Title: The Good Old Days
Author: cathedral carver
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Rating: T
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Word count: 6,200

Summary: How did it get so late so soon?

A/N: Thank you, ckofshadows, for the beta and so very much else.


How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
~Theodor Seuss Geisel


Somewhere in the distance leaves are burning and church bells are ringing. Later, these are the things Sherlock will remember most clearly.

They are walking together in the field behind their small house. Sherlock has his head down — he is looking for Psilocybe semilanceata. Mushrooms. Experiment. Important. Mostly harmless species, but not completely. John thinks Sherlock is looking for benign, boring little Chanterelles. John does not know Sherlock is searching for hallucinogenic fungi, and Sherlock has no plans to tell him. Yet. He may tell him at some point, possibly when John finds him attempting to jump from the roof of their house, or swim naked in the small stream that runs behind it. Maybe he'll tell him then, when John is screaming that Sherlock is too old to be jumping from rooftops or swimming naked in streams. Or, experimenting with magic mushrooms, for that matter. For now, John walks slightly ahead, blissfully unaware, hands shoved into his coat pockets because it's chilly and he's forgotten his gloves again. In the late morning sunlight — weak, pale, early-November sunlight, first cloudless day in weeks — his hair looks more grey than blonde, and it's starting to curl against his coat collar. It needs a trim, but Sherlock won't remind him just yet. He likes the curls. He likes to run his fingers through them when John lays his head on his chest. Especially when he lays his head on his chest after sex. So, no. No trim just yet.

Somewhere in the distance leaves are burning and church bells are ringing. Smells and sounds are very crisp in the cold air. Sherlock closes his eyes and focuses on those things, because suddenly he can no longer move. He can no longer feel the right side of his body. He opens his eyes. John is still walking, moving further away. He might be humming something — he hums often these days — but Sherlock can't be certain. There's a strange painful buzzing in his head and he can't shake it out.

It takes John several seconds to realize Sherlock has fallen behind. He turns, tilts his head. "What? Did you find some?"

There must be something wrong with his face — he can feel there's something wrong with his face, a melting, a sagging, most odd — because John's eyes widen and he moves to him quickly.

"Sherlock? Sherlock?" John presses a cold hand to his cheek. "What is it?"

But, Sherlock can't tell him because he can't speak. He's trying to speak, trying to tell John how he is having trouble speaking, but his mouth isn't cooperating. And when he tries to lift his right arm to grab onto John — any part of John, just John, he needs to touch John — his arm is also not cooperating.

John seems to understand, regardless, because John can read his mind, and he wraps his arms around him and lays him down on the cold, damp ground.

"All right, love, just hang on. I'm going to ring for an ambulance, all right? Just hang on."

Leaves and church bells and John, all very clear, but growing fainter. Sherlock hangs on best he can.


Back then they were always running for some reason or other, it seemed.

"Come on, John!"

Running became second nature to them, and even though John was built lower to the ground, he managed to keep up. And once in awhile he even pulled ahead. He wonders now if Sherlock let him, just to be nice.

"No, this way!"

Running, jumping, leaping, diving. Sometimes at night, when he has trouble sleeping now, John remembers the sound of their footsteps back then, the pounding, slapping, scraping against asphalt, gravel, dirt, grass, the sound steady as a heartbeat, and soothing enough to lull him back to sleep.

"This way!"

Back then it seemed to John that they never stopped moving.


Back then, he was always generally exhausted and he was usually hungry, but he was never not having fun.


He wakes in a small room. Dim and antiseptic. Hospital. It's quiet but for the gentle beep of the heart monitor and slow, steady breathing from beside his bed. John is slumped in a very uncomfortable looking chair, his head angled to the side. He'll feel that tomorrow, Sherlock thinks. I should wake him, he thinks, but he's still having trouble moving. He manages to shift his left arm over enough to drop onto John's dirt-stained knee. Hasn't changed his trousers yet, then. At his touch, John jerks up, looks around wildly. When he sees Sherlock is awake, he huffs a sigh of relief and rubs his eyes.

