Sherlock raises his fist to knock, but the door swings open before he can make contact. Taken aback, Sherlock withdraws his hand and wraps his coat tighter around himself. Greg smiles at the detective’s uncharacteristic surprise.
“I know, bit annoying, right?”
Sherlock, already busy taking in the details of the entrance hall, merely nods. Greg steps aside to let him in with an exasperated sigh.
“I’ve known you a long time, Sherlock. You texted me 25 minutes ago, and I’ve been watching you pace up and down the street for the last ten. Frankly, I thought I’d just get the door and put you out of your misery.”
Sherlock picks up a small framed photograph from the hall table. The age lines around Greg’s eyes are crinkled with happiness for once. He is gazing sideways, as if the photograph being taken is nothing in comparison to what he is looking at. Hair whipping in the wind, Molly smiles indulgently at the photographer, clearly working hard to ignore Greg’s distraction. Behind the couple, the bright lights of a carnival flare. Sherlock strokes a finger across the glass and his lip twitches as he remembers that day. Rosie had loved the noise and lights. The rest of them had barely survived her uncontainable joy.
Placing the photo carefully back on the table, Sherlock turns his attention back to the present.
“Are you going to invite me in, or are we going to stand here in the entryway all day?”
Greg leads them through to the sitting room, where Sherlock fights hard to restrain the giggles bubbling up. Molly’s influence is all over the room from the crochet blanket adorning the back of the sofa to the scratching tree nestled in the corner. Greg, sharp from years of working alongside the detective, notices his mirth.
“Oi, shut it.”
Sherlock hides his smile by sitting gingerly on the edge of the sofa. He hopes to escape with the minimum amount of cat hair clinging to his suit as possible. Probably, a futile wish but one tries their best. Toby, the cat is noticeably absent, which means Molly is home somewhere. He refuses to leave her side. Greg has made an effort though. The carpet has fresh indentations from the vacuum cleaner, and the table shines with a recent layer of polish. Greg’s children smile down from gold frames on the mantle and several football pennants hang on the wall. The room is a perfect blend of Greg and Molly.
“You’re happy, then?”
Sherlock asks, but it’s really more observation than question. Greg, hearing the approval and happiness in the detective’s voice, answers anyway.
“Unbelievably. Yes. Very happy. We both are.”
Greg’s grin is contagious and a quiet contentment fills the room for a moment before he realizes Sherlock is not going to fill the silence.
“And you and John, how’s that going then? You three still making it work over at Baker Street?”
Expecting a snarky answer and general disgruntlement, Greg is shocked when Sherlock hesitates. The detective opens his mouth to answer, and snaps it shut again. He rubs his palms soothing against his own thighs and looks at his feet.
Greg is lost. He hasn’t seen Sherlock this distraught since before John moved back to Baker Street, and he hadn’t been particularly instrumental in helping Sherlock that time. That had been John’s job. Now, he looks at the huddled detective-shaped lump on his sofa and tries desperately to find the right thing to say.
“Did something happen?”
Sherlock shakes his head and takes several steadying breaths. When he brings his gaze up to meet Greg’s, Sherlock’s eyes are full of uncertainty.
“No. Everything’s fine. I mean John and Rosie are fine. Good. They’re good. Really good, yeah. It’s just…”
Sherlock frowns in frustration. He seems to know what he wants to say but can’t quite figure out how to actually say it. That’s usually John’s part. It’s why they make such a good team. Greg can’t imagine what could possibly bring Sherlock to him instead of John, but it must be important. He waits patiently, no pressure. Just sits quietly and waits for Sherlock to speak.
“I love John.”
Greg can’t help the laugh that slips past his lips. Of course, he loves John, they’ve been together – properly together since John moved back.
“You’ve been together for six years, Sherlock. I think everyone knows that.”
“Don’t be an idiot, Lestrade. I love John – that’s hardly news, but you’ve missed the important implication of the statement.”
Greg just shakes his head, entirely unsure of what Sherlock is trying to say.
“I have spent my life abhorring and dismissing the actions of ordinary people. Their lives are consumed with petty concerns and tawdry scandals. I strive for the obscure, the bizarre, the singular. This you know very well.”
