"And why are we doing this again?" John asked, irritably scratching the back of his neck as the mound of papers in front of him grew ever higher with each rustling behind him, Sherlock digging more and more papers out of a weathered leather trunk and handing them to his partner.
"Always pays to be prepared," Sherlock replied lightly, "especially in the line of work that we've chosen. Dangerous stuff. Makes sense to have our affairs in order in case of the inevitable coming quicker than we'd like."
"Right. So that's why we're spending a perfectly nice Saturday afternoon shifting through all our legal documents to write first drafts of our wills."
The disgruntled doctor sighed, continuing to sort through the papers by their owners. He had to admit that in the last year he'd gotten rather sloppy with whose lease was whose, which tax form belonged to who: it did make sense to work through and arrange all of their arrears, even if just to have everything settled. After all, they did regularly put themselves into extremely dangerous positions; what began as a regular Monday morning could end in the morgue for either of them.
The thought made John shiver slightly, and he hoped Sherlock didn't notice, engrossed as he was in sorting autopsy reports and ballistic analyses from their personal medical documents. The rubbish bin was overflowing with take-out receipts and thrice-photocopied reports from Scotland Yard, things that had gotten mixed up with their important documents and never properly disposed of. A sharp, stale scent of years-old paperwork permeated the flat, carried through the hazy air by spiraling motes of dust.
The dreamy near-silence was soothing, a huge departure from the normal environment of screeching violins and hours-long arguments over case details. John found himself beginning to welcome the quiet as both men worked on sorting and scratching out quick notes for their separate wills. Hours passed quickly, the constant stream of life beyond their window unnoticed, until John's stomach gave an ominous rumble and he set down his pad of paper to look at his partner, still busily sorting.
"Hungry?" He asked, standing up to stretch his legs and give Sherlock a quick squeeze on his shoulder. The detective startled, looking up from an MRI read-out to see John looming over him.
"You should eat," John replied solicitously, his hand rubbing a firm circle on Sherlock's bony shoulder. The curly-haired man's eyes closed, relishing the touch, before he nodded in consent.
"I'll go out and get some sandwiches – the usual?"
"Mhmm." It had grown dark outside while they worked, and Sherlock strained to see the words on the paper, having apparently forgotten that they owned lamps.
John nodded, patting his partner's shoulder again before reaching over to flick on a light and grab his coat from its haphazard position on the couch. "Take a break while I'm gone, alright? Maybe brew us a cuppa? I don't want to come back and see you've passed out from low blood sugar."
Sherlock rolled his eyes. "Yes, Master. Shall I scrub the floors and shine your shoes too?"
The doctor grinned, his voice growing husky as he leaned in to whisper softly, "Mmm, no. Don't want to wear out your knees from all that kneeling." He whipped his coat on, giving Sherlock a predatory wink as the detective put down his papers and steepled his fingers, showing he was compliant with John's request. "Be back soon."
When John returned half an hour later, Sherlock was still sitting in the dimly-lit sitting room, clutching an x-ray and looking dismally into the distance, as if unaware of his surroundings.
Hanging up his coat, John knocked cautiously on the front door – his usual method of rousing his flatmate from a thinking spell – and kicked off his shoes, padding carefully over to Sherlock's chair.
"Everything alright, mate?"
Sherlock didn't reply, still looking with half-lidded eyes into the far corner of the room. His fingers were wrapped tightly around the filmy material of the x-ray, his knuckles nearly white from the strength of his grip.
John gently pried the scan from his partner's grasp, setting it down onto the table along with the bag containing their dinner. The detective seemed not to notice, his eyes vacant.
The doctor sighed, sliding to his knees in front of Sherlock's sitting form. "Something's upset you – something about the x-ray?" He waved his hand in front of the other's face, and like a human motion detector, the action lit up Sherlock's eyes, forcing him to focus on the man kneeling in front of him.
"Yes. Hips. Hip-to-waist ratio. Too large."
"Wider pubic rami. Wider ilia. Backward-tilted sacrum. Large pelvic outlet. Ischium higher with the joint opening more horizontal."
"Your pelvis," John stated slowly, his forehead furrowed in confusion.
"Is female," Sherlock replied, his eyes drifting back to the corner of the room.
John stared at him. "And?"
"My bones will always lie. They'll betray me when I'm dead."
The doctor nodded now, comprehension flooding his gaze. "And this upsets you because we're working on our wills and you're realizing that you'll be misgendered after death if anyone finds your skeleton."
"Thousands of years into the future, anthropologists will find my body and immediately identify it. Female. Nullis parentis. Slight thickening of the bones due to high testosterone levels. A forensic anthropologist will assume a nulliparous woman with polycystic ovarian syndrome or another endocrinal disorder that led to elevated levels of male hormones." Sherlock's voice was hoarse, as if he were holding back from crying. "I have done much the same over the years of my career. Knowing the biological sex of a skeleton from the hands, the femur, the shape of the pelvic girdle. The one part of the body that will always give one's origins away."
John rested his hands on Sherlock's knees, rubbing comforting circles, remaining silent.
