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[personal profile] pipmer1
Title: Polaris
Author: PipMer
Length: 6300 words
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Relationships: Sherlock Holmes/John Watson, Sherlock Holmes & John Watson, Mary Morstan/John Watson
Characters: Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, Greg Lestrade, Mary Morstan
Additional Tags: Alternate Reality, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Fluff, Angst, Happy Ending, Friendship, Romance, Season/Series 03 Spoilers, 5+1 Things, Birthday Fic, Retirement!Lock

Summary: In every possible universe, and in any conceivable reality - one thing always remains constant:  Sherlock Holmes loves John Watson.

Author's Notes: A late late birthday gift for my friend [livejournal.com profile] opaljade. I hope you like it!

This is formatted as a  5 + 1 story. The first section is canon compliant, taking place during The Sign of Three. The next four sections are divergence from canon, showing four alternate ways events could have transpired. And the final +1 part - well, I hope that it's self explanatory.

Special thanks to both [livejournal.com profile] prettybirdy979 and [livejournal.com profile] batik96 for beta duties, cheerleading and encouragement. You are the best! And much gratitude to [livejournal.com profile] arianedevere for use of her transcript, which is found here.

Just one final note: yes, the quote at the beginning is from a Wikipedia article, here.  I chose to include it because, in my mind, it is the perfect metaphor for the story I am trying to tell.

Because it lies nearly in a direct line with the axis of the Earth's rotation "above" the North Pole—the north celestial pole—Polaris stands almost motionless in the sky, and all the stars of the Northern sky appear to rotate around it. Therefore, it makes an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation and for astrometry.

1.  The way things are

“.... so know this: Today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved – in short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down, and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.”

Sherlock Holmes’s hands tremble minutely and his voice barely shakes as he finally puts into words what John Watson means to him. No one in the room is observant enough to notice; he thanks every non-existent deity there is that his brother declined the invitation. He doesn’t think he would survive another round of Mycroftian “don’t get involved” concern. All these feelings that have shaken loose inside of him, ever since that day John asked him to be his best man, have chosen the most inconvenient time to break free and come to the fore.

Sherlock knows that John has always been important to him, but it wasn’t until his return and being newly embraced by his friend’s warmth and constancy that he realised the direction his affection had taken. Not much in his life takes him by surprise, but this had, and what a delightful surprise it had been. The knowledge that John’s love doesn’t take the same form as his is of no importance whatsoever. The depth of feeling is the same, and that’s what matters.

Sherlock floats through the rest of the evening in a haze of contentment and satisfaction. There’s even a case to shake things up, something that Sherlock and John solve in a blaze of glory without any blood being shed. Well, it was shed a bit. No loss of life though, nothing to cast a pall over the biggest and most important day of John’s life. Solving a case - saving a life. Something for John to look back on with fondness in years to come. And there will be many of those years; Sherlock will make sure of it.

Sherlock and Mary will make sure of it.

The thought causes Sherlock to falter, but just for a moment. He genuinely likes Mary, another unexpected occurrence that had blindsided him. He had never warmed to any of John’s previous girlfriends, not even Sarah, who had at least been somewhat intelligent with a level head on her shoulders. But Mary, unlike all the others, had taken to him almost as quickly as John had in the beginning. To have something like that happen to Sherlock twice in his life, with two different people - well, improbable doesn’t even begin to cover it. Although it does make sense, in its own strange way. Mary opened herself up to him for the same reason Sherlock allowed her to get close. They love the same man, after all, a man whose happiness is of paramount importance to them both.

And John is indeed happy. Over-the-moon, ineffably, deliriously happy. His eyes shine as he dances with his new wife, face aglow and animated in a way Sherlock hasn’t seen in a very long time. The perfect ending to a bewilderingly perfect day.

