Here it is. The first fic I ever wrote.
Warning : Angst. Character death. Detailed description of death. And I should mention that a lot of people have cried during/after reading this. So - flood warning. xD
(And for those of you who have read this before I should mention that I’ve done some changes in it. It used to be about 7500 words, now it’s 8000+ and parts of it are just… different.)
It was a silent, but particularly cold December evening in 221B Baker Street. The street outside was unusually quiet and empty. Everywhere the windows were opaquely decorated with frost. A thin layer of snow covered the pavement, revealing the footsteps of only a handful of people.
Sherlock sat inside in his favourite armchair. He had placed it in front of the fireplace where he was sitting in his classic posture with his knees pulled up, only inches from his chin. The fire was almost gone out. He looked at the small, remaining flames which danced their idle, mesmerizing last dance.
He could hear a slow, raspy voice from the sofa. “Sherlock, is that you?”
Sherlock got up from the chair quickly, almost stumbling in his own long, slender legs. He kneeled in front of the sofa. “John. I thought you were asleep. How do you feel?”
“Same old, same old”, he replied followed by a cough. His face was kind and understanding. John let his fingers run through Sherlock’s curly, wild hair, which was no longer as dark as it once had been. He had stripes of light grey by his temples, which seemed to be the only grip time managed to get a hold of, on Sherlock. He had almost no sign of wrinkles, except a frown line between his eyes. John’s hand found Sherlock’s. He’d had over two decades with this madman, so he could now easily see when something was wrong. John tugged mildly at Sherlock’s hand. With his kind, suitably wrinkled face he gave away a comforting smile. “What’s the problem, dear?”
Sherlock looked down, filling his lungs slowly with air before looking back up at John. “It’s less than a week ‘til Christmas.” Sherlock looked at the man lying supported by cushions in the sofa in front of him. The ex-army doctor, his best friend, companion and spouse. A muffled purring came from John’s lap, where their cat was currently licking its paws. He, like them, was no longer as rich in days as he’d once been.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of preparations that needs to be done,” John replied, still wearing his comforting smile.
“Yes…,”Sherlock answered slowly, hesitatingly with a grave look on his face.
“Oh, I almost forgot-,” John interrupted Sherlock, “I forgot to fill his food bowl.” John patted the cat carefully.
“I’ll do it,” Sherlock replied. He walked over to the kitchen and snapped his fingers, “Anderson, come here!” The cat jumped down from John’s lap without a moment’s hesitation. Anderson walked over to his food bowl and threw himself over the food with great appetite. Sherlock watched Anderson as he was eating. “You’ve been feeding him too much catnips,”
Sherlock looked over at John. “He’s looking more and more like a giant, bloated guinea pig, and less like a cat.”
“But the poor thing-,” John said tryingly.
“Poor thing? Look at that beast! Look how he’s devouring the food like it was his last day on earth!”, Sherlock frowned and pointed at the cat as he replied critically.
John laughed out clearly and loudly at Sherlock’s response. Sherlock’s face mildened. He looked at John and smiled. The laughter that earlier had been loosely seated in them both had now been more or less absent for a while. A simple thing like laughing usually took too much effort for him, these days. It only lasted for a few seconds, before the laughter turned into deep coughing. Sherlock’s smile became faint. He walked over to the cupboard and got a small, brown glass bottle. The liquid inside was dark and heavy. He poured a couple of spoons down in a cup, and handed it to John. John nodded towards Sherlock as he received the cup. The cough frequency slowly decreased, and his voice became clearer. “Damn this flu,” John complained. “It never seems to end. I mean, it’s been bothering me for months! Well, I guess I can call myself old, now. Blankets, cushions and cough sweets all the way.” John smiled faintly. Sherlock didn’t say anything. Sherlock knew.
After a few long minutes with silence Sherlock finally spoke, “Perhaps we should go to bed?”
“Splendid idea. I was about to suggest so myself.” John stretched his arms out in the air.
Sherlock smiled fondly and walked over to John. He leaned forward and kissed John on his forehead. “Shall we then?”. Before John even managed to answer, Sherlock had already lifted John up from the sofa, and was standing with John in his arms with a playful smile.
“What on earth are you doing? Sherlock, stop! You’re going to break something!” John had a surprised smile with a hint of expectations.
“Do you remember the day you accepted me as your husband?”, Sherlock said dreamingly as he slowly started to walk towards the bedroom.
John placed his arms around Sherlock’s neck, his eyes became wet. “How can I ever forget?”
Sherlock continued, “We were both so beautiful. So fit, in suits and waistcoats. I remember the day. You were incredibly nervous before the ceremony.” Sherlock chuckled. “You were constantly straightening your tie, when you weren’t correcting me for teasingly whispering dirty nothings into your ear. You liked it, though. We ended up having sex in a corner of the church porch after all. The look on the priest’s face when he found out later that day-“
“Sherlock!” John shook his head and laughed. “You’re impossible!”
