A/N: Finally, a new installment! Not sure if this fits well, right after "Intensive Care" but oh, well, here it is.
This is totally pointless fluff, basically. (Then again, so is this whole series, haha.)
Asexual!Sherlock/Straight!John (established relationship, platonic romance, nonsexual soul mates)
Straight!Irene/Straight!Mary (established relationship, platonic romance)
Implied John/Mary (aromantic het)
Dinner with Women
Christmas is ten days away, and London is cold and dry with the foreboding premonition of snow. Sherlock and John are in between cases and taking the opportunity to meet Mary and Irene for dinner at Angelo's. Irene happens to be in town through the holidays, provided an emergency job doesn't pop up, (she promises Mary no such thing will happen), and the silent truce between her and Sherlock appears to be intact. John and Mary have no idea what spurred such an agreement, but they're equally grateful for it.
Sherlock and John are cozy together in the booth side of their table, while the women sit across from them in chairs, Irene's arm draped casually over the back of Mary's chair. They've ordered a bottle of red wine, and the four of them are nearly through first glasses, anticipating another bottle. The restaurant is busy and warm with that December cheeriness, noisy with patron conversations and silverware and glasses.
"God, I'd kill for a cigarette right now," Irene says.
"For once, I agree with you," says Sherlock, sipping at his wine.
"You've quit, though, haven't you?"
He nods. "Years ago, except for the occasional smoke on my pipe."
"He still uses nicotine patches from time to time," says John. "I think just for the rush they give him."
Mary smiles and Sherlock pouts and says he does no such thing.
"Mary hates my smoking," says Irene, glancing at the woman to her left. "Don't you, Lady? At least I make sure to do it outside and wear strong perfume. I've never even tried quitting. Love it too damn much"
"John could give you the proper doctor's lecture and scare," says Sherlock. "Cancer and all that dull nonsense."
"Except it isn't nonsense, Sherlock," says John. "You know that. And anyway, I don't think Irene needs to hear it from me; she's a smart woman."
He smiles pleasantly at her.
"Sod it, we all die anyway," Sherlock says, draining his wine glass. John rolls his eyes.
"Yeah, well, with an attitude like that—"
"Hell, if the smoke doesn't kill us, our jobs will," says Irene with a sardonic grin. "Never have found old age tasteful. Do you, Holmes?"
Sherlock gives her a disgusted expression. "Certainly not."
"You'd bloody kill yourself before accepting a wrinkle, you vain prat," says John. The women laugh and he breaks into a smile. Indeed, Sherlock has a few wrinkles already, though if John were to point them out, he would staunchly deny it. John's had to restrain himself from joking about Botox because he thinks Sherlock would actually go through with it if he did.
"You men are lucky, though," says Irene. "You age far better than women, on the whole. The day I turned forty, all I wanted to do was drink until I forgot the year."
"Oh, please," says Mary. "You're still ridiculously good looking, and you know it. It's bloody unfair."
"Surely you don't mean unfair to you, you haven't aged in the last decade either!"
Mary gives her a skeptical look and sips on her wine.
"Really! She hasn't, has she, John?"
"Well, I haven't known you two quite that long, but she's certainly no less pretty now than she was the day we met."
He smiles genuinely at Mary, who beams and blushes. Their waiter stops by and takes the empty wine bottle and refills their water glasses, asking them if they would like more wine, to which everyone except Sherlock says yes. Once the waiter leaves, Sherlock drops his head onto John's shoulder—his good one, Sherlock strategically sits on John's right. He slouches to make up for their difference in height and he only has a few minutes before his neck begins to ache from the awkward position. John rests his cheek against Sherlock's hair gently, giving the women a warm look.
"You can't be sleepy after only one glass, Holmes," says Irene. "Night's just getting started."
His blue eyes stare blankly across the table, at her.
"Irene, aren't they precious?" says Mary, a sincerity in her voice that always appears when she remarks on Sherlock and John together. It fills John with such affection for her.
"I hope you aren't suggesting we copy them," says Irene, scratching lazily at Mary's shoulder with the long nail of her index finger. "I'm far more comfortable upright."
