There is home, and there is work, and there is love, and there is Sherlock who encompasses all three, filling John with hope and excitement and fear. To be fair, Sherlock causes John less heart-sickening worry these days, and seems to be taking better care of himself in general. It is as if, now he has John, there is more to live for. This is gratifying. The future certainly appears bright and appealing.
There are dimmer moments, of course. The secrecy is tiring. Discretion John can handle. Never one to brag about bedroom exploits anyway. But not to be able to admit to Greg, or anyone, that what everyone always expected, is indeed the case... that got old very quickly.
There is also, still, Liesl.
"I will not discuss Liesl," Sherlock stated at the start, but he does. He mentions her every day, at least once. John cannot decide about it: harping on about your ex is generally unacceptable, but post-mission blather is perfectly normal. Is Sherlock simply winding down after months of undercover work? Is he trying to share his experience with John as friends and lovers do share details from their past?
John has no inclination to talk about Mary. It is still raw, the hurt and his own poor behaviour. He did love her, can still remember clearly why he loved her, and every part of it was so close to being right except for the giant wrong they were inflicting on each other.
Sherlock says, "Liesl wanted sex every single day," and looks at John.
Honestly, what can he say to that? He is not about to get into a comparison of sex drives between himself, Sherlock and Liesl. (Yeah, Liesl would win.) "Some people do," he says non-committally.
"Liesl bullied everyone around her," is another throwaway remark.
"That's unpleasant," John says. A pretty easy one.
"She would hurt me during sex," emerges one night when John is almost asleep.
"What?" He is awake, reflexively checking Sherlock, gazing into his face even though it is one a.m. and pitch black in midwinter, in Sherlock's room at the back of the flat where no streetlights shine in.
"She liked to leave a mark," Sherlock says. "More than a mark."
John swallows. At moments like these Liesl is lucky to be under guard. He waits for Sherlock to add more. He does not trust himself to comment.
"You don't do that," Sherlock says neutrally.
"No," says John. "Not my thing." Is Sherlock suddenly about to reveal that it is his?
"It is unnecessary," says Sherlock. "Imagination is better."
John breathes again. There is a lot of pretend between them, a lot of play but no actual damage. Words and thoughts are powerful enough. "I like imagination," he tells Sherlock, tucking the duvet round him, patting it down even though Sherlock will wreck it again in two seconds, or will just get up and go and work in the living room. "I don't like the idea of you being hurt."
"I know." And then, a small revelation. "I just want you to remember why it was not real."
John holds Sherlock and wills himself back to sleep, Sherlock actually relaxing against him too, and thinks as he drifts off that the reminders cannot come too often. And there is one principal reason for that.
Sherlock visits Liesl. She is in prison in Germany. The trial will not be for months. Sherlock flies out every three weeks and sees her. He is gone less than a day each time, but he goes. He will not talk about what he does there. He maintains that it is about keeping his cover, being the horrified husband.
John says, "You've done horrified. Now do divorce." This is not like the arguments about bringing the morgue home. This is real.
"You're still married." Sherlock, hiding with his head in the microscope after a trip to Berlin.
"Yes, because I have to wait a year. There's nothing to stop you at least starting the process." German divorce law is different from Britain's. The one year rule can be waived in the case of violent or other unreasonable behaviour. Like terrorism.
"I will." Sherlock lifts his head and stares John down, or tries to - they are matched, at this - and in any case it is the end of the discussion.
Everything is good, everything is hopeful, but John wishes he could rid himself of the feeling that Sherlock is hiding something. Something big, important, and about Liesl.
Freezing rain. Miserable, ice-grained fog. Clothes soaked when John arrives at the surgery, and soaked again by the time he gets home. . Criminals always choosing unheated warehouses for their dramatic showdowns. The fire in the Baker Street living room always on.
And Sherlock, one evening, ripping open a letter on his way through the living room and stopping dead. He blinks, walks into the bedroom, shuts the door.
John waits. Whatever it is, Sherlock will tell him. He listens for sounds of back window escape, however. There are none, and after ten minutes Sherlock bounds back into the room, eyes alight.
"John. We need cases. A lot of cases. Sort out the most lucrative looking ones, will you?"
John folds the paper he has been pretending to read. "Ok. Why in particular? You usually ask me to find the least tedious ones."
"We need money," says Sherlock. "A lot of money." He is bouncing around the room. "I'm going to have to give up cases for a bit next year," he tells John. "Not entirely, I could never give it up completely, but here will be demands on my time. We need cash in the bank, enough for, say ten years."
John boggles. Ten years?
"Preferably more, Sherlock says, "but say ten years because there are too many unknowns at this stage and I haven't even thought about how I will manage schools and university."
