Somerset had seemed a lovely idea when they chose it: Mum's childhood church (she'd have liked that, though she'd never have said), pastoral romance (Mary liked that), convenient to the inn and the reception (Sherlock approved). John had occasionally imagined himself taking the plunge with various candidates over the years, and in those rare imaginings he had always pictured the very place that all of his acquaintance was now awaiting him.
However, what he hadn't accounted for was the getting everyone there.
Mary had gone out the day before with her girlfriends (peck on the cheek and a pat on the rump, "Until tomorrow, almost husband"), as had most of the guests, booked into the rooms Sherlock had harassed the innkeeper into reserving for the wedding party. John (and Sherlock, of course, Best Man and all) had elected to stay in London with the plan to drive out the morning of, together.
"Why?" Mary had asked. Reflecting back, John's not sure he ever really answered her. (He knows why, of course, but he's practiced at ignoring it.)
The ceremony is at four o'clock. Sherlock has drafted a minute-by-minute timetable (maps attached) that requires waking up and being ready to leave a full hour before John has ever seen Sherlock awake (at least when he isn't still awake from the night before). When he'd envisioned the entire affair, John had thought he would be spending that last night in London at Baker Street-- nostalgia or convenience or…something. But Sherlock has missed all of his hinted suggestions, and now John is standing on the street corner outside his own lonely house, hefting his garment bag and his army duffel (should have bought a different overnight bag, but too late now), bleary-eyed and in dire need of coffee.
He is fairly certain he saw "0715: Starbucks" listed on Sherlock's itinerary for the drive.
The Land Rover pulls up, Sherlock's profile framed in the driver's window, and John's heart takes a little skip. He crushes that down and trots to the back of the car to pull open the tailgate. "Right on time."
"Get in." Sherlock doesn't turn, is pecking at his phone.
"Good morning to you, too."
"Traffic on the M4, rethinking our route."
"Ah." John tosses his duffel in and slams the door, goes the passenger side to hang his suit on the handhold, alongside Sherlock's. "Will that be a problem?"
"Have you ever seen Stonehenge?" Sherlock has still not looked up from his phone.
"Um, yes. Class trip, aged 10. Wiccan girlfriend, aged 22." He slams the door and then opens the passenger side to get in. "Why?"
"We're taking the A303."
Sherlock deposits his phone into the cup holder and pulls out into traffic as John buckles his seat belt. John waits for a moment, but no explanation is forthcoming.
"Stonehenge is on our way now, is it?"
Sherlock looks at him then, for just a moment, the first time since he pulled up. "Doing deductions?"
"Just stating the obvious."
Sherlock snorts. "Exactly." He merges into traffic and John watches his hands on the steering wheel. "God, it's early," Sherlock murmurs after a moment, and John can't see his face.
"You have planned for coffee, I hope."
"Yes. You should never have left Baker Street, though. Mrs. Hudson has already made me tea." The emphasis on me is sharp as a tack.
John's chest tightens again (I would have stayed last night, you arse), so he looks out the window and doesn't respond.
Coffee helps, as does getting some miles behind them. The countryside is a soothing, blank canvas for John's thoughts. He's getting married in a few hours. Jesus.
They fall into a comfortable silence, the kind they would spend days in at Baker Street, (the type John misses with a fierce ache), just letting the road pass beneath them.
It's going to be fine. This is John's mantra, repeated over and over, ever since…well, he's really needed it since the stag night, especially. Because, Jesus. A wound he thought was long healed (I love you) had apparently only been loosely sutured, and has ripped right open and is bleeding all over his life. If John's honest, he's been surviving for years on It's going to be fine, ever since the first day he spent with Sherlock, the first moment. I know what I feel, and it's going to be fine. He'd tossed the sentiment into the bin for the two years Sherlock was dead and everything was not fucking fine, but since Mary. And since he'd come back. It's going to be fine.
He's getting married. He loves Mary. So much. It's going to be fine.
Shit. Maybe the silence isn't so comfortable. Maybe they should talk.