“That’s what you said to me back then as well!” Sherlock replied enthusiastically. He laughed before continuing. “But I was thinking of the wedding night. I carried you back then too. Just like this. Only you seem a little more pleased about it now. Back then you were kicking like a mule, almost cursing and screaming. ‘Sherlock, put me down this instant!’ and ‘Sherlock, you’re acting like a child!’ But you know, one’s supposed to carry the bride over the threshold.” He looked down at John. John didn’t even bother to say anything, he just smiled and shook his head. He’d given up taming Sherlock a long time ago.
Sherlock placed John carefully down on the bed. Sherlock kissed both John’s hands as John let go of Sherlock’s neck. They both got undressed and snuggled up close to each other. They had been sleeping next to each other like this for over the last twenty years, with an exception of a few special occasions. None of them were sure if they actually would manage to get any sleep at all, if they suddenly were to sleep without each other.
Sherlock turned around, facing John. He started caressing his chest, stomach, playing with John’s old scar. “Do you remember what else happened on the wedding night?” He asked, with an undertone one couldn’t miss.
“…I’m not sure,” said John slowly. “I think we should try to relive it again…”
Sherlock smiled, and played along. “Yes, I think we should.” And so they disappeared kissing and giggling under the blanket.
Luckily, this was one of his rather good days.
It was a full moon that night. Sherlock found himself standing by the bedroom window, only wearing his dressing gown. He couldn’t care less about the fact that he was standing there half-naked, there was no one in the street anyway.
John had fallen asleep shortly after the sex. He was getting worse by the day, and Sherlock could hear John’s heavy breathing from the bed. His back was supported by cushions, so he could breathe using less effort. Having sex when John’s health was like this was of course both a challenge and somewhat bittersweet. They loved and respected each other, and were both very considerate and kind, but Sherlock felt it was a bit wrong nonetheless – so he didn’t dare to the initiative directly anymore. He only wished he could talk to John about this. Every time Sherlock had tried to comment on the fact that his ‘flu’ never got any better, John would simply laugh it away. Sherlock was worried. He opened the window a tiny bit to feel the ice cold wind against his face. He looked over to the bed to make sure that John was still sleeping before silently leaning out the window to light a cigarette. Old guilty pleasures die hard.
But of course; Sherlock had suspected for a long time what it was. But he also knew John.
John didn’t want anybody’s pity or attention; therefore he wouldn’t speak about it. John knew what was waiting for him at the hospital. He was a doctor, and knew that his condition was beyond the point where he could camouflage the symptoms, and that he soon would need constant care and supervision. He did not want that. Sherlock could empathize with that.
It had started some time ago, as small signs. John got easily tired and exhausted, reduced appetite, and he sometimes struggled with nauseousness. Sherlock’s growing suspicion had been confirmed when he by accident found beta blockers in John’s shelf on the nightstand. He suspected that this was just one of several small bottles hid from him. But if Sherlock was going to be completely honest with himself, he wouldn’t even go looking for any more medications. He didn’t want to find them. He didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that there was something very, very wrong with his beloved John.
Sherlock didn’t blame anyone, nor did he believe in fate, but he still didn’t think this was fair. John had always been ‘the good one’. The moral high ground. The caring one. At first he hadn’t considered these qualities useful - he’d always managed to solve cases without them, himself. But he had learned to appreciate them over the years. And it had come in handy quite a few times. Sherlock could easily justify John’s existence. Therefore, he must live. Sherlock stopped himself from thinking about this any further. He knew where it would lead him. It was a fact that Sherlock wouldn’t be able to go on without John, and he would rather not think about that option. Being without John.
The pain of losing someone, is the price we have to pay for being able to love them. Most objective people would agree to that price - although it is an agonizing price to pay - because we know it’s worth it. When we lose someone in our lives, we have friends and family to support us. We will still have the memories of the times we had with our beloved, like a bag of gems. For Sherlock, things were a little bit different. He didn’t have any friends. It was only John. He had his brother, Mycroft, which he still barely spoke to. Mycroft would of course come to take care of his little brother, but Sherlock would of course reject him - and then he would isolate himself from the world.
Sherlock dropped the cigarette down on the abandoned, snow-covered pavement, where it instantly stopped glowing. He shut the window and walked back to bed, and crawled up carefully next to John hoping this wouldn’t wake him up.
“I remember a man,” a drowsy voice said, “who once said it was impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London.” John turned around in bed, facing Sherlock. The bedroom was dark, but it was almost as if Sherlock could hear John smile.
“Sorry,” Sherlock said. “I didn’t mean to- …I thought you were asleep.”
“Are you getting softer, dear?” John chuckled. “It’s alright. I just wanted to see that cute look of yours. Like a child doing something it knows it’s not allowed to do. Yes, that one.” John reached out his hand and strokes Sherlock carefully over his cheek and chin. “Good night, dear.”
