John wakes up and doesn't feel all that well. His bones seem to be hurting and his breath sounds a tad too wheezy.
But then, he hasn't woken up feeling completely healthy for quite some time.
He knows they're old now, quite old, though he doesn't like to say that word out loud.
Old, that sounds like sick and fragile and nearly-done-with. John doesn't feel like any of those adjectives apply to Sherlock and him though.
Well. Maybe, the part about being fragile.
Because John's bones aren't what they used to be. It's difficult now, going through the motions of making tea, getting the newspaper, fixing some breakfast. His joints tend to complain almost constantly and his leg - well, the limp is most certainly not psychosomatic these days.
It takes John about ten to fifteen minutes to fetch the paper and make his way back to the kitchen. But then, Sherlock is usually up shortly after John, and the kettle is done boiling the water once John returns, which means he can simply settle down with a cup and rest for a while.
The kitchen is not part of 221B anymore, has long ceased to be. It's Sussex now; just a small house and a big garden and Sherlock Holmes. John thinks it's pretty perfect, all things considered.
"Anything interesting?" Sherlock asks when he arrives in the kitchen fully dressed, seeing John go through the paper at a leisurely pace.
Looking up, John sees that - hm, maybe they have become old. Just a bit. Because Sherlock's hair is white now, nearly completely so. Unlike John, though, he's not been losing almost all of it. It still curls around his ears, covering all of his scalp, a right mess of grey and light streaks. John is terribly bald in comparison.
"A triple murder," John replies easily, watching Sherlock squint out of the window until he gives up and reluctantly slides the pair of glasses of his forehead and settles them on his nose.
"Hm," Sherlock hums. "Any clues?"
John goes back to the article, searching for any useful information.
"All of them civil servants," he dutifully reports. "Internet-saftey, or some such nonsense. Can't really tell what all this tech-speak refers to."
"Boring," he judges and quits staring out of the window in favour of settling down across from John.
John hides his smile behind his cup of tea. While John has never been up to the latest technological developments and thus can freely admit this case would be beyond him, Sherlock can't admit yet that the world is spinning too quickly these days, even for him.
"Besides," Sherlock adds after a few minutes, voice gruff. "Civil service is a complete mess since Mycroft's gone."
John agrees with a thoughtful nod, even though in his opinion, civil service has always been, and will possibly always be, a mess.
They have breakfast mostly in silence, Sherlock watching John reading the newspaper, trying to deduce what John is reading about and getting about 80% right. It used to be just a quarter, which had already been impressive, but after decades of observing John reading each morning, he's become quite good at it.
"Oh," John eventually says, looking up from an article titled Six Little Ways To Make Today Special. "Apparently, it's Valentine's Day."
"Are they still doing that?" Sherlock scoffs, wrinkles of annoyance covering his face. "I thought someone had figured out by now that it's too silly for words."
"I've always rather liked it," he admits, chuckling as he skims over the article.
Unfortunately, the chuckles quickly turn into a coughing fit and John is not quick enough to cover his mouth, covering the newspaper in tiny flecks of spit.
"Easy," Sherlock is mumbling somewhere close to his right ear and John tries to calm his breathing.
Sherlock's hand settles on his back, rubbing it in soothing circles, until John catches his breath again. Bloody cough. Doesn't seem to leave these days.
Sick and fragile, his aged brain reminds him. John scowls, then sighs as Sherlock's hand wanders up to his neck, playfully tickling the few bits of John's hair that are left.
"Let me see, then," Sherlock says, his unoccupied arm sneaking around John's side in order to flatten out the creases in the paper that John's coughing fit has created.
John takes the opportunity to close his eyes and lean into Sherlock's frame. He's not as skinny as he used to be, though John still has to remind him to eat from time to time. It's not good to be underweight at their age. Not when a mere cold can cause you to be bed-ridden for a week and make you lose 10 pounds, at that.
Sherlock hums thoughtfully as he reads the article.
"I was just being silly," John tells him tiredly. The coughing really has taken it out of him. All of a sudden, he feels like going back to sleep.
"Of course you were," Sherlock replies.
He turns his head just as John opens his eyes again. In the very corner of his vision, John can watch Sherlock press his lips against John's temple before he feels them against his skin.
"You're not well," Sherlock continues. "Let's get you back into bed."
