Some years ago -- a few decades, in fact -- Sherlock Holmes was a little boy living in a big house in the country, ensconced comfortably with both his parents, his older brother, and on average a household staff of seven. He could play music in the conservatory, draw in the sitting room, or do his own experiments in a space set out just for him in his father’s lab. He could read books in two libraries, climb trees on the grounds, even ride a horse he’d been given, a brown and white thoroughbred named Franklin. There was little Sherlock couldn’t do if he so wished, and he spent most of his time blissfully unaware of how very unusual that was.
At the same time, not so very far away, there was another little boy named John, who was growing up with a doctor for a father, an inconsistent friend for a sister (an inconstancy that was as much his fault as hers), and a mother whose primary job seemed to be confusing him as often as was possible. Their house wasn’t big, but it was nice, and in a nice part of town, which he knew was very important. John did well in school, and was nice to his peers, and tried not to come home too dirty. Some days this was enough to make everyone happy, but not always, and John spent most of his time trying to figure out why, without ever finding an answer.
Now despite the relatively small degree of separation neither boy was aware of the other’s existence. No reason for them to, with so little in common. They did, however, share the ubiquitous experience of learning to ride a bicycle, and likewise shared an opinion of the endeavor: they hated it.
Sherlock had taken to it as he did most everything else -- that is to say, easily -- but had found its limited functionality frustrating. He wasn’t allowed to ride in the house, or in the stables, and not at night, or during the day as a means to escape his nannies. It was tossed, disgustedly, on the ground, and quickly forgotten.
John, on the other hand, would have loved to ride a bike, but not a bright pink one with too many frills, a faulty break, and the accumulated damage from too much time under his sister’s harsh rule. He complained, and his mother cried and told him he was selfish. He decided he didn’t want to ride a bicycle anyway.
They both learned (and would be re-taught throughout the years with distressing repetition) that it is rare for a person to get what they want, in the way that they want it, exactly when they want to have it. They both became wary of things that looked too good to be true, and shunned those things that seemed ideal, before the ideal could turn out to be less than so and disappoint them anyway.
This is all important to know, because it explains how, all these decades later, these two intelligent people -- one of them a legitimate genius -- could be so completely thick.
The eighth time Sherlock proposed to John, it was on a Thursday afternoon in the middle of a Tesco. And like the seven times before, he got rejected. This was likely because the attempt as well as the trip itself was precipitated by a several-weeks-long argument involving laptops, the relative value of a coat, and beans.
That was to say, they were arguing over money.
“Sherlock, we’ve got to talk,” John had opened, that crisp October morning. They’d been home from America for scarcely three months, the both of them hardly healed enough to be out of bed, let alone puttering around the flat like a pair of old men, but such were the inclinations of two people more comfortable in action than at rest. John had been going through the enormous pile of paperwork Mycroft, or more likely Mycroft’s army of maids, had collected and left on the kitchen table, for once cleared of Sherlock’s experiments and now piled high with every imaginable scrap of paper. He’d spent two hours sorting it, and now had a collection of receipts and bills spread out before him, a calculator and a puckered expression to match. “Listen, I know you’re the world’s best consulting detective, and as fulfilling a job as that is to the both of us, the honest truth of it is that we’re a bit broke.”
“World’s only consulting detective,” Sherlock corrected from his flop on the sofa. “And money, John, really? Our domestic narrative continues apace, then,” he added, torturing his violin for a moment. It hadn’t quite been the same since Moriarty had gotten hold of it. “Mummy will be pleased.”
“I’m serious, Sherlock.”
“I know you are,” Sherlock replied, with that tilt to his mouth that said just how adorable he found John. It would never not be utterly irritating. “Business will pick up soon.”
"I certainly hope so, or all that work will have been for nothing."
John still wasn’t sure how exactly they had turned 221C, which on first viewing had mold crawling up the wallpaper and what looked suspiciously like mouse holes, into a serviceable office space. It had taken a solid month of ripping out floors and walls and fixtures, rewiring and re-plastering and replacing with a budget that didn’t seem to ever run out and which John was steadfastly sure came from Adella, before they’d transformed 221C from a room that ought to be condemned into an elegant office. Every single moment of backbreaking work was worth it when they got their first client.
“You know, they have a pool going on down at the Yard,” Lestrade had said, sitting in the cushy leather chair John had found at a second hand shop (and reupholstered himself) with a flourish. He’d looked at the two of them as if they were being very charming and very, very amusing. “It looks good, by the way.”
“You can inform your half-witted compatriots that they have all lost out on the bet, and I will be around to collect the winnings on Tuesday,” Sherlock had answered, striding in from God knew where. He hadn’t even gone upstairs to drop off his coat and scarf, instead dropped them onto the large sidebar absently.