"How are you feeling?" he asks, his voice rough and phlegmy. He coughs into the sleeve of his jumper. His old, worn, green jumper, the one with the patched elbows. For a moment Sherlock's love for John threatens to overwhelm him completely.

Sherlock stares at him. He's not sure how he's feeling. And, even if he did, he wouldn't be able to articulate it.

"You've had a mild stroke, Sherlock." John takes his hand. "You're going to be all right, though. Full recovery, they think. Exercise and time, and some dietary changes, that's all. Everything is going to be just fine. Really."

Want to go home, Sherlock thinks. John is already nodding, because John can read his mind.

"Soon. I'll take you home very soon."

Sherlock attempts speech. What the hell, he figures. He whispers, his mouth forming sounds and words that he hopes make some kind of sense. John leans very close to hear. He listens and closes his eyes and nods, presses his dry lips to Sherlock's lined cheek.

"I know, love. I know. Believe me. I'm not having much fun, either."


Back then he knew the emotion behind John's every step, knew his mood before he even saw his face.

"Something's happened," he announced as John stomped up the stairs. Good lord he was cocky back then. Well, cockier.

"Really?" John shut the door to the flat behind him, loudly.

"You're late."

"Didn't realize I had a curfew," John said, not looking at him. He hung his coat on the hook rather aggressively before going to the kitchen.

"You don't. It's just that you're usually home from Sarah's at least an hour earlier than this, especially on Wednesday evenings when she has her swim class—"

"We had a talk," John yelled from the other room. "Took longer than expected. She missed her class."

"Oh." Sherlock waited. "A talk. What…about?"

"Our relationship, apparently," John snapped. Cup slamming on the counter. Kettle being filled. Sherlock waited some more. John appeared at last, sat with his tea. Steam curled from the surface. "We're no longer together."

"Oh." Sherlock couldn't think of anything else to say, so he just stared.

"Don't you want to know why?"

Sherlock didn't, not really, but now he felt he had to ask. He nodded.

"Because she says I'm in love with someone else. That's why."

Now Sherlock really had no idea what to say. He cleared his throat, touched his bottom lip with the tip of his tongue. John glared at him.

"Don't you want to know who?"


"You." John took a huge gulp of scalding tea, then started coughing violently. Sherlock did what he sometimes did when he was extremely nervous or caught off-guard, and that was babble. He reached into the bottomless craters of his mind and started rattling off data about men who lived in close proximity and how they might start to feel something for one another that was, in truth, not entirely legitimate, but due to familiarity and the fact that they may inadvertently see one another naked from time to time. He kept babbling until John stopped coughing at last, put his cup down, rose, stood over Sherlock, leaned down and kissed him soundly on the mouth. He could feel Sherlock's lips moving beneath his, still trying to spew forth plausible explanations for this most recent declaration. John pulled back and shook his head, but he was smiling.

"What do I have to do to get you to stop bloody talking?"


Speech returns slowly. John initiates discussions, and many of their conversations begin the same way now:


Remember when?

"Remember that time we almost got killed?"

"Sorry. You'll…have to be more specific."

"You know. That time. With the snake."

"Hmm. Again. More specific."

"The big snake. The green one."



"Remember when we almost broke up?"

"Prefer not to."

"Remember when you set my bed on fire?"

"That was an…accident."

"Remember that time I fucked you up against a wall?"

"Again, more specific, please—"

"In the alley. Outside Angelo's. You know."

"First anniversary…or third?"

John pauses.

"We've had fun, haven't we?"

Sherlock smiles, shifts from his position on the couch to see John more clearly.

"Yes," he says. "We have."


Back then they moved very quickly, all the time, no matter what they were doing.

Sex was no exception.