"Mrs. Hudson head off all right this morning?" John asks, hoping Sherlock can't detect the minor tremor in his voice.
Sherlock spares a quick glance in John's direction, then back to the road. "Mr. Chatterjee has left his wife. Well, the one in London at least. Spirited Mrs. Hudson away to catch the train before I left to retrieve you."
"Oh good. Anyone else coming out today?" Sherlock has the entire wedding cataloged in his mind palace, which means that John hasn't been paying anything any mind. Probably not so wise a choice, he realises.
"Molly sent me a text. She and that…Tom…are driving out with Lestrade."
John lets out a laugh. "Bloody hell, that's a car full. "
"You have cheap friends. Only willing to pay for one night."
"They're your friends, too."
Sherlock flashes him a quick frown, brows drawn in query, then back to driving.
"They are," says John. "I wouldn't know one of them but for you." Our friends he thinks. Christ, he needs to get there, see Mary. Get married. Why didn't he go out there with her the night before?
Sherlock makes a noncommittal "hmm" and then silence descends again. It’s going to be fine. John admires the landscape and wonders what Mary is getting up to. She'd texted that morning ("Sleep well?", "I did!", he'd lied.), but he hasn't heard any details since.
Miles pass. Time ticks on, traffic is light. He's considering suggesting to Sherlock that they find a stop so he can have a piss (coffee) when Sherlock speaks.
"Is he coming?"
"Hmm." John looks at Sherlock, whose eyes are fixed on the road. "Who?"
"Your…" He hesitates before, "Major…Sholot? He never sent a reply."
"Sholto. And yes, he'll be there." Second time Sherlock's brought him up, which is, well, odd. "Why do you ask?"
"No one else from the army is attending."
"No one else was so important to me."
Silence again, but this one is dense. John can almost hear the whirr of Sherlock's mind. Bollocks.
"This…Sholto. He was your…friend…?" So hesitant, he hardly sounds like himself. John glances over, observes a look of utter confusion on Sherlock's face.
"I assumed you'd deduced everything about him already, as he's so interesting to you," John replies, heart racing a bit. James is not a topic he's eager to discuss with Sherlock. Ever.
Long pause. John hopes maybe the subject is being dropped, but can feel Sherlock's quick glances his way, as he does when he's trying to sort something out. Then Sherlock says, quietly, almost to himself, "Yes. I believe I have." Even longer pause, John hopes again that it is done. Then, "But… you've only ever shown interest in women."
Shit. Bugger. Fuck.
"True, since I've known you, that's true." John swallows. That sounds more implicating that he intends.
"Oh." Sherlock falls quiet again, and John lets out a long breath, waiting for the next query, because, shit, did he just out himself to Sherlock on the way to his own wedding?
After a few minutes, John realizes Sherlock isn't going to ask any more questions, and the gentle "Oh," is left hanging in the silence between them.
More miles pass.
John settles back against the seat, arms crossed. Pulse still high, he should relax, maybe he'll have a bit of a nap now. Eyes closed, feels good. Don't look at Sherlock.
"Ah, here's the turn. Stonehenge," Sherlock says, and turns on the indicator to exit. "You need the loo. Coffee was over an hour ago."
"Are you suggesting we stop at Stonehenge so I can use the loo?"
"Well, I will as well."
"Fine, yes. That's…perfect. The toilets at Stonehenge." The day is already odd enough, and it’s only just gone nine. Far too early for the Druids, John thinks. But the stone circle is in sight, just off the road, and he really does need to go.
The Visitor Center is open, thank god. After the toilet, John leaves Sherlock for a moment and buys a second coffee at the café to replace the first. The ticketing office is just opening, and the grounds are quiet. "The London tour buses haven't had time to get out this far yet," Sherlock offers, though John hasn't asked.
"That's because they don't have you charting their path through traffic," John says, but Sherlock has walked off. John trots to catch up.
"No tickets available. Have to buy in advance." Sherlock isn't looking at John, and he is walking fast, towards a side door marked as an exit for employees only.