“I don’t know about that,” Lestrade had said, leaning back in his seat with a smug little smile. “Half of them can’t believe it -- Anderson hasn’t stopped laughing for two days.” Any mention of Anderson usually set Sherlock off like a whirl-a-gig, but after a moment, when all Sherlock did was stare at him with those bloody enormous alien eyes of his, he immediately segued into, “Got a case for you. Murdered young woman in a chip shop, in a back room with no exit.”
“None. The locks at the front and back entrances haven’t been tampered with, and there are no obvious signs of trauma -- she’s just dead, and we have no idea how she got to such a state. We need your help, Sherlock.”
To John’s great delight, Sherlock had sat behind the desk -- cherry, gleaming finish, oiled by the two of them to within an inch of its life -- and typed at the computer for a moment before turning the monitor on its swiveling pedestal. “I assume that the folder you left in the car holds the particulars of the case. While John goes out to fetch it, please review our rates. If satisfied, I will print our contract and we’ll be off.”
The stunned expression on Lestrade’s face had been worth every hour they’d spent tearing out flours and painting walls.
That had been nearly a month ago – the three hundred pounds they’d received from the MET for the case had long ago been used in food, and as Sherlock was somehow morally opposed to advertising their services, that led them back to square one.
That was, they were utterly broke.
“Between the exorbitant amount of taxis, the supplies for your lab, the rent, and the utilities… my pension doesn’t cover even a quarter of it, and whatever money you bring in from God knows where isn’t doing any better. Frankly, we’re at the point where we’re going to have to change our lifestyle a bit,” John said, scratching the back of his head with a slightly alarmed exhale, knocking the enormous horn-rimmed glasses no one but Sherlock knew he wore slightly askew.
Sherlock’s answer to this was a mighty rendition of something John vaguely recognized as Bach, only he didn’t think Bach had ever played on a waterlogged violin.
John left him to it, and with the sort of fastidious care all military men took in everything they did, began to balance their checkbook. By the end of it he was shaken, and though Sherlock didn’t seem a bit perturbed, John was panicked, as all normal human beings (military or not) were when they realized they had no idea how they were going to feed themselves until the next cheque.
He spent three days carefully planning, and then he slipped away one morning and sold the three suits Mycroft had gifted him. He got a good amount to keep them comfortable for the duration of their recovery, if they could cut back on the frivolities Sherlock had insisted on since John had known him (the odds weren’t in their favor). Gone were the taxis, though of course they didn’t have much use for them at the moment, as was the eating out, the run down to the corner store for that tea they both liked, and almost all meat. John read up on recipes he’d downloaded from the internet and planned twenty nine days of meals with the skill only a surgeon could employ -- the perfect balance of calories, vitamins and nutrients to keep them healing without any loss to energy. The magic John could make with only a vast assortment of beans at his disposal was a skill taught him to him by months of field work and a hungry belly.
He didn’t think Sherlock had even noticed, as the man wasn’t a vegetarian so much as a nothingtarian, until one day (day fourteen, red lentil curry with basmati rice) Sherlock had stated, "Three and a half pounds."
John had glanced at him over the top of his glasses. "Are we talking money or weight?"
"Weight. You've lost three and a half pounds in the last two weeks." He didn't make it sound like good news. He did, however, manage to make it seem like John had lost the weight just to be difficult.
"Between the walking and the lack of biscuits it was bound to happen," John had answered, turning back to his paper. It was entirely fair for him to assume the conversation was over; Sherlock had a habit of throwing out seemingly random observations about John's person and then resuming his previous activities as though once he’d made them both aware of the details there was nothing further to discuss. John generally found it rather flattering, despite the way one of every three comments were announced in public venues and less than that could only very generously be considered back-handed compliments.
This time, for better or worse, Sherlock wasn't finished. "Yes, where have all the biscuits gone?"
John kept reading, more than half his attention still on the dire news that self-service checkouts had become a growing phenomenon and not a failed social experiment. "You mean the ones I haven't been buying? I assume they're still safely on the shelves at Budgens."
"And the reason your shopping has been so sub-par lately?"
"Because our finances are sub-par -- you remember that conversation we had a few weeks ago? The decrease in money, the increase in beans?"
Sherlock had stared for a long moment. "I must have deleted it."
"We're poor, Sherlock." John's glasses went by the wayside so he could rub at his eyes. "And by the way, that ridiculous excuse is getting really old."
"So is this obsession you have with eating beans at every meal. When are you going shopping again?"
"When we have money," John answered.
Sherlock had rolled his eyes and flung the debit card he pulled from inside his jacket at John. "Money, money, money -- we have plenty of cash on hand, now will you please just go get the damn biscuits."