The first time was fast and frantic, clothes half off, skin slick, mouths connecting with elbows and knees and knuckles, and John almost ended up with a bloody nose, but the end result was miraculous. John held Sherlock's wrists down so hard he left bruises, and when Sherlock bucked up against him and threw his head back and made that noise, John came with an intensity that almost frightened him. It was all over so quickly, and they started laughing weakly when they'd finally caught their breath.

"What just happened?" John gasped into Sherlock's neck. He licked the salty skin there and Sherlock shivered. He kissed the hollow of his throat, then his collarbone. Then he slid out of his embrace and stood up.

"What?" Sherlock propped himself up on his elbows. "Where are you going?"

John turned and smiled blindingly.

"Computer. I need to write this down."


"It's just…" He paused, suddenly shy. "I just never want to forget this. Ever."


John takes him for walks every day. Therapy. Sherlock walks slowly and keeps his eyes open for Psilocybe semilanceata, but so far he's had no such luck. Too bad. He thinks he could really use some interesting hallucinations right now. The cold November air is not good for either John's arthritic hands or Sherlock's bad leg, so they manage only half an hour at a stretch before they return home and sit in front of the fire. Sherlock curls up on the worn couch and John covers him with a blanket. He dozes often.

When he's awake but too tired to walk, John places 10 balled up pieces of paper on the table in front of him. Sherlock picks the pieces of paper up, then puts them down. He does this over and over and over again with his weak hand. He does it until John tells him he can stop. Then, John makes tea, or he makes dinner, or he lies down and has a nap with Sherlock. Sometimes they watch telly, but neither one of them enjoys it much — it's all nonsense now, and Sherlock would rather read, but his eyesight has dimmed and he refuses to get reading glasses, so.

So, they argue about dinner. Chicken, or lamb? Steamed carrots or steamed peas? Tea or coffee, or maybe just water? Wine, if they're feeling especially reckless.

This is as exciting as their lives get now.


Back then they took holidays, once in awhile. Once John rented a cottage for them in Southwold and they stayed for an entire week, a rarity in Sherlock's world. The first few days he was antsy and snappish, unable to sit or eat or relax — "There's nothing to do here!" — but by the third day he awoke an hour later than usual, wrapped around John, wearing nothing but a smile.

They spent that entire day in bed.

By the seventh day, neither wanted to go home, but neither one said as much, because there was no point.

"This feels like a honeymoon," John whispered into Sherlock's bare shoulder that last night, then snapped his mouth shut. Silly, silly thing to say. But, Sherlock didn't even flinch.

"Well, it very well could be, couldn't it?"

John blinked in the darkness.

"But, we're not married."

Sherlock sighed. He reached over and took John's hand. He kissed each finger, then the palm. Doctor's hands. Steady, reliable, strong beautiful hands.

"Well, no. Not yet."


John prides himself on building perfect, efficient fires. He can no longer chop the wood himself, but he piles what they buy neatly by the front door and constructs the most beautiful fires Sherlock has ever seen. They are small but powerful, red and orange dancing works of art.

Sherlock is lying on the couch, half asleep, watching John at work, when John stops suddenly, cradling his hands close to his chest. Sherlock's eyes snap open.

"What is it?"

John shakes his head: Nothing.

"Is it your hands?"

John makes no movement. He won't turn around. Sherlock sits up with difficulty, reaches for the tin of liniment they keep on the coffee table.

"Come here," Sherlock says at last. No movement. "John. Please." John does, slowly, his hands still curled against his jumper. He won't look at Sherlock as he sits beside him. Very slowly and very gently, Sherlock unfurls the left hand first, the worst one, holds it in his own, and starts rubbing the thin, speckled, slightly gnarled skin with ointment. They have experimented with many over the years, but this one works best. John sighs. He leans against Sherlock, rests his head on his shoulder. He doesn't say thank you; there is no need.


