...their last times, and perhaps their best.

Respiration (John, Sherlock)

They come to a scrambling stop at the next corner. Sherlock leans against a wall while John slumps over, hands on his pounding knees, trying to breathe. There's no sounds of pursuit, at least. John can remember when a run like that wouldn't so much as wind him, though his heart still pumps from the adrenaline as much as it ever did.

"I have spent...my entire life...running after you," he gasps out.

Sherlock looks over at him, understanding. "Had enough?"

The question's weighted. John knows that soon his answer will change; but today, he grins. "God, no."


Expurgate (John, Sherlock)

John opened the email from his potential publisher with something like foreboding. Immediately, he groaned. "You will not believe what they want me to take out before they'll turn the blog into a book."

Sherlock glanced over. "Let's see. The drug use?"

"No, that can stay. Apparently it's edgy."

"Oh? What then?"

"No illegal guns, no unresolved cases. No girlfriends, or one that stays. Less detailed police procedure, less waiting around, and fewer deductions." John shook his head. "They have absolutely no idea."

"No," Sherlock agreed, chuckling.

"Shame." John deleted the email.


Impeach (Lestrade)

Lestrade leaned back against his desk, arms folded, and took a look at the board. Pictures, maps, profiles, bits of string. He closed his eyes against the row of victims. Nothing made that better.

But they'd got him. With evidence and work and undeniable proof, and he'd be locked away for life. No jury would acquit him. The satisfaction thrummed through his bones. Dimmock caught the vibe, saluted as he passed. It was a bloody good day, as they went. Lestrade smiled: a copper's smile, all teeth and hard edges, out to the air where no one else would see.


Parameter (Mycroft, John)

The phone gives off an alert noise in the middle of the night, just when Mycroft is considering sleep. It is the seventh time in the last two hours, which means that Sherlock is being even more difficult than usual. When the alert goes off again, Mycroft finally takes pity and calls John.


"Good evening. You may want to guide his attention to the lack of hydrogen peroxide in the supplies of the second victim."

"Thank you," John sighs. "You're a marvelous friend."

"You're...quite welcome." Somehow, he's never considered that.


Notarise (Molly)

She and Jake got married on a Thursday. No fanfare or anything, but Jake got them rings and Molly wore a new blue dress. It was nice, really, to just sign here and be married. They went out for drinks and held hands, and that was it. She couldn't stop smiling for days.

When John and Sherlock walked in on Monday night, Sherlock looked her over once, snorted, and swooped over to the shelves. "I hope this one isn't a serial killer."

John just smiled and patted her hand. "Congratulations," he murmured, which was what Sherlock meant anyway.


Homogenous (Sherlock, John)

After the serial arsonist case in December and January, Sherlock decided that it was time for a vacation. He usually loathed leaving London, but the weather was bitter and he was tired. John was quiet and subdued, puttering around the flat aimlessly. They went to Italy. Sherlock showed John the back alleys and secret fountains away from the tourist trappings. They sat in the sun and bought expensive food. It wasn't until their last day in Rome that Sherlock realized he had never asked John to come along, exactly. He'd simply bought two tickets. He couldn't imagine doing it differently.


Gerrymander (Lestrade, John, Sherlock)

The crime scene is a mess, all blood and rainwater. Lestrade feels the weather in his bones these days. He steps back to let Sherlock work, ceding to brilliance with fifteen years' worth of practice. John settles next to him to watch. "How often do you make sure you're the one who gets these cases?"

Lestrade knows what he's asking: the odd ones, the gruesome murders, the really off-the-wall horrors of life that pique Sherlock's interest. It's never just been about Sherlock. There's no good answer. (It's right.)

Sherlock deliberately catches his eye, gaze steady. Understanding. That's answer enough.


Irony (Mycroft, Sherlock, John)

Mycroft had planned his life around keeping Sherlock safe. He had often hoped that one day this overprotective care would prove unnecessary. He'd never expected it to actually happen.

Sherlock had expected to spend his life alone, removed and happily remote from the rest of humanity. Then he met John and spent the last half of his life thinking in twos. Unexpected.

John had planned on living a normal kind of life, really. Kids, a wife, a practice somewhere, veteran status. He would've been miserable. But he met Sherlock, and life became exciting and utterly unpredictable. Exactly what he wanted.


Facetious (Stamford, John, Sherlock)

Sherlock and John show up to Mike's retirement send-off an hour late, but it's the thought that counts, really. Mike hands John a drink and claps Sherlock on the back. "Ah, there you are!"

