John stops in the threshold of their bedroom and leans against the door jamb, two mugs of tea in his hands, and takes in the scene before him. The simple room is filled with evidence of lazy morning lie-ins and cosy late nights, testament to the two of them lounging with books and newspapers, crossword puzzles, and back copies of the Scientific Beekeeping Journal. There are stacks of books on the bare, wide-plank floor, an antique dresser against one wall, and loosely folded jumpers in an open chest at the bottom of the wrought iron bed.
The room is bright with diffuse, early morning light, and two sunbeams fall diagonally across the bed and the man still sleeping in it. There's a bee outside now, one solitary bee, bumping gently against the leaded glass windows above the bed. The bee knows, he thinks. The bee knows where Sherlock is, and he wants in. The bee probably has a message that only Sherlock will be able to decipher, something about honey saturation levels or feuding nurse bees.
Sherlock lies on his stomach, asleep, unaware of his little bee messenger. The sheets are twisted around his splayed thighs, his curved bottom half-exposed. His arms are flung out to the sides, and he's managed to burrow his face in both his and John's pillows. Sherlock's hair is spread over the linens in every which direction, curls of silver and sable and all the shades between sticking out in an unruly mess. He wears it longer now, and even after all these years, John can never stop touching it. The hair at the nape of Sherlock's neck is still just as dark as when they first met, and John likes to burrow his nose there and imprint Sherlock's scent in his memory. As if he could ever erase it.
He pads across the chilly floorboards now and sets the mugs down on the nightstand on Sherlock's side of the bed, which isn't really Sherlock's side because Sherlock always takes up most of their bed, leaving John the sparse spaces that are left, usually curled around the taller man's back or half underneath his star-fished form. God, this man, and all that he consumes.
He crawls up and over Sherlock, straddles the tops of his thighs and then folds himself over so that his head rests between Sherlock's shoulder blades. He feels Sherlock come awake beneath him, feels the smile that comes to his mouth, eyes still closed as he says, “John Watson, for god's sake, are you still here?”
They laugh at the inside joke, Sherlock into the pillow, John into Sherlock, and John replies, as he always does, “Where else would I be, you insufferable dick?”
John rolls a bit to the side and runs his fingers over Sherlock's shoulders and spine. Age has added layers to Sherlock, given him the broadness that he lacked in youth, a fullness to his muscles, a sturdiness to his frame. There's not a love handle on him, but the lanky, coltish quality is gone. John traces his fingertips over the circuit of scars on his back, the map of them memorized by heart. They're faded now, and lie evenly over the pale surface of his skin, smooth silvery stories fading away with time. John used to hate and resent them, but he pays homage to them now, silently honouring them for what they represent.
Sherlock wriggles to turn over and John shifts to make it easier, then lowers himself back down, hips aligned, head on Sherlock's shoulder. He feels Sherlock's hands run lightly up and down his back and under the waistband of his pyjama bottoms, stopping only when they are cupping John's arse and softly kneading the smooth, warm flesh. He sighs, relaxed and at home in Sherlock's arms. Sherlock rubs his nose through John's short, grey hair and presses one small kiss to the crown of his head.
“Get up and drink your tea. Hannah is dropping Imi off at noon, and we have things to do.”
“We have nothing to do, John, not for hours.”
“As if you would have any idea what we need to do,” John jokes, and Sherlock chuckles and says, “Mmm, well, I know what I'd like to do.”
John can feel exactly what Sherlock would like to do pressing into his belly, and his own body responds, eager to meet a mutual desire. He slides up a bit to meet Sherlock's mouth, and what started out as a lazy, quiet, Saturday morning quickly builds into something much more vigorous. There is nothing new here now, no wide-eyed exploration, no first times, no boxes to check. There is only warm skin and confident touches, well-loved bodies working together, saying over and over again, yes, yes, yes, always.
The tea goes cold, and the bee returns to its hive.
John stands in the bright, airy kitchen and stirs more black pepper into the pasta sauce, taps the wooden spoon on the side of the pot, and wipes his hands on a tea towel. Satisfied that the simmering sauce can fend for itself for a while, he walks out into the back garden where Sherlock is sitting with Imi in his lap, the two of them happily lost in their own little world. As they talk Imi styles Sherlock's hair, her five-year-old fingers making short work of little plaits and ponytails all over his head, each secured with a pastel barrette or bright elastic band.
“Don't worry, Papa,” she says, “these are the special ouch-less elastics. Mama got them at the Boots on Baker Street.”
“Well, that certainly is a relief,” Sherlock answers, sitting still under Imi's careful administrations.
“Do you want a pink or purple scrunchy for the top, Papa?”
“I rely entirely on your expertise, Imogen. Whichever you think is best.”
John leans against the wall and watches their granddaughter put the finishing touches on Sherlock's hair. She climbs down off his lap when she's done and stands in front of him, her small hands tented together, fingertips pressed to her lower lip, in perfect imitation of her Papa. She's barefoot and she shifts back and forth on pale, skinny legs as she assesses her work. The mannerisms remind John of Imi's mum, Hannah, when she was a little girl, and he gives his head a little shake as an old memory rises up to meet him.
