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The Adventures of the Dying Detective's Husband

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~~~***~~~

 

When the front office at the surgery notifies John that Sergeant Donovan is on line two, he immediately excuses himself and leaves his patient in the care of the nurse practitioner in order to take the call. He knows that this is probably not good news. He doubts that Sally Donovan is calling to make small talk or book an annual check-up appointment with him.

 

“Sally?” John feels a pervasive uneasiness settling in his gut. It’s as if there’s a bunch of butterflies in there letting him know there’s something not quite right.

 

“John. I’m calling from the Caribbean and I need to make this quick because I don’t know how long I can keep the connection…”

 

“Is it Sherlock?” John interrupts.

 

“Yes. He’s seriously ill. He might be dying.”

 

John takes a deep breath and rearranges his butterflies into military formation. He needs to stay calm—focused. In order of importance, he asks some questions: “Where is Sherlock? And where are you calling from exactly?”

 

“I’m in the British Virgin Islands—cousin’s wedding. Sherlock has just been transferred to the intensive care unit at the Peebles hospital.”

 

None of this information makes sense to John. But at least he knows where Sherlock is.

 

“What’s wrong with him?”

 

“Not sure, but it looks like some sort of tropical illness.”

 

There’s lots of static and John can tell Sally is walking around trying to find a better spot for a clearer reception. “John. Can you hear me?”

 

“Yes. Better now. Tell me what you can.”

 

“Okay. I have no idea why Sherlock is here. As I said, I’m on the Island of Tortola for my cousin’s wedding. My Uncle Brian was unwell after the ceremony, so I brought him to the hospital--mild heart attack. While I was there I saw Sherlock,” says Sally, pausing as if searching for words. “It’s him. No doubt. He looked awful, fever for sure, delirious, but still arrogant if that makes sense. He was on a stretcher in the hallway and was being pushed towards the ICU. After my uncle was taken care of, I went back and inquired about Sherlock. They doubted he would last the day.”

 

“You don’t think he’s faking… you know for a case?”

 

“Could be, I don’t know. But I doubt it.”

 

“Have you contacted his brother Mycroft?”

 

“No. Am I supposed to know how to reach him?”

 

“I guess not,” John says, running a hand through his hair. “Listen, I’ll call Mycroft, and one of us will be down there as soon as we can.”

 

“Okay. I’ll try to get more information but I promised my aunt I would help with getting uncle Brian back to England if need be. Not sure how long I’ll be here.

 

“I understand. Thanks, Sally. Hope your uncle is okay.”

 

“Yes. Keep me updated.”

 

John hangs up the phone and looks to the ceiling. Fuck. He can’t believe this is happening again. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

 

He tells himself there’s no need to panic. The thing is, Sherlock could very well just be in some hospital in the British Virgin Islands pretending to be ill for some obscure purpose that only makes sense to him.

 

Or, a nagging little voice within debates, Sherlock could indeed be seriously ill and ignoring it so he can solve the case—putting his life in danger merely an unfortunate consequence.

 

He’s done both in the past. More than once.

 

Take last October for example… Sherlock had ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration after collapsing in front of Mrs Hudson one morning. John had assumed (Mycroft too!) that the pale skin, the hand tremors, and the intermittent twitch in Sherlock’s eyes, were all part of his ‘disguise’ to get accepted as a candidate for the unethical medical study he was investigating. It turned out Sherlock had already solved the case and no one had realized (including the bloody genius) there was something seriously wrong with him and that he was not, in fact, acting.

 

And of course, John can’t forget (he wish he could!) the other ‘incident’ in 221B he hadn’t noticed (the internal bleeding, the shock, cardiac arrest)… Jesus, he can’t even go there in his mind right now. It still stresses him out with fear (and guilt, truth be told) when he thinks of that bloody day.

 

But John also knows (unfortunately) how fucking good Sherlock is at faking his death.

 

Now all John needs to do is figure out which scenario Sherlock is playing out this time. Is he ill or is he faking?

 

Either way, Sherlock’s somewhere out of the country, in a hospital, and for the life of him, John knows that he’s not going back to work until he knows for sure that Sherlock is safe. There’s no two ways about it, he’s going to have to cancel his patients for the rest of the afternoon and figure out what to do next.

 

First things first—has Sherlock been in contact with him to let him know what’s going on? (John hasn’t heard from his best friend in four days). He hurries to the staff room, and pulls his phone out of his jacket pocket, praying there’s something from Sherlock. No luck.

 

He sends Sherlock another another text message.

 

Are you okay? Heard you’re ill. Please contact me asap. Worried.

 

John sighs. If Sherlock is faking being deathly sick it’s not likely he’ll have his phone with him.

 

John decides to call the hospital in the BVI directly and see if he can get more details before consulting with Mycroft.

Using the office computer, John Googles the phone number for the Peebles hospital. The first thing listed in his search is a bad review for the hospital on Trip Advisor (‘Danger-inadequate medical treatment’ is the actual title of the post.)

 

Well, that’s reassuring.

 

John clicks on the hospital link below the bad review and enters the listed number on his mobile phone and waits. The phone doesn’t even ring. It seems he can’t get through. He hangs up and tries again. This time someone picks up, but the connection is pretty bad. After talking to two different people he finally gets transferred to the ICU. When he asks for an update on Sherlock Holmes (he has to repeat the name twice) he’s told that no one by that name has been admitted into the ICU recently. He gets disconnected before he can even ask another question.

 

Dammit.

 

He checks his texts one more time—still no word from Sherlock. He might as well call Mycroft.

 

“Dr Watson,” answers Mycroft immediately.

 

“Do you know what Sherlock is up to?”

 

“I would believe you would know my brother’s coordinates better than I.”

 

“Not really, no. Listen, I’ve received a strange call from Sally Donovan. She’s a sergeant at Scotland Yard.”

 

“I know who she is.”

 

“Anyway, she’s says she saw Sherlock at a hospital on the island of Tortola. She just happened to be there for an unrelated reason. He’s now in the ICU and she was told he might be dying. What do you think?”

 

“I think we all might be dying.”

 

John rubs his forehead. “Mycroft, I’m not in the mood for mind games. Do you know what Sherlock is involved with this time? Did you send him there? Is he faking?”

 

There’s a long pause. That worries John. It means Mycroft doesn’t know. One of them is going to have to go there and check it out.

 

But John immediately knows he’s wasting time talking it over with Sherlock’s brother. Mycroft isn’t going anywhere, is he? Besides, John wants to go—it’ll drive him crazy to wait here.

 

Nothing is said yet Mycroft deduces what decision John has reached. “Any expense incurred by this latest adventure will be, of course, reimbursed. My gratitude for looking into it, John. Do keep me updated.”

 

“Will do.” John hangs up and looks at his watch. It’s just past ten AM. He’d like to be there as soon as possible. He needs to find someone to cover for him for a few days and then he needs to make arrangements with Mary. He was supposed to have Lizzy for the weekend but he’s positive Mary won’t mind switching days with him.

 

He calls her mobile phone. “Mary, something’s come up with Sherlock.” He tells her what Sally Donovan told him and Mary agrees that John better go down there and check it out.

 

“Don’t worry too much, John. He’s probably just trying to trick someone… but yeah, better be safe than sorry.”

 

“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. So, you’re okay to keep Elizabeth for a few extra days?”

 

“Of course!”

 

John suddenly remembers he’d made plans with his sister. “Er, Harry was supposed to hang out with me and take Lizzy out to the zoo or something. Can you call her and explain what happened?”

 

“Sure. Maybe we can still do the zoo thing together. No worries.”

 

“Alright, er—give a kiss to Lizzy from me, okay?”

 

“I will,” says Mary. “Oh, and John, please keep me updated about Sherlock.”

 

“Right,” he replies neutrally, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his tone.

 

It still puzzles the hell out of John how Mary can conveniently forget that not even three years ago, it was her who had put Sherlock in mortal danger. In fact, that’s the reason why they are no longer married today and have shared custody of their almost twenty month old daughter, Elizabeth. Turns out, John just couldn’tforgive her afterall… even if Sherlock could.

 

Yeah, yeah, John understood that Mary was ‘just’ protecting John (Christ, he wished people would stop treating him like a fucking damsel in distress.) Apparently, she was being blackmailed into staying married to John at all costs (something to do with keeping John and Sherlock apart) and figured—under pressure—that it was better to ‘incapacitate’ Sherlock than have John figure out her secrets about her past and risk John’s life for leaving her.

 

Wrong decision. How could she have put Sherlock’s life in…

 

John shakes his head. This is not the time to think about this shit right now. He needs to focus on Sherlock possibly being deathly ill on some tropical island.

 

What the hell is Sherlock even doing in the Carribean? Why didn’t he mention he was working on a case?

 

John last saw Sherlock six days ago when he dropped by 221B to with some deli sandwiches to see if Sherlock wanted to have a late supper with him.

 

Sherlock had seemed distracted. “I don’t need food, I need sunscreen. Help me out and procure me with spf 60, won’t you? You have ten minutes before the stores closes.”

 

John had merely laughed, thinking Sherlock was just trying to sidetrack eating again. “I don’t have time to run errands for you. I’m a busy man. Let’s just eat, okay?”

 

Now it’s obvious to John that Sherlock had been getting ready to go away… without him. Again.

 

John’s not really upset with Sherlock for not including him. He’s learned to accept that this is just the way Sherlock works—‘his method’ if you will—and there’s noting he can do about it. Yes, he’d like to be privy Sherlock’s mysterious line of thinking but he figures that if push comes to shove, he’d rather just accept the way things are than lose his friend over it.

 

John shakes his head and continues to make arrangement to find someone else to cover for him for the rest of the week. Finally, when everything is settled, he heads home to go pack.

 

He’s just faking he tells himself over and over.

 

~~~***~~~

 

With the time change, John arrives in the British Virgin Islands in the late afternoon. An efficient twenty minutes later, John is on his way to the hospital in the back seat of the taxi cab, a hand pushing down on his travel bag next to him to prevent it from orbiting out of the vehicle. The cab driver is driving at an insane speed through town, music blaring. He asks John again where he’s going. Apparently didn’t hear him over the sound of Shakira the first time. John repeats the hospital address. He’s not sure if the driver heard him any better this time, but figures it doesn’t matter… from the way the guy’s driving, looks like they’ll end up at the hospital either way.

 

After a few minutes, they stop in front of a fair size, grey building, with a red metal roof overlooking the Caribbean Sea. It’s the Peebles hospital. The view is stunning and John knows if he weren’t so fucking worried about Sherlock, he’d be plotting ways to do a locum here for a few weeks every winter.

 

He climbs the steps to the hospital and sheds his jacket—didn’t even realize he still had it on. The heat on his skin feels good. It must be well over 30C and he promises himself if this is all a sham, he’ll insist that they stay for a few days to enjoy the climate—especially after the long winter (not that it was overly cold, just that Spring seems to be taking its time in making an appearance.)

 

He walks past the information desk, looks for signs for the ICU, and follows the arrows that seem to be pointing at clocks and water fountains on the wall instead of hallways. Are hospitals purposely designed to confuse people who are worried about loved ones? He goes up two floors, takes a left and a right, and finds himself in front of the ICU’s double doors. He doesn’t hesitate and pushes them open with both hands. He’s here and he’s finally about to get an answer about the state of his best friend.

 

There’s no one at the central nursing station so he just forges ahead. The rooms are a little bit farther down the hall and like most hospitals the doors to each individual room have remained open.

 

In the second room on his right, he thinks he sees Sherlock in the far corner. It looks like he’s intubated for Christ’s sake.

 

But before John has a chance to go in, he hears a voice yelling at him. “Hey, hold on, sir. Stop. Where do you think you’re going?”

 

He turns around and sees a tall woman with greying hair frowning at him with both hands on her hips. It’s the ICU’s head nurse and she seems offended that John has gotten that far. She looks like she’s about to call security. John backtracks towards her and swallows his frustration. “I’m just, er, checking up on my friend here. I got a call that he was seriously ill.”

 

The nurse (named Tanice, according to her badge) is outraged. “You can’t just walk in here! The intensive care unit is a restricted area. Access is permitted to immediate family members only.

 

John holds up a hand. “I know, I know.” All hospitals, he silently acknowledges, have that policy, but really, it’s not a concrete rule. It’s often left to the discretion of the staff. They usually can tell who are close to their critically ill patients.

 

“Well, are you family?” she inquires.

 

“Er, no, not exactly. I’m Sherlock’s friend,” he says. “His best friend,” he adds as if that makes a difference.

 

“You better check the state of that friendship, sir. That’s not even the name of that patient,” she says suspiciously.

 

John sighs. He doesn’t have time for this bullshit. “He doesn’t go by his first name. Was he admitted under William or Scott?”

 

Nurse Tanice lifts her chin and doesn’t answer. “Family only policy,” she repeats.

 

John feels his temper eroding away. “Oh for Christ’s sake! You don’t understand, I’m as good as family. We share a flat.” Well, we used to share a flat. (John now regrets waiting for his lease to run out before moving back into 221B. He doesn’t even have proof that they live at the same address.

 

“I’m afraid it is you who does not understand. I will call security if you don’t leave immediately.”

 

“Listen, I’m a doctor, and I know…”

 

That seems to be the last straw for the head nurse. She picks up the phone and glares at him, no doubt calling security.

 

In retrospect, John should’ve known better. There’s a universal rule that you learn the first five minutes of residency… don’t piss off an overworked, under paid nurse, and certainly don’t try to trump them with ‘I’m a doctor card’.

 

And sure enough, not five seconds later, he’s escorted out of the ICU by a tall, uniformed security guard who seems apologetic.

 

“You don’t talk back to nurse Tanice,” says the guard conspiratorially. “Maybe you’ll have better luck seeing your friend when nurse Bridget is at the front desk tomorrow. ”

 

Well, that’s clearly not an option. John can’t wait until tomorrow, but he’s definitely on nurse Tanice’s bad side now and she’s going to be guarding those doors like it’s nobody’s business.

 

Christ

 

John sighs. He knows he has lost this battle. No sense in trying again and risking being kicked out once more—or worse, being detained in jail. He swallows his frustration.

 

He supposes he could sneak in or disguise himself as a hospital worker (Janitor? Orderly?) but he doubts he could hoodwink nurse Tanice at this point. And besides, it’s a small hospital and everyone who works here probably all know each other. Even if he manages to find an outfit of some sort, he will still look like a pale, lost, tourist who’s trying to break into a hospital.

 

Family only policy

 

Well, it looks like he’s going to have to become a family member then. A parent, sibling, spouse… whatever.

 

Could he pretend to be Mycroft?

 

John shakes his head. Jesus, it’s probably easier to convince the hospital staff hat he’s married to Sherlock than pretending to be his brother. First, he looks nothing like his best friend, and second, how would he explain a different last name? (and not mentioning it?)

 

So husband it is.

 

Okay. That can work.

 

It won’t be too difficult to pretend. He knows his dedication to Sherlock is a little over the top and a homosexual relationship could perhaps be the reason why he didn’t say anything in the first place. (The head nurse is from an older generation and is probably not all that comfortable with gay men). Not that John would ever stay quiet if that were truly the case, but it’s honestly the only thing he can think of at the moment.

 

Okay, regardless of the reason he didn’t say anything, he’s going to need some papers—a marriage certificate--to jump over the hurdle named nurse Tanice. Mycroft can provide those (or he can haul his skinny little arse over here to check on his brother himself.)

 

John walks back down to the lobby and heads over to the spot where people seem to be using their phones without any problems. He calls Mycroft and again, he answers after the first ring.

John is not in the mood to play with him so he tells him the plan in one breath. “Okay, listen to me very carefully. I saw him briefly and he looked awful, but I was kicked out of the ICU…”

 

Mycroft interrupts. “John, he’s pretending.”

 

“Are you willing to take the chance? I’m not. Either youcome—private jet, code red—or you fax me an official marriage certificate and I pretend to be his spouse so I can get in there and check for myself.”

 

There’s a long pause before Mycroft speaks again. “Where did you say you were again?”

 

“British Virgin Islands.”

 

“Oh, how very appropriate,” says Mycroft smoothly. “What date were the happy nuptials and where exactly am I faxing this certificate?”

 

“Peebles hospital, Road Town, Tortola, BVI. I don’t care who you send it to… just make sure I can get in there to see Sherlock, okay?”

 

“Consider it done, it will be there within the hour,” says Mycroft. “And my most sincere congratulations to the happy couple…’ he adds, with an amused tone.

 

John hangs up. Mycroft bloody Holmes owes him for this!

 

John leaves the hospital and is immediately enveloped by the heat. He’s going to find his hotel, check in, shower and by the time he’s back, the certificate is sure to have reached the hospital.

 

On his way to the hotel (walking distance according to the website he consulted) his mind is a whirlwind of thoughts and anxiety and he’s barely registering his setting. But when he walks past a jewelry store with a multitude of emeralds on display in the front window, an elegant sign that says ‘engagement and wedding rings’ catches his eye. He backtracks two steps and impulsively enters the store to purchase wedding bands. He’s got time to kill and needs something to distract him from the worry, and besides, Sherlock has taught him that details matter when using a disguise… John, the best way of successfully acting a part is to be it.

 

Also, a small part of him can’t deny wanting to put as many expenses on Mycroft’s account as he can.

 

He tells the girl behind the counter that he wishes to see the men’s wedding bands. She shows him the display and John scans them quickly, looking for a ring that is the least similar to the gold wedding band he removed just six months ago after his divorce from Mary. He chooses a flatter ring, white gold, thin, with some sort of design on it. Frankly, he doesn’t really care but the sales person seems to approve.

 

“Beautiful choice! It’s a Celtic design—the interlinked circles represent infinity. I have the matching wedding band and engagement ring for the lady if you wish to see.”

 

“Nope. We’re both men so I’ll take two of those, same size,” he says as if he’s ordering two medium coffees for him and Sherlock.

 

She lifts an eyebrow and murmurs “Oh”. John ignores the uncomfortable way she is now staring at him as if he’s grown an extra nose or something. He just smiles and says, “He hasn’t said yes yet, but I’m pretty confident he will after tonight’s shag.”

 

She blushes slightly and says in a contrite tone, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply there was something wrong with same sex partners.”

 

John just nods and wonders how many times this sort of thing happened to his sister and Clara. He wishes he’d been more aware and supportive.

 

He pays for the rings with his credit card (they were ridiculously expensive!) and even if Mycroft reimburses him, John knows he’ll try to sell them when they are no longer needed.

 

Once he reaches his hotel room, he slips one of the rings on his finger and puts the other one in his jeans pocket and gets rid of the blue velvet boxes.

 

At that very same moment, there’s a text from Mycroft Holmes that reads:

 

Done. See attached copy.

 

John opens it and sees on the small screen of his phone the names John Hamish Watson and William Sherlock Scott Holmes. It's their official marriage papers.

 

And just like that, six short months after his divorce from Mary, John is once again a married man.

 

John thinks that if Sherlock is faking, then he’ll he very surprised to find himself married to John…. serves him right.

 

And if he’s not, well obviously the whole charade will have been well worth it to save the bloody wanker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Chapter Text

He’s fine, he’s fine, John repeats to the beat of his footsteps as he heads back to the hospital at around five-thirty. He hopes the proper hospital staff has received the necessary papers and that everyone cooperates with letting him see Sherlock because he won’t be responsible for his actions if they throw more bloody hurdles his way.

John arrives at the hospital, enters for the second time that day, walks past the horrid turquoise wall, and takes the stairs two by two to get to the ICU faster. There, he pulls open the double doors and goes to the front desk.

Nurse Tanice is still standing on guard like she’s protecting against an alien invasion. When she sees John, she rolls her eyes at him, and before he has time to say anything she grabs a chart and says, “Yes, I’ve received a phone call from the hospital director regarding your husband in the ICU. Honestly, you could’ve said so in the first place.”

“Yeah, well…”

“Ya think we’re all homophobic here, boy? Is that what you think? You assumed that because I’m a woman of a certain age, living on a small island… ”

John blinks. He supposes he had assumed… but he doesn’t have time to reflect on this now, he really needs to see Sherlock. . “Can I see him, please?”

“Honestly… not saying so in the first place,” she says, a little disgusted with John. “Mr Holmes is still a very sick man, though that being said, he is doing a bit better.”

John closes his eyes and exhales a sigh of relief Thank God! He can handle the rest now—either as Sherlock’s doctor or as his partner in crime solving. Either one. He’s good to go. John opens his eyes again and gives a curt nod to the head nurse, prompting her to go on.

She looks down at the chart and continues her update. “Hmm, let’s see. He’s still feverish and delirious but has some moments of lucidity, though we have no idea what is wrong with him. Now, you’re vey lucky because the attending physician hasn’t made his rounds yet—tied up with a new consult in the ER—so you’ll get to talk to Dr Ainstree if you stay another hour. You’ll need to wear a mask, here you go,” she says, pushing a papery blue face shield in his hands. “We’ve moved him. Monique will lead you to his room.”

Monique appears from behind the nursing station. She is a younger nurse with long, wavy black hair, kind brown eyes, and the overall physique of a marathon runner. She’s sporting a glorious smile as if she works in obstetrics with healthy newborn babies instead of the ICU. John doesn’t smile back.

“Your… husband is right through here,” says Monique. He barely notices her hesitation before saying ‘husband.’ He doesn’t care what she thinks, he’s like a castaway who has just reached a source of water.

Before entering the room, he puts the mask on, and from the doorway John can see Sherlock in the far corner of the room where he lays listlessly on a narrow hospital bed. John walks in and even from a distance he notices Sherlock looks bad. His gaunt, wasted face, and the feverish highlight sends a chill to John’s heart. Jesus, Sherlock!

What the hell is wrong with him? He has two IV lines going, fuck--that’s not good.

Nurse Monique squeezes his forearm in a show of empathy and walks over to Sherlock. “Mr Holmes, I know you probably can’t hear me,” she says in a loud, friendly tone (A tone John usually reserves for his elderly, demented patients), “but you have a special visitor here to see you.”

John swallows and approaches the bed slowly and sees Sherlock’s hands twitching incessantly on top of the white hospital sheets. There’s a sort of dark crusts clinging to the corner of his mouth. What the hell?

What could this be? Systematically, he runs through some possibilities in his mind—but scurvy and black Formosa are not really longer a threat now days (and unlikely to spring up on you like that—he just saw Sherlock a week ago).

John approaches closer and sees that Sherlock’s skin is not overly flushed or feverish with perspiration. He listens to the cadence of Sherlock’s breathing pattern. It seems fine, though somewhat congested, but not actually laboured. His lips are pale, but they’re not greenish-blue like the last time…

It’s nothing anyone else would ever pick up on… except someone who’s seen what Sherlock Holmes really looks like when’s he’s dying.

John recalls the day he’d found out about Mary’s betrayal. Sherlock had been so fucking pale, almost translucent green by the time the ambulance had left the flat. But what had been truly striking was Sherlock’s gaze, still intense and so very smart despite being on death’s doorstep.

John looks at Sherlock. His friend merely looks like he’s sleeping and John is immediately suspicious. Call it instinct or call it past experience, but John just senses that this is all a big set up.

Hopeful, John looks for clues. He observes Sherlock’s trembling hands and notices something black under his right index fingernail. Really, the stain is so faint, it’s barely there, but John knows Sherlock keeps his nails neatly trimmed and immaculate. (Early on in the flatshare, John had caught Sherlock at the kitchen table one night carefully trimming his nails with an impressive array of fine silver tools and moisturizing products. “Midnight manicure madness?” John had teased. “Eliminating extraneous evidence,” Sherlock had alliterated back with a clever smile.)

Evidence! Ha. Perhaps the unlikely stain is a black compound he applied to his mouth himself.

That with the breathing, the colouring, the lips…. It all adds up…

Oh, Jesus, he’s faking.

The brilliant bastard is faking.

John is instantly relieved and annoyed. Mostly relieved, really. Alright, Overwhelmingly relieved. He just wishes he’d been privy to the case, invited to tag along. Now he needlessly got himself a small ulcer from worrying (and a new spouse too).

When nurse Monique turns away to write Sherlock’s vitals on his chart, John touches Sherlock’s forehead lightly and bends down low to whisper in his ear.

‘Sherlock…,” he says. “It’s me, John, your, er… husband,”

John feels Sherlock jump slightly in surprise at the sound of his voice (and probably at the new status of their relationship!) John has a strange urge to laugh; it’s not very often that he gets to surprise his great madman of a best friend.

John swallows his nervous giggles and continues. “I’m so happy to see you… darling.” Sherlock’s eyes twitch minutely but he doesn’t open them and keeps playing nearly dead for his audience (namely nurse Monique). John ignores the tug of war of emotions going on inside of him and carefully stays in character too. He doesn’t know what the case is about and he doesn’t want to blow Sherlock’s cover.

John brings a chair close to the bed, sits on the edge, and gently cradles Sherlock’s hand in his as if it’s a wounded bird. Contrary to popular belief, he’s not used to touching Sherlock Holmes. (That being said, he can’t deny just how fucking good it feels to physically touch his friend and confirm with his own two hands that he’s alive and well.)

John holds on to Sherlock’s hand awkwardly, and tries to explain to Sherlock what’s going on as much as he can without spoiling the charade. “You know they wouldn’t let me in to see how serious it was. Only family… so I had your brother fax them our wedding certificate,” John says in a broken tone as if he thinks Sherlock is gravelly ill. It’s not too difficult to pretend—John’s still feeling the stress of seeing the bloody wanker lying there, half-conscious, on a hospital bed. “I have no words to tell you how I feel right now… darling.” Impulsively, John kisses Sherlock’s knuckles and feels Sherlock’s entire hand tenses up under his touch even though John’s still wearing the face shield (unnecessarily, as it turns out).

There’s a sort of strange giddiness building up just at the base of John’s throat and he has the urge to laugh from the intense relief he feels that Sherlock is okay and at the same time trapped into his role—unable to respond to John.

Serves him right.

John is still holding Sherlock’s hand and slowly runs his thumb over his wrist to feel his pulse. It’s almost normal. How has he rigged the heart monitor to be so fast? Clever bastard.

The nurse reports Sherlock’s vitals to John in a cheery tone and then attempts to make small talk about homosexuality (There’s really nothing wrong with it. She even knows a gay man who went on to get elected in politics! He wore regular clothes and all. Even played all kinds of sports!) John mostly ignores her ignorant chatter, still focused on the fact that Sherlock is safe, that they are on a case, and that they need to talk real soon so he knows what’s going on.

Suddenly, there’s a small crash followed by the tell-tale sound of glass breaking and scattering across the floor. It seems the ever so ‘tolerant-of-gays’ Monique has accidently broken some glassware that was next to the sink. She turns her back to them to pick up the larger pieces that have fallen on the floor. John takes advantage of the distraction and runs a hand through Sherlock’s hair. (Now that he’s started this ‘touching’ business, he can’t seem to stop.) He bends down low and pretends to kiss Sherlock’s cheek. “You can open your eyes,” he whispers in Sherlock’s ear instead.

Sherlock’s eyes snap open, take note of the fact that the nurse has her back to them, and then turns to John with wide questioning eyes as if to say what are you doing?

John replies with a brief hand gesture Checking up on you.

Sherlock’s frown inquires Why?

John runs a brisk finger across his throat Thought you were dying.

Sherlock shakes his head no.

Obviously John replies with both palms up.

Sherlock flicks his hand towards him and the door as if to say Go away.

John gives Sherlock a rueful half shrug that hopefully says Too late, I’m here now.

And, as if to emphasize the point, John interlaces his fingers with Sherlock’s and gives them a slight, defiant, squeeze. You’re not getting rid of me.

John notices that every time he touches Sherlock there’s real apprehension in his eyes. Why? Is he so uncomfortable with human contact that he can’t even remain composed under John’s touch?

Ha. Again John thinks Serves him right. Sherlock scared the living daylights out of John.

Nurse Monique is still chatting away as she fetches a broom and sweeps the floor. John would really like her to leave so he can talk to Sherlock in peace, but she seems determined to pick up any small shard of glass that might be on the floor. Finally, satisfied with her cleaning job, she turns her back to them again to rearrange medical supplies on the counter, “I don’t know why they do it this way. It’s just asking for accidents.”

John can tell Sherlock is not exactly pleased with the circumstances. John has probably put a wrench in his plans—whatever those are. And that is exactly why John’s going to play this up. See, if Sherlock had bothered to share what the hell he was up to… all of this could’ve been avoided. Now Sherlock is stuck with a touchy-feely husband and he’s going to have to deal with it.

John realizes he’s starting to have a bit of fun with this little ‘we’re married’ scenario. Not only he gets to teach Sherlock a lesson of sorts, but he also gets to lecture Sherlock without being interrupted (for the time being).

“My precious love,” John says cradling Sherlock’s bewildered face with both hands. “Say you’ll live… for me?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes at him, clearly annoyed. John isn’t a demonstrative man but he just continues to pour it on. “Remember the vow you made the day of the wedding… about never letting me down? About always being here for me?” he says, “well, you can’t run away like this on your own, that’s letting me down.”

He hopes Sherlock gets the message. All John wants is to be ‘in the know’. He reaches in his pocket of his trousers and pulls out the wedding band and places it on Sherlock’s finger. “I forgive you, but don’t ever take this off again, right?”

Surprisingly, the ring fits Sherlock’s finger perfectly and John suspects from the chocked expression on Sherlock’s face that if his friend was in a position where he could talk, he’d still be speechless at the moment.
,
Nurse Monique turns around. “Oh, you’re awake again, excellent,” she says. “Funny how the presence of a loved one can do that.” She approaches the bed. “Mr Holmes, how are you feeling?”

“Confused,” Sherlock replies in a feeble, croaking voice.

“Of course, you are. You’ve been really ill. Doctor Ainstree will be in to see you soon. Don’t exert yourself… ”

Finally, after a few minutes of checking on Sherlock, nurse Monique leaves them alone.

Sherlock wrenches his hand out of John’s. “What are you doing?” he hisses.

John shrugs. “Had to get in the ICU—because you, annoying dick, went ahead to solve a case without me, and I had no fucking clue if you were really dying or not.”

Sherlock sighs loudly. “You could’ve climbed through the window, used a disguise, paused as a doctor on a locum exchange, or a hospital supervisor. Maybe even a police officer looking for me. Anything but this fake relationship.”

John crosses his arms over his chest. “Well, now I’m your husband until the case is solved.”

“Do you have any idea how inconvenient this is?”

“Oh, I’ve inconvenienced you, have I?”

“Yes, quite a bit. Now the plan will need to be revised.”

John is about to let Sherlock know what he thinks of his plan and his ungrateful attitude, but just at that moment, a young physician enters the room and introduces himself as Doctor Ainstree. He’s clearly a newly graduated doctor who thought he would take advantage of the marvelous setting and do a locum exchange here. He looks so young—like his mother still packs him a lunch—and John knows he can take advantage of that fact.

“I’m doctor John Watson,” he says, holding out a hand. “I’m a family physician and hospitalist St-Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, England. And this is my husband,” he says pointing to Sherlock. (Christ, it doesn’t even feel weird to say it—just extremely useful.)

The younger physician shakes his hand and John continues, “Listen, I also served in in Afghanistan and actually am quite familiar with these odd Eastern diseases that present as fever and a blackish crust around the mouth. I see you have started him on a course of IV antibiotics… May I suggest an intramuscular shot? That always works better for him.” John catches Sherlock’s eyes, and adds, “It’s exactly what he needs.”

Doctor Ainstree nods gravely, “Yes, yes, of course.”

John talks to the ICU doctor for a few more minutes in the hallway. He suspects that someone on the inside has been helping Sherlock fake his illness and temper with the equipment to make Sherlock’s symptoms seem critical. That someone is definitely not Doctor Ainstree so John wants to keep him away from Sherlock so the young intensivist doesn’t get suspicious.

They agree that Sherlock needs to stay in hospital, but that they can probably do without wearing the masks—he’s not contagious. The doctor leaves, agreeing to meet with John again during his rounds the following day.

John returns into the room and sits facing a deliberately silent Sherlock. Not a few minutes later, nurse Monique returns with a tray sporting a glass bottle of antibiotic, a plastic syringe, and a large needle. “The doctor thinks a shot of medicine in the buttock will help kill whatever nasty bugs you have quicker.” With great efficiently, she lifts the sheet off Sherlock and rolls him on his side in one motion, “You’re going to feel a little pinch, Mr Holmes. Take a deep breath if you can, okay there we go,” she says as she pushes down on the top of the syringe, releasing the antibiotic into Sherlock’s glute mid area.

John feels the full force of Sherlock’s furious glare on him. He smiles and pats Sherlock’s hand. “Brave boy,” he says.

Nurse Monique writes a few notes in Sherlock’s chart, smiles, and says “I’ll be back in a few hours to check on you again Mr Holmes. Just ring if you need anything.”

“We will,” John says, smiling.

Monique leaves and closes the door behind her. Immediately, Sherlock’s entire body language changes; he sits up straighter, his eyes clear and his self –assuredness seeps back into his narrow frame. He tilts his head to the side dramatically. “That was incredibly childish of you, John. You should not be trivializing the use of medical resources and staff. I’m disappointed.”

John barks out a small laugh. “Says the man who used up a bed in the ICU for two days. Nice.” John adds, “And as your dedicated husband, I honestly think an additional course of ciprofloxacin won’t hurt after what you’ve put our body through for this charade.” John holds up a finger towards Sherlock’s chest. “I know you. What the hell did you take to make yourself so sick?”

Sherlock smiles enigmatically, ignores John’s question, and conveniently changes the subject. “But seriously John, husband? That’s the only thing you could think of? Won’t it be difficult for you to keep the charade next time a pretty nurse walks within a ten meter radius of you?”

“Very funny. I came all the way here to save your skinny little arse and this is what I get as ‘thank you’? I swear my next spouse will be a Sunday school teacher.”

Sherlock raises an eyebrow. “We’ve been married less than a day and you’re already talking about moving on? That’s two divorces within the last six months. You have a serious commitment problem, John.”

John smiles despite himself. “Oh, stop it. You’re enjoying this now and that great big brain of yours has already formulated a new plan. Tell me about the case.”

Sherlock lifts his chin petulantly. “You weren’t interested last week.”

“Correction; I wasn’t interested in fetching sunscreen for you. You didn’t even say it was for a case.”

“Oh, John, I never know just how far to break it down so you’ll be able to reason it out on your own. I wonder if that is how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor…”

“Easy there, husband. I can still order some unpleasant tests for you.”

There’s a glint in both their eyes. They’re having fun (well, their own special brand of fun anyway.)

John knows things between them have shifted back into equilibrium. They are in this together—a team once again—and whether Sherlock wants to admit it or not, he’s pleased to have John at his side (though probably not at his spouse, but still…)

Sherlock just has that look on his face—calculating and clever—and it’s clear to John that his dear genius of a husband has come up with something new to solve the case.

John sits on the edge of the chair. “Okay, tell me what’s going on,” he says with great anticipation. John figures it’s safe to talk here or else the ever so perceptive genius would’ve intervened by now.

Sherlock rattles off the parameters of the case at great speed. Sherlock was contacted via his website regarding the untimely death of a young man named Victor Savage three months ago. Apparently the victim was in his second year of medical school in London and died of something resembling a rabid bacterial infection when he came home to Tortola during his Christmas vacation to visit his family. An autopsy, done at this hospital, showed the death to be suspicious, but the police said there wasn’t enough evidence to investigate. The young man’s aunt contacted Sherlock two weeks ago to see if he could look into it.

“What made you take the case?”

“The autopsy report said he’d contacted Bacillus anthracis in London. Highly suspicious--a clear sign of bioterrorism.”

John frowns. Anthrax? “Do you have a suspect?”

“I have a culprit.”

“Oh, okay, so the case is solved and you just need to catch him… or her.” It won’t do for him to assume again.

There’s a light of approval in Sherlock’s gaze. “It’s a him.”

“Who is he?”

“Culverton Smith, a microbiologist from Sumatra. He’s actually the boy’s uncle from his mother’s side of the family. Ha, John, he is clever. A biological weapon specialist. He synthesizes his very own deadly agent, a vicious bacteria cultured on gelatin, and sells them to interested parties. The specimens are extremely potent and victims die within four days of being exposed to it.”

Poor kid. John’s feels a wave of disgust and sadness. He’s really not a big fan of these cowardly types who make people suffer cruelly for profit. He sighs. “Why did the asshole kill his nephew? The boy caught him red-handed, I suppose?”

“Yes, very good, John. Sometimes you do connect the dots without needing a map from one point to the other.”

“Ha. Better stop picking on me or else we’ll have to go to marriage counseling soon. So what the rest of your plan? You thought you would bring him to the hospital if you pretended to be dying from his biological weapon?”

“The original plan,” says Sherlock with great emphasis on the original, “was to let him think he’d successfully infected me.”

Jesus Christ, just how close did Sherlock get to this deadly microbe? And what did Sherlock make himself sick with? The utter imbecile! “Sherlock, please don’t tell me you went near that creep…”

“Relax, John,” says Sherlock. “I was perfectly safe until you showed up.”

“Yes, of course, it’s perfectly safe to play mind games with a psycho who cultures his own anthrax,” says John sarcastically (but honestly, he sounds more tired than sarcastic even to his own ear. Does Sherlock even realize the hell he put John through?) “Carry on.”

Sherlock looks delighted just thinking about his brilliant original plan. “This is how I was going to beat him, John!” Sherlock takes a deep breath and in his rapid-fire way of talking, he lists the sequence of events as they were supposed to happen. “First, Culverton finds out that I am here to investigate the murder of his nephew. He has heard of my superior detective skills and needs to get rid of me. He plants a small chocolate box in my room, apparently gratuity of the hotel. It is obviously rigged to infect me with his deadly agent. He then he hears that I am deathly ill. How, you ask? Island gossip. That’s how it works here. Smith thinks I will have succumbed to the disease within three days, but instead I make a miraculous recovery. I’m transferred to a regular room for observation. He is puzzled. He needs to come and check things out for himself. Why, you ask incredulously? (John isn’t particularly incredulous, but he lets Sherlock go on anyway.) Because of professional curiosity; Am I immune to the disease? Is there an antidote to be synthesized? Plus he needs to finish me off,” concludes Sherlock as if his death is of no consequence in this game of wits with a crazy maniac.

Sherlock looks down at his left hand, rotates his wedding band half a turn, and continues. “But now I am a married man—nice ring by the way—and the news will undoubtedly reach him by tonight, tomorrow morning the latest. It’s not that I’m not happy to see you, John, but by becoming my husband, you have also become a target,” Sherlock says, reprovingly. “This man is extremely dangerous and he will not hesitate to kill again in order to keep his business a secret. And despite your poor judgment, I’m not quite ready to be a widower." And then he adds, "I do need you by my side, consequently, I would prefer you not get yourself killed." He says it as if it's a simple matter of fact, a but his eyes convey something else entirely. There is such sincerity, fondness, in their depth that John knows this friendship is definitely a two way street.

John feels his ears warm and his chest expand. It’s not everyday that he gets to hear what he means to his best friend. “Well, despite you keeping me out of the loop again, I’m not quite ready to be without you either, you twat,” John reciprocates.

Sherlock’s face softens and he smiles in such a way that makes John grin too. Many seconds go by before they both look away at the same time.

John clears his throat. “What can I do to help?”

Sherlock looks at him, eyes piercing. “You must promise to do exactly as I say.”

“By all means.”

“The first three sensible words that you have uttered since you entered this room, John.”

John smirks. “Go on.”

“You will go and fetch Culverton Smith. He lives off of Sage Mountain Road, deep in the forest. There is a narrow road to lead you to his cabin. You will tell him exactly how you have left me and beg for his help. Say that I have sent you. Tell him I have new symptoms; a black crust around my mouth and blood in my ears. Again, this will arouse his curiosity and he will come immediately. Don’t go before nine this evening—you won’t find him in his study. Remember, do exactly as I say,” orders Sherlock. “You need to convince him to come. Emphasize with all of your limited acting skills how sick I am and how desperate I am to see him. He is a proud man and I assure you he will want to come to look upon his handiwork.”

“Right,” says John. He can do that. “How do I get him into the ICU?”

“I’ll make sure there are no obstacles.”

“Lucky him…” says John. “What happens next?”

“I will trap him into a confession. I know how to get him to admit to killing his nephew. You will secretly record the confession. But the important thing is also obtaining a list of his clients—the cowards who have purchased from him. We will simply blackmail him with the recorded confession before delivering him to the proper authorities.”

It sounds like a farfetched plan but John knows Sherlock can trick anyone by stroking their ego and by pretending they’ve beaten him—he’s done it multiple times. However, they’re not in London, and he doesn’t have the full police force to back him up if something goes wrong, does he?

“Don’t worry John. I have it all worked out. Just do your part as promised.”

John rubs his forehead. “Don’t do anything illegal,” he says and then corrects himself, “too illegal, I mean.” This is Sherlock Holmes afterall.

John sees nurse Monique walking back towards the room. He nods to Sherlock and they both ease back into character. Sherlock starts gasping for breath and clutching at his hands to show that he is still suffering, but no longer on death’s doorstep. John makes a fuss by pilling two pillows behind Sherlock’s head and getting him a small cup filled with ice cubes.

After nurse Monique checks his vitals, John says to her, “Alright, he seems to be out of danger. I’ll be back later on this evening.” He looks at Sherlock. “Hang in there, you’re doing great,” he says and bends down to kiss Sherlock on the cheek. Again, he has to force himself to contain the urge to chuckle. Sherlock’s expression is so funny; a mix of dread, annoyance, with just a hint of vulnerability.

John supposes Sherlock doesn’t quite like being the one who has to stay behind and wait patiently. It’s a nice reversal of roles.

In fact, John feels honoured (and excited, truth be told) that Sherlock has entrusted him with the important task of dragging the anthrax killer back here. He knows his role and he won’t let Sherlock down. He’ll carry the damn creep here on his back if he has to… just like a cat drags a mouse (rat in this case) back home to his master.

John chuckles to himself. Did he really just call Sherlock his master in his mind? A good thing his pseudo spouse can’t hear his thoughts…

Well, despite the fact that he’d like to spend a bit more time with Sherlock, he should go now. He needs to get changed and to procure some sort of weapon to bring with him just in case.
He gets up from his chair and squeezes Sherlock’s shoulder. “See you soon.”

Be careful Sherlock’s eyes convey.

John gives a small nod and leaves his sick looking friend lying there on his hospital bed alone. From the doorway, John looks back at Sherlock one more time, observing his gaunt profile, and wondering just how much strain Sherlock has put his body under this time. John’s chest fills with a sudden burst of fondness. For all his great intellect and cunning plans, Sherlock Holmes really does need someone to take care of him, John thinks.

He promises himself that when this is over, he’s going to insist they stay on the island for a few days so pseudo husband can get back on his feet properly. And besides, John feels they both could really use a vacation… paid for by Mycroft, of course.

