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John woke with a start as if he should have been up hours ago. The clock said barely past seven, though, which meant he was the only late one. The other side of the bed was empty and the children’s room, when he peeked in as he pulled on his bathrobe, was empty as well. Robin’s bed was neatly made and the cot had all of Zoe’s sleepy-time toys piled at one end.

John went down the stairs, yawning and feeling very lazy indeed. He could hear Sherlock’s low, rich voice and Robin’s piping one in response, with occasional nonsensical contributions from the baby. Typical morning routine, only he usually missed it because he was still at work at this time of day and wouldn’t come home for another hour.

“Finish your porridge,” Sherlock was saying to Robin. “No more dawdling. We have to leave soon.”

“Why?” said Robin.

“Why must you finish your porridge or why are we leaving soon?”

“Why are we leaving soon?”

“Because you start school today.”

“Why?”

“So you grow up to be clever.”

“Why?”

“Because being clever is better than being ignorant.”

“Why?”

“Robert Watson,” Sherlock said patiently, “finish your porridge.”

“Yes, Daddy,” said Robin, ate a spoonful, and then cried, “Daddy!” when he spotted John leaning in the doorway.

“Good morning,” John said and came into the kitchen, now that the jig was up. He gave kisses all round the table: Robin first, then Zoe, her forehead baby-hot and smooth under his lips, and finally Sherlock, who kissed him back and said softly, “I thought I’d let you sleep a little longer.”

“My body appreciates it,” said John and picked up a bowl. “Do I have enough time for breakfast?”

Sherlock locked at his watch. “We have to leave in fifteen minutes.”

John put the bowl back. “I’ll eat afterwards.” But there was enough time for a cup of tea, since the kettle was still hot, so he poured himself a cup and let it steep as he sat at the table. “Are you excited for your first day of school, Robby?”

“No,” Robin said and Sherlock sighed a tiny bit. “I want to stay here with you and Daddy.”

“Robin,” said Sherlock, “we talked about this. Remember? Like Daddy goes to work every day, your job now is to go to school.”

“Yes, Daddy,” said Robin, poking his porridge with his spoon, and John and Sherlock exchanged looks. Sherlock, in the way that he approached everything new, had researched how to handle first day of school jitters and it seemed to John that he was doing what the books said — but they’d discovered over the past few years that children didn’t always act the way the books said they would.

John drank his tea quickly and got up from the table. “Come on, young master,” he said, “let’s clean your teeth while Daddy gets Zoe into the pushchair.” Sherlock looked up from wiping Zoe’s breakfast from her face to give him a smile of thanks, and Robin got up reluctantly. He was already in his uniform, short pants and a jumper over a white shirt, and he looked like a textbook schoolboy. Also completely adorable, and John couldn’t resist scooping him up and kissed him as the boy giggled and squirmed.

John carried him upstairs and set him on his stool so they could brush their teeth together. “Daddy said he took you to the school last week so you could meet your teacher. Didn’t you like her?”

“Yes,” said Robin.

“And it’s only for four hours, and then Daddy will come get you and bring you home. And I’m going to be home from work early today, so we can have supper together.” He looked at Robin hopefully, and Robin very slowly brushed his teeth and leaned over to spit. John said, patting Robin’s back, “Robby, your whole life you’re going to go to new places and meet new people. It’s a good thing. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Robin leaned his head against John’s stomach. Sherlock often did the same thing when he wanted comfort, and it struck John — not for the first time — that children see and remember everything. He stroked Robin’s hair, which was dark and thick and wavy. No one would mistake Robin for his child or Sherlock’s, but there were things about him that reminded John of Sherlock even so, like these little habits. Robin was a questioner, an explorer. Many times when he was smaller they would hear a plaintive, “I’m stuck!” and would have to rescue him from whatever cabinet he’d climbed or corner he’d wedged himself into.

“I have to put my clothes on, Robby,” he said gently. “Can’t walk you to school in my jimjams, can I?”

Robin giggled at the suggestion and looked up at him. “Daddy’s in his jammies. Will today be fun?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ll eat supper with us tonight?”

“Yes.” John crossed his heart. “On my honor.”

“Okay,” said Robin and hopped down from his stool.

***

The idea had come from Myrcroft, in a roundabout way. Once he learned, or let it be known that he had learned, that Sherlock and John were together, he said he expected to hear wedding bells and the pitter-patter of little feet before long. John brushed it off as Mycroft’s usual sarcasm, but Sherlock got one of those thoughtful looks and it didn’t go away.

Finally John said, “Out with it,” and Sherlock said, “Children.”

“You don’t want children,” John said, disbelieving.

“No,” Sherlock said quickly. “No. They’re irrational, emotional creatures. Illogical. You have to play with them. No, I don’t want children.”

“Okay,” said John.

“Do you want children?” said Sherlock. They were lounging in bed, lazy, and children were really the last thing on John’s mind. He was far more interested in connecting the freckles on Sherlock’s back, but since Sherlock was asking, John gave an answer.

“I always thought I’d have some. That’s what you do, you get a job, you get married, you have children. But then I got older and never found the right woman and now that I’ve found the right man, it’s rather moot.”

“Gay couples adopt children,” said Sherlock quietly. “Or have in vitro, or use surrogates ”

“In vitro is a bit difficult for us,” John said, smiling, and Sherlock turned over to look at him.

“Do you want children?” he asked again, even more seriously, and John sighed.

