The low waves crashed lazily over the stoney shore and not for the first time did they remind me of Holmes and myself, a once great force slowed down to a mere trickle of action, resting comfortably in a quiet inlet, free from all storms.

There were no such spring suns in London. I don't remember any similar sweet smells of sea air, nor the cries of birds easily heard overhead when we lived there. Next to me, Holmes was dozing in a chaise lounge, his newspaper fallen to the ground as he slumbered. I bent to pick it up, lest it fly all over the place in the late afternoon breeze and I groaned as I did so.

If I didn't think I was getting old before, I was again reminded of the stark fact that I was indeed, far up there in years. Beside me, Holmes stirred at the noise I made. His eyes cracked open to examine my face and his grin was so sweet, it warmed me straight down to my toes. "Bored, dearest?"

"Not in the slightest," I replied easily, resisting the urge to run the back of my hand down his cheek. Not because we would be seen - I no longer cared as we were out here in the middle of the country - but because resistance had been ingrained in me for so many tiresome years. "Although I must say that you've adjusted to the quiet life much better than I ever dreamed you would."

"As the title of the book suggests, I've had the war. I now need the peace," he replied, squinting into the lowering sun. "Ah, it's time to head back, I think. Do you agree?"

"Agreed," I said, chuckling when we both struggled to get up from our seats. I tried pulling him upright, he tried to support me and when we finally made it to our feet with the full force of our combined efforts, we laughed. "Good heavens, pretty soon they'll have to shoot us just to put us out of our misery next time we sit for longer than an hour," I joked.

Holmes' face was slightly sunburnt, his cheekbones tinged pink. "Nonsense. We simply won't bother getting up anymore."

"As always, you have the best ideas." I made a mental note to put some soothing salve on his skin when we got home. He would complain, I would ignore him and the world would be in its proper place.

We walked arm in arm back to the cottage. Mrs. Hudson, so old now as to be utterly wonderful, was sleeping in the garden, our adopted cat stretched out over her lap. It was a pretty creature, dark black with the grayest eyes I'd ever seen and even Holmes, who detested cats, put aside his distaste for it, at least in secret. He fed it bits of dinner when he thought I wasn't looking and it was amusing to see them examining each other carefully, two sly sets of eyes meeting in deep, silent understanding.

Pansy and Pip, the grandchildren of our dearly departed bulldog Gladstone, were also there doing exactly what their esteemed ancestor would have been up to if he were among us - snoring loudly, both of them deep asleep beneath the sun. Pansy was the smaller and sweeter of the two, while Pip was so much a replica of Gladstone, in both face and girth, it was almost as if he were with us again. This made me very happy, especially as Holmes' chemistry set had been left behind years before as a donation to St. Bart's and Pip was in no danger of suffering the indignities my poor old dog had, so long ago.

It was a pleasant scene to tiptoe past, both of us shushing each other as we entered the cool, dark cottage. The door clicked closed behind us, unlocked, as we had no need to be careful out here in the country. The last villain we had conquered was the local vicar who'd come to the door one morning to exhort us to attend church more regularly with some very vehement and insulting words. Instead of bristling at his rudeness, I merely handed him over to Holmes who verbally dissected him like a particularly loathsome insect and lo and behold, the man had been nothing but scrupulously polite ever since.

As promised, I salved Holmes' cheeks once we were settled indoors. He squirmed and made annoyed noises and I kissed him silent, marveling at how well that ploy still worked. "It won't always," he grumbled, reading my mind which was his classic ploy to silence me.

Unfortunately for him, ithat/I trick no longer worked, not even a little. "Let's see if that's a fact," I rejoined, kissing him again, deeply and suggestively. Once done, I examined his face, gratified to see that he was indeed red, but not from the sun. "Now, are you hungry, my dear?"

I had meant hungry for dinner, but of course, he didn't take it that way.

"Yes," he replied hoarsely, taking my hand and sucking my index finger into his mouth, the invitation clear. "Starving."

I gasped and felt a shiver run down my entire body. Now ithis/i was somewhat unexpected. Our love had settled down a bit in retirement, as had our lives. While we still engaged regularly enough, it was not quite as an inflamed a coupling as it was in our younger days when I used to walk around in an almost painful state of arousal for hours on end until we finally found a moment's peace, if it could have been called that, as wild a joining as it always was.

But now, with our hair gray and our limbs aching, it wasn't quite the same as it used to be. Still, he smiled coyly at me, a hint of heat in his eyes. "There are other ways to quiet that mouth of yours, Watson. Will you give me the opportunity?" Such torrid words, the like I hadn't heard in a while. With a bite to my lower lip, I nodded mutely as held out his hand to lead me into our bedroom and I followed happily, filled with a warm rush of anticipation.