Back then they rarely thought about unpleasant things like aging or death. Back then, the only corpses in Sherlock's life were complete strangers, stiff and white and ready for experimentation. They weren't real people. There was no personal attachment when he stood over them, no emotion other than a cold and calculating eye, a keen curiosity about how they might assist him in solving a fascinating mystery.

They bothered John, though. Or, rather, Sherlock's detachment towards them bothered John.

"Easy, Sherlock," he'd say as Sherlock gleefully sliced open a stomach with a carving knife, or viciously removed an ear or eye. A tongue. "They are still humans, you know. With parents, children. Lovers, even. We'll be lying there one day."

Sherlock would roll his eyes and sigh.

"Stop it. Next you'll want to talk about matching burial plots."

"Oi. Don't spoil your Christmas present."

They made jokes like that, but in the end, Sherlock realized John had been right all along. Slowing down, getting old was so much more difficult for Sherlock, and some days, near the end, he stared down at those still bodies on the stainless steel tables and saw his own face staring back.


Sherlock always was a horrible patient. Nothing has changed. Now, he is even worse, whiny and petulant and bored beyond imagining. John does his best, but some days his temper runs hot and he can't help but yell.

"Look, you heard what the doctor said. The other doctor. Not just me, for a change. You're supposed to be resting as much as possible."

"Then why do you keep dragging me outdoors for bloody walks in the freezing cold—"

"When you're not walking you're supposed to be resting—" He stops then because Sherlock is staring at him with a slightly vague and puzzled look on his face.

"What is it?" John said.

"Sorry, who are you?"


Another pause.

"Wait a minute. That's my name…isn't it?"

John's jaw drops. Then, Sherlock grins and John catches on. He clenches his jaw, swallows hard. "You bastard," John says quietly and turns away.

It takes a moment for him to notice John's shaking shoulders. John's crying. Oh lord. Oh fuck.

"John…I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Is that your twisted notion of a joke? Do you have any idea what I've been through these past—"

"I'm sorry."

"Just…sod off."

Sherlock startles when the small, framed photo falls to the floor and smashes a moment later. It's been a long time since either one of them has slammed the front door quite that hard.


Back then, John sometimes found himself caught completely off guard by the sheer magnitude of his feelings for Sherlock.

For instance, that time he rounded the corner of the bar to find Sherlock snogging a stranger. Well, not a stranger, but the prime suspect in their latest case. John stopped short and stopped breathing. His chest was paralyzed. His brain throbbed. His hands were hot, his mouth cold. His vision narrowed to a long, dark tunnel that contained only the two people standing before him. Snogging.

As he attempted to catalogue exactly what his body was doing, Sherlock pulled away, smiled, straightened his scarf, and sailed past John. John managed to find his footing and stumble after him.

"What the hell were you doing?" he hissed.

"Proving a point."

"Which is?"

"Testing his alibi. He made a point of saying he was homophobic. Took all of 54 seconds to get him to kiss me."

"Good job. Excellent work. Gold star for you."

Sherlock slowed, eyebrows raised.

"John. Are you jealous?" He seemed to find this amusing.

John stopped and glared. Fuck it. What did he have to lose?

"What if I am? Would you even care?"

"I would find it utterly endearing." He leaned down close to John's ear. His lips just brushed his cheek. "But utterly ridiculous, because I care more than you know."


Sometimes they lie in bed and just kiss, now, sometimes for hours, because they have the time, now. Plus, it's good therapy. Or, at least that's what John tells him.

"You really are the best at this," John says. His lips feel lax and deliciously bruised.



"Compared to who?"

John smiles. "What do you mean?"


"Other who?"


"Sherlock. I wouldn't know." He presses his lips against Sherlock's very softly.

"I was…the only one?"

John looks at him like he's daft. "Of course you were. Are. There were no men before you. There have been no men since you." He pauses. "Or women, for that matter."

John pauses. "Why?" He frowns. "Have there been others for you since?"

Sherlock rolls his eyes, kisses him until John sags against him.

"I've told you this a hundred times, Sherlock. A thousand times, probably. You must remember."