That, it should be noted, was the point it stopped being A Discussion and officially became An Argument.
"What bloody planet are you living on?" John asked. "Or do not know that either?" Sherlock's eyes had narrowed, but thankfully for everyone John kept talking before he could interrupt. "We don't have any cash, Sherlock. None. I sold clothes to pay the rent last month. You're lucky I didn't sell that damn coat of yours."
"Keep talking," John threatened.
Perhaps a bit more context was necessary: this was not the first time The Coat would be brought up in an argument.
As far as Sherlock was concerned the coat was Off Limits. Its origins were as an unwanted gift from Mycroft, back when Sherlock was putting more cocaine into his body than food. The Coat had been as close as Mycroft could get to making Sherlock traipse around in a blanket, though Sherlock (unsurprisingly) only appreciated it for its dramatic flair. For similar reasons though he'd hated prep school Sherlock had always been a fan of the uniform, and even now still thought he looked rather dashing in a cape.
But it seemed that John was not going to cease and desist with what Sherlock found to be his very irritating compulsion to bring up The Coat as often as possible. Many of their most recent arguments about money had found their origins with that first discussion of its’ relative value. It was an argument so inflexible that two days later it derailed Sherlock’s first less than stellar attempt at a proposal.
"You're going to be cold," Sherlock had intoned, as John shrugged into his coat and headed for the door.
John had paused and glanced back to where the windows were displaying a day just as grey and sullen as the five previous. "It's not too chilly; I'll be fine."
Sherlock hadn't even looked up from his book -- a ridiculously over-sized tome called The Hive and the Honey Bee -- to berate John. "Your coat was secondhand when you bought it a year ago; now it's irreparably damaged from all the strain you’ve put it through. You'll start to shiver a block from here and by the time you get to the rehab centre you'll be in a foul mood, which will only worsen as the day wears on. You'll snap at the receptionist, feel guilty for it, shiver the whole way home and proceed to yell at me for leaving my experiment near your latest failed attempt to hide the taste of beans with yet more beans."
John stared at Sherlock and mentally counted to ten; Sherlock estimated John would get to seven before giving up and despite no outward admission from John Sherlock knew he was right. "You could just move the experiment."
Sherlock turned a page. "And that would make you warmer, how, exactly? Besides, you could just get a new coat."
"What, like yours? Your thirteen-hundred-pound cloak?"
"Do you really think I paid for this?"
John had zipped up his coat defiantly. "Should have known it was a gift, we can't have you forgetting what entitlement feels like."
The book went down so Sherlock's look of disdain had unhindered access to its intended target. "Says the man who feels free cake is owed to him on random Tuesdays."
"It wasn't a random Tuesday, Sherlock, it was my birthday, Christ you're such a complete tosser."
Sherlock had then given John a look which, at the time, John took great offense to. Unfortunately for both of them the unpleasant expression actually stemmed from a bout of affection Sherlock hadn't anticipated, and without nearly enough forethought he threw out the words, "Would you like to?"
He had expected John to ask to what Sherlock was referring, and then Sherlock would have answered along the lines of proposing a binding legal ceremony to keep John at his side and in warm coats for the foreseeable future, day saved and problem solved. John, however, was more put-out by Sherlock's slight against his bean cuisine than he’d ever admit and thus entirely missed his cue. "No. I wouldn't waste thirteen hundred quid on a single article of clothing, even if I could. Just move the experiment before I get back and don't ruin dinner."
Sherlock watched John stride out the door with the same walk he always had -- like he was searching for an excuse to break into some act of violence -- and huffed in frustration. The next time would be better.
The next time wasn’t better.
Sherlock proposed for the second time on account of the idea that perhaps, perhaps, John hadn't realized it was a proposal the first go around.
That he did so in the middle of a foot chase along the Thames at two in the morning was, for such an intelligent man, blisteringly stupid.
John grabbed him by the elbow as he was want to do when people were firing at them, and dragged him down behind an enormous stack of crates. Crates were, unsurprisingly, not good for keeping oneself and one’s partner alive under a hail of bullets.
The very possibility -- “I can’t!” Sherlock shouted over the pat-pat-pat of bullets, the louder, almost deafening crack of John’s return fire. “Without you!”
John yelled back, “I know, I’m the one with the gun!” and fully distracted Sherlock with his leaping and shooting and general air of confidence, which had an alarming effect on the connection between Sherlock’s brain and his libido.
Thankfully, John grabbed him about the arm and yanked him up and went running before things could get inappropriate, and he almost didn’t mind that John was exceptionally thick because there were certain joys to running directly behind him that cured many ills.
The third time Sherlock proposed to John was only one week later. While engaged in a foot chase along the Thames at two in the morning was good for one’s sense of adventure, it was less than ideal for the humors, especially so shortly following their recovery from the wounds inflected by Moriarty.
