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The Only Available Transportation

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"Sometimes the only available transportation is a leap of faith." 
- Margaret Shepard

His bare toes are cold where they dig into the well-worn rug, the silk dressing gown thrown haphazardly over his flannel trousers and vest doing little to ward off the early January chill. The mobile in his hand is like a grenade, weighing down his palm with answers he’s not sure he wants, but his confusion and worry has finally reached the breaking point and reinforcements must be brought in.

His stomach churns yesterday’s cold cup of tea that he gulped this morning in an effort to put off the inevitable, but now all he’s left with is a nauseated constitution and a growing sense of dread. Because giving voice to his fears validates them. Makes them real. Gives them power. And he does so hate to be powerless.

Glancing up at the mirror above the mantle, he gets a good look at his reflection, inhales, and nods. Needs must, after all.

Ring, ring… Ring, ring… Ring -

He doesn’t even give his mother a chance to say “hello” before he’s blurting out his reason for calling at such an ungodly hour:

“Mummy, I need help.”

And bless her, she doesn’t even miss a beat: “Oh is the mould in the toilet acting up again?”

“What? No - ”

“Then what seems to be the issue, dear? It’s barely eight o’clock on New Year’s Day. You know Daddy and I get into the champagne every year.”

Sherlock catches sight of his face scrunched up in distaste and promptly paces in the other direction.

“Yes, I’m sure you and Daddy danced the night away, per usual, but I don’t know what to do!” He’s mindful of his volume, seeing as John and Rosie are still asleep upstairs, though he can hear rustling through the baby monitor so he knows his time alone is limited.

It’s possibly the desperation that’s seeped into his voice despite his best intentions, or perhaps it’s just a mother’s intuition, but she knows that whatever he’s calling about is Serious, hangover be damned. “What’s happened?” she asks, tone soft and as comforting as a hot cup of tea on a cold winter’s night.

“Mummy,” he begins, voice catching. “I think John may be moving out.”

She’s silent on the other end of the line for longer than Sherlock deems necessary. “What makes you say that?” she eventually replies.

“He’s just…” Distant. Cagey. Defensive. Secretive. “Different.”

She hums, but offers no advice, which only serves to make him ramble further.

“I know things were never going to be the same, and it was awkward in the beginning after he first moved back, but it’s been good, Mummy. Possibly better, even, than before. What with Rosie now...” He trails off and doesn’t elaborate, always careful never to reveal just how much Rosie means to him. Just how barren his life would be were John to move and take her with him.

“Oh darling,” she breathes. “I’m sure it’s just the holidays. You know how some people get. They aren’t a joyous time for all.”

But he remembers John’s easy smile at him over his tumbler of scotch the night before. The way his eyes danced in the light of the fire as his socked feet inched closer and closer to Sherlock’s own as John slid further and further down in his chair. It had been a bright spot in an otherwise bleak season. It was a break from the secretive John of the last few weeks.

He hears quiet humming coming through the baby monitor now and realizes he’s been silent for too long. And sure enough, when Mummy nexts speaks, her tone is entirely too knowing.

“Darling, your birthday is on Saturday. How about you come out here - all of you. We’ll celebrate it.”

“I’ll...” he’s about to make up an excuse, but an outing to his parents’ with both John and Rosie feels too much like a family opportunity to give up. “I’ll have to ask John.”

“Of course, dear. Let me know.”

He nods, knowing perfectly well she can’t see him.

“And Sherlock?”

“Yes, Mummy?” he murmurs.

“Chin up, dear. You know that man would go to the ends of the earth for you.”

Does he? Does he know that?

But Sherlock doesn’t want him to go to the ends of the earth. As far as Sherlock’s concerned, the earth begins and ends at Baker Street.

xxxxxx

He steps over the creaky stair and nudges John’s partially open door further ajar, putting a finger to his lips when Rosie’s eyes light up as she catches sight of him.

John is snoring softly on his back in the kind of deep sleep only a late night and a decent amount of scotch can bring about. One arm rests on his stomach while the other is thrown above his head, fingers lax.

He looks soft like this, Sherlock thinks as he pads over to the cot and quietly lifts Rosie into his arms. She smiles a toothy grin and buries her face in his neck as he heads for the door, slowly shutting it behind them.

“Did you have a good sleep?” he whispers as he steps over the creaky stair once more and she nods, tiny fingers toying with the collar on his dressing gown. “Happy New Year, Watson.”

“Sher,” she replies.

