“Daddy?“ Rosie asked, tucking the grey blanket underneath her chin and looking up at John expectantly. “Why aren’t you and Papa married?”
John coughed abruptly in response. Oh god.
“Er, honey, you know we talked about this, right? Sherlock and I are your parents, but we’re not… like other parents. We’re not –”
“Lilly asked me at kindergarten today. She said that her Mummy and Daddy are just like you and Papa.”
John shifted forward in his chair, causing the gruffalo book he had intended to read to Rosie to almost fall off his lap. He took a deep breath, bracing himself. Why couldn’t Lilly have asked Rosie on one of Sherlock’s bedtime nights? He prayed to God that he’d at least be spared the birds and bees talk.
Although, he thought, reconsidering, did he really want Sherlock to have that talk with Rosie?
“I don’t think we’re exactly like Lilly’s parents.”
“You don’t kiss each other,” Rosie replied after a while, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling.
“Yes, honey, that’s right. But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m your Daddy and Sherlock is your Papa.”
“I know,” she sighed.
They had established that back when Rosie had been two years old and things had gotten a little complicated. After the horrible incident that had nearly destroyed 221B completely, John and Sherlock had decided to draw up a wall in John’s room, splitting it into two smaller bedrooms. Moving back in was a decision John hadn’t even made consciously. He had arrived with Rosie and all their things neatly packed, and had known he was home when Sherlock had opened the front door with a chicken claw in his hand.
When Rosie had started to speak, Sherlock had already been a father to her for longer than Mary had been in her life. It hadn’t been much of a surprise that John’s daughter had refused to call Sherlock by his name and had given him the endearment she must have picked up somewhere, instead.
To John’s utter astonishment, though, Sherlock had seemed not only accepting but flat on moved by it, and had accepted it without a second’s thought.
“Rosie, I promise you that everything’s fine between me and Sherlock,” John finally said when Rosie still didn’t seem convinced. “He’s my best friend and that’s… good.”
“Now, you should get some sleep, love,” John said while brushing a curl of hair from Rosie’s forehead. He was hoping to change the topic as quickly as possible.
His five-year old daughter raised an eyebrow at him, the expression so similar to Sherlock’s that it startled John. “You need to read the book to me, first,” she said.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
John had somehow forgotten about that. He opened the book and started reading.
”A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood…”
“So, Rosie finally popped the big question?” Sherlock asked when John entered the living room half an hour later. He was sat in his chair, looking up from The Chemical Engineer in his lap, his expression as unreadable as ever.
“God, Sherlock, it was awful,” John sighed, sinking down into his own chair. “Wait – how do you… never mind.”
“Please, John, your answer is practically written across your face,” Sherlock replied with a snarl.
He got up with one swift motion and headed towards the kitchen. The blue dressing gown fluttered around him like a cape.
“Tea?” Sherlock asked from the kitchen.
When Sherlock returned with two steaming mugs, he handed one to John and sat down again, leaning forward in his chair. His eyes were fixed on John, and John suddenly remembered why he both loathed and loved to be the sole focus of Sherlock’s attention.
“So, what did you reply?”
“I thought it was written across my face,” John said, gesturing towards his features. “Read it.”
Sherlock’s eyes narrowed, but John couldn’t tell whether it was because he actually tried to read his face or because he regretted his earlier choice of words.
“You obviously told her that we’re friends,” Sherlock finally said. “And that you and I love her no matter the nature of our relationship.”
John nodded and was rewarded with a triumphant grin appearing on his friend’s face.
“I hope she understood. It’s hard enough for her without Mary and with two fathers, instead. Do you think the other kids will make fun of her when they’re older?”
Sherlock leaned back in his chair a little and took a sip of his tea before replying. “Kids can be cruel sometimes, John. But Rosie is a tough girl; she’s got her mother’s fire. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
John grinned at the thought and knew Sherlock was right, but still…
“I might talk to her again, explain why I’m not dating you nor anyone else. I was just hoping I’d have a little more time.”
“I know. She’s growing up so fast.”
John felt a knot tighten in his chest that, for once, had nothing to do with his daughter. He looked at Sherlock, who seemed deep in thought, a fine line of creases appearing on his forehead.
Fatherhood had changed him, although he’d never willingly admit it. It had made him settle down in a way John had never thought possible, and it had made him love another human being with all his heart. Sherlock cared for Rosie so deeply that it sometimes still baffled John.
It wasn’t as if Rosie had changed Sherlock’s entire being. She had merely brought out a side of Sherlock that had already existed, a side that had been successfully hidden beneath a mask of indifference that probably only John had ever seen taken off. Rosie’s love for her Papa, however, had caused Sherlock’s mask to dissolve.
“I’m going to take a shower,” Sherlock said suddenly.
“Sure,” John replied, his mind still elsewhere.
Sherlock was already halfway out of the door when he turned back. “John? We’ll figure it all out, as we always have.”
John swallowed, unable to break the silence stretching through the darkened living room. When he finally turned his head to reply, Sherlock was gone.
A week later, John sat on the rooftop of 221B with his daughter on his lap and his best friend slash co-parent next to him. They were watching the night sky above, coming up with all different kinds of images they were able to read in the stars.