Greg nods, and Sherlock sighs. Clearly, he will have to spell out every detail.
“I have found that in John. He is singular, unparalleled in all my vast experience. There is no man in all this world even close to equaling him. This is the very heart of my problem. Since it mainly concerns John, I could not ask him, which is why I am here.”
Well that’s one of Greg’s questions answered at least. Runner up to John is not so shabby a position, he supposes. Sherlock’s tone softens so suddenly, that Greg has to lean forward to catch his next words.
“I am given to understand that these kinds of issues are often the subject of discussion between friends.”
Oddly flattered to hear the words from Sherlock himself, Greg also catches the hint of question underlying the statement.
“Yeah, ‘course we’re friends, Sherlock. Always have been. Now, tell me. What’s the matter?”
Sherlock draws strength from the affirmation and plows on.
“I find nothing but delight in John’s singularity, however, I have found that being in a relationship with him makes me ordinary. Makes me want to be, at least.”
Concerned that this is taking a turn for the worse, Greg hurries to reassure the detective.
“Sherlock, you can’t be serious. You have solved the most confounding of Scotland Yard’s crimes. Your brilliance has not diminished in the slightest. Surely, you don’t mean to reject your relationship with John over a perceived effect?”
But Sherlock is already shaking his head.
“You misunderstand! I do not wish to terminate my relationship with John. I want to enhance it. I want – “
Sherlock is leaning forward in his eagerness and his eyes sparkle with excitement.
“I want to marry John. And what could be more ordinary? I want to tie our lives together. I want to be his partner, unquestionably forever. I want to live with him, work with him, love with him. I want to give him everything, yet every time I try, I come up with nothing. Not one single idea worthy of note. I fear I am too close to the case; therefore, I have come to your admittedly second-rate mind in hopes of an idea that may fan the flames of my intellect and reveal the right path forward.”
Sherlock’s chest heaves with exertion as he finishes and looks expectantly at Lestrade, who sits stock-still. He knows John quite well, but he is entirely ill-equipped to answer this question. Frankly, he can’t imagine the simple domesticity of it, but then again, he couldn’t have imagined John and Sherlock raising a child together either. Yet here they are.
“Sherlock, I’m sorry, I— “
Greg is saved his blathering by the kitchen door swinging open. Molly comes through carrying a proper tea tray and trailed by Toby, of course. She sets the tray on the table and looks between the two men, her hands on her hips. She sucks on her pursed lips and shakes her head. Idiots – the both of them.
“Greg, be a dear and fetch some wine. We need a nice red for dinner tonight. “
Acknowledging and grateful for the dismissal, Greg rises and kisses Molly lightly on the cheek. With a last apologetic glance at Sherlock, he gathers his coat and heads toward Tesco.
Molly takes the recently vacated chair and pours herself a cup of tea. When she has added milk and sugar to her liking, she settles back and sips, watching Sherlock over the rim of the cup. Meanwhile, Toby curls up on Sherlock’s lap and refuses to shift. So much for keeping the cat hair off his suit pants.
Giving up on the idea of tea, since he can’t reach the tray over the cat anyway, Sherlock looks contemplatively at Molly.
“How much did you hear?”
“Most of it. You want to marry John, but you don’t know how to ask him. That about right?”
Sherlock nods, grateful that he doesn’t have to explain it all again. Molly sets down her tea and clasps her hands in her lap. Her posture is stiff and her face serious.
“I don’t know what you expected Greg to do about it. I mean really, Sherlock. The man can barely put together a romantic evening, not that it matters. I love the sod, dearly, but expecting him to help plan a romantic proposal?”
“Molly, I – You, of course, were the logical choice, but I did not think it wise to ask this of you. I know I have made many mistakes over the course of our acquaintance, but I truly did think this would be the height of cruelty. I promised after that phone call that I would never manipulate your feelings again. I have endeavored to do so ever since, and I think I have done an admirable job, if I may say so. Therefore, you can’t possibly fault me for thinking that I was doing right by leaving you out of this.”
Molly gets up and joins Sherlock on the sofa. She grabs Sherlock’s hands softly and smiles.
