When Sherlock is seventeen, like all his age, he dedicates himself to a god. It doesn't mean servitude- though those that work in the temples do go that route- but that Hermes is the god he directs most of his prayers to. A Patron, if you will. This decision gets a sigh from Mycroft who has been happily dedicated to Athena for the past seven years and has made no secret of his hope that his little brother would join him.
That's not to say that Sherlock hadn't considered it. He's a scientist as well as a trickster after all. It's just that he is trickier and people fascinate him. So to the Temple of Hermes he goes and receives a small silver Kerykeion pin.
Which god someone has dedicated themselves to is shown by a pin, small and of the relevant metal, attached discreetly to an item of clothing, usually on the upper half of the body. For example, Lestrade has the crescent moon of Artemis, Mycroft the bronze owl of Athena, Sally the elaborate stylised labyrinth of Ariadne. His main contact for the Homeless Network, Wiggins, always has an enamelled rainbow somewhere on her person for Iris.
One of the things that draws him to Mrs Hudson is that she is a devotee of Hestia. The same thing draws him back to her and 221B later, the small flickering flame painted on the door by a devotee of Hecate saying to all passing 'here lives a dedicate of Hestia. May you find warmth, welcome and home.' Most doors into a home have some kind of Hestian charm to incite blessing, but the flickering fire is a promise of more.
In all his adult life he's never not been able to deduce someone's Patron, which is why meeting John Watson is so refreshing.
When he first meets the man, he thinks Pallas, because even though the man screams warrior from his every pore it is not the same air that the devotees of Ares, that cowardly, bullying, cheating god, have. It doesn't take much to determine that his brother is a disciple of Dionysus, or that he has been to war and come out lost but not beaten. Even the fact that the man is a doctor fits because doctors fight on a different, organic battleground, against different, smaller and sometimes more deadly enemies.
It makes even more sense after John kills a man for him and smiles after. For some reason Sherlock's lips betray him and smile back and the warmth that has sat at the base of his sternum since they first laughed together bursts into horrifying, wonderful life and doesn't go away.
But John doesn't belong to Pallas; he doesn't wear the helmet pin. Like any other doctor, he pays his dues to Asklepios and wore the Asklepian as a cap badge in the army, like all members of the RAMC. Sherlock knows that John still keeps that same cap badge in his pocket and will take it out and turn it over and over in his hand if he is thinking too much, or is puzzling over a problem. Sherlock assumes that the god of medicine is his Patron and thinks nothing more of it, because by this point, John is John and is wonderful anyway. He needs no Patron to define him, and like most people he says "Oh gods" when in bed, though usually, it's "oh gods, Sherlock, Sherlock" and the sound of his name like a prayer to Aphrodite and Eros makes up for the not knowing and often replaces the not knowing in his mind.
Even with all of that though, the not knowing is a niggle in his brain, an eternal itch that he just can't reach. So he asks.
"I don't have a Patron." John looks up at him slightly from the other side of the table. They are sat in a booth in the Chinese on Baker Street, the fading red décor all around them, and the wood of the booth dark with grain, age and varnish. Carefully, John continues eating, like Sherlock is asking about the mizzle-y weather.
"You can't not have a Patron," Sherlock bursts in a harsh whisper. "Everybody does."
"Well, not me." John lines up his chopsticks, placing them at military precise angles on his plate.
"You have to John. Not even Gaia? You, a cast out?" He says it with all the disgust that term deserves- cast out, not Patronised by any, even Mother Gaia who take all that no others will. "You have to have someone."
It's already too late. Looking back at this moment he will kick himself and wish, wish so hard that he could climb down into Taurus and beg Kronos that he be allowed to change time. In the privacy of his own mind he will scream and curse at himself for the stupidity of those words. That is the blessing and curse of John; he makes it quiet and his clarity of thought so streamlined, so fast that censorship when he is relaxed and comfortable sometimes becomes impossible.