It had started about two months ago in June when Sherlock had received a telescope from one of their wealthier clients as a thank-you-for-saving-our-son’s-life gift. Although Sherlock had never been particularly interested in astronomy, John had convinced him to at least use the telescope once. They had been spending their Saturday evenings with piles of blankets and cushions on the rooftop ever since.
“This one looks like a teddy bear,” Rosie said gesturing upwards with her tiny hand.
John and Sherlock raised their heads simultaneously, but whilst Sherlock nodded in agreement, John shook his head vehemently.
“That’s not a bear, that’s obviously a cricket!”
“A cricket? Are you crazy, Daddy?” Rosie squeaked. “Papa, what do you think?”
“You are of course right, bee,” Sherlock said.
John rolled his eyes. Disagreeing with their daughter was something Sherlock had yet to learn.
Rosie slowly crawled off John’s lap and moved closer to Sherlock, who put his arm around her shoulder. John watched, still wondering after all those years how he could be so lucky. He leaned closer to Rosie and pressed a kiss onto her forehead, his cheek almost brushing Sherlock’s arm.
“We should go to the zoo, soon. You two have apparently forgotten what a bear looks like.”
“You’re silly, Daddy,” Rosie replied laughing. John could see the tiredness in her eyes and checked his watch.
“We should take you to bed,” he said.
Sherlock shifted his weight so that he was closer to John and John could feel the heat radiating from his body even through several layers of blanket. With a toddler pressed between them, their shoulders were almost touching.
They sat in silence for a while, watching the London sky stretching out below, when all of a sudden a shooting star shot across the sky in the distance. Sherlock and John sat up straighter while Rosie made a gasping sound.
“Oh, Papa! Did you see that?”
“Yes, bee, I did. That was a shooting star.”
Rosie turned to John, who nodded briefly.
“Do you know what that means?” John asked.
“That a star is travelling to another planet?”
John smiled and felt Sherlock chuckle next to Rosie. They exchanged a look over her head.
“She must be your daughter,” John murmured to Sherlock.
“It means that you can make a wish,” he then said to Rosie. She looked at him with wide eyes.
“And what can I wish for?”
“Anything you want. And if you truly believe in it, it will come true.”
“Then I know how to use my wish,” Rosie said, looking from John to Sherlock and back with a grin.
Sherlock’s brows furrowed and for a moment John felt like he was missing something of importance. Rosie closed her eyes, her lips moving slightly as she uttered her wish. She opened them again as John leaned closer to her.
“What did you wish for, love?”
Rosie made sure that Sherlock was listening before whispering into John’s ear. “I wished for you and Papa to be married.”
When Rosie was all tucked in that night, John needed something stronger than tea. He opened their last bottle of wine and filled two glasses with the white liquid. Sherlock was tidying up the living room table when John pressed the glass into his hand. He sat down at the table and pinched the back of his nose.
It was all his fault, really. With his inspirational talk about believing in her wishes, how could he miss that his daughter would wish for that, above all? Why couldn’t she have wished for a bloody pony?
Sherlock sat down next to him and looked at John expectantly.
“So, what are we going to do about Rosie’s wish?” he asked.
John sunk deeper into his chair before muttering. “Maybe we should grant it to her.”
He dared to look up at Sherlock and was surprised at the lack of anger in his features. Sherlock seemed… confused.
“You want to…?” Sherlock gestured between them.
“No, god, no! I just think maybe we could… pretend? Just for a week, or maybe… a month?”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?”
“I don’t know, Sherlock,” John sighed. He took a gulp of wine and started fizzling with the bottle’s etiquette. “Look, I think if we don’t let her have her wish she’ll be sad, and if we do grant her the wish she’ll be sad once we tell her the truth… it’s awful either way. What do you think?”
“Unfortunately, I haven’t found advice on this issue on any parenting platform,” Sherlock replied and tapped the back of his phone thoughtfully.
John actually managed a smile.
“If you want to tell her we’re married, I’m on board. But we need to make it transparent to her that it’s not permanent. Maybe we could tell her that a wish made upon a star only lasts a limited amount of time.”
John exhaled deeply, his mind swirling. If he thought about it, Sherlock’s words actually made sense. If they told Rosie that the wish could only be granted for a month, surely she’d understand. And a month of pretending to be married to Sherlock Holmes couldn’t be that bad, could it?
“That’s a good idea. I’m sorry you’ll have to… you know.” John looked down at the table, feeling his face turn red.
“It’s fine John,” Sherlock assured him.
When John’s eyes found his, he added: “I would do anything for her.”
And the knot in John’s chest loosened a little.
The next morning John woke up early and silently made his way downstairs. He wanted to let Rosie sleep for as long as possible and decided to prepare a nice Sunday breakfast for the three of them. He had managed to push aside his worries yesterday night, hoping that his sleep-deprived daughter might have forgotten her wish already.
He wondered whether Sherlock was awake but there was no sound coming from his bedroom. John took his time preparing everything and only when the scrambled eggs were almost done did he hear someone’s footsteps on the stairs.
Sherlock entered the kitchen, fully dressed, and came rushing towards John. He held up his hand, revealing a tiny black box inside. John had no time to wonder what the hell it contained when Sherlock stepped forward and opened it. Inside, two silver rings were held in place with the help of a white lace.
John’s mouth dropped open. Had Sherlock actually bought them wedding bands?!
