John Watson has died more times than he cares to remember. So as he nears the end of his life yet again, it is pretty much old hat. It feels like the right time and as a doctor he can always tell when it is nearing the end. Dying is never painful, not for him anyway. It is as easy as closing his eyes.
For his companion however, his death is very painful indeed. "Don't Watson." Holmes pleads at his bedside. "Not again, I can't do it again."
"Holmes, I've never known you to be so overly sentimental. Will you miss me old boy?" John manages a grin but just barely.
"Three years John. And then another thirty or so after that."
"We'll see each other again Holmes, no need to fret." John coughs, covering his mouth with his handkerchief. With his other hand, he pats his friends hand comfortingly.
"I don't want to start over again. You won't remember me."
"Still, we'll be together."
"It's not fair." Even at eighty-two, Holmes could still manage sounding like a petulant child.
"Holmes, we've done this enough times to know that fairness hardly ever enters into it. But we get to try again, for whatever reason. I dare say this next time might even be better than the last."
Holmes reaches out his hand and strokes it over Watson's face. "Till next time, my dear Watson."
"I'll be seeing you Holmes."
Watson never knows how Sherlock Holmes lives out the remainder of his days.
And Sherlock never tells him.
As best as they can understand it, their continuing to come back even after death has everything to do with 221B Baker Street. Since it was built, Holmes and Watson have inhabited it. From what they can tell, they will continue to do so until the building no longer stands.
When John Watson steps into the lab at Bart's and looks at the tall man with curly dark hair, a strange sense of familiarity washes over him. He knows for a fact he's never met this man before and yet some strange voice in his head is insisting he has. The man is smiling as if he recognizes him and for a moment John has a panic attack that he should know this man but doesn't.
It isn't until the man exits with a swirl of his long coat, leaving John with naught but a name, address and a dumbfounded expression, that it sinks in.
Sherlock, yes of course. How could I forget Sherlock? John wonders as he clutches the top of his cane a bit tighter.
They don't get a chance to talk about it until they've already wrapped their first case together. John feels more at home in his skin than he has his entire life. Being back with Holmes feels right and 221 feels exactly as much like home as it should.
"So am I calling you Sherlock this time?" John asks with an amused grin.
"I imagine so. Holmes is a bit stuffy for this day and age." Sherlock responds, shoveling an enormous amount of lo mein into his mouth.
"Still starving yourself and then overeating like some sort of pig, I see." John has missed this more than he can say, the easy banter that comes from knowing someone for such a long time. He's known Sherlock for a couple of lifetimes now and it is so easy being in his presence.
"And you're still an insufferable worrier." Sherlock takes a noodle in between his chopsticks and sucks it into his mouth loudly.
"Well I am a doctor and that's disgusting." John says but there's no bite to it. Sherlock actually looks a bit cowed by it and chews on his bottom lip.
"It's good to see you." He tells John softly, leaning slightly across the table.
"It's good to see you too." John says, meaning it wholeheartedly. "So here we go again." John adds and finds that he can't wait to see how everything will happen this time. It's a new millennia, technology is so advanced from the last time they were together and the world seems to move a lot faster. Now that John can use his leg again, he can't wait to run alongside Holmes through the streets of London.
"Here we go again." Sherlock echoes, the corner of his mouth twitching up into a smirk.
John knew from the moment he'd recognized Sherlock that they would end up here. In fact he had been expecting it much sooner. But it isn't until after Moriarty (who John had somewhat been hoping hadn't made it to this reincarnation but alas, although apparently not a mathematics professor this time) and the pool that Sherlock finally drags him to bed.
It's slow and unhurried as they relearn each other's bodies. John has always been drawn to Sherlock, always fascinated by him, and yes always attracted to him. But he has to admit he quite likes the look of this Sherlock with his curls and his gorgeous eyes. He's all long limbs and pale skin that John just wants to explore but he can't seem to move past that wonderful mouth.
"I see you've –" John interrupts him by sucking on his lower lip and Sherlock arches his back, lifting his hips up so he comes in contact with John's cock, making them both moan softly, not wanting to disturb Mrs. Hudson. "Forgone that ridiculous moustache this time."
John retaliates with a harsh bite to the collarbone. "My mustache was never ridiculous." John insists, nibbling his way down Sherlock's pale chest. One thing that doesn't seem to change from time after time is Sherlock's erogenous zones, which means John knows just how to make him writhe against the sheets. Soft kisses against Sherlock's inner thighs do the trick nicely. "It was distinguished."
"You usually like to make the first move, why didn't you this time?" Sherlock asks, threading his fingers through John's hair.
"Wasn't sure you wanted me to." John shrugs, taking Sherlock into his mouth. He places his arm across Sherlock's hips to keep him from thrusting. "Married to your work." John grumbles under his breath.
