This thou perceiv’st which makes
thy love more strong// To love well,
which thou must leave ‘ere long.
-Shakespeare, Sonnet LXXIII
Their days have fallen into a peaceful rhythm, a routine that suited them both perfectly. This fact might have been a surprise, given the lives they had lead for so long. But now such a routine was a comfort to both men; it was an affirmation that came with each dawn.
They rose early every morning, perhaps to make the days last as long as possible, though that notion was never actually spoken aloud. Breakfast in the cozy cottage kitchen was always tea and toast, most often accompanied by soft music from Radio 3. Occasionally a familiar tune, something from Sherlock’s violin repertoire, would float across the room and whenever that happened, a slow smile would crease John’s face.
“I always loved it when you played for me,” he would invariably murmur.
And a chuckle would rumble through Sherlock’s chest. “Not so much at 3 AM, I don’t think.” He would add a little more honey to John’s toast, hoping to tempt him into another bite or two.
John was always aware of the ploy and he would try to nibble a little more. “You take such care, Sherlock.”
Sherlock would not meet his gaze, even now still a bit embarrassed at being caught out in an act of such pure sentimentality.
When breakfast was over and if the weather were fine, they would take a slow walk around the garden, peeking at the hives, admiring the flowers. Sherlock’s still-strong arm took the place of the hated cane as they strolled.
A rest on their bed would follow, with Sherlock reading as John napped beside him. They would have a light lunch, perhaps some soup heated in the microwave. That would always lead to one or another recalling some past microwave disaster. Each anecdote seemed to end in quiet laughter.
“No one could understand why you put up with me,” Sherlock would point out in a tone that clearly meant he didn’t quite understand either.
John would smile. “No one else knew you. Not like I did.”
Sherlock knew that was no more than a simple truth.
After the meal, John would work a little on the final volume of his memoirs, while Sherlock did some light household chores. Occasionally, John would call him over to the desk to check some point in the narrative. Whenever that happened, Sherlock would take advantage of the moment for a soft kiss or a caress. Sometimes John pretended to have a question just to get Sherlock to leave off the dusting or whatever and come to lean over him.
Mrs. Cole, who was married to the man who tended the garden and helped Sherlock with the hives now, would arrive mid-afternoon and prepare their dinner, which would then be left in the warming oven for later.
Evenings were spent in front of the fire and devoted to quiet conversation. Amazingly, even after over fifty years, they still found much to talk about.
Occasionally, Sherlock would turn his head and give John a look filled with quiet wonder.
“What?” John would ask.
“It is quite astounding,” Sherlock murmured. “You have never, for one moment, been boring.”
And John would lean forward to press a light kiss against Sherlock’s forehead. “My madman.”
Little moments, small occasions, provided just enough variety in their routine.
On this particular morning, Sherlock came into their bedroom, walking carefully, and carrying a tray upon which rested two cups of tea and a single muffin. A small blue candle had been rather rakishly inserted into the muffin and the flame danced as he walked across the room. “Happy birthday, John,” he said, setting the tray down onto the bedside table.
The timbre of that voice, slightly faded over the years, still stirred something deep in John’s chest. He didn’t fight the smile, even as he grumbled, “Ninety is nothing to celebrate.”
Sherlock sat beside him on the bed. He reached out one thin, pale hand and ran his fingers through the white hair, remembering when its shades of brown and grey and gold had so fascinated him. He was no less fascinated now. “Nonsense,” he said reprovingly. “I celebrate that we are still here together. Despite the odds. Who would have predicted such a thing? But, of course, I celebrate that every day.”
John just snorted. “Sherlock Holmes has become a sentimentalist.”
Sherlock laughed. “Perhaps I always was, but no one noticed except you.” He held up the plate. “Blow out your candle.”
John made a face and huffed out a burst of air. The flame flickered and died. “Happy now?” he said.
Sherlock’s mouth quirked up into his usual half-smile. “Happy ever since the day we met.”
They rarely spoke of the bad time, of the pain both had gone through so many years ago when they were apart, but now Sherlock touched John’s cheek tenderly. “Even then,” he whispered. “I was happy keeping you in my heart and fighting so hard to return so that I could finally tell you how much I loved you.”
He blinked for a moment, then busied himself with the muffin, breaking off bits and feeding them to John. In return, John insisted on putting a few morsels into Sherlock’s mouth.
When both the muffin and the tea were gone, John pulled the quilt aside. “Come back to bed,” he said. “I fancy a quiet morning with you.”
Sherlock took off his dressing gown and stretched out next to him, gathering John closer. “Happy birthday,” he said again.
John smiled into Sherlock’s neck. “It is,” he whispered.
“And many more.” Sherlock’s arms tightened as his words drifted across John’s skin.
“My madman,” John said.
The rest of the morning passed in comfortable silence.