His eyes are bright with excitement and he dashes over to John and takes him in his arms and kisses him and then sends him spinning away. "John, John, John."
"Ok," says John. "Sherlock. Stop. Stop! And tell me right now what was in that letter."
Sherlock gets a small square piece of paper from his pocket. The back is shiny. And on the front, in grey and white – "Liesl's twenty week scan."
John thought he would feel some jealousy at the physical evidence of Sherlock's sex with Liesl Messernacht. But he doesn't feel jealous at all. He feels a vicarious pride in Sherlock for having done this thing, completely deliberately as it turned out, knowingly. He selected Liesl: "Clever, symmetrical good looks, strong, inevitable prison sentence," and he has fathered a child. Amazing. A miracle. Always a miracle but for him, especially so.
John prays that Liesl delivers a healthy baby.
Sherlock is going to be a father.
John cannot believe it but is so happy for him.
"Not just for me," says Sherlock. "Don't be idiotic. For us."
And then it hits John.
Sherlock rolls his eyes. "You said one day," he reminds John. "Well, one day is now." He pauses. A mischievous smile is on his lips. "You may fall slightly into the role left empty by the child's mother."
"Bloody typical," says John.
"Wait," says John. They are at the table with John's post-shock cup of tea and Sherlock's post-stress nicotine patch. "Did she ... consent to this? You didn't - you didn't –" (Steal her Pill. Stick needles into condoms. Oh God.)
"Of course she consented," says Sherlock, offended. "We planned it as soon as we got engaged."
John goggles. "You planned it. -How-?"
Sherlock frowns. "How do people usually plan it? I asked her, she said yes." He smooths down the patch, sighs. Holds his wrist out to John.
"As simple as that." John does up Sherlock's shirt cuff.
"Yes. Why would it not be simple?"
John sighs. "I don't know. Maybe it's just me. My life never seems that straightforward."
"You've been doing it all wrong," says Sherlock.
"It is a bit odd. That this was not the result of... love. Two people loving each other."
"Many babies aren't," says Sherlock. They are in bed, Sherlock's room, still talking about it. No sign of sleep.
"I guess that's true," says John.
"Anyway," says Sherlock. "This baby is the result of love. Hers for me and mine for you. That's more than a lot of children have."
John blinks. "You ... were thinking about me. When you –" God, is he twelve, why can he not simply say these things?
"Came," says Sherlock without a trace of embarrassment. "Of course. It was the only way. - It was very strange at first," he concedes, glancing at John to see if this crosses some line of acceptable sharing. "She felt wrong. Obviously."
John gets a vision of Sherlock and Liesl, naked, her legs around him, her head thrown back. She is calling out Sherlock's name and Sherlock is saying nothing at all with his face pressed into her hair. Was that how it was? Is that how Sherlock made a baby with her, with John?
"I probably ought to find that deeply disturbing," says John. "But actually it just makes me want you. Right now."
"Then stop thinking about her," says Sherlock. "I can see you doing it! Think about me."
"Not a problem."
Sherlock lies on John's bed with nothing on, no covers, no clothes. John's room is freezing. They will have to move, probably downstairs to Sherlock's room, but for a few moments, this is nice, a break – quite an extended break - from painting the nursery, cold air on their skin.
On impulse he finds John's right hand and places it on his own belly. Of course his belly is flat, nothing there but muscles, vital muscles which support not just the organs within but also the spine, counter-intuitive, that these abdominals, if weakened, can cause chronic back pain, but the body is full of such unexpected connections.
John watches him, his mouth twitching. "Should I feel for kicks?"
"Shut up. It's just an idea."
"Do you ... Have you felt the baby kick?" John asks. His hand is warm on Sherlock. John is warm all through.
Sherlock nods. "Shall I tell you?" he offers.
"Don't be upset." John does not enjoy hearing about Liesl.
Sherlock puts his hands behind his head, gazes at the ceiling. "When I visit her. We are allowed to be in a room alone. -Conjugal. We sit on the bed and she talks to me in German and English and we use dialect words because she hates the fact that everything we say is listened to. So we try to fool them with slang and speaking quickly."
John can imagine this very clearly. Sherlock and Liesl, fooling the prison guards.
"I ask about the baby. She tells me everything. You know – what I tell you when I get back. Then I put my hands on her belly and feel. That's it. We don't have sex," he adds.
"It's ok," says John. "That's not what I was asking about."
"She probably couldn't anyway," Sherlock says. "Too big, now."