Sherlock's grip on John's hair tightens. "I always want you." He whispers. It's the last words spoken until Sherlock's orgasm hits. He closes his eyes tight as unknown words spill from his mouth and he feels his release flood John's mouth.
Sherlock takes a few moments to recover but then he flips John over onto his back and settles between his parted legs. "My turn." He says and goes to work on bringing John off with his mouth, returning the favour.
"Sherlock." John moans, his fingers twisted in the sheets and his toes curling.
Neither of them say "I love you" that night. In fact it will be a very long time before either of them say those words to each other. But they both know it. They've always known it.
It goes without saying.
John knows Sherlock is alive. At least he's pretty certain he's alive. He's been through this before and Sherlock always shows back up on his doorstep after three years. John knew this would happen the moment that psychotic Irish bastard Moriarty decided to show his face again.
It doesn't mean he has to like it.
What it really boils down to his three years of waiting.
And what if this is the time Moriarty finally pulls it off? What if this was the time he actually killed Sherlock?
The three years are almost agony but at the end John comes home to find Sherlock's familiar frame sitting on the sofa. Even after all the times they've done this, all the times they've been through it, it doesn't get any easier. It won't be the next time either.
Doctor John H. Watson and Sherlock S. Holmes marry on March 3rd, 2017.
Mrs. Hudson cries at the wedding.
But she feels she has every right to. After all, she's been waiting for this day for a very, very long time.
It's thirty years later and John knows the time of his life is ticking down. He's sold his private practice years ago so that he and Sherlock could retire comfortably to the country. Sherlock has his bees and John has his garden. There's a tiny creek that runs through their backyard and on warm nights they sit on a bench and listen to the babbling of the brook. John's never felt quite so calm in his life.
He's sitting in the kitchen with his laptop, reading over his old blog, with his reading glasses perched on his nose. He likes to remember their adventures so he can recall them easier the next time they meet. Sherlock is sitting across from him, doing experiments on which type of flower makes the richest honey.
"Does it ever bother you that a lot of the cases are the same?" John asks, looking up over the top of his computer.
"Not really." Sherlock shrugs and dips his finger into the honey jar; letting the golden substance collect onto his finger but some of it drips down. Sherlock's tongue chases it before he sticks his finger in his mouth. John licks his own lips and would very much like to cross the table to kiss his husband. He decides to wait for the explanation first. "They're different enough each time that I cannot assume who the killer will be. The clues do not always mean the same thing either. Besides, murder is redundant enough that I don't really notice."
"Hm." John hums in agreement and then uses his cane to get up from his chair and fulfill his promise to himself. He captures the taste of honey off Sherlock's lips, twining his fingers through that dark curly hair he loves so much.
John has three months left to live. He's died in a multitude of different ways but cancer is a new one. He can feel his body slowly shutting down and he welcomes it. The sooner this life ends, the sooner he can start again, and the sooner he'll see Sherlock. But then they'll be able to run again, no longer trapped in their current feeble bodies.
Sherlock is very quiet on the ride home from the doctor. John knows this part is always difficult for him. John has always died first but then he's three years older than Sherlock, it isn't exactly unexpected that he'd be the first to go. Most of their friends are gone already, Molly, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, even Mycroft. John isn't sad, however, because he knows they'll meet again.
When they get back to the house, Sherlock goes right to his violin, coaxing beautiful yet depressing notes from the instrument. John sits in his usual chair and listens, knowing that trying to get Sherlock to talk before he's ready to is next to useless. So John waits patiently while Sherlock plays, knowing that sooner or later they're going to have to talk about this. It will probably be like pulling teeth.
Sherlock stops playing, putting his violin down and staring out the window. For a moment it feels like being back at Baker Street. So much so that John almost aches for their old home.
"I'm leaving." Sherlock announces, pulling John from his nostalgia.
"And where are you going?" John furrows his brow.
"I'm not sure. I can't stay here though." Sherlock walks over to the table and puts his violin away, snapping the case shut. For a moment, John thinks that might be it, that Sherlock will take his violin and go. It's preposterous of course, Sherlock isn't going to leave with just his violin but for a moment John thinks he might.
"Why?" John asks, getting to his feet as quickly as he can, his body creaking in protest.
"I refuse to stay here and watch you die again. You can't make me." Sherlock tells John defiantly, his hands clenched into fists.
"Like hell I can't." John positions himself between Sherlock and the door, ready to stop him if it comes to that.
"I won't do it again."
Suddenly John is so angry he can hardly see straight. Sherlock turns into this large blob and all John can make out his that curly mop of hair, now turned grey. It takes John a moment to realize that he can't see because his eyes have welled up with tears. As if this fucking day couldn't get any worse.
"So all those cases, solving the same fucking mystery time after time isn't boring but watching me die has become old hat for you? Is that it?"
