Love, John muses, is sort of like a Quentin Tarantino film. Except not really.
It's around 11:47 PM. John is tired and a bit tipsy from a lazy night in watching telly and drinking beer and he's eyeing the stairs, wondering if he should just sleep on the couch tonight, when Sherlock proposes to him.
Well. He says proposal, since it technically is, but really it's just a quiet moment with the television going quietly and Sherlock just says out of the blue, "I think we should get married."
John sits there for a moment, blinking slowly, trying to remember if he and Sherlock are dating. When he can't remember anything like that happening, he tries to remember having sex with or kissing Sherlock, and when he can't remember anything like that happening, either, he tries to remember being remotely attracted to Sherlock at all in a way that was not remotely platonic.
He can't. John wonders how drunk he really is. He probably shouldn't try going up the stairs in this state tonight. This sofa is actually quite. Very squashy, and it's not a blanket and pillow.
"I said I think we should get married."
"I don't think that's legal in the UK."
"Civil partnerships are."
John struggles to think past the alcohol-induced haze that's making his brain all fuzzy and says, "But we're not gay."
Sherlock then goes on about the legal benefits, bringing up John's gambling problem and Sherlock's own refusal to demand payment for his assistance to the Scotland Yard and his tendency to turn down clients who offer grand amounts of money simply because the case they have to offer is too dull and obvious. Financial benefits, possession of joint property, bills and rent paid more easily, all kinds of terms and stuff John can't be bothered to really focus on right now.
"…and what better person to marry than your closest friend?" Sherlock finishes loftily.
John says yes just to shut him up. He's really, really drunk.
"Did you ask me to marry you last night?"
"I did. You said yes, and you're not allowed to change your mind." He tosses something across the room at John. John raises his hand just in time to deflect it, and gropes around for it on the floor by the sofa where it landed.
"I figured we might as well have something traditional about it, since there's nothing else traditional about it," Sherlock says, shrugging on his coat and putting on his scarf. "I'll be back in an hour, I need to see Lestrade about a man with a kite."
John's fingers close around the little box as Sherlock leaves the flat. He opens it and finds a gold wedding band. He tries it on to see if it fits.
It does. John's head hurts. He gingerly gets up and sets about making himself some breakfast, hungover and engaged.
"You do realize it's rather insensitive of you to ask me to marry you when I'm a widower."
"It's been three years since Mary passed." At least Sherlock has the decency to say that bit gently before continuing on more casually, "And I'm hardly taking her place or anything. Furthermore, you have my permission to sleep with whomever you like to satiate your typical human needs, since I'm certainly not going to help you out."
"You're so generous."
"Didn't they make a crap movie about this sort of thing in America?" John asks on the way to the ceremony.
"I don't know. Did they?"
"I think so. I think a good portion of the plot was about they were committing fraud."
"Nobody can prove we don't love each other and shouldn't be civil partners." Sherlock pauses, then adds, "In any case, more people believe we are shagging than people who believe we aren't, so it's not like anyone will really have any reason to think it's a sham."
"But it is a sham. We're doing this for the benefits and that's it."
"Plenty of people who get married don't love each other," Sherlock says with a careless flip of his hand. "And plenty more get married that do. I like you and I'd die for you and the same goes for you, so I think that's close enough."
John buries his face in his hands and half laughs, half groans. He's getting married to Sherlock.
Mycroft is well aware that Sherlock and John are not in love. He's one of the two witnesses required to be at the partnership. The other witness is Lestrade, because Sherlock couldn't think of anyone else that wasn't Mrs. Hudson and John didn't want to invite Harry. Lestrade is confused but not skeptical, so there's that.
"We welcome you here today on this very special occasion of deep significance for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson," the registrar is saying while John fidgets in his tuxedo. "Today they will affirm their love and publicly declare their commitment to each other."
John tries not to sweat, but it's rather warm in the venue and he's nervous. And of course Sherlock has to go and rub it in by looking just as calm and cool as ever, which just makes John look even worse in comparison.
"You are here to witness the formation of a civil partnership by Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. If any person present knows of any impediment to this civil partnership…"
John ponders the irony of his silent cursing of Sherlock Holmes while standing before the registrar as he goes on about how they love each other.
"We who are witnessing your civil partnership, hope that despite the stresses inevitable in any life, your Love, trust and understanding of each other, will increase your contentment and heighten your joy in living."
Good Lord. John may retch, though it's probably just because they're talking about Sherlock and John. John had no problem listening to the ceremony when he was marrying Mary.