Sherlock smiled and kissed John’s hand. It was true, though. Sherlock was a lot softer now than he’d used to be. John found this very cute. He used to chuckle and said that age had finally caught up with him in some way, at least. But they both know it wasn’t true. Well, not entirely anyway. Something happens to a person when he’s no longer sure of how the future’s going to be like. One stops taking anything for granted, one starts appreciate all the small things in a whole new way.
It’s clear that Sherlock was deathly terrified of the thought of being left alone here on this God-forsaken earth, without his one true love and companion in life. Sherlock kept this to himself, though. At least some things were like they had always been.
They both fell asleep shortly after, holding each other’s hands.
Mrs. Hudson, downstairs, was still going strong considering her almost 96 years here on this earth. Her hip was bothering her a bit more these days, so she’d got herself a walker - simply to rest her leg a bit more when she needed to go out to buy herself groceries and such. Otherwise she was just fine. She still visited ‘the boys’ to make sure they made themselves a proper dinner or remembered to do their laundry - or simply to get some evening-company during this long and dark period of year. She had reserved a special part of her heart to her boys, and she still complimented John for taking care of Sherlock’s restlessness. Her walls hadn’t been suffering from any bullet holes in over ten years, now. Mrs. Hudson took her time when she was walking up the creaky stairs, which usually gave Sherlock time to hide away his worst experiments, which he still was very fond of, or to simply get dressed. His hearing was splendid considering his 57 years, so the creaky stairs always gave him some time’s notice when she was on her way.
Mrs. Hudson tapped gently on the door before opening it, “Hoo-hoo!”, she walked over the threshold with a kind smile on her face, as always. “There you are!” She said, entering the living room. “Christmas is nearly here,” she stopped in the middle of the living room looking around. John was having a good day, so he was currently sitting in one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace, reading a book - while Sherlock was standing by the window looking at the snowflakes falling from the sky. She could sense that something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. It had been like that for a while. “I was wondering if you boys have plans for Christmas eve? ” Mrs. Hudson never married again after her late husband, and at that age, unfortunately, most of her nearest kin was gone.
Sherlock turned around and looked at John before pointing his eyes in Mrs. Hudson’s direction. “We haven’t planned anything for Christmas eve,” he looked at John, “Have we?”
“I was planning to make us a nice dinner, and maybe the two of you would bring a nice bottle of brandy? What do you think? I’ll even make poor Anderson something special.” Mrs. Hudson walked over to Anderson to pat him, while she talked.
Sherlock looked over at Anderson who was currently lying on his back on the sofa with his legs spread out in every direction, not a typical position for a cat, but Anderson was no typical cat either. He released a satisfied purr and turned his head towards Mrs. Hudson when she started stroking his way too big belly.
“Sounds lovely,” said John from the chair, “Absolutely lovely.”
John opened his mouth to say something, but Mrs. Hudson instantly clapped her hands together. “Oh! I have so much to do! I need to get started right away. You boys make sure to wrap yourself up when you’re going outside in this cold weather. Mrs. Turner went outside last week without wearing a scarf, and now she’s having a fever and lies wrapped in blankets- she can’t leave the house!” Mrs. Hudson chuckled as she left the flat and started on the slow process of getting downstairs again.
John chuckled, “Some things never change.”
Sherlock didn’t answer. He was too busy thinking. He slowly moved a couple of steps away from the window, and turned around, facing John. “John… I need to talk to you about something.”
John turned around in his chair, meeting Sherlock’s eyes. John had a wide grin on his face. “I feel so much better today, Sherlock. Perhaps we should accept another case? One last one now before Christmas is here? What do you think? You have accepted almost no cases this year at all.” John looked at Sherlock, brimming with expectations.
“Cases…” Sherlock snorted and looked out through the window again, “Cases are dull. Not what they used to be. Every case offered to me is predictable and dull. Criminals these days lack the essential: Imagination. No, John. It is an insult to my intelligence. I’ll tell you that.” As usual Sherlock explained the problem in his own, characteristic way.
John shook his head and smiled, “I guess that’s your way of telling me that you’re getting to old for that kind of work. There’s a lot of chasing involved, and brainwork. We can’t keep up with the criminals these days. I can see that one.” John turned his attention back to the book.
Sherlock was still standing by the window looking at the street, “I guess you’re right”, he said after a long time. “I guess you’re right.” Sherlock swallowed. He knew that their rich amount of days chasing criminals together were all spent.
The following two days passed quickly. John seemed to be at better health, but his health was still rather poor, and there were a lot of preparations to be done. Sherlock and John occupied their days shopping and cleaning the flat. Even though John was ill, Sherlock understood perfectly well the need for John to feel useful, so Sherlock didn’t protest when John participated in the chores. Sherlock secretly did a lot more shopping and cleaning than he let John know, to make it easier for him – so John was for instance surprised to find the backside of the stove and fridge as clean as it was. On the second evening before Christmas day, they both sat down on the sofa with a glass of wine. The flat was sparkling clean, the Christmas tree was standing in a corner of the living room smelling deliciously of pine needles, and all the necessary shopping was done. They both looked at each other fondly, and nodded before taking a sip of the wine.
