On the first of February, John came out of the bathroom after his morning shower to find Sherlock standing in front of their sitting room wall, squinting at the hundreds of bits of paper that had appeared on it overnight.
“New case?” he asked, moving closer while rubbing a towel over his head.
“No,” said Sherlock.
John was now close enough to see that he was looking at articles rather than crime scene reports and that the predominant colour was pink rather than blood red. He paused to read a few titles.
A Guide To Valentine's Day Grooming
Ten Of The Best Valentine's Day Offers
Valentine's Day Traditions Around The World
A Man's Guide to Buying Lingerie For Valentine’s Day
“Ah,” he said. “Right. Already making plans?”
“We need to get it right, or risk the Council deciding we're not trying hard enough and sending me back to Halloween,” said Sherlock. “It seems rather more complicated than I initially thought. It's possible that I should have started researching weeks ago.”
“It's really not that complicated,” said John. He pulled off the lingerie article and crumpled it. “You don't need that, for a start.”
Sherlock huffed. “John, if it's a tradition, we need to honour it.”
“It's not a tradition and no, we don't,” said John. “Look, we agreed to celebrate as fully as we could, right? That was the deal?”
“Well then,” said John. “We don't need to do every stupid thing that the retail industry have decided to force on people at this time of year. We just need to celebrate the true meaning behind it, and that's to express our love to each other in a way that's meaningful to us. Lingerie is not going to do that. Trust me.”
Sherlock considered that for a moment. “So, I need to work out which of these things you would most appreciate and then present you with them, along with a declaration of my love.”
“Basically,” said John. He looked back at the wall, at Wine: What To Drink On Valentine's Day next to the picture of a heart-shaped Camembert, and tried to imagine what the hell he could get for Sherlock. Christ, he really should have started thinking about this earlier too but it felt like Christmas was barely over. Sherlock's return was still new enough for them both to be revelling in being able to be with each other again and not concentrating on much else.
“Right,” said Sherlock with determination. He looked back at the wall and started ripping sheets off, throwing them over his shoulder onto the floor. John saw Valentine's Day Nail Art go flying and felt relieved he wasn't going to wake up with hearts painted on his fingernails.
When Sherlock had emptied about half the wall, he stood back and made a considering noise. He pulled out a notebook and started to scribble notes.
“What's the plan, then?” asked John.
“Can't tell you,” said Sherlock. “My initial research indicated that the level of romance in any given event is considerably heightened by the element of surprise.”
“Yeah, true,” said John. “But we'll need some level of coordination, right?”
Sherlock gave him a blank look.
“Otherwise we'll both end up making dinner plans, that sort of thing.”
Sherlock shook his head, turning back to the wall. “You don't need to do anything, John. I have it well in hand.”
“Yeah, no,” said John, and Sherlock turned to blink at him with surprise. “Sherlock, we both agreed to celebrate holidays fully. Besides, I want to do things for you as well, not just be the passive recipient.”
Sherlock made a face but reluctantly nodded. “Very well, but I think you should know that I have no interest in anything that involves a pink, anatomically-incorrect heart.”
John laughed. “You think I don't know that? I have met you, Sherlock. Don't worry, I'll make sure whatever I do suits you. I'm not a huge pink-hearts person either, you know.”
“Noted,” said Sherlock. He turned back to the wall, tore off a picture of a pair of socks covered with hearts and discarded it.
That was a close shave, thought John. He looked again at the range of articles in front of him. “This is going to be a full day event,” he realised.
“Indeed,” said Sherlock.
John tried to remember the last time Valentine's Day had meant more than half an hour buying a card and maybe some chocolates, followed by dinner and a shag. Christ, he really did need to start planning. “That's how we'll prevent overlap, then,” he said, his mind whirring. “We'll divide the day up. One of us gets morning and lunch, the other gets afternoon and dinner? And evening? That seems like a big chunk, maybe we should change over at mid afternoon.”
Sherlock thought about that. “I want the morning,” he said. “And the evening. You can take lunchtime and the afternoon.”
“What, you get all morning and then from six to midnight as well? That's not a fair division,” said John.
Sherlock huffed. “Well, there's no point in you making me breakfast in bed,” he said. “I don't eat, and I won't be in bed.”
He had a point. Being dead made breakfast in bed rather pointless, and John couldn't think of any other morning activity that would...oh, no, wait.
“Right,” he said. “You get until 10.30, then. That's enough time for breakfast. Then I get until 6, and then you take over again. If I wake up at 9, that gives us about the same amount of time, right?”
Sherlock jerked a nod and held out his hand to seal the deal with a handshake, as if they were making a formal contract. “Agreed.”
John shook his hand and then pulled him in for a kiss. “Good.”
Bony feet clattered down the stairs and Sherrinford pranced into the room.
“Good morning, good morning!” he sang. “It's a beautiful day!”
“It's raining,” said Sherlock, turning back to his Valentine's wall.
“Exactly!” said Sherrinford. “That means I can pretend that I'm staying in all day because of the weather, not because I'd freak everyone out by being a walking, talking skeleton.”
“I'll be staying in because everyone outside this flat is tedious,” said Sherlock. “The weather has nothing to do with it.”
“Meaning we're not tedious,” said Sherrinford to John. He beamed at Sherlock. “You say the sweetest things!”
He stepped over to ruffle Sherlock's hair, messing up the neat curls. Sherlock ducked away, batting at Sherrinford's hands and scowling. “Get off!”
John left them to their brotherly bonding in favour of making breakfast.
“Sherlock, are you having tea this morning?” he called as he put the kettle on.
“No, no time,” said Sherlock. “I need to concentrate on this.”
Sherrinford took in the wall of Valentine's information. “Aw, how sweet, are you going to express your love for John through commercialism and generic statements of affection?”
“It will not be generic,” said Sherlock.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, John, your jumpers are awful, but I still love you,” sang Sherrinford.
“My jumpers are not awful,” said John.
“Yes, they are,” said Sherlock. “Nevertheless, I will not be mentioning that on the day. My research has indicated that it is best not to mention any flaws in your beloved.”
“I don't have any flaws,” said John.
Sherlock just snorted.
The toast popped before John could respond and he gave up on the conversation in favour of spreading butter.
“You'll have to go to Mycroft's,” Sherlock said to Sherrinford.
“I'm aware,” said Sherrinford. “I don't want to be dragged back to Halloween by St. Valentine, of all people. That would just be embarrassing.”
Sherlock's phone started to ring from where it was lying on the desk. Sherlock made a disgusted sound. “Why must everyone distract me? I'm BUSY.”
“Might be a case,” pointed out John, bringing his breakfast in to the sitting room to eat in his chair.
Sherlock shook his head. “Lestrade knows I prefer to text. He'd only phone with a case if I'd already refused it and he was getting desperate.”
Sherrinford looked at the phone's screen. “It's Molly.”
Sherlock made a face and turned back to his wall, clearly intending to ignore it. Sherrinford glanced at his back and then over at John with the closest to a wink that a skull could manage. John had long since given up trying to work out how Sherrinford managed to project his expressions using nothing but bone.
Sherrinford picked up the phone and answered it. “Good morning, the cleverest and most wonderful Holmes brother speaking.”
Sherlock let out a quiet, aggravated noise under his breath, but otherwise showed no sign that he was even listening.
“Mycroft?” said Sherrinford. “Mycroft?! You insult me, dear lady! I said cleverest and most wonderful Holmes brother.” He moved to sit down in a chair, crossing one femur over the other. “Ah, well, that's because I am a closely kept secret. The other two don't like to admit that I exist because I'm so much more impressive than they are.”
Wait, was Sherrinford flirting with Molly? There was no way this was going to end well. John glanced at Sherlock but he was still completely focused on making notes, ignoring everything else around him.
“Are you sure you want to know? With two brothers called Mycroft and Sherlock, you must have guessed it's not going to be Dave,” said Sherrinford. A moment passed and then he laughed. “Well, that's true,” he said. “Sadly, my name can't be shortened to a normal name. Well, not a man's one, anyway. Like Sherlock, I could go with 'Sherrie', if I wanted to confuse everyone.”
“Over my dead body,” muttered Sherlock. Apparently he was paying more attention to the conversation than it looked.
Sherrinford smirked at him before continuing to talk to Molly. “Hah, no, nice guess, but it's not Sheridan. Come on, do you really think it's going to be something you've heard before? Mycroft, after all. I'm sure our mother just picked letters out of a Scrabble set.”
There was another pause. Sherrinford smiled. “Well, okay then. Stand by and prepare to smother your giggles. My name is Sherrinford.”
There was a pause before Sherrinford laughed. “Ah, so sweet of you to be nice, but no need. I'm resigned to it now.”
“Sherrinford,” interrupted Sherlock. “Find out what she wants and then get rid of her. You're distracting me.”
