In the mirror, a stranger squints back at Sherlock through familiar eyes.
He touches his own face – the small lines at the corners of his eyes, the deeper ones on his forehead. His cheekbones don’t seem quite as pronounced as they once were. Threads of silver are woven through his hair.
It’s his face, and yet it’s not. He looks more like his father than he ever did. Maybe if he’d been shown a picture rather than seen himself in a mirror he’d have thought it was his father and not him.
Two knocks on the bathroom door startle him.
“Come down for breakfast when you’re ready, love,” John calls out, a yawn punctuating the sentence. “And don’t forget your glasses, you’re going to need them.”
Sherlock doesn’t reply. He doesn’t know what to reply. One word is still echoing in his mind.
John called him ‘love.’
John Watson, Sherlock’s former flatmate, his first and best friend, called him ‘love.’
Except… John is more than that, now, isn’t he? The words on Sherlock’s chest claim as much – as do the ones in his mind palace. When he first accessed it earlier to check the definition of anterograde amnesia, he found a red thread running through the library and out the door. He followed it to the music room – and to the pieces of information on the piano.
The red thread and sheets of paper tell him one thing: amnesia or not, he’s capable of learning some new information. That realization is comforting – but not as much as that one strange, extraordinary word uttered from the other side of the door.
He walks out of the bathroom and crosses the hallway into his childhood bedroom. It looks… different.
Just like him.
The furniture and decoration are that of his bedroom in Baker Street, arranged in the same configuration, with the exception of an additional dresser. John’s, obviously.
On his way to his wardrobe, Sherlock spots a gleaming bit of something on the night table, and remembers what John said. Glasses. He wears glasses now. He picks them up and slides them on in a gesture that feels intensely familiar. Immediately, the world clears up a little around him, and he can stop squinting.
When he comes downstairs a little while later, he’s dressed in a shirt that doesn’t feel as tight as his usual preference and a pair of well-worn jeans. The suit pants at the back of his wardrobe looked uninviting, as though they haven’t been worn in a while. Peeking past an open door and into the sitting room, he feels an odd warmth at seeing his chair in there, the one from 221B, and, across from it, close enough for companionship, John’s. They’re not the only familiar pieces of furniture: bits and pieces from his life in London feel a little out of place next to items straight out of his childhood.
He follows the smell of coffee to the kitchen and finds John there, wrapped in a tartan dressing gown. He’s wearing glasses too, but behind them his eyes are as deep as ever. And if his hair is a little grayer than in Sherlock’s memories, it looks rather fetching on him. He’s seated at the table in front of a mug of coffee and a plate of toast, jars of jam and honey to one side, three notebooks on the other. With a gentle smile, he gestures for Sherlock to sit down across from him.
“Coffee?” he offers, already standing.
This is all so strange, Sherlock thinks as he sits down at the table. The last thing he remembers is living in London, alone in his flat, with John married and his wife an obstacle to their friendship. And now…
Now he’s sitting at the kitchen table in his childhood home in Sussex, and John seems as comfortable moving in this space as though he has spent the last twenty years here.
Which, Sherlock realizes with a small shock, is in the realm of the possible.
John sets a coffee mug in front of him with another smile and sits down again. As he does, he points at various items on the table.
“That’s your diary. It’s where you write down things you want to know. I never read it. This one’s ours. Same thing, but we both write in it. Either will answer most questions you have right now. This notebook is about your bees and what you need to do next to take care of them. This is honey we harvested a few weeks ago. And that’s strawberry jam you made for me last June. Where do you want to start? Personally I’d suggest toast and honey.”
Following his own advice, he drizzles a generous amount of honey on a piece of toasted bread before cutting it in two diagonally. He holds the plate out to Sherlock, one eyebrow raised, his eyes crinkling with something that looks very much like happiness.
Sherlock picks up one of the triangles almost reflexively and watches John take a bite of the second one before it occurs to him to do the same. Flavor bursts on his tongue and he immediately takes a second bite.
“Good, huh?” John says cheerfully.
“How long?” Sherlock blurts out, unaware the words are rising to his lips until they spill out. He sets the piece of toast down for now, needing his full attention on John.
John’s smile softens a bit. “How long since what?” he asks, sounding, of all things, a little amused. “Two years since you started experimenting making jams. Seven years since you retired, we moved here and you started beekeeping. Fifteen years since we got married. Seventeen since I proposed. Twenty three since you fell ill and just a bit less than that since we’ve been together. Twenty six since I started falling in love with you even if I didn’t know it at the time. Did I miss anything?”
Blinking, Sherlock looks at John’s hand – at the silver, no, platinum band on his ring finger. Then he looks at his own, though he already knows what he’ll find there, what he’s made a point to ignore until now: a twin of John’s ring, plain, unadorned, but unmistakable for anything other than a wedding ring.
His gaze drifts to the notebooks on the table, which apparently will tell him everything he could possibly want to know. He glances at the homemade jars, each labeled in his own handwriting. Soon, though, his eyes return to John.
John, his husband.
John, presumably for whom Sherlock learned to make jam; quite a departure from his usual experiments.
John, who has been waking up next to a blank slate for twenty three years and who continues to smile fondly at Sherlock as he waits for him to say something.
“How long since I kissed you?” Sherlock asks in the end, and John’s smile grows brighter still.