The detective's eyes were shining wetly in the gleam of the single lamp. "All of the surgeries and hormone therapies and years of voice training, learning the male gait, the way I'm supposed to hold my back when I sit, the proper position of the knees when crossing one's legs. None of that will matter when they find my skeleton. I will be just another bloody sex: female to them."
John stood, lifting Sherlock's limp figure from the chair and leading him to the couch. Setting him down, the doctor tipped his partner against his chest, wrapping comforting arms around him and running his fingers down Sherlock's thin back.
"It's irrational," Sherlock mumbled. "That I should care that my skeleton will always scream out 'Sherlyn' to anyone who sees it."
"Lots of emotions are irrational," John assented. "All of them are irrational. They're not meant to be logical. That's what separates humans from machines: that we care about feelings." He smiled a little, leaning into Sherlock's shoulder. "That's what makes you a consulting detective instead of a data analysis program."
"But why does it bother me?"
"Because it bothers you. That's all that matters about why it bothers you," he murmured. "It doesn't have to have a reason."
Sherlock merely huffed, and John hummed a little in reply, his hand running a comforting track up and down Sherlock's spine.
"But you know, there's a lot of things that your skeleton won't tell anthropologists in the future."
"It will be able to tell them the state of my diet, my ancestry, my health at the time of death, any injuries I may have endured that left marks on my bones."
"Well, yes, but it can't tell them who you were. What hobbies you had. What kind of company you kept. Your favorite type of curry or the fact that you keep a huge collection of sex toys." They both smiled at that, and John kissed Sherlock's forehead, smoothing his wild hair back. "And it won't be able to tell them that you were the greatest man I have ever known, and the most important thing to me in the world. It can't tell them any of the important things."
Sherlock snorted at that, but his eyes were dry again. "You're disgustingly romantic."
"We could have you cremated, you know. If you don't want people to see your skeleton," John replied, his tone serious.
"That is an option."
"If it really bothers you, we can write that into your will."
"I'll consider it."
John nodded, giving Sherlock one more tight squeeze before letting him go, reaching for his sandwich. "They better not have put mayonnaise on it again."
The detective glanced at the outside of John's wrapped sandwich before shaking his head and grabbing for his own. "They listened this time. The slight ring of grease around the middle of the wrapper is missing. Tell-tale sign of no mayonnaise."
"If you ever get bored of making me look like a bloody fool, let me know," John replied, his mouth full of sandwich.
Sherlock merely shot him a patronizing grin before biting deeply into his food. "Thank you," he mumbled around his gnashing teeth.
"Don't talk with your mouth full," John admonished while chewing.
They finished their dinner in silence, John carefully wiping his mouth and watching, fascinated, as the strong tendons in Sherlock's neck coursed up and down with each chew. Clearing his throat and looking away, he waited for his partner to finish eating before disposing of the wrappers and napkins.
"Go to bed, Sherlock. Don't wait up; I'm going to try to finish up my will, so I'll go up to the guest bedroom so I don't interrupt your sleep. I've got the surgery in the morning: probably be gone before you wake up, alright?"
Sherlock nodded, leaning down to kiss John tenderly on the mouth. He ran his finger lightly down the slope of John's cheek before smiling and pressing his lips to his partner's forehead. "Thank you, John," he whispered.
"Always. Now go – sleep!"
True to his word, John was gone in the morning when Sherlock stumbled blearily out of their bedroom. A plate of bacon was waiting for him in the microwave, ready to be heated up, and the coffeemaker burbled merrily, brewing a fresh pot in anticipation of his morning caffeine fix.
Sitting down at the living room table – which had miraculously been cleared of most of its contents – Sherlock snapped open the morning paper (waiting for him, as always, at his customary seat) as he munched on a slice of bacon.
It took him nearly two minutes to notice that his will was still sitting on the table, despite the fact that John's had been neatly filed away with the rest of their records. Sherlock's eyes narrowed as he picked up the thin sheaf of paper, ignoring a soft metallic noise as he disrupted the stack of sheets. Flipping through the pages of his messy scrawl, he located an anomaly: a section of writing in John's neat script, smudged slightly by dint of his partner's left handedness.
The portion was under the title "Epitaph", directly after Sherlock's instructions regarding his burial. John had penned in an inscription for Sherlock's monument in the Holmes family mausoleum:
"Here lie the earthly remains of Sherlock Holmes, a man of the highest caliber. The finest detective, the wisest researcher, the noblest friend, and the most loving husband. Judge him not by his bones but by his legacy."
Sherlock's eyebrows shot up, and he held the paper closer, silently rereading the words. "Husband . . . but–"
The realization struck him, and he nearly dropped the paper onto his plate of bacon, looking carefully at the table before him. Two small golden rings had rolled to a stop beside his coffee cup; they gleamed brightly in the hot sunlight of mid-morning, one clearly sized to fit his slender finger and the other to fit that of his flatmate's – his fiancé's.
"Oh," Sherlock said dumbly, his voice shaking. "Oh."
He whipped out his phone, nearly disrupting his half-drunk cup of coffee in his haste. With quivering fingers, typing and retyping the message as his hands betrayed him, Sherlock texted as a wide smile overtook his face.
Yes. Yes. Oh God yes.