That is, Sherlock came down with a nasty case of the flu.
He spent four miserable days with various liquids coming out of his various orifices, each one worse than the last. He sweat through fevers and shivered through chills, and whined like it was an Olympic sport he was determined to win. Through it all John stoically wiped his brow, and made him soup and tea, and then different kinds of soup and tea when those weren’t sufficient.
Sherlock could only vaguely recall blurting, “Marry me,” and John’s response had been to laugh -- laugh -- at him, and adjust the IV he’d decided Sherlock needed, and help him struggle to sit up to fix his pillow, which had slid uncomfortably down under his shoulders.
That he’d also kissed his temple softly, and stroked his fingers through Sherlock’s tangled, sweaty curls, and murmured, “You’re a right nutter,” in that tender, affectionate tone he sometimes got took the sting out of getting turned down for the third time, so that was something.
It took until proposal four (a particularly inspired one over a rotting corpse) for John to realize Sherlock was actually serious, and not under the influence of drugs, threats of violence from his family, or his own boredom. Unsurprisingly this knowledge only served to make the attempts even more of a catastrophe.
To be fair to John proposals four, five, and six were not in the best of taste, and included declarations like “against my better judgment I’ve clearly become dependent on your presence, and cementing these circumstances will be to both our benefit,” and “your family history of substance abuse, mental illness and general difficulty functioning aside, it’s not completely unlikely this would work.”
We will not speak of proposal number seven.
But back to ill-fated proposal number eight, otherwise known as The Tesco Incident.
“What about this, John? Does it fit in our budget, or must we go with skimmed again?” Sherlock asked, as he held up a gallon of semi-skimmed milk and looked mutinous.
Most other people would have been embarrassed; Sherlock’s voice carried (as did his aura of petulant rebellion) and several other shoppers glanced curiously in their direction. John, however, had a history of shouting abuse at not only other people but inanimate objects, and therefore took this in his stride. “It depends on whether or not I’ve got a voucher.”
John made quite a show of looking through his pockets, but came up empty-handed. “Doesn’t look like it,” he replied, eyeing Sherlock. Someone who didn’t know him might have mistaken that look for genuine concern. “Besides, I’m not even sure you should be drinking semi-skimmed -- open your coat and let me see your waistline.”
The coat was swept open, and Sherlock asked, in what was very possibly the snottiest tone ever thought into creation, “Shall I unbutton the Dolce & Gabbana while I’m at it?”
John made a sound like a muted roar. “You are the most insufferable, obnoxious infant I have ever--”
“Insufferable! Me!” Sherlock had never looked more offended. “I’m not the one planning our lives down to the letter!”
“Yes, oh, how silly of me to be worried about something as inconsequential as whether or not we’ll be eating tomorrow, or if we’ll have lights, or if we’ll have running water, or if we’ll have enough left over to buy the multitude of over the counter drugs we’re both still taking!”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed. “Is this your post-traumatic stress showing?”
John pressed both hands firmly to his face until he got control of himself. It took him a very long time. “Sherlock, listen. I know your family is rich. I know that to you, in regards to the way you grew up, money is a non-issue. And now, because of circumstances neither of us could control, we’re in this situation. I’m going to do my very best to find work, or beg Sarah for my job back, but until then I need you to work with me about this, alright?”
Sherlock stared at him, then blurted, “If we were married, this wouldn’t be an issue.”
Less a muted roar, more a cry of anguish. “Sherlock, I swear to God--”
“Why are you so afraid of making what we have, what we will always have, a binding legal document?” Sherlock asked. He looked lost, and frustrated, but in his opinion better that than the hurt he’d never admit to in the first place. Sherlock had been quite convinced he’d managed to extricate those kinds of bothersome emotions quite some time ago, long before he’d even met John. To be wrong about the same thing in two different ways was incredibly obnoxious.
Whatever the origins, Sherlock’s expression knocked John appallingly off balance, and he stuttered helplessly for a moment before snapping, “Shut up, Sherlock, just… shut up and get the milk, any milk you want.” He shoved his trolley away, where it careened loudly with the dairy case. “I’m going home.”
“Just tell me why you’re so opposed to marriage,” Sherlock demanded, trying to point at him while still holding the milk. “You’re not having intimate relations with anyone else, I’m not having intimate relations with anyone else, even though it’d be much easier in the long run. We share finances, household goods, ninety-two percent of our time, and most bodily fluids. What difference should it make if we‘re bound together on paper?”