“Great teamwork,” John said, before kissing Sherlock. Sherlock smiled back at him.
“That’s our strength”, Sherlock nodded.
“Not quite… Second greatest strength, perhaps. ” John answered slowly, with a fond smile.
Sherlock looked at John curiously. He did not quite follow. “Then what is our greatest strength?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” John teased, before tucking up his legs, leaning his back onto Sherlock in the sofa. “Our love for each other.” John snuggled up, and Sherlock made room for John to stretch out his legs, by placing himself in the corner of the sofa.
Sherlock chuckled, and acted bothered. “Oh, are you going to be like this again? If I knew you’d get all soft, I wouldn’t have placed myself in such a vulnerable position next to you, literally.”
“Oh, stop it you old fool. You agree, and you like it.” John smiled, supporting his hand on Sherlock’s thigh before leaning in for a kiss. “You, my beautiful, grumpy fool.”
Sherlock smiled and placed his arm on John’s shoulder before taking another sip of the wine. He kissed John on the back of his head and leant his head back, relaxing.
Sherlock had secretly always been somewhat a bit of a romantic, in his own, strange way. And now in his older days he would enjoy sitting down with John and simply share their memories about the past - I guess one could say this makes him a bit nostalgic. Sherlock was staring out in the air when he suddenly opened his mouth, slowly, to say something.
“Do you remember the vacation you insisted we should have, John?” Sherlock’s voice was dreamy and soft. “I was so stubborn! First of all I didn’t want to go on any vacation at all. Second of all, I didn’t want to go anywhere with too much sunlight by my definition. I’ve never been one for places where the temperature rises over 25°C. We didn’t seem to agree on anything, so we ended up not leaving the U.K. at all. But then you finally mentioned that you’d always wanted us to experience Wales, which I could agree to. We even managed to get a case over there.” Sherlock said enthusiastically.
John interrupted him “Correction: You forced yourself on that poor couple!”, he chuckled.
Sherlock responded quickly. “…I overheard their problems, yes. But I was able to help them. In fact, I managed to solve the case in less than 6 hours.”
“Yes. You did. But my guess is that the disappeared teenage daughter’s parents didn’t want to know that she was willingly balancing three different love affairs with three different boys. She was fifteen, Sherlock!”
“The boys were fifteen too.”
“That’s hardly the point! Her parents owned a butcher’s shop. And you pranced into the shop, three in the afternoon, delivering all the juicy details to both parents and customers. I’m sure the whole town knew about the affairs within the same day!”
“…Yes. I remember they waved us goodbye eagerly.”
“They didn’t wave, Sherlock. It was their fists.” John coughed and chuckled.
“Oh, well.” Sherlock paused before he continued. “It actually is one of the nicest vacations I’ve had ever. Even if we’ve now been almost all over the globe. Do you remember? We found a nice place outside of Swansea, where we stayed. That was the first time we had sex on a beach. What luxury. All by ourselves on the beach, basically living on our picnic-blanket where we shared our meals, and made love. And no one to disturb us.” Sherlock paused for a moment, smiling, staring out in the air. “…Well, unless we count the man who almost spotted us at a very ‘tender’ moment on our second day at the beach. And you’re calling me a madman? He’d spent several years combing the beach, looking for Darth Vader figures!”
“That is an experience I will never forget! I blogged about the whole episode. Too bad I have lost the blog account, and everything on it. Now that was something.” John looked up at Sherlock, smiled and laughed, before he laughter was replaced with a series of new coughs. He took a sip of the wine before changing the subject. “You know Sherlock… I’ve been feeling so good, lately. I think I’m getting rid of this thing. Whatever it is.”
Sherlock didn’t say anything for a long time. Hooked down at John with a grave look on his face. He looked at the man he’d chosen to share his life with. The man who taught him what love was, and that love wouldn’t imprison you or make you weak - he know knew that it would rather set you free. “John, I can’t bare this anymore. I know.”
“You know what?”
“Stop it. You know what I am talking about. These last months. Why didn’t you tell me right away? You don’t have the flu. You know, I know. And Christmas is here soon on top of that, so we better start being honest with each other.”
John nodded slowly while he was trying to gather his words and tried to decide in which end of the story he should start. After a few long seconds, he gave up and finally asked “How much do you know?”