"So, back to the car?"
"I think not." Sherlock eyes the room with a look John knows well, the one that says, I've got a plan, John, I suggest you get ready to follow me. In all of his years of friendship with Sherlock, John has never been able to resist that look.
"Sherlock, the time table? My wedding?" John says, knowing it's futile, and frankly giddy that Sherlock wants to have one last (stop it, John) adventure with him. Sherlock pulls out what appears to be an employee badge on a lanyard and swipes it on the keypad by the door, which clicks open.
"We're ahead of schedule. Come, John. It's our national heritage." Sherlock darts through.
John sighs and glances around to be sure no one is watching them. "Damn it, Sherlock, you stole…wait!" He grabs the door handle just before it latches, and squeaks through. Sherlock flashes the badge again as they pass by the shuttle bus, and the driver waves them on board.
"I'm getting married today," John mutters to himself as the bus starts up the road.
"Yes," Sherlock whispers back.
Salisbury Plain is not, John thinks, ideal for sneaking around. Rather stark and open, but he's playing it Sherlock's way, just walking hard and brisk, as if they belong there. Sherlock stops every few minutes and emphatically points something out to John, miming a private tour, which is apparently to be their cover if anyone stops them.
Sherlock, unsurprisingly, (or perhaps surprisingly, what use could a vast store of knowledge about Stonehenge be to him?) is an excellent tour guide, identifying henges and barrows and stones, relating various details of neolithic life. If only John could focus for a moment, but Jesus, this is really too much.
They'd hopped off the shuttle to walk part of the way, and John has broken a sweat by the time they reach the stones. He recalls the day here with Amira, so many years ago. She had insisted they hold hands at the northern point on the circle while she recited a series of incantations. John had insisted on adding several intense make-out sessions to the ritual. They'd been rudely interrupted by a tour bus full of pensioners. Jesus, John thinks, that was a long time ago.
It's windy, and quiet. The mornings' visitors are spread around the circle, giving each other space. Sherlock falls silent, picks up his pace and steps ahead of John. John falls back, watches him.
Sherlock is silhouetted against the stones in the morning light, coat gently billowing, hands deep in pockets, hair ruffled by the wind, and John's throat goes dry. It's going to be fine.
"What do you think?" John manages to ask.
"I don't like mysteries this old." Sherlock doesn't turn around.
"Haven't they worked it all out, though? Worshiping the sun, or something? Not really a mystery anymore." John stares at the massive blocks and Sherlock's back, and thinks about time, and how much of it there is, and yet how he's out of it, now.
Sherlock turns around, his eyes bright. "There's always something they've got wrong."
John grins. "Sherlock, we don't have time for you to solve the enigma of Stonehenge on the way to my wedding."
"Spoilsport," Sherlock replies, but he trots back to John's side willingly enough.
It falls quiet again, and it feels to John like the conversation has been left half finished, like there's more to say. They walk a circuit around the monument, John hugging his jacket closed against the gusts.
"I wonder if anyone else will stop here on their way? Greg, Molly, and Tom, maybe?" John says aloud, to fill the quiet. "I mean, not just for the loo."
Sherlock remains quiet.
"Glad we did," John adds with a smile. "And not just for the loo." They take up walking again, starting back for the shuttle. Sherlock's pace is fast, his thinking pace, John notes.
Then, without breaking his stride, "Your…Sholto. How is he getting to the wedding?"
Again? "I don't know, Sherlock. I suspect he'll drive. I'm not even sure where he lives any more. I haven't known for years."
Sherlock looks away, but when he turns back his voice is suddenly like a hiss, he's hardly moving his lips. Like he's picking a fight out of thin air. "Bloody ridiculous, driving all the way into the middle of nowhere when we could have had then entire thing right at home. In London." John tries not to react, not sure what this is about. His heart accelerates.
"Sherlock, you agreed to Sutton Mallet. You planned the whole bloody thing! Why didn't you say?"
"Because." Dismissive hand wave.
"Because, eh? Brilliant."