Sherlock nods to himself as he steps away from the festivities. John is in good hands, surrounded by the rest of the people who love and cherish him. Sherlock will play his part in future, just as he vowed to do. It’s a smaller role than he had hoped for, and yet more than he ever expected. More than he deserves, certainly. If John Watson has taught him anything, it’s that supporting characters often wind up influencing pivotal scenes in the story. Sherlock is more than honoured to return the favour.


2. The way things were never meant to be

The flat is musty and stifling, but he can’t leave it. Not today, anyway. The curtains are drawn, blocking out the May sunshine and throwing the room into gloom and darkness. He’s been sitting in the same spot for hours, clad in his dressing gown and feet bare, staring at the empty chair opposite him. A discarded cigarette package lies crumpled at his feet; another one, half-full, rests on the end table. Hazy smoke eddies and swirls in the air around his head, almost obscuring the orange tip flaring to life between his fingers. A crystal ashtray overflowing with sooty remnants of the day’s activities sits precariously on his right knee as his left leg jitters up and down in a staccato rhythm.

Sherlock’s hands visibly tremble and his exhalations audibly shake. Not even Anderson would fail to notice these tells. Thank God he is alone, where no one can see how affected he is by current circumstances. Circumstances for which he can admit being partially, if not completely, responsible.

Sherlock looks down at the newspaper on his lap - specifically, the section announcing recent weddings. And more specific yet, the picture of a smiling couple who had been married just two days prior.


Sherlock’s lips twitch slightly at the sight of John’s full name. Oh, how he must have hated that, having it splashed across the page for all to see. Sherlock wishes he could have seen his face when the invitations had been drawn up. Not that Sherlock has seen an invitation himself, mind; he just assumed that’s how they must have read, since it was traditional.

His eyes skim down the listing of names for the wedding party. Bill Murray as best man - no surprise there; he’s John’s oldest friend, and the man who had saved his life in Afghanistan. Two ushers: Mike Stamford and some bloke named David. No pageboy, which isn’t really surprising these days. He doesn’t recognise any of the bridesmaids’ names, but why would he? He’s only met Mary Morstan the once. He knows very little about her, aside from the few cursory deductions he read off of her during that disastrous night. All he cares to remember is that she had failed to talk John round, like she had promised. Sherlock hasn’t seen or spoken to either of them since.

Mary looks very much like Sherlock remembers. Short pixie haircut, radiant smile, fresh-faced innocence. He only spares a glance for her before moving on to the man by her side. He traces the sides of John’s face and his lips with his index finger. Even with the greyer hair and the still-present moustache, John cuts a striking figure with his morning suit and dazzling smile. His features are relaxed, his eyes clear of any shadow or sadness. Sherlock wonders if he’s aware that he’ll be a father soon. Probably not; he doubts that Mary herself knows at this early stage.

It’s funny, Sherlock thinks, that he didn’t realise how much he had come to depend on John Watson’s friendship until he had lost it. Ironic that his faked death ultimately resulted in the one thing he was trying to prevent in the first place. He would do it again, though, without hesitation. If nothing else, he’s learned that he is capable of love. After so many years of believing himself a sociopath, it’s actually quite a relief knowing that he’s not quite as broken as he had always thought.

And anyway, the game’s never over until it’s over, yes? Whatever it takes, whatever happens, Sherlock will always be there, always, whenever John might need him in the future. Even if his friend has cut him out of his life for now, Sherlock Holmes will never turn his back on John Watson.

Satisfied that he’s indulged quite enough in self-pity and sentiment, Sherlock stabs out his cigarette and leaps to his feet. Notes and melodies are already swirling around in his head; he might as well get started before it all gets lost in the fog of hazy memory. He’ll compose a lullaby for John and Mary’s eventual arrival. At the very least, he can record it on a CD or flash drive and send it to them so it can be played whenever the infant needs to be soothed to sleep.

Sherlock grabs a blank sheet of paper and a pencil, placing them on the music stand. He positions his violin under his chin, lifts his bow, and closes his eyes. The opening measures of the music coalesce in his head, and he begins to play.