~~~***~~~

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

 

John returns to his hotel to change his clothes for his task this evening. He’s glad he impulsively brought his military fatigues to trek through the dense forest. Now all he needs is a weapon of sorts. He doubts he’ll be able to procure a gun somewhere… and he needs to be wary of ‘island gossip’ as Sherlock calls it.

 

John feels the excitement of this new adventure release feel-good chemicals through him. There’s a sort of nervous energy skidding on the surface of his skin. The game is on. It’s been a while since he’s been on a case—undercover, disguises, and all—and it feels damn good.

 

He adores his little one, but he needs this once in a while. It’s part of who he is. Ella had made him realize that during their therapy session together. It was after John had decided not to join Sherlock on a case that had seemed too dangerous (Bring your gun, John… or a portable defibrillator—either will do). At the time, he’d felt like he had no choice but to say No, Sherlock—I can’t. He had a child now, chubby cheeked baby Lizzie, whose care, John felt, was totally dependent on him (because, unconsciously he supposed, he still didn’t trust Mary and her double-agent past). John wasn’t about to go prancing off in alleys and tunnels after villains—poor kid needed at least one stable parent, right?

 

But, truth was, he had wanted to go on a chase and he’d felt out of sorts all day after turning down Sherlock (and a few days after) and he’d gotten crankier and crankier as the built up resentment had gathered up within him. When he’d seen Ella (at Mary’s strong and unsubtle urging) she’d been able to talk him through the guilt and confusion of wanting danger all the while being a father. With her help, he’s been able to reconcile the two.

 

What he’d come to understand (and accept!) was that there were no guarantees in life. It’s not as if police officers, firefighters, and soldiers didn’t have children—they did. Ella had even shared the experience of the fellow in Australia; the one who had occasionally fought crocodiles and such—he’d died doing something he loved. Yes, his family had suffered, and he’d left behind children, but his kids hadn’t resented him. Quite the contrary, they had been proud of Dad and had followed in his footsteps. He had lived—not merely existed. And in the long run, wasn’t it better for Lizzie to have a father who was happily balanced than one filled with bitterness and anger? Helping out Sherlock once in a while was no more dangerous than what his fellow soldiers faced every day while deployed in war torn countries.

 

And this time, it’s not as if John is involved with something as dangerous as crocodile fighting—he’s just be picking up a rodent for Sherlock…

 

Yes, that’s all he has to do. Show up at 9PM and convince one Mr Culverton Smith to bring his creepy arse into the hospital so Sherlock can outsmart him into a confession. Simple.

 

Simple, yet exciting.

 

John bends down to retrieve his boots and catches his reflection in the mirror. He shakes his head in disbelief at the image. Here he is, dressed in his army fatigues (and who would’ve thought he’d wear these again?) about to go drag the creep back to the hospital… he feels light and completely alive.

 

Oh, how he loves doing this kind of stuff with Sherlock.

 

John chuckles thinking about his earlier encounter with Sherlock.

 

It’s ridiculous that a mere twelve hours ago he was at work on a different continent, worried sick about his best friend, and now he’s married to the guy. Seriously, you never knew just what sort of ‘adventure’ would happen when involved with the likes of one Sherlock Holmes.