John doesn't reply. He stands and gets out his wallet, putting down a tenner and a few pound coins to cover his half of the bill even though they never have to pay here. His face doesn't fall or do anything so obvious. It's all in the micro-expressions, the twitches around the eyes and the mouth. It reminds Sherlock of a special effect he once saw in a TV show, some kind of cross-dimensional shortcut closing off, a great crumpling and then, blank. John walks away in perfect four- four time, no hint of a limp. Sherlock has never felt more alone than he does now, opposite an empty plate, with the warmth that has nestled, fluttering, expanding, choking in his chest twisting knurled and burning the hot, hot flare of shame.
He doesn't know where else to go, so he goes home, to the flat, their flat. 221B is as welcoming as always, the Hestian blessing flickering cheerily, but the welcome is somehow discordant and hollow. Mrs Hudson is waiting for him, dithering in the hallway.
"John sent me a text to say he won't be home for a while." She looks up at him, all concerned. "Is everything all right?"
"No. Nothing is all right. I have been unforgivably stupid."
"Ahh," is all Mrs Hudson says after he has told her and Sherlock sinks into her kitchen chair and drinks his tea to avoid looking at her. Of all the people in the world he doesn't want to disappoint she is second on the list that goes: John, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Mummy.
"What if he doesn't come back?" The fear is sudden and all encompassing. He sinks further down, utterly miserable in a way he knows he deserves. Gods, how must John feel? The thought makes his eyes sting and his cheeks hot.
"You silly clot." Mrs Hudson stands up and hugs him to her. "He's got to come back, even if it's only to pack. You can talk to him then."
He leans against her. "But what if he sends Harry?"
"You really think that he'll trust that vapid Dionysian with his belongings? He doesn't have much, Sherlock, so what he does have is important."
"We were lovers," he says into her blouse and Mrs Hudson strokes his hair, petting the curls. What he means is I think I love him. There are four words that are sub-divisions of love. Storgē he does not feel, for he has never been John's parent or child nor will he ever just put up with him. There is Philía, the affection and friendship. Check. Éros, the sensual desire and longing and lust. Double Check. There is the developing Agápe, the unconditional love.
"I know dear. You're usually quite quiet, but, well, last week." Sherlock remembers that. He remembers getting in from the case, so high on adrenaline and looking at John and John looking at him and barely making it past the doorway, attached at the mouth, skin to skin and his breathless, drawn out moans in surprisingly well-spoken Greek that are the best things that Sherlock has ever heard, better than the plastic snap of the packaging of a syringe, better than explosions, better than Mycroft's 'beaten' squeak. Gods know he wasn't quiet either, John's name falling into his own wordless cries. It had been a good dawn, and a good afternoon waking to John sleeping peacefully for once.
When he leaves an hour later neither of them comment on the wet patch on her blouse. He paces the front room fretfully, eventually drifting off curled on the sofa, tear stains still on his cheeks.
When he wakes, it is morning, after dawn, and John is home. His presence infuses the flat with the missing warmth, like the sun in July, but this time, it is more like the winter sun. Weaker, but still warming. The flat smells of something strange. Ambrosia, his mind supplies. He's only ever smelt it once before, when Hermes had come to visit him just after he had finally gotten clean and started up the Consulting Detective business. He counts himself special, because it is rare that a Patron will actively Patronise. When Hermes had come, he had been nonchalantly snacking on the pale golden yellow squares of the flaky god food. Its scent had made the mouldy dump that Montague Street had been smell good for days, overriding the creeping damp. Sometime while he was sleeping, John has put the blanket over him.
"Good morning," John says, in a polite neutral tone that he has never used with Sherlock, except that first meeting at 221B, shaking hands outside the front door. "The kettle's just boiled if you want tea."
Oh. So this is how it's going to go. It's nothing less than he deserves. "Thank you," he says, smiles tight. Normally, if he is sleeping, John wakes him with a cup of tea, and their fingers brush as he passes the mug over. Little touches that were unconscious, careless and affectionate. Now it seems he will not even get that.