“I don’t know. I’ve rather let go of the idea, I think. And where would we put a baby, in this madhouse?” He smiled but Sherlock didn’t smile back.

“We shouldn’t,” he said and moved onto his back. “It would just be one more person our enemies would hurt.”

“Okay,” John said. “No children.”

But when Sherlock woke him three nights in a row playing violin, John realized the subject was not as closed as he’d originally thought. On the third night he got out of bed and went downstairs, sat on the sofa and pulled his robe over his feet. Sherlock went on playing, pajama bottoms hanging off his slender hips, and John thought, No, we can’t bring a child into this. Sherlock is enough of a handful. He never eats, he forgets to sleep, he forgets other people exist at times

But he also knew that Sherlock was capable of great tenderness , of love that was both vast and focused. Lestrade had said he might be a good man one day, and John thought Sherlock was well on his way.

Sherlock lowered his bow and said, “You’d be a good father.”

“I hope so,” said John.

“I don’t know if I could.”

“You could, if you decided you wanted to.”

Sherlock swallowed. “It’s not a decision you can take back in a few months if you realize it’s a mistake.”

“No, it isn’t.”

“Do you think they would let someone like me have a child?”

“Someone like you?” John began, and remembered all the things he preferred not to think about — Sherlock the sociopath (self-diagnosed; he knew Sherlock’s medical and psychiatric records backwards and forwards by now, and there had never been official diagnosis in all of his psychiatric history), Sherlock the addict (and how those records had made John wince and wish he’d met Sherlock ten years earlier), Sherlock the depressive, the moody, the easily bored. “That’s all in the past.”

“Not past enough.”

“Well, perhaps I’d balance it out. War hero and doctor and upright citizen.” He smiled, and this time Sherlock hesitantly smiled back.

“Between the two of us,” Sherlock said, “we might even raise an interesting child.”

“We might. I think I’d rather have a good child than an interesting one, though. Any child we got would likely be quite normal. Normal intellect, normal emotions — or if we decided on a special needs child, that would require even more patience from us. Can you have patience, Sherlock?”

“Of course I can,” said Sherlock.

“Can you sustain it for eighteen years?” said John and Sherlock plucked at the violin strings. He said, “I love you,” and got that hesitant smile again in response, “but I also know you better than anyone, and I don’t want you to set yourself an impossible goal. We shouldn’t raise a child just to prove we can. We should raise a child because we want to raise a child.”

“You think I’ll be a bad father.”

“I think you’d be a wonderful father if you don’t get bored. You can’t get bored of fatherhood, Sherlock. It’s long-term. It’s a lifetime.”

“I want you for a lifetime,” said Sherlock, grey eyes focusing somewhere around John’s knee. “Why not a child, too?”

“Indeed,” said John softly and their eyes met. “You’ll have to stop doing experiments in the kitchen.”

Sherlock huffed. “I may have to stop detective work entirely. Or we’ll have to hire a nanny who’s available at all hours.”

“We’ll figure that out. First thing first, Sherlock. Do you want to have a child?”

Sherlock had a wondering look as he said, “Yes. I want to raise a child with you.”

John’s eyes stung and he whispered, “Okay.”

***

It happened so quickly that John suspected Mycroft had gotten wind of it and pulled various strings for them. They were prepared to wait a few years for a child, but instead barely six months passed after they began the process when they were contacted. There was a two year old boy his social worker thought they might suit. Would they like to meet him?

They would. They would, very much.

At first John thought it would all fall apart here. In the interviews Sherlock had been charming and friendly and blessedly normal, but when faced with an actual child, how would he react?

The boy, Robin, was playing with blocks and chunky plastic cars especially made for toddler-sized hands. He was a lovely child, with big brown eyes and mocha-colored skin, and John felt a tug towards him that made him grab for Sherlock’s hand to keep from wavering on his feet. Sherlock squeezed his hand quickly and then let it go, and sat on the floor near the boy. He steepled his fingers and watched Robin play, until Robin looked up and studied him back. He solemnly offered Sherlock one of the cars.

Sherlock took it, thanked him gravely, studied it and then gave it back.

They exchanged smiles.

By the time all the papers were signed and the getting-to-know-you sessions were got through, Robin was calling them both Daddy. They changed his name to Robert John Watson (“Best he have your name, John, it’ll be safer for him.”) but still called him Robin (though John found himself calling him Robby and Robby-Bobby and Rob Roy, while Sherlock frowned and said he was confusing the child and Robin giggled) and painted his name on his bedroom door.

They decided — much to John’s surprise — that Sherlock would stay home. He could adjust his work schedule around Robin’s needs more easily than John could, so once family leave was over John went back to the surgery with pictures of Robin for everyone to exclaim over and determination not to call the flat a dozen times to check on them. Sherlock had been very warm with Robin, even with his book-based approach to parenting, but still John was half-certain he’d need to say, “No experiments with the baby.”

Turned out, he didn’t. Turned out, Sherlock could handle Robin on his own just fine. Turned out, he could play with Robin, read to him, talk to him on a level Robin could understand. Turned out, Sherlock could even cook (“It’s only chemistry, John.”)

Turned out, if John walked a little slower and watched Robin trot along at Sherlock’s side, his tiny hand wrapped around Sherlock’s finger and Sherlock’s strides shortened so Robin could keep up — turned out it brought a lump to John’s throat, no matter how many times he watched it.

Turned out, they weren’t rubbish at this parenthood thing.

