This idea just came to me, and there's no way I can write it myself, so if anyone feels like inspiration would strike, here you go.
Categories: Fiction Characters: John Watson
Three years after Reichenbach, Watson gets a visit from a scruffy old bookseller. The man is quite obviously mad, since he makes the most outrageous offer to Watson: Sherlock Holmes or Mary Morstan Watson - he can have one of them back from the dead, but only one. Who does he want to pick?
Now, to make it more complicated (because I love me some piping hot angst), I don't want this to be too easy for Watson. Therefore, some conditions:
(1) I don't insist on canon here. If you want to go with Holmes is really dead, they pulled two bodies out of the base of the waterfall and he had a lovely funeral, that's fine. It's equally fine if you want to go with canon and in reality he's been wandering around Europe and parts of Asia for the past three years, or if you want to leave it amibiguous - no, there wasn't a body found, but surely if he was alive, he'd have let Watson know?
(2) Following on from that, is this scruffy old bookseller Holmes in disguise (and let me state that, if it is, and he pulls this shit expecting Watson to pick him and be delighted when he goes "TA-DA! Yes, I was alive all this time, old chap!", then Watson should break his goddamn nose for him. Canon was just about allowable, but this would be too cruel)? If it's not, is it a nutty old guy that bumped into Watson on the street, or maybe, just maybe, he really can do what he says?
(3) And finally, just to make it a real choice and a hard, heart-breaking one, I don't want Watson suddenly realising that Holmes is the real love of his life so bye, bye Mary. Watson loved Holmes sincerely and deeply, but as a very close friend and brother, nothing more. Watson was in love with Mary (it wasn't a marriage of convenience to mask his desire for Holmes or keep them in the closet). Objectively speaking, the world needs Sherlock Holmes - he's unique. Whereas Mary was a perfectly nice woman, but she really didn't matter to anyone.
Watson has always done his duty - he became a doctor because he wanted to help people, he joined the Army because he wanted to serve his Queen and country. He's always done the right thing, and this time, isn't the right thing to pick Sherlock Holmes' life over that of an ordinary woman? But why, for once, shouldn't Watson have what he wants, not what is best for everyone else? So who does he pick?
tl; dr: three years after Reichenbach, Watson is offered the chance to bring either Holmes or Mary back from the dead. Who does he choose?
NoneUniverse: Victorian Era (Non-Specific)