He does understand. John is protecting himself, cutting himself off. Even now, he is probably kicking himself for ever letting Sherlock in so close. He wants John back, even though it will take much to rebuild the trust lost.
It does take time, but they rebuild some of the easy intimacy. But no longer does John sit next Sherlock on the sofa, though he will sit in his chair and just be as the both of them work on separate things, John writing up the cases and Sherlock updating and rewriting articles on his website and reading a series of books that an outsider can see no common thread running through. Yet John keeps himself just beyond and Sherlock, despite wanting to reach out and touch respects that.
So they are nearly back to their pre-(what were they? Defying definition) steadiness, ease of being when they are called to a crime scene. Sherlock is looking under the desk and shelves when out of the corner of his eye he spots John and Lestrade chatting. The two men have fallen together remarkably quickly. The relationship that the two have is far more sibling-like than the sudden and deep knots that hold Sherlock and John together no matter how callous Sherlock is or how distant John can be.
"Apollo," Sherlock says suddenly, standing up so fast he hits the back of his head on the desk. He has left the subject of John's Patron alone, pushed it to the furthest corners of his mind, but it is all so obvious.
"Zeus Almighty." John strides over and guides Sherlock so he's sitting down on the victim's desk chair as his vision blurs. Should John be radiating light like the atmosphere of the sun during a solar eclipse? The knock on his head must be very bad, because why else would he be feeling a warmth like the perfect summer's day leeching golden into his cranium where John's hand in nitrile purple is carefully examining the rising lump.
"This guy?" Lestrade gestures to the body on the bed and the blood from his slashed neck staining the pillows around him. "You've already given me half a dozen reasons why he's a Tyche without looking at his pin, most connecting him to the gambling ring the boys in fraud are after."
"Not him." Sherlock waves a dismissive, languorous hand. "John." He grabs the man's upper arms where his hands are resting on his shoulders and drags him so they are face-to-face in a way they haven't been in a month, sun worn to open trickster. "Healing," he hisses fiercely, and head wounds aren't supposed to put you out of sorts this quickly, are they? He can't remember the previous ones doing so. He feels giddy. "Accuracy, your always being awake for the dawn no matter the night before."
"Sherlock," John hisses back in warning, but doesn't pull away and somewhere on Olympus many beings are rejoicing.
"How many fingers am I holding up?" John raises two sets of three fingers and Sherlock's stomach shows signs of rebellion.
"You're halving the number you see. Greg, I'm taking him home. He needs to rest."
"Go for it," he hears Lestrade say, and Sherlock lets himself be guided by John's life-expressing hands to a taxi, and then up the stairs and then into his room. John removes his shoes, and coat and scarf and jacket, gets him under the covers. He refuses to let go of John's hand.
"Stay," he mummers, shaping the words into his pillow.
"I need to get some stuff, Sherlock." John disengages his hand, and Sherlock grabs his sleeve.
"No, stay." A haze is over his eyes, and John is wavering, mirage-like.
"I'll be back in a minute." Gentle, gentle hands unlatch his fingers from the sleeve and John shimmers away. He is back though, an indeterminate amount of time later with a box containing refilled bottles of water, easy to eat food, Mrs Hudson's baking and books and his laptop. He plans to stay then. John pulls the chair in the corner to beside the bed and settles down.
"You can sleep if you want." John looks at him over the reading glasses he hates to use. Sherlock thinks that they make him look handsome. "I'll wake you when you need to be woken." He does feel rather drowsy. He looks at John and pretends that the hot, horrid, wonderful, sensation tucked under his sternum is still reciprocated and drifts away.
He dreams, and his dreams vary. The first time he is woken he looks up at John and says, "You should never forgive me."
John strokes over his forehead, brushing hair out of the way, and cups his cheek. How long since he has felt tenderness such as this? Not since he was a child, Mummy and Grandmére, and then again these last few months with John, but the past month has felt like an endless starving desert without the glancing, easy touches between them. "I have. You're forgiven." It is so formal that Sherlock laughs into his pillow.
