Epilogue: Two Months Later
Sherlock hadn't settled on a name for the dog yet, but it had only been a day since John had surprised him with it. He had to admit that he had rarely if ever been caught so thoroughly off-guard. Maybe he should've deduced it when John said he would not be giving him his wedding gift until after they got back from their sex holiday, but since his own gift for John wouldn't be ready until then anyway, he had simply agreed and not given it any further thought. Then yesterday they'd returned from two weeks in Florida and John had given him a dog. A six-month old, two-and-a-half stone English Bulldog that squirmed out of John's arms and barrelled into Sherlock the moment he saw him, covering his shoes with puppy slobber. Sherlock had never received a better gift, even if it had come with a warning that he wasn't to use the dog as an excuse to avoid work.
At some point last night the dog had joined them in bed. Sherlock woke to a squashed snout pressed against his cheek, but it was far too early to get up, even if his body hadn't still been on Miami time. He rolled over and when he opened his eyes again John and the dog were both gone. Probably he was supposed to feel guilty and go find them, but instead he went back to sleep for another hour; it was quite delightful.
When he finally emerged from the bedroom, he found John dressed and sitting in his armchair with his computer on his lap, a cup of coffee on the table next to him and the dog curled up at his feet. Sherlock narrowed his eyes. "Should he be-?"
"It's fine, Sherlock. He's not actually lying on my feet. Also, good morning."
"Yes. Good morning." Sherlock ran his fingers through his tangled hair and bent down for a quick kiss. "Shouldn't married life come with breakfast?"
"There are scones next to the coffeepot."
He stepped behind John's armchair so he could see the laptop screen, wondering why John seemed to be so engrossed in cleaning out his email or checking Facebook. "You're working on the blog."
"Yeah." John took his hands off the keyboard, stretching his fingers. "I figured it was time. I'm sick of people asking when I'm going to start it up again. I thought I would tell everyone we're back from the honeymoon and open for business as far as private cases go—you're still willing, right?"
"Mm-hmm." Sherlock tried to keep his voice neutral. He knew why John had been avoiding the blog for so long, even if John didn't realise it himself. It certainly wasn't because I wasn't taking cases. Over the past five years John had used the blog to chronicle a great deal of their personal lives as well as their work. While he may have eased back into his life fairly well since he'd been hurt, John still didn't like to talk about what happened, but until recently there hadn't been anything else for him to put on the blog. His recovery had put everything else in their lives on hold.
Sherlock leaned against the back of the armchair and John said, "Go away. I'm writing." His voice was friendly but not joking.
Sherlock sniffed but complied, heading into the kitchen; he wanted one of the scones John had mentioned and needed some coffee. He opened the cupboard to get sugar and jam and then turned his head to shout back to John, "Don't mention the holster!"
"I'm not going to put our wedding gifts on the blog, Sherlock."
"Of course you are. The dog, at least, once we give it a name. What else would you put on there?"
"I don't know. I'm trying to sum up almost a year of my life so I can satisfy everyone's curiosity without actually saying too much. It's not easy to write."
"Maybe I should've given you typing lessons, then, instead." He peeked back out into the sitting room so John could see he was joking.
John gave him a glare over his shoulder but then his face crinkled. "I love the holster. Makes me want to go out and shoot someone a little, though. Might've come in handy in Miami."
Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "I planned to have it earlier, but the commission took longer than I expected." It was worth it, though, the way the custom-made leather fit snugly against John's body and couldn't be seen when he was sitting in his wheelchair. "Would've been tough to smuggle your gun onto the plane, anyway."
"I'm sure we could've picked one up in America."
Sherlock smirked. Most of their trip had been a proper sex holiday, full of kitschy tourism and lounging poolside in addition to all the sex. They'd taken side trips to Key West and the Everglades, and then just when Sherlock thought he might be about to get bored they'd stumbled onto a series of murders that the local police hadn't even noticed. It had taken them three days to solve it, and then it was time to go home, and much as he had enjoyed himself Sherlock had been very glad to be back where he could wear his coat again and the cars were on the proper side of the road. Though John's Spanish had improved considerably by the time they left. That was unexpected.