A terrible moment flashed into existence where John had looked as if he might cry; Sherlock was by now unfortunately experienced enough to spot the signs. But John -- who from the age of nineteen had been throwing himself into his role of Most Stoic Man Alive with the kind of method acting gusto not seen since Brando in his heyday -- instead managed to tone it down into a muttered response. “Because, because you’re not thinking this through. What could you possibly want with a crippled army doctor for the rest of your life? My arm is irreparably damaged. My limp will only get worse the older I get. One day in the not-so-distant future I won’t be able to move around by myself anymore, and you… you’re like a fountain of energy.” The matter-of-fact tone John was using made the whole thing worse, Sherlock felt. “I won’t be able to follow you anymore, and then what use will I be?”
The milk almost fell out of Sherlock’s grip, which resulted in quite an awkward shuffle while he replied with the ever-brilliant “What?” He was constitutionally opposed to using the word ‘dumb’ in relation to his own person, but in a war between pride and accuracy the latter won out, and in all accuracy Sherlock was dumbfounded. “I really think an emotional breakdown over this is excessive.”
“I’m not having a breakdown,” John answered.
“You look like you’re going to cry.”
“I’m not going to cry!” John, well, cried. It didn’t matter that his eyes were completely dry - he looked like a kicked dog, a Pug maybe, if Pugs could make their lower lip tremble slightly. “You are such an idiot, a bloody idiot.”
“I must be then, as I simply cannot understand how a reasonably intelligent human being can be this unbelievably thick,” Sherlock said. “Alright, let’s try this another way: John, our relations are at this point the emotional equivalent of being, what is it called, blue-balled. In the interest of my sanity, and by relationship your own peace of mind, just please end this and finish me off.”
There may have been a cackle from somewhere behind him, but John was too busy glaring at Sherlock to search for the perpetrator. It was the kind of expression that could send a normal man running; it took a fair bit of concentration. “Thank you for that charming declaration Sherlock, really. In the middle of a Tesco, even.” It aggravated John to no end that Sherlock was entirely undisturbed by his glaring; John had actually used it on an unsuspecting officer several cases back just to make sure it still worked (it had). He then scrubbed his wrist over his eyes and snapped, “Get your damned semi-skimmed.”
“I don’t want the damned milk! I want you to say yes!”
“I know you do!” John yelled back, and swept an arm out at their audience, which included a collection of uni kids in the process of buying liquor, several shopping mums and what looked suspiciously like the general manager. “Everyone in the bloody store knows you do!”
Sherlock lost his battle with the milk and half-hurled it into their empty trolley, during which their audience held its collective breath to see if this domestic was shifting into the property damage part of the proceedings. The milk had dented but held together, and fully one-third of the viewing party was openly disappointed. Sherlock meanwhile had forgotten the milk as soon as he sent it sailing into the hands of physics. “If you don’t want to be with me just say so. I’m selfish, John, you know that, you tell me so at least once every three days. I need to know.” He had continued his not so rare display of temper by dragging his fingers through his hair and momentarily fisting them tight. “And have I ever indicated to you that I find you in any way to be less than acceptable?” John had opened his mouth and Sherlock had hurried to qualify, “In a real way, not just when you’re saying or doing something stupid?”
“You said on our first date that you were married to your work,” John answered immediately, pointing a finger at him.
“…You consider that our first date?” Color flushed across Sherlock’s cheeks. “You said you weren’t my date several times, towards the end at a fairly high volume--”
“I was surprised! And confused -- I, it, you threw me off-guard.” The audience, watching this sad display of floundering, had no problem imagining just such a scenario.
“--And you didn’t put out at the end of the night, so clearly it was not a date.”
“Are you kidding me? Do you hear yourself?” John demanded. “So what, it’s only a date if it ends in sex?”
“According to almost everything on ITV4, yes.” Sherlock was at that point able to speak with the firsthand knowledge garnered only from untold hours of viewing. There’d been a case in-between proposals six and seven that involved the texted phrase ‘Your sex is on fire’; because Sherlock had been unaware the texting girlfriend was actually referring to a song there had been an awkward and utterly unnecessary interrogation about STDs that had gone nowhere. Afterward Sherlock had immediately begun to put more energy into familiarizing himself with modern pop culture references, unwilling to let it hinder him again where John (or Lestrade) could be a witness to it. “John, you’re being a moron,” he finished, as though that resolved the matter.
John rolled his eyes, clearly still annoyed. However a woman behind him made an ill-considered assessment, and seemed to think this was an appropriate time to interject with her opinion. “That’s a horrible thing to say to your boyfriend.”
Sherlock had given her his customary ‘I do not know this plebe’ look, which was analogous to the expression most people have when they’re scraping dog shit off their shoe. She was offended before he even opened his mouth (which, of course, he did). “Ma’am, may I suggest you concern yourself first with your husband’s gambling problem? And yes,” he continued, glancing over her quickly before turning back to John, “you are too big for those pants; the diet’s not going to work if you keep slipping in late night desserts.”