Sherrinford glared at his back. “Sherlock's getting whiny,” he said down the phone. There was an outraged huff from Sherlock. “Tell me why you called so I can get him to shut up, will you?” A moment passed, then Sherrinford said, “She's got a death from oleander she thought you might want to look at,” he relayed. “Obviously accidental though, not a murder.”
Sherlock looked tempted. He glanced at his wall of information, clearly torn. “I-” he started, then hesitated.
“I'll come with you,” said John, standing up to put his plate back in the kitchen. “I wanted to see Mike, anyway.”
Sherlock took one last look at the wall and tore himself away. “Tell Molly we'll be there in half an hour,” he said to Sherrinford.
“Did you hear that?” said Sherrinford asked down the phone. “Little Lord Fauntleroy is coming to see you. You're truly blessed.”
John couldn't keep in a laugh at the nickname, which earned him a glare and a sulky silence that lasted until they were in the taxi. He reached over and took Sherlock's hand once they'd started moving, which made Sherlock's sulk relax.
“Having older siblings is rubbish,” said Sherlock.
“Right,” agreed John. “That's why you do your best not to see Sherrinford. Oh wait, no – you invited him to live with us.”
Sherlock twitched a shoulder in a shrug. “You're meant to take care of your elders, aren't you?”
“So, should I expect Mycroft to move in one day as well?” asked John. “Not sure where we'd fit him. The cupboard under the stairs?”
Sherlock flinched at the idea. “That would never happen,” he said firmly. “I don't care how old and infirm he gets before he dies. He must already be starting to fall apart, you know. His hair's certainly going. I don't understand why he doesn't just kill himself now to stop the relentless march of time ravaging his body.”
John noticed the taxi driver giving them a wide-eyed look. Well, if you didn't know that the Holmeses could survive death as (I am NOT a zombie, John!) undead blokes, you might think that was pretty cold-hearted.
“Maybe he knows he'll never be as youthful and handsome as you're going to remain, so he's decided to go for distinguished instead,” he offered.
He'd meant it as a compliment but Sherlock's mouth flattened into a line and he looked away, out of the window. John gave up.
“...no, really, I think Hank truly loves her, he's just not prepared to trust her yet. Can you blame him?”
She glanced up as they came in and gave a distracted smile. She waved at a sheet-covered corpse on a trolley, but didn't immediately leap up and hover over Sherlock as he examined it like she usually did.
“No, no, that wasn't about her, that was about Kennedy. Hank hates not knowing anything about his family, of course he was going to snoop into it, but that doesn't mean he doesn't love Vee.”
The names sounded vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until Molly made an exasperated sound and said, “No, don't you remember? That was alternate universe Hank!” that John placed them as being from an American TV show that he only knew about because Sherrinford watched it.
Being stuck indoors all day meant that Sherrinford was pretty much willing to watch any old rubbish. Sherlock and John tended to try and avoid it – in fact, John had been wondering about getting Sherrinford a TV for his room so that he could watch Americans angst over relationships and impending apocalypses without disturbing them. He had a feeling that Sherrinford wouldn't use it though. Even if he wasn't a Holmes and therefore genetically disposed to annoy other people as much as possible, he clearly preferred being around others. He only spent time up in his room when he was painting, and he'd only started that to give John and Sherlock some alone time. John had worked that one out rather quickly.
Sherlock threw back the sheet covering the corpse and made a quiet, satisfied sound. “Oleander poisoning is far too uncommon,” he said. “I'm going to enjoy this.”
Molly laughed at whatever the person on the phone had said. “Don't be silly, Sherrinford, that would be a terrible plotline. They won't be doing that.”
Sherlock stiffened and he turned slowly to stare at her. “You cannot still be talking to my brother.”
Molly gave him a wide-eyed look, as if she'd been caught out. “Um, sorry,” she said. She glanced at the clock. “Oh! Oh, I have to get back to work. Sorry, Sherrinford, I have to go.”
She hung up in a panic and wilted under the glare that Sherlock was giving her. John nudged him with an elbow, then did it again harder when there was no effect. Sherlock huffed a breath out of his nose and turned back to his corpse.
John offered Molly a smile. “So, you watch Timetravellers, Inc. too?”
She gave a half-shrug. “I know it's stupid. I just like watching something mindless when I get home.”
“I haven't really seen much of it,” admitted John, “but it didn't look that bad.”
That was a complete lie. From the look Molly gave him, she knew that.
“I, uh, didn't know you lived with Sherlock's brother,” said Molly.
“You didn't even know I had that brother,” pointed out Sherlock from where he was inspecting the corpse's mouth.
“Well, no,” said Molly. “I suppose that's true. He wasn't at your funeral.”
Shit. John's eyes widened. How were they going to explain that?
“He knew it wasn't my real funeral,” said Sherlock absently. Oh, okay, that was an easy way.
“Oh,” said Molly. “Right. I didn't- No, okay, right. So, how long has he been living with you? I haven't seen him there.”
She probably had, actually, but it was highly unlikely that she'd assumed that the skull on the mantelpiece was actually Sherlock's brother.
“It's pretty recent,” said John. He hesitated. They really would need some way to explain Sherrinford if he was going to be answering phones and announcing he lived with them. “He's been ill,” he offered, because that was sort of true. Having no body was probably a bit more than 'ill', but it was a nod in the right direction. “He only recently recovered.”
“He was badly disfigured, though,” said Sherlock, picking up a dead hand to stare at the fingertips. “He doesn't let anyone but his family see him.”
Molly's eyes went very wide. “Oh,” she said, glancing at her phone as if expecting to see Sherrinford there. “Oh, how awful. Is he okay?”
“Fine,” John reassured her. “Getting better every day. He's just very self-conscious about it. Stays in all day, hides from Mrs. Hudson, that kind of thing.”
That would have to do as an explanation, he supposed. Certainly lacking flesh counted as having a disfigurement, but it still felt like a lie.
“How tragic,” said Molly.
Sherlock snorted. “Oh yes, he's very Gothic novel,” he said. “Or he would be if his jokes weren't so bad.”
“I thought they were funny,” said Molly, and then blushed. “Um, I mean, just from that one conversation.”
This was definitely not going to end well. John managed a smile and turned back to Sherlock. “Going to see Mike. I'll be back in a bit.”
Sherlock nodded absently, focused entirely on the skin of the corpse's stomach. “I'll text you when I'm done.”
A wave of affection passed through John. It was those sorts of tiny things - Sherlock caring enough not to just leave when he was finished without giving John a second thought - that gave away how much he loved John. The big things – the killing-himself-to-save-John things – were all very well, but they tended to just make John feel overwhelmed. Sherlock keeping track of John and making sure they left somewhere together, that was just enough to make John glow with pleasure.
He pulled Sherlock's attention away from the corpse for long enough to kiss him before he left and then went off in search of Mike. He had a Valentine's Day afternoon to organise, after all.
“Do you like them?” asked Sherrinford.
At some point in the middle of the night a few days ago, Sherlock had taken down a few of his odder wall decorations, such as the cow's skull with the headphones, and replaced them with a couple of Sherrinford's paintings. John now ate his breakfast under a skeletal hand waving through a window and a decapitated head dropping blood onto a vase of white roses.
“They're rather obviously self-portraits,” said Mycroft. “The brushwork is impressive, however.”
Sherrinford smiled. “Thanks! It gives me something to do while I'm skulking about upstairs. Skullking.”
Mycroft winced. John tried not to snigger.
“May we leave soon?” asked Mycroft. “I wish to avoid the lunchtime rush at the Tate.”
“Of course,” said Sherrinford. “Hang on, let me get my disguise on.”
He disappeared upstairs and Mycroft fixed his stare on John instead. “And how are you feeling?”
“Fine,” said John, wishing like hell that he'd thought to disappear before Mycroft arrived, like Sherlock had.
“Fine?” repeated Mycroft with a raised eyebrow. “Just fine?”
John shrugged. “What more do you need?”
Mycroft sighed. “No strange pains, then? No weird symptoms you're neglecting to mention to your doctor?”
John rolled his eyes. “I am my doctor,” he said. “Trust me, if there were something wrong, I'd know. Just because I'm not from a world that doesn't bother with mortality doesn’t mean I'm about to drop dead.”
Mycroft made a disbelieving humming sound. “Well, do take care of yourself.”
“Yep, will do,” said John, turning his attention firmly to his laptop screen, hoping Mycroft would take the hint and leave him alone.
Mycroft mercifully let the conversation die. A few minutes later, Sherrinford came down, dressed in an enormous coat, a bright red woollen hat with an enormous bobble, and a scarf wrapped so many times around his head that any hint of his skull was completely hidden.
“Let's go!” he said in a muffled voice, and he and Mycroft left.
Two minutes later, Sherlock came home. John narrowed his eyes at him.
“You were waiting for them to leave,” he said.