“Yes, John. If we’re going to do this, we’ll do it properly,” Sherlock said and pulled out the larger of the two rings. He grabbed John’s hand and swiftly placed it onto his ring finger, before taking the other ring and placing it onto his own.
John stared at their matching rings. His was a surprisingly good fit. He couldn’t help but think back to when he first wore the wedding band he had picked out with Mary. This one felt different, somehow.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any gold ones at 7 a.m. in the morning, so we’ll have to make do,” Sherlock said.
John shook his head. “Sherlock, you weren’t supposed to spend money on this. We could’ve taken plastic toy rings, for all I care.”
Sherlock looked at him as if John had just insulted his entire existence.
“You don’t actually think I’d walk around wearing a plastic ring for four weeks, do you? Besides, we still had the pay-check from Mr. Myles lying around.”
John wanted to object but made up his mind and thanked Sherlock for getting the rings, instead. When Sherlock went upstairs to wake Rosie for breakfast, John used the time to stare at his left hand. He hadn’t worn a wedding band since taking his off almost two years ago. The guilt he had felt whenever he had looked at his hand had nearly made him lose his mind. The guilt of taking it off was even worse but then Sherlock had deposited the ring onto the mantelpiece next to a framed picture of Mary, Rosie and John and John’s guilt had started to fade.
This ring felt surprisingly comfortable on his finger, like it was meant to fill the void the gold one had left. John tried not to dwell on the implication of that for too long.
A yawning Rosie was carried into the kitchen a couple of minutes later. She had her arms firmly around Sherlock’s neck, her hair still a mess from sleeping.
“Rosie, aren’t you old enough to walk down the stairs now?” John asked before loading up their plates with toast and scrambled eggs.
“No!” she protested.
John could tell from Sherlock’s expression that he agreed with Rosie on the matter.
When they were all sat at the table, John wondered if Rosie would notice the piece of silver on her parents’ fingers. Maybe she’d actually forgotten.
John’s hope was rapidly contained when Rosie asked whether her wish had worked in between a few sips of her orange juice.
Sherlock exchanged a look with John, apparently trying to tell him something telepathically, but John couldn’t figure it out.
“Yes, it did.” Sherlock said and very carefully took John’s left hand from across the table. “You see?”
The expression on their daughter’s face made John certain that the next four weeks would already have been worth it. With wide eyes, Rosie leaned over the table to take a closer look at their joined hands.
“Really? You are married now?”
“Yes, love,” John replied, smiling briefly. He looked at Sherlock, who squeezed his hand lightly. “But only for one month,” he added quickly.
“Oh… okay.” Rosie still seemed content, the briefness of John’s and Sherlock’s wish-marriage unable to reduce her excitement.
John noticed that he was still holding Sherlock’s hand and quickly let go. He cleared his throat and hoped that their daughter had not yet acquired her father’s skills of deduction.
Being married to Sherlock Holmes was less awkward than John would have expected.
On the sixth day, they had managed to go through with their arrangement without any major incidents. Sherlock had told Mrs. Hudson on Sunday when he had gone down for tea and John had texted most of the people he thought would notice and question them in Rosie’s presence. Rosie had been as happy as ever and Sherlock and John had been fine. Apart from a couple of stares from some Mums at kindergarten, nothing had actually changed.
“Papa, Daddy? Can I ask you something?”
John looked up from the instruction of the foot-and-handprint set he had bought a couple of days ago, still not having found the part that told him how to remove the colour from human bodies effectively.
Sherlock and John had decided to imprint Rosie’s feet and hands onto the only white wall at 221B – the wall left to the living room door. At the moment, John’s hands were coloured green while Rosie was lying on the ground next to Sherlock, trying to decide which tube Sherlock should open next. For some reason, there was a spot of pink in her blonde hair and Sherlock had a mixture of blue and red all over his arms and fingers.
The sight of the two of them being so invested in choosing the right colour for the wall was the most adorable thing; and John wished he had clean hands to grab a camera and take a picture.
“Yes, bee, what is it?”
“You are still married, right?”
“Yes, of course,” Sherlock replied. He opened the orange tube only to smear the colour all over his hands while doing so.
“Sherlock! Do not touch the floor with your hands right now,” John warned. The Mrs. Hudson in his mind was practically fainting at the sight.
“Then how am I supposed to –“
“Hey!” Rosie interrupted. “I wasn’t finished with my question!”
“Sorry, love. What did you want to ask?”
“If you and Papa are married, then why do you never kiss each other?”
John could feel his stomach drop to the floor. He closed his eyes for a split second, hoping to hide his minor panic attack from his family, and took a shaky breath. When he opened them again he found Sherlock staring at him.
“We kiss each other,” Sherlock said, “just not in front of you.” He touched Rosie’s tiny nose with one of his fingers and left an orange dot there.
Rosie giggled but she wasn’t that easily distracted.
“But why not? I want to see it! Just once, please.” She looked up at Sherlock with pleading eyes, knowing very well that her Papa was unable to resist her charm. John was almost proud of her.
“Alright, alright,” John heard himself say before Sherlock got the chance to answer. For once, he wanted to be the fun father.
Sherlock shot him a glance and John tried to shrug his shoulders apologetically without Rosie noticing, before crawling over towards them.
He helped Sherlock up into a seating position and felt the sticky orange mess transform onto his own hands. They were now on equal height, Rosie still lying on the floor next to them. She looked at them expectantly so John mustered up all the courage he had left and leaned closer to Sherlock.