“John Watson really is the best thing that ever happened to you. You have changed so much, yet you’re still the same old Sherlock. I appreciate your discretion, but it’s not necessary. I truly have moved on. Greg and I are really very happy, and I expect he’ll make a proper woman out of me quite soon. I have known you and John a long time. Please let me help?”
Sherlock squeezes her hands and responds with a single plea.
Sherlock thunders up the stairs, startling Rosie into tears. Turning the corner into the sitting room, Sherlock scoops her up off the floor where she had been doing her homework. He plants a kiss on her head and twirls her around.
“Sorry, Bee. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Everything’s alright. Where’s you dad, huh?”
Bee giggles as Sherlock spins her around and around and around the room. She points to the kitchen when he finally stops. Sherlock enters the kitchen and stops at the sight. John is hunched over a sink full of warm bubbles, his shirt sleeves are rolled above his elbow, and his hair sticks to his forehead, damp from the humidity. Sherlock leans casually against the kitchen table and watches as John scrapes a particularly stubborn bit of egg from a Teflon pan. John scrubs and scrubs but the egg refuses to come off. Finally, John drops it back into the soapy water with a frustrated grunt, spraying himself with bubbles.
“Damn it! Blasted pan. Stupid egg. God forbid anyone else in this house ever soak the dishes. That would be too much to – “
John’s tirade trickles off as he turns and spots Sherlock.
“Slinking around and watching me struggle. I should have known.”
There is no bite in John’s words. He crosses the kitchen and wraps Sherlock in a tight embrace. He rests his cheek on Sherlock’s chest and breathes in the familiar, reassuring scent that is pure Sherlock.
John’s words are muffled by Sherlock’s shirt, but he can feel the warmth of John’s breath against his skin as John speaks.
“I was only gone a few hours.”
Sherlock chuckles and rubs up and down John’s back.
“Yes, but I’ve gotten quite used to having you here when you’re not on cases. Besides, you have never been one for a friendly chat. Why did you need to visit Lestrade?”
Sherlock rests his cheek on top of John’s head and hums in lieu of an answer. After several moments, the doorbell buzzes and the moment is over. Sherlock draws back and holds John’s arms in his hands.
“That’ll be Molly. She’s watching Rosie tonight.”
The sounds of Mrs. Hudson greeting Molly can be heard through the open door.
“Now, go get changed. I’ll keep Molly entertained until you’re ready.”
With a suave wink, Sherlock disappears back into the sitting room just as Molly reaches the top of the stairs. John, confused but pleased, rushes to shower and change.
“I wasn’t sure what you had in mind so I’ve gone with dressy casual. Hope your plans don’t call for a three piece, mine’s at the cleaners.”
John joins them in the sitting room twenty minutes later. Sherlock looks up with hungry eyes as John enters. He is wearing the deep blue cashmere jumper Sherlock bought him for his birthday.
“Don’t be cute, John. You don’t own a three piece, although…”
“Absolutely not. We’ve discussed this.”
“As you wish, dear.”
“Oi. Enough of your snark. You were so lovely when you got home. Cuddles and secret plans. Have you used up your store of civility for the night?”
“Apologies, John. You look wonderful. You know how much I adore you in that sweater.”
Sherlock stands, leaving Molly and Rosie on the sofa.
Sherlock gathers their things and helps John into his jacket. John feels a delicate flush steal up his neck as Sherlock brushes his shoulders to flatten the material. He grips the doorknob and gestures with his other hand.
“After you, love.”
Sherlock turns back to smile nervously at Molly before leading John down the stairs and out into the night.
After sliding his gloves on, Sherlock grasps John’s hand and leads him down Baker Street on foot.
“No taxi tonight?”
John teases, and Sherlock shoots him a wry grin but refuses to rise to the bait. He will give John no clues about their destination.
“Alright, be that way then. I’ll just enjoy the mystery, shall I?”
John moves closer to wrap his arm around Sherlock’s waist. He leans into the detective’s warmth and is secretly pleased when Sherlock rests a possessive arm across his shoulders. As they walk through the streets of London, John is struck by how long it has truly been since they have done so. Just the two of them.