 

~~~***~~~

 

The cab arrives at the hotel and John tells the driver the story Sherlock instructed him to in order to get to Sage Mountain road (he’s supposed to be a nature photographer wanting to capture images of a rare nocturnal frog species—shit, he can’t even remember the name of it now; he makes one up, that’s what Sherlock would do).

 

The car climbs and climbs at a steep incline. Sage Mountain Road proves to be a completely deserted dirt path leading towards a national park. The trees are dense, their outlines dark and thick against the vivid coral sunset. Again, John thinks about spending more time here after this is done.

 

The cab driver pulls the vehicle over at the entrance of the park and says, “Good Luck,” after John pays him. John waits until the headlights fade in the darkness and he backtracks two hundred meters by foot. There, he finds the road, the entrance if you will, leading to Smith’s secluded cabin. It is dark, but John doesn’t dare turn on his torch just yet. He promised Sherlock he would wait until 9PM before dragging the Smith creep back to the hospital. It’s only a bit after 8 PM, he’s way too early, so he decides to spy on the premises until the agreed time.

 

He walks down the path, all senses on high alert. He hopes the worst that can happen is a lizard falling on the back of his neck. There are no big cats here, he doesn’t think. Still, he’s glad he’s got a weapon of sorts (a steak knife he borrowed from the hotel kitchen) just in case.

 

After walking for what feels like hours, John sees the cabin up in the distance. The place is larger than he expects; it’s a wooden log cabin with double doors and a nice wrap-around porch. The place seems to be lighted with electricity even though there’s no evidence of electrical poles or wires. A generator, then?

 

John approaches slowly, staying close to the edge of the trees so as not to be seen. He stills like a statue when he hears the sound of footsteps up in the distance. Christ, there’s someone outside. He continues walking slowly, heart beating fast, but confident he has the upper hand since no one can actually see him and he is not expected.

 

As John gets closer, he sees a car around the side of the house. The trunk is open and someone—(is that Smith?)—is carrying box after box into the vehicle. There’s enough light being diffused unto the parked vehicle that John easily notices the laptop when the guy opens one of the boxes and lifts it out in order to hide it under the front seat of the car.

 

Christ. What’s going on? Does the creep know John’s coming for him?

 

John waits twenty-minutes, standing behind some kind of large tropical tree with rubbery leaves, and when no one comes back out of the house, he decides that it’s safe to approach.
It’s almost 9 PM (8:43PM to be exact) but the damn laptop is now on John’s mind. He doesn’t need Sherlock’s supernova brain to know that if you’re going to bother to hide a laptop, it’s because it’s got a goddamn secret on it you don’t want others to see.

 

Sherlock would want to see.

 

With that thought in mind, John decides he’s going to get the damn thing even though it’s not part of his mission.

 

With burglar agility, John moves quietly towards the car and waits in the wiry bushes right in front of it for a few minutes, and then makes a crouched run for it as if he’s running for cover like in his Afghanistan days. He doesn’t know if the car is alarmed or not but he’s pretty sure if there’s an alarm, it hasn’t been set. In fact, John didn’t even hear the sound of the car door being locked. All he needs to do is quietly open the door, slide his hand under the seat and retrieve the suspicious laptop.

 

John takes a deep breath, pulls up on the door handle and prays there’s no blaring sound. Anndd…he’s right, no alarm, he thinks as he exhales the breath he’s been holding. Next, he swipes his hand under the seat and locates the computer. He hauls it out and gently closes the car door again. He waits a bit, making sure the coast is clear and when he’s confident it’s safe, he hustles back into the bushes. He hides the computer right there, in the dense shrubbery, unsure when he’ll be able to retrieve it.

 

He makes his way back to the front of the cabin, checks his watch, it’s time, and goes to the front door to knock.

 

The same guy who was packing up the car opens the door. He has small slanted eyes and stares at John for a full ten seconds before saying a drawn out, suspicious, “Yess?”

 

John introduces himself, like he’s been told to do. “I’m Dr. John Watson and I’m here to see Mr. Culverton Smith.”

 

The man with the slanted eyes doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. Excellent!

 

“Just a minute,” says Slanted Eyes. “I’ll see if he’s in. Wait here.” So, not Smith.

 

John leans in in order to see what’s going on. He sees Slanted Eyes knocking softly on the first door to his left. “There’s a doctor here to see you. Watson is his name.”

 

Through the half-open door John hears a high, petulant, penetrating voice. “Who the hell is he? What does he want?”

 

“I have no idea.”

 

“Well, tell him I’m busy, send him away.”

 

Slanted Eyes comes back to the door and John pushes past him before he has a chance to deliver Smith’s message. He’s not going away, simple as that.

 

John finds Culverton Smith bent over some papers in his office. Smith turns and gives an indignant cry when he sees John. “Hey!”

 

Smith has a long face with a pointy nose, bleached white-yellow hair spiked back at the hairline like a ferret, and two sullen menacing grey eyes which glare at John from bushy eyebrows.

 

So this is the arsehole who sells anthrax to criminals. Classy.

 

“What’s this?” Smith cries in a high, theatrical voice. “What is the meaning of this intrusion?”

 

“I’m sorry,” says John, trying to sound contrite when all he really wants to do is punch the guy in the face, “but this can’t wait.”

 

“Are you here for business?”

 

“I’m not sure what you mean,” John says, innocently. He’s not supposed to know about the ‘business’. “My…” (and here John hesitates before saying husband. He looks around the room and sees the shelves filled with flasks, petri dishes, microscopes, a centrifuge, and small laboratory grade fridge, and John is reminded quite strongly of how dangerous this little ferret is. John doesn’t want to say husband, he doesn’t want this arsehole to have that over his head. Now John has a little bit more understanding as to why Sherlock was not overly thrilled about John’s choice of subterfuge disguise to get into the ICU. But there’s nothing for it now. Island gossip and such, he’s got to continue the ‘we’re married’ charade in case Smith has already heard the rumor.) John starts over, “I’m here because my husband says you are the only one who can help him.”

 

“And who is your… ‘husband’?” asks Smith with as much disdain as if he’d swallowed curdled milk.

 

“Sherlock Holmes.”

 

The mention of Sherlock’s name has an extraordinary effect on the creep. The look of indignant anger disappears from his face and his features become tense and alert.

 

“Did you just come from the hospital?”

 

“Yeah, I just left him.”

 

“How is he?”

“He’s desperately ill. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been told you’re the only person in the world who can help him.”

 

Smith doesn’t even bother to hide his malicious little smile from John. “Very ill you say? Tut, tut! This sounds very serious,” he says in a sing-song tone that makes John want to spit in his face.

 

“Yes, he says you can help him,” he repeats, clenching his fits behind his back to prevent himself from smashing a left-hook in this guy’s arrogant jaw.

 

Culverton Smith then turns to his assistant and says, “You might as well go. I can handle the small doctor by myself.”

 

Slanted Eyes nods, takes the keys to the vehicle, and leaves them alone.

 

Smith rubs his chin slowly, “Why should I help?”

 

“Sherlock has a high opinion of you and your special knowledge.”

 

“How do you suppose he contracted the disease?” he inquires with a twinkle in his eyes.

 

John fights for composure and pretends this arsehole isn’t getting under his skin. (But he is. God dammit, he is.) Usually in these types of circumstances, John has bloody great composure—a detached clarity if you will… But here, he’s finding it hard to control his fucking emotions. See, the thing is, the creep was quite willing to infect Sherlock and to make him suffer until he died in agony. At a thought, a flow of frantic emotions surges John’s bloodstream like a wild river overflowing its banks. Within John resides a very primal, instinctual need to protect Sherlock. It sounds grand and altruistic, but it’s fucking not, because deep down, it’s rather a selfish need. See, protecting Sherlock’s life is protecting John from utter misery from a life of blandness. John needs the bloody wanker in his life to be happy, it’s as simple as that.

 

John closes his eyes, stay calm, and manages to remain in character to answer the ferret. “He cut himself opening some stupid chocolate box. He thinks something infected him at the hotel through the open wound.”

 

“Quite right,” says Smith, appreciative of Sherlock’s deductions. “A bright man, indeed.”

 

John feels his temper eroding away again. This guy knows Sherlock knows and he probably knows John knows. Why are they fucking playing a battle of wits?

 

Something inside John snaps. He’s so fucking done with this shit—this stupid game of innuendos, layered messages, and double negatives. How about he handles things his way for a change? He’s done with ‘not understanding’. Done with mental traps. How about a good old fashion beating to get the man to talk, eh?

 

So what if he brings him back to Sherlock with a few bruises? The creep deserves so much more than a broken jaw (and ribs).

 

But first he needs to rile him a bit and see if he can tape their conversation on his phone, and hopefully get a confession too. “Yes, he says his symptoms are much similar to your nephew’s: fever, diarrhea, etc…”

 

“Yes, looks like the same disease my poor nephew had. Victor was a dead man on the fourth day. What a shame! A strong, hearty, young fellow--happy and gay.”

 

John gives him a tiny smile. “I know you did it.”

 

“Oh, you know? Well, you can’t prove it. Ha! Mr Sherlock Holmes is so proud of his brain, but he’ll never use it again. He’ll be dead in a few hours—he’ll never be vertical again. He’ll go from lying in a hospital bed, straight to lying on the morgue table, and finally to the coffin—all horizontal from now on. And no one will ever be able to prove anything. Everything’s gone with the car except this little baby here,” he says, holding up a petri dish.

 

“Your nice killer germs.”

 

“I can’t wait to get word that your significant other is now insignificant… See, I needed to get rid of the busybodies like him and Victor and besides, I have a problem with homosexuals.”

 

John purses his lips, moves towards him with all the pent up frustration he’s been retaining since he entered this shack, and says in a deadly, calm voice, “Tell you what… When I’m done with you, homosexuals will be the least of your problems.”

 

In one swift move, he grabs the ferret’s arm, squeezing it tight like a vise until he drops the petri dish. John hears the rim of the dish circle on the floor a few times until it stops, landing upside down. Beware of that, John.

 

John walks over it and yanks Smith back around like a whip until the ferret looses his balance. John clamps his hand around the guy’s neck and slams him face down on the desk. He pulls the guy’s head back up to do it again but the ferret fights back and manages to twist out of his grip.

 

Somehow, somewhere, Smith has managed to get his hands on a weapon and is now swinging at him with something (scissors?) and manages to slice John from temple to ear (Christ, it’s his own damn knife!). He feels a slight, sharp burn like a paper cut, and then blood is trickling down the side of his head, pooling in his ear, and dripping down his earlobe.

 

On reflex, John sways out of the way when the arsehole tries to get him again with the knife. He manages to hold him off, catching the creep’s arm, the weapon just inches from his jugular. They are pushing against each other in battle, their arms locked at a steep angle above their heads. John knows he has an open wound and that whatever was in that petri dish is more than likely hoping for a better host than the sterile floor.

 

John pretends he’s loosing the battle and lets the creep lean in with his knife a bit closer to him. There is a victorious light in Smith’s eyes and that’s when John decides to efficiently extinguish it with a sharp kick between the guy’s legs.

 

“Aw, Fuuuck!” Smith howls in pain and lets go of the weapon in order to hold on to his crotch in agony.

 

“Oh, did that hurt?” John asks innocently as he watches the ferret trying to breathe through the pain. “I’d better double check,” he says and kicks him again in the exact same spot.

 

Then, in one move, John spins him around, pushes down swiftly on the back of the ferret’s knees with the tip of his combat boots, and watches him catapult face down in front of him. He steals his knife back and without a second thought, he slices Smith at the exact same spot—temple to ear—that Smith wounded him earlier. This is not revenge; this is insurance. If somehow Smith manages to overtake him, he’ll think twice about having a scuffle on the floor if he’s got an open wound too.

 

“You’re crazy!” screams Smith.

 

“A bit, thanks,” says John as he digs his knee into the creep’s back to keep him down. “So, with that in mind, perhaps you can now admit that you killed your nephew and sold nasty little germs to people for profit?”

 

“You can’t prove it! All the evidence is gone with the car and it’s your word against mine.”

 

John is so glad he’s taping this and so glad he got hold of the laptop. Now he just needs to bring him to justice. He might’ve diverted from Sherlock’s plan a wee bit, but the result will be the same, right?

 

His knee’s getting sore, pushing on the guys back like that. He really needs to tie this monster up with something before he loses his hold on him. John looks around and can’t spot anything that would help. It seems the only thing at his disposal is his own belt. With one hand he twists the ferret’s arm tighter and starts to unbuckle his belt with the other.

 

He doesn’t have time to finish removing it before a deep, familiar, voice from behind interrupts him. “Leave the belt on, John. I believe your soldier attire will look rather ridiculous if the trousers fall halfway down your knees,” says Sherlock as he hands him a pair of handcuffs.

 

Without missing a beat, John takes the handcuffs from him and says, “Thanks,” like he’s not at all surprised to have the mad wanker standing there (he’s not, he realizes after a moment, not really) “I see you’re feeling better.”

 

“Yes, vertical and all.”

 

John laughs as he puts the handcuffs around Smith’s wrists and closes them with a satisfying metallic ‘click’. “Well, will you look at that,” says John, pulling the ferret’s head up towards Sherlock. “He’s been standing there all along, perpendicular to the floor.”

 

The ferret grunts, not all appreciative of John’s little digs about his earlier comments. He seems disoriented but manages to focus his eyes on Sherlock. “It’s true, you’re alive Holmes!”

 

Sherlock is leaning nonchalantly against the wall, legs crossed at the ankles, wearing one of his usual dark suits, all together looking much better than this afternoon. “Yes, it’s true. I’m not lying,” Sherlock quips back.

 

“Ha, that’s witty, Sherlock,” praises John in order to annoy the ferret further. Him and Sherlock are not merely exchanging clever banter, they are trying to get the creep to lose it. “You could be a stand up comedian,” he adds.

Sherlock frowns. “You think? I thought that fell flat.”

 

Finally, Culverton Smith has had enough. His face is red and his eyes are bulging. “Fuck both of you!” he screams loudly. “You won’t be able to prove I killed my nephew or that I sold biological weapons! My assistant will be back shortly and I’ll have you both arrested for breaking and entering.”

 

Sherlock flicks the lights with one finger and then the local police force shows up apparently from out of nowhere. They enter the cabin from both the front door and side door and they all seem to pause, observing the crime scene in confusion.

 

Sherlock manages to roll his eyes and say, “Why, yes, there is an arrest going on. Any chance you people might get involved?”

 

Finally, the police constable springs into action and gives directives to the others to get the crime scene investigation going.

 

While they are busy, Sherlock signals to John with a tilt of the head, outside.

 

John nods back, okay. He coughs to get the sergeant’s attention. “Hmm, we’ll just let you folks do your work and we’ll wait outside if you have any questions.”

 

As soon as they exit through the front door, John says to Sherlock, “I guess you didn’t trust me to get the job done?” John’s not mad. They solved the case, he had fun, and everything turned out just fine--he’s just curious.

 

“Oh, John, I trusted you completely to get the job done… your way.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“You realize, John, that among your many talents acting isn’t one of them. Therefore, I predicted how your mission to bring Smith back to the hospital would actually unfold and prepared accordingly, but…”

 

“But?”

 

“My initial plan was better.”

 

Of course, of course, it was. “Ha. You wanted to draw out the clever repartees with the biological warfare genius.”

 

“That’s not it.”

 

John gives him a look to let him know he’s not buying any of his bullshit.

 

“Alright, fine. I would’ve enjoyed trapping him in a battle of wits… but mostly, I wanted him to know… doesn’t matter. You’re safe.”

 

“You wanted him to know you were cleverer.”

 

Sherlock looks down at his feet and then lifts his head, giving him a mischievous half-smile. “I wanted him to know I’d won the game.”

 

“He knows. You’re here and he’s handcuffed in the car on his way to jail.”

 

“Yes, but half the fun is trapping the culprit with his own words.”

 

“Sherlock, if you just like clever riddles, why don’t you just let me arrange a playdate for you with members from Mensa. You guys can exchange puzzles without killing each other at the end.”

 

Sherlock looks at him with a slightly stunned expression. “Please, John. Mensa? Really? I do more than solve Sudoku quickly. Mycroft believes I could easily be invited into the Vertex Society if I cared about such things.”

 

This makes John smile. Sherlock is genuinely insulted to be associated with Mensa.
“Sorry, I won’t call you names anymore,” says John (as if belonging to any elite IQ society is something to be ashamed of). “But seriously, when you’re bored, you might want to consider joining such a group; it’d be a bit less risky.” (Than turning to drugs, than taunting psychopaths.)

 

“Risky?” repeats Sherlock. “Look who’s talking.” He then turns slowly towards him and pulls out a handkerchief. For a moment, John thinks Sherlock is going to clean the blood from John’s face himself, but no, he just hands it over to John. “Here, wipe the blood from your face so we can determine if you need stiches.”

 

John takes it and wipes the blood. It doesn’t seem to be flowing freely anymore, so John doubts he’ll need stitches.

 

Sherlock takes the torch and points it to his temple and sighs deeply. “John, that was extremely stupid of you.”

 

John shrugs. He’s not about to debate the issue with Sherlock. Maybe he acted a bit impulsively, but all in all, he’d had control of the situation. “That’s no way to talk to your husband,” John says, to lighten up the mood.

 

Sherlock frowns, apparently not mollified by the humour, and checks the wound on his temple carefully. He sighs deeply when it starts to bleed again. “I swear my next spouse," says Sherlock, deliberately replicating John's words from earlier, "won't be so ridiculously careless."

 

John chuckles. "Well, before the poor sod signs on the dotted line, tell him to meet me for a few pointers on how to handle hyperactive geniuses and their ever so important mind games."
Sherlock looks at him, eyes piercing. "How do you know it will be a 'he'?"

 

John grins as he thinks about the laptop hidden in the bushes. “Well, he or she… doesn’t matter because I can tell you right now that your next spouse will never be able to top the wedding present I’m about to give you.”

 

Sherlock raises an eyebrow questioningly.

 

“Come here, honey,” John jokes, pulling Sherlock by the sleeve towards the side of the house.

 

John can’t wait to see Sherlock’s face when he sees this. It’s probably the best damn thing he’s ever given anyone!

 

John borrows Sherlock’s torch and searches for the darn spot where he hid the laptop earlier. All the shrubbery looks the same now—dense, dark, and brittle—but after a minute, John finally spots the bush he’s looking for. He’s so excited to see it—it might as well be Moses’ precious burning bush, as far as he’s concerned. He crouches down, picks up the computer with one hand, and holds it out to Sherlock. “There you go, dear husband,” John says, beaming.

 

It doesn’t take a nanosecond for Sherlock to figure out whose computer it is and what’s on it. “John,” Sherlock says in awe (In awe, thank you very much!) as he takes the slim laptop from John’s hands with a certain reverence.

 

John can’t stop grinning up at him. Is it sad that he actually feels prouder than on the day he received his letter of acceptance into medical school? Maybe not. Lots of people get into med school. (But it’s definitely sad that he feels prouder than on his real wedding day.)

 

Sherlock is still looking at the computer like it’s a new element on the periodic chart. “This is remarkable,” says Sherlock, finally looking up at him. “I can only conclude that you didn’t listen to any of my instructions,” he continues with a small smile.

 

“I followed the plan… but, yeah, I might’ve modified a bit here and there,” John laughs. “I figured everyone needs a little something special on their wedding day.”

 

John has no idea why he’s stretching out that joke. The case is over. There’s no ICU nurse here; in fact, there’s no one else here. They’d better hurry up and rejoin the police force before they are left stranded here for the night.

 

“Thank you, John,” says Sherlock. “I guess I don’t get the opportunity to say this often enough, but you are right—I doubt any new spouse of mine would ever give me a better wedding present than this.” Sherlock sighs and adds with a playful light in his eyes, “I didn’t get you anything.”

 

John laughs. “No worries—just don’t turn out to be an assassin six weeks into our marriage.”

 

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Mary was a double agent being blackmailed. There was no need to take it so personally, John.”

John just shakes his head up to the large trees overhead. He’s likely to get more sympathy from the drooping vine-like branches than from Sherlock on that issue. They’ve had this conversation many times before. “You annoying prat. Remind me again why I married you?”

 

“Because you are utterly bored without me?”

 

Too true. Too true.

 

They walk back to the front of the cabin, side by side, grinning at each other and John acknowledges to himself just how good it feels to be alive.

 

Up in the distance, there are detectives sealing off the area with yellow tape while the other officers are gathering evidence. As they approach, John asks Sherlock what he’s going to do with the laptop.

 

“First we’re going to get back in the cabin, borrow the knife that’s now in evidence, and then make a slight detour to show off my wedding gift to Smith.”

 

They re-enter the ferret’s house and Sherlock talks someone into handing him the evidence tray filled with items in clear, labeled plastic bags. Sherlock manages to talk an officer into taking fingerprints for him. It’s not until he’s done lifting the prints that a senior officer appears to inquire what is going on. (It’s at that point that John guesses that the laptop was password protected with Smith’s biometric finger print.)

 

Sherlock gives the head investigator a humble (and obviously fake) smile. “Just learning how you fine people proceed in this part of the world. I am most impressed with both your collection and analysis techniques,” he flatters the man into ignoring the breech of protocol.

 

John marvels as Sherlock successfully keeps possession of Smith’s laptop (as if he brought it along himself to take notes on the BVI police’s fine investigative techniques).

 

In the space of an eye blink, Sherlock heads over to the unmarked police vehicle where Culverton Smith sits in custody. John can imagine the taunting going on over there. He’d better join in before Sherlock gets himself arrested, too.

 

John approaches and hears Smith’s agitated voice resonating from inside the police car. “You two think you have the upper hand, but you have no idea who I deal with. There is no evidence—none. It is you two faggots who will be arrested for breaking and entering.”

 

“I doubt it. We’re upstanding citizens,” Sherlock riles him further and shows him the laptop.

 

John looks at Sherlock and his mouth twitches. John bites his lips to prevent himself from chuckling out loud. Apparently they’ve both got the post-case giggles. It’s highly inappropriate. These people don’t know them—don’t know how brilliant his Sherlock is. It’s a good thing when someone comes over to examine John and to take Sherlock’s statement.

 

John’s left ear is bandaged and when John turns around again, Sherlock has disappeared (Of course, he has.) He scans the perimeter of the crime scene and then, in the distance, he sees Sherlock being either hugged or crushed by a larger local woman who—wait, Oh, God, is that nurse Tanice?

 

Yes, yes it is. What the hell?

 

And then it clicks, and everything falls into place. Nurse Tanice is the one who hired Sherlock. She’s the client; the aunt who contacted Sherlock about her nephew’s suspicious death. Oh, and she must be the one who rigged the medical equipment to make Sherlock look sicker than he was.

 

And now it makes sense why she was so rigid about not letting him see Sherlock. The original plan was to have Smith go to the hospital once he heard of Sherlock’s mysterious recovery.

 

John approaches the pair. Sherlock slides out of the nurse’s grip looking quite uncomfortable as he pushes her back with a slightly bewildered expression.

 

“Hello, Nurse Tanice,” John says.

 

Tanice turns. “Oh, you!” she says a little sheepish. “Sorry about that. I had strict instructions from this man. I didn’t know he was married.”

 

“It’s okay. I understand. Listen, I’m very sorry about what happened to your nephew,” John replies, squeezing her forearm slightly.

 

A shadow of sadness passes over her features, making her look older. “Well at least we’ve caught him… thanks to you two.”

 

Sherlock doesn’t say anything and John can tell he’s trying really hard not to look bored with the conversation. Good boy. “Don’t thank me, thank the genius brain behind it all,” says, John. “He can outwit any psycho out there. You called the right person to help you,” John adds, patting Sherlock on the back.

 

Nurse Tanice’s posture changes yet again. She shuffles her feet and looks down towards the ground. “I would’ve liked to pay you, Mr Holmes, for everything you’ve done, and I know you said we’d work something out… ” her voice breaks, and her eyes fill with tears, she only needs to blink once and they will spill over. Sherlock looks at John, alarmed. His dear husband is not quite ready to do some consoling.

 

John rescues him and takes Nurse Tanice by the shoulders, kindly yet firmly. “Tanice… I can call you Tanice now, right? You’re not still mad at me, are you?” John says in a warm, teasing tone. Tanice looks up and manages to smile. “We’re friends now, right?” That gets John a weak laugh. “Ok, good. ‘Cause you didn’t seem to like me too much earlier.” Tanice rolls her eyes and laughs a bit more.

“Now listen to me very carefully,” John says, still holding on to her shoulders. “You were very brave to help out like you did. And you tell your sister that she can be proud of Victor. We’re all proud of him. You tell her he did not die in vain. He saved countless of lives by following through on his suspicions. He died a hero. So, don’t be sad about not paying Sherlock. Your family has paid enough.”

 

He gives Nurse Tanice a brief hug and catches Sherlock’s eyes over her shoulder.

 

Sherlock is looking at him as if John has just done something truly heroic. “Thank you,” Sherlock mouths quietly.

 

Tanice sighs. “I still wish there was something I could do in return.”

 

John tries to think what Tanice could do for them at this point. The only thing Sherlock needs is rest and food. Suddenly, John recalls his earlier promise to himself—if everything turns out alright, we’ll stay a few extra days for a vacation.

 

“Well now that you mention it,” says John impulsively, “If you could recommend a nice resort nearby for us to take a short vacation, we would really appreciate it.”

 

Sherlock frowns at him. What are you doing? And John just smirks and continues. “Sherlock was complaining earlier about never getting me a proper wedding gift—and a short break in this beautiful part of the world would definitely fit the bill.”

 

Nurse Tanice’s entire demeanor shifts once more as she seems to burst through with new found energy and purpose. “Oh, there’s something I can do! Easily!” she says, happy to be able to help. “In fact, I can do more than recommend a place, I can get you in, tonight. Virgil! Come here!”

 

A tall, skinny man, with kind brown eyes, approaches them from behind a police vehicle.

 

“This is my husband, Virgil and it so happens that he is the assistant manager of the Long Bay Resort.” She turns to Virgil. “Do you know off hand if there are any of those wonderful beachfront cabanas available for these two saviours?”

 

Virgil smiles shyly and shakes John’s hand and nods to Sherlock (as if he knows Sherlock has had his quota of human contact for the day.) Virgil speaks softly, “First off, thank you for your help. It means a lot to us. And second, yes, I can do something. Not exactly beachfront, but the hillside cottage with a private path to the beach is available until Sunday. Would that work?”

 

Sherlock seems to snap out of his daze. “That’s not necessary, we really should be going back to London.”

 

John speaks at the same time. “Perfect! Three nights, that’s all we need to recharge the battery!”

 

John implores him with a look. At least give them this to repay you.

 

John knows all Sherlock wants is to crack open Culverton Smith’s laptop and start going after his clients one by one—not relax in a hammock with a colourful drink and a tray of fresh pineapples. But the thing is; Sherlock needs this. He needs to sleep, and eat, and to let his body recover from the strain he just put it under.

 

In the end Sherlock does the right thing and accepts. “Well, okay,” he says trying to sound cheerful. “Interestingly enough, we never did take the time for a honeymoon after we were married,” Sherlock adds sarcastically.

 

John laughs. “Yes, it does feel like our wedding happened rather quickly.”

 

“Well then, that’s settled,” says Nurse Tanice. “A romantic holiday is just what you two need. Just don’t exert too much energy… that husband of yours needs some fattening up,” she adds with a meaningful wink.

 

John feels himself blushing and doesn’t dare make eye contact with Sherlock this time.

 

~~~***~~~

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

 

John wakes up to a display of dappled light tap-dancing across the entire hardwood floor of the oceanfront cottage. The window is open and John can see it’s the tropical leaves oscillating on their stem in the breeze outside causing the nice spectacle.

From his comfortable bed, John glances around the place; it is both rustic, and cozy. Technically, their ‘honeymoon’ cottage is nothing more than a large room with a comfy king size bed at one end and a small, quaint living room area at the other. But the furniture is made from rich, local, wood and the fact that he can actually hear the sound of the ocean tells John that the price tag on these accommodations is probably quite steep.

John has no idea what time it is—all he knows is that they got in after 1AM and that he fell asleep almost immediately after brushing his teeth and—

“You’re up,” John hears Sherlock announce from somewhere outside—probably the front porch. Their cottage has one, though John didn’t get to see it late last night.

“Yes,” John answers back, trying to figure out what could’ve possibly told Sherlock that he was awake. All he did was open his eyes, and looked around… he hasn’t even moved yet. “I’ll join you on the porch in a sec; I just need to use the loo first—though you probably already know that,” John adds as he gets up and heads to the bathroom.

“Yes, and I also know that it will take you longer than a sec because you will decide to take a shower once in there.”

“Smartarse,” John says before entering the en-suite bathroom.

“Thank you,” replies Sherlock.

“It’s not a compliment,” John calls out from inside the bathroom.

“Yes, it is,” he hears Sherlock’s response before closing the door behind him.

“Smartarse,” John repeats to himself, laughing fondly.

After his shower (Sherlock was right), John slips on his pants, jeans, and a grey t-shirt and heads over to the front veranda. He is greeted by a stunning view worthy of a travel brochure cover. Their cottage is nestled on a hillside, surrounded by unique trees with oval rubbery leaves and large emerald plants that look exactly like the potted ones his grandma used to dote on in her house (John had bitten one as a young child to prove to Harry it was real—he still remembers the bitter taste). There is enough space between the trees to see flashes of the aquamarine ocean a short distance away.

The porch is furnished with beautiful dark wicker furniture. On his left, there is a round table with two chairs (John imagines he’ll be having his morning coffee there in the future). Adjacent to the table, pushed against the wall, is a rather unique looking loveseat with plush red cushion to sit on and admire the serene setting.

On his right, there is a narrow, stripped red and orange hammock attached to the front and back wall by large hooks and coarse rope. This is where, of course, he finds Sherlock. He is lying down in the hammock, rocking gently, as if in perfect harmony with the ocean waves down below. He’s wearing one of his dark shirts (the charcoal one), sleeves rolled up at the elbows, with a pair of jeans also rolled up at the ankles, revealing his bare feet. He looks so relaxed, like he could be in his bathrobe on the sofa in Baker Street.

Sherlock turns towards him and smiles. There is a certain light in his eyes that tells John Sherlock is happy to be here (no matter what may come out of his mouth later). John smiles back, amicably.

“Nice view,” says John.

“Yes,” Sherlock says. (But he’s looking at John pensively, not the view).

John shuffles his feet a little self consciously, unsure why Sherlock keeps looking at him like that. “What?” he asks.

Sherlock presses his fingers together as is his habit when he’s deep in thoughts. “Nothing. Just thinking… ” he pauses and stays still like that for at least a minute, eyes closed. He’s probably sorting through minute, clever data from last night. John recognizes that look—he should just probably leave him alone and go in search of food. But when John turns to go, Sherlock finally opens his eyes again and looks at John. “I was thinking,” he repeats with a meditative expression, “would we be having sex right now if this was our real honeymoon?”

John gives a short, surprised laugh. That’s what Sherlock was pondering, looking all intellectual and serious? John really cannot read what goes on in this guy’s head.

“What are you on about?” John asks, both puzzled and suspicious.

Sherlock looks put upon as he pulls out a phone (John’s phone!) from his shirt pocket. “I was just talking to Mary and she said—”

John holds out a hand as if he’s a cop. “Stop right there. Mary called me back? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because you were in the shower…” The word imbecile hangs there even if it’s not spoken out loud.

“Sherlock, it was important that I talk to her. You could’ve knocked on the door and handed me the damn phone.”

Sherlock flicks a hand dramatically. “Why should I let Mary talk to you during my honeymoon when she wouldn’t even let me text you during her honeymoon… It’s only fair.”

John stares at him wide eyed. Of all the damn things Sherlock could be upset with Mary about—her interrupting their exchange on John’s blog during his honeymoon—is the one thing he can’t forgive her for?? Lord God, grant him patience.

“Sherlock! This is a completely different situation.”

“Relax, John. I was only jesting. Mary was in a rush to pick up Elizabeth from la crèche and didn’t have time to wait until I got you out of the shower. Lizzie is fine. Mary has been updated about my condition, so has my brother, who will let Donovan know that she interfered needlessly. It was Donovan who called you, wasn’t it? Obvious. So what about the sex? Would now be the right time?”

John opens his mouth, dumfounded. A conversation with Sherlock has more sharp turns than a zigzag lightning bolt (and sometimes just about the same effect). So, why is it that Sherlock is all interested in when sex takes place? John can’t see how any of this relates to the case they just finished.

“John, close your mouth. I didn’t ask you to have sexual intercourse with me. I merely asked if we would be having sex right now if we were really on our honeymoon.”

Why does Sherlock want to know that? John debates whether to ask him out loud. He’s got a feeling he wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway. Sherlock has deflected answering twice already. And if John’s learned anything from being Sherlock’s closest friend these past few years, is that it’s always more time efficient to just answer his damn questions than to talk around in circles endlessly and still not know what Sherlock means. John figures that the real reasons for Sherlock’s weird enquiry will eventually come out at some point. It always does.

So, John simply answers the question. “Probably not. I’m starving right now and that hunger would take precedence. ”

“Ah,” is all Sherlock says. John can practically see Sherlock click, drag, and drop that information in the proper chamber in his mind.

That’s odd. Sherlock seems to be quite serious about this topic. John remembers Sherlock referring to a honeymoon as a ‘sex holiday’ when he hijacked John’s blog a few years ago… maybe he really wants to be educated as to what exactly takes place during a honeymoon? Well, John certainly can’t answer for the rest of the population! He feels the need to specify. “But that’s just me… ”

Sherlock nods. “I know.” John was expecting a sarcastic comment but it seems that’s all Sherlock has to say.

Looks like this strange conversation is over, Thank God. “So, do you want to go to breakfast? It’s all included,” asks John.

“No,” Sherlock replies. “But thanks,” he adds as an after thought (as if he’s practicing his social skills…)

“Sherlock, you need to eat.” This is the type of conversation that’s much more familiar territory for them.

Sherlock rolls his eyes (again, much more familiar territory) and waves a dismissive hand in John’s direction. “John, we’ve been married twenty-four hours, not twenty-four years—stop nagging me,” he says, pretending to be annoyed.

“In all fairness, I’ve been nagging you about your health since we moved in together.”

“And has it got you anywhere?”

John chuckles. He can’t help it. “You’re impossible.”

Sherlock grins widely. (Apparently being impossible and a smartarse falls in the same category as being amazing and brilliant—go figure…)

They look at each other until John feels the need to say something. “Well, I’ll bring you back some fruit and a coffee.”

“Not necessary. I’ll just grab some here.”

“Grab what? Not sure if these plants are edible,” says John waving a hand in the direction of the greenery outside.

Sherlock suddenly spins out of the hammock and lands gracefully on the floor in a perfect gymnastic dismount. He pushes the screen door open, walks in, and three seconds later walks back out with a huge fruit basket. “How you could’ve possibly missed this is beyond me. Did it need a bigger bow? Larger, mutant, fruits? Maybe an alarm should’ve gone off when you walked next to it?”

John groans. Seriously he didn’t see the large gift basket the management must’ve delivered while he was in the shower. ‘Enjoy your honeymoon’ is engraved in bronze letters on a small white card and below is a handwritten note from Tanice and Virgil: Thanks again for everything.

“Nice,” he says, though he does feel a tinge guilty about the whole ‘we’re husbands’ lie. They’ll have to remember to stay in character for the next few days so word doesn’t get back to Tanice. John intuitively understands that being gay meant a lot to Tanice and her sister; John has a feeling it might not have been easy for Victor to come out. And for all he knows that might’ve been the reason Sherlock took the case in the first place… bringing justice to those who are ‘different’.

John grabs a banana from the basket and says, “Eat this and I’ll leave you in peace.”

Sherlock takes the banana, winces, and says, “The phenols do not agree with me.”