“Of course,” said Sherlock, stepping over to greet John with a kiss. “I've already had far too much Mycroft this month. I come out in a rash if I spend too much time with him, you know that.”
John snorted. “Dead men don't get rashes.”
Sherlock just smirked.
He was woken up by violin music. He opened his eyes to see Sherlock standing by the bed, wearing a deep red shirt and playing something that managed to be romantic without turning into saccharine. John blinked at him for the moment or two it took for his brain to wake up properly and then pulled himself upright to watch and enjoy.
He couldn't keep the smile off his face at the idea of being serenaded on Valentine's Day morning. It should be cheesy and mildly embarrassing, but from Sherlock it just felt right. It wasn't as if John hadn't spent long evenings listen to Sherlock play while pretending to read a book in the past.
Sherlock responded to John's smile with a quirk of his mouth that told John that they were both on the same page here. It was cheesy, but what did that matter if they both enjoyed it?
He finished with a flourish of his bow and John gave him a round of applause which Sherlock took with a graceful incline of his head.
“And now,” he announced, turning to leave the room.
“Oh, no,” said John, reaching to catch his wrist. “Don't you think you should kiss me first?”
Sherlock paused. “Of course,” he said. “Yes, a kiss.” He stooped and pressed his lips to John's.
John took care to cup his hand around the back of Sherlock's head and hold him still for a moment so that they could have a decent kiss and not just a peck. When Sherlock moved back, he gave John a soft smile.
“Happy Valentine's Day,” said John.
Sherlock's smile disappeared. “Yes!” he said, as if he'd forgotten something crucial. “Of course! Happy Valentine's Day. The greeting is quintessential. Ah, best wishes and salutations on this day, John. I hope you, um, have a good time.”
“As long as I'm with you, I will,” said John easily. This bit, the part where you just said nice things to each other all day, those were easy to get right. He was less certain about the activities he had planned for later.
Sherlock bobbed his head awkwardly, then cleared his throat. “Right. Okay. Breakfast!”
John let out a sigh and pulled a pillow out to settle behind his back. Sherlock's idea of breakfast should be interesting, given that even when he had been alive, he hadn't been the most consistent eater.
Sherlock returned a moment later with a tray John hadn't even known they owned. He settled it on John's lap and John regarded it with surprise. The tray held two slices of toast, a croissant, a pot of jam, a steaming hot cup of tea and a glass of orange juice. There was also a rose laid on it, the same colour red as Sherlock's shirt. As a romantic offering, John was impressed.
“When did we get orange juice?” he asked, taking a sip.
“At about 3 am,” said Sherlock.
“Right,” said John, with a laugh. “Is that when we got croissants as well?”
“Of course not, John,” said Sherlock. “Patisserie Valerie doesn't open until 7.30.”
Oh, a posh croissant. Of course, Sherlock would never stoop to a Tesco's croissant. That took precedent over the toast, then.
John became engrossed in his breakfast while Sherlock settled on the bed next to him.
“You always enjoy food so much,” observed Sherlock after a while. “It's fascinating to watch.”
John gave him a smile around a mouthful of heavenly croissant.
“I should have got two of those,” said Sherlock.
John gave him an enthusiastic nod.
Sherlock frowned slightly, then his expression cleared. “Next year,” he said. “Love is a process of learning about the other person, and I have just learnt something new about you.”
John swallowed his mouthful. “What, that I'm a bit greedy?”
“That when you appreciate something, you take full advantage of it,” corrected Sherlock.
John took a sip of tea and paused to appreciate the joy that flooded over his taste buds. “That's not PG Tips.”
Sherlock shrugged a shoulder. “I thought you deserved something a bit better.”
John took another sip. “It's incredible.”
Sherlock looked pleased. “There's more in the cupboard.”
“Do I want to know how much it cost?” asked John, turning his attention to the toast.
“Money is immaterial when compared with love,” said Sherlock airily. John had seen how much Sherlock had in his bank accounts when it had all temporarily belonged to him, during those dark months when he had thought Sherlock was dead, so he let that one go.
He took his time with breakfast, enjoying it as thoroughly as possible. They had to be as fully engaged in this holiday as they could be or risk St. Valentine claiming they'd broken their end of the bargain they'd struck with the Holiday Council. It was easy enough to feel bathed in romance and love at this point, when Sherlock was sat watching him eat with obvious pleasure at John's enjoyment, but John couldn't help worrying that they wouldn't be able to maintain this level of romance all day. It felt a bit like a test they had to pass rather than a holiday they were celebrating together.
The moment he finished, Sherlock leapt up to whisk the tray away.
“Hang on!” said John, grabbing the rose before it disappeared with the plates. “I'll keep that, thank you. Do we have any vases?”
Sherlock hesitated. “We have mugs?” he suggested. “Or beakers? I have a couple without acid in them.”
John laughed. “I think either would be very fitting for us.”
Sherlock nodded and disappeared into the kitchen with the tray. He came back with an Erlenmeyer flask, which John put his rose into and then set on the bedside table.
“Perfect,” he said.
Sherlock regarded it with a frown. “It's not too...not Valentine's?” he said. “We're not meant to be getting Halloween in this, remember.”
“We're not,” said John. “We're getting us in it. Customisation, Sherlock. It's not romantic unless we find it so, and I find you giving up your chemistry equipment for me very romantic.”
Sherlock frowned, but nodded. He glanced at his watch. “Ten minutes until you take over,” he said. “I have one last thing, hang on...”
He disappeared again. John relaxed, enjoying the fact that he'd been awake for over an hour but was still in bed.
When Sherlock came back, he was holding a red envelope and looking nervous. “My research indicated that this was essential,” he said. “However, most of the available offerings were atrocious, and I could not imagine you enjoying them, so...Well. You'll see.”
He handed the envelope over and John took it. Written on the front in Sherlock's loopy handwriting was John Hamish Watson.
“Usually I'm in trouble if someone pulls out my middle name,” he observed.
“There are a lot of Johns,” said Sherlock, “and even quite a few John Watsons. I wanted to make sure you knew that this was solely for you. Your name may be common but you are unique. Especially to me.”
John smiled. “You're pretty good at this romance thing.”
Sherlock's shoulders relaxed. “My research is paying off, then,” he said, which rather ruined the effect.
John opened the envelope to find a card with a diagram of a heart that could have come from one of his medical textbooks on it. Underneath it, Sherlock had written, I find the popular idea that this organ contains all my love for you erroneous for two reasons. The first is that mine no longer functions, and the second is that it is far too small to encompass the full depth of my feelings.
Right. John opened the card to find a cross section of a brain.
This, on the other hand, is not only the true seat of my emotions, but also the only part of me that functions at a capacity great enough to contain at least a portion of my regard for you.
John laughed. “Only you could give a Valentine's card that includes a reference to your enormous brain.”
Sherlock twitched. “Is it okay?” he asked, and John realised he was anxious about it.
He reached out for Sherlock's wrist, giving his arm a tug to get him to come down onto the bed where John could reach his lips.
“It's perfect,” he said, and kissed him. He glanced at the clock. “And now we're into my bit of the day.”
Sherlock tried to straighten up. “What do you have planned?”
John kept him exactly where he was. “Just this,” he said, and tugged him further onto the bed until he was sprawled out over the top of John. “A nice, relaxed morning in bed, with as much snogging as possible.”
Sherlock grinned. He sat up just enough to pull his shirt off, carefully folding it and setting it on the ground to avoid wrinkling it before he crawled under the covers and spread himself over John.
“An excellent plan.”
John rested a hand on the small of Sherlock's back and slid the other into his hair. “I thought so,” he agreed, and settled in for a long, lazy snog.
Time passed. John didn't really pay attention to how much, given how engrossing the activity he was engaged in was. Kissing Sherlock never seemed to get dull, despite knowing that it wasn't going to progress beyond that. Sherlock was relaxed against him, his hands slowly moving from framing John's face to stroking down over his shoulders and then back up again, while John's wandered all over the length of Sherlock's back, feeling the muscles shift beneath his skin as Sherlock settled in closer. Those sensations, combined with the press of their mouths as their lips and tongues caressed each other, were all John could wish for.
Which didn't mean that his body didn't still get geared up for sex, of course. His erection built slowly but eventually it was impossible to deny its presence. Sherlock shifted his weight away from it, rolling John onto his side and wrapping an arm around him while allowing his cock nothing to rub against. The move only gave John a short-term reprieve from the increasing lust and eventually he was forced to pull away from Sherlock to take a few deep breaths.
Sherlock watched him with the same intent look he always gave John at such times, as if he was hoping to understand this if he just observed John closely enough. Given that John had never felt a single twitch from Sherlock's cock, he didn't think Sherlock would ever get it.
“Other couples would be having sex right now,” said Sherlock as John worked on pulling back a bit so that they could return to kissing.
“Some of them,” agreed John.