"I, Sherlock Holmes," Sherlock says, bringing John out of the melancholy reverie he'd slipped into, "pledge to share my life openly with John Watson. I promise to cherish and tenderly care for you, to honor and encourage you. I will respect you as an individual and be true to you through good times and bad. To these things I give my word."
John repeats the words back to Sherlock, and it takes an enormous effort not to grimace or burst into hysterical laughter as he says them. It's not helping that each time he actually makes eye contact with Sherlock during the vows, Sherlock's got that gleam in his eye that says he's fighting the urge to laugh as well.
It's a civil union, we can't giggle at a civil union, John tries to silently communicate, thinking of a dead cabbie, as the rings are exchanged.
The registrar yammers on a bit more about love and happiness, and then Sherlock and John must recite a few more words at each other to test their strength at suppressing giggles, and the Civil Partnership Schedule is signed by the two of them, as well as Mycroft and Lestrade.
The ceremony ends with an uncomfortable moment that neither John nor Sherlock had exactly forgotten but had avoided thinking about. Sherlock bends a little, awkwardly, to peck John quickly on the mouth before straightening up again.
John can practically feel the mirth oozing from Mycroft's every pore.
It doesn't really hit John until Sherlock and John huff in annoyance at each other over a crime scene nearly a month later and Sgt. Donovan snaps at them, "Oh, shut up, the both of you! Bickering like you're an old married couple!"
Lestrade must not have mentioned it to any of the Yard, because he's standing off to the side scratching the back of his head awkwardly. John looks at the ring on his finger for the first time in a while, suddenly surprised that it's there.
"Yes, well, there's a reason for that," Sherlock sneers when Sally's eyes zero in on the ring and then widen at the sight of it. He shows her his matching one.
"Oh my God," Sally says, and she turns to walk away. "Oh my God," she says again, starting to laugh.
"Oh my God," John mutters quietly at his ring, amazed.
"Oh my God!" Sherlock cries excitedly, diving back down to examine the body a second time. "He's been in a bat cave within the last 24 hours, Inspector!"
"You're fine with moving when we're older, right?" Sherlock asks one night as he screws the lid of a jar on tight, peering at the little bumblebee he's captured inside it. "I'm thinking Sussex Downs. I'd like to keep bees once I retire."
"You? Retire?" John says incredulously.
"Well, I certainly won't be able to run around catching criminals in my old age," Sherlock says. "Assuming I live to an old age, that is."
Good point. "But…beekeeping?"
"What's wrong with beekeeping?" Sherlock asks, an indignant edge to his voice. He hugs the bee jar a little closer to his chest. John has to laugh.
"Nothing," he chuckles. "It just doesn't seem very…you. You can barely function without something exciting happening. Beekeeping seems like such a…dull thing for you to be interested in."
Sherlock stares at him as if John had grown a second head. "What part of being covered in bees seems even remotely dull?" At John's considering expression, he snaps, "Exactly. Think before you speak next time." He sits on the sofa arrogantly and curls his legs up beneath him, examining the little bee buzzing in the jar.
John watches him watch the bumblebee for a moment and pictures Sherlock in one of those silly beekeeping suits. It's a strangely endearing image and he can't help but smile.
"Think we'll really last that long?" John asks mildly, returning to his laptop.
"Of course we will," Sherlock sniffs. "There's no reason for us not to. So. Sussex Downs. Beekeeping."
There's a sort of agreement between them that they don't really discuss being married, but they can make quips and jokes about it.
"I met a girl the other day and she gave me her number, and I was going to call her today but I remembered it's our sixth month anniversary, and that feels wrong, so I'm going to call her tomorrow," John says one day, and Sherlock inhales half his tea as he laughs.
"Found these downstairs," Sherlock says on the fourteenth of February, dropping a little box of candy hearts in John's lap. "Happy Valentine's Day."
"Be back before midnight!" John shouts after Sherlock as Sherlock dashes off down the stairs one night. "I mean it, Sherlock! It's supposed to rain tonight, and just because you're my husband doesn't mean I'm looking forward to treating you for hypothermia if you get caught in a downpour!"
It's the ninth of August when John heads for the stairs, ready for bed, and checks his phone for messages. When he spies the date, he pauses at the foot of the stairs long enough for Sherlock to ask what the matter is.
"Er, nothing," John says, because it really is nothing and he's not sure why it suddenly struck him so hard again. "I just looked at the date. Two days ago we'd been married for a whole year."
A year. A whole year he's been married. To Sherlock. He doesn't know why he feels so off-balance knowing this, like something's supposed to click but it doesn't. For a long moment he stands there, brow furrowed at the date glowing on his phone, until he looks up at Sherlock across the room. They just peer at each other for a moment and there's an odd tension there because John has violated the agreement and they're discussing the marriage and it isn't a quip or a joke and it's weird.
