Author's Note: Okay! Here it is, the final ever chapter. I'm going to miss writing this thing but I do have another one in the pipeline, probably not as long (I hope!) It's going to be a Post-Reichenbach fic just because I can't not do one. Anyway. I have a load of thank-you's to get through so bear with me! First off for those reviewers who've left reviews on virtually every chapter:
meredithriddle, BelinasEgg, Electryone, thedaringkurtsie, Saskie, Moonphase 9, Xenon Z, ItsAllFine1985, MadamFeather and DuoGundam4. You guys rock!
Next those of you who've been faithful and staunch reviewers:
SeenaC, Jodi2011, Vamsi, emma de los nardos, IcedTeaa, Yeedle, Snowracer, briongloid fiodoir, Dark Magical Sorcres, Cathrine-McCord, Soapiefan, helenecolin, madam loon, tmmdeathwishraven, Lonewolfe001, Evenlodes Friend, Blacksabby, atoafriend, sleepwell, Arrekusu Naitofaia, SidMax, Medea Talespinner, cantsaymylastname, bruderlein, WitchWarren, sami1010220, Phyona, spocks-emoticons, cccahill18, It's-Teatime-Somewhere, The Lady Of Purpletown, CanAnyoneHearMe and Ms. Brightside SH.
And last but by no means least those who left a couple of encouraging comments along the way. I do hope you kept reading!
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Phew! That's a lot of people! I only realised when I sat through and went back through the reviews! Thank you so much sincerely to absolutely everyone who took the time to leave a review whether it be fifteen of them or one. All are most appreciated. Now – on with the epilogue!
'You're sure you'll be okay?'
'Yes, for the last time, I'll be perfectly fine.'
John smiles fondly at Sherlock who shrugs into his coat and reaches out for his scarf from the peg in the hallway. Outside his taxi blares its horn impatiently.
'I should only be a few days at the most. I expect this case to be wrapped up fairly quickly.'
'Sounds interesting though,' John says, his eyes twinkling.
Sherlock winds his scarf around his neck. 'Indeed. It promises to be a most diverting excursion. And I've always loved Paris in the winter.'
'Hurry up, mate! I ain't got all day y'know!'
'Your taxi's getting impatient,' John remarks wryly, staring out the open door at the dark car pulled up by the pavement. A large man with a shock of dark hair and a bullish expression is currently leaning out of the window, gesturing at Sherlock with a look of deepest impatience.
'He'll just have to wait,' Sherlock announces diffidently. 'I need to do my final check.' John leans back against the wall of the hallway smirking as Sherlock roots through the duffle bag at his feet, muttering under his breath. Sherlock's essentials list would give anybody a very good insight into his personality.
'Premier lens, laptop, phone, chargers, litmus strips, sterile containers, bunsen burner, casenotes, secondary lens and...' he quirks an eyebrow at John, 'Rubik's Cube. I'll have it finished by the time I come back.'
John grins and holds out a plastic bag. 'You might be needing these. Passport, Euros, tickets, spare underwear and a couple of cereal bars for the train.'
Sherlock blinks at him and then stuffs the proffered bag into the duffle.
'Ah. Yes, good. Thank you.'
John cocks his head. 'How on earth are you going to get all that stuff past customs?'
'Don't be obtuse, John. You know the answer to that.'
'Ah, yes. Mycroft. Of course.'
'He does have his uses occasionally,' Sherlock admits in a tone of deepest reluctance. Outside the taxi horn sounds again even more impatiently.
'You'd better be going. Your train leaves soon.'
'You're sure you won't come with me?' Sherlock's previously businesslike tone turns softer, his eyes crinkle slightly at the edges. It's a change in his personality John has become accustomed to, this more vulnerable side of him.
'I can't,' John says, stepping away from the wall and moving in front of Sherlock, the duffle bag between them at Sherlock's feet. 'I can't take anymore days off work. There's only so far Sarah's patience with me will stretch.'