***

Zoe came along two years later, a newborn. Her mother and father were far too young to raise a child, and her mother refused to even hold the baby before the nurse gave her to Sherlock.

“Are you sure we can do this?” John whispered as he watched her rose-petal mouth open and close and her fists flail. “She’s so tiny.”

“All the more reason we should,” Sherlock said, his intent gaze fixed on her face. “We can’t abandon her to the world. She needs us, John.”

“Right, yes, right,” John said.

They put her cot in their bedroom until she slept through the night, and then downstairs with Robin. Her name (once they chose it — Sherlock wanted names like Jessamine or Dorothea and John wanted names like Grace or Hannah — Zoe was the only one they found that suited them both, unusual enough for Sherlock, simple enough for John) was painted on the door as well, and John said, “You know, we need to think about a bigger place in a year or so. They’ll want their own rooms eventually.”

“Not for years,” said Sherlock. “But we’ll want to be closer to a school before that.”

“School,” John murmured. “Robin’s too small for school.”

“He won’t be forever.”

They left Baker Street, promising to keep Mrs. Hudson updated with pictures of the children, and found a place in a more family-oriented neighborhood, with a low crime rate and a ten-minute walk to the nearest primary school. There was a room in the flat that would be Zoe’s one day, but for now held the books they needed to buy more bookcases for. There was also a back garden where Robin could play and John could try his hand at growing tomatoes and strawberries.

Digging in the dirt was remarkably satisfying, and it took a few weeks for John to figure out why. He and Sherlock, while they were happy and still in love, hadn’t had sex often since Zoe’s birth. It had been difficult since Robin came into their lives — he had nightmares for much of the first year, and slept between them when nothing else would console him — and it had only become more so once they had a newborn. Sherlock could manage on little sleep, but managing was not feeling sexy and desirable.

Gardening was not sex, but it was stress-relieving. It would do until their lives evened out again.

His shirt was clinging to him in the unusual heat, clammy and uncomfortable, so John pulled it off and hung it from a shovel he’d stuck in the ground. Sherlock glanced up from the blanket where he was playing with the children, and tilted his head slightly, eyes narrowing. John pretended not to notice, intent on getting the holes to their proper depth and applying the fish-based fertilizer before he buried the plants (halfway to the crown, like the clerk at the home store had advised), and when he looked up again Robin had parked himself at John’s side.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, my love?”

He pointed to John’s shoulder. “What’s that?”

John glanced down. “It’s a scar.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s where I was once badly hurt and then it healed.” He knelt so Robin could see his shoulder better. The boy studied it, frowning.

“Did it ouch?”

“Very much.”

“Did you fall off your bicycle?” One of Robin’s friends had fallen off a bicycle and broken his wrist. It had made a lasting impression.

“No. A long time ago, years before you were born, I was a soldier in a war. Another soldier shot me, and the scar is where the bullet hit me.”

Robin frowned more. He had toy soldiers, of course, and the idea that mild, gentle Daddy was once a soldier was clearly difficult for him to grasp. “Was he a bad man?”

John inhaled and glanced at Sherlock. Sherlock watched him, absently letting Zoe gum his fingers. “He might have been,” he said quietly. “I don’t know. I know he thought we were bad men.”

“You’re not a bad man,” Robin stated, and his fists clenched as if he intended to defend his father’s honor against that faraway, long-ago sniper.

John held his hands and carefully pried them open. “I hope not, love. And anyway, I’m mostly glad it happened — otherwise I never would have come back to London and met your dad and we never would have met you.”

Robin nodded as if this were only natural. “Can I touch it?”

“Gently,” said John, and Robin’s finger warily prodded at the scarred flesh.

“Does it still ouch?”

“Sometimes,” John said. “When it rains, mostly.”

“Why?”

“Because some old hurts never really heal.”

“Now you both have got dirt all over you,” said Sherlock as he came to them, the baby on his arm. He picked up Robin easily in his other arm. John stood and then made a startled noise when Sherlock abruptly kissed him. They never hesitated to show affection in front of the children, so it wasn’t that — it just seemed odd to be kissed at this moment, like this, when he smelt like fish and had soil on his hands.

“Hello,” he said, not knowing what else to say.

“Hello,” Sherlock said and smiled one of his small, genuine smiles. “Come eat once you’ve washed up.”

“Lunch together!” sang Robin happily, kicking his feet as Sherlock carried the inside.

That was certainly a cause for celebration, so John picked up his shirt and went inside to wash off the evidence of his efforts. He had only started the water running when Sherlock joined him in the lav and wrapped his arms around John’s waist. John leaned back against him as Sherlock buried his face in John’s neck.

“You did that on purpose.”

“Did what?” said John, as innocent as can be.

“Took off your shirt when you’re sweaty and dirty. You know I can’t resist you when you so–” He inhaled, running his nose along John’s shoulder. “Human.”

“I’m always human.” He reached back to knot his fingers into Sherlock’s hair.

“You’re even more so now. If the children hadn’t been there I would have ravished you right there in the garden.”

“Promise to ravish me later instead?”

“Promise,” Sherlock growled and nipped at John’s neck. He released John as quickly as he’d embraced him, and went back downstairs to rejoin the children.