Of course, Sherlock remembers, but sometimes, once in awhile, it hits him, really hits him. He was, is, the only one.

John shakes his head in mild disgust. "Sometimes I don't think you hear a bloody word I say."


Back then they went to fancy dinners once in awhile with Mummy at Mycroft's behest. It was always a nerve-wracking affair, and John felt no matter how much time and effort he put into his appearance, he always paled in comparison to Sherlock. Sherlock with his long, lean lines and dark hair and dark, tailored suits and angles and planes. But, Sherlock never seemed to agree, because when they were ready to leave, he'd look at John and do a double-take, every time.

Every time.

"You look stunning," he'd say, moving closer.

John looked down at himself. "Really?"

Sherlock nodded. Then he bit his lip.

They were almost always an hour late to the house on those occasions. Mycroft tried very hard to not roll his eyes when they arrived, flushed and mildly disheveled. He almost always succeeded.


"It's just dinner," John says from the doorway. He is smiling.

"I know."

"At the pub."

"I know."

They are eating out for the first time since the incident. John's wearing his favourite jumper, the green one with the patched elbows. Sherlock wonders if it's been laundered since that day. He looks so handsome standing there, watching Sherlock, that Sherlock forgets to breathe for a moment. He looks back to his own reflection. He sees silver hair and lines and jowls. He sees fatigue and sickness. He smoothes down the front of his shirt, pats his unruly hair. Hopeless.

"I just…"


Sherlock shakes his head, peers at his reflection, then looks away. "I just want to look good for you."

John's eyes water. "You look good, Sherlock. You look…very good."

When Sherlock buries his nose in John's jumper, he's relieved to find it doesn't smell like anything like the hospital.


Back then Sherlock took a lot of chances, because he was invincible. He treated his body poorly at times, because he was strong and healthy and death and aging were a long ways off. Sometimes, however, his recklessness drove those around him to distraction. John, in particular, but often Mycroft, as well, and sometimes even Lestrade.

"Are you wearing a bullet-proof vest?" he bellowed as he raced down the alley to wear Sherlock lay, weak and gasping.

"Not that I'm aware," Sherlock replied. Lestrade grabbed his hand and yanked him up.

"Then why on earth would you chase after an armed man?"

"Everyone else is too slow!" Sherlock clutched his knees for a moment, then stood and looked about. "Come on — he went that way!"

Lestrade threw his hands up in defeat.

"I swear to Christ Sherlock, you won't live past 40 if you keep this insanity up".


"Sherlock." John is standing in the doorway again on a different morning. He has just gotten off the phone. Hushed tones, soothing words. Sherlock had been half-listening. He doesn't look up from his book: Mushroom Picker's Foolproof Field Guide: The Expert Guide to Identifying, Picking and Using Wild Mushrooms. He wonders if he's just been looking in the wrong spot.


"Sherlock." Serious voice.

Sherlock sighs and looks up.

"It's Greg."

Sherlock waits.

"Lestrade, Sherlock. I've just heard from his son." John takes a steadying breath. "Lestrade has passed."

Sherlock closes his eyes briefly. With effort, he controls the slight, sudden tremour in his hands. Life is stupid. So very, very stupid.

"Died, John, died," he says clearly. "Lestrade has died. Let's not euphemize it."

John rubs his eyes. He looks so tired it makes Sherlock's heart twist.

"We should go, don't you think?" John says. "I think we should. It's not far. We'd only be gone a few hours. We should go, yes?"

Sherlock only shrugs, because he might be starting to cry, and he doesn't trust his voice.


Back then Sherlock thought he could avoid death simply by looking away and running even faster. Once in awhile, though, it crept up and pounced on him, grabbed him by the neck and shook him hard. Once in awhile he couldn't look away if he tried.