They briefly stared into each other’s eyes and John tried to ask Sherlock for permission non-verbally, when Sherlock closed his eyes and lightly pressed his lips against John’s. The kiss was a soft, warm brush of lips and John felt like he was jumping out of an airplane, knowing that he would never hit the ground again.
This was Sherlock, his best friend and the father of his child, who was married to no one but his work and who had never felt things that way. John couldn’t use him like this because Sherlock deserved to share a kiss with the person he wanted to kiss; not with someone he’d been tricked into kissing by a toddler.
With this realisation John let their lips part.
He opened his eyes and found Sherlock blinking at him, something close to vulnerability in his features. His curls were a blue mess and there was a streak of orange on his face where John had touched him mere seconds ago; and he looked almost achingly beautiful.
“You really are married!” Rosie squealed and rushed into John’s arms, causing him to part from Sherlock. John held her tightly and stopped caring that both his clothes and the carpet were covered in wall paint.
A week later Sherlock, Rosie and John were invited to Greg’s birthday party. Because Greg wanted to spend his birthday with his kids, it was a children-friendly celebration. When they arrived right after the end of John’s shift at the clinic, people were already having a barbecue in Greg’s large terrace area. John hugged his friend and gave him their present (an anti-theft zip for his police batches).
“Thanks, mates! I think I can make good use of it,” he replied eyeing Sherlock, who grinned briefly and then turned to Rosie. “Do you want to play in the bouncy castle with the other children?”
“I would like that very much,” Rosie replied and pulled Sherlock along towards the giant air-filled playhouse.
Greg looked from the two of them to John. “You’ve raised a polite lass, John.”
“Oh, that’s not just my doing,” John said and smiled after Rosie and Sherlock. “So, another year gone by?”
“Yeah, but I’ve made my peace with it. Honestly, once you move past the half-century mark nothing really scares you anymore,” Greg said chuckling.
John nodded in agreement. They walked over to the other guests where John first greeted Molly and then had a small-talk with Sally and some of the other DIs. From the corner of his eyes he saw Sherlock watching Rosie with eagle’s eyes as he felt a familiar warmth spreading in his chest.
When the barbecue was done and the sun was starting to set, some of the guests started dancing in the large pavilion that was set at the back of the garden. John wondered why he hadn’t pursued a career at Scotland Yard before joining the army. Apparently, one could make a decent living of it. His thoughts were interrupted by a fingertip poking into his side.
“Daddy? Do you want to dance with me?”
“There’s nothing I’d rather do,” John replied before lifting his daughter up and carrying her over to the pavilion. They danced for two songs before Rosie got distracted.
“Do you want to do something else, love?”
“No. I’m looking for Papa!”
“He’s over there,” John said, pointing at Sherlock’s large figure in the approaching dawn. He was standing next to Molly with his arms crossed, looking as bored as he often did during social gatherings. Molly was obviously trying to engage him into a conversation but Sherlock didn’t seem all too interested.
“I’ll get him,” Rosie said and ran off before John had the chance to stop her. When Rosie returned with Sherlock a minute later, John’s hands were already a little sweaty. He blamed it on the heat in the pavilion.
“See? Now we can all dance together!” She smiled and took John’s hand into her free one.
John looked up at Sherlock to find his blue-green eyes on John. Was he also remembering the last time they had danced together? It seemed like a lifetime ago.
With the song ending and the music changing, John slowly started to move his body in the same rhythm as Rosie. Sherlock joined in and it wasn’t anywhere near as strange as John would have imagined. After a while, he felt light-headed and started to giggle. The endorphins were rushing through his body and he briefly wondered why they didn’t do this more often. Sherlock was smiling, too, and Rosie’s face was beaming with happiness.
When the voice of that ginger-haired Brit whose name John always forgot started filling the air, Rosie dropped John’s hand and looked up at him expectantly.
“Now you have to dance with Papa,” she said.
John was taken off-guard but thankfully Sherlock’s mind was working perfectly fine. He took John by one hand and guided his arm around John’s back, lightly pressing their bodies closer together.
John didn’t know where to look because suddenly Sherlock was unbearably close. He stared at the floor like an idiot, catching sight of Rosie in her yellow dress swiftly running towards the side of the pavilion. Then there was a hand underneath his chin, gently pulling his head up.
“Have you forgotten what I taught you, John? Keep your eyes fixed on mine. When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor, but to a certain place in your partner’s heart,” Sherlock said.
John felt heat rising to his cheeks. “That’s quite poetic, even for you.”
“It’s Wayne Dyer,” Sherlock replied.
John laughed. “Still,” he started, but forgot whatever he had meant to say next. Sherlock’s eyes were locked on his, the blue-green colour piercing right into John’s soul.
Slowly they fell into their own rhythm and John found that he didn’t have to look at his feet in order to get the steps right. Sherlock was guiding him with his large hand on John’s back; and John remembered how Sherlock had once admitted to him that he had always loved dancing. There was a spark in his eyes that John rarely witnessed, something similar to when he played the violin.
When the song ended, John was still staring into Sherlock’s eyes. He didn’t even notice Rosie running up to them and letting herself fall into Sherlock’s side, who let go of John’s hands in order to pick her up.