Sherlock knew it would only be a matter of time before his voice would start cracking, so he decided to let his words flow quickly. “Not much. I know that you’ve known about your heart condition since the early stages of it. Yes, it is a heart condition. Or more specifically heart failure. It started with vague symptoms. You tried to hide them, but I noticed them. It started with the slowly increasing fatigue. You got easily tired - couldn’t keep up with all of your daily routines. The tiredness only got worse, and then your breathing became heavier. Now you can’t lie straight out in bed because your breathing gets to heavy, and some days you can’t even get outside the door. One can treat the heart failure by removing the source of it, but if the source can’t be removed…” Sherlock paused, and swallowed. He looked up, trying to hide the fact that his eyes turned wet. “Then it is only a matter of time. And you know this. You’re a Doctor. You know about every treatment there is. This tells me that this time-” Sherlock paused again, he could feel his voice becoming unclear, and he swallowed heavily in a desperate attempt to hide it. He continued “-that this time, the source of the heart failure is irremovable. Not treatable.” His voice cracked up and he pulled John closer. Sherlock he didn’t make a sound. He held his breath while the first cold tear ran down his cheekbones. Sherlock didn’t ask the regular questions, like why John of all people got ill - or blaming destiny for being unfair. That would have been irrational.
“My heart is worn-out. Just a bit prematurely. My body’s been through a lot. …It’s on the left side of my heart.” John spoke with his soft, comforting voice. “I am not afraid of dying, Sherlock. But I have seen how people with my condition go. Some of them die with foam around their mouth, drowning in their own fluids. I don’t want to go like that.” John paused to give them both some time to think. It wasn’t hard for John to talk about this. He’d had some time to get used to the concept. But it was the thought of leaving Sherlock alone that frightened him. He knew Sherlock, and was afraid what this would might do to him. Sherlock was no doubt a strong man. Too strong. He had few real weaknesses, one could perhaps say that John was his only one. “I’ve been having some good days now, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last this time. The good days are fewer, and they no longer come as often as before. And my attacks are getting worse.”
Sherlock kissed the back of John’s head. He could sense a not yet asked question hanging over him. Tears were streaming down his face. His eyelids where pressed forcefully together, his jaw was tense. He still didn’t make a sound. Finally he opened his mouth, his voice was unclear “You shouldn’t be drinking wine in your condition.” He swallowed a whimper.
“Sherlock. I don’t want to limit myself more than absolutely necessary. I want to live as much as I possibly can. I am only going to get worse. In the end I am going to just lie there, wheezing, gasping for air, in extreme pain. I am going to die either way, Sherlock.” John was brutally honest, but Sherlock could sense a soft trembling in his voice. John couldn’t see Sherlock’s face, and he would like to keep it that way right now. He knew he wouldn’t be able to hold back his suppressed cry if he did. He could hear Sherlock’s strained breathing right behind him. “Sherlock. I am going to ask you a question now. You don’t have to answer me right away. But I want to ask you this question, and then I want us to carry on, just like normal.” John could feel Sherlock shaking his head in disbelief. “Sherlock… I’m asking you to please help me. To assist me, I mean. You have excellent knowledge about pharmacology, and I know you, you always have some kind of way to get your hands on even the most rare solutions and medicaments-“
Sherlock interrupted John. His voice was hectic. “No! No, John, I will never-. Don’t you dare finish that sentence!”
John nodded silently. “I’m sorry, Sherlock. I’m asking for too much. I just-. I just don’t want to go that way. I want to be able to control it in some way. The way I go, I mean.”
Sherlock swallowed hard, and tried his best to pull himself together. Frustration sometimes helps you do that. “You’ve obviously been overthinking this. Let’s just clear our minds, and take it day by day, shall we?”
John nodded and sighed bravely. “Yes. Let’s.”
Sherlock knew what John was thinking, even if he wished he didn’t. He’s going to do this, even if he must do it himself.
That night, John became very ill. He had the worst attack he’d had so far, but he still insisted to be kept away from the hospital. He knew that once he’d stepped through the hospital doors, he wouldn’t be able to get out again. As a Doctor, he had been able to get a hold of the necessary equipments and medications a long time ago. And as a Doctor allied with an eccentric madman, they had even more. Sherlock respected John’s wish, although he had a hard time doing so.
He sat by John’s side, comforting him, giving him painkillers - calming him down. A sudden panic-attack would only make it much worse. A panic-attack can strike even the most peaceful and reasonable of us. The sound of John’s laboured breathing sent uncomfortable vibes through Sherlock’s spine. It was awfully painful to listen to, and it was equally painful to watch how John struggled to do something as necessary and taken for granted as breathing. There was so little Sherlock could do, which made this conflict a rare one.
When they later that night had managed to stabilize John’s situation, John quickly fell asleep. He had been completely exhausted, but he didn’t complain. Not once. That was John all over.
Sherlock didn’t get any sleep that night. He stayed up thinking, sitting by the bedroom window, wearing one of John’s old Jumpers - touching it, smelling it. It was too small for him, but he didn’t care. From where he was sitting he could keep an eye on John as he could hear John’s lungs struggling from the bed. He was thinking of all the plans he’d been having for the two of them. He had chosen to keep them to himself as soon as he had discovered that something was wrong with John. He had been looking for a new place for them to live. They both loved 221B Baker Street, but they had talked about what they were going to do when they had gotten too old to chase criminals on a regular basis, and John had expressed that he had a vision of moving to the countryside at some point. That had given Sherlock the inspiration to look for small farms, or simply houses with a bit of land, in the Sussex area. Now he wasn’t really sure what he was going to do - without John. He had known for a while that he was going to be on his own, but it does something to a person when you get the truth out in the open. It’s like one was carrying a little, subconscious glimpse of hope which then dies - but one doesn’t really notice it until it’s gone. Sherlock stared out the window. The sky was clear, but the city lights made it hard for him to see the stars properly, but he could definitively spot a satisfyingly large amount of them.