When he is woken again an hour later, the light has changed, slanting smog orange between the blinds. John has set aside his laptop and his battered copy of Casino Royale is split so it is marking his page on the sheets.
"You loved me," Sherlock says, still in the sliding world of Morpheus, between Gates of Horn and Ivory.
"I still do," John says and Sherlock takes his hand and presses a kiss in the gun bitten palm.
Fifteen hours later, after the waking's get less frequent he surfaces and his vision is clear. John is drooped in the chair, book lax in his lap and glasses on the edge of his nose.
"John." Sherlock puts a hand on his thigh. "John." John's eyes open in slivers of brown-blue. "Lie down." Sherlock pulls and John follows to the top of the covers. He is still unsure of his rights to touch, so he presses another kiss to John's hand, and John lets him. He can work with that. He is here in Sherlock's bed, even if it is not how he imagined.
Later they both wake and are in the kitchen, John making tea and Sherlock making sure the toaster doesn't do something unexpected and probably explosion-related. Sherlock turns to John and says, "I am sorry."
John doesn't react, stirs the tea and puts down the spoon with a sterling clink. It is so reminiscent of the Chinese that Sherlock feels the ball of heat, of ágape tight and clenched in hurtful hope.
"I've already forgiven you. I said so last night." John puts his tea by Sherlock's hand on the counter. Sherlock resolutely does not look at John, holding on to the counter as if it will anchor him to this plane of being.
"Then why won't you touch me?" It comes out of his throat hoarse and desperate, reverberating around the kitchen, his longing tactile in the air. He realises that in the back of his mind he is praying fragile onion glass prayers, please let them be answered.
John comes up behind him, a hand on his shoulder, on his face and the second first kiss is like breathing after being underwater, like moonlight and starlight after the dark of the Lethe caves.
"I still don't have a Patron," John says after, when they are on the sofa, blood rushing and cheeks painted high from just kisses bestowed like pearls and coral and jade emeralds, to be cupped in your hands and treasured. Just that is enough. "But if I did, you're right, it would be Apollo."
Baker Street is blown up, and in the sweet, sweet rush his flowering with John is pushed aside and relegated. Moriarty appears with Eris' double-edged knife of discord and he lives up to his Patron's promise. He lives, and John so very nearly doesn't.
When they collapse side by side in bed after, in the moth's silken cocoon of sheets, they breathe the same air until they are lightheaded.
In the morning, he wakes alone. It is unusual for John not to be beside him, usually if John wakes first he will wait for Sherlock to wake too. Voices lead him to the front room and he stands by the fridge in the kitchen, sheets wrapped around him like an orator. He can see through the sliding doors to two people in the room before him.
John is on one knee on the floor, facing towards the fireplace. Standing in front of him is a man, a god with golden skin, hair and blue eyes. Apollo. He is cupping John's cheek, a loving, familial gesture, and John, reserved John, who lets a number of people smaller than the fingers on one hand touch him freely, is leaning into the touch.
"My son," the god says. "You need never kneel to me."
Gods have always had a difficult relationship with humans, and for the good of all it was decided that, sure, all the sex you can have, but no conception. But still, a few god born, the demi-gods and heroes have cropped up over the ages. And John… oh the sense this makes.
John stands up and they hug, father to son and the familial resemblance is impossible to ignore. Around the god John gains a sort of illumination, a sort of shine that flickers at his edges.
"You have to be careful," John says as he looks up at the place they know Mycroft currently has one camera. "There is a man who would probably very much…."
"Which one? because if you mean Mycroft Holmes then your grandfather's favourite daughter is occupying his time with a few issues she wants looked over, and after all of this your beloved's Patron is going to get rid of the video evidence. He's not the god of tricks and thieves for nothing. I know we don't get on that much, but for the happiness of you two we do all we can, even if it means working together. If you mean that devotee of Eris, then he is a mortal problem, and we can do nothing but hide ourselves from all his eyes." Apollo takes a flask and a wrapped square out of his bag. "You're running low." And Sherlock can smell the Ambrosia again and what must be the dulcet notes of Nectar. The scent alone is enough and he knows that that on his tongue it must be heavenly. Fatal, but what a way to go; the greatest of highs burning through his veins.