And then Sherlock proceeds to download every known fact about bananas and share them with John at an incredibly fast pace. Seriously, John won’t remember every fact, but he’s not likely to forget the funny way in which Sherlock explains the unfortunate life cycle and perils of the poor banana (Being radioactive is the least of their problems, John. Bananas are fragile genetic mutants and are sexually impotent. The banana apocalypse is inevitable, John. )

John realizes that he’s laughed more on this honeymoon than his first time around (and he’s only one hour in).

Finally, after his giggles have died down—honestly, the banana apocalypse?—he says, “Sherlock, I told you fifteen minutes ago that I was starving and I still haven’t eaten, all the while you’ve been de-cluttering your mind palace and getting rid of all these useless banana facts at my expense.”

“Maybe you weren’t that hungry after all.”

John shakes his head not bothering to grace that comment with an answer. “Okay, you prat. I’m going. I probably won’t be back until later. I’m going to go sit by the pool, order a drink, and read a good book. You get some rest, okay?” (He knows Sherlock was probably up all night with his new best friend—the laptop.)

Sherlock nods obediently (which is not reassuring at all, truth be told). But by the time John leaves, Sherlock has gone back on the porch and is gently swaying in the hammock with his eyes closed. He looks at peace… happy.

John grabs his phone and impulsively takes a photo.

Because he can.

Sherlock is alive (There was two long years when all John had were newspaper clippings of a frowning Sherlock.) And then Sherlock miraculously returned, but too soon after Sherlock was being sent to a war torn eastern European country and John still only had newspaper clippings. (His wedding photos didn’t count; all he saw looking at those were Mary’s betrayal and Sherlock almost dying again.)

John takes another picture for good measure. Maybe soon, he’ll take some when Sherlock is awake.

 

~~~***~~~

 

John decides to walk on the beach to get to the main resort area. Feeling light and happy, he takes the wooden stairs down the hillside to the ocean down below. When he gets to the beach, the sun is hot on his skin and he just stands there enjoying the feeling.

It’s strikingly beautiful here. The water in the blue-green ocean is crystal clear and the sand is so damn white it’s almost like someone’s spilled truckloads of sugar all over the area. He’ll try to drag Sherlock out for a swim at one point. There are very few people around—it’s quiet and peaceful. He couldn’t have asked for a better place for him and Sherlock to take a few day’s rest.

He finds the main lodge of the resort a few meters down the beach and sees Virgil behind the desk. He goes over to express his gratitude again and to inquire as to where he can still grab something to eat mid-afternoon, and where he can purchase beach wear and casual clothes for the next three days (things he didn’t think he’d need when he packed in a hurry yesterday.)

They exchange a few pleasantries and Virgil sends John on his way.

John eats first and then he finds the store Virgil told him about. There, he not only buys swimming trunks, but he also purchases a black polo shirt, khaki shorts, beige linen trousers, a blue dress shirt, and brown leather sandals. John doesn’t look at the total before handing over his credit card. As far as he’s concerned, Mycroft Holmes is still paying for this part of the mission.

As John walks out of the main reception area, he sees a small, nicely handwritten sign that says Book Lending Library. He enters and sees two sofas, a coffee table, and two large white book shelves filled with novels.

Perfect!

He gets a little jolt of pleasure just thinking about choosing something and then heading out to a shaded area to read with a cool drink in hand. He scans the spine of the books looking for medical thrillers or science fiction novels.

Suddenly John notices that he is no longer the only one gazing at the books on the shelf. There is a medium height woman with short-ish black hair pulled back in a small s-shaped ponytail. She is wearing a purple tennis skirt with a white tank top with the strap being pulled down by the large Dunlop tennis bag she is carrying on her shoulder.

She grins broadly as she pulls a novel off the shelf. “Oh thank God! Would you believe this is the book I left on the airplane? And they have a copy of it here. I’m so lucky!” she then frowns and adds, “Oh, sorry, I hope that’s not what you were looking for too?”

John looks at the book she’s holding; Little Big Lies by Liane Moriarty. Nope—doesn’t care much for the title nor for the author’s last name. He smiles, “It’s all yours.”

“Oh, you’re British!” She seems so impressed, like he’s brought the queen with him.

“Yes. American?”

“Canadian.”

They chat for a bit and John finds out that her name is Stephanie and that she and her husband are here for their fifteenth wedding anniversary. They are both physicians; Stephanie is a radiologist and John is interested to hear that her husband, Eric, is a general practitioner who served in Afghanistan around the same time he did.

“Oh, Eric would love to have a chat with you. I’m sure we’ll see you around and I can introduce you two, if that’s okay?”

“That would be nice.”

“The formal resort restaurant is located just off the main area but the food is so worth the walk—and the views are spectacular too. Maybe we’ll see you there later?”

“Yes, that sounds good, actually.” John thinks it might be enjoyable to eat in a nice restaurant with Sherlock.

“Alright, enjoy the rest of your afternoon, John.”

“You too. Don’t lose your book again.”

“I won’t!” she says happily, waving goodbye with her book.

 

~~~***~~~

 

About three hours later, John heads back to the beach cottage feeling content and completely relaxed after having done nothing but sit in the shade, read, and to cool off, swim once in a while.

John enters the beach house through the front veranda and surprisingly finds Sherlock, not in the hammock where he left him, but sleeping inside the cottage. To be precise, Sherlock is lying on his stomach in the king size bed in the exact same spot John vacated earlier in the day. He seems to be naked except for a white sheet artfully tangled around him. His face is partly buried in John’s pillow and the soft glow of the afternoon light dramatically defines the angles of his face and the fullness of his lips. With his dark curls forming a perfect halo around his head, Sherlock looks like an angel who has just stepped out of a renaissance painting and landed on John’s bed as if it were a cloud.

John finds the entire tableau an oddly intimate sight—not only because Sherlock is nude and snuggling John’s pillow tightly—but because all their personal belongings are now intermingled. In the corner of the room, on the whicker chair, the clothes Sherlock was wearing earlier are now lying on top of John’s army fatigues from last night. Also, on the bedside table, Sherlock’s odd assortment of things (his magnifying glass, a paperclip, a packet of sugar, and his wallet) are mixed in with John’s (spare change, a folded receipt, and his watch) as if they are in a habit of emptying their pockets together before crawling into the same bed every night.

Good Lord, it’s no wonder there’s always crazy rumours circulating about them!

John sighs. Sherlock has no concept of personal boundaries or how weird it might be for John to find him like this. He probably just needed to sleep and proceeded with doing just that without further thought.

John stares at his best friend fondly. It’s not the first time that John’s noted that Sherlock looks as though he is someone else altogether when the pause button is on and his great fast-paced intellect is dormant. Not too many people are privy to such a sight.

John’s not sure what he should do. Let Sherlock sleep or wake him up so he’s not up all night again? It’s obvious he needs to regulate his sleep, and besides, he needs to eat, he cannot live on bananas alone.

John approaches the bed and says “Sherlock?”

There is no answer.

John feels such fondness for the stubborn twat who refused to sleep on the bed last night and now can’t seem to be risen out of his deep sleep. He’s not sure what’s the best way to wake him up.

John sits on the edge of the bed and says a bit louder. “Sherlock, wake up.”

John waits a bit, but Sherlock seems dead to the world.

He tries again, this time shaking Sherlock’s shoulder gently. “Sherlock?”

Sherlock stirs and lifts his head off the pillow. “John,” he says, gazing up at him, sleepily. He looks so damn open and vulnerable like that. So very human.

And out of nowhere John thinks, Now is when I would have sex with you if we were really married.

John blinks and then shakes his head trying to make sense of where that came from.

It’s a surprising thought (no kidding…) but not a lustful one, he reassures himself. There’s no wild desire surging through him or anything. In fact, the only reason sex entered his mind is because Sherlock brought it up earlier and John was still somehow trying to answer his question.

By some complicated logic, John sees it as a ‘teaching moment’ of sorts—like if Sherlock were awake, he would explain to him that this is when it would be romantic for him to make love to his brand new spouse; especially after spending most of the day apart and finding said spouse completely nude and relaxed and needing to be woken up for their dinner reservation later…

Yes, a ‘teaching moment’ that’s all it was.

Calmly, John says, “I’ve made a dinner reservation for us at eight. Do you think you’ll come—you should really have a meal.”

Sherlock drops his head back on the pillow and ignores John.

“Sherlock, the reservation is—”

“I’ll be there,” Sherlock says as he pulls the sheet over his head, simultaneously ending the conversation and revealing his entire left backside.

John sighs when he sees a vivid sunburn on Sherlock’s left shoulder blade. The patch is vibrant red with white finger tips on the outer edge clearly defining where Sherlock wasn’t able to reach when applying sunscreen. It’s weird because that’s the only part of him that’s burnt. The rest of his back is pale just like the rest of him including his scars (which are actually whiter than his skin). It’s not the first time John’s seen them but it still manages to twist his gut at the sight of them.

His eyes wander back to the burn and he shakes his head. Lord knows what Sherlock was doing and how he managed to get only that part sunburned. John looks around the cottage, looking for clues as to where Sherlock went and what he might’ve been doing, but nothing obvious jumps out at him.

John goes to the bathroom and brings back the complimentary aloe vera gel he spotted in the basket earlier. He squeezes a small amount in his hand and lightly spreads it over Sherlock’s shoulder.

Sherlock stirs in protest and rolls away from John until he’s lying on his side, accidentally presenting his bare buttock to John.

John merely covers him up again with the sheet and finishes spreading the soothing gel over the burn, ignoring Sherlock’s long, exasperated sigh. When he’s done, John wipes his hands with the white towel he left on the bed earlier.

Sherlock seems to be sleeping again and John shakes his head, resigned… Looks like I might be eating dinner alone tonight. That doesn’t sound like much fun.

“You’d better show up,” John says, and then ruffles Sherlock’s hair playfully.

It’s not something he’s ever done before—touch Sherlock like that—and for a few suspended seconds, John’s hand is rooted in Sherlock’s (surprisingly so soft) hair. Somehow he knows Sherlock must feel John’s fingers tangled in his curls but his friend doesn’t move or ask what John is doing.

Finally, John removes his damn hand at once when he realizes the intimacy of the gesture.

His heart is beating a little fast, as if he was almost caught red-handed breaking in somewhere and he feels slightly confused as to why it feels like he’s done something he shouldn’t have.

Seriously, there’s no reason to worry he’s crossed some kind of line here. He’s probably just paranoid because earlier he accidently mingled the idea of sex and Sherlock in the same thought.

And if anything, patting Sherlock on the head only reaffirms the platonic nature of their relationship. It’s nothing more than what a best friend (or even a brother) would do to his buddy when they find them exasperating and endearing at the same time.

As John heads to the shower, he laughs at himself for being so bloody sensitive about such a meaningless expression of affection between friends.

 

~~~***~~~

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

John comes out of the shower and sees that Sherlock is still sleeping in his spot on the bed. (He doesn’t take a picture this time—it’d be more than a bit weird since Sherlock is half naked.) John gets dressed quietly in the new clothes he purchased earlier: the black polo shirt with the linen beige trousers, plus his leather sandals (which need a brisk shake outside since there’s so much sand in them). He writes Sherlock a quick note reminding him of their reservation at ‘The Sugar Mill’ restaurant and grabs his wallet, cottage key, and heads out towards the village area so he can purchase a small something for his little girl before the vendors leave for the day.

It’s easy to think of all the endearing things about his toddler when he is far away from her. He truly misses her relentless energy, her unguarded affection, her brief spontaneous cuddles—including the smell of her little head before she squirms away again—and the simple unconditional love she dishes out freely. But the truth is, taking care of a toddler is a hell of a lot of work—not unlike being on-call at the surgery; unpredictable, often really busy, and really loud. (Yes, when Lizzie is tired, she can scream like she’s a professional banshee.)

So, no matter how much he loves his baby girl, John can acknowledge that it’s nice to have a little break from parenthood and to be only responsible for himself for a few days. It’s great to get away from it all once in a while.

In fact, after he purchases a cute parrot puppet for Lizzie, he decides to walk to The Sugar Mill instead of accepting a complimentary ride up the hill by the resort’s shuttle bus because, without a baby, it’s a treat to be able to actually get somewhere with pace and not have to either push a pram, or walk at a snail’s pace holding his little one’s hand.

With enthusiastic energy John follows the dirt road leading up to the restaurant. It is exactly one car width (a very small car at that) and is framed by a waist high stone wall. (The sign at the bottom of the hill informs John that the stones were brought in from Liverpool four hundred years ago.)

He enjoys the view of the bay as he climbs up higher and higher (ignoring how sore his feet are getting in his sandals). Finally he arrives at his destination a little out of breath but can already tell it will be worth it later on when the sun sets. He climbs up a set of old stone stairs until he stands under an ornate archway at the entrance of the restaurant.

The Sugar Mill restaurant itself is gorgeous. It is a unique looking building with pale yellow walls and large windows (without glass or screen) surrounded by moss green shutters. There are vines with bright pink flowers growing on one wall. It is all open air and overlooks the ocean. The tables have large beige candles on them but they are not yet lit—waiting for the sun to set, probably.

People have gathered around the side of the restaurant where pre-dinner cocktails are being served in a quaint outdoor bar. John suddenly feels a bit self-conscious standing there by himself. Lord knows if Sherlock will even show up or make a brisk U-turn once he sees people socializing. Perhaps he should head back to the main lodge and order some food to bring back to their cottage. Yes, that’s what he should do.

But then someone is tapping him on the shoulder, “Hi! It’s me Stephanie from the book lending library earlier.”

The friendly physician looks different with her hair styled down and wearing a stylish purple (lilac?) sundress instead of a tennis attire. “Oh yes, how do you do?” inquires John, happy to see someone he knows.

“Very well. The view and the weather are just so spectacular… We’re very lucky.” John grins inwardly to himself. Wouldn’t Sherlock just be rolling his eyes at the small talk?

“Yes. Very fortunate,” replies John. “I was under the impression that the weather is always like this at this time of the year.” He’s glad they’re getting the obligatory weather talk out of the way before Sherlock shows up.

“Well, me as well, but our last vacation in the Caribbean was awful. Rained for four and a half days out of six.”

“I can see how that would put a damper on things,” says John, smiling.

“Ha. You’re funny,” Stephanie says, acknowledging his feeble play on words with a bright smile. “Oh, and here’s my husband,” she announces, happily.

John turns and walking towards them is a middle-aged man holding two yellow fruity drinks in each hands. He has a kind round face, dark brown hair, and a bit of a belly sticking out on top of his belt.

He grins widely at John. “Hello! Steph was telling me she’d met a fellow physician who served in Afghanistan,” he says as he gives one of the drinks to his wife and extends his now free hand towards John. “Eric,” he says.

Eric has a nice, firm handshake and despite the fact that they are both standing in a posh vacation resort there is a subtle wariness in the way they look at each other that indicates that neither of them has forgotten the atrocities of war. John likes him immediately. “John,” he introduces himself in return.

The conversation quickly turns to their time in Afghanistan and before he knows it, the sun has begun to set, and the friendly Stephanie is putting a drink in his hand (Try this papaya daiquiri, you’ll never taste anything like it anywhere else in the world!).

As they talk, John sips on the drink and acknowledges that it is extraordinarily good. He wonders if this is the kind of thing Sherlock would even try or would he consider it too boringly trendy?

“Would you like to join our table for dinner?” Stephanie asks, “Or are you waiting for your special someone?”

John hates to lie but he and Sherlock are in this catch-22 situation now. He can’t say he’s here with his best friend; it’d be too uncomfortable if their hosts were to find out they’d been fooling them all along. Also, he’s still wearing the wedding band! John knows he’s not likely to ever see these people again, and what harm could there be in sharing a meal with interesting people from a different country?

“Yeah-hmm, I’m actually waiting for my husband,” he says.

Stephanie holds out a hand in a friendly gesture. “Maybe you can both join us? Is he a physician as well?” (Seems like the same-sex partner thing is not an issue.)

John grins. “Well, he probably knows more pathology than you and me both, but he’s not a doctor, he’s a detective.”

Her eyes widen in interest. “Oh, that’s extremely fascinating.”

Eric teases his wife. “Stephie loves all those detective TV shows that are so popular at the moment,” he laughs. “As if all private eyes are gorgeous and can solve crime like it’s a one man show,” he says to John with a wink.

Stephanie play punches her husband on the arm. “I know it’s a stereotype!”

John smiles, amused. “Sherlock is a one-man show all-right… but he pretty much defies any stereotype. There’s no one else like him.” He shrugs, before adding, “Actually, he might not even show up—he’s recuperating from his latest case.”

“Oh, that’s too bad. Well, even more reasons to join us for dinner… you don’t want to eat by yourself!”

John hesitates. He knows Stephanie and Eric are here for their wedding anniversary. He doesn’t really want to intrude on their special vacation. “If you’re sure…”

But then Stephanie is distracted by the appearance of another guest whom she apparently wants to introduce to John “Ha, here’s Dr Langley from Boston,” she says, waiving frantically until the man in question is walking towards them. “Hello, Michael! This is John; family physician from England,” she says it as if John is a very dear friend of hers.

Dr Langley reminds John of his former anatomy professor in medical school. He has that rugged look women seem to love. A perfect two-day stubble, dark, laughing eyes, and of course, a dimple dents his cheek…

Thomas, doctor Langley’s son, looks exactly like his father. He’s an extremely handsome bloke who could be on Telly advertising men’s razors or men’s hiking boots (or both at the same time). John finds out he’s a field biologist interested in environmental causes. Go figure.

Well, it’s certainly interesting to meet medical colleagues from different corners of the world, and when Stephanie invites the Langleys to join their table too, John is actually glad he won’t be the third wheel at the table during the friendly couple’s anniversary trip.

 

~~~***~~~

 

A short while later the five of them are seated at a table—the one with the best view according to Stephanie—and a spot next to John has been saved for Sherlock. (Though his new acquaintances have started teasing John about his ‘imaginary’, mysterious husband.) Dr Langley has already chosen and ordered wine for everyone and the conversation quickly resets to the intricacies of healthcare, insurance forms, wait time, and the greater good. John finds the conversation stimulating and really wishes Sherlock were here to see that there are intelligent people out there and that it’s not all that stupid and irrelevant.

Everyone is enjoying themselves, except maybe Michael’s son, Thomas. He hasn’t genuinely smiled once since they’ve met even though he has contributed some well thought out arguments for and against universal health care, but John can tell his heart is not into it.

Well, he shouldn’t talk. He’s a bit distracted himself; for the last ten minutes, his gaze keeps turning towards the entrance of the restaurant.

At last, Sherlock appears under the archway on the top step of the restaurant. John feels himself grinning. There you are!

The setting sun is beaming directly on Sherlock, bathing him entirely in warm, soft, apricot light, making him look… handsome. Approachable. Maybe it’s because of the way he’s dressed—all in friendly earth tones (he must have gone shopping too?) His trousers are a soft brown, like coffee with just one milk, and his shirt is sand-coloured (though in this light it almost looks peach.) He’s wearing brown aviator sunglasses and he’s got one hand in his pocket and the other hooks his suit jacket over one shoulder. He looks like a bloody movie star!

Sherlock takes off his sunglasses and folds them in the V of his shirt. Their eyes connect across the room. A tiny smile tugs at Sherlock’s lips as if to say; Relax, I told you I’d come.

“Is that your husband?” asks Stephanie.

John nods, not taking his eyes off Sherlock.

“He’s very good looking,” says Stephanie with a pointed look at her husband.

“Wait ‘til you see how brilliant he is too,” John replies, chuckling.

As Sherlock approaches, John notices that Sherlock must have spent more time in the sun than he’d initially thought. His skin now has a bit of colour, and a dusting of freckles has appeared on his nose and cheeks. John thinks it makes him look young and… adorable (A thought that is surely influenced by the papaya drinks he consumed earlier on).

John stands when Sherlock reaches the table and Sherlock casually places a hand on the small of John’s back, leans down a bit, and fake kisses him on the cheek in order to whisper in John’s ear, “Dinner with other people, really?

John chuckles, “Behave,” he says taking Sherlock’s hand in his and giving it a small squeeze.

John turns and looks at the group now staring at them, curiously. He feels the tip of his ears warming and he knows he must have a big, goofy, grin plastered on his face. John realizes what it must look like to the others—that he’s head over heels in love with his husband—when in reality, he’s just really that happy to see that Sherlock made it. Well, it’s a good thing John went ahead and told them they were married.

John smiles and says with a shrug, “Well, there you go, he exists after all.”

Introductions are made and the conversation resumes promptly. The waiter comes to take their food order, and after a while more wine is ordered.

John is having a good time and he hopes Sherlock is too. He’s certainly saying all the right things at the right time and everyone seems to find him charismatic and pleasant to be around.

But John wants him to be himself too and wants him to realize that he doesn’t need to pretend all the time when he’s socializing. In fact, he needs Sherlock to be himself with a quiet desperation he doesn’t quite understand. Perhaps it’s because of all their banter about a ‘next spouse’? It’s like it’s become John’s mission to show his pseudo-husband that he can be in a relationship and that his gift is not something to be hidden. There are other people who will find Sherlock’s amazing too.

John lays his fingers on top of Sherlock’s hand in order to get his attention. For a brief second, Sherlock’s charming face disappears and he looks a little lost as he stares at John’s hand on his.

“You okay?” John asks, quietly.

“I’m fine.”

“Sherlock.”

“Fine; this is tedious.”

“We can leave if you want.”

“No. You’re having fun.”

“I’ll have more fun if you can just be yourself.”

At that moment, Stephanie calls out behind the glass of wine she’s holding. “Eh, you two lovebirds, stop whispering in each other’s ear!” She turns to the waiter who has just brought another bottle of Shiraz. “You can tell who’s been married fifteen years and who the newlyweds are, eh?”

Sherlock gives John a look, ‘You want me to be myself?’ and says, “Actually Stephanie, I daresay that you and Eric are acting more like newlyweds than John and I. Your left foot has been busy under the table ‘playing footsies’ with Eric’s right foot. Perhaps you’re feeling like you’re fourteen year old again? Also, Eric has blushed twice when you’ve mentioned how much you’re craving double chocolate cheesecake—indicating an in-joke with sexual undertones.”

“Caught!” Eric chuckles. “Actually, the ‘double chocolate cheesecake’ thing is how we met. Steph was three years ahead of me in med school and hosted the new resident ‘greet and meet’ party and made that cake. That’s when I fell in love with her. That cake is my soft spot,” he says rubbing his stomach.

“Yes, very soft,” says Sherlock.

Eric laughs in good humour. “Isn’t that the truth!”

John breathes a sigh of relief, happy that his new acquaintances are taking things in good humour and that Sherlock is participating in his own way in the conversation.

Suddenly, a resort employee drops by their table and gives a list to Michael Langley of times the charter boat leaves for the island of Jost Van Dyke tomorrow (John can only assume that the Langleys must’ve inquired earlier on).

Michael asks a few questions about booking a spot and whether or not they can eat on the island. When the employee leaves, Michael shares the details for their tropical vacation.

“We were due for some father-son bonding time, so we thought we’d do a trip together. The British Virgin Islands are world renowned for snorkeling, so that’s why we ended up here.”

Sherlock fake-coughs. “Hmm—That’s not quite true, is it now?” he says, folding his hands together just bellow his chin.

Sherlock’s got that look in his eyes. He’s about to unravel their whole life story, isn’t he?

Oh, well, even if the Langleys don’t have the same sense of humour as Steph and Eric, he did tell Sherlock to be himself. Besides, John is confident that Sherlock now knows what to share and what to keep to himself.

Much to John’s surprise (and probably everyone else’s) Thomas starts to laugh. It’s the first time he has seen him smile like he wants to be here at all. The young biologist turns to his father, “Can I tell him?”

But before Michael Langley can reply, Sherlock interrupts. “I believe I could tell you,” he says, a tad indignant.

A few puzzled looks are shared around the table and John is proud to step in and explain. “My husband is amazing. He’s a genius, gifted in all sciences, but also in observation skills. He can deduce anything from clues that are not obvious to any of us. Seriously, he’s figured out exactly why you two are here. You’ll think he’s been stalking you for years when he’s done. ” John lets his thumb run over Sherlock’s knuckles as if to say Go ahead, blow them away.

Sherlock takes a deep breath. John imagines it will be a relief to release all these micro-observations that have been accumulating in that great beautiful head of his since he arrived.

Sherlock turns towards Michael Langley. “This trip wasn’t meant for you and your son. You are replacing someone. It’s obvious you haven’t booked time off from the office or the hospital. You keep taking calls from the residents you are supervising, therefore not a planned get-away to bond with your son. And talking about your son here, Thomas, he looks utterly miserable—not that I blame him—these dinner things seem to drag on and on… it’s obvious Thomas does not want to be here, and cares naught for snorkeling, tropical fish, and spending quality time with his dad. Though, that being said, you two do get along and have a good relationship. There is a pervasive sadness in both your body language. A death? No—it doesn’t fit. Both of you are the type who would counter grief by working three times as much—not taking a holiday. Also, there has been no tears. Now the interesting fact is that you are staying in the coveted “Fanta-Sea” cottage—the best honeymoon accommodation on the island… Probably needs to be booked well in advance. You would definitely not choose that particular cottage if travelling with your son. You have grown quiet and tense when wedding anecdotes details were shared earlier. You’ve hidden behind your glass when Stephanie and Eric mentioned their wedding. So, why would an intelligent, conscientious cardiologist research and book this place well in advance and bring his son instead of his wife?”

“Easy… ” Sherlock pauses briefly as if waiting for everyone to catch up to his quick-paced deductions. “ Your daughter was jilted at the altar two days ago. This trip was your generous gift to your daughter and almost-son-in-law. You could’ve received a reimbursement by your travel insurance but your anger towards your almost-son-in-law is overwhelming, and frankly not helping the situation. Your wife suggested you go on the trip since you were so invested in the details. But really she was trying to get rid of you.”

Sherlock turns to Thomas.

“You have just finished your second degree in a field your parents not-so-secretly think is useless; plant physiology. Now, let’s see… you start your doctorate at the end of May but in the meantime you want to help out the family in any way you can. You agree to come on this trip, and…”

There, Sherlock pauses and looks at John for guidance. “And?” John prompts, curious to find out more about the botanist.

“And you will have a jolly time with your father looking at sea creatures—though you should really check out the flora in the forest too. And, hmm, your sister will be just fine.”

It’s obvious to John that Sherlock has just triaged through deductions and decided to keep something hurtful to himself and made up this sappy ending instead.

Sherlock looks at John. Too much?

John smiles and nods. Nah--You’re good.

More than good...

Michael Langley shakes his head in disbelief. He doesn’t seem upset, just relieved that it’s out in the open. “It’s all true. Every single word… including my wife needing to get me out of the house.” The cardiologist downs his wine in one gulp. “The house is filled with vengeful bridesmaids and useless wedding gifts. But the most unbearable sight is seeing my girl hurt so much… ”

It seems to be therapeutic for Michael Langley to talk about it and suddenly the entire story pours out of him again. John thinks about his own wedding day, how fucking nervous he was that morning, and how the idea of simply not showing up had crossed his mind. He wonders how things would’ve gone if he’d left Mary at the altar…

John must’ve missed a thread of the conversation because suddenly a happier Thomas is talking to him.

“So, how did you two meet?” asks Thomas, pointing a finger between John and Sherlock.

Stephanie chimes in. “I bet it was love at first sight.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “More like infatuation at first sight.”