“Yes, thank you. I hope it will be a good one, too.” He’s not holding his breath, though.

He puts her down when he gets to the living room and she immediately toddles over to the pile of toys in the corner and pulls out a bucket of blocks, dumping them unceremoniously on the floor. He chuckles as he flicks the kettle on before going about making oatmeal for her. He listens to her hum something that sounds a bit like the Peppa Pig theme as he chops bananas, making a cup of tea for himself when the kettle finally clicks off.

It’s become habit now, this routine. No longer does he stand in the middle of the kitchen and stare at the straps on Rosie’s highchair as if they’re going to come alive and strangle him for his lack of experience. No longer does he stare at the tiny plastic spoon children her age are supposed to use and wonder why she can’t have a real metal one (the tears she cried when she chomped on it with her delicate gums put an end to that thought immediately). No, now he just places the oatmeal (not too hot) on the table and removes her tray, calling her over with a “Breakfast, Watson,” and picking her up when she gets near enough, strapping her in with movements that have become muscle memory, before sliding the tray into place and handing her the oatmeal and spoon with a flourish that has her giggling.

Sherlock sits at the table in the chair closest to her while she eats and flicks through the newspaper with detached interest, thinking about his mother’s call and subsequent offer. He’s so lost in his thoughts that he doesn’t even hear John pad down the stairs sometime later and yawn as he gets to the doorway.

“Hey,” he murmurs, voice scratchy. “Thanks for letting me sleep.” He rubs his eyes and bends down to press a slightly off-target kiss on his daughter’s bopping head. She hasn’t stopped humming Peppa Pig, even through her oatmeal which is now half in her hair. A bath will be in order.  

“Of course,” Sherlock murmurs, careful not to stare as he watches John interact with Rosie, opening his mouth as she offers him a bite of banana.

“Thank you, darling.” John stands and glances over Sherlock’s shoulder at the headlines, raising his hand, almost as if to rest it on his neck, before freezing and dropping it back to his side. “Anything on?” His voice is strained.

“My mother…” Sherlock clears his throat and attempts something resembling nonchalance, “she would like us to visit this weekend.” He fails.

“Would she?” John asks, raising an eyebrow in a way that’s just a little bit off. Sherlock frowns but he can’t put his finger on why John’s expression doesn’t sit right with him. “That’s nice. ‘Bout time we celebrate your birthday properly.”

Sherlock goes utterly and completely still. He honestly hadn’t been sure that John would remember. Last year was… well, it wasn’t good.

“I have a shift at the surgery on Friday. We could drive up after and be there in time for dinner?”

He hums and turns the page of the paper when he realizes it’s been a while since he’s done so and this delicate facade of indifference requires careful attention. Annoying.

“Great,” John says, though it doesn’t sound great at all. “I’ll just - get some stuff together for her.” He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “The shortened week will fly by before you know it.”

Sherlock sighs and takes a sip of tepid tea.

Mummy, I hope you know what you’re in for.

xxxxxx

Fly by the week does, which is how Sherlock finds himself walking back from the daycare with Rosie in his arms, listening to her babble on in broken (but excellent for her age) English about how Tommy Worther pulled her hair during playtime. He’s tried to get Mycroft to put a tail on the little beast for two weeks but his git of a brother only reminded him that Tommy Worther is not yet three and therefore not worth government expenditure.

But as Sherlock rubs his free hand across Rosie’s cheek, red from crying and the cold, he resolves to do his own investigating. Surely there’s got to be an affair or embezzlement somewhere in Tommy Worther’s family.

They turn onto Baker Street and Sherlock stops at the sight of John’s car parked outside. Mrs. Hudson had gotten them a deal at the garage where she keeps her Aston Martin and neither he nor John could keep from giggling when they saw the two parked side by side.

“Daddy!” Rosie cries, using her excellent deductive reasoning to determine that John must be home early.

“Yes, well done, Watson,” he replies, pressing a surreptitious kiss to her head as he makes his way down the block. He tries to limit his physical affection when in anyone else’s presence, which is why he soaks up as much as he can when alone with her. He’s not sure how John would take to it and he doesn’t want to rock a boat that already seems to be taking on water.

He places Rosie down when they get in the hall and helps to strip her of her bulky winter coat before taking care of his own and hanging them both side by side. The sight warms him.

His phone buzzes and he pulls it out, keeping his free hand hovering just over her back as she climbs the stairs on her own. Stubborn and independent - a Watson, through and through.