"I've felt twins, once," John says. "A woman I was called to help when I was out there. She thought it was labour - Anyway, she was all right in the end," he adds quickly, aware that any hint of anything else will send Sherlock to the internet to investigate more outcomes to worry about "-but the thing was, there were two lots of arms and legs in there, and when I felt her bump to check that the babies were ok, I couldn't tell at all which was which. I must have spent ten minutes with my hands on this woman's stomach, with her crying and her husband glowering at me the whole time and holding a rifle."
"What did you tell them?" He likes to hear about John's old life. Likes picturing John, in uniform (of course) being competent in many different arenas.
"I waited till I counted four limbs moving at once and then told them it was fine. And not to shoot me." He grins.
"You never considered a move to midwifery?"
John moves his hands on Sherlock's stomach. "Your child," he says.
"What will it call me? You'll be Daddy, obviously."
Sherlock makes a face at that. So strange. A little person, calling him Daddy. Yet he cannot imagine Father, or Dad, either. He is not used to it yet. He will be.
John says, seeing the face, "Yes, you will. So what will I be?"
John appears anxious. Does he think he will be relegated to being Daddy Two, or Uncle, or some ghastly new age gender-non-specific term indicating shared parenthood? "You'll be John."
"Ok." He nods. "Makes sense. Like everything you do."
"Pasta on toast." His need for carbohydrates when a case has eaten his energy.
"Ok, except that."
They look often at the scan pictures. Sherlock paid for the magic so-called 4D scan, a colour photo with a yellowish tinge and skin, limbs, screwed-shut eyes distinct in the picture.
"This is my evidence," Sherlock says, holding the photo. "Evidence of me. Proof. How I will last, after I am gone. Evidence of us too, that I did this for us."
John has never heard the word spoken with such tenderness. "Evidence," he repeats. "That's... beautiful."
The baby looks very familiar. The shape of the head, the proportions, the way the eyes are set in the tiny skull... "It looks like you," John says, fascinated.
"Yes," says Sherlock. He has spent a great deal of time looking at this picture. It is on his phone, and his computer too. The child is a miniature him. Of course. That is the definition of procreation, that is how it works, that your genetic material combines with another person's and then is there again, in front of you as a new, separate person. Of course it is him. And yet it is mesmerising, seeing that small face, something like Liesl's, something like his.
They have elected not to know the sex of the child. The world's last surprise and none of them, including John, want to spoil it. Plus John's sister would go insane buying accessories in a single colour. Even Mycroft is taking a keen interest and Sherlock suspects that places have been reserved at schools suited for each gender.
"It makes it seem more real, seeing ... you... there," says John.
"A miracle," says John. "Truly." He feels tears.
Sherlock looks at him. "Sometimes," he says.
John bites his lip.
"Sometimes it's good to cry," says Sherlock.
They clutch the photo of the scan and say nothing and Sherlock is right of course, it is good.
He delivers her himself with John watching concerned through the prison maternity suite observation window, because Liesl would not have John in the room.
His first act afterwards is to bring her to the window and hold her up so that John can see. He has a dazzling smile and John is so proud of him and happy for him.
The baby comes home immediately, followed by a supply of frozen milk. This will be Liesl's final contribution. She has assigned Sherlock as guardian, as she will be locked up for the next long while. She has not been relishing motherhood. She is angry and full of jealous hatred for John. Sherlock has been most anxious to remove his daughter from her bitter influence.
Sherlock names the baby after his favourite mineral.
After all, unusual names are a family tradition.
"Is she asleep?" John pushes away his book and stands from the kitchen table. The dishes are done, the bottles sterilised. The flat is dark bar the lamp on the kitchen table and the streetlight glow through the net curtains.
"Yes." Sherlock is in shirt sleeves, his favourite purple shirt, now milk stained, and jeans, tougher than suit trousers. He is yawning and holding the baby monitor. He winces and flexes the arm which has been supporting the baby, and sets his watch for the time of her next feed.
"You should sleep, love," says John. "I'll take first watch."
"Yes. All right. But first I want you to look at something."
Sherlock beckons John to the sofa and they kick off shoes and sit, bare feet, facing each other. Sherlock switches on the floor lamp, causing them both to wince at the brightness, then reaches under the sofa and produces two envelopes.
"I have full custody," he remarks as he hands John the first. "In perpetuity."
"Well done," says John, opening the envelope.
It contains Sherlock and Liesl's decree absolute.
"That was quick," says John. He smiles at Sherlock. Quick, once Sherlock decided to do it. And John understands, now, why Liesl had to believe for so long that Sherlock still loved her. To protect the baby.
"Yes, well," says Sherlock. "It turns out Mycroft has always longed to be an uncle."
John has never thought about that. "Oh my god. Uncle Mycroft."
Sherlock smiles. "Now the other one. Please - look at this and consider."