John hits Sherlock on the forearm, playfully. “Ha, very funny. No, we were just friends… for a long time.” Everyone is staring at him, apparently waiting for more details (which he doesn’t have… because that’s all they are, friends) He coughs, then casts a quick look at Sherlock, (who is no help whatsoever) and adds a bit more to the story. “Well, we were flatmates first and then best friends… and the rest, as they say, is history,” he finishes lamely.

It’s almost comical the expression on everyone’s faces. John gathers he might have skipped over the juiciest bit—the all important ‘moment’ when things changed.

“Well, what happened?” inquires Eric.

John is feeling a bit sheepish. He doesn’t really feel like lying to these people any more than he has to, plus he has no idea what to say. It’s funny that he’s sitting next to the man who can weave stories together like he was a direct descendant of Shakespeare but somehow just sits there silently, happy to let John fabricate something romantic out of their adventures together.

The only thing that comes to mind is the night he and Sherlock got drunk, so he goes with it. “One night we’d had a bit too much to drink while we were out. A friend’s stag-do. Well, Sherlock doesn’t drink often and, hfmm, yeah, he was a bit under the influence, yeah, that’s right, when we got home, he, er, kissed me. And that’s all there is to it, real--”

“It was you,” Sherlock interrupts. “It was you who initiated the kiss, not me.”

John gives Sherlock a look. Who cares?

But Sherlock is being strangely difficult and insists on correcting John. “You’d had too much to drink too, slipped a bit off your chair, and held on to my knee for support. ”

There is something is the way Sherlock says it that makes John follow his lead. He’s not sure what the bloody hell is going on—but John knows that Sherlock is a private man and even if they were a couple, there’s no bloody way Sherlock would be insisting on sharing intimate details in front of others.

“We always argue about that part of the story,” says John, as if he’s told it a million times. “Yes, that’s right, I slipped and held on to you… But I still think it was you who leaned in and kissed me.” Jesus, as if he’d ever make the first moves on Sherlock Holmes! It’s ridiculous that the story would go that way!

Obviously, his dear ‘husband’ doesn’t see it this way. “Why would I do that when up to that point I’d only seen you with women?” Alright. Good point, John concedes silently.

Sherlock says to Michael Langley. “John had a girlfriend at the time… so obviously I wasn’t going to initiate anything.”

“Yes, I know. But still—”

Sherlock interrupts again. “And then you said you didn’t mind kissing me.”

John makes big eyes at Sherlock as if to say What are you doing? “Okay, so we kissed each other one night when we were drunk, and honestly, that’s all.”

John looks at Sherlock to see if he’s going to argue again, but no, he just nods in agreement. Whatever that was about, Sherlock must’ve achieved what he wanted.

“End of story!” adds John to make sure no one asks for more details.

However Sherlock moves in closer to him and leans in and casually puts his arm around the back of John’s chair, his fingers resting on John’s shoulder, his thumb running across John’s collarbone. It seems their little performance is not over yet.

It’s nothing over the top, nothing any other couple who’s had four glasses of wine wouldn’t do, but John knows it’s for show. It’s something to do with the cardiologist, John is sure. Sherlock has probably deduced from some minute facial expression (or God knows what else), that Michael Langley needs some sort of lesson regarding same-sex couples.

Even though it feels weird to have so much of Sherlock’s physical affection, John is filled with a pervasive sense of well-being. He is quite content to let Sherlock touch him like they’re a real couple. He remembers that just a little over forty-eight hours ago he believed Sherlock to be seriously ill and on death’s doorstep. And now, to have the bloody wanker’s arm around him is comforting. It’s as if the physical contact is a proof that Sherlock is alive and well and that it was worth dropping everything to come and check on him.

With his arm still around John’s back, Sherlock takes John’s phone, unlocks it, and pushes it towards Michael Langley. “Could you take a photo of us? John only has photos of me sleeping.”

Ah! Definitely for the benefit of Michael Langley, then! John thinks proudly (all the while ignoring the fact that Sherlock knows that John’s been taking photos of him. Of course he knows. No big surprise there. What is surprising is that he hasn’t asked John why. Though, come to think of it, Sherlock has probably figured out why as well.)

 

John leans into Sherlock slightly for the photo. (Perhaps more than slightly because now he can smell Sherlock’s aftershave) and Sherlock tightens his arm around John and smiles his five star smile for the camera.

One day, John figures, they’ll have a good laugh looking at this picture, remembering the time they pretended to be married so John could save Sherlock’s sorry ass.

 

~~~***~~~

 

It is nearly midnight when they are finally ready to leave the restaurant. John is slightly intoxicated—pleasantly so. He still has his arm around Sherlock’s waist for the benefit of the Langleys who are exiting the restaurant at the same time as they are.

As soon as they are out of sight, Sherlock drops the act. The arm that was draped around John’s shoulder slides off quickly and his face turns serious and tired. John promptly lets go of Sherlock’s waist.

Sherlock rubs his temple. “Well, that was exceedingly painful. Thank you for that.”

“I did offer to leave earlier,” John says, sounding slightly offended to his own ears. Here he thought he was showing Sherlock he could be both in a relationship and his brilliant self at the same time.

Sherlock heads over to the rock wall bordering the road, climbs over it, and sits down facing the ocean. “I know, I just, I don’t, it’s…” Sherlock seems lost and agitated.

John forgets all about being offended. “It’s a lot of work?”

Sherlock nods, “Yes.”

John carefully climbs over the wall, and sits down next to his best friend. “Hey, you were great, Sherlock,” he says.

“I never said I wasn’t,” he replies.

“I mean, you were really good company.”

Sherlock shakes his head. “Do you know what the problem is with you, Joh—”.

John puts a finger on Sherlock’s lips. “Shhhhh. Don’t say another word.” They had a lovely dinner and John is just not in the mood to hear Sherlock rant about ‘human beings’ and their idiotic habit of socializing. He’s especially not in the mood for Sherlock to insult him and then watch Sherlock pretending he doesn’t feel bad about it later.

Sherlock looks at him questioningly, his words dying on his lips. John removes his finger slowly. “Not one word,” he warns him again.

Sherlock surprisingly obeys, and keeps his mouth shut, but his eyes ask why?

John answers the silent question. “I’m saving you from having to apologize to me later,” he explains, smiling. “You should thank me you know; I know how much you hate saying ‘sorry’.”

Sherlock does a pronounced eye roll reminiscent of a teenage girl. “You have my eternal gratitude… but you realize that by that logic, that any wrong doing on my part is now technically your fault if you don’t intervene quick enough to shut me up?” he says sarcastically (but his eyes crinkle with mirth.)

“Smartarse,” John says and before he knows it, he’s ruffling Sherlock’s hair again.

John is not frazzled this time—it’s just meant as a friendly gesture. And Sherlock must take it as such because he leans into John’s touch slightly.

All of a sudden, it feels utterly ridiculous that they never show affection for each other that way. Christ, he doesn’t have to wait for Sherlock to make a moving speech in order to give him a hug, does he?

“Come here,” John says, cradling Sherlock’s head to bring it on his shoulder. Sherlock doesn’t resist and ends up resting his temple against John’s neck, his curls tickling the inside of John’s ear a bit.

It’s nice. More than nice if you take into account the fact that they are sitting on a four hundred year old stone wall overlooking the ocean by the light of the moon. If they were indeed a couple, this would probably be considered a truly romantic moment.

Behind them, in the darkness they hear a familiar voice. “Good night, John and Sherlock. Enjoy the moon,” says Stephanie, softly. “They’re so cute together,” he hears her add to Eric as they move on down the path.

John chuckles. They wouldn’t believe they’re just friends, would they? For people who don’t know them, it’s always hard for John to explain that him and Sherlock have always shared this kind of relationship and that it doesn’t mean anything more than two close friends on the same wavelength… (In fact, it’s hard to explain to people who do know them).

“C’mon, let’s walk back to the cottage,” John says, pulling Sherlock up by the arm. They climb back over the wall, and John’s thoughts wander back to the meal they just shared with their new acquaintances. “So, this was obviously for the benefit of Michael Langley. What? He’s a secret homophobe or something?”

Sherlock rubs his temple again. “If you’re going to put me through the misery of a four hour long dinner with other people, at least try to impress me with some semblance of a logical deduction.”

“It wasn’t for the cardiologist? His son then?”

“Yes, of course, it was for the benefit of Thomas.”

“That’s odd, he didn’t strike me as being homophobic at all.”

“Once again, you disappoint me John. You are inserting an invalid assumption into a basic premise. “

“You weren’t disappointed in me twenty-some hours ago when I gave you a laptop as a wedding present!”

“Fine you’re forgiven for being obtuse and limited in the fine art of logical reasoning.”

John lifts both palms up in the air. “Alright, explain.”

“You are assuming that the purpose of ‘acting gay’—the story and the excessive physical contact—is to confront individuals who have a problem with same sex couples. However, our little display was for another purpose; to make Thomas realize that it’s fine to come out to his father and—”

“Wait, what?? Thomas is gay?”

“Clearly.”

John thinks about it while they walk together in silence. Things start to make sense.

“So, basically we were showing Thomas that his father is not homophobic.”

“No. I was taking advantage of the fact we were pretending to be married to cop a free grope,” he says, rolling his eyes again. “Of course, that’s what we were doing.”

John giggles (he still has a bit of a buzz on). “I guess you’re going to have another half-day of groping… You realize that we’ve agreed to go snorkeling with them on that island they were talking about?”

“I’ve agreed to no such thing.”

“C’mon it’ll be fun. You can deduce which fish is cheating on which fish and who really fertilized the 3000 eggs under the anemone.”

“Honestly, John? My next spouse will have a much more sophisticated sense of humour than that.”

Ha. It’s the ‘next spouse’ thing again.

John (and the four glasses of wine he consumed) decide it’s time to find out what the deal is with Sherlock and relationships. He has never asked before (Not since that first time at Angelo’s) but now he can’t resist the temptation to find out.

“So, Sherlock, is your ‘next spouse’ going to be a man or a new case?” he blurts out.

Sherlock stops and slowly turns towards him. “You are so unsubtle. Why don’t you just ask me if I’m gay?”

Suddenly, John is not so sure he wants to talk about this stuff. He’s really not good with these types of conversations. But when is he ever going to get the bloody chance again? It’s not as if he drinks with Sherlock every weekend. And if they’re to be flatmates again, isn’t it better to be honest with each other? Surely sharing truths (and not just adventures) deepens the friendship? (Christ, he sounds just like Ella now).

John takes a deep breath and lets it all tumble out. “Alright, Sherlock. Are you gay? Are you out to your family? Have you ever been in a relationship? Are you still a virgin like your brother implied? When was the last time you kissed someone and it wasn’t for a case?”

Sherlock blinks twice and then just stares at him.

John grins. “How’s that for unsubtle?”

“A little unrefined.”

“Are you ever going to answer me?”

“Yes. Yes. No. Yes. Seven years ago—after the Blind Banker case. Happy now?”

It takes a second for John to realize that he has Sherlock’s answers all in one shot. But for some reason, it’s the last answer that sticks out.

“Who did you kiss during the Blind Banker case? Sebastian Wilkes?” John asks, not quite able to keep the disgust out of his tone.

“It was Dimmock, John. This is tedious. Can we change the subject now?”

Seven years ago, while John was trying very hard to date Sarah Sawyer, Sherlock had kissed detective inspector Dimmock? Handsome fellow. John remembers how the detective had suddenly done a 180 degree opinion switch of Sherlock.

“Really, Dimmock? Is that why he let you relocate the national library into our flat”

Sherlock looks annoyed for a fleeting second. “No. It was a date, after the case was solved. Can we drop it now?”

No. No, John can’t drop it. Not at all. “You went on a date? How did I miss that?”

“Easily.”

“Seriously?”

“You were gone to New Zealand with Dr Sawyer.”

“Oh.”

They continue to walk down the path quietly but John’s mind is far from quiet—it’s internally blaring tons more questions.

Sherlock sighs deeply. “Okay, let’s get it out of the way before we get to the cottage.”

“Did you ever see Dimmock again… like on another date?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I forgot.”

“What do you mean, you forgot?”

“I forgot to call him back, I suppose. In fact, once Moriarty started playing the game, I forgot he even existed.”

“That’s romantic, remind me never to date you.”

“Too late. You already married me,” quips Sherlock. He looks at his watch, and gives John a fake smile. “Nice chatting with you, but now I’m just going to put you on mute,” he adds before walking away from John at a fast pace.

John half-laughs. “Hmm, I see, very mature: the antidote to uncomfortable conversation is walking away…”

Sherlock stops dead in his tracks, his head snaps back. “Oh, John--Yes! That’s it! C’mon, let’s hurry back. We’ve got work to do!”

“What?”

“The antidote. The key resides in the antidote. That’s why Smith wasn’t that worried about fighting you with a live deadly virus. He had an antidote!”

 

~~~***~~~

 

At two am, a little cross-eyed and exhausted, John says goodnight to Sherlock and the guest of honour, ‘The Laptop’. John’s still not sure what they were doing, matching The Creep’s client list with different cities and their newspaper headlines… but Sherlock is on to something and John knows he will be privy to Sherlock’s brilliant deductions at one point in the near future… just not right now; he’s going to sleep.

“Er, Sherlock, please don’t sleep on the sofa again. There’s more than enough room in the bed.”

There is no reply (and no acknowledgement!) from Sherlock.

“Sherlock?”

“I wonder if he selling the antidote as well as the virus?”

“The bed, Sherlock.”

Sherlock finally looks at him. “What about it?”

“Sleep in it tonight, okay?”

“Hmm, fine,” he says, flicking one hand towards John as if he’s swatting away an annoying fly.

 

~~~***~~~

 

John wakes up at once when Sherlock shakes his shoulder in the wee hours of the morning.

“John, move over. You’re on my side,” whispers Sherlock.

John frowns in the darkness, “How is this your side? I’ve slept here twice and you only once.”

Exactly. So, technically it’s my turn now. Move.”

John scoots over to the other side of the bed—no use arguing against Sherlock’s wise-ass logic when he’s only half awake.

Sherlock climbs in and pulls the sheet over him and turns towards John. “Good night, John.”

“Night Sherlock,” says John.

A few minutes go by and John has a feeling that there’s something bothering Sherlock. He shifts to try to look at him in the dark. John can only see shadows, yet he can tell that Sherlock is lying on his back and everything in his friend’s body posture indicates that he is feeling tense. He’s probably, still thinking about the case.

“Will you be able to sleep?” John inquires, concerned.

“I will if you stop talking,” replies Sherlock, annoyed.

“You’re the one who woke me up!”

“Don’t think I don’t regret it now. Plus, I had to endure your endless dinner--”

John wants to shush him again like he did earlier on in the evening. He rolls unto his stomach reaches over the space between them to put his finger on Sherlock’s lips.

“Shhh,” he says, but in the darkness and because of the way he’s lying down, the angle is all wrong, and John’s finger blindly lands between Sherlock’s parted lips instead.

Sherlock stills and holds his breath. They stay like this for a few really weird seconds, John’s finger simply resting on Sherlock’s tongue.

At last Sherlock exhales, his minty warm breath caressing John’s face, and for a second, John thinks Sherlock’s teeth might’ve grazed the pad of his finger ever so slightly.

A tingling ripples down the back of his neck and he thinks Do it again

He is oddly disappointed when Sherlock doesn’t (Really, he just needs to see if he imagined it).

Finally, common sense kicks in (Sherlock did not play bite him!) and John promptly removes his finger from Sherlock’s mouth. “Sorry about that,” he says, a bit embarrassed. “I was just trying to, er, shut you up.”

John hopes Sherlock makes a joke of some sort. Even a sarcastic comment would do… anything to dissipate the odd tension.

But Sherlock only swallows and says, “I know—It’s okay.” His words come out all breathless and serious—almost shy—and do absolutely nothing to restore the easy camaraderie between them.

Quite the opposite.

John quickly retreats on the far side of the bed, feeling confused (but sorta really good at the same time). He doesn’t need to touch himself to know he’s got a hard on.

Jesus Christ!

There’s only silence in the room now and John doesn’t dare move. Or breathe.
John’s thoughts about his stupid erection circle frantically through his mind on an endless loop…

Can Sherlock deduce this?
Probably not, how can he… without touching it?

Don’t think about Sherlock touching it, idiot!

 

Okay, it’s going away, Thank Fuck!

 

Shit, he’s probably wondering why I’m so still…
No… he’s probably thinking about antidotes, don’t worry.
But what if he knows?
He doesn’t…

Why the hell did I get a boner?

???

Okay, this is officially fucking weird!
I should say something to make it all seem norm—

“John?” says Sherlock, interrupting his thoughts. “Are you going to be able to sleep?” he inquires, annoyed.

Bastard.

“I will if you stop talking!” barks out John.

Sherlock chuckles at the ‘déjà vu’ conversation and, after a few seconds, John joins in.

Bizarre as it may seem, this is exactly what he needed to reset things to normal.

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

 

The second full day of John’s vacation (he’s decided to stop calling it honeymoon for obvious reasons) starts off pretty much the same way as the previous day: They are out on the sunscreen porch and Sherlock is lying in the hammock rocking gently, deep in thoughts, while John is sitting at the round wicker table appreciating the lush, tropical scenery.

The only difference is this time there’s coffee. (Coffee and the memory of his unfortunate erection last night… but John refuses to dwell on that. It’s not the first time he’s had a hard on at an inopportune moment and it won’t be the last.)

John pours himself a steaming cup of coffee, adds milk, and reaches for the local newspaper next to the coffee pot. He’s just going to carry on as normal. “Well, that was kind of you to get room service to bring me coffee,” says John, taking a sip of the dark, local brew. Delicious.

“Hmmm?”

Sherlock is not paying attention to him. Seems like things are back to normal after last night’s strange episode in the bed. John has to conclude Sherlock never really noticed John’s turmoil.

Good.

“Look at you being all nice and considerate when no one’s looking,” teases John lightheartedly, wanting to keep the ‘normal’ momentum going between them.

This gets Sherlock’s attention. He whips his head around, frowning as if being called considerate is an insult of some sort. “What do you mean?”

“Getting me coffee—with milk—and altruistically helping out Thomas Langley to come out to his father last night… ”

“Oh that,” says Sherlock with a dismissive hand. “It gave me something to do. The service at the restaurant was so slow I felt like I was going backwards in time.”

John chuckles. “Well, our new acquaintances were all impressed by your deductions.”

“And you were too, no?” Sherlock looks at him and, for less than a split second, John sees Sherlock’s unguarded face. He really does seek John’s approval.

“Yes. Always,” reassures John. He doubts he’ll ever get tired of witnessing Sherlock live and in full deduction mode. It’s always been a privilege to witness such an amazing feat. He’d tried to describe it to Harriet once but from the way she looked at him—all puzzled frowns and squinty eyes—it seems the genius of Sherlock Holmes is something one has to see in person.

John’s thoughts return to the previous night. “By the way, how did you even know the name of their cottage was called ‘Fantasy’?”

Sherlock smiles. “It’s Fanta- ” Sherlock spells out the last part “S-E-A,” and continues, “All the cottages have a not-so-witty play on words with the word ‘sea’.”

“Oh, really, what’s ours?”

“You notice very little, don’t you?”

John is not really insulted. Seriously, the majority of blokes wouldn’t take note of such a thing unless it was made evident to them. “I didn’t make the booking for this place, so no, I didn’t notice.”

Sherlock somehow manages to gracefully pull himself into a cross-legged sitting position on the hammock. “Just look above the screen door, here,” he says, pointing.

John looks up and sure enough, on an old weather-washed oval piece of wood is the name of their cottage: ‘Seas the Day’.

“Ah. ‘Seize the day’, nice. Does that mean you’ll try snorkeling with me?”

Sherlock dramatically drops back down to a lying position on the hammock. John has no idea how he manages not to twirl out of the darn thing. “Is snorkeling truly what you consider ‘seizing the day’? Your ‘Carpe Diem’ moment? Going to the beach with people you barely know doing an activity you barely like? Boring.”

John is about to argue with Sherlock that he likes snorkeling (he doesn’t) and that he’d like to chat with his new acquaintances again (he doesn’t—not really—maybe just Eric).

Sherlock coughs, interrupting John’s inner debate. “Living everyday as if it’s your last doesn’t necessarily mean you should try to cram as many activities as possible into each day,” Sherlock says.

It always amazes John when Sherlock blurts out a tidbit of wisdom so true and so on target that John wants to remind whoever reads his damn blog that this is why his dear best friend is the wisest man he knows. Sherlock, for all his emotional detachment, has a clear-eyed view of the inconsistencies of human nature and is able to succinctly summarize it (Not always at the most appropriate time, but still…)

And, of course, Sherlock is right. All John wants is to do absolutely nothing. Isn’t that why he took this impromptu trip with Sherlock? If anything, that was his carpe diem.

“Well said. I suppose I don’t really feel like doing too much today. And besides, we both need our rest,” acknowledges John. He knows that all he wants to do is pretty much what he did the previous day: relax poolside. “So what are you going to do?” he asks Sherlock.

“What am I going to do?” A tiny smile appears on Sherlock’s lips. “I’m going to send you to the resort gardening shed to get me a bushcraft knife.”

John blinks. Not that he’d been expecting more philosophical musings… But a bushcraft knife?? One of those long, jagged knives used for wilderness survival? “Why?” John asks, a little worried. “And come to think of it, why don’t you go?”

“I’ve got things to do.”

“You’re just lying in a hammock.”

“Make up your mind John, do you want me to rest or not? I’m tired. Last night you steal my side of the bed, then you won’t stop chatting like we’re teenagers at a sleepover, and now you won’t even run to the grounds upkeep shed—when you clearly need the exercise-- to get me a knife.”

John takes the local newspaper again, opens it, and continues reading about some poor sod having to be rescued from a reef after getting his rental dinghy stuck. Yeah, John is glad he’s staying put today. Sherlock can go fetch his own damn tools. “Get it yourself.”

Sherlock opens one eye and looks at John. “Your refusal to do this makes me question the foundation of this marriage.”

John barks out a laugh. “Our relationship is not built on me fetching you things.”

“It’s not?”

Why does Sherlock insist on keeping the marriage farce going even when they’re alone? John sighs. “Why do you need a bush knife?”

Sherlock yawns. “I need it for an experiment I’m doing tonight.”

“But it’s the beach party thing for the guests tonight.”

Apparently—as explained by Virgil—the resort is not renown for its nightlife, but every Thursday night there’s a local band that comes and plays and, because it only happens once a week, they usually go all out. It really sounds like something they should check out, especially as this is their last day.

“I guess I won’t be attending that either,” says Sherlock.

“I thought you liked dancing.”

“No, not in that context. And I’m busy. I told you I need to finish an experiment tonight.”

John shrugs. He’s not going to insist. Maybe Sherlock has reached his quota of touristy things, plus it won’t hurt to get some distance and eliminate the need to play ‘pretend husbands’ in front of the others again. Also, the last thing John needs is a repeat of what happened in bed last night.

“Suit yourself,” says John, returning his attention to the local paper.

 

~~~***~~~

 

The rest of the day goes by quickly. John relaxes by the poolside, goes for a quick dip in the ocean, and he continues reading the medical thriller he got yesterday (Sherlock has put sporadic commentaries in the margin of the book. They are fucking hilarious).

He feels like he has truly seized the day now. Turning down the snorkeling was the best decision.

And just like the previous day, he heads back to the cottage in the late afternoon stopping at the resort restaurant to arrange for tea and food to be brought to their cottage.

 

~~~***~~~

 

This time, when he enters the cottage, he doesn’t find Sherlock sleeping in the bed, naked, thank God!

However, Sherlock is nowhere in sight and John wonders if he did get his lanky self out the door to fetch his damn knife (which, come to think of it, Sherlock wandering the resort with a knife is not exactly better than finding him naked on the bed).

But then John sees that the light is on in the bathroom. “Sherlock?”

Sherlock opens the door. “Yes?”

Sherlock comes out of the bathroom with only a short, white towel wrapped around his waist. He looks—never mind how he looks, John. (Maybe the knife would’ve been better, after all).

John swallows and fixes his gaze on the weird painting of a seashell hanging behind Sherlock. “Oh, just checking if you were in.”

“My shoes are by the door, my keys are on the bedside table, my wedding ring is on the dresser: all could’ve told you the answer.”

“Well, it’s quiet in the cottage, the laptop is nowhere in sight, and your phone is no longer on the bedside table. All of these told me otherwise.”

There’s approval in Sherlock’s eyes at John’s deductions. “Good, John,” he says, but the approval quickly fades into amusement. “But you forgot the very significant fact that there’s steam on the windows and on this mirror right here,” he says, tracing a line on the mirror. “The only explanation for this is a rapid change in temperature—only possible by an event occurring in a small space—therefore a shower.”

John is not about to continue playing ‘deduction’ with Sherlock: he has learned a long time ago that he’s never going to win at this game. Instead, he stares at the drop of water spiraling down Sherlock’s fringe and resists the urge to touch it (something he’d rather not analyze too much at the moment). He refocuses his mind on the situation. “Why take a shower? Have you changed your mind about tonight, then?” John asks.

“No—just washing off the sunscreen,” says Sherlock. And as he walks by John he leans toward him just a bit, breathing in.

Smells him.

They both stand completely still as if someone has pushed the pause button smack in the middle of this odd moment. John’s abdominal muscles tense in awareness as he dares to look at Sherlock’s wide green-grey eyes. It takes some concentration to keep his voice steady. “Did you just sniff me?” John finally inquires.

Sherlock takes a step back. He’s got that look on his face that asks ‘not good?’ mixed in with the look of a scolded child.

John automatically feels the need to reassure Sherlock. He shrugs like it’s no big deal. “Hey, it’s okay. I don’t mind if you smell me so you can make a deduction, but it’s not a good idea with other people…”

“I know,” says Sherlock quickly. “You went in the pool only once,” he adds, as he leans in again to smell John. “And you went in the ocean but didn’t swim.”

John shakes his head, “Yep.” He knows he’s not supposed to find it so endearing when Sherlock invades his personal space like that. He really needs to focus on something else now. “Yeah, hmm, room service will deliver a sandwiches and tea for us,” John says and grabs a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and heads out the front porch so Sherlock can have some privacy to get dressed.

 

~~~***~~~

 

Later, it’s John’s turn to shower and get dressed while Sherlock is sitting at the table outside working on the anthrax case.

Part of him feels like staying in with Sherlock and foregoing the beach party. But he’s already cancelled plans with his new acquaintances and made an arrangement to meet up with Eric.

John decides to wear jeans rolled up to the ankles and a light blue shirt with a white tank top underneath (who knows, he might get too warm and want to take off his shirt).

When John returns on the sunporch, Sherlock is back in the hammock. Without looking up or even opening his eyes, Sherlock says, “Yes, that goes together well.”

John laughs. “Thanks. I was hoping to get your stamp of approval.”

“Yes, and Lord knows how rare those stamps are.”

John lifts an eyebrow, unsure if he’s being insulted or praised. Sherlock opens his eyes and gives him one of his amused, crooked smiles. Well, whichever one it is, praise or insult, John knows he is being teased.