It was never that simple, of course. It seemed like every time they both had the energy, they both were in the mood, they both were home (John had taken a job at an A&E when they moved — the commute was better, the hours were worse, and he missed the steadiness of the surgery), there always seemed to be something else in their way. One or both of the children were sick, Robin wanted to sleep in their bed, Zoe wouldn’t stop crying and Sherlock had to walk with her, singing to her softly in his baritone voice, until her wails became whimpers. Often on those nights Sherlock simply fell asleep on the couch, the baby on his chest, and John would cover them over with the old woolen blanket before he left for work. It made something clutch around his heart when he saw Sherlock like this — people had doubted this path was a wise one, everyone from Harry to Donovan had said Sherlock would never last as a caregiver, but when he saw how much Sherlock loved these children John knew they had all underestimated him.

They finally got the children in bed, Robin having fallen asleep hard after an afternoon of gardening and playing, Zoe having stayed awake a bit later than usual but went to bed without much fuss; and then made their weary way to their own bedroom, arms around each other. John nuzzled Sherlock’s neck, chuckling at the scent of him (milk and baby powder and the children’s soap) and directed him to the bed. “No interruptions,” he said and bent to kiss Sherlock slowly.

Sherlock hummed beneath him, his hands stroking John’s sides, and they came to rest on John’s back. John kissed him deeper, teasing at Sherlock’s tongue, and then pulled back with a frown when Sherlock didn’t respond.

“Sherlock?” he whispered and nudged him with his knee. “Sherlock.”

Sherlock snored.

John sighed, moved off him, and scrubbed his hand over his face. He kissed Sherlock’s forehead and made him comfortable enough to sleep — it was actually easier than undressing Robin when he was sound asleep, even though Sherlock was far heavier dead weight — and laid a blanket over him. He kissed Sherlock again and whispered, “I miss you,” before he lay down his head.

***

As he walked along at Sherlock’s side, Zoe’s pushchair rattling on the pavement and Robin dancing ahead with excitement before he ran back to grab John’s hand, John thought he’d known parenthood would involve sacrifices but had never thought that sacrifice would include his relationship with Sherlock. They were more like flatmates now than they’d been before that first kiss, except now they slept in the same bed.

He loved Sherlock. He knew he would always love Sherlock. He loved their family, but somehow, somewhere, he and Sherlock had lost sight of each other because the children loomed so large.

“You’re thinking,” Sherlock said.

“I am.”

“About what?” Sherlock turned his keen gaze on John.

“You,” John said.

Sherlock smiled. “I won’t ask, then.”

John smiled back and took Robin’s hand again when the boy ran back to them at the sounds of children in the schoolyard. “We’re here,” he told Robin.

“Daddy,” Robin said and reached for Sherlock’s hand too. “Don’t forget to get me.”

“Never, darling,” Sherlock said. He knelt to look into Robin’s eyes. “Zoe and I will wait for you right outside the gate.” He hugged Robin and Robin kissed him, and then John stooped for a hug and a kiss as well.

“Have a good day, Robby love.” He added, “I see Christopher. You know one person already.”

“Christopher!” Robin shouted and ran into the schoolyard — then stopped, waved to them, and shouted, “Bye, Daddy! Bye, Daddy! Bye, Zoe!” before he ran to join his friend.

“I want to wait until the bell rings,” Sherlock said.

“I thought you might.” John did, too.

“Do you think it’ll be a problem that he already knows how to read?”

“Let’s hope not. Does his teacher know?”

“Oh, yes. He read an entire book to her. Of course, it was a picture book, but she was still quite impressed.”

“Eventually you’ll have to stop leaving your forensics journals lying about,” John said, and the bell rang and the teachers came out to line up the children and take them inside. John leaned against the fence, hoping Robin would look and wave one more time, but he was occupied with being a student now.

“I will, eventually,” Sherlock said and exhaled. “Ready?”

“I think so.” Still, they lingered, like several other parents around the yard, until the children were inside, and then Sherlock turned the pushchair and they began the walk home. John peeked into the chair and saw Zoe was asleep, and had Sherlock stop the chair so he could lift Zoe out. It seemed to him he didn’t get to play with the baby half enough, since she was asleep most of the time he was home.

I’m missing my family, he thought. I miss the game, I miss being a lover, but I’m missing being a dad, too.

He glanced at Sherlock. Sherlock looked thoughtful and leaned on the pushchair as they walked. “Sherlock.”

“John.”

“We’ve never really talked about getting married.”

Sherlock shrugged as if this were only to be expected. “Did I tell you Robin’s teacher called me Mr. Watson?”

“You didn’t.”

“Doctor and Mister Watson. I like it.” He leaned on the pushchair again. “Then we’d all have the same name.”

“If we got married?”

“Mm,” said Sherlock with a nod.

“Hm.” He shifted Zoe to his right arm — his left one still tired out easily. “Sherlock Watson-Holmes,” he tried and Sherlock’s mouth quirked in amusement.

“In this neighborhood I’m just quiet Mr. Watson, the stay-at-home dad. I rather like being that person. It’s surprisingly pleasant, being peaceful.”

“Sometimes,” John said and cleared his throat. “Sometimes I find it hard to believe you’ve never got bored.”

“Oh, I’ve been bored,” said Sherlock. “Fortunately when I get bored, Robin has a question or Zoe wakes up from her nap, and there’s no time to be bored anymore. I’ve just enough work to keep my brain limber, and the rest of the time I’m Daddy.” He was quiet. “I miss the field work sometimes. Chasing after a suspect, digging through a skip, watching an experiment develop right before my eyes I miss that.”