There was a gasp from the audience, and John rubbed at the bridge of his nose and tried to pretend he was somewhere else. Sherlock stared at him with his usual unnerving intensity. “Well, John?”
“Well, what?” John shot back. He’d been down this road before and it was really, truly, breaking the British core of him to be a party to such a ridiculous domestic in the middle of a Tesco.
“Sir,” said the suspected store-manager, with a look like the grim reaper, “we’re going to be asking you to leave, but if you’d like to answer the man first you’re more than welcome to.”
John bit the inside of his cheek before turning to point at Sherlock. “You hear that? Another store I can’t shop in.”
“That’s it?” Sherlock pressed. “That’s the answer you have for me?”
John looked away, embarrassed -- now he was embarrassed, Christ there was something wrong with him -- and found he had nothing else to say.
When he looked back Sherlock was gone.
Sherlock hadn’t gone particularly far, though the speed with which he abandoned the incident was impressive. No, like any person out of their depth Sherlock went to wallow in the comforting and familiar.
Unfortunately for DI Lestrade that meant enacting a series of citizen’s arrests on random passersby in the street before disappearing into the cell he’d accosted as his own in one of the rarely-used drunk tanks. He’d originally taken over the space when Lestrade had refused to give him an office, and over time the cell had somehow managed to acquire an armchair, table, and desk lamp. Lestrade was preparing for the day he walked in and found a shag rug.
“Where’s John?” Lestrade asked, almost afraid of the answer.
The look he received for this line of inquiry could have stripped the paint from the walls, it was so foul and dark. If life were an Acme cartoon Sherlock would have had a rain cloud over his head, complete with lightning and thunder. “Must John be underfoot constantly?”
“Seeing as how the two of you have been inseparable since he came stumbling into your life, do you want me to answer that honestly?” Lestrade asked, leaning a shoulder against the wall and crossing his arms. “Had a lover’s tiff, have you?”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed to dangerous slits. “The same can be said for you -- slept another night in your office, did you?”
“Catty. Now I know you and John have had a serious fight.” Lestrade sighed. “I’ve called your brother.”
The sheer betrayal that crossed Sherlock’s face would have been funny in any other situation. “You’ve done what? You called my brother?”
“Had to,” Lestrade answered, straightened out of his slouch. “The boys down in in-processing are going to come after your head if not -- do you realize how many people you dragged in for parking tickets and expired licenses? I’ve got grannies crying their eyes out right at this very moment, you sick bastard.”
“Petty crimes is a multi-million pound problem in England!’ Sherlock yelled after his retreating back.
The smile on Mycroft’s face when he picked Sherlock up an hour later could best be described as beautific. “Hello, brother mine,” he practically beamed. It was in Sherlock’s opinion entirely uncalled for.
“Shut up,” Sherlock snapped, and slid into the limousine Mycroft insisted on trying to pass off as everyday transport.
“Why, pray tell, was I called down to the MET to pick you up? What with your new keeper, I thought those days were long behind us.”
“For the love of God, John isn’t here. I don’t know why all of you think he has to be constantly underfoot where ever I go!”
Mycroft looked startled enough that Sherlock reevaluated his last comment, and realized that his brother hadn’t actually asked where John was. A serious misstep, he realized, as Mycroft hummed and said, “This makes much more sense now.”
“Oh stuff it up your arse,” Sherlock snapped. “This is not funny, Mycroft. You have no idea --” He scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “I can’t do this anymore. John has driven me to the brink of my own sanity by being intentionally hard headed about the entire affair.”
“While that’s hardly a far ways to go, what affair would that be?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Sherlock huffed.
Mycroft blinked, and studied him, and then studied him again, and the obvious answer made him blurt, “No.”
“Of course marriage.”
The utterly blank expression that crossed Mycroft’s face would have been priceless, if Mycroft hadn’t cracked up laughing in the next moment. It wasn’t the refined, cultured chuckle more suited to his country club but the loud, helpless laughter from when they were boys, and it only got louder as Sherlock’s face contorted first into anger, then rage, until his eyes were wet and at least ten years had receded from his face.
“I’m going to blow up the M6,” Sherlock snarled, jiggling the door handle as if they weren’t going sixty miles an hour on said motorway. “I will kill you all.”
“You poor, hopeless simpleton,” Mycroft said, leaning back with a smile. “Honestly, the pair of you. It would be charming if it weren’t so pitiful.”
For a moment Sherlock’s head appeared as if it might actually blow up, but Mycroft just waved a hand to the driver -- who looked alarmed at the crazy person trying to jump out of his car -- and said over his brother’s ranting, “You really are absurdly romantic, Sherlock, it's bordering on the pathetic now. John requested your power of attorney months ago, in case you were ever hurt.”