When John returned from work late that day, he was tired and a bit grumpy. He had had a number of annoying patients who had tried to explain John’s job to him with the help of Doctor Google. Oh how John loathed that doctor.
Upon entering the living room of 221B, he threw his work bag into a corner and fell into his chair. He pressed his hands to his eyes to reduce the growing headache and took three deep breaths. It took him surprisingly long to notice the absence of Sherlock and Rosie, who were usually playing hide and seek or Monopoly at this time of day.
“I’m not in the mood for hide and seek tonight,” he added.
When neither Rosie nor Sherlock came down the stairs giggling five minutes later, John started to worry. If Sherlock had planned to go out with Rosie tonight, he would have texted John. John quickly fished his phone out of his pocket but there was no text from Sherlock.
He stood up swiftly and decided to search for them in the flat anyways, just to be sure. There was no need to panic, yet. He started in the bathroom, then Sherlock`s room. With adrenaline in his veins and a pounding head he sprinted up the stairs. John`s own room was empty. He kicked open Rosie’s bedroom door with his left elbow and felt relief wash over him.
Rosie was sitting in one of her tiny chairs and Sherlock was brushing her hair, focussing on her blonde curls as if they were the crucial evidence underneath a microscope.
“Rosie, Sherlock, thank god! I’ve been looking for you two!” John said as the adrenaline started to vanish.
“Daddy!” Rosie squeaked and turned around in her chair.
Only then did John notice that the two of them were all dressed-up, Rosie in a lovely red and white dress and Sherlock in a black suit and a dark grey shirt.
“What’s going on?” John asked.
“John, what a marvellous timing! We were just waiting for you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We’re going out for dinner. I picked out a suit for you, it’s on your bed,” Sherlock stated matter-of-factly.
“Sherlock, you’re not supposed to dig in my – never mind,” John said.
He went to his room and picked up the suit he hadn’t noticed before. The dark fabric felt wonderful in his hands and John wondered why the suit didn’t seem familiar to him.
“Sherlock,” he shouted through the closed door, “is this a new one?!”
His best friend arrived at his doorframe, leaned against it and, crossing his arms in front of his chest, nodded briefly. “There were no acceptable ones in your closet – so Rosie and I went shopping.”
“You really shouldn’t have spent your money on me,” John replied angrily, but it was more mock-anger than anything serious.
“Believe me, I wasn’t just doing this for you. I have a reputation to lose and I can’t be seen in public with you looking like a man stuck in the eighties.”
“I was born in the late seventies, thank you very much.”
“Oh. I keep forgetting that you’re that much older than me,” Sherlock replied.
John threw a tie at him but missed him at about a metre.
“I’m sorry, should I come closer? I believe with old age comes bad vision,” Sherlock said and moved away from the doorframe and closer to John.
“Ha-ha. That’s not funny,” John said giggling.
Sherlock picked up the tie from the floor and handed it over to John.
“What are we even celebrating tonight?” John asked while unbuttoning his current shirt.
He saw Sherlock’s eyes widening and was pleased with himself for evoking such reaction. Even though they had been living together for so many years, the two of them had never had that type of friendship where one would just undress in front of the other, even though John had seen Sherlock inside the flat with no more than his bed sheets on more times than he could count.
“Er, it’s our anniversary,” Sherlock finally replied.
“I thought our anniversary was in January.”
“No, I meant the anniversary of you and Rosie moving in.”
“Oh. You remember that?”
“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know,” John said. “It’s just… I mean, you forgot your brother’s birthday last year.”
Sherlock rolled his eyes. “I didn’t forget it – I deleted it. You know how my mind works, John. I only keep the important data.”
John laughed and looked up at Sherlock. He was running his hands through his hair, and the silver ring shined bright in contrast to his dark curls. When Sherlock’s eyes met his, he gave him one of his rare bright smiles before glancing at his watch.
“We should go now. The reservation’s at eight.”
Without another word he turned around and left the room with long strides.
When John was dressed a couple of minutes later, he eyed himself in the mirror. The suit was a perfect fit, as John had expected. He buttoned up the last shirt sleeve and wondered why he felt so nervous. The three of them went out for dinner all the time, so there was nothing particularly new about this.
Maybe it was the fact that this was their first time going out to dinner wearing these rings. John stared at his ring for a while. After less than a day, it had felt like the ring had always been there.
He went downstairs to find Rosie and Sherlock already awaiting him. Rosie closed her arms around one of his legs and told him how good the suit looked on him. Sherlock didn’t say anything.
“Should we take a cab?” John asked him on their way out.
“I think we can walk. The restaurant’s not far.”
“Where are we going, then?”
Sherlock opened his mouth to respond when Rosie said “It’s a surprise, Daddy!”
After the third turn John knew where they were headed, but he decided to remain silent for Rosie’s sake.
“Daddy, Papa, you should hold hands,” Rosie said after a while. They were just crossing Blandford Street, John and Sherlock both holding one of Rosie’s hands.
John looked at his daughter in utter astonishment. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say she was trying to set her fathers up. He looked at Sherlock, who was raising an eyebrow at him. John briefly nodded before changing spots with Rosie, causing him to be in the middle of their little chain.
He took Sherlock’s hand into his own and carefully nodded their fingers together. Sherlock’s hand was a lot warmer than Rosie’s and his lean fingers fit perfectly into John’s.