Sensing the direction of John’s thoughts, Sherlock gives a pleased hum of agreement. The air is particularly mild tonight, a blessing for which John is deeply grateful. He hasn’t had the old hunting jacket out for a while, and the lining of his dress coat just isn’t quite the same. Sherlock pulls him in tighter, so their legs are flush. John can’t help looking up adoringly at the tall, strange, genius man that has chosen him. It still seems frankly incredible.
John is so distracted that he doesn’t notice them arrive. Sherlock looks down and clears his throat. The sound is an admonishment that fades into amusement. Sherlock turns them so that John is facing an abandoned building.
“If this is our romantic night out restaurant, then I think I have some bad news for you.”
Sherlock rolls his eyes and walks forward to swing open the garden gate. He holds the gate open as John follows him through and shuts it primly, not letting it slam on its hinges. John studies the building, a sense of déjà vu niggles at the back of his mind, but he can’t seem to place it.
“Sherlock? Have we been here before?”
The detective smiles, leads John up the front stairs, and draws a small key from his coat pocket. John watches in astonishment as the door swings open. Sherlock, noticing John’s reaction, huffs in frustration.
“Really, John? This is the accepted convention for entering buildings, is it not? You harp on it often enough.”
John giggles, that high pealing giggle that settles warmly in Sherlock’s stomach.
“I’m surprised you bothered with a key at all. Since when do you do things the conventional way? Oh God, wait. You pickpocketed the owner, didn’t you?”
They bicker as they make their way inside. A sweeping spiral staircase fills the entryway. The wrought iron railing tugs at John’s memory. He closes his eyes and concentrates hard, trying his best to remember.
Do you know you do that out loud? Sherlock’s face framed in flashing blue light. A hot fizzling sensation snaps through him as he meets the detective’s gaze. His hand shakes and he pulls himself up off his knees. He flexes it a few times, hoping no one will notice. Of course, Sherlock does…right before he tears out of the room.
John’s eyes flicker open as he remembers. He catches Sherlock’s knowing grin out of the corner of his eye.
“Took you long enough.”
“Stuff it! That was like ten years ago, and it’s not like I’ve been back since.”
Sherlock concedes the point with a slight inclination of the head. He watches John with a fond gaze, but John can see the edge of wariness that creeps in despite Sherlock’s best efforts. John goes to stand in front of him, not touching.
“That was the night my whole life changed, you know?”
Sherlock swallows, his Adam’s apple bobs harshly in his throat.
His voice is soft now, softer than John has ever heard it.
“This was the place where everything changed. And God, did I need that change. I needed you, John.”
Sherlock looks earnestly at John, willing him to understand. John’s not sure he fully does, but he nods encouragingly.
“And I think you needed me too. That night decided what we would be – detective and blogger. One job, two roles. We fit together seamlessly like we were always supposed to get there.”
Sherlock’s hands are buried deep in his pockets, but he fiddles all the same. His shoulders hunch in and he seems to physically be recoiling in anticipation. John tries to make himself softer. He rounds his spine and pulls his shoulder down, shrinking The Captain back into a kind man in a fuzzy jumper. Sherlock stands in the decrepit foyer unable to do anything but love him. He breathes deeply and goes on.
“I thought perhaps it could be that for us again. We have both worked so hard to make things work this time around, and I know we can’t go back to how things were before…before…well, Before. But this is a place of new beginnings. That’s all I want, John.”
John takes a step backward.
“But I thought everything was going well. What happened? Did I do something wrong? Just tell me what it is and we can work something out, Sherlock. Please just don’t do this. Not now. I can’t lose you again.”
Sherlock’s arms are around him before he can finish his thought. He doesn’t realize he is shaking until Sherlock pulls him in close and rocks them slowly. He murmurs soothing, loving words into John’s ear until he is calm.
“My deepest apologies, John, truly. I don’t think I said that correctly. I never say it correctly. Just here.”
Sherlock shoves a large manila envelope into John’s hands. He fumbles with the string, but finally manages to unwind and open the flap. He pulls out a thick stack of paper. The top page looks like a legal contract willing the premises at 67 Lauriston Gardens to the Watson Homes Foundation. John quickly flips through the rest of the paperwork. There are concept drawings for the building and mentions of government grant money. John’s head spins. He looks to Sherlock for an explanation.