'I'll miss you,' Sherlock announces matter-of-factly, placing a hand lightly on John's waist.
'I'll miss you too,' John responds, pulling the detective into a brief yet loving kiss. 'I'll see you when you get back. Call me anytime you like to use me as a sounding-board if you need to.'
Sherlock smirks at him, bends to kiss him once more, heaves his duffle bag onto his shoulder and strides towards the car. The cabby sighs exaggeratedly and starts the engine.
'And don't do anything stupid!' John shouts after him as the taxi pulls away from the curb. Laughing quietly to himself he shuts the front door and bounds up the stairs. Entering the living room he snatches up his phone.
It rings twice before it's picked up.
'On our way,' the voice on the other end says. 'We'll be with you in precisely two minutes.' John smiles.
The workers Mycroft has hired are very efficient. Of course, John would expect nothing less from the man who runs the British Government. In the end he probably needn't have taken the days off work at all. The men scurry everywhere, carrying in equipment, linking up pipes and electrical sockets. John oversees operations and makes endless cups of tea.
'And you're certain it'll be done before he gets back?' John asks Mycroft anxiously. The elder Holmes sips elegantly at his mug of tea and raises an eyebrow at John. The doctor nods.
'Fine. It's just you know what he's like for solving cases earlier than planned.'
'If such an occasion arises I will merely find a way to stall him,' Mycroft says smoothly. 'It is hardly a difficulty, John.'
John gazes around the living room as a couple of men stagger past with a sink carried between them. 'I just want to surprise him for once.'
'Non! Etes-vous idiot? La solution est parfaitement évidente. Pourquoi vous n'écouterez pas?'
'Je ne serai pas parlé pour aimer cela!'
Sherlock spins away from the French Inspector in charge of the investigation rubbing at his temples. The man appears to be being deliberately obtuse. Hurried footsteps approach and he turns to glare at the unfortunate newcomer. This happens to be a young, rather nervous man who he has seen darting around the crime-scene taking notes and generally fawning over the Inspector.
'Sir? Er... Mister Holmes? The Inspector has sent me to talk to you. He wishes to know why you are so sure of these... er... conclusions.'
The man's English is accented but understandable. Sherlock, who can speak French fluently, nevertheless replies in English as well.
'You do not need to understand since it is more than obvious that is beyond all of you. All you need to do is take my word as gospel. Things will move a lot quicker if you do.'
The man looks stricken and flounders for words, his pale face flushing. In his mind Sherlock hears John's voice.
Easy, Sherlock. Take it easy on them for God's sake.
He forces a gentle smile. 'Just... fetch the Inspector again. Tell him, tell him that I will try to explain my conclusions.'
Ten Minutes Later
'My deepest thanks Monsieur Holmes,' the Inspector murmurs, a look of awe on his previously irritated features. 'I have to confess, when Monsieur Lestrade recommended you I never dreamed you would solve this matter in such little time.'
'Don't worry, I'm used to a certain amount of cynicism with regards to my abilities,' Sherlock replies wryly, already on his phone texting John.
Case solved. Catching Eurostar this afternoon. I miss you. SH
'London is very lucky to have you,' the Inspector continues. 'I wonder, is it possible to hire your services?'
Sherlock fixes him with a glare. 'If the case is interesting then I will be here. Other than that I cannot say whether we will meet again Inspector.'
'Nicholas,' the Inspector says, holding out his hand, a half-smile playing on his lips. 'Thank you again for coming. And I do apologise for the... rocky start.'
'Quite alright,' Sherlock says, already distracted as his phone chimes with a message.
Pick up milk on your way home? ETA? Miss you too, hurry back. JW
Sherlock's slender fingers fly over the keypad of the phone as he types out his response.
Leaving crimescene now. ETA in London approximately 14:00. Will pick up milk. SH
'Someone is anxious for your return, no doubt,' Nicholas says, noticing the intent look on Sherlock's face.
'My boyfriend,' Sherlock replies absently. He completely misses the incredulous look quickly masked on the Inspector's features.