Upon their arrival at Angelo’s, John pretended to be surprised. When Sherlock let go of his hand in order to open the door for them, John could see him mouth the words bad actor to him. John mouthed you twat before entering.
Of course Angelo had set up the table at the window for them. Ever since their first dinner there, John and Sherlock had established the routine of going to Angelo’s at least once a year. He had continued to insist on them being on a date, until the first time John had brought Mary to Angelo’s. After that the insisting had stopped.
They sat down – Rosie and Sherlock on the long side of the bench and John on the shorter one next to Sherlock – and ordered. When they received their drinks John was but a little surprised to feel Sherlock’s hand being placed mere centimetres from his own on the table.
John stared at it for a heartbeat before taking it. He could see the surprise on Sherlock’s face as well as the joy on Rosie’s and told himself that the latter was the reason for his action.
After that night, it had gotten easy for Sherlock and John to fall into a routine of pretending to be a married couple in public. They held hands during their walks to the park, their way to the supermarket, their strolls around the streets of London. And they did many of these walks, these days.
No matter the British weather, somehow there was always an occasion to go to the park, or someplace similar. After a couple of days John noticed that Sherlock had stopped insisting on taking cabs for everything farther away than the usual three-kilometre radius. He figured Sherlock must have seen the happiness on Rosie’s face, as well, and was therefore eager to make her happy for as long as the month lasted.
This Monday was the first day of John’s two week vacation he had been looking forward to for ages. They hadn’t booked a holiday because John simply wanted to enjoy the time at home with his family, catch up with some friends and finally finish the book he’d been reading since February. Sherlock had insisted on not taking on any cases because he wanted it to be a holiday for the three of them. He had even managed to take Rosie out of kindergarten.
They ended up spending the first day of their vacation at a large playground in Greenwich with fantastic weather and lots of laughter. In the evening, Rosie was so exhausted from playing all day that John had to carry her upstairs and put her to bed at 7 p.m.
When John returned to the living room, Sherlock was typing something into his laptop so quickly that it made John envy his skills.
“Is she asleep?” Sherlock asked before returning his attention to the laptop.
“Yes. The poor thing has exhausted herself today.”
“And why is that?” John asked.
“Because,” Sherlock said, setting his laptop aside, “this is the first evening we’ve had for only the two of us in 138 days.”
“You’ve been counting?” John laughed.
Sherlock merely shrugged his shoulders.
“So, what do you want to do on this big night?” John asked. He sat down and started counting on his fingers. “Watch crap telly, visit Mrs. Hudson, play Cluedo, phone prank your brother or ask Molly to bring over some body parts for us to analyse?”
“Pranking Mycroft does sound like a good idea,” Sherlock replied thoughtfully. “Although my initial idea included finally drinking that Bowmore we were gifted by Mr. Carlyle last year.”
“That sounds better,” John agreed. They had been given a bottle of finest Scottish single malt whisky last year after saving a distiller’s son from his kidnapper at a distillery in Islay.
They started drinking and – for lack of better things to think of – played Cluedo. John won three times in a row which leaved Sherlock sulking. When he finally admitted that the victim had not actually committed suicide, they were both quite tipsy already.
“Finally you admit that you were wrong!”
“I was not wrong! I’m never wrong. I miscalculated.”
John rolled his eyes and leaned back into the sofa they were both sitting on. “Honestly, Sherlock, bickering with you is exhausting. If you actually were my husband, I’d let you sleep on the couch tonight.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” Sherlock replied with fake-shock in his voice.
“Oh, try me,” John replied giggling.
Sherlock leaned back into the couch, as well, and started fizzling with the bottle’s etiquette. “Just out of curiosity, what would you do if this marriage was real?”
John looked at Sherlock to check whether the question was genuine. His mind started swirling with possible answers, none of which seemed appropriate.
Sherlock nodded briefly.
“I’d probably kiss you,” John said, staring straight ahead. Heat was rising to his face and he didn’t dare look at Sherlock again.
There was a long silence in which John felt his heart beat uncomfortably in his chest, and then he heard Sherlock’s deep voice. “And I’d probably kiss you back.”
Something in Sherlock’s voice made John turn around. Sherlock was closer than he had expected. His eyes were scanning John’s face, searching for something John couldn’t quite grasp.
John slowly tilted his head forward, anticipation flooding his body. He had kissed Sherlock once before, and had laid awake many night since then wondering if he’d ever feel those lips again. Sherlock still stared at him with dark eyes, his breath so close John could feel it on his lips.
When their lips finally met, John closed his eyes and felt the same sensation of falling that he had experienced the first time. Only this kiss was a lot more intense, demanding almost. John guided his hand around Sherlock’s neck and pulled him closer. Sherlock, who made a gasping sound in response, had one hand in John’s hair and the other around his torso. They kissed and kissed and kissed, and it was better than John could’ve ever dreamed of.
As John started kissing down Sherlock’s neck, he heard a sound on the staircase and immediately froze. He had only just moved far enough away from Sherlock for it to seem like they were just talking when Rosie came stumbling into the living room.
“Rosie!” John said. His voice sounded squeaky, so he cleared his throat before continuing. “What’s going on?”
“I had a bad dream,” Rosie replied, close to tears. She rushed towards the two of them in her green pyjamas and slipped into the blank space between them.
