing to move to America.
She reels a bit, but keeps her face hard and her shoulders squared. She's got some thinking to do.
It's not love. And it's not that she might as well go on as she's started. It's not even that he's a habit she can't break. It's just that he's there, in that space she carved out and kept sacred, and he never asks for what she won't give.
It's not as if she's the one with a wife.
It shouldn't have taken this long to realise that getting what she wanted didn't guarantee a happy ending. Or that the fairy tales she sneered at but had still ended up living by stopped short of the prince's unmasking. Were there stories about good men who weren't princes, just ordinary blokes living their lives?
She makes it quick. He doesn't let her make it painless.
They're standing in a clump at the end of the hall, Greg and Toby and John, acting like they've no idea that she's broken it off, and she sees red for a moment; she's nowhere near ready to celebrate her freedom.
Sal, says Greg, first round's on you, right? So it's not freedom they'll be toasting to after all. It's fellowship, pulling together in work worth doing.
Stories of good women need telling too. This is the start of hers.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think.