John opens the envelope, keeping his gaze on Sherlock. Sherlock is trying to hide it but he is on edge, scanning John, eyes flickering as he waits for John's reaction to whatever it is.
John pulls out a sheet of paper. He sees his name and Sherlock's, side by side. An official stamp. The date - the date is the one Sherlock drew beside his and John's initials, on the last postcard he sent.
It is a licence to apply for a civil partnership.
John swallows and tries to say something appropriate.
"Will you," says Sherlock. "-It is not just in case I die."
"You romantic," says John, and it does not come out as teasingly as he intended.
"I already have that in my will," Sherlock says earnestly. "She would go to you, then Mycroft, then your sister, in that order." The baby is always first priority these days, in everything. She has eclipsed the work so completely that John can barely remember it.
"I want us. To be us." Sherlock gestures vaguely. Seems at a loss for words too. He is blinking rapidly, and John looks closely and sees that he is blushing. Sherlock's heart was in that envelope and now it is out, exposed in John's hand, waiting for his answer. "I know we don't need this but -"
"Yes," says John. "To this, yes." He takes Sherlock's hand and feels it trembling against his own.
Sherlock lets out a breath. He gives a very small smile. "Then ... there are these."
From his jeans pocket he pulls two silver rings. When has Sherlock had a chance to organise any of this? How long has he had those rings? John already knows, without needing to see, what is engraved in each of them. "We needn't wait until the ceremony," Sherlock says, "if you don't want to."
"Do you want to wait?" says John.
"No," says Sherlock. "I have done all the waiting I care to, for the moment."
He takes John's hand, slides the ring onto his left ring finger. Smiles, kisses John's palm. John admires the gleaming silver for a moment, then caresses Sherlock's left hand, his long fingers, the neat nails, the sensuous shape of his thumb. He pushes the second silver ring onto Sherlock's ring finger. They smile at each other, hardly breathing. It is done. This thing, at last, done, in five minutes, at one a.m. on a Tuesday night. Sherlock leans towards John and waits for his kiss, a long kiss stretched out together on their sofa with their bare feet twining round each other too.
"I should sleep," Sherlock says, getting up.
"Yes," says John. He stands too, still looking at the rings.
There is a pause.
"You're not going to though, are you?" John says. He looks up at Sherlock with a frown and a hint of anxiety he cannot keep from his voice.
"No," says Sherlock, and takes John by the hand. "Dr Watson." In a flash he has become playful and affectionate.
"Mr Holmes." John can do playful, for this man, even in the wee small hours. Sherlock seems young at these moments, and makes John feel young again too.
Sherlock changes again, and smiles a very predatory smile, one of John's favourites. "Our room."
John pulls Sherlock to him, feels his warm slender body, feels, too, that he is trembling all over. Sherlock is far from immune to romance. And he really was not sure that John would say Yes. As if John would ever refuse him anything he asked. Because although Sherlock claims not to do declarations, he tells John every day with looks and touches and murmurs into his skin that he loves him and always will. And John tells him back, every single time, and many other times besides, that he loves him too, and always will.
"Now," says Sherlock, running his fingertips over John's shoulder blades in a staccato pattern of impatient desire.
John slides his fingers into the waistband of Sherlock's jeans, tugs him in the direction of their bedroom. "Oh yes."
She is bright and alert from the moment she appears. Her newborn eyes are the colour of the North Sea at midnight. He talks to her constantly. He holds her in the crook of his arm and she goes everywhere with him. He eats, sleeps, showers with her tiny face against his neck. He tells her everything uncensored and she hears everything which is in his heart. She learns to smile and laugh and clap and babble. He talks and talks to her, and she is clearly mesmerized by the sound of his voice. He is utterly in love with her and fiercely proud of her. And at nine months, her first clearly enunciated word, surprising nobody, is Proof.
Author's note. This is the end. I hope you have enjoyed reading this story. Thank you for all the feedback! I love reading reviews and as you know will always try to reply. I do also take suggestions and comments on board. So please keep reading and please definitely keep reviewing, thank you all!
My next story will challenge me to make believable a pairing I had always thought was unlikely... and it won't be johnlock. It will involve sequins, and a song by Erma Franklin, and involuntary flat-sharing...
But first I am going to a Spanish island at a Saharan latitude for a week of sunshine, volcanic landscapes and cerveza. I will endeavour to avoid being truly British and drinking at the English Pub or worse, eating at the English Cafe Everything From UK! which is up the road from where we stay. There is limited internet so I will be forced to rest (that is, to write using pen and paper by the pool, cursing that my handwriting is unable to keep up with my brain).
So for at least a week, adios, -Sef