He almost whispered as he gazed upon them. “Every time I look at the stars, I always think back to our wedding, and our song. Do you remember our song? We danced to it.”
Sherlock started humming lowly on familiar tunes:
Midnight, with the stars and you;
Midnight, and a rendezvous.
Your eyes held a message tender,
Saying, “I surrender all my love to you.”
He could hear John turning in bed. Sherlock sighed - his eyes were again back at the starlit sky. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
No one answered.
The next day, the day before Christmas eve, John was feeling much better. Very much better in fact. John was genuinely surprised to find himself in such a good state. He hadn’t felt so good in a long time. Sherlock was very happy for him - happy for them both.
They did the last of the preparations together. They decorated the Christmas tree, and they did the annual Christmas-prank on Mrs. Hudson. The tradition had started many years ago - when Sherlock, on the day before Christmas eve, had replaced all of Mrs. Hudson’s English flags (which she always decorated the walls with every Christmas) with pirate flags. She never asked him why he did it, she just assumed he had been very bored.
However, Mrs. Hudson found this very amusing, and she managed to get her beloved flags back in order just in time for the Christmas dinner. This year they had secretly decorated the Christmas tree in the hallway with fish fingers. Mrs. Hudson were equally surprised every year, how they managed to come up with all this nonsense.
Sherlock and John enjoyed the last day of preparations together. They laughed and joked as if they didn’t have a care in the world. They split the chores between them: John would for instance figure out and prepare what clothes they should wear during the Christmas dinner, and Sherlock would go to get some of Mrs. Hudson’s favourite brandy.
John loved it when he was able to contribute. He wasn’t blind to the fact that Sherlock did most of the work, although he didn’t say anything about it. And Sherlock always volunteered to do the heaviest tasks. John almost couldn’t believe it. Sherlock - the man who’d without a second’s thought text him from the other side of the city, asking John to please pass him the biscuits (which usually were standing on the table next to Sherlock).
John smiled fondly at the memory, but at the same time he felt a sting of concern in his chest. He himself wasn’t scared of death. He hadn’t been since he was in Afghanistan, all those years ago. He had grown used to the thought that everything comes to an end. It was Sherlock he was concerned about. What would become of Sherlock when he was gone? John had known Sherlock for many, many years - and he still didn’t know. Sherlock was a strange man.
John swallowed. It felt like he was letting Sherlock down.
He placed their suits on the bed, and sat down next to them. He smiled as he looked at them. Sherlock’s were clearly longer and slimmer than John’s. It was funny how different their physical appearance was, in almost every way. He stroked his hand gently over Sherlock’s suit to feel the fabric, imagining the man inside the suit. Opposites attract, they say.
That night, when John and Sherlock went to bed, they brought their photo albums with them. John had eagerly taken pictures and arrange them in albums through the years, like a hobby, which they now both could enjoy.
They went through the pages, laughing, sharing stories and memories. John seemed to be amazingly well - he could breathe better than he’d done in a long time, and his dry cough was more or less gone. Sometimes, while turning pages, they could share a look of fondness of that rare kind one sometimes can see between old couples, which have shared a lifetime together - couples where most things between them are already said, so they just sit there in silence.
They fell asleep in each other’s arms that night: John fell asleep as he kissed Sherlock’s head gently, his lips still touching Sherlock’s hair. Sherlock’s head was resting on John’s shoulder, with his hand placed on John’s chest, right above his heart - as if to protect it.
They both slept better than they had done in a long time.
Suddenly, Christmas eve was there. Sherlock and John were standing in front of the bedroom mirror, getting dressed for the dinner. Sherlock was grumbling, standing with his arms crossed while John pulled a tie over his head.
“It’s Christmas eve, Sherlock. Wearing a tie won’t kill you, you know. ” John, chuckled. He found Sherlock irresistibly cute when he was standing like this, sulking. “And by the way, Mrs. Hudson didn’t even notice the fish fingers on the Christmas tree yesterday. She popped by when you were out shopping, and she complimented us for our creative use of colours. Which is not true either. I she consider getting herself new glasses.” John chuckled.
“She has already ordered them. But they will not get here until next week.” Sherlock said with a monotone voice. “And a tie? As if you forcing me to wear this ancient tweed suit wasn’t bad enough.” Sherlock snorted.
“Oh, poor thing. I am a horrible person, suggesting that you should wear a suit and a tie on Christmas eve.” John leant forward on his toes to give Sherlock a kiss. “I am wearing a suit and a tie too.”