See you soon, dear. Xo Mummy

Sherlock sighs before swooping in and scooping Rosie up, nuzzling her cheek with a growl that has her squealing and laughing in equal measure as he jogs the remaining steps. It’s the expeditious way of getting her into the flat without making her feel like it’s infringing upon her autonomy.

The door swings open and he finds John standing there, a soft smile on his face as Sherlock places her on the ground.

“Daddy!”

“Hello, my love,” he replies, bending down so she can wrap her arms around his neck and give him a good squeeze. “How was daycare?”

Sherlock makes an abortive sound and waves his hands, but it’s too late - Rosie has made an about-face and is now wailing in John’s ear as she tries to tell him through hiccups just how terrible Tommy Worther is. Sherlock is going to skin him alive.

For his part, John is staring over Rosie’s shoulder at Sherlock wide-eyed, yet his brow is creased as he tries to parse out just what on earth his daughter is saying. Sherlock makes the motion of pulling his own hair and John whispers, “ah,” as he stands with a grunt and carries Rosie over to his chair, before sitting and settling her on his lap.

“Do you need a bit of a cuddle?” he murmurs, wrapping his arms around her and pressing kisses into her hair and on her tear-stained cheeks. John is always so generous in his affection when it comes to Rosie. Something he never was with his girlfriends, or even Mary. And certainly not Sherlock.

It’s a nice change. It’s the seed of many a fantasy Sherlock has borne that has those affections setting their course in his direction. Stupid.

“Tea, John?” he clips more forcefully than he means to. “Before we… get on our way?”

“Ta, the kettle should be just about done.”

Sure enough it is. John must have set it when he had gotten home.

“I texted your mother and let her know we’d be a bit earlier, depending on traffic.”

“I didn’t know you were in contact with my mother,” Sherlock replies and watches from the kitchen as John stills. It takes him longer than it should to answer.

“I have her number from last Christmas. I didn’t want to bother you with giving her a heads up when I could do it myself.”

Sherlock hums but it takes John another five minutes to truly relax once more. By that point, Rosie is back to humming Peppa Pig and playing with the buttons on John’s cardigan.

Interesting.

xxxxxx

John had already packed a bag both for himself and for Rosie, but Sherlock, dreading the upcoming trip as he was, hadn’t prepared a thing.

John gave him a fond shake of his head when Sherlock told him along with a ten minute deadline. Given that they were only going for about 48 hours, he was packed in four and in the car, watching in the rearview mirror as John strapped Rosie into her carseat five minutes after that.  They beat rush hour, but just - cruising into the countryside with nothing but the radio still spouting out holiday classics on low.

There’s tension in the car, but it’s not suffocating. Not yet, at least. Sherlock can practically feel everything John’s not saying, like a steady tap on his shoulder.

When did it come to this?

They pull into the drive and Sherlock practically throws himself out of the car, even garnering an “Oi!” from John as he slams on the brake so as to not run him over. Sherlock hears a muttered, “Nutter,” but he pays him no mind, inhaling the crisp air and fighting the urge to put his hands on his knees.

“Sherlock!” comes the cry a moment later, followed by the bang of the screen door shutting. “My boy, come here!” Mummy bustles down the path and envelopes him in her arms. He sinks into it, welcoming the childhood nostalgia of his mother’s comforting scent and the feel of her arms around him. “Chin up,” she whispers again, before pulling back and hurrying over to John.

“Hello, my dear,” she says, giving him a quick hug and kiss on the cheek before making a beeline to the car where Rosie is kicking her legs and chanting a chorus of “Nan, nan, nan!” over and over again from her carseat. “Oh sweetheart,” she says as she pulls Rosie into her arms.

“I see. This is really why you wanted us to come,” Sherlock grumbles without any heat, watching his mother and Rosie trade hugs and kisses.

“It’s been ages.

“Mummy, you just saw us last week.” After Christmas morning in 221B, his parents had come to town for dinner. Mycroft put them up at the Savoy for the night. It was… lovely, actually.

“Same thing,” she replies, gesturing that they should head inside. He turns to help with the bags, but John waves him off, already carrying all three. “John, you’re in Myc’s old room and we’ve set up the cot for Rosie in the guest room. Sherlock, you know where you’re going.”

“Mm,” he grunts too enthralled with watching Mummy and Rosie converse.

“Daddy’s just in the shed, tinkering away. I’ll call him in for tea. Or,” she glances at the clock, “a cocktail. It is that hour, after all,” she says with a wink.

“Sounds delightful,” John groans as he ascends the stairs to put their things in their respective rooms.