"Thank you." John accepts the items, holds them nearly as carefully as he does Sherlock when they are in the mood for long worship of the other. Sherlock retreats to his room and lies back down to allow John the chance to talk to his father in private. An hour later he is content, dozing and John slips back into bed next to him and wakes him properly with kisses and kisses and then more than kisses.
The next crime scene when John finally snaps, holding petty Nemesis dedicated Anderson spell -bound frozen as he tells them exactly why they should all just 'grow up' and 'for gods' sake stop squabbling and picking like seven year olds,' Sherlock says after "My Hero" quietly in his ear, and the light flush across John's cheeks and his smile, blinding as the sun, is everything.
The next time Lestrade sees them he calls for temporary grace from Hera who is not his Patron, Lestrade is one the Artemian Hunters, and binds John's left hand to Sherlock's left and holds them there for a minute.
"There," he says after, when he has cut that same white ribbon in two and had them tie the halves around the other's left wrist. "You can both stop moping and worrying that the other will leave, because you're bound together now."
As if to emphasise this, a pattern of peacock's eyes appears on the ribbons, Hera's blessing and mark.
John looks up at Sherlock, back down to his wrist, to Lestrade's crescent pin and back to Sherlock again, blinking. Sherlock runs his right thumb along the colours seamlessly integrated into the weave. "Husband," John says and the sun smile appears again. "I could get used to that."
"Husband," Sherlock agrees and goes to solve a crime. Neither of them need to say the already understood 'I love you'. But they do anyway, later, in words and many other ways.
Irene is a dedicate of Eros. Lust. That much is obvious. But he doesn't love her, and she is so tied up and locked away from her own heart that she doesn't realise the blessed bands that run between him and John. Despite her own troubles, no marriage ever blessed by Hera ever falls apart. It's like she is motivated by her own experiences to make it better for others or more likely, to decrease the pool for her husband and other family to cheat with.
So Sherlock will be Sherlock and John will forgive him. It is how they are. And if few see the strength of the bonds between them, of Philía, Éros and Agápe then they are the blind ones, and really, it's none of their business.
And then they are chasing after a suspect, and John puts himself in front of a knife for Sherlock.
Down he falls, and Sherlock should be watching Donovan cuff their man, but he is catching John and so much blood, so much blood. It is pouring out of his stomach, intestines tumbling out too, held by John's red slicked hands, and Sherlock tears open his shirt to look at the slit in the warm, vulnerable belly.
All the blood in the human body can be gone in three to four minutes if the bleed is big enough. It's big enough. There is no hope of an ambulance being here fast enough. Above them, the sky roils to dark, clouds tempest like over land, and thunder rumbles, lightning arching across the sky.
"By Zeus!" someone yells and John bubbles a laugh and then screams. More lightning, closer, and people start running against the wind, heading for the calm that extends for twenty metres around Sherlock on his knees where he's cradling John.
Lightning strikes the man in handcuffs, abandoned and trying to protect himself as best as possible, leaving nothing but charred man shaped imprint on the ground. Holy retribution. The wind dies down and John gasps, "Father's coming. Close your eyes, Sherlock, close your eyes."
"Close your eyes!" Sherlock yells.
"What?" Lestrade is running to them still, having never stopped despite the wind.
"Close your eyes! The gods are coming Divine!" He looks down at John one last time as he sees everybody else bury their heads in their arms. Zeus is involved and angry, as proved by the murderer on the ground like a black chalk outline.
There is a flash and Sherlock gets the impression of Apollo in all his Glory kneeling on the other side of John and taking him out of Sherlock's arms. A hand is passed over his eyes and he receives a grace to look, so he opens them to see John cradled like a child in Apollo's arms, the god's face unbearably tender as they are surrounded by Holy light. On each of Apollo's sides are his four immortal children, the stages of Healing, Asklepios of medicine at his right shoulder, hands on John's head, sending him to sleep.