3. Better late than never

It had taken only one mistake, a fatal one in Tibet, for Sherlock to lose all communication with his brother. This meant, of course, that he lost his only means of support. Now he’s adrift, on his own, with no relief in sight. It’s been four years since his leap from Bart’s rooftop; he should have been home years ago. Mycroft had estimated two years, and his brother was never wrong.

It’s to the point where Sherlock wonders if it’s best to just stay dead. After so long, who would possibly be glad to see him return? Everyone has undoubtedly moved on with their lives, and they are all most likely better off without him hanging around bollixing up everything. Mrs Hudson can find tenants who won’t destroy her property or fill the flat with noxious chemicals. Lestrade will no longer be risking his career by bringing a civilian on cases. Molly won’t continue to be manipulated by an uncaring sociopath, perhaps even move on in her romantic life. And John -

Sherlock can’t think about John without getting a lump in his throat and a hitch in his breath. For the first two years, the old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ had proven accurate, for the most part. He had so much on his plate, so many threads to unravel and murderers to track down, that his mind had had no time for distractions of any kind. His plan (and Mycroft’s) had been to stay completely focussed on the task until every last whisper of Moriarty had been eradicated. The sooner it was done, the sooner Sherlock could return to the life he had left behind.

But once he had lost contact with Mycroft, everything changed. All of his energy is now spent just trying to survive and to stay one step ahead of Moriarty’s remaining thugs. There’s no word from home, no comforting updates that serve to anchor Sherlock and reassure him that there’s actually a valid reason for him doing all of this.

When one is lost at sea and adrift, another proverb takes the place of the first: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’. He misses John with an ache that has settled deep in his bones, an ever-present discomfort that he fears is now so deeply entrenched that it will only be alleviated when he is dead.

There is a picture, an actual physical photograph, that Sherlock carries with him at all times, ever since his departure from London. He knows it was an unforgivably stupid thing for him to do; if Mycroft ever finds out, he’ll be sorely displeased. It’s highly, highly dangerous to carry anything with him that could be traced back to his true identity. A picture of Dr John H. Watson certainly fits that criterion. But Sherlock needed to bring it with him, and the longer his mission drags on the more reluctant he is to part with it, risk be damned. It’s the thing that keeps him tethered to reality, a reminder that he’s fighting for something tangible. That even though Sherlock may be all but forgotten, he’ll always remember those he had to leave behind.

Right now Sherlock is holed up in the loft of an abandoned barn in Peru. The sun is just beginning to set, and the rays poke through the rotting timbers. Sherlock burrows into his bed of straw and focusses on trying to quiet his brain in preparation for a few hours of sleep. He has his doubts on how successful he’ll be.

The date is July 7th. It’s John’s birthday.

Sherlock pulls out the picture, like he does every evening, and studies the face of his best friend. What is John doing today? Is he out celebrating, surrounded by friends and loved ones? Or has he chosen to have a quiet night in with a close mate or girlfriend? Is he safe? Is he happy? Does he ever think of Sherlock and, if he does, is it with fondness? Or is it with regret?

Sherlock can’t know the answers to these questions, at least not yet.

The photo he holds in his hand was taken the day that he and John had interviewed Kenny Prince. In the midst of all the silliness, snapping photographs just to throw Kenny off the scent of why they were really there, one of those random shots happened to capture John in profile as he smiled gleefully at Sherlock’s antics. His head is tipped back in laughter, and the lighting streaming in the window accentuates the blond in his hair, making it shimmer and sparkle. He looks so young and carefree, the most joyous that Sherlock has ever seen him.

Sherlock’s heart swells with love at the image. The edges of the picture are worn and frayed, but the colours haven’t yet begun to lose their lustre. If he is fated never to see John in the flesh again, this would almost be enough to tide him over for as long as he himself exists.