“And you can take that umbrella and -- I beg your pardon?”
Like a cat in the cream, a smirk curled Mycroft’s lips. “Ages ago, before Moriarty’s arrest. I went with him to do it.”
Instead of demanding how Mycroft had arranged that one without his presence Sherlock snapped, “That he doesn’t wish my demise hardly means he wants to be around forever. It just means his endless, stupid guilt is once again at work.” He kicked the front seat. “I’ll give him something to be guilty about.”
“Mummy and I always did wonder.” Mycroft said, almost to himself, before-- “You’re made for each other, as much as two people can be. Surely you realized as much.”
“He’s turned me down eight times,” Sherlock said, staring out the window. “That’s the kind of evidence that would hold up in court.”
They didn’t say anything more, but the next day a certified letter showed up at 221B that contained the receipt for a B&B booked for that coming weekend, driving directions, and two thousand pounds in cash.
(When Sherlock called his office, furious, Anthea picked up and informed him that Mycroft was unreachable at this time, but had said to enjoy their vacation and he’d see them on Wednesday.)
Had the trip to the seaside village gone as planned, if they’d been able to sit and talk and kiss and make love, if they’d relaxed and forgotten about London for a while, it was very likely that on Sherlock’s ninth attempt John would have said yes. After all, John was not only a man but an old fashioned man -- he had needs, and one of them was to be wooed.
Instead some idiot decided on that particular weekend to murder some other idiot, so rather than the unexpected romantic getaway they’d both expected, they spent their Saturday knee-deep in pouring, pounding rain as Sherlock fucked around with his magnifying glass in the muck and John practiced his expressions from his military days, guaranteed to kill a man at twenty paces.
“It has to be here somewhere,” Sherlock muttered at a pile of mud, under what looked just like every other rock he’d examined in the last three hours.
John eyed him malevolently. “Look, we’ve established the existence of said evidence, can we please do the rest of this search in the morning? When it’s not raining freezing buckets?”
When Sherlock was still trying to win John’s hand he would have said yes; unfortunately for both of them Sherlock had given that up as a lost cause, like the experiment with the goldfish that had gone terribly, terribly wrong. No, like a true adult Sherlock had decided if he couldn’t win this game than he’d rather not play at all - in all honesty if it had been the kind of game he could flip off the table in a fit he would have. Marriage, Sherlock had decided, was an imbecilic, archaic, embarrassingly hetero-normative display that amounted to nothing more than a waste of time, energy, and money.
“No,” he snapped, and stomped over to the next pile of mud on his list. He’d just as soon shackle himself to Anderson for all eternity, he thought viciously. The very institution of marriage was by its nature that great a torture.
This was some truly terrible timing on his part.
They spent another four hours in the rain – Sherlock because he was snacking on his sour grapes and John because he seemed to have some sort of biological imperative to follow behind Sherlock like a bloody lost duckling – and by the time the both of them finally returned to the B&B it was half eight. The owner of the B&B, an elderly woman cut from the same cloth as Mrs Hudson, put on a roast to warm for them, and they showered, quick and perfunctory at best, in her downstairs washroom so as to not track mud through the house.
The dining room was empty when they got there, but the owner had left two steaming plates on a small dining tray, and a bottle of wine. As soon as they were sitting Sherlock took out his small notebook and pencil, waterlogged something awful, and scribbled something down. His tongue was caught between his teeth.
“Well, alright then,” John said, with a strange look on his face. “I love you, you know,” he added. “Even when you’re being an arse.”
Sherlock didn’t deign to give him but a fraction of his attention. “Duly noted.”
“You’re ridiculous, and an utter tosser, and painfully naïve about things.”
This time, Sherlock pinned him with a glare. “Is this something new that you’re going to do, listing my faults?”
“Sometimes you drive me so mad that I swear it takes everything not to grab you around the lapels and shake some sense into you,” John continued. “It’s like dealing with an overgrown child.”
And then John did the funniest thing. He got on his knee beside the table, and fished a small box from his pocket, and opened it. Inside was a man’s silver ring.
“You’re a slob, and unbelievably bad about money, and you have no sense of personal space, and I have never.... I’ve never loved anyone in my life half as much as I love you.”
“What the bloody blazes are you doing?” Sherlock blurted.
“Asking you to marry me,” John replied.
There was incoherent rage, and then there was the look on Sherlock's face. "You must be insane."
“So people have said,” John said, the corner of his mouth starting to turn down. Sherlock pressed a hand to his chest, closed his eyes and tried to breathe. “Are you alright?”