Irene—much like Sherlock—does not seem at all the type to appreciate physical affection. (Sex doesn't count, of course.) The most she and Mary ever do in public is hold hands, only sometimes. She's never affectionate with her male lovers, in public or private. Yet Mary rather likes to cuddle up next to her and hold her hand and hug and even curl against her side when they sleep. Irene's not sure she would seek out the affection if left entirely to her own devices, but she always enjoys it anyway.
"Mary said you boys are going to a concert tomorrow?"
Sherlock sits straight up and looks at her alertly. "I've convinced him to accompany me to the London Symphony Orchestra's new Bach series. It's opening night. Surely, you must be aware of that."
Irene shrugs. "Classical music isn't my thing."
Long-suffering frustration passes through his face.
"It wasn't my thing either, when I met him," says John, in far too good a mood to let it waste. "But living with him for all these years, I've learned to appreciate it. I think it'll be good, right, Sherlock?"
"The LSO is a bit more than good, John."
"You play the violin, don't you, Holmes?" says Irene. She looks at John. "Do you ever hear anything decent out of him?"
"Oh, on occasion."
John says it slyly, lifting his water glass to his lips before the smile becomes too indulged. Sherlock is fantastic at the violin when he plays it seriously; not a genius, perhaps not exactly on par with the best of the professionals, but terribly good all the same. As it turns out, he's a little shy about playing earnestly in front of people. John has to skirt around him and catch it under discretion.
"John, haven't you mentioned the piano?" says Mary.
"He's quite good," says Sherlock, breaking off a piece of bread from the loaf in the basket and chewing at it slowly. John blushes at the tips of his ears, ridiculously thrilled at any compliment Sherlock pays him and quite pleased to see him eating of his own volition.
"You could start a band," says Irene wryly, sipping on her wine.
The waiter brings them salad, which only Sherlock declines. Instead, he stares periodically out the front windows of the restaurant into the street, almost as if he's looking for something or someone. He's preoccupied, and John notices, glancing at him more than once as he and the women eat their salads and chat.
"Are you at home for Christmas then?" Mary says to the men.
John nods. "Harry's going to the country with her girlfriend, won't be back until after New Year's, I suspect. And Sherlock—he generally avoids his family."
Sherlock hums absently, only half-listening and watching the street.
"I've never had any desire to travel over the holidays," says Irene, stabbing at her lettuce with excessive force. "It's total anarchy at the airports, by far the worst time of the year to fly."
"You know I've never thought to ask, John," says Mary, "Do you and Sherlock get a Christmas tree?"
John snorts and breaks into an open-mouthed smile. "A tree in the flat? With Sherlock? It wouldn't last a day before catching fire."
Irene smirks down into her wine glass as she takes another drink. Sherlock turns his attention back to the table momentarily, arching an eyebrow in elegant skepticism.
"It's impractical," he says. "Hauling a tree up the stairs and remembering to water it and wasting time with decoration and hauling it back out again, all within a few weeks. Absurd. Nor is there room."
"There are those mini trees, aren't there?" says Mary. "The little ones? You can put them on a table."
Irene leans toward her, arm pushing into arm. "Lady, can you imagine those two with a miniature tree? It'd look ridiculous. Hysterical. What they ought to do is steal a corpse from Bart's, hang it up in the living room, and leave their gifts at its feet."
Mary and John start to laugh. Sherlock just trains his feline look of his disdain upon her.
"At least then, Holmes could recycle it properly after the holidays are over. Trees just go in the trash, but a corpse? He could use it up like fucking Indians on a buffalo."
"I'd be sure to send you the heart with some biscuits," Sherlock says to her. "Late gift."
Irene gives him a small but genuine smile.
As the night winds down and they clear their plates of pasta and grow warm and heavy with wine, the restaurant gradually quiets until they are among the last of the patrons. The waiter asks if they're interested in dessert but none of them have any room left. Sherlock and John don't have to pay, and Irene picks up the tab for herself and Mary. The four of them linger in their seats through a long break in conversation. Irene has her arm draped around Mary, and Mary has her hand perched on Irene's shoulder, as she watches Irene's face. Sherlock finds John's hand with his own and holds it on John's thigh beneath the table, which is still a rather infrequent thing for him to do in public. John squeezes his hand in affectionate appreciation, rubbing his thumb along Sherlock's knuckle.
"We're quite lucky, aren't we?" he says.
"What do you mean?" says Mary.