Sherlock should help - had tried to help - but he was waved away. Before he can think about it further, his mother is grabbing his shoulder and spinning him around.

“Darling, I don’t know what you’re on about. John seems fine.”

“We’ve been here two minutes!”

“And I’m perceptive,” she clips with a raised eyebrow, as if daring him to contradict her. And he bloody well knows better.

“Just… give it time,” he sighs after a moment. “You’ll see.”

And with that, he stalks out the kitchen to the yard, banging the shed door open and feeling slightly sorry when it makes Daddy jump and scatter the metal bits and bobs he’s been working on.

“Sherlock, my boy. Warn a fellow next time, won’t you?”

“Sorry, Daddy,” he murmurs, immediately bending to help scoop up the screws and nails his father uses to build his miniature metal sculptures - a habit acquired in his retirement. Soon enough, he’ll start making them for Rosie when she’s old enough to not hurt herself on them.

And assuming John hasn’t whisked her away to some unknown location: Scotland, or France, or God forbid, America.

“Something on your mind?” Daddy asks, before beckoning him closer. “Come and give an old man a hand.”

Sherlock shrugs but acquiesces, shuffling across the small shed and carefully depositing the screws he’s collected on the workbench.

“Why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you?”

“Oh what’s the point?” he sighs. “Mummy’s already told you anyway.”

His father smiles and hands him a metal piece to brace. It looks like it’ll end up being the side of a locomotive. “I’d prefer to hear it from the source, if you don’t mind.”

Sherlock holds it dutifully, watching as his father’s withered, but still agile fingers screw the tiny piece into place. He’s hit with such a sudden wave of nostalgia, of longing for this kind of domestic tranquility for himself that he huffs out a breath as if he’s taken a kick to the stomach. Daddy, for his part, doesn’t even bat an eye.

“I think John may be moving out,” he finally whispers, when his tongue stops sticking to the roof of his mouth.

“Oh?” His father asks. “The two of you seemed to have finally... ” he waves the tiny screwdriver around, looking for the word. “Settled.”

But Sherlock can only shrug. “He’s become distant. Coming home late from work. Taking secret calls.” The next part is hard and his voice cracks. “He’s lying. He’s gotten better at it, I’ll give him that, but - ”

“He’s not you,” Daddy finishes for him and Sherlock flinches, thinking of all of the lies he’s told John Watson. Sure, some were in his best interest, but still. You can only break a trust so many times before it’s irreparable. Daddy clears his throat, as if knowing he’s gotten lost in his thoughts. “Perhaps he’s…” but he trails off, trying to be as delicate as possible.

“He’s not seeing someone. Unless he’s gotten better at hiding the tells, which I highly doubt. Also, sometimes he’s gone with Rosie. I don’t believe he’d take his toddler on a date.”

Daddy hums, taking in all of this new information. He always was the patient one. “You think he’s looking for a new flat?”

Sherlock nods, the thought alone enough to steal the voice from his throat.

“But he has no cause to move out. You said so yourself that you don’t do the more dangerous experiments in the flat. Mummy and I were there for Christmas so we know it’s clean. Lord knows you wouldn’t do it just on our account.”

“He and Rosie are sharing a room. Eventually she’ll get too big for that. She’ll need her own space. Where will John go?”

But Daddy merely looks at him. Studies him. Dissects him.

“Have you tried talking to him about it?”

He shrugs again, a gesture that’s usually foreign to him but which is becoming common in these trying times. “Talking was never our forte.”

“Well,” Daddy begins, placing a hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and squeezing. “Perhaps it’s time.”

Sherlock swallows around the lump that’s suddenly lodged itself in his throat and, as if his father understands, he merely hands him another piece of metal and they get to work finishing the locomotive.

“Happy birthday, son,” Daddy murmurs, holding the train out to him with a small smile.

Sherlock takes it reverently. “Thank you.”

Daddy takes hold of his face and pulls him down, placing a kiss on his forehead, before shooing him towards the door. “It won’t do to run from your problems, my boy.”

Sherlock audibly grumbles at that and Daddy chuckles.

“Tell Mummy I’ll be in in a minute.”

“Yes, fine,” he snaps as he leaves, but when he gets outside, he holds the tiny locomotive up in the air and admires his father’s craftsmanship. It truly is remarkable. He pockets it, promising to make a place of honor for it on the mantle next to the skull. Rosie will love it when she’s older, firmly not thinking about any scenario that wouldn’t have her at Baker Street at that time.