“We can afford a nanny, if you want to go back to work.”

“And miss something important?”

John frowned at his feet. “I miss things. Important, unimportant. I miss them.”

“I sent you that video when Zoe started crawling.”

“I know, but I could have been there and seen it for myself.”

“Do you want to change places?” Sherlock said. “You stay at home and I go back to work?”

John studied him. “I don’t know.” Sherlock nodded and resumed walking, then stopped and looked back when John didn’t join him. John said, “I want to get married,” and Sherlock’s eyebrows shot up.

“Are you proposing or just stating a fact?”

“I think I’m proposing. I’d get down on one knee but I’m holding the baby.”

Sherlock smiled — not a small one, not a hesitant one, not his aren’t-I-harmless one, but a real one, lovely and wide. “All right,” he said and by now John had caught up to him. “I accept.” He kissed John, and when Zoe stirred and whimpered he kissed her too, gently on the back of her head.

***

Really, John thought when they let it be known they were engaged, by now no one should have been surprised. They’d been together nearly a decade. They had two children. Marriage felt like natural progression, the right step to take, like writing a will and choosing guardians. (Mycroft. Sherlock scowled but still admitted that out of everyone they knew, Mycroft would take care of the children best. He was very fond of them, though hardly the kind to get down to their level and play with them like Lestrade or Sarah, but they weren’t intimidated by him or shy around him in any way. When John and Sherlock asked him to be the children’s guardian, Mycroft had actually looked away and said, “There’s something in my eye,” and then said yes.)

Once they’d endured the exclamations and wonder, the questions of what they planned to do arose. “Registry office?” John said, bewildered, and Sherlock shrugged, not interested.

“I see no reason to get married in a church,” he said. “Must we have a reception?”

“Yes,” John said at once. “We have to have a party. People come to weddings for the party.”

“You’ll have a proper reception,” said Mycroft. “And a honeymoon.”

“We couldn’t leave the children that long,” said John. Even if they found a nanny before the wedding — there was a promising girl, a student named Mary, who got along with Robin right away and was gentle with Zoe — a week or more was a very long time to be apart.

“Nonsense.” Mycroft was imperious. “A marriage needs a honeymoon, even if there are no surprises left.” He took out his mobile and tapped at the keyboard. “Do you prefer the tropics or the Aegean? Sherlock likes the Aegean.”

“Sherlock,” John appealed to him. “Tell him.”

Sherlock leaned his head on his hand. “Mycroft, I feel I should tell you. I do like the Aegean.”

***

They hired Mary, after she was thoroughly vetted by both Sherlock and Mycroft’s people. There was nothing shady in her past, not even a dubious love affair, and her credentials were impeccable. The children liked her. It was enough for John and Sherlock.

They took the books out of the spare room to fix it up for her, had her spend more and more hours with the children, just playing at first, then doing things like giving them supper and putting them to bed, and finally moved her in.

“We could, you know,” said John as they lay in bed the night that Mary was safely installed in her room. She had helped them put the children to bed, and they had chatted around the kitchen table for a while before John and Sherlock excused themselves.

“We could what?”

John said deliberately, “Make. Love.”

“Make love,” Sherlock said with a chuckle.

“We could. If the children wake up Mary will tend to them.”

“She’s still a stranger. Less of one, but a stranger nonetheless.”

John propped himself on his elbows. “Sherlock, do you know how long it’s been since we’ve had sex?”

Sherlock frowned. “No.”

“Neither do I.”

“That’s very bad, isn’t it?”

John inhaled and said, “Yes. If neither of us can remember how long it’s been, it’s very bad.”

Sherlock turned onto his side and laid his hand on John’s chest. “Do you want to do something ridiculously old-fashioned?”

“What?” John said cautiously.

“Wait until our wedding night.”

“Sherlock, that’s two more weeks.”

“Exactly. It’s only two more weeks. The children will be with Mycroft and we’ll be in the hotel, so neither of us will be listening for noises from down the hall, and we will be a little tired but we will also have just got married ” He traced his fingers over John’s chest. “And we’ll make it brilliant. We’ll make it like the first time.”

“Our first time was not that brilliant,” said John, smiling at him. It had only got better as they came to know each other, what they liked, what they needed.

“An idealized first time, then.”

“And I’ve had you,” John said. “Many times.”

“That’s a very romantic way of putting it,” said Sherlock and kissed him. “I want to wait until our wedding night. Please.”

“It must really be important to you if you said please.”

“John,” Sherlock said patiently and John stroked his cheek, still smiling.

“It’s ridiculously old-fashioned,” he said and Sherlock kissed him again, smiling too. “At least it’s only two more weeks. Be glad I love you,” he added as Sherlock relaxed beside him.

“Oh, I am,” Sherlock said and kissed John’s shoulder.

***

The wedding was simple. Sherlock was handsome and lean in a tailored suit, and John just hoped he didn’t look frumpy by comparison.

It was rather amazing to push a wedding ring onto Sherlock’s finger, to kiss him in front of all these people, to hold each other tight and bury their faces in each other’s necks while the guests applauded. “We’re getting our lifetime,” Sherlock whispered and John held him even tighter.

The reception was not simple. John looked at the acres of tables, piled with food and decorations, and felt overwhelmed and out of place until Sherlock squeezed his hand and gave him a wink.