"Happy Anniversary," Sherlock finally says, his low baritone voice rumbling seriously without a hint of the usual amusement that would usually accompany a statement like that these days, which throws John even further off balance than before.
"Yeah," he says. "You, too." They're locked in an unusual staring contest for a few seconds longer until John finally trots upstairs.
His hand is steady and his leg is fine and this time he's not sure that's a good thing.
"New rule: You're not allowed to make things explode in your bedroom."
"It's my bedroom."
"Yes, which means when you make it uninhabitable, you come and invade mine. I don't care if we're married; sleeping in the same bed as you is not fun."
"You drool," John points out.
"You kick me in your sleep!"
"That sounds like your problem, not mine."
"Oh, sod off! And quit hogging the blankets!" John yanks some of the covers from around Sherlock, who had bundled up cozily in them, stealing them all from John in the process.
"Your room is freezing."
"Yes, and so are your feet. Get them off me."
"God, do you ever stop complaining?" John kicks him. "Ow!" Sherlock kicks him back.
"You do enough of that in your sleep, knock it off!"
"Apparently you deserve it."
John rolls over to look at Sherlock severely. "This is my bed. I'm being very generous in letting you sleep in it with me. If you're cold, either go downstairs and get the blanket from the sofa and bring it up here, or share the blanket up here and spoon to share warmth. Your choice, darling."
Sherlock glares at the sarcastic pet name in the dark and kicks back the covers, stomping downstairs to retrieve the blanket from the sofa and stomping back up to John's room to get back in bed with it.
John wakes up the next morning tangled in the sheets of his bed and the blanket from the sofa with Sherlock's arm draped possessively over him, as per usual. But it's early in the morning in chilly November and John's room is still cold, so instead of elbowing Sherlock until he rolls over the other way, John rolls over, settles deeper into the blankets, and buries himself into the warm curve of Sherlock's body and goes back to sleep.
He doesn't think to be embarrassed about it until he wakes up again later in an empty bed.
They're in a taxi departing from Barts, where they'd made a breakthrough on their latest case and Molly had said with a rather disappointed air to her voice that Sherlock and John were the perfect couple, when John starts to laugh.
"I don't know about all that 'perfect couple' nonsense," John says when Sherlock asks what he's laughing at, "but I just realized this is the happiest I've been in a marriage."
There's a pause, and then Sherlock says, "Including Sarah and Mary?"
"Including Sarah and Mary."
"Being married to me makes you happy?" Sherlock asks slowly.
"Oh, no. I was happy before we got married. But when I married Sarah, I eventually started becoming unhappy, because I wasn't running around London chasing killers and jewel thieves with you. I started spending more time with you than her again, which eventually led to our divorce." He hesitates before continuing, "I think Mary was going to file for divorce as well before she fell ill. For the same reason."
Sherlock is quiet, because he rarely knows how to say something that isn't callous when John's voice goes soft when the topic of Mary comes up.
But John smiles again, and he's feeling a little reckless with realization, and he laughs, "Hell, I probably would have asked you to marry me eventually anyway, just for the sake convenience." He's startled by how incredibly true that feels in his gut.
Sherlock smiles quickly and casts his gaze out the window. The ride is silent after that.
On their second year anniversary, John tells Sherlock, "I think I love you."
"Not in that whole 'brothers in bond' sort of way. I mean I think I love you in the whole 'feeling obligated to buy a card with hearts and a picture of a swan on it and write a massively awful love letter on the inside sort of way'."
"You didn't, did you? Get a card with hearts and a picture of a swan and write a letter on the inside, I mean."
"Yeah. Happy Anniversary." He goes up to bed.
Six days later, Sherlock tells John, "I think I love you, too. In the card-with-a-swan way."
John blinks at him owlishly. "Oh. Er. Okay." They stare at each other for a moment. "Should we kiss?"
"It seems appropriate." So he bends like he had on the day of their civil union, because Sherlock is still tall and John is still short and nothing's changed, really, except now it actually makes a little bit of sense that they're married, and Sherlock brushes a light, chaste kiss over John's mouth.
"I think we've got this whole 'love' thing a bit backwards," John says when Sherlock straightens up. "Normal people fall in love, then get married."
Of course. So John kisses him again.
So…this was obviously set a bit into the future, far enough ahead for John to marry and divorce Sarah, and for John to marry Mary Morstan and then have her, uh, die. Poor Mary.