“Yes, but you don’t look bloody ridiculous. I haven’t seen Anderson today either. I bet he fled from all this madness.”
“You look stunning, Sherlock. As always.” John smiled.
Sherlock stood there for a second, not sure of what to say, “Oh shut up.” He blushed slightly. After all these years he still didn’t know how to handle an honest compliment about his appearance.
John turned around facing the mirror, straightening his tie. “So, are you ready then?”
Sherlock sighed. “I guess I am.”
John took Sherlock’s hand. “Then let’s.”
The Christmas dinner was really nice and cosy. John, Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson had been having Christmas dinner together many years, including the last three years in a row. They had managed to develop quite a few traditions over the years; John would always get “impossible” stains on his tie, Mrs. Hudson would always prepare too much food, and get a little too tipsy from the brandy - and Sherlock always managed to have at least a minor outburst about translations, historical events, historical traditions and misunderstandings, when Mrs. Hudson read the Nativity of Jesus out loud, as it was tradition in her family.
And finally, their last tradition on Christmas eve was to open their Christmas presents together. From Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock and John got matching jumpers, which Mrs. Hudson had knitted them, with a big “S” on Sherlock’s, and a “J” on John’s. They couldn’t stop themselves from giggling when they opened the present. She was always so concerned about them going outside without wearing enough clothes.
From Sherlock and John, Mrs. Hudson got a beautiful pearl necklace. She insisted that it was too much, but ‘the boys’ insisted that it really wasn’t. There’s only one Mrs. Hudson.
Without knowing it, Sherlock and John had gotten each other sentimental gifts. They both had everything they needed and wanted. John had managed to make some kind of album for Sherlock, with dried flowers from the first bouquet Sherlock had given him, tickets from their first date at the movie theatre, among many other things. Sherlock was speechless as he opened it - which made it a rare moment.
John could sense the smell of leather as he opened the gift from Sherlock. It looked like a book. He turned it around to read the golden embossing “The Memoirs of Dr. John Watson”.
“It is every word you’ve ever written on your long lost blog, and even some from your notebooks. ” Sherlock said with a big grin.
“How did you-. It’s not possible!” John didn’t know what else to say.
Sherlock smiled. “You’re welcome.”
Sherlock was Sherlock. He never explained to John how he’d gotten his hands on John’s long lost blog content.
They all sat in front of the fireplace, admiring their gifts, sharing stories and laughs. Sherlock drifted away for a second, staring into the flames. Sherlock was a man of many secrets and unspoken words.
He was about to add one more secret to his collection - for the last time.
None of them stayed up very late that evening, even if it was Christmas eve. John and Sherlock both brought their gifts to bed, the jumpers stayed hanging over the bed frame, while Sherlock and John tucked themselves into bed with their gifts from each other. They looked in each other’s books, talked and laughed. After a while John suddenly placed his book on the nightstand, before looking at Sherlock, wondering.
“You know, Sherlock. This is one of the best days I’ve had in some time, I’ve already told you that - I’ve been very lucky. Been very lucky with my good days in general. But. I can’t help but wonder. It feels like something inside of me is changing. It is a very peculiar feeling, I can’t explain it. At the same time I feel so tired, in a new way. But I don’t feel worse or anything. I mean, as a Doctor I’ve in some very rare occasion witnessed very ill patients suddenly getting better again - one of them had terminal cancer - and I… Sorry, I’m babbling. I just don’t understand what’s going on inside me right now.”
Sherlock looked at John for a while, before his face dissolved into a wide grin. “I think we should share a bottle of wine. What do you think?”
“What? Now? I… What the hell! Get the bottle, and take the glasses with you. I’ll keep your bedside warm.” John grinned and gave Sherlock a big kiss.
Sherlock was on his way up from bed when he stopped and turned around, facing John. “I almost forgot to tell you, I picked up a new cough mixture from the pharmacy yesterday - they said it’s preventive against the kind of dry-cough you’ve got. I had to taste it as soon as I got home, and I’m afraid it’s very bitter, but I think it will work. Do you want to give it a shot?”
“Sure! Why not. None of those preventive mixtures have helped me that much so far, so it would’ve been a blessing if this one works. Even if it tastes strange.” John smiled.
Sherlock quickly stroked John’s cheek. “You’ll always have the opportunity to wash it down with the wine.” Sherlock smiled, “Don’t you dare fall asleep while I’m the kitchen, now!”
Sherlock quickly disappeared out through the bedroom door. He hadn’t bought any new cough-preventive mixture that would help John - but God knows he’d looked for one. Instead he went through some of his most dangerous and secret chemicals and solutions. He picked up two tiny bottles. One of them was narcotic - it would make you carefree and give you the most beautiful dreams. He poured it into a small glass, and drank it himself. Then he made another one for John.
