For the first five days after the pool, Sherlock and John had been quite literally inseparable. It was no surprise to the first-responce officers (led by DI Lestrade and backed up by more police cars than John had ever seen in one place at a time) when they'd insisted on riding in the same ambulance, fingers bloodied and laced inextricably. Three weeks of recovery later, no one was surprised when the two arrived on the scene of an unsolvable crime hand-in-hand. A week after that, John was up on his toes and kissing Sherlock at the scene in front of twelve officers and a shivering witness. It was safe to say that they were an item.
It's when Lestrade retires and Mrs. Hudson passes away (God rest her, she'd left them Baker Street to look after) that things invariably slow. Fewer men at Scotland Yard are willing to trust the eccentric detective and the doctor always at his side. It's only for the really tough spots someone throws in a good word for them (DCI Dimmock is usually on their side, even when no one else seems to be).
It's when John doesn't run as fast as Sherlock remembered that he first thinks the word retirement. Not the time Sherlock outright passed out at a crime scene from low blood sugar, nor the time Sherlock spent an extra three days in the hospital from a cut that shout have been benign. It would always be John.
On John's fifty-fifth birthday, Sherlock takes him out. To the country, a place John had never thought to associate with the man who was as much like London as any human could be (cold and gray but beautiful, with twists and turns and dark places only the most intrepid could find and map).
When the pull up the long gravel drive to a cottage on the coast, Sherlock asks only one question:
"Will this do?"
It's dusty and needs a lot of work, but with Sherlock off the job he would need something to do with those hands. John kicks up loose boards and tugs at the loose wallpaper, but the pipes work and it's still full of furniture that Sherlock's second cousin had left there when she'd gone off by herself to Spain and decided never to come back (dreadful flighty woman, covered herself in gold; probably dead by now). John throws open the heavy curtains and stands in the warm pool of sunlight (Sherlock thinks John doesn't see him watching, but he does), lets it soak into his battered bones and sighs to stir the dust. Oh, it feels good.
"Yeah, I think she'll suit us."
John is most worried about the cooking, as he'd never been a great hand at it. But with nothing but time on his hands, Sherlock shows that he can cook. By God, can he cook (It's chemistry, John. For eating.), and it's eggplant parmesan, chicken cacciatore, braised veal, and it's delicious.
They keep bees. John had always thought it was a joke (one he was sure he didn't understand, for the frequency Sherlock brought it up), but then the delivery truck rolls up the gravel drive with six hives to unload. John signs for them (Sherlock is up at the post office, casually informing the woman ahead of him at the counter that her husband is having an affair), stares at them uselessly until Sherlock bikes down the drive and hops from foot to foot in wide-eyed childish glee.
"Bee stings offer relief to rheumatism pains," Sherlock says, flipping through a magazine without seeing it.
"Rheumatoid arthritis," John casually corrects the colloquialism. "And you don't have it," he retorts, nudging his partner's leg under the sheets.
"Yes I do," Sherlock pouts angrily, and once he's thrown the magazine at John's head he flops over to his other side and stews the whole night long.
He makes John breakfast before the sun is up as an apology. He studies up on rheumatoid arthritis.
Sherlock shows John how to calm the bees (after a horrendous experiment with the violin that left John pulling stings from Sherlock's back all night), and how to collect the honey. John doesn't pay attention (much more interested in the muscles in Sherlock's arms and shoulders when he pulls out the trays). The sex is always better after collecting the honey, and Sherlock doesn't know why (John does).
At night, with his face half-hidden against Sherlock's chest, he hears quiet, steady breath in one ear and the soft hiss of the waves at the cliffs in the other.
Every now and then, someone shows up at their doorstep. Some local constable on behalf of their sergeant, a scared man in a hat, a woman with jewelry too expensive for her salary; all of them want the same thing. Sherlock Holmes. They want his famous brain to solve their little problems. And sometimes he's bored enough to listen. Once or twice he's bored enough to take the case.
Sherlock acts like he's still forty-years-old, leaping deer-like over hedges in pursuit of a thief (nicked a ham and the cash box from the local pub, had been rather sloppy about it), shouting and laughing at the chase and running at long-legged full speed over hill and dale. He skids to a halt (all thought of the thief and the hunt gone in an instant and replaced with white-hot shock and worry) when John falls to one knee chasing after him, hand over his heart and heaving for breath. He cradles John against him, clutches him, fisting hands in wooly jumper and breathing useless words into his neck (breathe John, slowly, slowly, don't stop breathing) until John's legs stop shaking and he can stand.
They make the best honey west of Brighton.
John breaks into gales of soft, sunny laughter as he combs his fingers through Sherlock's hair.
The detective gives a derisive sniff. "What?"
"You've gone gray," John observes, as if in religious euphoria. He twirls his fingers in strands of gray mixing with black at Sherlock's temples. John has been gray for ages, all the blond faded years back (hell, he'd been gray in Baker Street).
Sherlock goes pale. "No."
"I like it," John says quickly. Smoothing Sherlock's hair under his palms, John's smile goes even wider. "I love it."
Something almost like a smile twitches up at the edge of Sherlock's mouth.
They don't usually fall to the convention, but when Sherlock presses his mouth and nose to John's brow he does say, "I love you."
AN: This one was a request, written for the wonderful sherlocksviolin on tumblr. She's awesome and she was looking for retirement!fic and couldn't find much at all, so I was like I'M ON THE CASE. It was fun, and I have it on good authority (beta Lady Dan) that it's more adorbz than usual. Hope so! Thanks so much for reading, leave us some love, and mostly STAY AWESOME!