A mistake I keep repeating is underestimating the consistency of John's loyalty. I have overestimated his fear of parts of himself he wasn't willing to embrace before. I have underestimated his courage. I have underestimated his feelings for me.
And I'm fine with that. It's all fine. It's been fine ever since that first night at Angelo's when neither of us could ever have imagined where we'd be, now. Years later, after a failed marriage, two lethal gunshot wounds, years of circling and circling and circling.
If something circulates a planet on too low an orbit, it will eventually crash into its atmosphere and burn. I am ready to crash into John's, but instead of breaking apart, I believe it's the only way to stay whole.
With careful movements, John places the blister packet on the kitchen table next to my microscope. He wants me to see it. That's why he's taken it out of the cardboard package.
"I am on three different medications. That combination's not superior to them," I tell him. Has he prescribed it to me, contrary to GMC regulations about treating family members and friends? Why? Does he not think I'm attending my appointments or taking what I'm supposed to take?
"It's not for you."
I look up from the cirrhotic liver cells on my slides. John looks determined; beyond that, his expression is hard to read. "What?"
He digs out another thing from his pocket, slides it next to the microscope like an offering.
A packet of condoms.
My jaw falls open. Oh.
"John, no. You'd worry too much. You'd worry about Rosie, what would happen to her if you––"
He wraps his warm hand around mine, removes it from adjusting the focus.
"I think you're the one worrying. Your viral load is unmeasurably low; you're on your meds like clockwork. My risk would be negligible even without prep, but I'll take it so that you don't have to worry."
"Because you've spent years worrying about other people instead of yourself. I want you to stop. I want you to look after yourself, and I want to stop wasting time not doing what we should have done years ago."
We don't have sex that night. Instead, the very thought that it's possible paralyses me in the doorway of what is now our bedroom, and everything is suddenly too much.
Years spent fearing I wouldn't have this. Years, fearing I'd lost my chance to even try. I don't equate sex with love, with relationships, but inevitably, with someone who spent years declaring this was the last thing he was, the last thing he wanted, sex is the final wall between us.
And John has brought it down. Despite everything. Despite… me.
And my hesitation breaks something in him, and he's holding his trousers in his hand like an idiot with tears in his eyes, and I feel so brittle and spent and happy even though I have no skills for this, no words to begin to diffuse the weight on my chest right now.
I've kept myself together for so long that I forgot how to let go of any of it. I swore as I flung myself off that roof that it wouldn't change me, that I'd come back the same man John buried. It doesn't work that way and realising it as I left his wedding to someone else, the finality of it nearly made me relapse that night.
He's here. With me.
My skin tingles and feels too tight. I shake, and I shake, and he buries his face in my chest.
There are days that are better and days that are not good. This morning is not a good one, which means that today won't be any good in its entirety. I follow John around, thoughts too scattered to manage proper clothes. I'm cold in just my dressing gown and underwear, flitting about just outside the bathroom door as he brushes his teeth and does whatever things he does in there after waking up. I have routines, too, now — with a child in the house, one must adjust — but today they elude me. I haunt John uselessly, plant myself in his way because I need something I do not know the name of.
Finally, I trail him to the kitchen. Without even asking, he runs me a glass of water just as I go for the blister packets in the top drawer. They're in the top drawer so Rosie won't get to them when she starts walking.
I swallow the pills, John watching me.
"Why would you stay? Why would you choose this?" I ask, listening to my own words as though they were someone else's. I didn't mean to say them.
Why would he choose me?
John dries his hand in the kitchen towel. He looks calm, fond, a bit resigned. He huffs, and that sound is very like the self-deprecating, cornered animal I am today.
The bitterness in his tone, I do not expect; it echoes the tone of my own thoughts. "Why would you want me, hm?" John asks. "What have I got to offer? Single dad with anger issues who's let himself go and who gets off chasing after some madman solving crimes all over London."
It occurs to me that we're idiots. I tell him this, and he agrees, laughter lines crinkling up his features.
"It was always you, and no one else," I tell him, and the way he looks at me makes the doubts disappear.
It's been a year. Not a year since I was diagnosed, but a year from when John and I became us.
Rosie totters into the kitchen as I'm having breakfast, immersed in a set of crime scene photographs from the serial arson case that's kept us busy for the past two days with the Met. It's my first time working with just Sally, who's risen in ranks to gain her own team. Lestrade is on holidays.
John walks in, holding the soft pink brush he uses on our daughter and some soft, yellow hairbands. It appears Tiny Watson has escaped the clutches of her hairdresser as usual.
"Only you," John says with a grin, and it takes me a moment to realise he's referring to the visual similarity between the piece of somewhat burnt toast I have placed on the table next to the photos, and the blackened murder victims in them.
I lean down to lift her into my lap. John's eyes widen in alarm, and I realise too late that Rosie is about to get an eyeful of the admittedly gruesome images.
Too late. Her chubby finger stabs the photos. "Gingerbread!"
John and I both burst out laughing, and I turn the photos around to discourage further scrutiny. She's right. My only attempt at Christmas preparations last year, assisted by Mrs Hudson, did produce somewhat… crispy results.
John wraps his arms briefly around both of us. His quiet declaration of love is for both of us, and suddenly, it occurs to me how many mornings like this remain in my life. I'm not going anywhere. My viral load is unmeasurably low. I'm fine. The side effects are manageable. As long as I don't catch another strain which would expedite the course of the disease, it's unlikely it'll progress anytime soon. I intend to stay sober, and John will be the only man I make love to henceforth, so that risk is practically non-existent.
Mycroft has dedicated himself to a project of getting me enrolled in some trial or another. Even if he doesn't turn out to possess the omnipotence he's always believed in since we were children, it's alright. We're alright.
— The End —