 

~~~***~~~

 

John finds the beach area completely transformed. The outdoor bar by the pool is open and all the tropical trees are now adorned with small little white lights. There are tall tables on the beach with bar stools surrounding a wooden dance floor, also installed directly on the beach. There is a local band playing ‘fungi’: a type of rhythmic music known on the island. People are eating finger foods and drinking copious amounts of fruity rum drinks.

John meets Eric at the bar like they agreed earlier on this morning, and they choose the table farthest away from the band, on the other side of the dance floor, and resume their conversation about Afghanistan. It turns out Eric has heard rumours about James Sholto and John quickly becomes oblivious to the festivities as they discuss the layers of war politics, traumatic injuries, and returning home afterwards.

Stephanie interrupts, bringing another fruity drink to the table and announcing, “Oh, by the way, I just saw your husband over there.”

John turns abruptly towards the direction in which Stephanie is pointing. It is dark, but John instantly spots Sherlock in the distance. Sherlock is leaning casually against the bar drinking a beer (a beer?!), and chatting (chatting?!), with Thomas.

John feels a small pang of dismay followed closely by a not-so-small pang of something resembling jealousy.

What is Sherlock even doing here? Why is he dressed like that? (Beige, rolled-up cotton trousers, with a loose long sleeved denim top—he looks like one of those handsome beach bums depicted on telly).

Sherlock said he wasn’t coming and now he’s socializing with someone else?

Oh, God, he’s actually jealous, isn’t he?

John takes a deep breath, but it doesn’t alleviate the tight, ugly feeling squeezing his sternum.

Yes, yes, he is jealous.

But not in the common sense of the word. He’s not worried that the newly outed field biologist and Sherlock are starting ‘something’ and that Sherlock will move to America in six months.

No, it’s a deeper, uglier, kind of jealousy--one that has nothing to do with physical attraction and Langley’s good looks.

What is gripping John tight by the throat is the fact that Sherlock is bothering to socialize with someone else. That Sherlock has left ‘the work’ behind for another person and that person is not John.

The music is loud and John knows Stephanie has just asked him something, but he has no idea what, so he just nods his head and continues to stare at the two men in the distance. Sherlock is talking animatedly and the young American seems to be star-struck. Not that he blames him, Sherlock must be in the midst of deducing something. A small circle of people has gathered around Sherlock and he seems to be re-telling his story to the crowd around him.

Distractedly John nods again to Stephanie, sipping on his drink, hoping it will somehow loosen the grip squeezing his sternum.

And suddenly the music stops and the dance floor clears. Sherlock looks up and his eyes find John. His face is smooth, completely devoid of emotions. John knows instantly that Sherlock is feeling overwhelmed.

John lifts his chin in inquiry. You okay?

Sherlock nudges his head slightly. Come here.

The music starts again, this time from a DJ (We’re here for a good time, not a long time…), and the dance floor fills up again.

John forgets to excuse himself and leaves Stephanie mid-sentence and walks over to the bar, right through the new crowd on the dance floor, as if he needs to prove that the shortest distance between two points is indeed a straight line.

See, when Sherlock is deducing, all animated and smart… he is utterly amazing. But when Sherlock is confused, his face smooth and young, his eyes searching for John… he is John’s to take care of.

As soon as John gets within arms-length, Sherlock shoves a drink in his hands and pulls him close to him. John wraps a possessive arm around Sherlock’s waist and says, “Thanks for keeping my husband entertained while I was involved with boring military-talk with Eric.”

“No problem,” says Thomas.

John steers Sherlock away from the bar. He doesn’t ask Sherlock why he changed his mind about the beach party because John has figured it out. Sherlock is just passing through on his way to his experiment, isn’t he? Well, John is not spending his last night alone on a tropical island without his best friend. “Are you taking any assistants with you to that experiment of yours?” John asks in what he hopes is a light tone.

Sherlock blinks and looks blank for a few seconds. “You want to leave? I thought you were all excited about the scheduled events?”

John shrugs. “Yeah. But the bottom line is: I have more fun with you.”

“Oh.”

“Unless you don’t want me to go with you?”

“No--I want you to join me.”

“All right then, let’s go make our excuses.”

Sherlock makes the same face as if he’s been asked to take his parents to a musical. “Must we? This is tedious—no one cares, John. I swear my next spouse will not abide to all the boring social norms you seem intent on following.”

Again, John feels something very similar to a fist squeeze his sternum tight. He really, really dislikes the idea of Sherlock with another man.

“You two will make quite the pair, then,” he tries to joke but his voice sounds so sad. He turns away from Sherlock.

“Wait,” Sherlock says, grabbing John’s forearm. “I take it back. I want him to be just like you. You’re right—one of us will need to be able to apologize and you’re so good at it… ‘Sorry Sherlock broke your doorbell’, ‘Sorry Sherlock stole your phone’, ‘Sorry Sherlock deduced your pathetic little secret’.”

John wants to look sternly at Sherlock but he can’t help but laugh just a bit. “The last one is not really an apology, Sherlock.”

Sherlock smiles. “No?”

“C’mon, I’ll teach you some manners yet.”

“Fine,” says Sherlock. He reaches for John’s hand and interlaces their fingers together. “If you must.”

John tries to keep the effervescent feeling below the surface. But that’s the way it is whenever he’s around Sherlock, isn’t it?

They reach the table where his friends are. John coughs to get their attention. “It looks like we’re not going to stay much longer—and, er… just wanted to say goodbye to you folks before we leave. It was nice meeting all of you. Eric has my contact information if you want it. And, of course, if you’re ever in London, don’t be shy to touch base.”

He shakes hands with Eric and Mike and gets a quick hug from Stephanie. Sherlock steps forward and he just stares silently at their acquaintances. John puts a firm hand in the middle of his back as encouragement.

Sherlock steps forward and smiles charmingly. “Goodbye all,” he says with a small bow in lieu of shaking hands. “I was told to come and say sorry for being more fun to be with than you people and this party.”

John feels himself blushing from his neck to his head like an alcohol thermometer and everyone starts to laugh.

“Isn’t he just charming?” says John, ruffling Sherlock’s hair yet again.

 

~~~***~~~

 

They leave the main area and soon the find themselves completely at end of the beach where it’s pitch black ahead and the fading sounds of the festivities are at their back. Slowly the sound of the music is overtaken by the sound of waves and tropical insects.

Why they are still holding hands, John has no idea… it’s another thing he’d rather not think too much about at the moment.

Sherlock is pulling John away from the shore and it seems to John that they are about to walk straight into some dense, wiry bushes ahead. John walks carefully around them, a few branches scraping his bare calf. “Where are we going?”

Sherlock snatches his hand out of John’s as if his voice has just brought back Sherlock’s mind inside his body and he has just realized that they don’t need to play husbands anymore.

“This way,” says Sherlock. John really wishes they had a torch or something but continues to follow Sherlock. Obviously, Sherlock has explored the area this afternoon and that is why he needed that bushknife.

After walking through a semi-cleared path for a while, sand filtering between their toes, they come to a clearing and suddenly John can hear the sound of the waves on the shore.

Sherlock has found a deserted beach.

“The conditions should be optimal for this—high wind yesterday and calm this evening.” Sherlock removes his sandals and rolls up his trousers even more.

“And what exactly are you going to do?” John’s not really up for swimming in the ocean in the dark.

Sherlock finds a dead branch on the seagrass, holds it up carefully, probably looking for insects (and scorpions?). Finally, satisfied with his inspection, he wraps his fist around it and says, “Follow me. You’ll see.”

They walk straight into the ocean, the warm waves softly splashing against their knees. Sherlock moves the stick through the water as if he’s mixing a giant cocktail. Slowly, a bluish-white light starts appearing as if by magic. Sherlock stirs the stick again and the blue intensifies until John realizes what is happening.

“Phytoplankton,” John says, amazed. He’s never seen anything like it before. The light effect switches from blue to silver and is alive with a mysterious luminous fluorescence.

Sherlock is smiling broadly. “Neat, isn’t it?”

John shakes his head in fondness and awe. No wonder Sherlock always trumps other people in his life. It’s always the unexpected.

After a while they sit on the beach, shoulder to shoulder, watching the bioluminescence fade. Not a word is spoken for what feels like a very long time.

Last night John found out some personal things about Sherlock. They were all things he basically knew (except Dimmock, could not have guessed that!). But tonight, John wants to ask Sherlock something else. Just like yesterday, he feels like there’s a window of opportunity opening up and that Sherlock might actually share a bit more of himself with John.

There are several things John would like to bring up. He’d like to ask Sherlock about his time away three years ago and how exactly he faked his death (Sherlock still claims he never even jumped—that it was all an illusion!)

He’d also like to ask about his history of drug usage and the near overdose on the plane ‘that time’. But John knows nothing closes the metaphorical window of opportunity faster than asking Sherlock about drugs. Sherlock will bolt out of here quicker than a jackrabbit surprised by a snake.

Finally, John knows what he should ask—things about Sherlock’s bouts of OCD and his weird habit of talking to John when he’s not there.

John shuffles his feet in the sand a bit and then puts his left foot on top of Sherlock’s—he’s not sure if he’s unconsciously trying to hold Sherlock down in place.

Sherlock doesn’t move and lets John wiggle his toes on top of his a bit. Sherlock’s feet are freezing and it’s natural for John to want to warm them up a bit.

John coughs and thinks of how to best phrase his question, but instead something totally different comes out of his mouth. Something he desperately wants to know apparently.
“Sherlock, why do you keep recycling the ‘next spouse’ joke? Are you really interested in… hmm… meeting someone ?”

Sherlock moves his foot from underneath John’s and kicks the sand. “Is it hard to go through life being this stupid?” Sherlock inquires.

Well, I guess that’s a no.

John sighs. “What made you so determined to be alone, Sherlock?”

Sherlock yawns. “We’ve gone over this John. It gets tedious when you keep bringing it up.”

John has no idea what Sherlock is talking about; he’s pretty sure they’ve never really talked about it.

But it doesn’t matter. If Sherlock is ever going to share what made him this way, it’s not because John asked. It’ll be because Sherlock is ready to share and John is fine with that—as long as John remains Sherlock’s confidant and best friend, he’s good to go.

What the bloody hell is wrong with me?

Is he actually at the ugly point where he’s so taken with his best friend that he doesn’t want to share him?

No—it’s more than that.

So much more.

It might even be love—but what’s the point of trying to figure it out? It’s not like Sherlock would ever go there with him.

Sherlock kicks the sand again. “John, I don’t think I’ll ever fit in,” he says as if he’s just read John’s mind.

There is such resolve in Sherlock’s tone. It’s almost like a warning, isn’t? John sighs. “I’m not sure I’d ever want you to.”

And that sums it up rather nicely for John, doesn’t it?

Sherlock doesn’t do relationships and John’s not about to change Sherlock. Doesn’t want to change him. John loves him just the way he is. And it is for that very reason that John mentally draws up a firm line keeping him away from anything that’s out of the context of friendship with Sherlock.

 

~~~***~~~

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

 

John wakes up to the sound of distant thunder and to purple flashes of lightning sneaking around the curtain’s periphery. It’s not a full-on thunderstorm, more like clusters of heat lightning, but John hopes it makes its way in their direction because the air is extremely humid and overwhelmingly hot in the cottage. John props himself up on his pillow and squints to see where Sherlock is. In the darkness, another neon flash of light helps him locate his best friend on the small sofa at the other end of the room.

John grabs his phone on the bedside table and sees that it’s 4:06 a.m. He gets out of bed and goes to fetch Sherlock. He’s not so selfish as to let Sherlock sleep on a hard, decorative sofa just because he now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of reacting physically to his best friend.

“Sherlock?” John whispers.

“I’m awake,” Sherlock replies sleepily.

A small dose of guilt pinches John’s conscience, challenging his claim that he’s not selfish. I should’ve insisted he sleep in the bed when we got in last night.

But it had been a weird sort of evening. After the beach, they’d barely talked to each other on their walk home. Sherlock’s body language—hands deep in his pockets, head down, and gait brisk—had signaled to John to leave Sherlock the hell alone.

John had complied, lost in his own thoughts about how to manage all the conflicting emotions he felt about Sherlock.John knows there is something at work within himself—something bigger, more significant than the occasional (and inconvenient) flare-ups of attraction he’s been experiencing.

It’s like he’s in the grip of a powerful drug and that drug is Sherlock. And like every clueless addict, John has been in denial about the entire business all along. How else can he explain how Sherlock makes him feel? How he is constantly drawn to Sherlock and how difficult it is for him to acknowledge it?

Last night, after the incredible phytoplankton display, Sherlock had grown quiet and focused on something else while John had decided to focus on ‘not feeling’, on turning a blind eye to what was happening within him. And that’s why John had drawn that definite line while they sat quietly on the beach. A line that kept John firmly on the side of ‘caring friend’ as opposed to ‘hopelessly drawn to every aspect of my flatmate’ side.

Another flash of violet light highlights the room. John sighs, looking at his friend who is somehow fitted into the small sofa, his knees high with his arms tucked around them like a lanky cat in a too small basket.John feels like touching him. Feels like making Sherlock more comfortable. Feels like running his hands over his tight muscles and massaging all the kinks away. Despite all the internal warnings, John can’t help but think, Hey, this is another instance when I would make love to you, if you’re still wondering about that...

John puts an abrupt stop to this kind of thinking, needing once again to draw ‘the line’.

“Come and sleep on the bed, okay?” John says instead.

Sherlock looks at John, his eyes briefly bright and alert in the flash of lightning. “I’m fine here, John,” says Sherlock.

“Come.” John sticks out a hand to help him up and to show this is not a debatable point.

Sherlock takes it, and John pulls him up and drags him to the bed without taking time to consider the emotions flooding his body at the contact. John will firewall the feelings by sheer will power. Sherlock is his friend, and he’s not going to ruin it by this sort of stuff.

Sherlock follows, malleable and obviously tired. Next to the bed, John stops and lets go of Sherlock’s hand. He pushes him gently on the shoulder until Sherlock sits down.

Sherlock blinks and looks at the side of the bed they’ve been fighting over. John nods yes, you can sleep on this side and then Sherlock lies down stiffly, pulling the sheet up to his neck and turning his back to John.

“Try not to move your legs diagonally this time; it’s beyond annoying,” he says to John.

John smiles wearily and shakes his head as he crawls back into bed. He is grateful for Sherlock’s grouchiness. It makes it seem like it’s business as usual. Makes it easier to resist the pull of the drug—to stay firmly on the other side of the line, if you will.

 

~~~***~~~

 

When John wakes up again, Sherlock is sitting next to him on the bed, propped up on two pillows with Culverton Smith’s laptop open on his lap. He’s fully dressed in jeans and a pale green short-sleeved top John as never seen before. He looks good. Relaxed.

“Good morning,” says John.

“Yes, indeed,” replies Sherlock. He’s obviously pleased with something he’s discovered on the laptop while John was still sleeping.

John gets up and heads to the shower. “I’ll let you two have some privacy,” jokes John, pointing his finger between the laptop and Sherlock.

“Hmm,” Sherlock hums, distracted.

John enters the bathroom, turns on the water, undresses quickly, and steps into the shower. Not even a minute later, he hears Sherlock entering the bathroom.

“John?”

“I’m taking a shower,” says John slightly exasperated. Here he is trying to get some distance between himself and Sherlock and the wanker follows him in the bathroom.

“I’m just here to hand you the ‘damn’ phone—as you so eloquently put it last time Mary called.”

“Okay, thanks; just a sec.”

John turns off the water and sticks out a hand. Sherlock drops the phone in his palm firmly like they are exchanging the baton in a relay race.

“Mary?”

“Hi, John. Is Sherlock alright?”

“Yes. I thought you’d been updated? He was faking being ill for a case.”

“Oh, I know. But just right now, he was going on about ‘the divorce’ and wondering if we could start a club for John’s ex-spouses.”

John sticks his face out from behind the shower curtain and sure enough Sherlock is still there, leaning against the sink, looking innocent. It’s like playing martyred spouse has become his favourite pastime. “I’ll explain later. How’s Lizzie?”

“She’s fine. Has another tooth coming in and has a new word.”

“Oh, which word?”

“‘Plll’ for apple.”

“Good, good. ”

“You’re coming back tomorrow?”

“Yes, this is our last day here but we don’t have to check out ‘til later. I’m just about to pack. We leave around 8 p.m. tonight.”

“Why don’t I keep Lizzie for the next two days so you can get over the jet lag first?”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll come for a quick visit tomorrow, though. I’d really like to see her.”

“Of course, that’s fine.”

He disconnects and hands his phone back to Sherlock. After a few seconds, John notes that Sherlock has not left the bathroom just yet. John pokes his head from behind the shower curtain again and, yes, Sherlock is still there, shaving. Sherlock catches his eyes in the mirror and grins. John can’t help but grin back. Sherlock has such a young looking face that sometimes it’s hard to remember he needs to shave like the rest of the blokes in the universe. A secret, random thought enters John’s mind and warms the skin of his neck;As it turns out, I like my detectives clean-shaven...

John finishes showering and once he turns off the water again, Sherlock hands him a towel. John dries off behind the closed curtain and then Sherlock gives him a bathrobe. John puts it on before stepping out of the shower.

It’s not the first time they’ve ever had to share a bathroom, obviously, but it’s funny just how well coordinated they are at it. Probably more so than any ‘real’ married couple out there. Again, the sheer intimacy of their relationship hits John deep in the gut. He’s your bloody friend.

 

~~~***~~~

 

By the time they are sitting down at the table on the sunscreen porch, John realizes that Sherlock’s been no more than an arm’s length away from him since he opened his eyes this morning. He’s glad he drew that line yesterday (But why does it feel like Sherlock is determined to step all over it?)

Breakfast has been delivered and laid out on the porch table. It’s raining out. Not the British drizzle you get in the spring, but a downpour of such ferocity that it’s almost as if someone’s using a giant pressure washer to clean the grime that’s accumulated on earth for the last century. John likes the sound of the rain and the feeling of sitting on the porch, mostly protected and dry, though once in a while, when the wind picks up, John feels a gentle spray of rain on the arm closest to the screen.

Later, once they’ve eaten breakfast and cleared up their dishes,Sherlock brings the laptop outside and starts working on deciphering Smith’s list of clients.

John decides to try the hammock. He alternates between reading his novel, looking at rain, and sneaking a peek at Sherlock once in a while.

Sherlock seems to be getting into a deductive rhythm but pauses every time John looks at him.

For no good reason, John feels himself blushing. “You figuring out who the clients were?” he asks. He’s not about to change the way he behaves around Sherlock, plain and simple.

“Yes. The names are well coded, but I’ve figured out two so far. And John, this is related to at least two international cold cases,” he adds with glee.

John chuckles. If only he could make Sherlock slow down so the puzzles could last a little longer (and then there would be no need to worry about boredom and the lure of external stimulation in the form of drugs).

“Do you want to help me?” Sherlock asks.

The invitation to share The Work stirs something in John as luminous and special as the phytoplankton display from last night.As far as he knows, he’s the only one welcomed to partake when Sherlock is at the deductive stage of a case.

John eagerly stumbles out of the hammock and joins Sherlock at the table. A tiny, slanted smile appears on Sherlock’s face, indicating that John’s slight stumble didn’t go unnoticed.

They sit side by side and Sherlock angles the laptop so John can see it. A sense of peace and contentment fills him. There’s no lust, no awkwardness, just John and Sherlock working together.

“See, John, different threads originating from the same tangle,” says Sherlock, pointing to a name they recognize from one of Greg Lestrade’s cold cases. There’s nothing like a tangled mess of clues to put that look in Sherlock’s eyes, John thinks.

“Yeah, I bet people would really be interested in this case if I were to start up my blog again.”

John hasn’t updated the blog since Sherlock hijacked it the day of his wedding to Mary. There was absolutely no way he was going to publicly talk about his wife shooting (shooting!) his best friend, and then Sherlock killing a man in order to keep his wife safe. That sounded implausible to his own damn ears even two years after the fact.

“Hmm, I wonder if you would’ve mentioned rushing in to marry me if you were still blogging,” says Sherlock with a mischievous look in his eyes.

John snorts a laugh. “ I bet you people would’ve loved it. They always thought we were together before you… before you left.”

Sherlock’s face sobers, and his eyes lose their twinkle. “I know.”

John changes the subject. “Do you think Moriarty had a hand in organizing this chain of crime? How far does it go back?”

Sherlock nods. “He might’ve helped put Smith into contact with his initial list of clients.” Sherlock sounds a bit wistful, as if he misses Moriarty’s clever mind games from when he was alive (and from when he was dead, too!)

John can only assume that Sherlock has truly managed to get rid of Moriarty’s bloody computer program for good. Sherlock had explained to John that Moriarty had designed an elaborate, super program before he’d blown his brains off on top of St-Bart’s. The purpose of the program was to wreak havoc for Sherlock even from beyond the grave. ‘He’s still playing the game, John, even if he’s dead’. Apparently, the whole thing could be triggered by any event related to Sherlock that made the headlines (or something like that). John supposes he would’ve understood better had he not been so fucking worried about Sherlock and his drug use at the time.

After over an hour of brainstorming, Sherlock decides they had better write down the information they have before the battery completely dies on The Creep’s laptop. He pulls out a folded sheet of paper from his wallet and hands it over to John. One side has a list of random words and numbers, and the other side is blank. John doesn’t ask what they are. If they’re important, Sherlock will explain at some point in the near future. On the side that’s blank, John meticulously copies the weird names and email addresses Sherlock gives him.

After a while, Sherlock moves back to the hammock to do some trance-like thinking. John observes him and thinks: We can do this, we can move in together again and work together; it won’t be a problem.

Feeling happy and confident that his ‘preoccupation’ with Sherlock is under control, John gets up and announces, “Well, I’m going to go pack the rest of my stuff now.”

Sherlock rejoins him on earth. “Oh, yes. We leave in a few hours,” he says, frowning. He twirls out of the hammock (casting a quick look at John to see if he’s noticed his elegant dismount) and follows John inside the cottage.

They undertake packing much like they do everything else—with strange synchronicity, off-beat humour, and bickering.

John empties the closet; Sherlock walks by and takes his shirts, when John turns, Sherlock has John’s shoes in his hands. John looks under the bed while Sherlock lectures John about not throwing old receipts in the bin and the importance of destroying paper evidence to counter identity theft.

“Let me guess,” John says, with a mix of exasperation and amusement. “Your next spouse will be so much more careful with receipts and will travel with a paper shredder at all times.”

This gets a dimpled smile from Sherlock. “And know how to turn on a computer without causing a major power outage.”

John merely rolls his eyes and continues with packing. “Well, mine will actually be able to take his own phone out of his own pocket without needing assistance.”

John is having a good time exchanging banter with Sherlock. In fact, he’s never ended a vacation feeling so energized. It’s like there’s electricity in the air. Maybe it’s the constant back and forth across the cottage floor of the cabin that is contributing to the all the static John feels. (He’s not fooling himself though—this is simply the way Sherlock makes him feel all the time, isn’t?)

John makes sure they have their passports while Sherlock finds the wedding certificate, folds it and places it in his wallet. John wonders if one day he’ll use it to write down the names of potential criminals on it like any old piece of scrap paper.

When they are all packed up, travel bags set neatly by the front door, John decides to go brush his teeth before packing the toothpaste and toothbrush; he needs to get rid of the lingering taste of coffee. While both he and Sherlock are brushing their teeth, alternating brushing, rinsing and spitting like a couple married for years, John catches Sherlock’s eye in the mirror.They grin at each other and then head back out to the sunporch for the next two hours, waiting until it’s time to head to the airport.

 

~~~***~~~

 

What’s oddly mesmerizing is the fact that the rain is not continuous. Whenever it starts, it is dramatic and loud. It sounds like a wild concert of sorts.And when the rain stops the air is heavy and humid with the smell of overripe flowers and wet dirt. It is quite a show for the senses.

John realizes just how much he likes the porch. It’s too bad they can’t build one on Baker Street so they can watch the rain fall. They’d have to move to the country or something for it to be enjoyable. John can imagine himself old and grey, reading the paper on their porch with a dog (an aging golden retriever, maybe) resting lazily at his feet in quiet companionship. Of course, Sherlock would barge in and convince John that their dog was desperate for a walk in the rain. When Sherlock would disappear to get dressed, the dog and John would share a knowing look, silently agreeing that it was Sherlock who needed a quick stroll to let off some energy. They’d humour him, of course.

…Oh good Lord, that’s thinking of Sherlock in the long term, isn’t? They still haven’t really discussed the details of John’s return to 221B. They are rubbish at talking things through. Maybe they relytoo much on their intuition and silent communication. It’s always a case of reading between the lines these days. Last time John had moved back in was when Sherlock had simply put his chair back in its place in the flat. They hadn’t talked. John had just shown up with a bag of clothes, freshly laundered sheets, and alarm clock. He’d stayed until Sherlock had encouraged him to talk to Mary, to reconcile, despite John’s intense bitterness.

Now, he’s ready to move back in yet again, but this time he’s got a toddler with him half the time. Maybe that’s not how Sherlock had envisioned his next flatshare?

John doesn’t need Ella to explain this. The ‘next spouse’ thing is just a vehicle for them to actually talk. This is clearly about them—their own personal relationship!They are about to be flatmates again and it seems they need to get some things out in the open.

John pours himself a cold glass of water from the pitcher that’s been left there for them, takes a sip and asks, “Sherlock, is ‘the next spouse’ thing about the flatshare?”

Sherlock makes a noncommittal sound.

John feels like letting it go, but for the sake of his little girl he needs to make the effort. “Your next spouse probably won’t have a child in tow?” he asks.John really doesn’t think Lizzie is the problem, but he’s sure there’s an undercurrent of something floating just below the surface of their silent game. He’s felt it ever since they’ve arrived here and especially this afternoon.

“Don’t be stupid. You know Elizabeth is welcome,” replies Sherlock, and then he lifts his head and looks at John. “You started it, by the way,” he adds.

“Started what?”

“The ‘next spouse’ list of do’s and don’ts.”

“But why do you keep recycling it?” asks John.

Sherlock moves away from the table and goes over to the loveseat, passes a hand over the cushions to make sure they’re dry, and plops himself down dramatically. He puts the tips of his fingers together, seemingly deep in thought. “Maybe I’m just unconsciously highlighting how terrible you are at relationships,” answers Sherlock after a few moments.

John spits out his water. “I’m bad at relationships? Me?” John wipes the table with the serviette. “Well, that’s rich coming from the guy who fake-proposed to get into an office.”

“No richer than the guy who fake-married to get into a hospital.”

“You can’t even compare the two, Sherlock!”

Sherlock shrugs. “You realize that you will have been the cause of two divorces in the space of six months. I would argue that this is the very definition of being bad at relationships.”

John runs a hand through his hair and feels his ears growing warm. “Mary caused the divorce by lying to me right from the get-go. And I daresay that our upcoming divorce is not my fault for we wouldn’t even be married if it weren’t for your lack of communication.”

“Legally, it would still be your fault.”

“How can the divorce be my fault, Sherlock?” John grabs the local paper again and starts reading about the potential sighting of a great white shark. He’s not going to let Sherlock continue to rile him.

“You certainly can’t blame me; I’m not asking for a divorce,” says Sherlock.

John puts down the paper and gives Sherlock a long stare. He’s irked that Sherlock keeps implying that John repeatedly fails at relationships.And even if their marriage were real,
John certainly wouldn’t be at fault for its bloody dissolution. “How can a marriage survive when a husband loves a mystery more than he loves his spouse, hmm?” challenges John.

Sherlock merely rolls his eyes and John continues. “Or better yet, how can a marriage survive when said spouse thinks that love is a human error?”