He carried the coffee and scone into the sitting room and flopped down into his chair across from John, who was still typing. The dog perked his floppy ears and heaved himself up and waddled over to sit on Sherlock's feet. Sherlock sipped at his coffee and ate the scone and watched John type until he couldn't stand it anymore. "Want me to proofread for you?"
John looked up from the screen and sighed. "I can't stop you, can I?"
Sherlock smiled and started to bounce out of his seat but remembered the dog at the last minute. He slipped his foot out from beneath the puppy and crossed the space between their chairs. John's wheelchair was convenient, of course, so he folded himself into it with his legs curled beneath him and leaned over to read what John had written.
So I know it's been a while since I've updated this blog, but what can I say? The last eight or so months have been busy, to say the least. And you probably heard that Sherlock and I got married, and just spent a couple of weeks in America on our honeymoon. But now we're back home and everything's settled down again, at least as much as it ever does around here, so I figured it's time for me to start writing again. We're going to start taking cases again, too, so if you have a mystery you need solved, send us a message and we'll get back to you and let you know if we can help.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sherlock pointed at the screen.
"Things don't settle down around here? Is that a criticism of me? I just spent a very relaxed fortnight with you, and you seemed quite content as well." He was teasing. Can't let him write a blog entry without a bit of critique.
"True." John grinned. "How much of the honeymoon do you want me to put in here, anyway?"
"Sex holiday. Call it what it is. Well, sex and crime holiday, but that sounds wrong, doesn't it? Hmm."
"Sherlock. Your mum reads this blog."
"Are you thinking she'll object to the sex or the crime? She paid for the trip; she'll want to know we had a good time."
John sighed again and shifted the computer on his lap so Sherlock couldn't easily see it. "The dog looks thirsty. Why don't you go make sure he has fresh water in his bowl?"
"He's sound asleep," Sherlock protested, but stood up, knowing John wouldn't continue to write if he was looking over his shoulder. "I don't care what you say, but you should mention your arms."
"Your arms, your shoulders, your chest in general. How good you looked when you were wearing just your swim trunks."
John blinked at him. "No."
Sherlock nodded. "I'll go through my phone and find a good picture to post. Give your readers a visual to go along with your scintillating narrative. They can see how tan you got."
"Sherlock, go away and let me write."
Sherlock moved back to sit in his own chair, tucked his toes under the warm dog again, and picked up his own laptop. A few minutes later and John wrinkled his brow in consternation.
"How did you do that? I'm writing the entry right now, how did you add that photo? Shouldn't you have got the 'another user is editing' message?"
Sherlock shrugged. "Maybe you should learn more about computers, John." He reached to take a casual sip from his coffee mug and was dismayed to find it empty. "You should be glad. Posting a photo of yourself in the chair means you don't have to talk about it—it's just there. Isn't that what you wanted?"
John squinted at him. "I knew sending you to therapy would backfire. Thinking you can psychoanalyse me." He smiled, softening his words. "I would like to be wearing a shirt, at least."
"I'm doing both you and your followers a favour this way."
John shook his head. Sherlock opened up his email to see if he'd missed anything interesting while they were away; he'd checked it on his phone but hadn't bothered to read most of the messages. When he clicked back over to the blog some time later, John had changed the photo to one taken at their wedding, the two of them in their coordinated suits, hands entwined, gazing at each other with frankly sickening expressions on their faces.
"There," John said. "Now I don't need to mention the wheelchair or the wedding. Two birds with one stone. Plus I have clothes on."
Sherlock didn't reply, but he left the blog window open so he could watch as John typed. He was so slow that even the dog got bored waiting; he stood up, stretched his stubby little legs and started to wander around the flat, sniffing everything.