Sherlock hesitated for a moment as he looked at the other bottle. Sherlock thought about how he had smiled and pretended to share John’s enthusiasm about his good days, but he was painfully aware of the fact that people who are very ill often seem to get a lot better just before they get a lot worse. A lot worse. He remembered John’s words. He had seen them go. Sherlock had too. In extreme agony, sometimes from drowning in their own fluids, their lips turning blue - with foam around their mouths. And then John’s plea for Sherlock to-. Sherlock cut himself off.
Sherlock walked over to the cabinet to get the wine. He opened it and placed it on the counter. He then turned around to get the other bottle. He hesitated as was standing in front of the counter with the small bottle in his hands. He finally poured the small bottle’s content into the bottle of wine, placed the cork stopper back in the wine bottle, and shook it. He then wiped off the tears from his face and walked back into the bedroom. He put his smile back on as soon as he opened the door.
“Here John, take this small one first. That’s for your cough.” Sherlock handed John the small glass, and started to pour wine for them both.
John quickly drank the glass Sherlock gave him. “Oh. That was a rather peculiar taste. You’re right. Could you please hand me the glass of wine?”
Sherlock smiled. “Of course. Cheers to us.”
“Cheers!” John took a couple of sips from the wine. “Oh, Sherlock… Everything feels so bliss right now. Everything is just so… perfect! We’ve had a great Christmas dinner, you gave me the most wonderful gift, and just look out the window. It’s snowing! It is beautiful.”
Sherlock tucked himself up in bed next to John and smiled. “I feel the exact same way.” Sherlock looked at John and smiled. The grave and depressing situation he was in seemed to be further away. He even managed to laugh, the drug was starting to work.
They snuggled up closer together while they shared the bottle of wine. When the bottle was empty they lied next to each other, just listening to the almost complete silence.
“I just feel so… good. I mean, I feel great.” Said John, surprised. “Is it possible that it’s that mixture you gave me?”
“Yes, I would think so.” Sherlock said and smiled. The euphoria was starting to get to him - the very intense feeling of happiness and well-being, which was an effect by the drug they had both taken.
John placed his head on Sherlock’s chest and sighed happily. The euphoria was getting to him as well. “You know Sherlock, I have really gotten everything I ever wanted in this life. I can’t believe how lucky I have been. Everything I have experienced. And you. I got you, my dear, beloved husband.” John looked up at Sherlock and just stared at him for a minute. He then continued playfully, “I must say, I envy you something. Those light grey spots by your temples… If possible, they make you even more attractive, I would say.” He chuckled. “Oh, Sherlock. I love you. I love you so incredibly much!” He paused before repeating his last three words again, almost whispering. “I love you.” He tightened his grip around Sherlock.
Sherlock’s gaze met John’s. Their eyes were filled with love and care. “In you, John-.” Sherlock paused. “In you I have met the love and understanding which I had never thought existed, and therefore given up looking for when I met you. I felt like I never could reach it. You’ve made me experience love - with every fiber, every cell of my body.” He paused. “Here on this earth, there was only one person I would be able to love, and that is you, John.” Sherlock kissed John.
Sherlock was starting to drift away, his voice was soft and dreamy.”John..? Do you remember the day you accepted me as your husband?” Sherlock stared out into the dark room, he smiled. His eyes turned wet.
A wide grin appeared on John’s face, his eyes were unclear and dreamy. “We were both so beautiful…” He chuckled.
Reality slowly loosened its grip of them. The certainty of their terrible faith just seemed to fade away. They both slid back into their youth again. They were no longer a couple with a limited amount of days together. They stared at each other and all they could see was their young, beautiful selves.
Sherlock looked at John. John was healthy, tanned, strong, with bright, youthful determination in his eyes – beautiful as always. John looked at Sherlock. He let his hand run through his dark brown hair, now without a single hint of grey. His light blue/green eyes stared back into John’s; his frown line was gone, and his mysterious, almost magical aura was again surrounding him. They couldn’t possibly be happier. They were young again, together, healthy, without a care in the world. John placed his arm on Sherlock’s stomach and looked up at him. “What do you say, Sherlock?” John gave Sherlock a fond smile, and kissed his chest. ”-Perhaps we should accept another case?”
Sherlock kissed John’s forehead. “Yes. It’s been a while.” Sherlock’s eyes were shut, he relaxed with a contented smile – on his left cheek one could spot the trace of a dried up tear.
John snuggled closer into Sherlock and released a contented sigh and fell asleep - never to wake up again… His tired, out-worn heart could finally rest.
Sherlock followed John shortly after. The memoirs rested peacefully on top of the blanket that covered them - now they were just words left for eternity.
It was like the house gave away a tired, creaky sigh. Through the window one could see that it was no longer snowing. The clouds were slowly moving away, revealing the empty sky behind it. Two restless and tormented souls were finally at peace that night - and two shooting stars fled across the pitch black sky.
From the old walls, a last farewell. As a familiar, but distant whisper:
Midnight brought us sweet romance,
I know all my whole life through
I’ll be remembering you,
Whatever else I do,
Midnight with the stars and you.
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