Sherlock immediately pulled her into his arms and started comforting her. John moved closer to them and gently stroked Rosie’s hair. He glanced up at Sherlock, who was looking the other way. It seemed as though he was avoiding John’s eyes.
After half an hour of comforting and once Rosie had fallen asleep in Sherlock’s arms, he got up from the sofa and finally looked at John. “I’m putting her back to bed.”
“Okay,” John said, unsure of what else to reply. Will you come back afterwards? he longed to ask.
“I’ll go to bed right after. Would you switch off the lights once you go upstairs?” Sherlock asked, pulling John from his thoughts.
John woke up early the next morning, his neck stiff and his muscles sore from the playground. He decided to let Rosie sleep for a bit longer and made his way downstairs in order to make a well-needed cup of coffee.
In the kitchen he found Sherlock, nose-deep into his microscope. He didn’t look up when John entered.
“Good morning,” John said. Just because Sherlock had decided to be rude to him all of a sudden didn’t mean he had to act like a prat, as well.
“Morning,” Sherlock murmured.
John sighed and got started on the coffee, wondering whether to prepare a cup for Sherlock. When he placed a mug next to Sherlock a couple of minutes later, he was still being ignored.
He mustered up all the courage he could find and sat down on the kitchen table. If they were going to talk about it, now would be the best time, with Rosie still asleep.
“Look, Sherlock, about yesterday – “ he started.
“It’s fine,” Sherlock interrupted. “We needn’t talk about it.”
“But I want – “
“Really, John, there’s no need to explain,” Sherlock said, still facing the microscope.
John felt heat rising to his cheeks, but not in the good way. Why was Sherlock being such an ass? John had known that Sherlock regretted the kiss as soon as John had broken off and seen the expression of horror on Sherlock’s face. But with everything they’d been through, didn’t John deserve at least some sort of explanation? Had he truly been misreading everything these past couple of weeks because of wish-thinking?
He finally turned away from Sherlock, feeling embarrassed and exposed. How could he have been so blind? Sherlock had probably already figured out John’s feelings for him, being the smart-ass that he was, and didn’t want to actively have to turn him down. If they didn’t talk about it, then maybe they’d be able to keep up the façade of friendship and co-parenting that John had spent years trying hard to build.
Yes. It was for the best. For both of their sakes and for Rosie’s.
“We’ll be rid of them soon enough,” he said half-way into the living-room.
“Oh,” Sherlock said and looked up from his microscope for the first time. “I suppose we will.”
The rest of the week passed by rather unspectacularly. Rosie was happy to spend more time with her two Dads, who were both trying to avoid each other whilst doing so. In conclusion, John felt miserable.
Before, it had been easier to ignore his feelings for Sherlock, but now things were different. Now he knew what it felt like to kiss Sherlock. Now he knew that Sherlock most definitely knew about his feelings. Now he had seen a glimpse of the only thing that had been missing in the otherwise perfect, happy little bubble the three of them had created at 221B.
The only good thing in this misery was that Rosie seemed to be unaware of the tension between Sherlock and himself. John couldn’t tell whether she noticed that they weren’t holding hands anymore, but if she did, she wasn’t sharing her thoughts on it.
“Daddy, can we get some ice-cream?” Rosie asked, jumping up and down in the kitchen. They had just finished playing Monopoly with a spectacular loss on John’s part. Sherlock had been in second place. For some reason, Rosie always seemed to win against him.
“We don’t have any at home, darling.”
“But we could get some from the ice-cream shop,” she replied hopefully.
John sighed. “I don’t know, Rosie. It’s quite late already and it’s raining.” He could see Rosie’s shoulders sagging down.
“Come on, bee, I don’t mind the rain,” Sherlock said.
John narrowed his eyes at Sherlock, who shrugged at him apologetically. “But we’ll bring Daddy some ice-cream,” he added.
“Fine,” John said, and Rosie rewarded him with a smile.
After they had left the flat, John sat down on the couch, intending to watch some crap telly to distract himself. He picked up the remote but, instead of pressing the button, stared at the silver ring on his finger. He moved back up from the couch and headed upstairs. The sight of it was too painful, constantly reminding him of what he knew he could never have. He just hoped Rosie wouldn’t notice. There were only a couple of days left of this wish-marriage, anyway.
In his room, he pulled off the ring, an act that turned out to be harder than he had anticipated. For four weeks it had sat perfectly on John’s finger, but now it felt like the ring refused to come off. John pushed and pulled until he was finally able to get it off. He took the ring between his thumb and index finger and stared at it with a burning feeling behind his eye-lids, when suddenly he noticed something. On the inside of the ring there was an engraving in italic letters.
I meant to say always.
John stared at the tiny letters. His heart beat frantically in his chest. There was no other thought, no other words in his head except for these seventeen letters. They brought him back to a moment so long ago, when Rosie hadn’t even been born yet and when everything had been so different. A moment that was forever imprinted on John’s mind. And suddenly, and with absolute certainty, he knew.
He was pulled from this revelation with the sound of a door opening downstairs. Quickly, he put the ring back on and rushed downstairs. Sherlock and Rosie were sitting on the living room floor, both with ice-cream in hand. John’s heart missed a beat at the sight of Sherlock.
“Which flavour did you bring me?” he asked and sat down next to them.