Sherlock frowned. “Sex is considered romantic,” he said. “Would you want to engage in it? I could stimulate you manually. Or perhaps I could give the mouth thing a go?” He sounded rather doubtful about that.
John let out a breathy laugh. “No, thanks. I'll do a lot of things to appease the Holiday Council, but that's going too far. Sex is only romantic when both people are into it. Being 'manually stimulated' by someone who doesn't enjoy it and has no idea what he's doing really doesn't fall into that category.”
Sherlock's frown didn't go but his shoulders relaxed and John knew he'd said the right thing.
He reached out to comb his fingers through Sherlock's hair. “I want you exactly as you are, doing the things you like doing,” he said quietly. “When you let me do those things with you – well, that's what I find romantic.”
The frown cleared away and Sherlock smiled again. “I like doing this,” he said, and leaned in to kiss John again.
More time passed. Eventually, John's erection became rather insistent again. His lips were starting to feel a bit numb so he pulled away completely. “Okay, lazy morning of snogging achieved.”
Sherlock propped himself up on an elbow to look down at him. “What do you have planned next?”
“A shower,” said John, sitting up. As fun as the lie-in had been, he was now starting to feel a bit icky from having spent so long in his pyjamas. “After that, we're going out.” He got out of bed and stretched.
“Where?” asked Sherlock, watching him.
John just gave him a grin and turned to walk into the bathroom. There was no point in having kept his plans a secret for the last fortnight if he gave them away now.
“That will look ridiculous on you,” said Sherlock. “You're far too short.”
“Thanks,” said John. “But I wasn't going to wear it myself.” He held it open for Sherlock to put on. Sherlock just stared at him.
“Helping your other half into their coat,” said John. “Classic chivalry.”
Sherlock snorted, but did turn to put his arm into a sleeve. “Bloody ridiculous,” he said. “I'm perfectly capable of dressing myself.”
John settled the coat over his shoulders and gave them a little stroke. “Of course you are, darling,” he said in his best patronising tone.
He turned back for his own coat but Sherlock was quicker, grabbing it out from under his fingers.
“My turn,” he said, and held it out with a grin.
John sighed but let him help him on with it. The act made him feel like a small child rather than a beloved lover and he decided to take it out of his 'chivalrous' repertoire. Being made to feel like a child was never romantic.
“Do I get to find out where we're going now?” asked Sherlock.
“Nope,” said John. He led the way downstairs, ignoring Sherlock's annoyed noise behind him. He knew Sherlock well enough now to tell when his annoyance was faked.
The first place they went to was Speedy's.
“Hardly worth putting our coats on to come here,” said Sherlock as they went inside.
“We're not stopping,” said John. He gave Mr. Chatterjee a smile. “Got it ready?”
“Oh yes,” said Mr. Chatterjee, pulling a bag out from behind the counter and handing it over. “Didn't realise Sherlock would be with you though, I'd have put a bit more in.”
John took the bag. “Not a problem. I'm sure there'll be more than enough.”
“A picnic,” announced Sherlock as they left Speedy's.
“Yes,” said John. “Very clever, well done. Do tell me every tiny observation that might have led you to such a deduction.” He turned to head towards Regents Park.
Sherlock huffed but didn't say anything. Instead, his hand crept out to slide into John's. John shot him a pleased look and gave his fingers a squeeze through their gloves.
“It's a bit cold for a picnic, isn't it?” asked Sherlock as they walked through the park gates.
“Not for a dead man,” said John. “And don't worry, I put on plenty of layers.”
Sherlock nodded. “I did note the two jumpers,” he said. “Rather obvious that we'd be outdoors, but I was expecting something more active.”
John headed over the bridge to the deserted lawn around the bandstand. “We do active all the time,” he said. “Today is meant to be about taking time to just be with each other.”
He found a suitable spot, close enough to the water to see the ducks but not so close that the ground was nothing but mud, then pulled out the blanket he'd given Mr. Chatterjee to put in the bag last night. He spread it out and gestured towards it with a bow.
“If Monsieur would like to be seated.”
Sherlock snorted. “Your French accent is terrible,” he said, giving the final word its French pronunciation and sounding like a Parisian native. He did deign to sit, though.
John settled beside him, reached into the bag and pulled out a Thermos. “Tea,” he announced.
Sherlock's face lit up. “Excellent.”
John left him to pour out tiny plastic cups of tea while he pulled out a sandwich for himself. He hadn't bothered getting Mr. Chatterjee to put any food in for Sherlock. Now he was dead, Sherlock didn't bother eating unless it was something he was particularly fond of, or a social occasion that he couldn't avoid.
Sherlock handed John a cup of tea which John gently tapped it against Sherlock's. “To the unexpected,” he said. “Because that's exactly what you've always been to me. The unexpected rescue from that bedsit, the unexpected love I can't now imagine being without, the unexpected dead man turning up to rescue me from Moran. You're a constant surprise, and I love every new reveal.”
Okay, so he'd prepared that in advance. He'd realised that he'd have to pull out some romantic words but he was rubbish at ad-libbing such things. Much better to take some time with a pen and paper a few days before and make sure it didn't accidentally come across as insulting or patronising.
From the rather blitzed look on Sherlock’s face, he'd succeeded. John smiled and took a sip of tea, turning back to his sandwich.
Sherlock cleared his throat. “The sentiment is entirely returned,” he said. “I never foresaw this at all, or even anything of its kind. You completely blind-sided me, John, far more than I did you. And after far longer spent assuming that my life would hold no surprises, but would follow the roadmap I had laid out for it precisely.”
John frowned. “What do you mean? I thought I had a roadmap from the age of 16, when I decided to become an Army doctor. You were nowhere in it.”
Sherlock shrugged. “I was rather older than sixteen but it'd still have been before that,” he said. John stared at him and got a one-sided shrug for his trouble. “You do know that I'm older than you, John.”
John frowned. Sherlock might be frozen at the age of his death now, but he'd been ageing right up until last year. “You can't be,” he said, trying to remember if he'd ever heard Sherlock's age. “Hang on, why don't I know your birthdate?”
“Because I don't know it,” said Sherlock. “Halloween doesn't use a calendar in the same way that this world does. I was able to calculate the day I was born as January sixth, because I knew it was 299 days to Halloween. Well, it might have been the seventh if it was a leap year, but the probability is the sixth. The year, though – no one pays attention to such things there.”
John gaped at him. “You don't know how old you are?” he repeated. “But surely Mycroft or Sherrinford or, or, your mother counted?”
Sherlock shook his head. “People don't, there,” he said. “No point – it's not as if we've got a limited lifespan that we're counting down. Ageing is very much a matter of choice.”
John didn't know what to say. “So, wait,” he managed eventually. “You don't have even the slightest idea?”
Sherlock shrugged. “I was alive for roughly two decades before Jack tried to take over Christmas, then it was another decade until Sherrinford tried to escape the first time,” he said. “Then there was possibly another decade before we escaped. Might have been two. When we reached this world it was...” He paused and thought for a while, “1991. So I might be between sixty and seventy. Possibly older – I was never very good at keeping track of time when I was in Halloween.”
John was gobsmacked. “I'm dating a geriatric?”
Sherlock scowled. “I'd hardly say that,” he said. “Besides, I'm dead. Surely that should be your bigger concern.”
John let out a long breath. He shook his head and held up his tea cup for another toast. “Still being unexpected,” he said. “Christ, I suppose you always will be.”
“I hope so,” said Sherlock, and he tapped John's cup with his own.
John turned to press their shoulders together, looking out over the water at the ducks. “Do you know why I chose this for today?”
Sherlock shrugged. “Sudden desire for hypothermia?”
“Nope,” said John. “Do you remember the last time we had a picnic?”
Sherlock frowned. “We've never had a picnic.”
“We sat by a pond in Halloween and I ate pumpkin bread that may or may not have made me a cannibal,” said John.
Sherlock's face cleared. “Oh, yes. I wasn't aware that counted as a picnic.”
“Close enough,” said John. “Do you know what I thought at the time? I thought that we'd never spent so long just sitting around doing nothing together before. Just sitting and chatting with no other calls on our time. It was- I liked it.”
Sherlock was silent for a minute before nodding. “Yes. Me too.” He glanced at John, then moved so that he could lay his head in John's lap, just as he had in Halloween. “You may play with my hair,” he announced.
“I'd be honoured,” said John, and did just that.
John's plan had been to stay in the park until Sherlock got bored. He'd assumed that would be about ten minutes, which he'd hoped would be enough time for him to eat his sandwich and drink enough tea to get him through the afternoon.
After nearly an hour, Sherlock showed no signs of restlessness. He seemed just as content as John was to stay where they were, talking quietly about a number of things and watching the ducks swim past, looking peeved at the lack of crumbs being thrown.