'Ah. I did not know you had a boyfriend.'
Sherlock finishes the text and swings his bag onto his shoulder. 'Why should you? I doubt I'll see you again, Inspector, but if you do happen to have a case which appears unsolveable please send me an email. You have my card.'
He leaves the crimescene quickly, already working out the fastest route to the Gare du Nord. Once on the train he will be in London within the hour and from there, Baker Street and John.
Sherlock, a pint of semi-skimmed dangling from one hand, is in too much of a hurry to unlock the door and see John to notice details which would normally never elude him. Therefore he doesn't see the faint (but obvious to the trained eye) marks on the pavement outside Baker Street which would indicate to any self-respecting Consulting Detective that a number of workmen, evident by the boot-marks of course, have been busy both in and out of number 221B.
Instead he bounds up the stairs and it is not until he is right at the door of the living room that he notices something is amiss. He pauses on the threshold and sniffs curiously. Paint. Dust. The faint acidic tang of chemicals. The odour of building and industry. Has John remodelled the kitchen?
'John?' he calls out, stepping forwards into the room hesitantly. 'I've got the milk.' He is home, of course. Sherlock saw his scuffed shoes in the hallway and his coat hanging on the peg. And then he's there, rounding the corner from the kitchen, his short greying hair dishevelled, a long-sleeved top instead of his usual jumper, dark jeans and socks with a hole in the right toe. Sherlock feels the smile spread across his face.
'What have you done to the kitchen?' Sherlock demands instantly. John's only response is an enigmatical grin.
'The kitchen?' he asks puzzled, cocking his head to one side. 'Nothing. I've just made tea, nothing unusual about that surely?'
Sherlock frowns. John is teasing him, he is certain. And there is something different about the flat. He just can't put his finger on it. Still eyeing John he sweeps past him and round the corner. His eyes take in every little detail.
'John... what have you done?' Sherlock asks horror-struck, absently placing the milk down on a nearby counter. 'Where are they? What have you done with them?'
John follows him, picks up a steaming mug of tea from the counter and takes a sip. 'Oh, you mean all the rubbish you left in here? I tidied it away. I thought it was time we made the kitchen an actual place where we can cook food.' He shrugs. 'Couldn't do that with a miscroscope and God-knows-what everywhere. It's unsanitary. Thanks for getting the milk.' He picks it up and puts it in the fridge. 'We were running quite low. I used the last of it for this tea.'
Sherlock, possibly for the first time in his life, is speechless. John's words are casual and bland, almost as if he has no idea of the magnitude of his actions. Sherlock spins to face him, his eyes frantic.
'John,' he forces his tone to match the doctor's casual one, 'there were experiments in here in very delicate stages. Are you telling me, are you actually saying, that you've just thrown them away?' By the end of the last sentence his voice has raised in pitch, a sure sign of stress, and his hands have unwittingly flown into his hair.
'No,' John responds calmly. 'Of course I haven't thrown them away, you idiot. I don't have a deathwish you know.'
'Then where are they?' Sherlock all but screams. Out of all the possible reunion scenarios he had been imagining on the train back from Paris (courtesy of all the romantic films John makes him watch, no doubt) this definitely hadn't been one of them. Returning to find all his precious experiments disposed of without a second thought. In his anxiety and anger the faint smells of paint, dust and chemicals has almost completely left his mind.
'Upstairs,' John says, taking another sip of his tea and wandering back out into the living room. Sherlock trails at his heels like a bewildered puppy.
'Upstairs? Why would you move all my things upstairs?'
John, cradling his tea, has to work hard not to burst out laughing at the bewildered and angry expression on the detective's face. This is what he had hoped for, to be able to actually puzzle his genius boyfriend for once. But perhaps he is drawing it out a little too much. Although it is undeniably amusing, John can tell that Sherlock is getting genuinely worked up. He flicks his head in the direction of the stairs.
'Go and have a look.'
Sherlock casts an uncertain look at John and goes upstairs.