They are gone. Sherlock is left with a blood stained shirt and hands and all of them looking at him.
"What happened Sherlock?" Lestrade repeats, and looks down at Sherlock still kneeling in the pool of blood. Within it, Sherlock can just see hypnotic strands of golden ichor.
"Excuse me," a new voice says and it's one that Sherlock recognises. Hermes stops in front of Sherlock and offers a hand up. He takes it. "We're going to the Temple of Asklepios." The god's hand is around the ribbon on his wrist. Hermes leans forward to speak soft in his ear. "Your husband is in the best of hands." He leans back and speaks normally again. "The Big Chief isn't very happy, as you can tell."
"What, John Watson's off limits?" Sally scoffs and the god is suddenly a god, not a man in a sharp suit.
"Yes. Remember that, Ariadnite."
John recovers and is the same as always in five days. Of course he is. He's a demigod who has been treated with the healing of the gods. But only Sherlock knows the demigod bit.
"Really, Sherlock," he says a few days later. "I'm fine. Father healed me after the bullet too. I've been through this before."
"Ahh," says Sherlock, and compares the unblemished skin on his stomach to the scarred and webbed skin on his shoulder. "I've been wondering why they are so different." By the position of the scarring, the bullet tore through the subclavian artery and shattered bone, infected muscle.
John rolls to his back and Sherlock follows, resting fully on the compact sun child. "I used to think about why he never healed me fully. Now I realise that it was so I would come to you."
Moriarty is clever, clever and has struck using Eris' blade the ties between Sherlock and so many people, turning them against him, even if it is against their will. The ties between Lestrade, the truce between softening Sally who is less lost that she used to be, Theseus instead of the previous victims and the polar tides between the public and his brilliance. But however hard he tries he cannot sever the bonds between Sherlock and John. Sherlock manages to do that on his own.
In the precious few hours he has alone, he visits Persephone-dedicated Molly and visits his Patron's Temple for the first time in years. Instead of Hermes, Apollo comes to him.
"You will cause my son much pain," the god pronounces, and it is judgement and prophecy in one.
"I know." Sherlock is kneeling before him like John did, so long ago.
"I should call on my father to smite you."
"I can see no other way." Is this what it will be like for the both of them, this anguish where before only the brightness of love sat? They have been blessed by all the gods and now this separate torment. Is it some kind of test to find them worthy? Sherlock doesn't dare ask, his voice trapped in Taurus.
"I cannot either and that's saying something." Sherlock releases all the tension and looks up at the golden god. He looks so like John but eternal and too bright.
"Help him," Sherlock begs, "because this will be worse for him. At least I can do something to advance."
Apollo nods and declares, "You will be the new Odysseus. Though my son is no Penelope to sit and just weave. Count the days from tomorrow and treasure your last hours because they are all you will have for three years."
Sherlock nods. The only words he has left are for John.
"I see," Apollo says and Sherlock knows that he does. "Your Patron, my brother, is working with Persephone's girl in the place you hold the dead to complete your heart-break ruse. Meet him there and then call my son. Remember, last hours. Make them count."
Sherlock goes. Nightmares happen.
John breathes his name on the pavement and searches for a pulse in Sherlock's wrist, shoving the white peacock ribbon down his to get to the traitorous veins. He had jumped and been caught by his Patron, a veil of guises layered over him and then he had lain on the pavement, not able to see, but able to hear and feel John, John crying, crying for him, for him to come back, in shock and as he is wheeled around the corner on the jolting ferry of a gurney, he sees John being held by a queen of a woman, with the same air that all gods have. Hera is beside John, and for the first time he knows John will be safe. He fixes the thought in his mind and it stays there. That is all that matters now.
A thousand days have passed into this Odyssian exile when he wakes up to Athena sitting by his head. She may be wearing a white blouse and dark jeans, but she is unmistakeable.
"Hello," he says, and ducks his head in a sort of bow. He's not sure of the proper way for a dead man to greet the goddess of heroes.