In the end, it was the cold that made John announce they were moving on. “I really am going to get hypothermia if we stay any longer,” he said, pushing at Sherlock to get him to sit up. “Come on, time for the next thing.”
Sherlock stretched as he stood up. “I'm disappointed,” he said. “I was waiting for a plane to fly overhead and write 'John and Sherlock forever' in its vapour trail.”
John snorted as he packed up the picnic bits. “Exactly how rich do you think I am?”
“You could have asked Mycroft for a loan,” said Sherlock, taking John's hand as they turned to head towards the park exit.
“Oh yeah, I can see that going well. 'Mycroft, can I borrow an obscene amount of money in order to make an over-the-top romantic gesture to your brother?' He'd definitely go for that.”
“Surely no gesture is over-the-top when it comes to displaying the limitless depths of your love for me?” asked Sherlock.
John didn't bother responding to that.
It took about forty minutes to get to Barts, but only seven minutes for Sherlock to work out where they were going. Once they were on the Circle line heading towards Edgeware, he spent twenty seconds with the intense look that meant he was mentally running over the Tube map and all the possible places of interest that they could be heading for, and then relaxed.
“Barts,” he said. “Our first meeting. Yes, that's appropriate.”
John just shook his head. “You still manage to amaze me with your brilliance.”
Going to Barts hadn't been as obvious for John as Sherlock made it sound. He'd wavered over the idea, very aware that they had more history there than just their meeting. When they arrived, he couldn't keep his eyes from going to the spot on the roof where he had once seen Sherlock silhouetted against the sky.
Sherlock's hand squeezed his. “I survived,” he said, softly.
John jerked a nod. “I remain incredibly grateful for that.”
Inside, Sherlock turned to head up to the lab where they'd first met, but John tugged him in a slightly different direction. “We need to stop somewhere first.”
Sherlock frowned. “The mortuary,” he said. “You've procured some unusual body part for me. No, no, you wouldn't encourage me to keep dead things in our fridge and besides, I saw Molly yesterday and she gave no hint of it. She can't lie to save her life.”
“Not even close,” said John, and led them to a small office, filled with books, in which Mike Stamford was waiting for them.
“John! Sherlock!” he said with a wide grin. “Good to see you!”
“Mike,” said John, shaking his hand. “Have you got it?”
“Oh yes,” said Mike. He pulled a folder off his desk and handed it to John, who tucked it away before Sherlock could get a close look.
Sherlock frowned. “You have involved confederates in your schemes.”
“You make it sound as if I'm cheating at something,” said John.
The look on Sherlock's face made it clear that he thought that John was. John ignored it.
“I'll see you later,” he said to Mike, trying not to notice the indulgent smile Mike was giving them.
“Oh yes, you two go and have fun,” said Mike, making little shooing gestures with his hands.
John tugged Sherlock out of there, reflecting that Mike really did take too much pride in having introduced them in the first place.
“What's in the folder?” asked Sherlock.
“Patience,” said John, heading up to the lab where they'd met.
Sherlock huffed. “Not my strong suit.”
John ignored him. Now that he was close to handing it over, he was beginning to feel nervous about it. What if he'd got it wrong, and Sherlock didn't really want it? What if he'd read too much into an incident that had been nearly a year ago?
When they got to the lab, Sherlock looked around, then strode over to stand where he had been the first time John had seen him. “How does this go?” he said. “You walk in, limping and bemused, and I confound you with my brilliance?”
John laughed. “More like you came across as so close to insanity that I'd get to be the sane one, even with raging PTSD.”
Sherlock frowned. “You didn't have PTSD.”
John just shrugged. That didn't seem an argument worth having. “I thought I did,” was all he said.
He set the folder down on the desk, watching the way Sherlock's eyes followed it. He'd specifically asked Mike to make sure there wasn't a clue to what was within on the outside, but who knew what Sherlock could tell from a folder? In order to distract him, John reached inside his jacket and carefully pulled out an envelope. It had got a bit battered on their travels, but it wasn't too bad. He handed it over.
“Happy Valentine's Day.”
Sherlock ripped open the envelope without bothering with a response.
“My love for you is like a Phenyl Acetone/Methylamine synthesis,” read Sherlock. “We have a bond that not even an endothermic process could break.” He spared John an unamused look as he opened the card. “In other words, I love our chemistry.”
John had gone through half the internet looking for the worst chemistry-related Valentine's Day card and the pained look on Sherlock's face made every moment of it worth it. He gave up on trying to hold in a giggle.
Sherlock looked up with a black look. “Did Sherrinford help with this?”
“Nope,” said John gleefully. “All my own bad humour, I'm afraid. You know he couldn't help with a Valentine's thing, anyway, not without risking his freedom.”
Sherlock waved that away. “St. Valentine doesn't seem like the type to drag someone back to Halloween against their will,” he said. He set the card down and focused on the folder instead. “Does that contain more puns?”
“No,” said John, “but I do have others, if you're interested.” He took Sherlock's hand, put on his most serious face, and gazed into his eyes. “You must be made of copper and tellurium,” he said, in as heartfelt a manner as he could, “because you're CuTe.”
Sherlock made a distressed noise. “John, this isn't romantic, it's painful.”
John tried to pull himself together. “Sorry, sorry,” he said. “Couldn't resist.” He picked up the folder and took a deep breath. “Well, okay, here you are then. You once said you wanted these. I hope you still do.”
Sherlock snatched the folder from John's hands, flung it open, and then stopped still, his eyes widening in surprise.
“Oh,” he breathed. “Oh, John.” His tone was reverent and John felt his shoulders relax. He'd got it right.
Sherlock flicked through the folder, occasionally stopping to stare.
“This is- When did you? Oh, of course, last week. You said you were helping Mike put together a bookcase, but you were doing this.”
“Yes,” said John. “Is it- you like them, then?”
“Like them?” said Sherlock, finally tearing his eyes away to look up at John. “I love them. They're perfect.”
He put the folder down so that he could step forward and take John in his arms, kissing him soundly. John relaxed into his embrace but it only lasted a second or two before Sherlock tore himself away to go back to the folder. He started to pull the x-rays out, laying them out on the lab bench in front of him.
“Really, your pelvis is the most beautiful thing,” he murmured. “Look at that, it's just- the arc of your ischium!”
John didn't really fancy examining his bones in that much detail, so he just gave Sherlock a nod and a smile.
“I was right,” said Sherlock after another few minutes of intense study. “You have broken your ulna.”
“Fell off my bike when I was eleven,” supplied John.
Sherlock just nodded. It took another few minutes for John to realise that he was laying out the x-rays into the shape of John's body, which would have been creepy even if it wasn't missing a head. John hadn't bothered getting another x-ray of his skull, given that the one Sherlock already had was still in pride of place on their bedroom wall.
“Your ribs...” breathed Sherlock, staring at a chest x-ray and then turning to eye John's shirt with an intent eye. “Hold still,” he commanded.
John dutifully did so as Sherlock pushed his hands up inside John's jumpers and felt around his ribcage with a frown of concentration. His hands were a bit cold but John was getting used to the fact that Sherlock was always room temperature now. It was only disturbing that he was involved with a dead man when he thought about it too much.
“Oh yes,” muttered Sherlock, tracing over John's lower ribs and making him twitch with suppressed ticklishness. “The perfect curve.”
He pulled away and went back to his x-rays.
It took about fifteen minutes for Sherlock to realise that he had been ignoring John in favour of staring at his bones. He spun around, blinking as if coming out of a trance and looking guilty.
“This can wait,” he said, in a voice that wasn't so sure. “What did you have planned next?”
John shrugged. “Honestly? This was pretty much it. I thought that you'd probably spend some time looking at them and there's only an hour before it's your turn, anyway.”
Sherlock glanced at the x-rays again with longing, and then back to John. He straightened. “This day is for both of us,” he said. “You can't be enjoying the romance if I'm fixated on something else.”
John laughed. He couldn't help himself. “Are you kidding, Sherlock? You're fixating on me. More – you're fixating on the parts of me that no one else has ever – will ever – pay any attention to. It's incredibly romantic to have you so interested in the things that make me up.”
Sherlock stepped in close, taking John in his arms. “I'm interested in everything about you,” he said. “Everything that makes you up, both physically and mentally.” He bent to kiss John, and John returned it with interest.
Christ, this was a lot of emotion in one day. He was beginning to feel a bit overdone with sentiment, and they still had the whole evening to go.
Sherlock gave no sign that he was getting tired of all the emotion, though. Instead, he kept kissing John as if they'd been separated for several days rather than having spent the whole day in each other's company. Not for the first time, John was forced to consider the idea that Sherlock was more suited to extremes of emotion than he was.
Well, it was only one day, right? And tomorrow they could settle back into comfortable companionship, without adding in sentiment all over the place. It wasn't as if John really objected to anything they'd done or said today, it was just that it had all been in one day. It really felt like it could have been spread out a bit.