“Irrelevant, because how can a marriage survive when my husband is attracted to every single woman he sees?” debates Sherlock in a deadly, serious tone.

John feels his ears growing warm again. Jesus! The length Sherlock will go to get the last word! “You certainly can’t blame me, that’s not an issue on my part—I’m drawn to you, if you must know,” counters John, realizing too late what he has just revealed. But he almost doesn’t care—he’s that annoyed. He wants to inform Sherlock that had he not left him for two years, he doubts he’d even gotten married to Mary in the first place! Sherlock had been the one to severe their special bond—not John.

“Prove it, then.”

John feels he’s losing track of this conversation. They’re talking about a false marriage right? “Prove what?”

“You just said you were drawn to me; prove it.”

“Let me get this straight. You want me to show that I can be attracted to you in order to prove that the annulment of our fake marriage is not my fault?”

Sherlock shrugs. “The papers are legitimate. The marriage stands if no one annuls it.”

“Is this you trying to get the last word?”

Sherlock looks up to the ceiling, seemingly seeking patience. “I am attempting—though apparently quite unsuccessfully—to tell you that I am not unopposed to the idea of not getting an annulment.”

“You want to stay married?” asks John, suspicious. “Is that what you’re getting at?”

Sherlock shrugs. His cheeks are oddly pink. He lifts both palms up, as if giving up and says, “Yes, I suppose so.”

Why?”

Sherlock closes his eyes and massages his temples with the tip of his fingers as if warding off an incoming migraine. Finally, he sighs and shakes his head in quiet surrender. “Even a lab rat would’ve caught on by now, John,” he finally says softly. There’s no bite to his tone. In fact, his words sound more like a declaration than an insult.

John’s not even sure what’s going on anymore. Sherlock is implying that he wants to stay married to John? Sherlock doesn’t want to tear up their marriage papers?

Again he wonders Why? Sherlock doesn’t do that sort of stuff.

Or does he?

Well, it’s not likely that Sherlock is going to come right out and say it, is he?

But nevertheless, by the way Sherlock is looking at him—all fierce and guarded and vulnerable—it seems there are things being communicated between the two of them regardless of how it’s happening.

The thought of simply staying married to Sherlock is not only appealing, but suddenly necessary. John takes one quick look at the sign above the screen door, Seas-the-Day, and without thinking too much about it he stands and says, “Alright, I’ll prove it.”

John needs to take only a few steps to stand in front of the loveseat, but it feels much farther—it seems like he’s walking through a landmine. Sherlock ‘s gaze never falters, but John sees him swallow a few times.John doesn’t know where all that bloody bravado is coming from—but he knows that if he’s ever going to cross that damn line, it’s better to do it as if responding to a dare.

John straddles Sherlock, trapping him to the loveseat. He twines his arms around Sherlock’s neck and he slides his tongue between Sherlock’s lips without touching them with his first. It is a blatantly sexual kiss, one that leaves no room for interpretation.

Sherlock inhales in surprise and holds his breath. John kisses him again, slower this time but just as sexy. He slides his tongue over Sherlock’s lips and then teasingly seeks out Sherlock’s tongue. He circles it with his own until Sherlock starts to respond.

Sherlock’s mouth is so soft, so willing and inexperienced and delicious. John forgets about the reasons why he’s kissing him. Is it a game? Who cares? Sherlock is responding and it’s… exhilarating. It calls to mind their very first chase through London together, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, breathless and alive, until in the end John had forgotten all about his cane, only this time he’s forgotten all about the fact that he doesn’t do this type of stuff with blokes.(And it seems Sherlock has forgotten he doesn’t do this type of stuff period.)

John has no clue as to what Sherlock’s take is on all this.John pulls away carefully, regrettably—and stands. “Well, there you go; the divorce is not my fault,” he says quietly.

Sherlock nods and sits up straight in the chair. He looks both a little disheveled and a little lost. It’s a combination that pulls at John’s heartstrings. He’s always been a sucker for reassuring an overwhelmed Sherlock and all he wants to do now is make the uncertainty of their situation go away. But he figures it’s a bit too late for that.

Slowly, John takes Sherlock’s hand in his and steps back, pulling Sherlock to a stand in front of him. For a long moment nothing happens. They stand face to face while they both seemingly lose the ability to talk. Waves of things unspoken skitter in the air around them, making the hair at the back of John’s neck stand on end.

“So what now?” John finally inquires.

Sherlock looks down at his feet, his fringe falling down like a curtain,and John barely hears him when he whispers,“Hold me.”

A forceful surge of emotions expands against John’s ribcage and pushes its way up to his throat where it settles and squeezes.

Hold me.

This is more than a dare or a game.

John suddenly understands something with simple, startling clarity. The big surprise here this afternoon is not that he’s in love with Sherlock Holmes—that’s always been glimmering on the edge of his consciousness, hasn’t it?—it’s that Sherlock Holmes is in love with him.

John simply gathers Sherlock towards him, lacing both arms around his back and holding him tight. Yes, of course, I’ll hold you, you utter idiot.”

John feels Sherlock’s arms slowly come around his back in response. Feels the heat of Sherlock’s hands wrap themselves around his waist tightly. Feels Sherlock’s heartbeat against his own. Is our crazy friendship more than what you bargained for? Did it catch you off guard? Me too, Sherlock… me too.”

Sherlock seems content to just stay like this, wrapped in John’s arms. Maybe holding each other is enough. Maybe they need to adjust to this new thing between them. Maybe it’s more of a platonic sort of ‘in love’ for Sherlock.John gently pulls back from Sherlock and looks at him in the eyes.

Well.

The expression on Sherlock’s face is indescribable, but whatever he’s trying to convey it is intense, and hot, and fiery. John feels the aching want pouring out of Sherlock and it’s not platonic at all. Jesus, Sherlock wants this.

“Sherlock” is the only thing John manages to say. He reaches up and cups Sherlock’s precious face and kisses him with newfound abandon. John’s lips quickly travel down Sherlock’s jawline, and move to the soft skin of his neck. His pulse is beating fast and John runs a tongue over it. Sherlock inhales sharply and then holds on to John tighter.

It’s like they’ve been taken over by the tide, as wave after wave of yearning and desire, breaks over them, erasing the line John had drawn between them.

They probably should talk, but if they stop now, Lord knows if they’ll have the courage—or stupidity—to continue this. John has learned that it’s better to just take over instead of trying to get Sherlock to express himself.

He takes Sherlock’s hand and interlaces their fingers, and brings their joined hands to his mouth for a kiss. “I’m taking you to bed, Sherlock. If that’s not something you want, just say so now.”

Sherlock visibly relaxes at the sound of John’s commending tone and follows as malleably as he did in the wee hours of the morning.

John leads him to the bed and they fall on it like trees struck down by a force of nature, their limps intertwine easily as they land chest to chest. John marvels at the fact that he’s got his best friend—apparently his husband now—lying on the bed.John can feel waves of accumulated tension coming off of Sherlock; he gathers some is sexual and some is probably anxiety. John runs a hand down Sherlock’s back, fingers digging gently, testing his tensed muscles, and then strokes them smooth.

Sherlock has yet to speak through all of this. It seems he’s carefully holding it all in and John is fine with that. Sherlock looks a little overwhelmed, like he’s five short emotions away from having a bit of a breakdown just like in Baskerville.

Sherlock isn’t afraid of sex; giving in to his impulses is what truly alarms him.

John holds Sherlock close to him, giving him time to adapt to the intensity of his emotions. “Breathe Sherlock,” John instructs softly. I didn’t think I could ever feel this much tenderness and lust both at the same time. It’s always a bloody strange combination with you Sherlock, isn’t?

“I’m going to unbutton your shirt now; It’s a nice shirt, I think. It suits you, but since I want to touch your skin, we’ll have to take it off,” says John using the matter-of-fact voice Sherlock responds to.

Sherlock nods and John proceeds to undo the buttons and remove the shirt completely. He bends down and kisses the taut skin of Sherlock’s shoulder tenderly. It’s not something he’s used to. It’s pure muscle, yet smooth; leathery—like the texture of a rose petal but with the strength of iron underneath. It’s crazy how much he likes it.

John kisses his jaw and his temple. His throat is smooth and very white. Beautiful, gorgeous,complex creature.

Then he runs his tongue over Sherlock’s nipple. It’s flat and hard—again, not what he’s used to at all—but Sherlock’s response, all squirmy and out of breath, sends a delicious wave of tingly desire straight down his spine and right to his balls. Sherlock holds his breath when John does it again scraping his teeth gently against the sensitive spot.

“Breathe, Sherlock,” he repeats, softly.

John can tell Sherlock wants to reciprocate, but his hands are a bit tentative; they don’t know where to go, what to do. It’s probably easier for Sherlock to pretend intimate touch, like with Janine, than let his feelings for John be translated sexually.

John feels Sherlock’s feather light touch on him, tentatively running his fingers on the front of John’s jeans. John lets go of Sherlock’s lips and takes Sherlock’s hand, pressing it down on his erection.

Yes, I’m hard for you, Sherlock.

After that, it seems like Sherlock’s hands have been released from Sherlock’s thoughts and are now being guided by instinct and desire.That’s it Sherlock, touch me.Sherlock’s hands finally travel from his neck down to his spine down to his arse with pressure, with great urgency and hunger.

Christ! It’s always all or nothing with you, isn’t?

Sherlock relaxes and his mouth is sucking on John’s bottom lip. It’s sexy and needy and John can’t believe that it’s Sherlock doing this to him. Sherlock. Christ!

Then Sherlock tugs at John’s clothes, trying to undress him in the frantic way lovers do when they just don’t care anymore about making it last, when they want to be as close as possible to the other person. I want that too, Sherlock.

Lying on their sides, in between manic bouts of kissing, they help each other out of their clothes until they are both completely naked. It’s a bit surprising, heady, the passion Sherlock exhibits. John’s breath catches several times, and he needs to remind himself to breathe as often as he needs to remind Sherlock. It’s insane. Really, he’s by no means new to sex, but this is overtaking him.

John wants to tell Sherlock how much he likes it. That he’s not settling. That he loves him. How unbelievable it is that they’re together, how crazy it all is, but he doesn’t want to break the flow.

Sherlock’s fingers digs into John’s hip, pulling him closer. John lets him do whatever he wants. Go ahead Sherlock, take over if that’s what you need…

Suddenly, Sherlock slides down the bed and takes John in his warm mouth with fierce enthusiasm. John inhales sharply in delicious surprise. “Fuuuck,” he moans helplessly as Sherlock begins sucking him off, his lips exquisitely tight and firmly sealed around John’s cock. John knows Sherlock has never done this before, but frankly he can’t really tell. It just feels unbelievable. Yes, Sherlock, keep going, like that with your tongue…

“It’s perfect,” John manages to rasp out.

Sherlock lifts his head and holds John’s gaze. His pupils are dark and large under his lowered eyelashes, and there’s a sort of reverence in the look that Sherlock gives him that brings erotica to a whole new level. It’s an intimate sort of communication; whatever Sherlock can’t quite say to John out loud with his mouth, he expresses with his tongue on his cock. John is overwhelmed by sensation—love and lust swirling and pooling in his groin.

And when Sherlock moves up and down his shaft, pausing slightly at the head to swirl around the tip, the effect is beyond exhilarating. Sherlock is his drug of choice and to have that drug suddenly seek him out like that and hit his bloodstream…. is… fuck.

Blood roars against his eardrums as Sherlock’s lips resume sliding over his cock, charging his shaft with the most delectable skittering static.

He’s not going to last long…not with Sherlock looking like that, his glistening mouth sensually paused right at the tip of John’s cock, ready to engulf him again… not with the exquisite pressure building up in his balls… not with…

John hazily thinks he should probably stop Sherlock to make it last longer but… Christ. It’s just too damn good.

The next moment, John thinks of nothing. He can only feel and shudder as the pulsing force of his orgasm spirals through him. He barely slips out of Sherlock’s mouth before he comes, quick and hard on his own stomach.

John reaches for Sherlock and pulls him down onto his chest. “Jesus, Sherlock… that was… yeah—really good.”

Sherlock presses his face in John’s shoulder and John can practically feel him beaming with pride against his skin. John wants to stay like this, cozy and boneless, enjoying the delicious throbbing aftermath of his orgasm, but he really wants to reciprocate.

John grabs Sherlock’s head with both hands and kisses him passionately until Sherlock responds again. He whispers,“It’s your turn. Let me, okay?”

John rolls them over onto their sides and slides his hand down, fisting Sherlock’s erection. It’s hard and hot and John loves it. It’s something Sherlock can’t hide. It’s there for John and it’s so fucking sexy to witness Sherlock aroused and sensual.John licks his palm and slowly moves his hand up the shaft, running the pad of his thumb over the glistening pre-come at the tip of Sherlock’s cock.

John hears the small, barely audible sounds Sherlock is making. It’s like he wants to keep it all in—to be in full control of his body.

It’s okay, Sherlock. I’ve got you. You’ve seen me lose control. It’s really good when you’re with someone you trust… someone you love.

Sherlock grinds against him, needy and greedy, his cock thrusting in and out of John’s moist fist in a rhythm older than time itself. John lets Sherlock fuck his hand, lets him find the friction he likes, lets him set the pace.

Yes, Sherlock. Yes. It’s sexy to see you seeking it out like that.

Sherlock tenses, arcs his back, and holds on to John’s shoulders as he comes into John’s palm.John thinks he’s ferociously beautiful in his loss of control.

Again, John wraps his arms tightly around Sherlock, his hand running up and down his back in a soothing motion. They are both strategically hiding in each other’s neck, John still mostly on top of Sherlock, his lips resting at the juncture of Sherlock’s clavicle and the soft hollow of his neck. There are thoughts lazily meandering through his mind:I love you Sherlock.And I know you love me too.Are we really just going to stay married?That’s a bit crazy, isn’t… even by our standards? I can picture myself growing old with you… I did it this morning. Does that scare you?

None of these thoughts are articulated out loud. Maybe because they are too new, too buoyant. And maybe because they scare John a little bit, too.

All in good time.

Sherlock’s fingers are gently playing with the fine hair on John’s nape. It’s such a loving, repetitive movement, a tenderness John had imagined Sherlock incapable of. It’s a bit of a surreal moment.

John remembers Sherlock’s blank face when John’d asked him to be bestman. If he’d had to guess what Sherlock Holmes would do after sex, John would’ve probably guessed he would bolt out of bed as soon as possible. This is much, much nicer.

John smiles and kisses the tender spot just at the base of Sherlock’s neck. He’s comfortable like this, his full weight resting on Sherlock and his arms lazily hooked around his neck. He could stay like this forever.

Sherlock is still silent and begins to plant a series of sweet, tentative small kisses behind John’s ear. John closes his eyes and for some goddamn reason he feels a prickly feeling behind his eyelids. He swallows the emotions down. Sherlock, I love you so fucking much.

The moments pass and they stay like that for what feels like eons. It seems neither wants to open their damn mouths and communicate, even after what just happened. (Maybe especially after what just happened.)

“I didn’t…” starts John (because someone needs to say something). He’s not even sure what to say. “I didn’t realize you’d—er—want this,” he says.

Sherlock doesn’t reply. John doesn’t blame him. It’s hard enough for John to make sense of his own emotions right now. He can only imagine how hard it is for Sherlock, who doesn’t do feelings, to work through this.

“It’s er—too bad it’s our last day here,” adds John lamely.

There’s still no response from Sherlock. Finally, John pulls Sherlock’s face away from his shoulder and kisses him on the lips, then leans his forehead on Sherlock’s. “You’d better say something soon,” John says in what he hopes is a light tone. “Or else I’ll think this was one of your bloody tricks,” he adds.

Sherlock’s eyes are shut and his throat is working as if he’s finally going to say something, but instead, Sherlock puts two hands on John’s chest and gently pushes him away. His expression is eerily blank. “I’ve got to go now,” he says neutrally. “There is something important I need to do before we leave the island.”

John waits for Sherlock to smile or at least offer some explanation, but he does not do so.

The buoyant feeling takes a fast plunge downwards as John watches Sherlock, his back to John, wipe himself clean with a white towel that had been left on the bedside table.

It’s no small consolation that John’s initial guess that Sherlock would bolt turns out to be dead-on.He knows what Sherlock is doing, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Don’t fucking do this John wants to scream.

John has no idea what the hell has made Sherlock so bloody afraid to be emotionally involved. John can only assume that something must’ve happened to him in the past.

John reigns in his frustration, ignores his fear, and snuffs out the flares of hurt pride.
If Sherlock needs space to work things through, he’ll give him space. (Plus, for all John knows, the wanker probably has some unfinished business to attend to.)

It takes John full vocal control to keep his voice casual. “Alright, I’ll see you at the airport, then. Flight leaves at 8 p.m.: Be there at 6 p.m., okay?”

Sherlock picks up his discarded clothes off the floor and gets dressed in record time. It just goes to show how off-kilter he is that he has completely by passed his careful grooming routine to get the hell out of here. He’s looking at his phone as he picks up his travel bag by the door.“If I’m late, go ahead and catch the flight home without me,” he says as he closes the door behind him.

“Right, then,” John says to himself, trying to ignore the icy feeling of dread spreading within. But it’s too late, it already feels like the humid, tropical air has solidified in his lungs.

 

~~~***~~~

Chapter Text

~~~***~~~

 

John sits on a white plastic chair at Gate 2 with his travel bag between his feet, and looks around his surroundings for signs of Sherlock. Beef Island airport is a small, uncomplicated airport that smells of orange blossoms and industrial cleaner. When he’d arrived here a mere four days ago, sick with worry for his best friend, he hadn’t noticed just how quaint and contained the airport was. It’s too damn small for John to miss the arrival of Sherlock, yet he can’t help but stare towards the one entrance door to the friggin’ airport.

It’s only 5:30 p.m., but he’s already desperate for Sherlock to arrive. He’s decided to wait for him even if it means missing his flight home. There’s no bloody way he’s going anywhere without talking to Sherlock first.

Again, he tries to read his novel, but he just can’t concentrate. He casts another long stare out the window, but all he can see is a line of taxi waiting for potential customers. In the distance, the runway is shiny black with sporadic filaments of steam rising above it due to the earlier rain and the sudden appearance of the blazing sun. This image serves to intensify the memory of the pouring rain when they were at their beach cottage earlier… before things happened.

John sighs. He’s given Sherlock enough space to process: now it’s time for the bloody idiot to shows up.

He loves him. And he is confident that he hasn’t read Sherlock wrong; his best friend loves him too. But yeah, it’s complicated. John feels something similar to pity when he thinks of Sherlock trying to navigate his way through what’s happened between them. It’s not that John regrets it, but it might’ve been best to take things a bit slower if they were going to go there together.

Well, there’s nothing for it now. All he can do is wait. Sherlock’s bound to show up at some point. He always does.

And in true Sherlock fashion, not a minute later, his dearest wanker of a husband appears from the one spot John least expects to see him: the arrival terminal.

How in hell did he manage that?

This means Sherlock first snuck past security and is coming back out again (as if customs and security have a special revolving door for Sherlock to come and go at will). John is so surprised, he can’t help but half laugh at the outrageousness of Sherlock’s actions.

Sherlock catches his look and smiles back. John suspects this unexpected entrance is all for his benefit—a distraction if you will. Clever Bastard.

Sherlock walks nonchalantly towards John, still smiling broadly. It’s as if nothing whatsoever has happened between them. He’s pulling his suitcase behind him, while carrying his Belstaff in the crook of his arm. He looks devastatingly handsome in his expensive clothes, all confidence and intelligence. The combination flares a vivid feeling of attraction within John and rams home just how powerfully drawn—physically and mentally—he’s been to Sherlock all along.

Please don’t be a dick about this for too long. I love you too fucking much to just be your friend.

Of course, Sherlock seems oblivious to the turmoil swirling within John. As soon as he reaches John, he starts talking a mile a minute about the case. “Obviously, I had to retrieve some of my belongings at the hospital as you can see,” he says, lifting his arm to indicate his coat and continues. “Also, I had to drop by the police department to sneak Smith’s laptop back into the evidence room. My sincere apologies for going ahead without you, but don’t worry John, you didn’t miss much.”

Sherlock then proceeds to shove a small purple gift bag into John’s hands. “Coffee beans. You seemed to like the coffee here.”

John takes the bag wearily and takes a peak inside. There’s coffee and a card adorned with a bright yellow bow that reads “wish you’d ‘bean’ here!”

John raises an eyebrow. “Er, thanks. I was here…”

“Obviously. Or else I wouldn’t have known how much you liked the coffee.”

It’s such a weird answer and for a brief second John wonders if Sherlock is high.

As soon as he thinks it, Sherlock rolls his eyes and sighs. “I’m not in a habit of getting high every time I step on an aeroplane, John,” he says, apparently reading John’s mind.

“Oh, good to know. Wouldn’t want you to find yourself in Victorian England again, right?”

Sherlock gives him a look. “That’s how I solved Moriarty’s return.”

John pulls Sherlock by the sleeve, and they sit down on the plastic chairs. John feels better, lighter, but still, he and Sherlock really need to talk. The sooner the better. But it seems it’s going to have to wait a bit longer—they’ve been called to board their flight to Miami.

 

~~~***~~~

 

Two hours later, after a turbulent, small-engine flight from Road Town to Florida, they are finally boarding their British Airways flight back home.

Miraculously, despite the fact that the flight is almost full, they have a row to themselves. In the back of his mind, John wonders if Sherlock had anything to do with it. Probably. Well, John’s not about to complain. He might have a chance to talk to Sherlock and clarify this thing between them. And then try to get some sleep too.

John jams his travel bag in the overhead compartment and sits down in the middle seat. Sherlock drapes the Belstaff on the aisle seat and sits next to John.

It seems like they have eased back into their respective roles. It’s comfortable, it’s easy. But John is scared that if they wait, if they don’t acknowledge what happened, they’ll simply revert back to friendship.

“You know, we should really talk, Sherlock,” John says. He waits a moment for Sherlock to reply, but Sherlock seems to be momentarily lost in space. “I think we need to figure out some things while we’re on this flight… before we get home.”

Sherlock blinks, and then proceeds to deduce random passengers on the plane as if that’s what John meant about ‘figuring some things out’ (John, this gentleman is visiting his cousin in Manchester: I believe he has second-degree burns to his calves from this vacation. Oh, and this idiot just quit smoking; it will be a long flight for him… In fact, he’s slightly depressed and has had thoughts of suicide...)

John interrupts. “The only stranger’s mental state I’m interested on this flight is the pilot’s.”

Sherlock waves a hand. “We’re safe.”

“But seriously, I meant that we should talk about us, Sherlock. About what happened earlier and what we both want.”

Sherlock considers him for a moment and then shakes his head no. Not here.

But this is killing John. He feels like he’s a teenager again, needing some kind of reassurance that they are on the same page. This kind of limbo drives him insane. He can’t be expected to fly six hours next to Sherlock and pretend that he doesn’t know what Sherlock’s mouth feels like, what Sherlock’s face looks like when he loses control, and how his eyelashes lower and tremble when he says John’s name.

John sighs, remembering.

A flight attendant snaps him out of his musings and offers him a drink. “Just water is fine,” he says.

Well, maybe Sherlock is right; this is not exactly a private spot to have a heart-to-heart conversation, but still, he’d really fucking like some kind of conformation that what happened isn’t going to get deleted.

Impulsively, John grabs the small white paper napkin that came with his drink and writes Are we good? There. That should be enough to settle his mind for the rest of their travels. He passes the note over to Sherlock (And now he definitely feels like a teen in school).

Sherlock looks at it for a second, and then looks away.

John sighs again and gazes out the window. From the corner of his eye, he sees Sherlock take his pen from the table and begin to write. He pushes the napkin back towards John.

I talk to you when you’re not there.

John writes back quickly, relieved that he’s finally getting some sort of feedback;

I know. So?

They have a short, written conversation via napkin.

My past is significantly messed up.

John shrugs. His past is pretty fucked up, too.

What does it matter? scribbles John, and slides the napkin over to Sherlock.

I thought you would appreciate complete transparency after your last marriage.

Well, Sherlock definitely has a point there. But this is a completely different situation. Sure, there are some parallels between Sherlock and Mary, but John trusts Sherlock—has from the very first day they met. In fact, he knows Sherlock… at a deep level. It might sound stupid, but John feels like he sees right through Sherlock’s pretend indifference all the way to Sherlock’s beautiful soul—his unorthodox way of fixing things for the underdogs, his incredible loyalty, his precious intelligence, and the endearing way he relies on John for social guidance.

But, of course, John doesn’t say any of this to Sherlock. Not now. Not on a plane full of people. They’re not even things Sherlock wants to hear, anyway. But they are all things he deserves to know. He deserves to know how much he is loved and how much he won’t ever be taken for granted again.

But right now, John just needs confirmation that they’re going to work things out—that they’re not going to pretend nothing happened between them. John writes. Yes, but are we good?

This is stupid. Sherlock replies.

Before John has a chance to write a response to Sherlock, Sherlock snatches the napkin away, flips it over, and adds:

And your arguments were all valid.
-Human error
-The Work
Therefore I guess the divorce would be my fault.

John frowns. Jesus Christ! Are they back to that argument? He loves Sherlock. He wants to stay married to him. He has figured it out.

I’m not asking for a divorce writes John, underlining “not” for emphasis.

Sherlock writes back Are you sure?

YES

Maybe you should wait for all the evidence before making a decision such as this one.

There’s no room left on the napkin, plus Sherlock keeps the pen. He doesn’t want John to reply. John can tell from Sherlock’s body language that this is as far as they’ll get during this flight. John finds his book and tucks the napkin inside. He’s fine with that. At least Sherlock is not pretending it didn’t happen. He just wants John to know about his past before making a decision.

“Okay, your way,” John says out loud. “But it won’t change how I feel…”

Sherlock doesn’t say anything to that and pulls out the series of odd email addresses from Culverton Smith’s laptop: he seems to be memorizing them or decoding them (who knows?) John grabs his novel and moves to the window seat. “I’m just going to go ahead and read this until I fall asleep,” he says.

Sherlock nods, and without looking up, gives John the small white pillow that was tucked under his arm.

“Thanks,” says John. He really wishes he could get an indication as to what is going on in Sherlock’s head. Maybe a sign that he doesn’t regret what happened.

 

~~~***~~~

 

When John wakes up later, Sherlock has migrated to the middle seat. and his fingers are resting softly on top of John’s hand.

A relief so huge lifts off John that he thinks the plane has just climbed a bit higher up in altitude as a result.

They’re going to be fine.