John exchanges the drink for a card. "That's from both of us. Wouldn't miss it, Mike."

Mike looks the two of them over, shakes his head. "I'll admit, when I introduced you two, I was having a bit of a laugh. Thought you would've killed each other within a day."

"Joke's on you then," John grins, and Mike laughs loudly in agreement.


Subjugate (John, The Chip-and-Bin Machine)

John squared his shoulders, narrowed his eyes, took a breath. "Right," he murmured. "Here we are."

He'd waited until a quiet moment, with no impatient queue to push him. Right then. He rolled his head on his neck, and then focused.

Pick up the milk. Slide through. Wait for the annoying tone. Place milk very deliberately on weighted area. Wait for the voice. Slide card.

Bugger. Turn card over, slide again.

"Thank you for shopping with us! Don't forget to take your receipt!"

"Thank you," John said, and took the receipt as a spoil of victory.


Oligarchy (John, Sherlock, Mycroft)

When the fourth building explodes, Mycroft's car picks them up. Mycroft meets them there, and Sherlock joins his brother under his umbrella. They stand together talking intensely for several minutes: two unobtrusive figures, nearly hidden by rain and smoke, strikingly similar. The world pivots around them until they separate; Sherlock to the scene, Mycroft to his assistant.

One conversation. Ten hours later, the terrorists are eradicated by means John can only half-understand. Sherlock and Mycroft part ways with a practiced insult or two. John understands now why they argue constantly. As a united force they are something altogether more frightening.


Nihilism (Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson)

Martha Hudson died of kidney disease at the age of seventy-eight. She left 221B to Sherlock, who had already bought the place three times over with his rent throughout the years. The rest went to John to sort out.

Her only demand: at the funeral, everyone else had to give something back to her. It was nonconformist and sentimental and utterly appropriate for her. All kinds of things ended up in the casket: movies, knitting needles, newspaper clippings, fabric.

Life seemed duller. She had willingly given him rules to break. Sherlock put nothing in the casket. She would have understood.


Suffragist (Sally, Lestrade, Scotland Yard)

She's spent her entire career becoming one of the guys. It's a weakness to be a woman here, whatever equal rights and affirmative action tell you. Sally knows that the first time she gets someone coffee or wears a skirt, the housewife jokes will start and they'll never entirely stop. It's just the way things are, for now.

But this is different. When Lestrade announces his retirement, Sally brings him coffee and puts a hand on his shoulder. She arranges the party, does the shopping. The jokes happen; she ignores them. She doesn't trust anyone else to do him justice.


Tautology (Sherlock, John)

John stands at the window and watches Mary leave. Sherlock stands just behind and watches John. This is not a new experience; John's experiments with the female sex always end this way, and yet this one seems to have hit harder, deeper, than Sherlock had anticipated.

He approaches John uncertainly until they stand shoulder to shoulder, looking out. John seems very lonely next to him. Sherlock hesitates, and then reaches out to put a hand on John's steady arm.

"At least I have you, eh?" John sighs.

Sherlock has never bothered answering obvious questions. He goes to make tea.


Enfranchise (Anthea, Mycroft)

It was Mycroft Holmes' last day. She had to take deep breaths around the thought, even though they'd been preparing this transition for months, years. How could she ever-

He paused, coat half-on, sensing the thought. "You'll be making your own schedule now," he smiled.

No words seemed sufficient. "Sir, I-" she bit her lip. "Thank you."

His expression was gentle, steady, reassuringly confident. His hand brushed her shoulder. "Chin up," he murmured. "It's all yours, my dear."

He left her, then: the office, the desk, the world, all safe in her trembling hands.


Incontrovertible (John, Lestrade)

John looks up from another autograph to find Lestrade standing in front of the queue, John's book in one hand, evil grin firmly in place. "You realize that it's too late, now."

"Too late for what?" John snags the book from him and opens the front cover to scrawl a note.

"To do anything else. You'll be the bloke who wrote about Sherlock Holmes. You've signed your docket, mate."

"That's true." John signs his name with a flourish. "Could be worse." He knows that Lestrade, of all people, understands. "Sit down, keep me company."


Filibuster (Sherlock, John)

They'd said to keep talking, in case it kept John aware beneath the twisted metal door that was blocking the extraction. So Sherlock lay flat on the ground, pressed a hand to the steel, and talked until his voice gave out.

"John, if you can hear me, you need to stay awake. Help is on the way. It was completely idiotic to go in there alone, especially when you knew he—John, we'll go on vacation or something after this. Sussex, maybe. We're due for a break. Do you like bees? I never asked you. John, stay awake. Please. John..."