“You really had no further plans?” asked Sherlock, once they'd pulled apart from each other.
John gave a little shrug. “Well, I thought we might find somewhere to have tea. It's just-” He stopped, and took a breath.
Come on, John, he thought. It's only one day of all this, and then you can go back to the non-verbal expressions of love again.
“It's not as if we really need much more than each other's company in order to celebrate our love,” he said. “I thought too much fancy, overdone stuff would just drown out what I really value about being with you, which is just getting to be with you.”
The look on Sherlock's face was more than worth digging deep to get that out. He held John's hands carefully in his own and said, “I completely agree. Let's find you some tea, then. It's been a couple of hours since the last cup, after all, and you do get a bit tetchy if you go too long without some.”
“I do not,” snapped John immediately.
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. “Of course not.”
“You looked just like Mycroft then,” said John. Sherlock immediately looked horrified.
“Low blow,” he hissed, and turned away to gather up his x-rays.
John took his hand again as they left the lab. All traces of Sherlock's snit immediately disappeared. If John had known it was that easy, he'd have started holding hands with the man the day after they'd met.
They stayed there until 6, relaxing together and discussing what sort of disguises Sherrinford might be able to use in the summer when the scarf was no longer believable, how likely it was that Mrs. Hudson would realise that she now had three tenants rather than two, and whether or not Mr. Chatterjee had remembered Valentine's Day.
They were just getting into whether or not they should be encouraging Mrs. Hudson to find a better relationship when Sherlock's phone went off. He pulled it out, silenced it and gave John a beaming grin.
“Six o'clock,” he announced. “My turn.”
“You set your alarm?”
“Of course. I know all too well how easy it is to lose all track of time when with you, John. The speed that Christmas Day went by at was just uncanny.”
John couldn't argue with that. He wasn't sure he'd ever lived through a faster day.
“Okay, then what's the plan?” he asked. “I am in your hands.”
Sherlock jumped to his feet. “Get your coat on,” he said, pulling his own on. “Come on, come on, hurry up.”
John sent him a look and Sherlock relaxed slightly.
“Fine, no rush then. We can saunter, I suppose.”
He was twitchy with impatience though, so John took pity on him. He got his coat on as quickly as he could and followed Sherlock's stride out of the café to the roadside, where Sherlock hailed a taxi.
“In! In!” waved Sherlock, then he ducked by the cabbie's window to give their destination to him in a mutter John couldn't hear.
Well, fine. Time to allow Sherlock his bit of mystery. John relaxed against the seat and smiled at Sherlock as he climbed in, still clutching at his folder of x-rays. Perhaps John should have thought to provide a bag for those.
The taxi started moving and Sherlock turned to John with a serious look.
“Do you remember the first time we were in a cab together?”
John tried to remember. “Going to a crime scene?”
Sherlock nodded. “To the scene of Jennifer Wilson's death.”
“Oh yes,” remembered John. “The pink lady. I thought you were a bit of a nutter at that point.”
“I am a bit of a nutter,” said Sherlock. “So are you. That's a large part of the attraction for both of us.”
John couldn't argue with that.
“It was on that taxi ride that I realised you were more interesting than the average person,” said Sherlock. “The first time I realised that I wanted to spend time getting to know you properly, in complete opposition to how I usually feel about new people I meet.”
“Oh,” said John. He tried to think back, but the memory had blurred into the hundreds of other taxi rides they'd taken together. Bugger his shoddy memory.
“It was also the first time you called me amazing,” said Sherlock, “but I'm sure the two facts are unrelated.”
John laughed and caught up Sherlock's hand in his. “Of course,” he said. “I still do think you're amazing, by the way.”
Sherlock smiled. “And I still want to spend more time with you.”
When the taxi stopped, they were in the middle of Hoxton, in a residential street that John didn't recognise at all.
“Wait for us,” Sherlock told the driver. “We won't be long.”
He tugged John from the taxi and down an alley between the houses. He stopped halfway down and turned to John. “This is where I realised that my desire to be around you was going to be problematic.”
John looked around, blinking. “Where are we?”
Sherlock pointed at the house behind them. “A man lived there who murdered his mother in a rather ingenious way, in order to get hold of his inheritance early and pay off his gambling debts. I was standing here, watching him play online poker through the window when you texted me asking if I was going be back for dinner.”
“Right,” said John.
“And I replied 'yes', and left, even though I'd been planning to stay until his creditor arrived to collect. I knew the creditor had helped arrange the murder but not who he was, and yet I found myself heading home to where I could have risotto and the pleasure of your company rather than wait for him.”
John blinked with surprise. “I don't remember that.”
Sherlock shook his head. “There's no reason why you should. It was just another night from your perspective.” He turned away. “Come on.”
John followed him back to the taxi, racking his memory for a night that matched with what Sherlock had said, but there had been too many times when he'd texted Sherlock about dinner and then they'd shared it together. It was only now that he came to think of it that he realised how often Sherlock must have come home just to be with him.
“So, this is a tour of our most important locations, then?” he said once they were back in the taxi.
“In essence,” said Sherlock. “However, there are some exceptions. I've skipped Roland Kerr Community College, where you shot a man for me and then giggled about it, and I realised that I could be the kind of man who laughed with a friend. I also thought we'd avoid Barts – even if we hadn't already been there, nothing I realised about my feelings for you there was particularly cheerful.”
“No,” agreed John. “Let's skip that section of our past.”
When the taxi pulled up at the next stop, fifteen minutes later, John wasn't very surprised to find that they were outside a graveyard.
“Oh, I know the relevance of this one,” he said, looking through the fence towards where he and Sherlock had first kissed. The gates had already been locked for the night, just as they had been back then. “You're not going to make me climb over again, are you?”
Sherlock looked as if he was considering it for a moment, then shook his head. “Probably not a good idea, with the cabbie watching us. People tend to get a bit silly about trespassing in graveyards after dark.”
“Can't imagine why,” muttered John. “I can't remember, was it that grave, or that one?”
“Neither. It was that one,” said Sherlock, pointing at one some distance from the two John had indicated. “I let you go in alone because I was worried about getting caught by Jack, and you nearly died because of it.”
“I was fine,” said John.
Sherlock gripped tightly at his shoulder, pulling him around so that their eyes met.
“You very nearly weren't,” he said fiercely. “I stood here and watched you fight that woman, and I did nothing. I could have been standing here as I watched you die.” He stopped and took a deep breath, closing his eyes for a moment. “This is where I realised that nothing was more important than keeping you safe, not even my freedom.”
John took the hand that wasn't clenched around his shoulder and squeezed it, but he couldn't think of anything to say. Fitting words to these kinds of emotional moments wasn't his strong point.
“It's also where I found myself taking the risk of kissing you,” continued Sherlock after a moment. “I can't pretend much rational thought went into that decision, but I think it was one of the best I've ever made.”
“Definitely,” agreed John. “Certainly better than the one to put a dead fox in our bath.”
Sherlock huffed a tiny sigh of faked annoyance but kissed John anyway. John wrapped his arms around him and pulled him in close, remembering that first kiss and how surprised he'd been by it. That one kiss had made almost as much difference to his life as meeting Sherlock in the first place, and yet it had seemed so simple and obvious. That described most of the relationship, actually. It had all just fallen into place like it was meant to be.
They kissed until the cabbie rolled down his window and pointedly reminded them that he was still on the meter. Sherlock shot him a glare but allowed John to pull away to head back to the taxi.
“Please tell me we're not going to the graveyard where Moran had me now,” John said as he put his seatbelt on.
Sherlock made a face. “No. I have absolutely no intention of reliving that moment. It did not prompt any emotional epiphanies, at any rate. I knew long before then that I'd do anything to keep you alive, even let Jack take me back to Halloween. I thought we might move on to dinner now.”
“I like that plan,” said John. Lunch was starting to seem a very long time ago, especially with all the emotional moments that had happened since. Who knew romance could be so draining?
Dinner was at Angelo's. John let out a laugh when they pulled up there.
“And here I'd been assuming that you'd take me somewhere terribly posh and pretentious.”
“My research indicated that personal sentimental associations trump extravagance in these matters,” said Sherlock as he paid the cab driver.
Angelo greeted them with his usual enthusiasm, the table by the window, not one but two candles to make it 'more romantic', and a bottle of wine on the house. John couldn't help but wonder how it was that Sherlock managed to win such loyalty from people given how rude he usually was to them.
“Do you remember the first time we sat here?” asked Sherlock.
“Yes,” said John, watching their taxi drive off. “We were looking at a taxi then, as well.”
“And neither of us had any idea that we'd end up back here like this, just over two years later,” said Sherlock.
John nodded. “It's been a crazy two years,” he said. “If you'd told me about it back then, I'd have thought you were nuts.”
