Epilogue: Hydra Island, Greece
Sunlight drew a hot, thin line across the soft sheet tangled around John’s legs, waking him. He opened his eyes, alert but calm, and felt Sherlock stir against him. He’d stolen all but one of the pillows again, making John wonder how they’d managed to keep from killing one another halfway around the world, when they’d had only two pillows to share.
The shutters were propped open, and the window, without a screen or even glass, admitted a sluggish morning breeze that carried the smell of flowers and the Aegean Sea. The villa’s thick walls helped keep the evening temperature reasonable without air conditioning.
Rolling onto his side, John got an arm around Sherlock’s waist and pulled him close. He pressed a kiss to the back of Sherlock’s neck, nudging the long curls out of his way.
Sherlock’s attempt at a sleepy, unhappy grumble sounded more like a contented purr. His arm slid out from under the sheet to cover John’s. “I’m not awake.”
“Liar.” John kissed him again. “You said you’d teach me how to sail.”
“Later it’ll be too hot, and then it’ll be too late, and then it’ll be tomorrow morning, and you’ll say the same thing.”
Grumbling, Sherlock twisted around, managing to strip the sheets completely off John. “You don’t need to know how to sail. You don’t own a boat. You certainly wouldn’t want to sail on the Thames, even if you did own a boat.”
“No, but I want to lounge around on the deck watching you do all the work, for once. In your swim trunks. There’s a nice bonus,” John added smugly.
“Or we could forego the swim trunks completely and stay right here.” Sherlock hooked his leg around John’s, reminding him unnecessarily that they hadn’t bothered wearing clothes to bed for months now.
“I did not let you talk me into taking you to Greece just to spend our whole vacation in bed.”
“Two monastery visits, a bicycle tour of wildlife, some incomprehensible modern theatre performance at the Hydrama, a different restaurant every night — that’s hardly spending our ‘whole vacation’ in bed.”
“Breakfast. Sailing. And then...” John rolled onto his back, strong arms pulling Sherlock over on top of him. “Anything you want.”
‘Anything’, John reflected that afternoon, was an absolutely wonderful idea when filtered through the incredibly creative mind of Sherlock Holmes. Later, he’d be feeling the ache in his muscles and the hint of sunburn on his skin (though not as badly as Sherlock, who had declared sunscreen ‘tedious’), but for now, he couldn’t remember ever feeling this good.
The villa’s landward patio was on the east, and the shade helped to cool their skin. The air was absolutely still, just hot enough to encourage lazy napping. Hydra Island was a place outside time, and John felt as if the whole world had fallen away except for this small private villa.
England had been good — challenging, but good. For now, John and Sherlock lived at the country house but frequently visited London. At first, those trips had been a trial, but slowly, John had come to look forward to them, and they’d finally started looking for a place to live in the city. The vacation was a welcome distraction from all the hectic real estate viewings, even though the timing could probably be better. They’d no sooner be settled in London before they’d be going back to Canada for a couple of weeks to check on the cabin and visit with Molly.
John had other ideas about that visit. England had civil partnership laws, but a part of him wanted more. He had no idea how Canada’s gay marriage statute would translate once he moved to England officially. The details of the law, however, were less important than the acknowledgement that he and Sherlock were together, forever.
For now, though, he had lazier, more immediate concerns. He had a distant memory of making dinner reservations for later that night, but his mobile was somewhere by his clothes piled on the floor, all the way on the other side of Sherlock’s lounge chair.
“Sherlock.” He reached one arm out and poked a finger at Sherlock’s hip, careful to avoid any of his reddening skin. “Sherlock, pass me my phone, will you?”
John chuckled softly. “We have dinner reservations. I don’t remember what time.”
“Surprise me.” John sat up and arched his back, cracking his spine. The lounge chairs weren’t exactly comfortable, especially not for what they’d been doing. Not that he was complaining. The afternoon heat had sapped them both of their strength, turning their usual vigorous sex into something lazy and luxurious that felt as if it had lasted for days.
He got up and circled around Sherlock’s lounge chair to the pile of clothes they’d discarded. He started sorting through the abandoned swim trunks and T-shirts, and two mobiles fell out of the pile. Sherlock’s BlackBerry flashed an alert.
“You’ve got a message,” John said, tossing the BlackBerry onto Sherlock’s lounge chair, conveniently close to his hand. Long fingers crept to it, pressing buttons without Sherlock even bothering to lift his head and watch. Amused, John took his own phone back to his chair and sat down to open the calendar app.
“Sherlock? Hello, dear?”
It was a woman’s whispering voice, sounding old and quavering. Something about the tension in her tone made John’s senses, dulled by heat and sex, come alert. Sherlock twisted and sat up, eyes bright and intent as he stared down at the phone.
“Oh. I suppose it’s your answering machine. Sherlock, dear, it’s Emma Hudson. I do hope you remember me. I got your number from Mrs. Harcourt. She said... Well, she said you might be able to help me, dear. She said you’re a detective now. You sometimes work with the police? I’m... well, I’m in Florida now, dear. I remarried after George died, and... Oh, Sherlock...”
Her voice dropped even lower, almost too soft for John to hear. She sounded close to tears. “I think something terrible is going on, dear. It’s my new husband. I’m... I’m scared, Sherlock. I don’t know what to do, and I was hoping you could help... I’ll try to call back later. Please, don’t call. I don’t want him knowing I called you. I... hope everything’s all right with you, dear. Give my love to your brother.” After a few seconds, the recording ended.
“God, she sounded terrified,” John said tightly. “Who was that?”
Sherlock was staring at his mobile, face gone pale beneath his tan. “Mrs. Hudson. She was one of our tutors. She retired when I was old enough to go off to boarding school.” Sherlock looked at John as though stricken. “John...”
“Florida. Right,” he said immediately, standing back up as he sorted through his most recent phone calls to find the restaurant’s number. “Get us a flight. I’ll cancel dinner so we can pack tonight and leave first thing in the morning.”
“John,” Sherlock protested half-heartedly. He rose and put his hand over John’s mobile to stop him from calling the restaurant. “We’re on vacation. This is meant to be for us.”
John dropped his mobile on the end of the lounge chair so he could cup Sherlock’s face between his palms. Gently, he touched the sharp, suntanned cheeks, glad that he’d at least got sunscreen on Sherlock’s face. “Sherlock, it’s been great, but it’ll be here later. We can come back anytime you want.”
Silently, Sherlock stared down into his eyes, searching his face, and the desperate edge faded from his expression. “You’re wonderful,” he said quietly, leaning down to kiss John. Then he stepped back and swept up the pile of discarded clothing so he could get dressed. “Do you want to go back to the estate, or to London? You could keep looking for a flat.”
“Or I could come with you, you idiot,” John said with a fond laugh. “I’ve never been to Florida.”
Startled, Sherlock looked back at him. “You’re certain?”
“I just got you, Sherlock. I’m not going to let anything take you away from me.” John took a deep breath, trying to find his confidence. It was there, though shaky.
Abandoning his clothes, Sherlock stepped over to him, and his smile had a new fire in it. “There’s no one I’d rather have with me. It could be dangerous.”
In answer, John pulled Sherlock down for a kiss as his reservations melted away. Whatever was to come, he would face it, not just for Sherlock but for himself. He was done with hiding. “Then let’s do this, love. I’m ready.”