Sherlock yawns. The events of the day are quickly catching up with him. He’s not sure if he’s just tired or if he’s actually getting lazy. Legwork doesn’t hold the same appeal for him now as it did when he was in London, when he had someone by his side to share all of the fun and excitement. Things just aren’t interesting anymore.

Sherlock stretches his body over his makeshift bed, settling down into the straw and spreading some over himself to serve as a blanket. He lays his head down and closes his eyes, clutching John’s picture to his chest. As the light dims and the noises around him fade into silence, Sherlock slips into a sleep filled with dreams of the chase, the blood pumping through his veins … just the two of them against the rest of the world.

The smile on his face is one of both peace and hopeful anticipation.


4. Right on time

Sherlock can’t believe he’s here, right now, about to do … this. He never in a million years imagined himself in this situation, let alone that he’d be participating in it with someone like John. He’s tempted to pinch himself to make sure it isn’t all a dream, but of course that’s just foolishness. Being in a dream does not preclude the experience of pain, he can vouch for that a hundred times over. John’s flights of fancy are starting to cloud his rational thought process; he’ll need to put a stop to that.

But not today.

Dismantling Moriarty’s web had taken far less time than he and Mycroft had anticipated. All of the loose ends had been quickly rounded up and all of the threats efficiently eliminated. Scarcely a year after he had left, Sherlock found himself back in his beloved London again. John was still living at Baker Street and, after a very short period of estrangement, he and Sherlock were once again flatmates and colleagues. Since then, they have settled back into their own brand of domesticity - chasing criminals, examining dead bodies, updating blogs and consuming an alarming amount of tea. Along with something else that hadn’t been present before. Something new.

And now, almost eighteen months since his return, here they are.

Sherlock scowls at himself in the mirror as he tries - and fails - to tie a basic Windsor knot. His tendency to eschew the wearing of ties for the past several years has apparently resulted in the deletion of how to perform such a basic activity. Thank God this will be the last time that particular skill will be needed. He has no intention of repeating this process in future, and the only person he’d agree to be best man for is -

“Sherlock? Almost ready?”

Sherlock startles at the voice. He hadn’t even heard the door open. Unforgivable.

Sherlock turns around and glares. “What are you doing here?! We aren’t supposed to see each other until - “

“Relax.” John chuckles as he steps into the room, shaking his head and smiling fondly. “Don’t tell me you of all people are superstitious. Nervous, I can almost believe. Having a bit of trouble?” He gestures at Sherlock’s neck.

Sherlock frowns as he bends his head to take in the mess that’s currently wrapped around his throat.

“I haven’t worn a tie since I was 12 years old,” he explains. He spreads his arms and shrugs, looking at John with a ‘what-can-you-do’ expression.

“I can help with that.” John walks over and stops just in front of Sherlock. He looks up at Sherlock and smiles warmly, eyes soft and fond; Sherlock’s brain goes offline for several seconds as he becomes lost in their blue depths. He hasn’t yet come up with a word that adequately describes their shade. Cobalt? Slate? Navy? They make Sherlock feel as if he’s being pulled down into and surrounded by the ocean, not drowning but rather cradled and embraced within its bosom. His anxiety washes away and is replaced by calm anticipation.

“There.” Sherlock blinks as John’s voice brings him out of his head. “All fixed and done proper now.”

John gives Sherlock’s tie a final tug and smiles as he steps back. He squeezes Sherlock’s shoulder, letting his hand slide down his partner’s arm before taking Sherlock’s hand in his own and pressing a brief kiss on his knuckles. Sherlock shivers.

John looks around and frowns. “Where’s Greg? Why isn’t he in here helping you get ready?”


“Your best man, you idiot!” John huffs and rolls his eyes, but Sherlock can tell that he’s not even slightly exasperated, just fondly amused.

Sherlock shrugs. “Said he had to step out for a smoke. You’d think he were the one getting married, not me.”