"John – "
"No Sherlock fuck you. I got a death sentence today and somehow you've managed to make this about you. You're not leaving me here to die alone."
"Why not? You do it to me every time." Sherlock says menacingly, glaring at John through narrowed eyes.
"Every time John. You die and leave me here all alone. So not only do I get to watch the only person I care about die again and again but then I get to sit around here for three bloody years waiting for it to be my turn."
"Well maybe it's payback for you leaving me for three years to chase down criminals on your own."
"That's not the same, you always know I'm coming back." Sherlock argues, turning and stomping up the stairs towards their bedroom.
"And you know that you'll see me again." John hollers at the foot of the stairs, cursing his useless leg. It's slow going but he starts up after his husband so they can continue fighting. There's nothing wrong with either of their hearing but he'd rather the neighbours didn't hear.
"Not for thirty bloody years." Sherlock yells, grabbing his suitcase out of the closet. "You only have to wait three."
When John finally gets to the top of the stairs, winded and exhausted, he really doesn't want to have this fight. Worse still is that Sherlock has locked their bedroom door and John's not sure he has the strength to knock it down.
"I have to wait those thirty years too." John shoves his body against the door but it doesn't budge.
"You don't remember me." Sherlock shouts and John hears something hit the door and the sound of glass shattering. "You never remember me until we've met."
"Oh and what, like you remember me."
"Of course I do." Sherlock yells in frustration.
John goes silent on his side of the door and leans against the wood heavily. He's too tired to have this conversation but he knows if they don't, Sherlock will be gone in the morning. John can't be certain he'll come back. "You never told me that." He says quietly, his forehead pressed against their door.
"Don't be an idiot John, with a mind like mine? I don't – I don't remember your name but I dream about you. I can always feel that you're not there, like a phantom limb. I know there's someone who's supposed to be there like this empty space that I can feel constantly."
"Sherlock –" John swallows around the lump in his throat and presses his palm against the door. "Please open the door."
Surprisingly, Sherlock does as he asks. Their eyes meet as the door swings open and for a long time they just stare at each other. John finally breaks it by looking down at his feet and sees that Sherlock threw the picture from their nightstand. It's a photo of their wedding, just the two of them. Sherlock looks striking in his tailored black suit and John looking rather handsome himself in his light grey suit.
The glass is in pieces and the frame is bent but the picture inside is fine. It just needs a new frame is all. His bones protest as John bends down to pick it up, shaking the picture free from the glass.
"I'm sorry Sherlock, I had no idea."
"Why would you? I never told you before." Sherlock tries to pass it off as nothing but John knows better. Sherlock moves so he's standing next to John and they both look down at their wedding photo. "You know the worst time was when you got married to someone else." Sherlock informs him softly. "You left Baker Street and me and I hardly saw you the remainder of our lives."
"It was the eighteen hundreds, I couldn't marry you." John responds, his fingertips brushing over their younger faces.
"Oh please." Sherlock rolls his eyes. "There were homosexuals before us John and there will be after us."
"I loved her Sherlock." John doesn't remember everything about his wife but he remembers that much. "Not in the way I love you but we were happy together."
"Then why don't you give her a ring and have her stay here and watch you die." Sherlock spits out bitterly. He goes over to his suitcase and closes it with more force than necessary.
"What is it you want from me Sherlock?"
"I want you to stay." Sherlock bites out in aggravation.
"I'm not the one leaving here." John says accusingly.
Sherlock heaves his suitcase off the bed and carries it to the bedroom door. "How can you be so stupid?" he asks angrily, pushing his way past John.
"Tell me what it is you want me to do."
"Forget it. You're obviously too slow to comprehend."
John huffs out a breath of frustration and follows Sherlock back down the stairs. Going down is much easier than going up but it's still a strain. This is more exertion than he usually puts his body through and he's feeling it.
"Sherlock stop!" John screams when he sees Sherlock start to twist the handle of their front door. John hobbles over as quickly as he can and puts his hand on the door to stop Sherlock opening it and disappearing forever. "Please. Tell me what you want."
"It doesn't matter."
"Of course it matters. Talk to me."
"I don't want you to die."
"It's cancer Sherlock, I don't actually get a say in it."
"You can fight it."
"You're the strongest man I know. You can."
John is struck dumb for a moment. Sherlock isn't exactly one for throwing out compliments. Sherlock grabs John by his arms and holds him in place, begging him to at least try.
"I'll do my best." John promises, surging up onto his tiptoes so he can kiss his infuriating husband.
"That's all I ask." Sherlock murmurs against his lips.
Doctor John H. Watson died October 15th, 2050 at 22:42:09.
Sherlock Holmes died October 16th, 2050 at 01:42:09.
They were both found in their bed, eyes closed and their fingers laced together.
At St. Bartholomew's Hospital, two boys were born within three hours of each other.
One named John Watson.
The other Sherlock Holmes.