 

~~~***~~~

 

John has been home for over a day now, but it feels like it’s been much longer. He managed to visit Lizzie when they got in yesterday, slept, and then went to work. This is his second full day shift at the surgery, and he’s exhausted.

Sherlock has been on permanent background in his mind and he’s delighted when, just as he’s starting to eat breakfast, he gets a text from him.

Will be sending you reading material to help you decide. SH

Another text from Sherlock appears before John can formulate a reply.

By the way, your third patient will need an MRI not an X-ray. SH

John half laughs reading this. How can Sherlock possibly know about Matt Woolridge’s ankle?

John replies; Stop breaking into my patients’ electronic medical records. And what kind of reading material?

Sherlock doesn’t reply, and John is not surprised when there’s a knock at the door a few minutes later. Anthea is there, holding a large manila envelope. John is too tired to do small talk so he just takes the envelope, and says; “I’ll send my receipts in by the end of the week.” He doesn’t clarify. He knows Anthea will figure out he’s talking about the expenses from his trip to the B.V.I.

“Perfect, thanks,” says Anthea, before heading back to the car waiting for her in front of John’s place.

John opens the envelope immediately, too curious to even wait until he has a warm cup of tea in hand to wake him up. He sits on the sofa and pulls out three documents placing them on the coffee table in front of him.

One is a psychological report, one a police report, and the last is a handwritten letter for John.

John shakes his head. If Sherlock thinks any of these will make a difference to John, well, he is sadly mistaken.

He imagines Sherlock, determined yet vulnerable, stuffing this envelope with everything he thinks he is—or was—important, including his not-so-good past. Stubbornly wanting to show John what a mess he is. A deep love pulls at John’s heartstrings until even his throat feels tight. This only makes John feel more for his best—for his husband.

I’m keeping you, Sherlock. I’m goddamn never letting you go again. I don’t care what’s in there.

With quiet determination, John picks up the first bulky document. It’s a top-secret police report summarizing Sherlock’s illegal use of the university chemistry lab to synthesize meth. There’s also mention of Sherlock’s rather spectacular deception when he was in university. Sherlock had made up someone who didn’t actually exist. The person had—for four years—enrolled in classes, had obtained college grades, written exams, etc…

John thinks back to the Reichenbach Fall and remembers Sherlock saying something along the lines ‘That’s what you do. You take the truth and you wrap it up in a lie.’

Sherlock had not made up Richard Brooks but, long ago, had made up someone else and apparently, that someone else had been a young woman.

John figures Sherlock must’ve been bored out of his mind and had entertained himself by making up someone. And that’s more than likely the information Mycroft Holmes had shared with Moriarty.

Well, this is nothing that’s going to make him change his mind about Sherlock. In fact, he tries not to smile at the image of a young Sherlock fooling everyone…

John pushes the police report aside and grabs a second document. It’s not an official police report, but it profiles Sherlock’s drug use in the same manner. It might be directly from Mycroft’s private files. The notes are weird, and there are a lot of symbols and code-like numbers next to the dates when Sherlock apparently overdosed in the past. There was even a suicide attempt. The entire thing makes John sick to his stomach and he pushes the document aside (though he is glad to notice that the last entry dates back to over two years ago when Sherlock got off the plane after his brief exile).

John picks up the slim psychological report next and realizes that it’s not even a full document but just a summary. He skims the content and is stunned to find out that Sherlock has an official diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

What the fuck?

A mixture of bewilderment and worry swarms the inside of John’s stomach, and he needs to put the report down for a few seconds in order to collect himself. There’s not a lot of details, just the date of the diagnosis, the medical professionals involved in the assessment, and a short list of symptoms; mood swings, hearing voices of people who aren’t there, strange memory problems, drug abuse, mental fugues and complete dissociations for extended periods of time.

John’s not really surprised he missed it. Dissociative disorder is a real bitch to diagnose, and the symptoms can be camouflaged depending on the severity.

It’s uncanny how it explains a lot of things—Sherlock talking to John when John’s not even there, and the random few times Sherlock used the pronoun ‘we’ when he first came back from the dead. Even the entire “Sherlock is a girl’s name” might fall under that umbrella, right? He has dissociated into a girl before, John suspects. “Cross- dressing would’ve been a better choice” echoes Mycroft’s voice from the past.

John wonders if Sherlock might’ve also dissociated into a young child a few times, too. He recalls clearly the way in which Sherlock had asked about James Sholto, “Who he?” It had sounded so weird coming from someone as eloquent as Sherlock.

And, of course, John assumes that the vacant look in Sherlock’s eye just after John had forgiven him in the subway car, must’ve been a dissociative fugue. That would explain the odd, manic laugh that had followed.

For some reason, John is filled with an irrational anger at Mycroft. It seems like something he should’ve shared with John a long time ago (not just the fact that Sherlock had ‘regressed’ when he returned from his two year hiatus).

John rubs his face. The thing is, as a medical professional, John knows that dissociative identity disorder is a coping mechanism resulting from severe emotional stress. He can only assume that Sherlock suffered some kind of acute trauma as a child. The thought goes right to his chest, making it feel like he’s breathing in small shards of glass instead of air.

John wants to gather Sherlock in his arms and hold him tight. He also wants to know what the hell happened to him. He hopes Sherlock will trust him enough to share at some point.

John stands, takes a deep breath to clear his lungs, and sits down again. Carefully, he picks up the final item that was in the envelope and wonders what kind surprise is hidden in there.

It’s a handwritten letter from Sherlock addressed to John. It is brief and non-sentimental. It’s written almost in point-form and just lists regrettable activities Sherlock partook in when he was involved in some sort of a group called ‘The Red Circle.’

John speed-reads it. It almost sounds like a cult of some sort. There’s a mention of a leader whose code name had been Redbeard and that this person had taught the art of memory to Sherlock. John reads between the lines and concludes that this Redbeard individual meant a great deal to Sherlock.

Sherlock ends the letter by telling him that perhaps he is too different to be in a relationship of any kind, and that he understands if this is too much for John.

It seems Sherlock is set on showing the worst of himself to John. It’s like he wants to sabotage their relationship before it even has a chance to get properly started.

But why did he bother getting things started between them?

That’s when John realizes that Sherlock is not trying to sabotage things—he’s trying to safeguard them! He wants John to know that he comes with heavy baggage. He’s unpacking it all for John to see. No more secrets. He wants John to know what he’s getting into, including the ghosts from his past. They are what Sherlock is scared might come and split them up in the future—the deal breakers as it may.

None of this matters to John. Abso-fucking-lutely none of it. If anything, this weird combination of documents and clinical reports has only served to make John love Sherlock more.

Sherlock had asked “Are you sure?”

Yes. Dammit all, John’s certain he wants it all with Sherlock.

John grabs his phone, and writes the following text to Sherlock without any hesitation:

Listen you smartass, I’m sure. Call me now.

That’s right, he’s asked Sherlock to call, not text. He really needs to hear his voice.

His phone rings almost immediately, even though it feels like much longer. John answers, a bit breathless. “Sherlock.”

“John…” Sherlock replies a little breathless too.

Nothing else is said but John knows instantly that somehow, in their own way, they’ve just committed to each other. They’re not getting a divorce.

“Sherlock, I’m very sure.”

“Okay,” Sherlock replies. “You’ve read everything?” he adds, his voice breaking a bit it seems to John. John pauses.

Yes, he has read everything, but he would really like to know what terrible event caused the dissociation in the first place, but he doesn’t dare ask.

It seems Sherlock correctly interprets John’s silence. “I had another brother. A half-brother,” he clarifies. “My mother already had a child when she married my father. The boy was apparently jealous of me. He secretly hurt me from the day I was born until I was three years old. It was Mycroft who finally figured it out. I don’t remember any of it.”

“What happened to him? The half-brother?”

“He was sent to live with his father—my mother’s thesis advisor—and he killed himself a few years ago. It doesn’t matter. ”

“Okay,” John says. He’d like to tell Sherlock he’s sorry about what happened in his past, and that he loves him, and that he swears he’ll make sure nothing ever hurts Sherlock again. But John knows that’s not what Sherlock wants to hear. Not right now, anyway. John swallows all the pity and sorrow he feels for Sherlock, and just gives Sherlock the confirmation he’s looking for. “Listen, Sherlock, your past doesn’t change anything. I want to be with you, alright?”

“Alright,” says Sherlock. He sounds very young. “I’m not surprised,” he adds.

“No?”

“”I’d already surmised you have questionable judgment in your choice of spouses.”

John chuckles. Not what he was expecting to come out of Sherlock’s mouth. It’s always the unexpected, isn’t?

“And, I guess it would be appropriate at this point to say I’m sorry.”

For a brief second, John thinks Sherlock is apologizing for his past, for being different… but then he catches on. “For taking off abruptly?”

“Yes,” he says. There is a long silence. “I wasn’t prepared—I”

“Didn’t expect it?”

“Yes, you could say that again.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I wasn’t expecting it either.”

“It won’t happen again,” says Sherlock quickly, his voice sounding very young again. “Me leaving… after.”

“I know, Sherlock. We’re fine now.”

There is another long pause.

“Where are you?” John asks softly.

“Crime scene.”

“Oh.” Something warm and light fills John. Sherlock has momentarily put the work aside to talk to John. On the phone. In the middle of a crime scene. This is more romantic than if Sherlock had sent him a bunch of flowers accompanied by a love note.

“Well, I won’t keep you,” John says, his voice trailing off. “I’ve got to go to work, actually, now.”

“I know.”

“Of course, you know.”

“Come home at lunch.”

John doesn’t really have time to drop by 221B during his lunch hour today. He has so much stuff to catch up on. But he really needs to see Sherlock. “Yeah, I will,” John says finally.

“Fine. Good.”

“Good.”

“I’m going to hang up now,” Sherlock says. “That’s not rude, is it?” he adds almost as an afterthought.

“No, it’s all good. Bye, Sherlock.”

“Bye, John,” he says, and disconnects.

John is surprised when not even a second later his phone beeps. He looks down and it’s a text from Sherlock.

I’m sure too.

John feels warmth and happiness spread within. Sherlock surprises him again with another text.

In fact, I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.

John grins and goes to work via cloud nine.

 

~~~***~~~

 

John arrives at Baker Street a bit later than anticipated, and as soon as he opens the door downstairs, John knows that Sherlock is not alone in the flat. In fact, it sounds like there are a few people up there, and John feels a trickle of disappointment cascade through him. He’d have liked to see Sherlock face-to-face (mouth-to-mouth), especially after just having cleared things up between them and finding out about Sherlock’s past.

John makes his way up the stairs. Mycroft is there for sure. He can hear a typical conversation between the two brothers echoing in the stairway.

“Some day you’ll thank me for this, Sherlock.”

“Well, not today.”

John shakes his head and chuckles to himself. Yes, he’s disappointed they won’t be alone. Lord knows he’d love to have a private moment with Sherlock. But still, he can’t wait to see him and hear him (and strangely, the fact that Sherlock’s arguing with his brother reassures John that nothing has changed at all).

John walks in and the first person he sees is Molly; she’s sitting at the living room table fidgeting with a thick folder and plastic bag with vials in it. Mycroft is sitting in Sherlock’s chair, and Lestrade’s in John’s chair. Mrs. Hudson is in the kitchen preparing tea.

It seems to be an impromptu gathering. A full house.

Maybe it’s just as well, John thinks. He really didn’t have much time, and Lord knows what he might’ve been tempted to do to his husband. Really, it’s a blessing in disguise that there were so many people here this afternoon.

Sherlock appears, from the kitchen and makes eye contact with John.

Sorry, his eyes convey.

John smiles widely. It’s okay. I’m just happy to see you.

John sits down at the table across from Molly and lets Mrs. Hudson bring him tea and gently squeezes his shoulder. Sherlock blinks once and resumes his conversation with Mycroft and Lestrade.

As Molly asks about the cut on his face, John distractedly explains what happened with Culverton Smith, all the while casting a few looks at his husband. Sherlock looks really good. He’s wearing a suit and that nice purple shirt, the one that is shaded the colour of red wine. It makes John feel a little drunk just looking at him. Sherlock’s brilliant in his element—talking fast, unraveling the entire story of how they caught Culverton Smith (minus the part where John jumped in and married him).

The little looks Sherlock keeps giving John has his heart all off kilter and he’s semi-aware that he must be beaming brighter than a sunbeam.

Mycroft coughs to get his attention. “So, John, how were the Virgin Islands?” he says with great emphasis on the word ‘virgin’. “Awkward, I imagine?”

“Hot as hell, actually,” John replies.

That effectively shuts up Mycroft for a while, and Sherlock finishes his summary of the Culverton case and his deadly agents. John looks at his watch. He’s only been here for forty minutes, but sadly, he must return to work soon. He’s fully booked for the rest of the afternoon.

He stands. “Well, sorry I can’t stay longer, but I really have to get going.”

Sherlock is immediately by his side. “John,” he says, grabbing John’s wrist with his long fingers.

All eyes are on them, and John feels a blush creeping up from his collarbone to his neck. But frankly, he doesn’t care.

Sherlock ignores everyone. “Can you come back tonight?” he asks, pulling John closer and gazing intensely into his eyes.

Shit, shit, shit John swears. He can’t come back tonight. Absolutely not. He has tons of work to catch up on. There are lab results and X-rays that need reviewing, plus there is this long insurance form he promised he’d have finished for tomorrow. And to top it all off, he’s working early tomorrow morning and has to supervise a med school student he’d left stranded last week while he’d taken off after Sherlock.

“Yes, yes, I’ll be back,” is what he says instead.

Sherlock then proceeds to turn John’s wrist over and bring it up to his lips for a soft kiss. “Good,” he breathes right over John’s pulse point.

John doesn’t need to scan the room to know that everyone’s jaw must be hanging open wider than at a dental checkup.

The flat is dead silent. No one can shut up a room full of people like Sherlock.

Finally Sherlock rolls his eyes and says, “If you could all stop pretending this is completely unexpected… ”

John smiles widely, a strange giddiness building up in his chest at the amazed—yet clearly pleased—expression on everybody’s face.

John clears his throat. “Well, see you all later,” he says, escaping 221B and leaving Sherlock to answer their questions.

 

~~~***~~~

 

It’s funny what one can accomplish with the right kind of motivation. In record time, John finishes every single chart (without stopping to check on the England World Cup qualifier match once) and has finished the long insurance form for Mrs. Easingwood.

Now he’s on his way to see Sherlock, and he can barely wait to see him again.

John walks out of the underground station into the evening light. He is surprised to see Sherlock up in the distance, walking towards him. It does something funny to his stomach that Sherlock has come to greet him like this.

John grins widely, and Sherlock gives him a smile in return, the kind that creases the corner of his eyes. They meet at the light and stare at each other openly. It’s like the world around them has disappeared: they might as well be the only people out on the streets of London tonight.

Neither one says anything.

They walk in perfect unison towards Baker Street. From the corner of his eye, John sees Sherlock remove his right glove and stuff it in his coat pocket. And without even looking, he takes John’s hand in his. There is a delicious new sort of tension trembling in the space between them. No anxiety this time, just pure excitement.

They see a couple ahead, and as soon as they’ve walked past them, John hears “Wasn’t that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson? Are they together now?”

John holds back a laugh and catches Sherlock’s eye. Sherlock shrugs. He supposes people are going to find out sooner or later.

They turn the corner, and their flat is in sight like a finish line—or a starting line depending which way you look at it.

This thing between them, it’s more than simple attraction. It’s complicated and convoluted, but still, John cannot wait to get his hands, lips, whatever, on Sherlock.

Sherlock stops before opening the door. “In ancient Egypt all you had to do was cross the doorway with your intended, and you were instantly married.”

“And that you haven’t deleted?”

Sherlock simply shrugs, and John bursts out a quick laugh. “Listen, Sherlock, it’s crazy I know, but I’m fine with this tradition. We walk in and we’re married. ”

Sherlock opens the door and as soon as they step inside, they are in each other’s arms, kissing. They make it up the stairs, half kissing, half laughing, and fully in love.

When they get up to the landing, Sherlock releases John and says, “Welcome home.”

John steps inside and is struck not only by the amazing clean up job Sherlock has done, but by the décor and ambience in the flat. The place looks immaculate and, for lack of a better word, romantic. Sherlock must’ve spent the entire afternoon cleaning. But that’s not what strikes him the most—it’s all the inside jokes, all the secret I-know-you’s on display. The table is set with two swan serviettes neatly folded (the ones John had secretly liked better than the opera house ones). There’s wine (again, it’s the wine John liked better than the one Mary had chosen) and music and candles, and it’s bloody amazing that Sherlock has done all this. (Christ, he’s glad he impulsively cancelled work for tomorrow. There’s no way he’s not spending all night making love to Sherlock in their home. And this time there won’t be anyone running off!)

Sherlock turns towards him and takes his hand. From his pocket, he pulls out the Celtic ring John purchased in the B.V.I., and puts it on John’s finger. “Will you do me the honour of not divorcing me?”

John is strangely touched and just nods. Sherlock has this whole quirky proposal all set up, and John’s filled with tenderness. Well, he’d damn well like to put a ring on Sherlock’s finger, too. “Er, do you have the other wedding band?”

“Obviously,” says Sherlock as he rolls his eyes (Perhaps that now that they’re married, this will give John the right to put a limit on the amount of eye roll Sherlock is allowed to use in the future? Two per day sounds fair.)

Sherlock gives him the other ring and John puts it on Sherlock’s finger, repeating what he said in the hospital only six days ago. “Don’t ever take this off.”

“I won’t,” says Sherlock solemnly. “Except if I’m working with a strong base or acid,” he adds.

“Come here,” John says, and reaches for Sherlock and kisses him soundly on the lips. It doesn’t feel weird. It feels right. If Sherlock thought it was the tropical air, or a wooden sign that said “seize the day” that influenced him to go there, he’s wrong. Now that they are back in 221B, the feelings haven’t dissolved: if anything, they have multiplied and spread. John is supersaturated with feel-good emotions. They’re bursting out of him, and he probably has the goofiest smile on his face as a result.

They sit, and Sherlock pours the wine like a perfect host. He looks terribly handsome and John feels himself blushing a bit because he honestly can’t stop staring at Sherlock.

It seems the feeling is mutual. “I can’t stop looking at you,” says Sherlock bluntly.

My God, they’re both acting like they’re on a first date (which technically, they are). John just shakes his head in disbelief that they’ve really done things out of order. Let’s see—they got married, and then realized they were in love, and now they are dating. It sounds quirky, but it’s them, isn’t it?

And since it’s their first date, John’s not going to ask Sherlock anything else about what was in those damn documents, and he’s not going to ask how come he’s no longer a fly in the ointment (though Sherlock would probably claim he is). And he’s not going to ask what they’re going to tell people, the public, their clients, etc… but there’s one thing he’s going to ask before he takes Sherlock to bed, he’s going to ask about…

“Lizzie,” says Sherlock.

“Yes, she comes with the package, Sherlock. I know you’ve already said you didn’t mind Lizzie being part of the flatshare part-time, but this is more than a flatshare now: you would be her stepdad. Are you…”

Sherlock interrupts again. “Yes, I’m sure. When she was a mere thirty-two cell embryo, I made a vow to always love and protect Elizabeth and that doesn’t change—and will never change—whether or not you and I wear rings.”

This means everything to John. He loves that Sherlock loves his little girl so much. John puts down his glass of wine, walks around the table, lets Sherlock finish his sip, and then bends down to kiss him, tasting the wine on Sherlock’s tongue.

“I guess all we’re missing is the wedding waltz,” says John.

“Actually… “

“Oh. Oh, do you want to—”

“Yes, I—”

John doesn’t know why they’re suddenly getting all tangled up in this simple conversation about whether or not they want to dance together. They’ve waltzed before—right here, in this very living room—and there was no problem then.

Maybe that’s the catch. The then and the now. So much has happened since Sherlock patiently taught John how to dance. And now that they’re together they’re suddenly self-consious? Fuck that.

John stands and reaches out a hand to Sherlock in invitation.

Sherlock takes it and gazes at John with such a look of transparent longing that John can’t help the heat of a blush creep up his neck. Christ, it’s beyond flattering that the smartest man in London is so taken with him.

John swallows. “Will you, er… dance with me Sherlock? If we have some music… ” he adds uselessly.

Sherlock just nods solemnly and gets up to fetch a CD that’s apparently between the pages of a novel. He keeps his back to John.

Slowly, Sherlock turns, looking like he’s fighting a secret battle with his emotions. He looks down at his feet and says, “I have this piece I… composed,” he says, almost embarrassed.

John recalls how Sherlock had composed sad music when he thought Irene Adler was dead. He imagines that he might’ve been the recipient of a similar piece himself. The thought brings on a surge of emotions to John’s throat, making it difficult to talk. He tries anyway. “It’s perfect,” he says, pointing at the CD. “I want to hear it…”

Sherlock’s music begins to play; the melody is both delicate and haunting. John listens to it and he feels humbled that something of such elegance was created for him.

They move towards each other until they are in each other’s arms. Sherlock loops his arm tightly around John’s waist and their hands join in what John calls the starting position. John’s feet somehow obey the music, miraculously remembering the lessons taught by Sherlock a few years ago.

They move around their living room effortlessly. The music is sweet, and Sherlock keeps pulling him closer and closer until he lets go of John’s hand and simply wraps his arms around him. John’s hands automatically wrap themselves around Sherlock’s waist, and he nestles his head against Sherlock’s chest. They are no longer waltzing, but are slow dancing instead. They are so close. John can feel Sherlock’s precious heartbeat against his own.

Suddenly, Sherlock stops moving altogether and gathers John in his arms even more tightly, burying his face into John’s neck.

John has so much love for this man who for so long pretended he didn’t need love, who thought he was too different to deserve it.

A kiss falls on the top of John’s head. “John, I—” Sherlock starts and then pauses, probably unsure how to put into words the emotions within. “John, I knew when I was teaching you how to dance… I knew I had feelings… they were there,” Sherlock says laying a hand over his heart. “They are not new, and I never thought you would… reciprocate. I was holding you, and I felt like I was alive and dying at the same time.”

Sherlock’s voice echoes a not-too-distant pain caused by the void when John left 221B.

John is barely able to answer as emotion flash floods his throat and threatens to overflow in the corner of his eye. The underlying loneliness lacing Sherlock’s words tugs at his heartstrings. John pulls Sherlock’s head away and cradles his face. “Hey, it’s over Sherlock. We’ve figured it out. We’re together now, ok? Let’s finish our dance.”

Cheek-to-cheek, they resume their dance. The music plays, and their bodies move in unison, close and tangled, twisting around each other like DNA strands finally finding its twin.

When the music stops, John takes Sherlock’s hand and leads him to the bedroom much like he did a few days ago—only this time, fully committed to each other.

Together they take time to appreciate the luxury of skin touching skin. It’s beautiful. It’s slow and then it’s fast and John learns that there are things that go far beyond speaking as a way to communicate love.

And after, when John lies next to Sherlock, their hearts slowly trying to catch their normal rhythms, Sherlock brings John’s palm to his mouth and kisses it ardently, his lips brushing the warm circle of John’ s wedding band. “Sometimes I ask myself what I would do without you.”

John takes a stronger hold around his husband’s waist, keeps him close to emphasize his words. “You’ll never have to ask again, Sherlock, never again,” John says, love and determination making his voice shake with intensity.

“You do keep me right, John,” says Sherlock after a long moment.

John swallows, feeling humbled. It’s time he lets Sherlock know how he feels about him.
“Sherlock…” he starts and stops. “We’ve gone through some… er shit together and, er, the ‘stuff’ about you in those documents, well it doesn’t matter. This thing between us… is,” John stops, noticing Sherlock’s discomfort.

Sherlock bites his lips and hides his face in John’s chest, presenting John with the back of his head. Sherlock seems overwhelmed, so John gently runs his fingers through Sherlock’s hair in a comforting gesture. “You ok?” There’s no answer, and John continues. “You’re the one… er…” John stops again, trying to find a word that can aptly describe what his feelings for Sherlock are. “Yeah, you are my one… true… “” John clears his throat and finishes his sentence “…love.”

John feels Sherlock trembling a bit in his arms. John is afraid that his outpouring of feelings might just be too much for his husband.

Sherlock lifts his head and his eyes are sparkling with laughter (not tears). “I’m sorry, John, I’m sorry,” he laughs, deep and rich. “You are incredibly bad at this. Honestly? “Things” and “stuff” and “that sort of thing”?…” Sherlock chuckles, shaking his head. “Such an eloquent and profound repertoire of love confessions. No wonder you failed—”

John play-punches Sherlock on the arm. “Shut up!” he says laughing. “You shouldn’t make fun of your brand new spouse when he’s trying to tell you that you’re the love of his life!”

The laughter dies down, and they look at each other. John has never quite seen that expression on Sherlock’s face. He’s smiling, but it’s a small smile, almost Mona Lisa-like, but his eyes—goddammit his eyes—are beaming. They convey so much, and John knows that he will never be loved as completely as the way Sherlock Holmes loves him.

He reaches out and kisses Sherlock. He can taste himself on Sherlock’s tongue—the tangy taste of sex and sweat and love. John is eternally grateful for impulsively travelling down to the British Virgin Islands to save his dying detective.

Suddenly Sherlock pulls away from him. “Don’t worry, I’m not leaving without you,” he explains quickly. “Sorry. Probably not very romantic.”

John frowns. Sherlock staged this entire night. There were candles and music and rings and heartfelt admissions. “You’ve been extremely romantic tonight,” he says.

A mysterious smile appears on Sherlock’s face. “The night is not over yet, John,” he replies.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s not very romantic that on our official wedding night that I drag you out of bed for a dangerous stakeout.”

It takes a second for John to catch on.

They have a case.

Now.

Sherlock stands and pulls him up by the hand. “You’ve cancelled work for tomorrow?”

“Why would I do that? I just got back from vacation!” says John, reaching for his pants and trousers.

“You cancelled?” repeats Sherlock. He’s already dressed.

John buttons his shirt. “Yes.”

“Okay, let’s go!”

 

***~~~***

 

The stakeout is apparently taking place on some unknown bridge on the outskirts of town. They take a cab there and when they arrive at their destination, John is not quite sure exactly where they’re supposed to stand or what they’re supposed to be on the lookout for. The only information he’s been given is that “bridges are important, John,” and that “this time it should be a green bridge, not a red one” (John is sure it’ll make sense to him at some point later—or not).

“Where are we going to hide?” asks John.

“Under the bridge.”

John glances down at the dark waters of the river flowing fast underneath the bridge.

“Under?” he asks.

“Under,” says Sherlock pointing up at the infra structure of the bridge.

John looks up at the metal framework above. “Under there?”

“Yes, under. Has married life made you deaf, John?”

He gives Sherlock a look. “No, it’s made me gay. Or a saint.”

Sherlock grins. “Or both.”

“ A gay saint? That would be a first.”

“Not necessarily—you’d be surprised. Come, follow me.”

John follows Sherlock, quietly chuckling—as per usual—at the strangeness of their conversation.

They walk down a steep path near the side of the bridge down to the river. There, Sherlock finds an old metal door on the side of the cement pillar. He pries it open, and they find their way inside the framework of the bridge. They climb up and up narrow, circular steps until they reach another door at the top that leads to the first arch support. They carefully crouch along the lattice framework until they are in the middle of the bridge suspended high above the moving dark water of the river below.

A truck drives over the bridge, the driver clearly ignoring the speed limit. John feels the vibration rattling him from his hands right down to his toes. He feels alive. A deep feeling of contentment envelops him as he holds on for dear life to the metal arches underneath the bridge. This is everything he didn’t know he wanted—needed—to be fully happy. Being married to Sherlock, being included in every adventure, having blood pumping through his veins in more ways than one. Just the two of them against the rest of the world…

And it dawns on him that Sherlock is incredibly romantic. He staged this entire stakeout adventure to give John an adrenaline rush as a wedding present, didn’t he?

“I can be myself with you,” John blurts out.

Sherlock carefully lets one hand go from the bridge and cradles John’s cheek. The wind flaps his hair back and forth. “I understand,” he says. His mouth twitches, and his eyes shine at John. “I feel the same way.”

 

~~~***~~~