But then he opens the back door to the kitchen to find John and Mummy deep in conversation and all of his efforts at self-preservation crumble to dust. They stop as soon as they hear him enter and his heart knocks an unsteady, but thunderous beat against his sternum.

“What’s going on?” he slowly asks, raising an eyebrow at the guilty look on John’s face and his mother’s serene expression. She always looks innocent when she’s plotting something.

“Nothing at all,” she replies placidly. “Biscuit?” She holds a plate out of his favorite but he knows they’d taste like ash in his mouth.

He shakes his head and starts for the stairs, numbly removing his scarf and coat as he goes.

“Sherlock - ” John begins, but Sherlock cuts him off.

“Daddy’ll be in soon.”

“Darling, John was just telling me about the West End case. Sounds just like something out of Phantom of the Opera!”

He hums, but doesn’t stop, trudging up the stairs and shouldering open his bedroom door as he drops his coat and scarf on the floor and sits heavily on the bed.

“John is leaving,” he murmurs to no one, letting the words linger in the air like a verdict, before tipping sideways and burying his face in the pillows.

He tries to remember what 221B is like without John’s typing or Rosie’s laughter or the sound the latest Bond marathon.

Thankfully, he’s asleep before the pain truly hits.

xxxxxx

When he wakes next, it’s gone dark.

He pushes himself to sitting and rubs at his eyes, grabbing his phone from the pocket of his discarded coat, only to find it’s dead. He opens the door and looks down the hall, but his parents’ bedroom door is closed as is the guest room where Rosie undoubtedly sleeps.

Only Mycroft’s door remains ajar.

He has half a mind to turn around and faceplant on the bed once more but his transport betrays him, stomach grumbling in a way that sounds all too loud in the surrounding quiet.

“Yes, all right,” he snaps when it does it again and he pads downstairs, wondering if John actually is still awake. Turns out he doesn’t have to wait long to find out.

John is sitting in the living room, book propped open on his lap, glass of scotch sitting on the side table. The fire in the grate had been reduced to embers, but John settled for pulling a blanket over his legs rather than stoke it again.

“What time is it?” he croaks when John looks up from his book.

“Nearly midnight,” John replies.

“Why are you up?”

He puts the book on the table and stands, letting the blanket fall to the floor. “I wanted to see if you’d wake. Your mum left a plate for you in the oven.”

“You didn’t have to stay up,” he murmurs, brushing past John to head into the kitchen. “I know Rosie runs you ragged.”

“I wanted to,” John replies as he follows, and Sherlock’s heart cleaves in two. It’s too much. Just - just entirely too much.

“Stop,” he whispers, leaning against the door jamb for support.

He can hear the confusion in John’s voice just behind him. “Stop what?”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“What? Do what?” John’s hand on his bicep is gentle, but firm enough to turn him around. Whatever he sees in Sherlock’s face has his eyes widening.

“John - ”

“Sherlock, what the hell - ”

“Please, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Pretend you care!” he finally yells, voice breaking.

John steps back as if slapped. “Sherlock - ”

“I know you’re leaving!” he snaps and the admission seems to take every ounce of strength he has.

John stares at him for a moment, mouth hanging open before he blurts out, “What?”

His wrong-footedness seems genuine enough, though, and now Sherlock begins to doubt himself. Oh God, what if he had this all wrong from the get-go?

“Wait - you think I’m moving out?”

“Aren’t you?” He hates how small his voice sounds.

John huffs out a noise that could be laugh but sounds more like a whimper. He turns and pinches the bridge of his nose, before shaking his head. “I’m an idiot.”

No more than anyone else, is what Sherlock would say if he had control over his faculties.

“Well, I was going to wait until tomorrow to give you your gift, but seeing as it’s after midnight, it is technically your birthday,” John says, turning back with the kind of determination that’s both fierce and yet sad. “And clearly this needs to happen now.”

“John, you don’t have to - ”

“Yes, I do,” he interrupts. “I really, really do.” He licks his lips and almost seems to nod to himself, before walking over to the stairs and taking them two at a time.

Sherlock allows his wobbly legs a respite as he collapses into a chair at the kitchen table, dropping his head onto shaking hands. Whatever his mother made smells delicious and his stomach rumbles again.

John returns a moment later with a manila folder which he places carefully on the table in front of Sherlock. His hands are shaking, too.

“I, uh, I didn’t wrap it.”

“I see that,” Sherlock replies because he’s not sure what else to say.

