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Sherlock never told John that he drank Horlicks instead of tea some mornings, or that he smoked in the stairwell late at night when he couldn’t sleep – dropping the butts into an old Nescafé coffee tin he kept under a floorboard by the door. He never told him how he failed sixth form Chemistry or how Mycroft read How the Grinch Stole Christmas! aloud to him every Christmas Eve since he was five. That he sometimes wished his hair were less curly, his features more regular. That he didn’t have a favourite colour.

He never talked about how much he loved the pocket watch his grandfather left him or how the worn volume of sheet music of Saint-Saens’ Violin Concerto No. 3 he kept in the night table drawer by his bed had helped him through those first difficult months after rehab.

He’d never told John that he loved him. He always thought there would be time for that.

But then time stopped.

//

During those long two years away, Sherlock told himself that if he were ever given another chance, he’d do it differently. There would be no secrets this time, no hidden motives, no half-lies masquerading as truth. He’d tell John everything – perhaps not starting with I love you but certainly ending there.

And so he did, even if it took far longer than he’d planned. Three years after he returned, two years after Samantha was born, a year after Mary disappeared. And that the conversation – or at least the beginnings of one – took place at Sherlock’s parents’ between Mycroft’s annual reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and John putting his daughter to bed in Sherlock’s childhood cot, was both ridiculous and perfect.

//

If this were a children’s story, happily ever after would begin here. But it’s not, so they go for a walk and Sherlock finishes saying what he needs to and John listens and nods. And when he’s done, all John says is “Finally.” Sherlock looks confused and John says he’ll explain it later. And then John leans into him and kisses him hard and whispers in his ear, “Not so much of a Grinch after all, are you?”

And Sherlock learns that life is not a fairy tale, or a poem, or a children’s story. It’s just his life and it’s everything he ever wanted.