 John laughs. “Well, as long as he doesn’t lose the rings, we’re all good.”

“Oh, Lestrade is forever misplacing things; why do you think it’s so easy to nick evidence off  him? I gave the rings to your best man; Harry is much more reliable with that sort of thing.”

“Yes. Good old Harry. Although I suppose we should call her my best woman.” John chews his lip, a thoughtful expression on his face. “You know, if I were marrying anyone else, I would have chosen you as my best man.”

Sherlock scrunches his face in distaste.

“Thank goodness the world has been spared that. Can you imagine? I probably would have ended up making the bride cry, if not the entire room. Not to mention I’m sure it would have been a dreadfully dull experience, at least for me.”

John grins.

“Oh, don’t sell yourself short. You would have been brilliant. Plus, I’m pretty sure you would have found a way to spice things up a bit, make it more than a little memorable.”

“Oh, I can promise you that tonight, at least, will prove to be extremely memorable.” Sherlock waggles his eyebrows and winks. John likes it when he winks at him. Sherlock’s known this from the very first day.

“Stop saying things like that. We have several hours to go before you can make good on that promise, and in the meantime we have to behave ourselves.” John leans in and presses a lingering kiss against Sherlock’s lips. Sherlock wraps his arms around him and pulls him closer, letting all of the passion and love that he feels for this man pour out of him as he deepens the kiss. Their mouths pull apart with a soft smack when John finally pulls away.

“What did I just tell you?” John asks breathlessly, face flushed and eyes dark.

“You told me to stop saying things. I didn’t say anything,” Sherlock says smugly.

John cups Sherlock’s cheek.

“I often wonder,” he says, “if we would have ever arrived at this point if you hadn’t come back when you did. What if you had returned a year later? Several years later? What if you had never left at all?”

John’s expression is unreadable, so Sherlock doesn’t know precisely what he’s feeling right now. As for himself, an uneasy sensation settles in his belly, making him feel a bit queasy. There’s no reason for it, though; none of those things happened, all they can know is what they have right now.

Sherlock clears his throat. “Well, you know what they say.”

“What? That the course of true love never did run smooth?”



“The course of true love never did run smoothly.”

John giggles, his expression once again relaxed and happy.

“You impossible man,” he says before pulling Sherlock down into another kiss.

“Oi! Break it up you two! Plenty of time for that after you leave for your honeymoon.” Greg Lestrade stands in the doorway, smiling brightly with just a faint blush on his cheeks. “Everything’s ready, it’s a beautiful spring morning - couldn’t have turned out better if an actual wedding planner had been involved.”

Sherlock makes a face.

“How tedious.”

“Yes, exactly. Now come along; everyone’s in their place, Harry has the rings - let’s get this show on the road!”

“The sooner we can embark upon our sex holiday,” Sherlock mutters as he links hands with John. John grins.

And so the two of them walk out of Mycroft’s house into the garden, where before family and friends they will make this vow: that whatever it takes, whatever happens, they will always be there for each other. Always.


5. Never left



“Have you seen the papers today?”


“Yeah, well, you just might be interested in this. It says here that Moriarty’s dead.”

Sherlock snaps his head up from his microscope, eyes flashing.

“Say that again,” he orders, voice low and tight.

“Moriarty is dead. Apparently he got ahold of a dinner knife somehow and stabbed himself in the eye. Died instantly.”

Sherlock leans back in his chair, thoughts scattering. Almost three years ago, the “trial of the century” had resulted in the conviction of James Moriarty. In spite of being sentenced to several years in prison, Sherlock and John had never completely relaxed after the verdict. They kept waiting for the other shoe to drop -- his conviction overturned, a successful escape attempt, or further machinations instigated from behind bars.

Now it seems that all of their worries were for naught. It appears that, without an audience, the genius had grown frail and its spark withered away. Once the awful boredom had taken hold, Moriarty must have seen no other way out of the unending drudgery other than taking his own life.