They both went to visit Mrs. Hudson in hospital after she fell down the last two steps to their flat and broke her hip. Sherlock almost didn't go because he hated hospitals unless he was standing over a microscope or a corpse and hospitals were stupid and sad and smelled funny and Mrs. Hudson would be home in a few days, anyway, so what was the point?

The point, John said as patiently as he could, was that Mrs. Hudson loved them, and they loved her, and she would love some company, yes?



In the end, it was Sherlock who sat by her bed for hours. In the end, it was Sherlock who was there when she let go of his hand and closed her eyes for the last time.


It starts raining during the funeral, of course, because what's a funeral without rain?

Sherlock has wrapped a black muffler around his neck so many times it covers most of the lower half of his face. John turns his collar up against the wind. He's forgotten his gloves again. They're standing on ground that is more mud than grass. It's cold and wet and miserable. Sherlock can't feel his toes. He wishes he was anywhere else, doing anything else. Picking up balled pieces of paper for hours on end is preferable to this.

Aside from Lestrade's son, who Sherlock met only a few times, he doesn't recognize a single face in the crowd of mourners. Everyone is a stranger, but they all know — knew — Lestrade, and so they are all connected, connected to one another through the existence of one man. One dead man. Sherlock feels his breath catch in his throat as his eyes scan the blur of grey, sombre faces. Sherlock fumbles for John's hand and squeezes the cold fingers so hard with his own he feels John flinch, but he doesn't pull away. Something is clawing at his chest, something sharp and sorrowful. They're gone. All of them, all gone now. Lestrade was the last. No, no, he realizes suddenly as dark laughter bubbles in his throat. We're the last, John and I. He squeezes John's hand even harder. John makes a soft noise in his throat. Mummy and Mycroft and Mike and Sarah and Sally and Molly and Harry, all of them. Dimmock. Bloody Anthea. And god if he doesn't suddenly, achingly miss every last one of them.

Even Moriarty.

Even fucking Anderson.


Back then, after they'd moved to the country and people he actually knew started dying, Sherlock made an important alteration to a certain collection he'd brought with him from Baker Street. He kept this collection of various experiment ingredients in a cardboard box under the kitchen sink, and though John knew they were there and gave them a wide berth, there was one in there he knew nothing about; he still does not. The one in question was clear and harmless-looking as water, in a small, stoppered bottle that Sherlock planned to drink should John depart the earth before him. It would be very fast and mostly painless, though the way things had been going lately, it may be an unnecessary precaution.


"You do realize you'll be the only one at my funeral, yes?" he whispers.

"And, you do realize what a turn-on that kind of talk is, yes?" John whispers back.

They are lying in bed together. It's late. They're facing each other, fingers entwined, foreheads touching. It's so dark John can hardly see Sherlock's face. He very much does not want to have this particular conversation. Not now. Not tonight. Not ever, if he's honest.

"Some days…some days I can feel it. Most days I can ignore it, but then it comes rushing in, right towards me, like a wall, a black wall. I can see the end of it all. I can see mortality."


"My body, shutting down. Some days everything hurts. Every bone. My teeth."

"At least you still have all of them," John teases. He doesn't want to talk about this. Really, really, he does not.

"I have become an old man." Sherlock's voice quavers and his hand trembles in John's.

Oh, fuck.

John wraps his arms around him in a quick and surprisingly strong hug. He holds him so tightly it hurts. "You're not," he whispers fiercely, his face pressed to Sherlock's neck. Sherlock can feel something wet there. "You're not. You're not."

They're quiet for awhile, and it's good, so before Sherlock can ruin it, John starts talking, quietly, against his skin. Sherlock smiles and closes his eyes and listens.

Remember when?

Remember that time?




Back then, experiments were plentiful, and though some went horribly awry, most were deemed "successful" by the experimenter in question.

"Successful," of course, meant minimal smoke, few flames and even fewer personal injuries.

John was understanding, usually.

And patient. Mostly.


In the fourth week he pulls the box out from under the sink and goes to work. If he can't locate a hallucinogenic mushroom, he'll just bloody well create a reasonable substitute on his own.

