AN: Here it is, the last chapter. I'll be doing some typo editing as I go, and might change the title and summary like I threatened but I won't do so without informing you dear folks, perhaps in a temporary new chapter. The only change taking part for the moment is that I've given the chapters names according to how long after the marriage the chapter takes place. This last chapter fast forwards to thirty years. I hope you all had as much fun as I did!
Some parting thoughts: So much love to all of my reviewers, and a huge hug and shout out to Fire-Chan9490, whose message made me smile hugely and gave me all the feelings (you'll get a proper reply when my poor broken computer is capable of staying on for more than a few minutes at a time). And also, if y'all write fanfic as well and really love me, write me a Sherlock fic based on XKCD comic 943. I've played my married!fic card and, I hope, played it well, but the world needs that fic to exist. So. Anway. Enjoy.
They are old now.
John always knew how he would look old. He looks like his father, the spitting image, but really, that's not as bad a thing as it could be. He's gotten fat, though. He's always kept good care of himself, but eventually age and body type joined forces and ganged up on him. When he's frowning at his tummy and his laugh lines in the mirror, he tells himself that his silver hair makes him look dignified. (He's right.)
Sherlock meanwhile, has settled upon an unfairly handsome dark salt-and-pepper, with some noble touches of white at the temples. The lines on his face are like perspective lines on a painting, only framing and outlining his good looks, and the length age has added to his nose and chin only make him look more elegant, like a classic poet or a bust at Oxford. It's unseemly. But, John reasons, if you can't be devilishly handsome, you might as well be married to someone who is. When he's feeling cheeky he calls Sherlock his trophy husband in his head loud enough for Sherlock to hear.
There are no cases anymore. Really, they should have stopped after the move to Sussex, but people love the drama of calling the legendary Sherlock Holmes out of retirement for the perfect murder or the heist of the century or something, and for a while neither Sherlock nor John objected. But Sherlock's knee got worse and John's shoulder was no treat either, and John's joints were getting rheumatic and Sherlock's doctor (or more Sherlock's second opinion) was tutting about a heart condition and it just wasn't as much fun as it was, and finally the world moved on.
They don't mind. They've both mellowed with age. The game is not all-important to Sherlock anymore, and John's hand doesn't shake just because it's not holding a gun. They find other pursuits. Sometimes Sherlock solves a case by e-mail, but mostly he's content to focus on his scientific experiments. As always there's some forensic stuff involving decaying bits in the breadbox, but also a lot of chemistry these days. Solutions and compounds are forever arriving by post, and Sherlock rushes to the door, dressing gown flying behind him, and then sits down on the floor and tears the package open like he's a boy on Christmas day instead of a whitehaired old man who left his cane in the other room and is going to need to call John to help him get up. He's made some really impressive discoveries, apparently, and is forever sending papers in to scientific journals, and John remembers hearing that there's a couple college chemistry textbooks that will have Sherlock Holmes' name in them for a long time. Sherlock also keeps bees; there are a dozen white wooden beehives out back of the house, and two beekeepers' suits hanging in the mudroom. The second one is donned by John only at harvesting time, when everything—al pursuits, visitors, and experiments—are put on hold to collect and store the honey.
John, for his part, mostly reads, and works on his memoirs.
John is reading now, legs crossed, right elbow propped up on the sofa arm. Sherlock is reading too, spread across the remaining length of the sofa, slouched against John, his shoulders butted comfortably into John's ribs. Sherlock is reading some scientific journal in which his research has been cited, so naturally he is frowning testily. John is reading one of the long classic novels he's always said he'd read when he had enough time but it's just as long and stodgy as it was when he was in college, and his attention keeps wandering.
His left arm is draped over the back of the sofa, so Sherlock won't pin it to his side with a shoulder and cut off the circulation. John looks down at the untidy fluff filling the curve of his arm. Sherlock's hair has barely thinned with age, and wants trimming. It's not nearly the mop that it once was, but it puts John in mind of how it looked when they were young and he smiles.
A few minutes later, John opens his mouth to say something.
"After a certain point," cuts in Sherlock without looking up from his book, "I should think that the distinction between 'to love' and to 'be in love' becomes rather more academic than practical, don't you think?"
John shuts his mouth again, and then after a moment grins.
"Yes, Sherlock," he says in a soft voice, "I suppose you're probably right." And John goes back to his book.