John catches Sherlock’s eye and they sit, staring at each other, for endless minutes.  As if sharing one mind, at the same moment they breathe out twin sighs of relief. The tension that had been simmering just underneath the surface for all of these years dissipates and, like the final grains of an hourglass, drains away completely.

“Thank God,” John says softly.

“Quite,” Sherlock agrees.

They continue to sit in companionable silence, savouring the unexpected peace of mind and lightness of spirit. This news has auspicious timing. At the moment they have nothing on, a rare lull between cases. Sherlock’s star had just begun to rise after Turner’s masterpiece had been recovered, his popularity spiking even further after his testimony had put Moriarty behind bars. They’ve been insanely busy ever since as their reputation continues to grow and expand. As exciting and enjoyable as it’s been, it’s also been exhausting, especially when compounded with the ever-present anxiety that was the spectre of Moriarty.

But now that threat is gone, and they have a chance to truly relax and just be content in each other’s company. A tendril of fear - just a tiny one - snakes its way into Sherlock’s mind. This life that they lead - it’s satisfying, and provides them both with what they need. So far. But if this interlude is a sign of things to come - then what? If their business starts to slow down - which it invariably will at some point - will John get restless and bored? Would he begin to look elsewhere to fill the void? Sherlock has come to rely on John’s steady presence. He honestly doesn’t know how he would survive if he had to live without having John Watson at his side on a daily basis.

Sherlock loves John, he can admit that at least to himself, and he’s fairly certain that John loves him as well. But what if John needs something that Sherlock can’t give? What if what Sherlock offers will one day stop being enough? What if -



“What do you think about taking a holiday? Just the two of us? We’ve never done that - hell, there’s never been time to do that. What do you say we take the time now? Our last case paid extremely well; we could afford to go somewhere interesting.”

Sherlock blinks. The idea of a holiday - one not related to a case - has never occurred to him as something he would enjoy. And he probably wouldn’t, not by himself. But now he has a friend he can take with him. The thought has a certain - appeal.

“Did you have a specific location in mind?” Sherlock asks.

John grins.

“As a matter of fact, I do. I have a mate in New Zealand who’s been hassling me for the past year to come visit. We have the time now, so why don’t we both go? We’d only stay with him for a couple of days. The rest of the time we’d have to ourselves.”

Sherlock’s eyes narrow. “Isn’t that where you took Sarah?”

John rolls his eyes.

“Ages ago, yes. That was back when I was broke and could hardly afford to do anything. Now that money’s not an issue, I’m due for another trip. Do it right this time. Whaddya say? Put the blogs on hiatus for a bit, leave all this madness behind and take off into the wild blue yonder?”

Something warm blooms in Sherlock’s chest. John wants to leave the madness behind, but not his mad flatmate. John is choosing to spend an extended period of time with him that doesn’t involve a case.

Sherlock’s pretty certain this is a positive development.

“I’ve never been to New Zealand,” Sherlock says in lieu of an answer. John takes it as one regardless.

“Excellent. I’ll arrange the tickets, you take care of the packing, and I assume both of our passports are taken care of.”

Sherlock is dumbfounded. Not only are the two of them partners in their professional lives; John is behaving as if they’re partners in their personal lives as well. Oh, that’s good. Is it good? Why is it good?

Whatever it is, John seems to be content with things, and Sherlock knows he is. For the time being, at least, they are flatmates and friends, colleagues and partners. It remains to be seen how their roles within that relationship will fluctuate and change, or if they even will. It’s not important. Right now, they are together at Baker Street, solving crimes and living their lives. Whatever will be will be, and still remains to be seen.

+1  And all roads lead to Sussex

If John had thought retirement would free up his schedule or in any way serve to quiet Sherlock’s mind, he learns he was sorely mistaken within a week of moving to Sussex. The pace may be a bit more sedate here than in London, but the atmosphere still crackles with that indefinable energy that seems to follow them wherever they go.