Tempestuous (Anderson)

Anderson never sleeps well anymore. The flat's horrid: the pipes go off at odd hours, and the street noise is unpredictable. He tosses and turns on the bed, twisted (smothered) in blankets.

When he dreams, it's usually in memories: screaming rows with the wife, harsh words with Sally, the wail of sirens. He wakes suddenly, noise ringing in his ears.

He still remembers all those fights. Remembers his life being one long string of angry conversations (relationships) that ended in a blow-up just as loud as the rest. He's well shot of them. Really.

Still. The silence is worse, somehow.


Winnow (Lestrade, Mycroft)

Lestrade sat heavily on the last crate. Packing up was real exertion these days, but there was something almost freeing in the getting rid of things, even if...

The front door creaked open on Mycroft's knock. He leaned more heavily on his umbrella these days. What remained of his hair was silver, but his eyes were sharp as ever. Familiar.

Mycroft propped his umbrella against a crate, surprisingly hesitant. "I thought...well. I thought that perhaps you might like a hand?"

Well then. Funny, the things that kept, at the end. "Yeah. Thanks."

The boxes seemed lighter after that.


Hemoglobin (John, Harry)

The don't talk very much any more, but that's fine, really. The cancer and the chemo don't change that. John calls her about every other month, and Harry humors his check-ins. In return she'll send him an an excerpt from some particularly bad review of his book. They'll never be close again, but they're fairly peaceful. That seems plenty, all considered.

The last time they speak, John cuts his finger on a can and stares at the red blood oozing while Harry rattles on about her doctors. Years later, that's all John will be able to remember from the conversation.


Loquacious (Sherlock, John)

"It was originally tattoos, of course." Sherlock swayed dangerously. John propped him against the wall until he unlocked the door and got them both inside.

"Later after people became more civ...civil...it was just a very good memory. Like mine. Only not as good, so they made mistakes all the time. The police. The police always make mistakes. Do we have any more wine?"

"No," John told him firmly, and dropped him onto the couch.

"Wasn't until 1870 that they started using fingerprints. Paris..." Sherlock trailed off, staring at the ceiling. John went to get him water.


Wrought (Mycroft, Sherlock)

Mycroft is fading. He can sense it in his core. The monitors and regulators have finally been turned off. He feels something like peace.

Sherlock appears at the last possible moment. Mycroft opens his eyes and finds his brother sitting there staring back. Sherlock is older now: face lined, hair turning silver. Still familiar. Less terrifying. There is a softness to his gaze that makes Mycroft's throat tight.

Here is the work of his life, alive and breathing and well-kept, steady at his bedside. "Sherlock..."

"Rest, Mycroft," Sherlock murmurs. Mycroft smiles and finally succumbs to the darkness, content.


Supercilious (Lestrade, Sherlock)

Lestrade still remembers the first time he ever met Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock had been high at the time, but he's still been brilliant, sharp and cold and arrogant in a way that went far past the normal uni trust fund pride that Lestrade was used to. That expression was the first thing he associated with Sherlock.

But not the only thing. Lestrade never expected to find himself on a porch chair in Sussex, listening to Sherlock chatter on about pollen while they sip lemonade with old hands. Sherlock's expression hasn't changed, but their relationship has. Lestrade can see better now.


Yeoman (John)

The weed came up with a yank. John leaned back, wiped the sweat from his brow. He looked around the garden with satisfaction. Sherlock had let the green plot in back of the cottage go to seed entirely, content to focus on his bees. John's careful tending this summer was paying off. The effort hurt his back, but it soothed his soul. Sherlock was right (obvious), and John was grateful. He stood and tried to wipe the soil from his hands. They'd need lunch soon. After two decades of friendship, John was happily resigned to doing all the work himself.


Ziggurat (Sherlock)

Sherlock settles on the porch that evening, joints aching. His arthritic fingers curl in the wool blanket. It's too cold to be out, but he remains, just to see the darkening Sussex sky and hear the droning of his bees settling in their hives for the night. Their mounded homes stand out against the far horizon like mysterious foreign temples.

He wonders if John believed in God. All the times they sat here side by side, they never broached the subject. John's chair is empty now. Here in the fading light of his life, Sherlock wishes that he had asked.

Author's Note: This has been quite the experience. I'm glad to be done with it, but it's been worth the effort. As always, your reading time is appreciated, and your comments are welcome if you feel like dropping one by. All the prompt words come from "the 100 words that every high school graduate should know", so here's your chance to whip out a dictionary site and expand your vocabulary. Cheers!