He heads into the darkness and the quiet, turning his coat collar up against the receding party.
“Mary’s going to be very cross with you if you leave early.” John’s voice catches up with him.
Sherlock stops walking but doesn’t face him. “Mmm. Why is that?”
John walks to his side, looks up at the stars with him. “Because if you leave now, she’s going to spend tonight consoling me as I cry on her shoulder instead of engaging in more traditional wedding night activities.”
“All right, Kettle.” Sherlock is about to point out that it’s the pot that calls the kettle black rather than the other way around, but John continues. “I’m not, though. This is supposed to be the happiest day of my life, but it’s not going to be if I know that one of the two people I most love in the world feels shut out and alone. Thank God Molly came and told me you were sneaking out, so I could come prevent that from happening.”
“Just popped out for a smoke, actually.” He pulls out his pack and lighter to demonstrate.
“Uh-huh.” John stands near him, nearer than most friends stand. They’ve always considered personal space boring. Sherlock lights a cigarette -- might as well, at this point. He smokes most of it in silence.
“You know,” John says, finally, “When I first met you. When you told me you were married to your work. I thought, well, that’s a shame.”
The pain of hearing that this is his fault, that he could have said something back at the beginning to make this all go differently, is too much to endure. “John --”
“No, hear me out. I thought it was funny that I felt that way, at the time, because I don’t generally fancy blokes. And I didn’t think I could fancy blokes -- but that’s another story.” That stings. Sherlock does not want to hear about how John discovered he could fancy men.
“Anyway. You said that -- that you were married to your work -- and I had this moment of regret. I thought, ‘This is the most interesting man I’ve ever met. This is a man I want to spend all my time with. But he doesn’t have room for me in his life; his life is already complete.’”
Sherlock lights another cigarette, tries to hide the shaking of his hands. “I stopped being sad quickly, though,” John continues. “Because you made room for me. The cases were still your life. But then they became my life, too. Our life. And I was so happy.”
Sherlock nods. “And you’ve found happiness again.” He’s glad they have the stars to watch. Facing each other would be unbearable.
“Yes, I have. With Mary and you, you know.” John pauses. “When you left, finding Mary was how I survived. I was happier with her than without, but I wasn’t complete. I was a widower.”
“Poor analogy.” At least to John it would be -- John who cares so much about sex. Sex, which Sherlock never provided. Never thought to offer. Because John was emphatically not gay.
“Not really. With you, I really thought I’d found someone to spend my life with.”
He should accept the compliment. Shouldn’t argue. “You never stopped looking for a girlfriend to settle down with, when we were together.” His voice sounds thick.
“No, I never stopped looking for a girlfriend who didn’t want me to settle down, who was happy to have me as I was. Which was running around with you all the time, and loving every moment of it. And now I have that. And you’re back. These past few months, and today most especially, I’ve had everything I wanted but thought I could never have. And if you leave, I’ll have no choice but to cry on Mary’s shoulder about it.”
Sherlock feels the knot in his throat release just a little bit. John is trying so hard, and Sherlock loves him for it all the more. “Mmm, That won’t do. I didn’t see ‘Groom crying on bride’s shoulder’ in any of the wedding etiquette books.”
“Quite right. It’s not done.” John smiles at the sky.
Sherlock finishes his cigarette and prepares to go back inside and face the wall of happiness again. To give John what he wants -- one more happy face at his wedding. But John doesn’t seem ready to go in. Instead, he leans closer against Sherlock, pressing their shoulders firmly together. I hope you see,” John says softly, “that I’ve made lots of space in my life for you, even if I’m married. The way you did, for me, despite your work. Mary’s made space, too.”
Sherlock doesn’t speak. He can’t. John has no idea how much more Sherlock wants from him than friendship, how much he envies Mary. How empty he feels, watching them, knowing he can’t have that, and knowing that he’ll lose John more and more over time -- because Mary is perfect and provides everything John needs. The work never provided everything Sherlock needed; Sherlock just didn’t realize what he needed, until he met John.
“It seemed like you got on quite well with Archie.”
Sherlock blinks at the change of subject. “Yes.” He was an uncommonly sensible child -- though children often delight in murder and uncomfortable questions, before they are trained to be horrified by both. Sherlock gets along with many children.
John continues. “I know things are going to get complicated, with the baby on the way. But I hope -- I really hope our child won’t scare you off. Because there’s nobody I’d rather raise a child with than you and Mary.”