This experiment is not "successful," and after John throws open every window in the house and ushers the experimenter in question out to the front yard, he examines the burn on Sherlock's hand and shakes his head.

"I'm too old for this shit," he says. He says it quietly, but not quietly enough that Sherlock doesn't hear it, which is probably the point.

Sherlock doesn't speak to him for two days.


Back then he sometimes didn't tell John things, because it was easier. Until he got caught.

When John got home from a shift at the clinic, he always kissed him. Once in awhile pulled back.

"You've been smoking."

Sherlock sighed, dramatically. "Just one. One small one. Out of patches."

John glared. "If you must do that, please don't try to hide it from me."

"I didn't hide it. I just didn't tell you."

John kept glaring.

"You don't approve."

"Of course I don't bloody approve! I'm a doctor! But, even if I wasn't, I have the common sense and intelligence to know how bad it is for you."

"I don't do it very often."

"Then why do it at all?"

"I've given up nearly all my vices but for this one." He leaned over and placed a kiss on John's jaw, placed a possessive hand on John's crotch. "And, this one, of course."

"Smoking decreases your libido," John said, arching slightly into Sherlock's touch.



"Well, that is a theory I'm willing to disprove. Right now, in fact."

Turned out John was wrong, but he wasn't going to complain, much.


They make up more quickly now, because time is not on their side.

After two days of silence, John relents and leans in for a kiss, then pulls back, nose wrinkling in distaste.

"Don't tell me—"


"You've been smoking. You've been smoking, you great bloody idiot!" John huffs in disgust and moves to leave, but Sherlock grabs him.

"Wait a minute—"

"In case you've forgotten, you suffered a stroke not a month ago. Smoking. Smoking! And, where are you hiding them, anyway? Jesus Christ!"

"I was upset—"

"So? So was I! You don't see me getting sloshed over it!"

"You weren't talking to me. I was bored—"

"Bored. You were bored, were you? Bored with what, living?"

"No, it's just—"

John kisses him very hard, nips at his bottom lip sharply, then moves lower, lower, kneels down and pushes his face against Sherlock's groin, pushes into his hardening cock.

"Bored now?"

"No," Sherlock gasps.

John works his zipper open, slides his fingers — warm thank god — inside his trousers, strokes him once, twice, pulls him free of the cloth and takes him into his mouth completely. Sherlock throws his head back, his fingers digging into the arms of the chair.


But John doesn't answer. He's a man on a mission, and his mission is to give Sherlock a magnificent orgasm. He works the length of his cock studiously, lovingly, his tongue and lips stroking and sucking. Sherlock's good hand falls onto John's head, his fingers twining tightly in his hair. He arches off the chair, making noises he hasn't made in awhile. His eyes squeeze shut, his thigh muscles quiver with tension. John hums — he hums often now — and Sherlock catapults over the edge, coming hard with a guttural shout. John waits for his trembling to subside, lays his head briefly on Sherlock's leg, then looks up at him.

"You still like doing that?"

"God, yes."

"Good. Me, too. We're sorted, then. Because, if I ever find you smoking again, I'll castrate you myself."

John climbs slowly and carefully into his lap. He puts his arms around Sherlock's neck and kisses him. Sherlock can taste himself. He smiles.

"I'm not joking. I know how. And, there will be no anaesthesia."

Burning leaves and chiming church bells and John. Always, John. What else was there, really?


Back then, they sometimes made plans for the future, but mostly they lived in the moment, because it was easier, and a lot more fun. But, once in awhile one of them — usually John — would come to a screeching halt and say something more serious, something along the lines of:

"Please don't play with knives. Especially inside the toaster. Especially when the toaster is still plugged in, all right?"