Sherlock has already spent hours in the back garden in preparation for the imminent arrival of his beehives. John thought that he himself would settle into his home office right away and begin putting together his memoirs -- translation: the biography of Sherlock Holmes -- but Sherlock had had other ideas, of course.

“Sherlock,” John sighs in exasperation. He stands with stocking-clad feet in their cosy kitchen, wrapped in his green tartan dressing gown, clutching a freshly poured cup of coffee. His fantasy of spending the day in a comfortable chair, listening to music while transforming his notes into an outline, is pretty much shattered. “Why did we even bother pulling up stakes and coming here if you hadn’t actually intended to retire from crime-solving?”

Sherlock looks up from whatever it is that’s bubbling on the hob. (John really doesn’t want to know.)

“It’s not crime-solving I’m retiring from, John; I’m retiring from making my living with crime-solving.”

John snorts, his exasperation morphing into amusement.

“Yeah, of course, silly me for the lack of clarification.”

“I can’t in good conscience hold my peace when the local constabulary is two hours away from arresting the wrong man,” Sherlock says. “I need you to go down there and explain to them why they need my assistance."

“Okay, first of all, how do you even know about whatever case this is?”

“Read about it in the paper before you woke up this morning. Next?”

“Why do you need me to go down there? Why don’t you just pick up your phone and, you know … phone them? Or go there yourself?”

“They won’t take me seriously if I just call. They’ll assume it’s some sort of prank. As for going myself - have you met me, John? You’re much better at doing these sorts of things without ruffling any feathers.”

Sherlock pauses as he notices John’s hesitation. Then he does something quite unfair; he pulls out the big guns. He tilts his head in that way John finds incredibly endearing (sexy), eyes peering at him through his greying fringe.

“Please, John?” Sherlock asks in a low, husky voice.

Just like that, all of John’s resistance melts away and he’s so overcome with love for this impossible man that he physically aches with it. He sucks in a breath as it strikes him suddenly, with the impact of a speeding bullet, how improbable their current existence is. It is the result of a precarious balancing act on the razor’s edge of circumstance and their own choices. Any deviation could have tipped them over the precipice in either direction, resulting in an entirely different reality.

John sets his cup down carefully on the table, then takes determined strides across the floor. He grabs Sherlock’s dressing gown with one hand and buries the other in silky curls, bringing Sherlock’s mouth down to meet his own in a bruising kiss. Sherlock lets out a startled whimper before sinking into John’s embrace, accepting the outpouring of passion and love while offering up his own adoration. When they pull apart moments later, they are both breathing heavily. They press their foreheads together.

John trembles in Sherlock’s arms.

“You - “ his voice rasps, but he’s unable to continue. He clears his throat and tries again. “You are a ridiculous human being. And I love you. So much.”

Sherlock’s arms tighten around him.

“Getting sentimental in our old age, are we?”

“Shut up. You’re only five years younger. Plus, you have more grey in your hair than I do.”

“It only seems that way, because the strands don’t stand out as much in blond hair. The contrast, you see - ”

“Shut. Up.”


After several minutes, Sherlock murmurs, “As much as I’m enjoying this, I need to attend to my experiment before it boils over.”

“Oh. Right.” John places another kiss on Sherlock’s lips, this one soft and gentle, before reluctantly stepping out of Sherlock’s arms. He rubs his neck and smiles shyly.  “I’ll just … ” he gestures at himself. “I’ll get properly dressed and then you can fill me in before I pop out to the police station, yeah?”

“Yes.” Sherlock turns back to the cooker, the moment apparently already forgotten.

“Right then.” John turns around and heads towards their bedroom.



“I love you, too.”