“Hannah, come on, you're going to be late for school.”
Hannah came racing down the stairs, still in her pyjamas, arms full of books.
“Why aren't you dressed yet? Dad is leaving in five minutes and you're not even dressed.”
“Is he on a case today?”
“No, that's why he's walking you to school. Put the books down and go get dressed.”
Hannah put the stack of books on the table next to a plate of congealing eggs and cooling toast, steepled her fingers under her chin, and shimmied back and forth on her bare feet.
“I have to write a book report, and it can be on anything I want, but I can't decide. Which of these should I pick?”
John skimmed the titles and laughed. “Does it have to be something post-apocalyptic? Couldn't you do 'Charlotte's Web' or something?”
“I did 'Charlotte's Web' when I was seven, remember? I'm ten now,” she said, emphasizing the word TEN in a way that John will hear many times over the next several years. I'm ten-twelve-sixteen-eighteen!
“Ten going on sixteen, I'd say,” John said under his breath, thumbing through a well-worn copy of 'The Hunger Games'.
Sherlock had walked into the kitchen then, hair still damp from his shower, buttoning the cuffs of a beautifully tailored shirt. He gave John a quick peck on the lips and scanned the scene in the kitchen, deducing the situation in front of him.
“Hannah, go get dressed. We can talk about the book report on the way to school.”
Hannah turned and ran back up the stairs, the muffled sound of drawers sliding open and slamming shut drifting down to them.
“I guess it could be worse,” John mused. “She could want to do her report on one of your toxicology textbooks.”
Sherlock smiled and took a sip of the tea John had set out for him. “There's not much more we could ask for, John. She's smart, she has friends, she's doing well in school. So she reads a bit above her age, that's not a bad thing.”
“How much do you want to bet that book report is due tomorrow?”
“Mm. Well, she doesn't get her procrastination from me. Nor you, come to think of it.”
Hannah came flying down the stairs again, haphazardly dressed, hairbrush in hand. “Dad, could you do the french plait today?”
Sherlock pulled out a chair and reached for the brush, then pulled Hannah down into his lap. He started brushing her light brown hair from front to back, gathering sections of it between his fingers as he went.
“I don't even want to know where you learned to french plait, do I?”
“YouTube, John, just YouTube. You can find absolutely everything on the Internet.”
“So I've heard. Okay, I'm off to the surgery but should be back well in time for dinner. Hannah, when you get home you need to do your homework and chores before anything else, got it?”
John leaned down and kissed Hannah on the top of the head, then took Sherlock's chin in his hand and angled his face toward him for another, longer kiss.
“Stop it, you two, that's disgusting.”
“You won't think it's so disgusting in a few years, love,” John teased. He grabbed his briefcase, took a last sip of tea, and headed for the front door.
“Love you both.”
“Love you, too,” came the chorus from the kitchen.
John drifts back to the scene in front him at the sound of Imi's voice, high and clear and full of authority.
“Hmm. I think just one more thing,” she says, before climbing back up into Sherlock's lap, a fearless mountain climber tugging herself up her own private scaling wall. Sherlock smiles and gives her a hand, then glances over to John and raises an eyebrow.
“Too bad Granddad doesn't have enough hair for you to work with, isn't it, Imogen?”
“It's okay, Papa, he wouldn't look as gamorous as you, anyway.”
“Yes, that's what I said, gamorous.”
Sherlock winks at John and ruffles Imi's dark curls. She finishes the whale spout on top of Sherlock's head and turns to snuggle up against him, pulling one of his arms around her tiny waist. John wishes he had a camera right now, because Sherlock with pastel barrettes and a lapful of Imi is one of the best things he's ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
“I can be glamorous, too, you know. Sherlock, tell, Imi.”
“Yes, Imogen, just look at Granddad's brown jumper. That's rather glamorous, isn't it?”
“No. It looks rather like something that an old lady would wear.”
“I quite agree.”
John laughs and runs a hand through his short hair. “Okay ladies, that's quite enough. Imi, it's almost time for dinner, so go wash your hands and sit up at the table, all right? Sherlock, get in here and help me serve up.”
Imi pecks Sherlock on the cheek, then slides down, gathers her hair accessories, and darts inside. Sherlock pushes up from the wicker chair he's occupied for the last hour and follows John into the house, sliding his arms around his waist before they make it to the kitchen.
“Don't pretend you don't like the barrettes, John,” he whispers into the back of his neck, making the small hairs stand on end. He pushes a hand under John's jumper and skims it over bare skin, quickly finding and flicking a peaking nipple with his thumb.
“You're an insatiable old man, you know that?” John is trying for exasperation, but the underlying groan in his voice is hard to hide. He rests his head back on Sherlock's shoulder and lets those long fingers roam where they will.
“If I'm old, John, what does that make you?”
“It makes me an even older man with his husband's hard-on pressed into his arse. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.”
“We aren't old. I'm only sixty-five.”
“Yeah, a sixty-five-year-old with the hormones of a teenager. Come set the table so we can eat, and get rid of that thing in your pants before Imi comes down.”