"No, you can't take six of the painkillers at once. Because you can't. Because you're only supposed to take one. One, Sherlock. One every four hours. I don't care if you have a high tolerance. That's your own doing. Of course I care that you're in pain, but still, it's your own damn fault. Because. I told you not to play with knives, didn't I? I did. Because. Because it says so on the prescription. Right here. Do you want to read it? Because. Because I fucking said so, all right?"

"Why? Why can't you run around London in January with pneumonia? Really? Because I want to grow old with you, you idiot, all right?"

Sherlock blinked, blearily. His chest hurt. "You do?"

"Yes, you tosser. I do. Really." John crossed his arms, set his mouth. He was not budging.

Sherlock shifted in his bed. He needed to get up. John was not going to let him get up. This much was clear. Everything else, however, was not so clear.

"I'm not going to give this up," Sherlock said slowly, spreading his hands wide to indicate this, fearing the worst. If John was going to leave, now was the time, now, not later, not when Sherlock's heart was any more firmly entrenched. Better to rip it out now, while it was still young and healthy, not old and feeble and sputtering.

John came closer, smiling. Why was he smiling? "I'm not asking you to give this up. I would never do that."

"You wouldn't?"

John shook his head. "All I'm asking, you prat, is to stop trying to get yourself killed for five bloody minutes so we can make some plans."

Sherlock thought.



"To grow old."

John nodded.


John smiled.

Sherlock nodded and closed his eyes. When he opened them, John was still there, still smiling.

"All right," he said, rubbing at his chest. "All right. I think that can be arranged."


John still does all the shopping, and Sherlock rarely steps foot inside the shop in their village except to buy the very occasional pack of cigarettes. Which he no longer does, of course. Today, however, he accompanies John over frosty fields. He likes how their breath billows about their faces. He feels good today. Better than good. He takes John's hand — gloved, for once — in his own for a moment as they walk. This catches John by surprise. Sherlock rarely shows affection in public. He grins up at Sherlock, his so-blue eyes crinkling.

The shop is very warm. Sherlock unwinds his scarf as he wanders the aisles, letting John fill the small basket and chat with Mrs. Foster, the owner.

"Fourth time this month," she mutters.

"What's that, Mrs. Foster?" John is very friendly. Everyone likes him. Sherlock smiles as he strolls.

"Oh, my chickens! My bloody chickens keep disappearing."


"Whole, frozen chickens! Vanishing. How on earth does someone sneak an entire chicken out without my noticing? It's a mystery, I must say."

Sherlock stops.

"It must happen in late afternoon, when it gets busier, but I keep such a close watch now. Didn't think I had to, because I know everyone who comes in! Mr. Foster is no use, of course. I've asked him to keep an eye out, but he wouldn't notice if someone walked in stark naked these days. Who would take chickens? Why?" She sighs and shakes her head. "A real mystery."

Sherlock's mind whirrs and clicks and ponders and picks. A hundred possibilities. A thousand, maybe. Not like the mysteries of the old days, maybe, but still something.


John commiserates for a moment, agrees it's a very strange occurrence, indeed, and hopes she figures out what's going on exactly, soon. He pays for their groceries, moves to the door. He looks around.

"Sherlock? You coming?"

"In a moment, John. In a moment." Sherlock moves to the front of the shop. Mrs. Foster eyes him warily and leans back slightly as he leans forward on the counter, and smiles his most winning, almost genuine, blinding smile at her. "I just need to ask a few questions about this case of the missing poultry."


Back then there was a time when they both thought they'd spend the rest of their lives alone.

Then, they fell in love.


The walk back home is colder. The clouds are hanging grey and low, snagging treetops. It smells likes snow. John carries the groceries. Sherlock talks nonstop, quickly, gesturing animatedly, something about who the thief might be and why. There are a lot of possibilities, some of them quite convoluted. John is listening, but not really. He's just happy. As their small house comes into view, Sherlock stops speaking and stops walking, stands completely still. John's heart skips, but everything's all right. Sherlock puts both his arms around him and holds him for a moment in the field.

He doesn't say thank you; there's no need.