A month later, a typical day is ending. Sherlock and John have settled into something that could be called a routine, at least for them. Sherlock’s hives are established and the bees are active. John has carved out for himself time during the early morning hours to focus on his writing. He’s stood firm on this, and Sherlock has been surprisingly accommodating. John thinks it might be because he appreciates the fact that John has altered his habit of late morning lie-ins so he can fit in time for all of Sherlock’s demands after attending to his own “hobby”. John really doesn’t mind; he’s been making compromises on Sherlock’s behalf for years now, he’s quite used to it. Besides, he isn’t the only one in this relationship who’s changed his behaviour to make someone else happy.

The object of John’s thoughts currently lies across the sofa, his nose in a book. His curls are a dishevelled mess, a result of the activity they had engaged in just an hour ago. Rays from the setting sun dance across his face. John peers at him over his reading glasses, drinking him in. He sets aside the newspaper and folds his hands over his knee.

“Sherlock, I’ve been thinking.”

“A dangerous pastime for most people.”

“Piss off,” John replies without heat. “A few weeks ago a thought occurred. Well, it’s not a new thought, and certainly not one unique to our particular situation - ”

“Are you going to finish this thought sometime tonight?”

“It struck me how truly fragile life is - how fragile this is.” He waves his hand between the two of them, then makes a sweeping gesture that encompasses the sitting room. “I mean, the reason we’re here right now is because certain things happened in a certain order, a particular progression through time. If one of us had done the smallest thing differently, made a choice that set us both down an alternate path … ”

“John,” Sherlock interrupts. He sits up, book falling to the floor disregarded. He leans forward intently, eyes piercing John’s. “No matter what path we found ourselves following, we still would have ended up here.”

“How do you know?”

“The same way I know that the sun will come up tomorrow, or that autumn will follow summer. The same way that I know Moriarty is still dead … or that Mycroft will waddle his fat self in here before the weekend is out.”

John’s mouth twitches, but he doesn’t smile. He swallows hard.

“What if you had never returned my feelings?”

Sherlock stares at him, expression unreadable.

“John,” he says with that tone he uses when he thinks someone - John, usually - is being unbearably stupid. “I never did return your feelings.”

John’s stomach plummets and his blood turns to ice. “What?” he whispers.

“I didn’t return your feelings; I would have never given up such a precious gift. However, I did offer you my own. I always would have offered you my own. After all, Moriarty never did get a chance to burn the heart out of me, did he?” Sherlock winks.

John laughs, relief flooding his being. He opens his mouth to reply, but Sherlock holds up a finger. The look on his face is still serious, so John waits for him to continue.

“The question would have been how you felt about me. Because I cannot imagine any scenario or any reality, John Watson, where I would not have loved you with my whole heart and my entire being.”

John blinks back the sudden moisture in his eyes. This man - this impossible, ridiculous, extraordinary, brilliant man - never ceases to amaze him with his hidden depths of emotion and the rare glimpses of the great heart that he keeps hidden from all but a lucky few. John knows, deep in his bones, that there’s not a chance in hell that he would have ever gone through life without loving Sherlock as deeply as he does right now. It might have taken him longer, but he would have got there eventually. The fact of Sherlock being Sherlock would have drawn it out of him, demanded it of him, left him with no other choice.

John raises his left hand and wiggles his fingers. Sherlock watches the lamplight glint off the gold band on his ring finger.

“Well, mate - or should I say husband? - I really don’t think my reciprocation would have ever been in doubt. There was no hope for either of us, from the very beginning. Our fate was sealed the minute I followed Stamford into that lab.”

Sherlock’s eyes flash, and a warm smile spreads across his face.

“Dr John Hamish Watson, for once I do believe you’ve seen the evidence and arrived at the correct conclusion. And I, for one, have no desire to fight against that fate.”

“Nor do I, Sir William Sherlock Scott Holmes. Nor do I.”

End Notes:   In case it wasn't clear, the last section is meant to tie together all of the previous ones, showing that they all lead to the same inevitable destination.

Thank you so much for reading, and if you're so inclined, follow me on my tumbler: pipmer.tumblr.com.

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