“Of course I’m not alright,” Sherlock snapped, then groaned and rubbed his fist into his chest. “This is a heart attack. You’ve given me a heart attack.”
“Sherlock,” John said with a frown -- he wasn’t even getting up. “If this is your way of turning me down--”
“As soon as I can breathe I’m going to kill you,” he answered sincerely, eyes closed.
"There must be a mental deficiency in you I somehow managed to miss," Sherlock said, more to himself than John, who was still on the ground, though looking less and less like he was proposing and more like he was about to jump into a rugby tackle and take Sherlock out at the knees. "Because no sane person would turn someone down eight times only to--"
Sherlock cut himself off and stood up, his hands flapping wildly, in his agitation overturning the nearest wine glass. "No. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I don't know what point you're trying to prove yet, but-- no." The Pinot noir dripped off the white tablecloth, and his mind reared back in horror at the number of times he'd just repeated himself.
“I’m not trying to prove any point,” John snapped, and had the gall to look hurt. “Half those times I didn’t even know you were proposing, and the other times --"
“I didn’t know you were being serious, Sherlock! Not until we got thrown out of that Tesco. I didn’t realize it was something you wanted -- that you were--” He cut himself off. "A simple no would suffice.”
"Oh shut up," Sherlock said, and got to his knees in front of him. "Of course I'll marry you."
"And it will be when I decide, in the manner I decide, in the place I decide, because I've had just about enough of you and it's obvious your relational skills are even worse than mine."
John’s mouth curved up, slowly, slowly at the corners, his eyes red and damp. “You’ll marry me?”
"I feel I've very clearly stated my opinion on the matter, John,” he said seriously, but the inescapably giddy feeling that bubbled up somewhere in his chest made him grin.
He leaned in, and John did the same, but before either of them reached their destination, Sherlock's phone rang. "Dammit Mycroft, you go beyond obnoxi--"
John grinned, and grabbed Sherlock by the lapels, and dragged him in for a kiss.
The phone ended up on the floor somewhere, Mycroft’s voice squawking from the speaker, but John was far too busy pushing his fingers through Sherlock’s hair and kissing him to care.
They had three weeks of blissful domesticity -- for them, which in reality meant two murders, a failed bank robbery, and a case of mistaken identity that was fascinating for the sheer number of pigeons one man could house -- before it all came to an abrupt halt at a midday visit from Lestrade.
"I need your help for a case," he said, clomping up the stairs with more exhaustion than usual. "One of that mountain of people you arrested turned out to be responsible for a little more than unpaid parking tickets."
Sherlock, from his incredibly awkward-looking perch on the couch, ignored Lestrade entirely. This left John to pick up the tedious, base job of actually communicating with the masses, or in this case, their most reliable employer. “What ‘mountain of people’?”
Lestrade looked between them in confusion. “From a few weeks back - you know, the day he went on a citizen’s arresting spree and pulled in a good five dozen? For a while there we thought he’d actually make it to a gross.”
Lestrade, never the sharpest knife in the drawer, didn’t catch on as to why Sherlock was suddenly frantically waving his arms behind John, or why John himself had a narrow-eyed look about him that only spelled trouble. “Come again?”
“We had teenagers, grandmothers, new mums -- frankly it was disgusting,” Lestrade continued, oblivious to the rising tension in the room.
John whirled around. “Sherlock,” he said very, very carefully, “what did I tell you about freebies?”
Sherlock glanced at him with supreme disinterest before studying his fingernails. “I had a free afternoon.”
John twitched, one mighty movement contained in someone so small, and then he exploded. “I swear to god Sherlock, I will not spend this marriage eating beans.”
“Again with the beans!” Sherlock yelled back, throwing his hands in the air. “You’re going to meet your end when I shove a tin of beans down your throat. I’ll make sure it’s on your headstone, just so you know: ‘Loved his beans’ it’ll say.”
He collapsed on the sofa as if exhausted by his outburst, and waved an imperious hand. “There are only so many times I can tell you not to concern yourself with the financials, but if it’s becoming that big an issue I’ll have Mummy send up someone to explain the particulars of my trust fund to you.”
“Your what?” John bellowed – the very glasses in the kitchen sink rattled. “We’ve been eating bloody beans and you’ve got a bloody trust fund?!”
Sherlock shrugged and watched as Lestrade chose that moment to escape, the rat. “Well, when we’re married you’ll have access and you can do what you like with it.”
“I would like to have tea that didn’t taste like the inside of a shoe.” John said, collapsing into his chair. “God, you are such an unbelievable wanker,” he muttered. “A trust fund.”
“Well, and a few estates,” Sherlock said. “And that island in the Caribbean.”
John turned enormous eyes on him and Sherlock added, utterly nonchalant, “I may have forgotten to tell you that I’m an Earl.”