Once inside, we undressed as we usually did, slowly and separately, no longer willing to pick our clothes out of the lampshades after the fact. Still, my enthusiasm wasn't dampened. Indeed, I was more eager than I'd been in some weeks and when we lay down in opposite directions, mouths to each other's pricks, I engaged enthusiastically, pulling his member into my mouth as he did the same to me.

He was still soft, but that didn't discourage me in the slightest. On the contrary, there were moments when we both suffered from difficulties on occasion, but the physical closeness, the sheer joy of our mutual touches more than made up for it. Our priorities had changed, in every aspect of our lives and this activity was no exception.

We finally knew peace and happiness and lying together so freely any time we wished was sweet icing on the cake.

The position we assumed was delightful, not to mention comfortable. My arms were wrapped tightly around his thighs, my mouth licking and working him with abandon while feeling him do the same to me. I groaned as I felt him finally harden beneath my tongue and I continued thrusting into the warm heat of his mouth, laughing breathlessly as our movements became messy and uncoordinated, occasionally missing their mark.

I once joked about us getting black eyes from this effort and how ever would we explain that to Mrs. Hudson, but he'd retorted about her having known about our activities since the last century at the very least, which made me laugh even more.

"You're not saying anything, my dear," he gasped, pumping himself into my eager mouth with renewed vigor. "Even if you're thinking that I'm talking far too much."

I made a noise that might have constituted agreement, but I was soon lost in pleasuring him as well as the overwhelming sensation of him swallowing me down with unbridled enthusiasm. I felt the tight knot of orgasm gather at the base of my spine and I allowed myself to let go, crying out against his rock-hard prick as I spent down his throat.

Eventually, he pulsed hard against my palate and I felt him spend, spurts of hot, salty fluid filling my mouth. Moaning, I swallowed gladly, enjoying every bit of his essence, the years having burned all shyness out of me long ago. Gently, I let him go before playfully nipping at his thighs for good measure.

With an undignified squeak, he pulled away. "Honestly, Watson. No need to be vindictive. Just because I won the wager ..."

"There was no wager." I bent my head to tongue his balls, just for amusement, chuckling wickedly at his exasperated noises. "Trust me, I would have won if there were."

"After all these years, you still can't resist a bet," he chided. "I'm only fortunate my cottage is paid for, aren't I?"

"Our cottage," I reminded him, with another bite to his thigh, this one harder than the last. "Our home, our dogs, our dear housekeeper, our cat ..."

"You can keep the cat."

"Our clothes, our retirement ... our life," I finished, sitting up and pulling him to me, easily.

Maybe it was the lovemaking, maybe it was the sunset reddening our bedroom in shades of gold and crimson, but for a moment I felt like the young, passionate man I used to be. The man who, once upon a time, met a strange student at St. Bart's, with wild dark hair and beautiful eyes that sparkled with a brilliance the world would never see again and fell for him at first glance, even if I hadn't been sure of it at the time.

But at this point in our lives, I was nothing but sure. "I love you, Holmes," I whispered against his mouth, kissing him and tasting myself on his lips. "I love you with all that I am and all that I will be, as long as I live. What do you say to that?"

Oh, how that dear mouth twisted and his eyes turned overbright in the waning light of the day but still, he said nothing. As always, my Holmes had trouble responding to such frank affection, but it no longer mattered what he said or how he said it, not now in the sweet twilight of our lives together.

For after all these years, thank heaven and all the angels above, I finally knew everything for certain.


Later on, we had shepherd's pie for dinner and plain cake drizzled with honey for dessert.

Mrs. Hudson made a show of cutting the cake and pouring the tea, even though most of the food had been cooked by the day maid that morning. Holmes and I shared the crockery washing, with the usual arguing as an old soldier doesn't much appreciate the shoddy work of a civilian, not then, not ever.

With an affectionate good-night to Mrs. Hudson, we settled into our brandy sleepily. I admonished Holmes for the lit pipe dangling unattended between his fingers even as he mocked me for losing my reading glasses atop my head. We went to bed, this time to sleep and our backs were warm against each other as a fresh evening breeze drifted in from the open windows, keeping our noses cool.

There was a meowing at the foot of our bed and Holmes pretended to kick at it, but I knew the cat was safe there, as it had been for the past year. Eventually I drifted off, with Holmes reaching back to take my hand, twining our fingers together for a brief second before he too fell into sleep's embrace, ready to face another slow ... sweet ... perfect sunrise, in this, the best of days.



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