One other bow they made to tradition was a first dance. John chose the least sentimental song he could find that was still about love, and led Sherlock onto the dance floor, blushing with nerves when everyone else cleared away. He put his arms around Sherlock and Sherlock put his around John’s neck, and they smiled at each other as they swayed.

“First dance as a married couple,” John remarked.

“We’ve never danced much,” Sherlock said. “This may have to change, though.”

“Oh? You like it that much?” He dipped Sherlock, getting a laugh in response, and kissed him when they were upright again.

“Any excuse to be in your arms, John,” Sherlock said softly and lay his head on John’s shoulder.

Finally it was time to kiss the children good night and thank their family and friends, and leave the reception hall for their room. Sherlock looked melancholy as he undid his tie in the elevator, and John rubbed his back.

“We’ve never spent a night apart from them,” Sherlock said.

“They’ll be fine. Mary and Mycroft are with them.” He rubbed his hand up between Sherlock’s shoulder blades. “You should call Mycroft if you’re worried.”

“I’m not worried.” He was quiet. “I’ll probably call in the morning.”

“Sherlock,” John said gently and pulled him down so he could kiss Sherlock’s forehead. Sherlock held his face and stayed bent over him, and while they didn’t kiss it was so gentle and intimate that John felt a shiver of disappointment when the elevator came to a stop and the doors slid open.

He kept an arm around Sherlock as they walked down the hall to their room, and Sherlock ran his fingers over John’s back and kissed his hair. John unlocked the door and said, “I’m not carrying you over the threshold.”

“Oh, thank you,” Sherlock said fervently and kissed him, deep and dirty, before manhandling him inside.

John dismissed the opulence of their room with a glance — gold and white, their luggage waiting for them to take to the airport in the morning — to focus entirely on the bed, which was enormous, soft and billowy, and just waiting to be despoiled. He pushed Sherlock onto it and Sherlock smirked at him, his dark hair and dark suit beautiful against the white bedding and his pale skin. John crawled up his body and kissed his mouth, and whispered, “Hello,” with a slight smile.

“Hello,” Sherlock whispered, fingers twisting into John’s hair. “I seem to recall marrying you earlier today.”

“Yes,” John agreed, “I remember that distinctly. Well, perhaps not distinctly, some bits are a blur–”

Sherlock kissed him, breathing in through his nose to make the kiss last longer, and John melted into him. They kissed frequently, sweetly, gently, but it seemed months since they had kissed like this, like there was nothing in the world but the taste and scent and feel of them, Sherlock’s cool mouth and slowly exploring tongue making John shiver all the way down his spine.

“Wedding night, John,” Sherlock said when they finally paused, and John kissed him between his brows.

“Wedding night.” He began to unbutton Sherlock’s shirt with deliberate care. Sherlock closed his eyes and arched his body.

“John,” he breathed, fingers raking through John’s hair, and John kissed him again, his fingers slipping into Sherlock’s shirt to touch his skin. Sherlock always looked like he should be cool and smooth as marble but he was warm, delightfully so, and so responsive, nipples hardening under John’s fingertips and heartbeat increasing, turning that pale skin ruddy.

Sherlock held John by his shoulders and turned him onto his back, and latched his mouth onto John’s neck with a ferocity that made John gasp his name. Sherlock ran his fingers soothingly through John’s hair as he sucked John’s neck, his tongue smoothing over the faint teeth marks John knew were going to leave bruises tomorrow. John laid his hand on the back of Sherlock’s neck and moaned as Sherlock licked up his neck to his ear. He whispered, “I want us to always remember this,” and licked John’s earlobe.

“It’s our wedding night,” John said and focused on Sherlock, already feeling hazy with lust. “Of course we’ll remember it.”

Sherlock shook his head like John wasn’t quite hearing what he was saying, and then kissed John again, his mouth slanting over John’s like they were made to fit together this way. He lid his hand down John’s arm and joined their fingers, and held John’s hand as he slid off John’s tie and unbuttoned his shirt.

John heard himself moaning Sherlock’s name as Sherlock bared his body. He clenched his fingers around Sherlock’s rhythmically, and laughed with surprise when Sherlock’s tongue dipped into his navel. Sherlock licked down his stomach as he unzipped John’s trousers, and John’s breath caught in his chest when Sherlock licked him through his underwear. He grabbed Sherlock’s shoulder.

“Patience,” Sherlock whispered and John squeezed his shoulder in reply. He ran his hand over Sherlock’s hair, letting the dark curls catch on his fingertips.

Sherlock finished undressing him, shoes falling with a thunk-thunk, tailored trousers tossed carelessly aside, and knelt between John’s legs, his hands on John’s hips. He dipped his head and licked John’s cock slowly, getting him slick, and when John was gasping and kneading his shoulder, guided him into his mouth.

John groaned and closed his eyes because the sight of Sherlock’s mouth surrounding him was almost more than he could bear, and then opened them again because it was only “almost.” Sherlock’s eyes met his, bright and wide, and John grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight.

Sherlock pulled off with a pop and wiped his thumb over his lips. It made John shiver, and he sat up so he could pull Sherlock to him and kiss his mouth — no longer cool, now hot and salty. Sherlock shrugged off his jacket and shirt as they kissed, John helping as much has he could without removing his mouth from Sherlock’s, and ran his hands over Sherlock’s fine skin.

He turned Sherlock onto his back and stroked him through his trousers until Sherlock’s chest hitched and he pulled his mouth away to whisper, “Now, John.”