"I am fine," John retorts, scowling once more. "It won't do me any good lying around all day."
Sherlock uncurls his arm then, and takes a step back from John, coming to stand right next to him.
"Rest, then," he compromises. "Sit and read."
"Outside," John argues immediately, glaring up at the other man.
"I'll take a blanket."
Sherlock smiles. It looks just as wrinkled as his annoyance-face.
It takes them both a while, but eventually, John is settled on their patio, two thick blankets over his knees and wearing a good jacket. This way, John can both read the newspaper and watch Sherlock fix up the fence that has been blown over by a storm a few nights ago.
Sherlock is much more agile than John. He can still walk fairly quickly, carry things, run a few metres, even. John should probably be a bit jealous, but all he does feel is happiness. He's glad Sherlock can still do things. He'd go crazy, otherwise.
Soon, though, John's attention is focused on an article about the British army sending troops to yet another god-forsaken place. They never learn, it seems. Consumed by the article, he doesn't hear Sherlock coming until he stands right in front of him, the high winter sun causing a long shadow to fall on John's paper.
When he looks up, Sherlock is holding out a bunch of dried-off flowers and weeds.
"One," is all he says, and settles them right on John's lap. Then he turns, returning to his work at the fence.
John stares after him, confused, before catching on and turning the pages until he's back on the Valentine's article.
1. Flowers are never out of fashion, but be creative. A dozen red roses are a classic, but how about giving it a creative or more personal twist? Whatever you dream up, your lover is sure to appreciate it.
John smiles down at his lapful of dried-out weed. Maybe not creative, but unusual certainly. John rubs a careful thumb over the brittle plants, feeling oddly touched.
It continues throughout the day.
"Two," Sherlock comments as he helps John out of his jacket when they both return inside.
John thanks him with a peck on his cheek, then goes to check what the newspaper has to say to that.
2. Be a gentleman (or a modern lady) - help your beloved out of their jacket, pull their chair, be helpful. They'll appreciate it.
Three (3. Surprise them with their favourite food or drink to make them feel like you know them well.) is brought to him through another cup of tea and a plate of ready-to-buy tea biscuits, fancied up with sloppily-drawn skulls made of sugar icing.
Close enough, John thinks, amused, and bites down on one of them.
John isn't surprised when four ends in a small concert, Sherlock playing the violin and all of John's favourites, even the ones Sherlock himself finds dull and repetitive. John silently thanks the author of the article for 4. Does your lover have a favourite song or film? Why not listen to or watch it with them today?, sits back and claps enthusiastically when Sherlock is done.
5. Write your beloved a little note. Put it somewhere where they will be surprised by it. bestows upon John a small yellow sticky note in the fridge, simply stating: "No body-parts for more than five years." - which is very true and has John smile reminiscently.
Number six doesn't happen until they've both returned under the covers again in the evening, wearing but their nightclothes as they slide close to each other, closer than usual, certainly.
"Six," Sherlock whispers as he kisses John's wrinkly neck.
"Six," he repeats, placing a kiss on John's jaw. "Six, six, six, six..."
John can't help but giggle, feeling a bit like a teenager and not remotely like an old, grumpy man as he is covered in kisses, Sherlock's fingers lazily stroking down John's arms and chest.
6. Today, of all days, is the day to show your affections. Cover your lover in kisses. Tell them how beautiful they are. Make them feel loved.
It doesn't lead to anything. They're both too old for that nonsense, probably couldn't do it even if they tried. But it's intimate all the same, maybe even more so, because afterwards, when John has gone completely weak and pliant from giggling, they snuggle close to each other, Sherlock's breath warm against John's skin.
"Happy Valentine's Day," Sherlocks murmurs, a note of ridicule in his voice.
John snorts quietly.
"You're a nutter," he replies affectionately. "But I love you for it."
Sherlock's responding hum sounds more than pleased.
John is taken aback when Sherlock dozes off first, though he's probably exhausted from fixing the fence and having to help John all day, not to mention the little surprises he's thought up. While Sherlock's much fitter than John, he, too, is not young anymore.
He's grown old, just as John.
Sick and fragile and nearly-done-with, John remembers his very own definition of old, then smiles. Sick and fragile, maybe. But certainly not done-with. Not for a while yet.
Placing a kiss on Sherlock's forehead, John closes his eyes and falls asleep in Sherlock's arms.