“If you'd told me I was going to spend a day like today with you, I'd have been horrified,” mused Sherlock. “Wasting an entire day on all this sentimental rubbish, without any trace of crime to justify it? Ridiculous.”
John snorted and raised his glass. “Well, on the note, cheers. Happy Valentine's Day.”
Sherlock raised his own glass and chinked it against John's, and they both drank.
Dinner went by rather quickly. Sherlock deigned to eat, although he didn't manage more than half a plateful and John was forced to help him finish in order to avoid seeing food go wasted. When dessert came though, Sherlock was rather vehement about not letting John have any of his.
“Should have asked Angelo to slip some pumpkin in it,” muttered John.
Sherlock gave him a scandalised look. “It's hardly romantic to conspire with a restaurateur to steal your lover's pudding, John.”
“I would have to agree,” said a voice, and John looked up to see St. Valentine standing over their table. He started.
There had been something a bit ridiculous about St. Valentine when he'd last seen him, but as he'd been standing next to a giant rabbit in a pink sash, it had been rather minimised. Here, in a perfectly normal London restaurant, the fact that he was dressed in a pink toga with hearts and flowers embroidered along the edge really stood out. Over his shoulder, John could see the other couples in the place staring at him as if expecting some sort of floor show.
Sherlock scowled at him. “You're interrupting.”
“I know,” said St. Valentine. “Don't worry, I won't be here long. I just wanted to check up on you and make sure that your love is still flowing as it should. I can see you're doing an excellent job on that, though.”
He raised his hands and a stream of tiny red lights appeared, flowing between John and Sherlock's chests.
“Was that- what did you do?” asked John, his eyes widening.
“Cheap tricks,” muttered Sherlock.
St. Valentine's hands fell. “That was the love that flows between you two. I can see it, you know. I thought you'd like a visual representation.”
“Uh, yeah,” said John, staring at the now-empty air between him and Sherlock. “That was- um.”
“It was lovely,” said Sherlock impatiently. “Thanks so much, really, it was great. Now, please leave.”
St. Valentine raised an eyebrow. “You're not very good at gratitude, are you?”
“You're intruding,” hissed Sherlock.
“Shut up,” said John. He gave St. Valentine the most sincere smile he could manage. “Thanks. For everything. I'm sorry Sherlock's being a bit of a brat.”
St. Valentine returned the smile. “It's fine. I can sense his true emotions.” He turned his smile on Sherlock and said, “You're very welcome.”
Sherlock just twitched and glared harder.
“I'll leave you to it, then,” said St. Valentine, sounding amused. “I just wanted to tell you how much I approved of the way you have spent my day.”
John felt as if he'd passed an exam. They'd done it – they'd successfully celebrated this day and got the blessing of the ruler of it. Sherlock wasn't about to get sent back to Halloween for breaking their deal.
St. Valentine gave them one last smile, then turned away to favour the rest of the room with one as well. “Let the love flow,” he announced, then left, looking like a hippy who had partaken of the really good shit.
A few people stared after him, but as John glanced around to ascertain reactions, he saw that most of the couples were now leaning in towards each other, holding hands and smiling as if there was no one else in the room.
“Christ,” he muttered. “Maybe they should send him to Afghanistan.”
“Don't be idiotic, John,” said Sherlock. “Do you really want your ex-colleagues to end up in romantic clinches with Taliban fighters?”
John blinked at the mental images, and shuddered. “Not really,” he admitted. “But I would love to see how the media would try and report it.”
That made Sherlock smile. “Mycroft would get very tetchy about it,” he said. “He hates it when world events are influenced by the bizarre and inexplicable.”
“You'd think he'd be used to the bizarre and inexplicable after growing up in Halloween,” said John.
Sherlock made a face. “That's the dull kind of bizarre.”
They finished their meal and Sherlock paid, then conducted John out of the restaurant and hailed another taxi.
“I'm a bit sad that you didn't hire a rose-strewn limo,” said John as they got inside.
A flash of panic crossed Sherlock's face until he realised John was joking, when it turned to a glare.
“You took me to the park and yet we did not canoodle in a swan-shaped boat,” he pointed out.
“Well, there's always tomorrow,” said John.
Sherlock shuddered. “Tomorrow we will avoid all mention of romance,” he said. “I'm hoping someone will get killed in a truly gory manner to balance this out.”
John nodded. “I know exactly what you mean. Only so much hearts-and-flowers a man can stand.”
The taxi was heading south rather than towards home. John glanced out of the window and wondered what was coming up next. So far, Sherlock had surprised him by avoiding the most obvious and over-the-top Valentine's Day gestures, and he hoped the trend was going to continue.
The taxi crossed over Westminster Bridge, turned left and drew to a stop. John groaned. “Please tell me we're not.”
Sherlock cleared his throat. “I don't know what you're referring to. Get out of the car.”
John got out with a sigh, turning to stare at the London Eye in front of him, all lit up with red lights. Sherlock had gone for something obvious and over-the-top after all.
Sherlock paid the driver, then took John's hand and pulled him towards the Eye. “Take that look off your face,” he said. “It won't be so bad, and we needed to finish with some form of climax.”
“I suppose we're not going to have the more usual kind of climax,” said John. The entrance to the Eye had been turned into a giant red heart, surrounded by cut-outs of cupids and roses. Vile.
Sherlock shot John a brief look that made John regret the comment. After Sherlock's mention of sex that morning, he really should have been paying attention to not bringing it up as a normal component of Valentine's Day.
They were met at the entrance to the Eye by a man dressed in a black suit, a red waistcoat, and white gloves.
“We have a reservation,” said Sherlock pulling out a piece of paper and pushing it into his hands.
The butler took a moment to glance at it, then smiled and bowed low to gesture at the entrance to the Eye. “Of course, sirs. This way.”
Sherlock swept passed him, pulling John along behind him. They stepped into a capsule that had less Valentine's-themed decoration than John had feared, but not by much. The butler started to follow them, but Sherlock stopped him.
“You are not necessary. We can open the champagne ourselves.”
“I'm afraid that's not permitted, sir,” said the butler, trying to get past Sherlock onto the pod and failing. The pod was reaching the end of the boarding platform, and he looked a bit stressed. “It's mandatory to have an employee on the capsule.”
“Not this one,” said Sherlock decisively and he gave the poor man a bit of a shove, pushing him back just as the doors shut and the capsule began to rise up.
“Sherlock!” John tried to scold, but he couldn't keep in his amusement. Sherlock just grinned at him.
“Champagne!” he announced, and headed to the ice bucket.
John left him to it in favour of wandering over to the windows to actually look at the view Sherlock had paid obscene amounts for them to look at. Given how often he'd walked along this part of the South Bank, he was rather surprised to find it was completely different and far more enthralling to look out at the familiar landscape from this height. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looked really rather beautiful. He realised he'd never really looked at them without seeing a tourist trap that contained a bunch of wankers. Viewed from this height, all he could see was the beauty of the architecture.
“Drink,” said Sherlock, appearing at his elbow and handing him a glass. John took it without looking away from the view.
“Okay, this is better than I was expecting,” he said. They were now high enough to see miles down the river, and he craned to count how many bridges he could see.
“Of course,” said Sherlock, as if anything he organised was naturally going to be perfect. He cleared his throat and added, in the slightly stilted voice they'd both been using all day when they'd been self-consciously romantic, “When I first came here from Halloween, I thought there could be nothing more perfect than London. And then I met you, and was proved wrong.”
John grinned at him and raised his glass to tap against Sherlock's. “That was a good one,” he said.
Sherlock nodded with acknowledgement, shooting John a smirk as he drank.
“How about this one,” said John, looking over Horse Guards and out towards St. James's Park. “I always knew London was the only place I could stand to live, but I was never truly alive here until I met you.”
“Oh, very nice,” said Sherlock. They chinked glasses again. “There's chocolate as well, if you want, but it could never be as sweet as you.”
John nodded his appreciation. “Being in your company is far more intoxicating than this champagne,” he added, winning himself a grin from Sherlock.
They'd reached the top of the wheel and John took the chance to look around in every direction, sipping the champagne as he did so. No point in wasting it, after all.
“I did consider proposing while we were up here,” said Sherlock. For a moment John thought it was just part of the game they'd been playing, and then he took in the look on Sherlock's face.
“What?” he asked, rather dumbly.
Sherlock shook his head as if to dismiss the seriousness of such a statement. “It seemed rather pointless, though. We both already know that this is a lifetime commitment, and I'm not sure dead men are meant to get married anyway. Mostly, though, I didn't want to treat such a thing as just another romantic moment to appease St. Valentine with.”
John nodded. “Well, I'd have said yes,” he said. “And then we'd have been stuck organising a wedding, which is a whole load of bollocks. We're better off as we are, really.”
“Yes, I had considered that a wedding would be appalling,” said Sherlock. “Given how stressful this day was to prepare for, a wedding could only be worse.”