John takes a seat at the table next to him, facing him, and clasps his hands together in his lap. He’s nervous. “Aren’t you going to open it?”

Sherlock nods and pulls the folder closer, carefully running his palm over it as his not inconsiderable mind tries to parse out what it could be. He comes up with nothing, though, because his transport has decided to fail him on every level, it seems. Swallowing audibly, he inhales and holds his breath as he flips the cover open, brain trying to comprehend what his eyes are seeing.

“What is this?” he finally asks, because there’s no way he’s reading this right.

“What does it look like?” John murmurs quietly. Encouragingly.

“It looks like…” his breath hitches, “adoption papers.”

“Consulting detective, indeed,” John replies with a small smile, hands still clasped together in their white-knuckled grip.

“But - but my name is on them. And so is Rosie’s.”

“Yes.”

“John, are you - “ he stops and licks his lips, but his mouth has gone dry, “are you asking me to adopt your daughter?”

John visibly swallows and nods. “I am. If anything happens to me, I want her to remain with her family.”

“But we’re - we’re not…” Christ, he’s never been so verbally incontinent in his life. “What if - what if you get married again? Your wife will presumably want to adopt Rosie.”

It’s apparently the wrong thing to say because John’s eyes go wide. In fact, he looks horrified. “Sherlock… I’m not… I’m not getting married again.” He gestures between them. “This is it. For me. This is all I need and want. In whatever way you’ll share it with me. I thought…” he rubs the back of his neck. “Sorry, I thought that was obvious.”

“But.” He shakes his head. “But you’ve been so distant.”

John barks out a laugh. “Because you read me like a bloody open book. It was my poor attempt at subterfuge.”

“Poor at subterfuge? You were a soldier.”

“Well then thank God you were never my enemy because it would have made me a piss poor one.”

He blinks from John to the papers and back to John again, mouth open but voice gone. “This is it. For me. This is all I need and want.”

“Which brings me to the next part,” John says, saving him from himself. “I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me on Monday.”

“Dinner?” he croaks.

“Yes. At Angelo’s.” He inhales and exhales slowly. Shakily. “With a candle, if you’re amenable.”

“I’ll get a candle for the table. It’s more romantic.”

“John. You - ?”

“Yes,” he replies firmly, before reaching forward and carefully taking Sherlock’s hands in his own. “Yes.”

“I’m not his date.”

“But you’re not gay,” he blurts, immediately cursing himself.  

“But I’m not straight either,” John replies, holding on tighter and forcing Sherlock to look at him. “Because I am absolutely in love with you.”

White noise.

In love with you.

In love with you.

In love with you.

More white noise.

John must misinterpret his silence because he immediately starts rambling. “You don’t - you don’t have to say anything now. You don’t have to say anything ever. I just thought we should… give it a go. And if it doesn’t work out, then that’s fine, because I’m not going anywhere.” He places his hand on the adoption papers. “We’re not going anywhere.”

But Sherlock can’t see anything because tears cloud his vision before spilling traitorously onto his cheeks. “My parents knew.”

“Yes,” John breathes, reaching forward and gently wiping the tears with his thumb.

“My mother invited us out here on purpose."

“Yes,” he says again. “I was going to do it tomorrow during dinner. Your mother baked a cake and everything, but… just us works just as well.”

Just us reverberates around his head and his heart, but then John brings Sherlock’s hands to his lips and presses a soft, chaste kiss there.

“Happy birthday, Sherlock.”

Oh God.

“So… you’re not moving out?”

John barks out a watery laugh as his eyes go glassy. “No. No, I’m not moving out. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

Sherlock looks back down at the file in front of him, at the papers that legally bind Rosie to him forever. “But I don’t - I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“And you think I do?” John chuckles softly, squeezing his hands once more. “I’m making this up as I go. The only reason she isn’t in therapy already is because I have you. Because she has you.”

The words affect him more than he expects and another rush of tears slips silently down his face.

“I love you too, you know,” he finally whispers and John’s calm facade breaks. His brow creases and his lower lip trembles, as he clears his throat in an attempt to keep it together.

“I was hoping you’d say that,” he manages after a moment. “So. Dinner on Monday?”

Sherlock smiles and, feeling bolder than he ever has in his life with John’s heart in his hand and Rosie’s future at the end of a pen, he grabs John’s face and presses their lips together in a hurried kiss that nevertheless manages to stop time.

“Yes,” he breathes. “Dinner on Monday.”

 

With a candle.

 

After all, he's more than amenable.