The smell of paint and wood is stronger up here although that fact barely permeates Sherlock's whirling consciousness. All he can think of are his experiments and why in the world John would have moved them up here. He winces when he thinks of the state they could be in by now. Doesn't John understand that they need a controlled environment? With this amount of upheaval the results will probably be skewed and he'll have to start all over again.
He proceeds slowly down the hallway until an errant thought suddenly strikes him. He slows and draws to a halt, his mind whirring. The key question here is Why. John knows how important his experiments are to him. Even in the midst of their worst arguments the positioning of the microscope, test-tubes and other paraphernalia in the kitchen has been left untouched. And he hasn't done anything dreadfully wrong that he can think of. John cannot be punishing him for something terrible or surely he would have appeared a lot angrier downstairs. In fact, the doctor seems almost amused about something.
Sherlock reaches out a hand to steady himself against the wall. Stupid. Of course. It is so obvious! In the midst of his revelation Sherlock still finds the time to be utterly disgusted with himself. How had it taken him so long to think of this?
Moving quickly now he heads to the room which had once been his. The door is shut. He reaches out a hand and slowly turns the doorknob, allowing the wood to swing inwards of its own accord.
Without saying a word Sherlock stares into the room which now holds absolutely no resemblance to the way it was when he left for Paris. In the middle is a large steel table with a comfortable looking stool set in front of his microscope. A desk-lamp stands beside it with what looks like a moveable base so he would be able to position and focus the light anywhere he chooses. Against the wall opposite him is a large bookcase filled to bursting with all the volumes he owns on science, crime and deduction along with several new ones which he doesn't recognise. Against the wall to his right is another steel table. This is full of his test-tubes, vases, bunsen burners and petri-dishes, all exactly how he'd left them. Standing next to it is a large refridgerator and he knows that if he opened it he would see all the perishable body-parts and other matter which needs to be kept cold. He shifts his gaze. The other side of the room boasts a large desk with another lamp and a whole stack of paper-pads with pens in a holder beside them. There is a sink and next to that a large stainless steel bin. Under the window is a deeply-cushioned armchair positioned in such a way that the lamp from the desk would be able to shine on whatever he chose to read there. The carpet has been taken up and now there is only sanded, plain wooden floorboards adding to the sense of space.
There is nothing on the walls apart from his poster of the Periodic Table, a large corkboard and a whiteboard along with pens.
Sherlock is completely unaware of the tears sliding down his cheeks. Instead all he can do is stand propped up against the wood of the doorframe and stare. He hardly hears John approach and jumps when he hears John's voice.
'Do you like it?'
Sherlock runs a quick diagnostic to determine whether or not he can speak yet. The result is negative so he nods his head to indicate his answer to John. He feels the doctor wrap an arm around his waist and come to stand beside him so they are both looking into the room.
'This is the second part of your Christmas present,' John says softly, not looking at the detective. 'Sorry it's late but I had to wait until you were out of the flat for a decent amount of time. The trip to Paris was perfect.'
'You didn't have to work,' Sherlock states, aware of the slight tremor in his tone.
'No,' John responds baldly.
'How did you get the sink in here?'
John shrugs and laughs. 'No idea. Mycroft sorted it all out with Mrs Hudson and the workmen. I just made tea and supervised it all.' He pauses and when it becomes clear Sherlock isn't going to speak again he glances at him out of the corner of his eye. All he can see is the detective's profile and the tear tracks down his cheeks. 'So... you like it?'
For an answer Sherlock turns faster than John can blink and wraps his arms around the doctor, burying his face in his shoulder. John twists to accomodate him and brings his own arms up and around the detective's back. One hand strays into Sherlock's curls and he presses a kiss onto the top of the detective's head.
And John knows that Sherlock will never articulate exactly how pleased he is with his new laboratory. He doesn't need to. His silent actions speak louder than his words ever could and John wouldn't want it any other way.
Well. That is it. I do hope you all enjoyed it! xxxxxx