John reached out to take his hand. “Well, we know we consider ourselves married. I think we can skip the rest of it.”
Sherlock squeezed his hand and beamed. “To the rest of our lives, then,” he said, and raised his glass.
John toasted him again, but had to point out, “The rest of mine, you mean. Your life has already ended, and yet we're still together.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “Pedantic. To the rest of your life, then. Or, no, to the rest of our existences. I have already considered the matter, and my existence will not last beyond yours. There would be no point in continuing without you.”
John stared. “What?!”
They were descending back down toward the South Bank, but John wasn't looking at the view at all now.
"Sherlock, you can't-"
"On the contrary," interrupted Sherlock. "I can, quite easily. I am already dead, after all. All I have to do is let go of my grip on the world."
"That's-" started John, but Sherlock carried on talking.
"If you mean that I can't because you don't want me to, well, you'll be gone, and so will no longer have a say. At any rate, I don't think this is a conversation we should be pursuing on a day when we're meant to be celebrating our love." He paused, and then added in a low voice, "I really don't enjoy talking about your eventual death, John."
John took a moment to let out a deep breath. "Yeah," he agreed, turning back to look out the window. He wasn't really eager to talk about growing old and dying either. Christ, Sherlock wasn't going to age with him - how long could they stay living in London before someone noticed that? How long before John was celebrating Valentine's Day with someone who looked young enough to be his son?
He stared out at the view, but he wasn't really seeing it now. Behind him, Sherlock stepped close and put both his arms around John, resting his chin on John's shoulder. They stood like that in silence until the capsule reached the ground.
The butler was waiting for them, looking rather angry.
"Don't panic," said Sherlock as he and John stepped out. "We haven't hurt your precious tourist trap."
The butler glared at him and then looked around the capsule with very narrow eyes, as if looking for any tiny sign of damage.
"And we didn't have sex in it either," added Sherlock, taking John's hand and pulling him away. "Although we did get married."
John couldn't hold in a giggle. "Oh god, we did too," he said as they strode out of the exit. "Jesus Christ, we got married on the Eye. We're the worst cliché ever."
"That's the deal we've made," Sherlock pointed out. "Ten days a year, we will be appalling holiday clichés. This one was relatively painless; I am in love with you and I don't particularly mind celebrating that fact. Some of the others, I'm not as keen on."
John put on his best fake Irish accent. "Ah, to be sure, are you not looking forward to the wearing of t' green?"
The horrified look Sherlock gave him was well-worth it.
Back at Baker Street, John made the tea and they drank it side-by-side on the sofa, leaning in towards each other for support.
“Who knew romance could be so exhausting?” said John with a yawn.
“Hmmm,” was the only response he got from Sherlock. He'd put aside his tea in favour of shuffling through the x-rays. He glanced up at the walls with a calculating look.
“Not on the walls in the public rooms,” John reminded him.
Sherlock let out a long sigh. “The ceiling above our bed?” he suggested. “Laid out to reflect your body below?”
“No,” said John firmly. “Do they have to go up at all? Can't you just keep them in a drawer?”
Sherlock responded to that with a scowl. “Do you really think my feelings for you can just be stored away like that?”
“Oh no,” said John. “You don't get to invent that metaphor. Those x-rays aren't representative of anything other than what my bones look like.”
Sherlock subsided with a grumble.
“Anyway,” added John, stretching, “I'm off to bed. You coming?”
Sherlock looked up from the x-rays, clearly considering it. Most of the time he did go to bed when John did, although usually not for longer than it took John to fall asleep. If something else was occupying his attention though, he didn't bother.
“It's not vital for our Valentine's Day celebrations,” said John. “I rather think we can declare those over, and a success. If you want to keep looking at those, I'm not going to get upset that I've missed out on my evening cuddle.”
“Just for a few minutes,” said Sherlock, setting down the x-rays. “It would be foolish to neglect the reality in favour of the image.”
Fifteen minutes later, John was on the edge of sleep, Sherlock's arm carefully tucked around him, when he more felt than heard Sherlock whisper against his hair, “My husband.”
John managed to find enough energy to pat at Sherlock's hand. “My husband,” he repeated in a tired slur, and then fell asleep.
He tried to escape back into the bedroom rather than having to face all three of them before his morning tea, but Sherlock wasn't about to let that happen. He flung open the bedroom door as John was raising the duvet to crawl back under it.
“John, you can't leave me alone with Mycroft. I need you to dilute some of his awfulness.”
John turned and gave him a beseeching look, but Sherlock ignored it. He grabbed John's arm and propelled him out of the room.
“He's your brother as well now, after all,” he said with great satisfaction.
Christ, John hadn't considered that.
“Oh, Sherlock,” said Mycroft, giving Sherlock a very pitying look. “Please tell me that doesn’t mean the obvious.”
Sherlock beamed at him and slung an arm around John's shoulders. “We agreed that we consider ourselves married. He's your brother-in-law now.”
Sherrinford had pulled off most of his disguise but was still wearing a woollen hat with an enormous bobble on top. His skull projected disapproval. “That's not how marriages work. You need to have a ceremony and a party, and a horrendous amount of alcohol, and terrible speeches, and all that jazz.”
Sherlock made a face. “We skipped that rubbish. Unimportant.”
Sherrinford made a groaning noise. “You can't just skip-”
“Yes, we can, and yes, we did,” said Sherlock. “It's done, get over it.”
Sherrinford made a despairing sound, but they were spared from further disapproval by Mrs. Hudson's footsteps on the stairs. Sherrinford immediately went floppy, collapsing back against the sofa as if he was incapable of supporting his bones.
“Oh, Mycroft,” said Mrs. Hudson as she came in. “I thought I heard more than just John and Sherlock up here.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Hudson,” said Mycroft.
“I've got some rock cakes downstairs if you want something with your tea,” she said, apparently not noticing that none of them had tea in her firm belief that every visitor was an excuse for a fresh pot. She glanced over at Sherrinford and made a face. “Oh, Sherlock, I do wish you wouldn't play around with that thing. Gives me quite a turn, it does.”
She stepped over and pulled the hat off Sherrinford's head, then rubbed her sleeve over the dome of his skull, as if wiping away a smudge. “It's just macabre. I found it posed in front of that easel upstairs the other day, as if it was painting. Why would you want that around the place?”
“You were upstairs?” said Sherlock. “Why were you upstairs?”
Mrs. Hudson gave him a look. “It's my house, dear. I wanted something from the attic. I must say, I didn't know you were such a painter. Seems a shame that you've used John's room for it, though – the poor man doesn't have any space to himself at all.”
“I'm alright,” said John. “I don't mind.”
“John uses my bedroom far more than I do these days,” said Sherlock, which was true, but only because John slept and Sherlock didn't. “It's only fair I get his in return.”
“Well, perhaps,” said Mrs. Hudson doubtfully.
“They are not Sherlock's paintings, at any rate,” said Mycroft. “They were painted by our brother. Sherlock doesn't possess anything resembling artistic ability.”
“Except his music,” John put in.
“Your brother?” said Mrs. Hudson. “Oh, I didn't know there was a third one! Is he here?” she glanced around, looking straight past Sherrinford.
“Not at present,” said Sherlock, glaring at Mycroft. “He is extremely shy, I doubt you will ever actually see him in person.”
“Oh, the poor man,” said Mrs. Hudson. “Mrs. Jenkins has a daughter like that. Can't leave the house at all, just sits inside with the curtains shut. Terribly sad. Well, I'll leave you to it then, I just wanted to remind you two that the window cleaners are coming this afternoon, so you'll want to keep all your clothes on when in view of the windows.”
She gave John a bit of a wink that made his blood go cold, then disappeared again.
Sherlock immediately turned to glare at Mycroft. “Why would you tell her about Sherrinford?”
Mycroft let out a sigh. “Think, Sherlock. How long do you think you can conceal the presence of a third person living in this flat? I am merely setting up for the eventual reveal.”
“What reveal? 'Here's my brother the painter, by the way, he's also a skeleton'?” said John. He snorted. “That'll go down well.”
“We could just tell her I went through a minimalist phase and took it too far,” said Sherrinford cheerfully. “I was trying to get down to the bare bones of who I am as an artist.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of 'my brother was terribly disfigured in an accident and now cannot bear to be seen by strangers.' It has the added advantage of being technically correct,” said Mycroft. He stood up and collected his umbrella. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get to work. Good day.”
“Bye,” said John, but he was the only one who bothered.
Mycroft left and Sherlock let out an exasperated sigh and collapsed into a chair. “I hate it when he's right,” he grumbled.
Sherrinford grinned at him. “If it helps, I prompted that with some of the things I said last night.”
Sherlock brightened. “It does help. I like it when you manipulate him.”
“I know,” said Sherrinford indulgently, and John turned to go into the kitchen and make tea.