A/N: I have a really good friend who helped me basically decide what went into this epilogue and then pestered me to write it until I had ended up telling so many reviewers 'it might happen' that I just started saying 'it will happen' and then... well here it is.
John sighed as he pulled his hand back from the top shelf of books. It was packed from one side to the other with no wiggle room. All three bookshelves were like that, from the top shelves to the bottom ones. There was no room left.
"Why the sigh, John?" Sherlock asked, setting a box in the middle of the room by its brothers. The whole of 221B's main sitting room was filled with half-closed boxes like the new addition.
"We don't have enough room for all the books," John said, stepping down from the short ladder and staring down the bookcase, two books in hand. "I don't know what I was thinking bring all this stuff. I should have told Harry to stuff it.. and you along with her. I didn't need to buy a whole new wardrobe or half the stuff you two gave me. Where am I going to put it all?"
He stopped his complaining when Sherlock's arms found their way around his shoulders. When the detective spoke, John could feel his breath on his cheek. "Calm down. The flat was built for two. Things will fit." He pulled back and nudged a box with his toe. "Although I don't know why you need a black and white photo of each season."
"I like them. So you'll learn to live with it." John picked the box up and walked over to a wall, where he planned to hang said framed pictures. "Did you manage to fit all of my clothes into the closet?"
"You say that like you brought a shopping mall. Yes. There was more than enough room." Sherlock scoffed and went into the kitchen to find the coffee pot under a mass of half-washed dishes and stacked newsprint.
"After I hang these, we should clean the kitchen... and maybe this room as well," John said, glancing around. Before Sherlock could ask a stupid question, John continued. "Otherwise there will be no hope of me ever squeezing my life in here with yours."
The kitchen was silent for a few moments, except for the slight clanging noise of Sherlock moving things around. John heard the stove come on and knew Sherlock was making tea instead of coffee. Then Sherlock appeared back in the room and, surprisingly, started picking things off the table and moving them to shelves and baskets around the room.
"Thanks," John said, not sure if he'd upset the genius. Sherlock had yet to say anything or even look at him. Even to this, Sherlock only grunted in acknowledgement. While Sherlock cleaned, John watched. He still did this from time to time, even now – almost a month later.
Sometimes he would close his eyes and just listen to Sherlock talk and move about, imagining they were still only on the phone. In a way, it helped him solidify the idea that this was really Sherlock and not just his imagination. And then John would open his eyes and smile while watching his genius rant about something or another. They were still getting used to each other in person, but John was also getting used to Sherlock existing at all.
Silently, they hung the four photos and cleared off the table and couch. It took a moment, but John eventually noticed that he was the only one making noise. His heart sped up despite all the logic in him. He turned around slowly, part of him expecting to have been left alone or to have been alone from the start, but he found Sherlock right where he'd left him. The dark haired man was just watching John, a curious look on his face.
When their eyes met, Sherlock didn't even try to pretend that he hadn't been staring.
"Something wrong?" John asked.
Sherlock shrugged one shoulder. "Not at all. I was just reminding myself that we're speaking in person." He turned and set down the spotless ashtray he'd been holding.
That did it. John couldn't help but smile. Sherlock wasn't use to it either. The detective shoved his hands in his pockets and shifted his feet as he searched with his eyes for what to move into place next. John walked in front of him and didn't speak until Sherlock was paying attention to only him.
"I'm still getting used to it too," he admitted. "It's weird sometimes – you being here in person, alive – but I just remind myself that I prefer this to how it used to be."
"Yes. Me too," Sherlock said, and John laughed, because that couldn't be anything but a joke. There had been no 'used to be' for Sherlock. A pleased little grin appeared on Sherlock lips during John's giggles, and John smacked him lightly in the arm for his successful attempt at humor.
Once the laughter had subsided, John took a deep breath and sighed. "Look. We both just have to realize that neither of us is going anywhere... and we should probably not try to piss off psycho killers anymore. We don't have time travel on our side anymore."
"I never imagined I'd live in a world where that sentence was logical," Sherlock said, and it almost sounded like he was complaining.
"Well you do, so suck it up and enjoy it."
"Oh, I do." And there was something about the way he said it that made John shiver. It wasn't sexy or seductive, but Sherlock's voice had enough of that when he was just bored. Add in the slight amount of amazement and intrigue that had attached themselves to those three words, and it was like candy for John's heart.
"You almost sounded like a serial killer," he lied. Well, maybe it wasn't a total lie. Sherlock would make a splendid villain with just his voice... and with those eyes. Imagining Sherlock, angry and vindictive and murderous was terrifying, but also a bit kinky. Damn. There was no safe zone here.
"Well if I were to become a killer, I'd kill other killers," Sherlock said.
"Who?" Sherlock's brow knit in confusion.
"Never mind." John smiled. "Just help me kill the clutter and then we'll discuss you future job options, okay?"
He moved away from Sherlock, toward the disaster of a kitchen, and felt the backs of Sherlock's fingers drag down his arm as he passed. The shiver that ran through him was entirely internal, but his next move wasn't. He turned and hugged Sherlock without warning, catching the other off guard.
"Thanks for letting me move in," he said.
"Any other course of action would not have made sense," Sherlock said. "I want you around, and you want me around. Plus, you're wasting money by living on the floor above me."
"Right." John laughed and pulled away. Before he went for the kitchen again, he diverted to the open front door through which Mrs. Hudson could be heard playing old radio while she made tea.
John hung up his two coats on the rack by the door and then stood back to admire the ensemble. Sherlock's long coat hung there beside his own, the same one that Irene Adler had given him, although the lighter was no longer in the pocket. John looked at Sherlock, ragged white sleeping shirt and polka dots pajama bottoms under a long, silky blue night robe. Hard to believe right now that Sherlock usually dressed like a gentleman.
When his eyes landed back on the coat, a thought occurred to John. "Sherlock," he said, catching the other's attention, even if it didn't appear Sherlock was listening at all. "About recording one... what did it say exactly?"
"I've told you. It told you I cared for you," Sherlock said, stacking a used-to-be-wild tower of CDs on the bookshelf.
"No. I mean, what did it say specifically. The message, I mean." The damn post had never delivered the last disc, and Sherlock kept suggesting that Mycroft had somehow nicked it from them in transit.
"I love you." The words hung in the air between them, and they just looked at each other. Then John pursed his lips.
"Was that it?" he asked, slightly let down.
"Yes," Sherlock said, his forehead knitting in confusion. "Should it have said more?"
"Well, confessing your feelings to someone does usually take more than that, yeah. I expected a grand explanation of how or why, actually, considering it was coming from you," John said, walking over.
"That was recording two through eight." Sherlock said it so bluntly that John didn't know if he should smile or sigh. In the end, he did both. "Did I do it wrong?"
"No. No," John said, shaking his head and turning to look through a box for anything else that needed to be hung up. "It was a dumb question. You did it perfectly."
Officially The End