“Now, what?” John said, smiling as he undid the zip, slow and teasing.

“John.” He swallowed. “Fuck me.”

“God, I love it when you’re demanding.” John dropped a kiss on his hip before rising to find their toiletries bag.

When he came back to bed Sherlock had stripped off the rest of his clothes and turned back the bedding, and lay naked on the white sheets, his pale body flushed and trembling. “John,” he said and took hold of John’s forearms to pull him close. John braced himself on his hands and kissed Sherlock, his mouth, his throat, his chest. He turned Sherlock over and kissed his back, down his supple spine.

“John,” Sherlock said again, voice low and rough, and pushed back his hips. John kissed his back again, knelt up and spent a moment to lubricate his fingers.

Sherlock was tight and hot, and he grunted as John stroked into him, his arms trembling. He gasped John’s name, and gasped it louder when John bent to lick up the perspiration gathering between his shoulder blades.

“Honeymoon suite,” John whispered to the back of Sherlock’s neck. “We’re insulated. Be noisy.” Sherlock moaned and John smiled before gently biting his neck. He got onto his knees and pulled Sherlock to him, fitting them together, Sherlock’s long legs folded on either side of his. “Is this all right?”

“Yes,” Sherlock said, “yes, God, yes.” He reached back to shove a hand into John’s hair and turned his head, seeking John’s mouth. John kissed him and reached between them to guide his cock into Sherlock’s slick, waiting body.

Sherlock groaned, his fingers deep in John’s hair, and pressed his face against John’s neck. He held his body still as John pushed into him, and then exhaled, fingers loosening their grip, as John began to slowly thrust. Sherlock moved in response, his stomach shivering under John’s steadying hand, and panted for breath against John’s neck.

“John,” he said after what felt like far too short a time (and maybe he could feel John’s arm start to tremble, maybe he just wanted to draw this out), “John, I want you on your back.” John kissed his shoulder and let Sherlock pull off, watching him with greedy eyes as Sherlock moved aside so he could lie flat. Sherlock knelt over him and got him slick again, and John held his hips as Sherlock lowered himself onto John’s body.

Watching Sherlock suck him was almost enough to bring him off — watching Sherlock ride him, lean muscles flexing, skin sheened with perspiration, was even more so. His lips curled and his head fell back, and John wrapped a fist around his cock and stroked him hard as Sherlock reached back to balance himself on John’s thighs.

John pushed himself upright and kissed Sherlock’s throat and tongued his nipples until Sherlock’s fingers clutched at his hair, and then held Sherlock’s head and kissed him, kissed him deep and wet, pushing into Sherlock as Sherlock rocked to meet him.

He wrapped his arms around Sherlock’s waist and tumbled them over, Sherlock’s legs going willingly over his shoulders and hands wrapping around his biceps, and John pushed into him again, slowly, eyes never leaving Sherlock’s as Sherlock quietly moaned and dug his fingers into John’s arms.

Now he moved with purpose, all that patience and waiting and letting other matters come first giving them this, this night, this pleasure, this joy in each other, his beautiful lover moaning nonsense as John drove into him, his face with that yearning, desperate look that meant he was so close, so close. John wrapped a hand around him and bent to kiss him, stroking him as he fucked. Sherlock shoved into his hand and pushed his tongue deep into John’s mouth — and then Sherlock moaned, “John!” and shuddered hard as he finished, twisting himself up to demand another kiss.

John stopped his hips and brought his hand to his mouth. He licked his palm and smiled when Sherlock shivered. He took Sherlock’s hand and laced their fingers together, and held it as he rocked his hips and Sherlock moved smoothly beneath him. He leaned on his elbows so he could frame Sherlock’s face with his other hand, and when he ran his thumb over Sherlock’s lips Sherlock’s tongue flicked out to lick the tip.

He was shivering as he finished, Sherlock’s fingers clutching his. He dropped his head against Sherlock’s neck, gulping air. Sherlock gently disengaged their hands so he could stroke John’s back and play with his ears.

“Do you remember the first time? Oh, of course you do. Not so brilliant, you called it. You held my hips so hard you left bruises.”

John inhaled, remembering he had a vocabulary. “You were too thin. You still are.” He moved off Sherlock as much as Sherlock’s embrace allowed. “What brought that to mind?”

“Oh, beginnings. We’ve had quite a few. We met, we started having sex you always made me come to you and then one night you came to me. I’ve never quite understood what changed.”

John had to think a moment. The first time they had sex — and John never thought of it as making love, that came later — it was rough and fast and fueled by adrenaline, life-affirming rather than passionate. I’m alive. You’re alive. Don’t ever die on me. I won’t.

He knew he loved Sherlock then, even so, that this infuriating, clever, strange man had him in a way no one else had or would — but even then he was convinced that Sherlock was incapable or uninterested in loving anyone. It wasn’t until weeks later, when they were having sex regularly but still never saying anything about it to each other, that Sherlock said out of nowhere –they weren’t even in bed, John was putting the kettle on and Sherlock was poring over the paper when he looked up and said, “I always thought it was a romantic conceit but I’ve come to realize, John, it is different when you love someone,” and went back to reading.

It was like having the wind knocked out of him, and all John could do was stand there and blink at him stupidly until the kettle started whistling.