Yeah, so that's our wedding photograph. I know. I didn't think it would ever happen, either. I didn't think it needed to. But I'm glad we did it, even though it seems like nothing has really changed. I mean, I guess there are some legal benefits, but for the most part everything's the same as it's always been. It certainly hasn't solved all of our problems, but maybe it's made them a little bit more bearable. At the very least it's marked the start of something new. I'm not the person I was a year ago, and neither is Sherlock, but who is, really?
"Oh, no, no. Not those!" Sherlock slammed his laptop shut and lunged for the dog before he could do much more than slobber all over one of John's leg braces.
John laughed as he watched Sherlock gather up all the metal and plastic pieces and move them out of the way. "Guess I'm not the only one around here who hates those things."
"Mm." Sherlock wasn't going to point it out, but even though John still complained every time he used the braces, he'd left them jumbled in a heap next to the sofa, in clear view of Mrs Hudson or anyone else who might've entered the flat while they were on holiday. Two months ago he'd been hiding them away after every use. Surely even that small change is progress.
John turned his attention back to his laptop. "Why don't you stop spying on my writing and clean up a little bit around here? There's so much stuff in this room I can barely move."
Sherlock looked around the sitting room, remembering how uncluttered it had been when John had first come home from rehab. It had gradually become more and more crowded over the last few months, and then seemed to have grown exponentially worse while they were away, mostly due to a pile of wrapped boxes stacked haphazardly in front of the fireplace. "Those are our wedding gifts, John."
"Well, they're in the way. Open them up so we can get them out of here."
"I'm not going to open them without you."
"Sherlock, I am right here. Open them while I finish this blog entry and you can read it over before I post it."
Sherlock wasn't sure how they'd even got such a surplus of gifts, considering that the wedding itself had consisted of the purchase of a couple of new outfits, a trip to the register office and then dinner out with his family and a handful of friends. He grimaced and sat down on the floor in front of his chair so he could reach the presents. The dog wandered over and lay down next to him, stumpy tail thumping against his thigh. He knew John had given him the dog so he wouldn't be lonely when John wasn't home, but he wasn't sure how he'd managed to find an animal that would bond with him so quickly.
Most of the boxes contained standard wedding offerings: matching kitchenware, linens, things of that ilk from distant relatives and John's co-workers. Either the gift-givers didn't know them very well or everyone thought he and John needed to keep house better. There's a reason most of them weren't invited to the wedding.
"Don't just open everything up and make a new pile, Sherlock. Write down who gave it to us and then put it away. Otherwise the room will still be cluttered."
Sherlock looked up and scowled at John. "I'm doing the opening. You can do the putting away."
"I'm writing the blog entry that you've been nagging me about for months. Besides, if I put stuff away you won't like how I do it and you'll end up rearranging everything according to some arcane rule of organisation that no one understands."
Sherlock huffed. "Fine. But most of this is going on the top shelves because it's useless and we don't need it. How many toasters can two men possibly use?"
"Guess that depends on whether one of them ever plans to do another experiment on the effects of concentrated heat on mould growth, doesn't it?" John gave him a grin, raising his eyebrows, and Sherlock got caught up in looking at him for a moment; his face was more tanned than it had been since they had first met and more free of worry lines than it had been in nearly a year.
After a moment Sherlock cleared his throat and pulled his gaze away from the stubble that lined John's jaw. "The mould results were pretty clear. I don't think I need to repeat that experiment." He gave an exaggerated sigh and stood up, lifting a box of mixing bowls that one of his cousins had sent. He carried the box into the kitchen and dropped it on the worktop. John would make him move it later, but he needed to have everything open before he could work out an organisational scheme for the new items.
He walked back into the sitting room and nudged at the remaining pile of boxes with his toe. "If we take the whole lot and donate them to a shelter or something would we still be obligated to write thank you notes?"
John made an aggrieved sound. "Donating anything we don't need is fine, but I'll take care of the thank you notes. All you need to do is sign your name."