Sherlock takes the papers and flips toward the back. He stops on a page with the words Watson Homes Foundation in large bold letters. He moves to John’s side so that he can see as well.
“This building will be converted into temporary living accommodations. The entire first floor will be renovated and outfitted as a small clinic. The government wants to have a more comprehensive program for soldiers returning home.”
He looks anxiously at John, who is still stunned. The concept is incredible. He remembers what it was like to come home and have nothing. He remembers how hard it was to make it to physio those first few weeks. He could barely make it a few blocks with his cane. That had been bloody humiliating. It would have been life-changing to have had an in-house clinic. Happiness bubbles up and fills John’s chest. He can feel tears streaking down his cheeks but he doesn’t care.
“Sherlock, this is…good. So, so good. Did Mycroft tell you about this? Who’s running it?”
Sherlock’s face twists in distress and John gets the distinct feeling he has missed something important.
“It will be formally connected to the RAMC so it’s funding will come from them. The clinic will be staffed by active duty corpsmen. However, they wanted someone outside of the active military life in charge. They wanted someone who had no possibility of being reassigned or moved. It was pointed out that consistency and dedication to treatment and rehabilitation were crucial to the success of the endeavor.”
John’s hand cups Sherlock’s cheek.
“It was pointed out was it? You brilliant man. I love you. This is going to make such a difference.”
Sherlock leans into the touch and breathes a sound that is so deep that John can only call it a purr. The detective flips a few more pages to display RAMC orders regarding supervisory capacity of the Watson Homes Foundation. John reads eagerly, hoping it will be a name he recognizes. He would love to speak to the new director. His lips move as he reads the orders, then freeze: Captain John H. Watson, Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, retired.
He flips rapidly back through the pages. It can’t be. That can’t be right. The other pages serve only to confirm what he just read. He looks up at Sherlock and immediately knows.
“You did this. I know you did. But, how did you? Why?”
John tapers off into nonsense, but Sherlock seems to understand the general gist of the questions.
“You love this, John. It’s who you are. I know you’ve been out of sorts since you had to quit the clinic. I know my cases are a great burden on you. Not that you don’t enjoy them, but they take a lot of time and managing me takes a lot of energy. I am not unaware of the sacrifices you have made. I just wanted to give you something back. This is yours. You are sorely needed and you will enjoy being here. The position is supervisory so your hours are flexible, but you have total creative control. You get to build this project from the ground up.”
John is rocked by the realization. He has a thousand ideas and no clue where to start.
“But what about cases? Do you not want me to…I know I’m getting older and maybe I’m slowing you down, but I do love them.”
Sherlock kisses his idiot doctor on the head.
“The cases will always be there, John. I will always want you with me, even when we’re both geriatric and unable to chase criminals anymore. I’ll be bored out of my mind, and Rosie will be at university, but I’ll have you.”
The last comes out as more of a question, which John is quick to answer.
“Of course, you’ll have me. You’ll always have me, for as long as you want.”
Sherlock draws his right hand out of his coat pocket and flicks open a small black velvet box.
John, now completely overwhelmed, just kisses the bloody idiot senseless.
After the engagement celebration, John sits up and sweeps the dust out of his hair. He looks down at Sherlock, who is still lying on his back, palm pressed to his chest, and breathing hard. He looks so young in this moment. The age and worry lines are smoothed away and replaced with a glowing happiness that suffuses his entire being. Beautiful.
“So, what prompted the whole foundation idea?”
John is pleased, but curious. Sherlock frowns. Perhaps this was not the right thing.
“Don’t look like that. I absolutely love it. It just all feels so unreal. I’m engaged to the love of my life who knows me so well that he got me an engagement present only he could deduce would touch every part of my heart.”
John lowers himself back down to rest his cheek against Sherlock’s chest.
Sherlock chuckles and runs his fingers through John’s hair.
“You’ve made me believe in impossible things.”
I have taken every liberty with the RAMC and how it actually operates. I know nothing about it, so I made it fit my story. Give me a free pass because...fiction?