"He's being sentimental," Sherlock says.
"I mean, to all be sitting here at this table together," says John. "It's bloody miraculous, it is."
Mary smiles at him sweetly and looks back at Irene, their faces only a few inches apart.
"I believe the word is brilliant," Irene says.
Mary impulsively pushes her lips into Irene's cheek, nose smashed in too, and holds the kiss a beat longer than she needs. But Irene smiles indulgently, even as the kiss ends and Mary nuzzles her face against Irene's, chin down on her own hand that still rests over Irene's shoulder.
"You are better than any husband in the world," Mary says, eyes closed.
"And you, my dear, are drunk." Irene takes a drink of water, obviously pleased with herself.
"I object. John's a superior husband," Sherlock says. He turns his head to look at John and John makes eye contact with him. "I would marry you again, in fact."
John glows with a dopey smile, feeling the warm metal of Sherlock's wedding ring caught in their hands. "Once does the job, I think."
"People renew their vows."
"We never had any to begin with."
Sherlock pauses at this, looking thoughtful. "John Watson. I vow—to pay my half of the rent as long as we live on Baker Street, to behave myself enough so you don't leave, to bring you along on cases as often as you like, and to love you and only you as I have never loved anyone, until I am inevitably deleted from the earth by a lunatic."
John laughs, almost giggling, and declares that Sherlock has actually had too much to drink. Mary is cooing like a schoolgirl with a kitten about how adorable they are, and Irene is staring at Holmes with the smuggest grin on her face, already savoring the satisfaction of teasing him about this in the future.
"I meant every word," says Sherlock with uncharacteristic solemnity.
John stretches up and kisses him on the cheek. "I'm sure you did."
"Well," says Irene, with Mary slumped heavier against her side. "Let's hear it, John."
"Now?" He rubs at his forehead.
"Seems only fair."
"Right... I, John Watson, swear on the Queen, to love this man for what's left of my life, to make the tea and save his arse whenever necessary, to make sure he eats and sleeps and doesn't spend too much time sulking, and I also swear to provide him with as much affection as he requires. Oh, and I'll try not to be an idiot. Or boring. We'll get divorced if I'm boring. Amen."
Irene snorts, and Sherlock presses his forehead against John's temple and closes his eyes.
"I'll never divorce you," he murmurs. "Don't even say the word."
"If I get sick later, I won't know if it's from the wine or you lot," says Irene, good-naturedly. "Which means I think it's time we go home."
Mary mutters something into her neck that sounds like won't you carry me, and the four of them finally start to get up. Irene all but holds Mary up on her feet as they leave, while Sherlock and John follow behind them, hands still clasped together.
The cold night air blasts into their faces as they step outside, waking them up a little, and they stand on the side of the road together, waiting for cabs. Sherlock stares at the sky, searching for stars and thinking he might see a few past the cloud cover but can't be sure. Irene stands with her arm still around Mary, who keeps her eyes closed and her body snug to Irene's, head against head. When a cab finally comes, John insists the women take it. He and Mary kiss each other briefly on the lips (as she apologizes for drinking too much and getting so sleepy) and everyone wishes each other a happy Christmas, not expecting to meet again until January at least.
Sherlock and John watch the cab until they can't see it anymore. Their breaths turn white, and John slides his arm around Sherlock's waist.
"That was nice," John says. "Having dinner with them."
Sherlock hums. John pulls his pocket watch out and checks the time, not even thinking of his watch or his phone.
"Bloody hell. No wonder we're all so knackered. God, all I want is a hot cuppa tea and bed and a cuddle."
Sherlock agrees, attention still fixed on the sky.
"Hey," John says, looking at him. "Are you okay? What are you thinking in there?"
Sherlock's eyes linger on the sky for a moment more, before he looks over at John and shakes his head to one side.
"I'm fine," he says and faces straight ahead, staring down the road winding away toward Baker Street, remembering briefly the night they chased after the wrong cab all those years ago, the first time they came to Angelo's together. The memory seems to him like something from an alternate life, although it was the beginning of this one. Sherlock never even anticipated reaching this age, if he's honest with himself. Never mind reaching it with John still beside him.
"We are lucky," he says, his voice deep and steady. A smile ghosts through his lips.
They snuggle in the cab all the way home.