“Strawberry and chocolate,” Rosie replied.
Sherlock handed John his ice-cream, his eyebrows raised. Did he notice the shift in John’s behaviour? John couldn’t tell. He briefly smiled at Sherlock, a plan starting to unfold in his head.
Sherlock looked at himself in the mirror for the twentieth time that day. He knew that it was ludicrous, trying to preserve the image of him wearing a fake wedding band, but he couldn’t help it. Soon it was all going to be over. He had had his chance, and he had messed it up. Now that he knew that John didn’t love him the way he did, it was time to move on. The thought of believing that he could made Sherlock almost snort.
A knock on the door pulled him from his thoughts.
Sherlock’s heart felt a little lighter at the sight of Rosie. “Papa, can we go on the roof?”
“Er,” Sherlock started. “I don’t know. Where’s Daddy?”
“He went downstairs to see Nana but I didn’t want to come.”
“We should wait for him, then, Darling,” Sherlock said, wondering. It was quite unusual for John to visit Mrs Hudson at such late hour. He was probably just avoiding Sherlock.
“No, Papa, please. He told me we could go. Maybe we’ll see another shooting star,” she said in a pleading tone and looked at him with her big, green eyes.
They went upstairs together but Rosie insisted on Sherlock going first. He didn’t even have time to wonder about that when he opened the door that led outside and saw John. His stomach dropped to the floor upon the sight. John was standing on the blue blanket they had spent so many evenings on, surrounded by two dozen candles. The look in his eyes spoke of promise, of hope.
“John,” Sherlock said.
He turned around to Rosie, who was grinning from ear to ear.
“Sherlock, you’re here,” John said and cleared his throat. He seemed nervous and… thrilled?
“What’s going on?” Sherlock asked. For the first time in a long while, his mind was blank. Why had Rosie lied to him about John’s whereabouts? Was this some kind of intervention the two of them had planned because of the toes in the freezer?
“Sherlock, there’s something I have to tell you. Could you come closer, please?”
Sherlock’s legs moved automatically. Once he stood closer, John took Sherlock’s hands into his own and let them hang between them. Sherlock’s mind started swirling.
“I have to tell you something that I‘ve wanted to for a long time. I was just so afraid and I didn’t want to lose what we already had by reaching for something more, something I thought I could never have.”
John took a deep breath and looked Sherlock straight into the eyes. “I love you, Sherlock, I always have. I loved you when we were flatmates all those years ago, when you were gone, even when I was married to someone else. I’m sorry it took me so long to say it. It’s as true today as it was back then. And if you’ll have me, I’m yours.”
Sherlock blinked at him. Could this be real? Could everything he had ever wanted be true after all these years?
“John, I – “ he started, but his voice was shaking. Apparently, he was in shock.
John leaned closer, let go of Sherlock’s hands and gently touched the side of his face. It was only when he wiped away the tears that Sherlock realised he was crying. And suddenly, it was the most natural thing in the world to lean forward, close his eyes and kiss John. It was wonderful and amazing and everything that words fail to express.
When their lips parted, Sherlock remained with his forehead to John’s. “I love you, too.”
They grinned at each other and suddenly Sherlock felt a weight against his legs. He lifted Rosie up and held her between himself and John, trying to grasp the amount of happiness he was feeling. Did anyone even deserve to be so lucky?
“Daddy, didn’t I do a good job?”
“Oh yes, you did,” John said. He was smiling at their daughter. At Sherlock’s curious expression he added: “She helped me set this up.”
“And I brought you up here,” Rosie said to Sherlock, the pride audible in her voice.
Sherlock cuddled his cheek closer to hers and placed his free hand on John’s neck. He pulled him close and gave him a short kiss.
“This week you were so… distant. What changed?” he asked. He had to know. Ever since John had so abruptly ended their kiss on the sofa, Sherlock had buried his hopes in the ground.
John smiled and pointed at his ring finger. “I wanted to take it off yesterday, but then I read the engraving and I finally knew that you felt the same.”
Sherlock swallowed. The whole month he had thought that John had seen the engraving on the first day and simply ignored it, either because he didn’t understand it or because he didn’t reciprocate Sherlock’s feelings, which had seemed a lot more likely.
“So you did understand,” he replied.
John nodded, then looked at Rosie. “Seems like someone is bored by our conversation,” he whispered.
Sherlock tried looking at Rosie’s face and saw that she was about to fall asleep. “I’ll bring her to bed. Wait for me here, I’ll take the monitor.”
When he returned to the roof, John was sitting on the blanket. He pulled Sherlock down next to him and kissed him. “I’ve wanted – to do this – for so – long,” he murmured in between kisses. Sherlock couldn’t agree more, but he broke off the kiss anyway.
“How would you feel if we kept the rings on for a little longer?” he asked.
John looked at him, his eyes wide. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“John,” Sherlock said, taking John’s hand into his own. “There are so many words I meant to say all those years ago, and I still do. You would not believe how many times I had to hold words inside this past month. I wanted to tell you that I loved you, that I never wanted the month to end, that meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he paused, feeling his voice break. John looked at him encouragingly with nothing but love in his eyes.
Sherlock took a deep breath and continued. “There are so many words I wish to say to you now, but what I truly long to say first is this: Will you marry me?”
“Yes,” John said, the simplest and most important word of all.