"Because, John." Sherlock says, his voice loud in the quiet of the plain, "I didn't think this would actually happen."
"You. Marriage. This."
Shit. Jesus. It's going to be fine. "Well, what did you think was going to happen?"
Sherlock's lips purse into a thin line, and he looks, for a moment, like he might say something more, but instead he launches himself down the pathway and back towards John's wedding.
John wants to kick something. He runs to catch up, and they walk in silence across Salisbury Plain.
Sherlock breaks the silence. "Did you have sex with him?"
"Jesus, Sherlock!" John's stomach drops, his face burns.
"I'm not talking with you about this."
"I'm not talking to you about this."
God, John wants to punch him. Or kiss him. "Don't do that, look all smug like you've got it all figured out."
Serious again. "How could I not know, John?"
"You never asked."
"But I know everything about you."
That stops Sherlock dead in his tracks. John stops, too, steps out of the path, let's a crowd of visitors pass them by. He can't meet Sherlock's eyes.
"You don't, Sherlock. You've missed a bloody lot, actually." There's a pressure building in John's chest. This is it, the last chance to know, know, he's making the right choice. He wishes he had a shot of whiskey, something to give him nerve, but he only has the air around them, the ancient air, full of timeless myth. He breathes deep and it buoys him up, makes him brave, just for a moment (all he needs).
The lapels of the Belstaff are good to grip onto, so John does, and then he leans up, pauses for a moment, (It's going to be fine.), and kisses Sherlock, quick and light and right on the mouth and then says it again, "A bloody lot." John thinks his heart might pound right out of his chest.
Sherlock goes still, his eyes glassy and staring somewhere far away (or deep inside), and then he pulls his brows together in confusion, leans in and kisses John back. It's soft and simple, just warm lips and breath, noses knocking, a little awkward at first but then they find it, and Christ, it's everything that John has needed, for his whole life. His heart pounds as the kiss goes on, just the press of lips against each other, nothing more. John lets go of the coat and cups his hands around the roughness of Sherlock's jaw. Jesus.
They're both breathing hard as they break apart, and Sherlock's brows are still pinched, his eyes full of concern, his hands deep in his pockets.
"John?" It's a question.
"Sherlock." It's going to be fine.
"You are marrying Mary," is what he says, and he steps back.
There it is. An answer at last. Thank god. John deflates, remembers Mary, and his newly tailored suit in the car, and his vows in the pocket. "Yes. Right." It's going to be fine. "And you don't want this."
"I can't." He can't. John knows this. Can't form relationships, can’t reciprocate affection, no social conscience. Can't.
"I know." John rubs his eyes, looks out over the plain.
They stand quietly together for a moment. Then Sherlock looks at his watch, and John knows that his time is really up.
They don't talk the rest of the way to Sutton Mallet, and when they pull in at the church precisely at 10:30 (as scheduled, to the minute) for a run-through, Mary is there, waiting out front. John looks at her and knows, knows, he's made his choice at last.
It's no act when he hops out of the Land Rover and sweeps her into a kiss. She's his wife. It's going to be fine.
Later, at the inn, John is finishing dressing when there is a knock at the door.
Sherlock, in his formal gear. Ready. John takes a deep breath, gives Sherlock a look over. He's bloody perfect. "You look good."
Sherlock has not stepped into the room, but he leans in against the door frame, pitching his voice low. "John, before we go."
John is ready. He's been thinking about what to say all afternoon, raises a hand to stop him. "Sherlock, let's just forget all that, eh? Blame wedding nerves and too little sleep, that was all. You're my best friend. You're my Best Man." He chucks Sherlock on the shoulder, which he hadn't planned. "I've already forgotten it myself."
Sherlock smiles then, just a little. "Good, then," he says. "Good. So, I'll wait here for you to...finish."
John looks down at himself. His waistcoat is half buttoned.
"I'll just be a moment," John says.
"No hurry, John," Sherlock says. John can still hear him, voice muffled, as he shuts the door. "It's all going to be fine."
John closes his eyes, and wishes.