Sherlock sank back down onto the floor and reached for the next box, which fairly large and heavy. "Glassware," he announced, and glanced at the handwriting on the envelope of the attached card. "From Sally Donovan. Boring. She could've given us her most complicated murders instead."
"Just open it and stick the card inside the box so we don't forget who gave what," John said without looking away from his computer screen.
"I won't forget," Sherlock said, but tore the foil wrapping paper from the box anyway. He pulled open the sealed flaps on top and glanced inside. As he'd predicted, it was full of an assortment of glassware: pint glasses, tumblers and wine glasses were stacked in rows in half the box, but the other half appeared to be filled with laboratory equipment: beakers, flasks, test tubes. He lifted one of the flasks out from between the cardboard partitions; his initials were engraved on the side of the glass, in between the measurement marks. Okay, I'll give her some credit; that is fairly unique. He picked up a wine glass from the other side; it had John's initials on it. A quick glance at several more of the drinking glasses proved that all of them were engraved with 'JW' while his own initials were on all of the lab supplies. At least one person knows us well. He wouldn't object if John sent Donovan a thank you note.
He opened the rest of the boxes and gift bags and piled everything in the appropriate rooms for John to complain about later. A small stack of envelopes still remained. "Here, you can open this one." He rose up onto his knees and stretched to hand John one of the cards, disturbing the dog in the process.
"Why this one?" John flipped the envelope over, frowning.
Sherlock sighed. "Clearly it's from your basketball mates. Look how they wrote our names." Honestly.
Sherlock watched him open it, amused to see John's cheeks flushing beneath his tan when he saw what was inside the card. What did they—oh. John held up the gift card to the very same sex supply shop they had visited several months ago.
"Did you share our preference for that shop in particular with them?"
John blushed deeper. "No, I guess we're just that obvious. Okay, half the guys who signed this card wrote something along the lines of 'Thought you were already married'."
The card from Mrs Hudson contained a note that she had hired a housekeeping service to clean their flat weekly for the next year. Sherlock thought that overkill but John seemed pleased. On the other hand, John seemed a bit perplexed as to why Lestrade had chosen to give them a gift card to a furniture shop with the stipulation that it be used to purchase a sofa bed.
"Is he planning to sleep here?"
"Oh, God, I hope not, not again," Sherlock said, and tossed Lestrade's card into the pile with the others. He sliced open the next envelope, from his parents; they had included a very substantial cheque which he slipped it into the pocket of his dressing gown before John could see all the numbers on it. He had objected enough when they'd paid for the sex holiday.
Sherlock eyed the mess of wrapping paper and ribbon, and then looked at John; he was still typing, though even more slowly than usual, just tweaking a few words here and there. Maybe if Sherlock stalled long enough he'd be done and Sherlock wouldn't have to pick up the rubbish himself. He glanced around for something else to do and spied one more gift, wrapped in plain silver paper, no card attached; it had been pushed to the side so he hadn't seen it earlier. It was roughly the size of a box that would hold a dress shirt but proved much heavier when he lifted it. Who—? He turned the package over and slipped a finger under one perfectly taped seam. Ah, Mycroft.
He pulled off the paper and opened the box; inside was a sturdy ring binder, as thick as his wrist and filled to capacity with paper. The cover was unmarked; Sherlock opened it. The first page was blank except for a note in his brother's handwriting: Nothing remarkably ground-breaking, I'm afraid, but perhaps something will be of interest. Congratulations on your formalisation of sentiment. -Mycroft
Sherlock flipped to the next page and caught his breath. "John." He stood up quickly, dislodging the dog, and crossed the space to John's side, clutching the binder to his chest. "Look at this."
"Hang on. I'm almost done." John's voice was a bit ragged; he didn't look up from his keyboard when he spoke. Sherlock glanced down at the text on the screen, read it and then pretended he hadn't.