Sherlock was not effusive in his affections. Half the time John said, “I love you,” all he got in response was a smile. It bothered him at first, until he realized that this was one area where what Sherlock did was far more important than what he said. And Sherlock had been saying “I love you” silently for years, before that first desperate kiss in the Baker Street flat, before the first time Sherlock gently kissed his scars, before he stopped feeling self-conscious about taking John’s hand.

Sherlock told the children he loved them often, but it was different with the children — they didn’t see love in the hours Sherlock spent caring for them, even if John did. John knew that Sherlock’s texts of “Supper’s in the fridge, just cook it for half an hour,” or “Should I bring you a warmer coat? The weather’s turned vile,” came from love as much as any passionate declaration. More so, really. Someone can swear they’ll cross the deepest oceans and most burning deserts for you but are rarely called upon to do so.

Real love, John thought, is someone knowing exactly how you like your tea, or making sure your feet are warm when you sleep, or rubbing your back when you wake, gasping, from dreamed memories that never quite let you go, or recording a movie so you can watch it together later, even if later doesn’t come for weeks.

Real love, John thought, is every day.

He said, “You said you loved me. Well, as near as you’ve ever come, and I’m not saying that to complain. It changed things. It changed me. Maybe it changed you too, maybe you had changed before then and I didn’t notice, but you said that and everything was different.”

“We’re always changing,” Sherlock murmured. “Became lovers, became fathers and now we’re married. I wonder what this is going to bring.”

“Nothing new, really,” John said. Sherlock huffed and John raised his head to look at him. Sherlock had the sleepy look of a contented cat, and his lips were still tender from kisses. John kissed him gently. “We tend the children, we make a living ”

“Only we’re married now.”

“Yes.” He moved onto his back and took Sherlock’s hand. Sherlock raised their hands to his mouth and kissed the back of John’s, and held them both to his chest.

“You look tired,” Sherlock said. “You haven’t been sleeping enough, despite the shift change.”

“Pre-wedding jitters,” said John and lay his head on Sherlock’s chest when Sherlock curled an arm around him. “And a baby with very regular and early hours.”

“Mm,” Sherlock said. He kissed John’s hair. “Sleep.”

“Five minutes,” said John and closed his eyes.

***

John woke what felt like hours later, to see Sherlock had ordered room service and was watching telly as he ate. The television was muted, subtitles playing, and Sherlock snorted as the dialogue took a turn for the ridiculous. John shook his head to wake himself up more and said, “Sherlock?”

“Oh, good, you’re awake. The kitchen has a special honeymooner’s breakfast. Do you want a muffin?”

“Okay,” said John and sat up slowly. His shoulder ached from activity, and his back had a twinge, and he couldn’t remember being this contented in months. He took the muffin and mimosa in a champagne flute that Sherlock gave him, and leaned back against the pillows.

“What I meant was,” Sherlock said, and John looked at him over his muffin, “I want us to remember the feeling.”

“The feeling,” John said.

“Of wanting to be together more than anything else. I think we’ve lost it. I’ve always had a low sex drive,” he said frankly, “but I want you, you know. I need you.”

“Thank you,” John said and hoped he didn’t look smug.

“There’s been so much else to distract us. You work so hard.” He kissed John’s shoulder. “Sometimes I just want to let you sleep.”

“And sometimes you’re completely worn out and I just want to let you sleep,” John said and kissed him back. “And once or twice we’ve tried to have sex and you’ve fallen asleep.”

“Sorry about that.” He sipped his mimosa and gave the glass an odd look. “I’m not sure I like this. Oh! Strawberries.” He picked up a bowl and took out a plump red berry, so sweet-smelling it made John’s mouth water. “You like these.”

“Very much,” said John, and tried not to laugh when Sherlock held the berry in front of his mouth. He held Sherlock’s gaze as he bit into the strawberry, and didn’t look away as he chewed and swallowed.

Sherlock said softly, watching him eat, “It’ll be easier now that we have Mary.”

“I hope so.” He said, as Sherlock thoughtfully ate a strawberry, “I don’t want to grow distant from you. I don’t want to lose you just because we’ve drifted apart.”

“You won’t.”

“We were headed that way.”

“Is that why you asked me to marry you? To keep me?”

“No,” said John, then, “Yes. In a way. I suppose I wanted something more than just an unspoken promise.”

Sherlock smiled as he picked up another muffin. “If all you needed was a wedding ring we could have skipped that party.”

“I don’t need a wedding ring,” John said.

“Now I’m completely confused,” said Sherlock, though he sounded more amused than anything else, and John suspected Sherlock knew what he was saying better than John did himself.

John ate a strawberry. He said, “I’m always afraid you’re going to grow bored, Sherlock. Bored of me.”

Sherlock put down the muffing and champagne flute, moved the tray back to its table and straddled John’s legs. John put his hands on Sherlock’s slim, pajama-clad hips and Sherlock took his face in both hands. “I,” Sherlock said, slowly and firmly, “will never grow bored of you.”

“Sherlock,” said John, embarrassed, and Sherlock brushed his thumbs over John’s lips.

“Mycroft was wrong.”

“About what?” He propped himself up on his elbows as Sherlock rolled off John and stripped off the pajamas. “Wrong about what, Sherlock?”

Sherlock got under the duvet. “About there being no surprises left. There are plenty of surprises left.” John pulled Sherlock on top of him and Sherlock leaned into John and kissed him, his tongue sliding lazily into John’s mouth. John lay back and pulled Sherlock with him so that they sprawled across the bed, kissing leisurely, touching lightly. “Being happy is a constant surprise.”

End.