"Hermian," she says gravely. "Ninety five days left."
"Yes," he says, suddenly strangled, because he is so close. "John?" he asks, panicked and he throws back the tattered covers and paces, because to have come this far and for it all to be for nothing...
She sits serene and smiles wise and old, eyes clear. "He is as sighted as his father."
Sherlock stops, everything focused on the layers of meaning in that phrase. Sighted as his father.
"He knows?" Sherlock runs a hand though dyed hair, the starburst he has kept isolated in his chest breaking its bonds, dancing down to his arm and warming the ribbon that even through everything has kept its colour. He imagines the one on John's wrist warming too, and the loop of reciprocation climbing to Olympus.
"I would look at your texts," the goddess advises, and he does.
Sebastian Moran arrested. GL. it reads and Sherlock stares at it, and then at the smiling goddess.
"You never smile this much in the stories," he half accuses.
"The stories never cover the after. Your husband is quite the catch you know. All the muses cried when they felt the blessing of that slapdash corner ceremony of yours. Not just three continents, but two planes of being as well." Sherlock feels his ears burning red. Athena Parthenos is not someone you expect to insinuate how good at sex your husband is. "My brother said to you at the start 'He's no Penelope'. Well, he lied. When it comes to unravelling he's at the top of the game."
So it was John. The other person who was moving at the same time, able to anticipate his every move to assist and stay out of the way, working up from the other end of the list that has been wallpapered across the inside of his skull, was John.
"If this was the classical times," Athena continued, "instead of you funny mortals choosing one of us, we would choose a few of you to help along the way. I flatter myself by saying that my chosen were the best known, Daidalos, Bellerophon, the silly boy, Odysseus and that lot. The arguments you two would have caused. I would quite like to have had you and Ion Apolloson, but then so would Father, and both of my uncles and all of my siblings." While she's been talking he's been dashing around the room in a whirlwind of activity, picking up the little bits. A hand on his arm stops him.
"I have not yet finished, nephew."
"You are in a marriage blessed by Hera to my nephew Ion Apolloson, are you not?" Mutely, Sherlock nods. The outside consequences of the bonding have never been spoken of so candidly before. It's not even legal, not signed in any kind of register, but the gods have acknowledged it as truth and spoken of it between themselves. "Then you too are my nephew. But I had not finished. My father has sent me with an offer. Usually, we would send your Patron with an offer, but he's busy fixing the results for the next football World Cup, so I came instead. And to be honest, I wanted to see what I missed out on all those years ago."
"The offer?" Sherlock half demands impatiently, still mindful of the fact that she is a goddess, apparent aunt-in-law or not. He stands with an armful of jeans and shirt and a folder of paper.
"You go home now. You spend the rest of your long lives together doing what you love however it pleases the both of you."
"Well that's an infantile choice. Of course I want that."
"Or you wait the remaining ninety-five days and spend the rest of your long lives together doing what you love however it pleases the both of you."
"That's the same but worse. What kind of ridiculous…."
"Be quiet, child," the goddess snaps, and the air bristles with ozone. "I have not yet finished. When you are about to die a natural death we take you back to this age and bring you up to Olympus to live among us, forever."
Sherlock sits down. "And you gave John this choice?"
"Yes. He said to give you this." Athena leans down and kisses him on the cheek. It feels strange, the first piece of directed affection for one thousand days. The random kindness of strangers doesn't compare. "He also says 'I've waited one thousand days, you prat. I can wait ninety-five more when compared to eternity."
The sun-burst warmth in his chest finishes travelling everywhere. Ninety-five days is just over thirteen weeks, just over three months. One season.
"We'll wait," he says, and feels the clock restart. "I'll wait."
Ninety-five days later he walks into Baker Street at dawn. John is waiting. They cling to each other, getting as close as possible until they feel like one being and sink to the floor clothed and entwined. That is how Mrs Hudson finds them sleeping, pillowed on each other's chests, arms forming a locking cage, until her screams of shock and joy wake them both to the eternal laughter to come.