I won't say it's been easy or fun, and I wouldn't wish what I've gone through on anyone else, but I'm still here, so that's something. And Sherlock's still here with me. At first that surprised me, but it shouldn't have. It hasn't been easy for him, either, I know, but he's been right at my side every step of the way and I can't express how wonderful that has been. He's watching me type this right now and probably wondering why I'm sniffling so much. Sherlock, shut up, don't say anything when you read this, just know that I wouldn't have survived this past year without you at my side.
Sherlock set the binder on top of John's laptop. "No, look at this. What Mycroft sent." He opened it and turned past Mycroft's inscription to show John the title page.
Summary of Research and Developments in Treatment and Management of Spinal Cord Injury and Related Conditions, compiled by Mycroft Holmes for Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, August 2015
John stared at it, then squinted up at Sherlock. "He—"
"I asked him to, a long time ago," Sherlock recalled. "He said he would look into the research, but I didn't think he'd found—"
Sherlock watched John's face quirk through several emotions before he shook his head and turned the page. "There's nothing to find, nothing guaranteed," he said, and then started to flick through the pages, pausing to read brief snatches here and there. "Oh, but it's not what I thought, this is . . . everything. Little things, big things, everything."
He tilted the binder so Sherlock could see the titles of the research summaries as he flipped past them. Sherlock dropped one hand to rest on John's shoulder, absently massaging the tight muscles he found. John was right; Mycroft had included everything, an immense variety of studies and medical options, ranging from new methods to prevent and treat infections, spasticity and muscle loss to descriptions of clinical trials and new technologies that whispered of possible cures. Some of it he knew John would refuse to even consider—a robotic exoskeleton that required an external battery sounded even more cumbersome than his braces—but there were others that might be promising: implants that stimulated deadened nerves, drugs that could enable nerve fibres to regrow over the injured spinal cord. John lingered on a section that mentioned stem cell research, drawing his finger slowly down the page as he read. His hand was unsteady, though, a slight tremor but clearly visible to Sherlock. When he tried to turn the page he nearly ripped the paper in two.
Sherlock understood. There was no guarantee that John would be able to try any of the treatments, or that they would work if they did. And even successful outcomes tended to be conservative: a small improvement in function rather than a cure for paralysis. John knew that as well as Sherlock did, if not better.
Sherlock swallowed and forced his breathing to slow, then reached over and carefully lifted the binder from John's shaking hands. "We can look at it together later. I think Gladstone needs to go outside now. Let's take him for a walk."
Sherlock shrugged, ignoring the way John's voice almost broke; the name had just popped into his head as he'd spoken. The dog hadn't even moved from his spot on the floor across the room.
After a moment John nodded, shifting his shoulders back and lifting his chin without meeting Sherlock's eyes. "All right. All right."
Sherlock set the binder down on the desk and turned to look at the dog. "Gladstone," he repeated. "Oh! Do you think he'll be like a bloodhound and find dead bodies in the park?"
"Er, maybe some small animal carcasses? Would that be good enough?" John smiled; Sherlock had been trying for a laugh but the smile would do. "Let me publish this to the blog first, then we can go."
Sherlock returned to the bedroom to throw on a suit and then came out to rouse the dog, who went from sleepy to bouncy with no pause in between. He snapped the leash onto his collar and straightened up in time to see John close the laptop and set it aside. He swung himself out of his armchair and into the wheelchair, then looked up at Sherlock. "Okay. I'm ready. Let's go."
Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you liked my story!
As always I love hearing your comments, or come visit me on tumblr-username is missdaviswrites. I love talking about writing-my writing, your writing, other people's writing, the process of writing, anything!
I tend to post a lot more of my fic on the Archive of Our Own site and I'm not sure how much I will post on this site in the future. It's much easier to comment there and for me to leave notes or provide more information for each chapter, and I've gotten quite a few more readers there than I have here. I'm MissDavis on AO3, too, so if you want to see more of my writing you might want to jump over there instead.