That’s not how things work. Sherlock has long accepted that he cannot have children, given his life, his work, his habits, and the lack of anyone who would want him as a co-parent. By all tradition and expectation, he should never be a parent. “There are limits,” Sherlock says, questioningly.
“What, on raising a child? No there aren’t. There needn’t be.” But there will have to be. Because there’s only so much envy and emptiness Sherlock can stand. “There needn’t be limits on -- on dancing -- or on. Well. Anything.” John ducks his head a bit as he stutters. Then he reaches out and grabs Sherlock’s hand. “Only the limits you want.”
Sherlock freezes. He doesn’t know what exactly is being offered. He is afraid to ask. He is afraid to move. He is afraid to breathe.
“Did I break you again?” John asks, eventually. He squeezes Sherlock’s hand.
“There are limits.” Sherlock repeats, finally. Cautiously. “To what you want.”
“Not really.” John smiles again, and Sherlock watches from the corner of his eye. He is afraid to hope. “When I said there were limits, earlier, I meant that you’d only taught me how to dance with one other person.”
Ah. “You want to dance with me and Mary.” Dancing is good. Sherlock likes to dance. He’s not disappointed.
“I’d like to do anything with you that you’d like.”
John is being cruel without realizing. “I don’t think you mean --”
“But I do mean.” John turns to face him, grabbing his other hand. “I still don’t fancy men, generally. But I do fancy one man. My best man. And I acknowledge that now, after a lot of conversations with Mary, and with my therapist.”
John means. John acknowledges. Mary knows.
“You’ve got to stop freezing like this,” John sighs, but he sounds a bit amused. He squeezes both of Sherlock’s hands, sending a jolt of… something… down Sherlock’s spine. “Anyway. I don’t know what you want, exactly. But I want you in my life, however you’ll have me. And we -- Mary and I -- want you in our life, any way you’ll have us. It’s really up to you.”
Sherlock still can’t speak. Doesn’t know where to start. So much to process -- and to reprocess, in light of this.
“Can I,” John says, then hesitates. “Do you want me to kiss you?” A pause. “Sherlock?”
John doesn’t kiss him. He bursts out laughing. “It’s not obvious, you git. Nothing about you is obvious. Which is part of why I love you so much. But I’ve no idea what you want. You’re going to have to help me.”
Sherlock pulls John even closer, leans down until their faces are an inch apart. “Everything you can imagine -- I want it.”
John’s eyes widen, and he swallows. “I can imagine quite a lot, actually.”
They stare at each other for a long moment. Then John closes the gap between them, and --
“Ah, there you are!”
They jump back from one another, releasing hands. “Oh, sorry, did I interrupt?” Mary says. She sounds amused.
“Yes,” Sherlock says, as John says, “No.”
Mary raises an eyebrow, and John giggles. “Yeah, okay, you did. Excuse us a moment, would you?” John steps forward again, wraps a hand around the back of Sherlock’s neck, and pulls him into a kiss.
It’s contact. It’s data. It’s overwhelming. It’s not enough. It’s perfect.
John releases him (after no time? after ages? Sherlock’s internal clock is blinking 12:00), and they stare at one another. John grins and looks extremely pleased with himself -- with Sherlock? -- then clears his throat as he reaches down to adjust his pants.
“Mmm,” breathes Mary. “You two are so lovely together.” Sherlock stops looking at John long enough to look at her. Flush, pupils, pulse against neck: arousal. Interesting. Sherlock does not find this off-putting, but beyond that, it’s too much to process right now.
“Much as I’d love to watch you do that some more,” Mary continues, “I think the guests will be missing us soon. Perhaps we should go in and dance a while? And then perhaps you’d like to join us upstairs, eventually?” She smiles at Sherlock.
“Sherlock? Sherlock? Sherlock!” John’s hand is waving in front of his face.
“Yes. Yes, obviously, I would like that.” Why are they both giggling?
“All right.” John says. “Good. So. Will you come in and have a dance with me now, Sherlock?”
“Yes,” Sherlock says. “And after that, I’ve an idea how to waltz with you both at once. Are either of you familiar with the mathematical theory of plaits? It would be simple to --”
John laughs, and it's echoed in Mary's eyes. “I trust your maths far more than I trust my feet," he says. "We may have to take it slow. But I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.” He leans in for another kiss, briefer, but comforting and promising all at once. Then he brushes his lips against Mary’s. He takes Sherlock’s hand in one of his and Mary’s in the other, and they head back toward the lights of the party.