The melody was euphoric, Sherlock coaxing sweet, silvery notes into the warm air with each stroke of the bow. He swung in a slow, gentle circle, letting the sound of his playing rouse the bees from the hives, send them in dizzying spirals into the cloudless blue sky. There was the faintest bite of autumn in the breeze flitting by, tangling the fly-away locks of his untamed hair.
He was enchanted by the insects, caught up in their dreamlike behaviour. Arms lifting, he mirrored their careless patterns of dive and zip in his music, sending the strings vibrating with wild abandon. The tune rose and fell, stretched out and softened, crashed into a crescendo that brought colour to his cheeks, made his heart race. He felt jubilant, exhilarated by the raucous sound of the bees, and the warmth of the hot sun.
With a final flourish, that last yearning note reverberated from the instrument cradled beneath his chin. Sherlock let his arms go loose, the violin set against his hip as he tilted his face upward, eyes closed, and his lips curling at the corners in a small, unobserved smile.
In days past, playing for the bees had been one of the few moments of peace he could find. Surrounded by their buzzing, their tumultuous, endless drone of non-stop work, Sherlock found tranquillity. Detective work had been a close second, yet every other aspect of his life had felt empty. Barren and lacking the same perfection he encountered in the fuzzy yellow-black body of a bee, the sweet, syrupy-thick drizzle of honey from the hive.
But that was then, and this was now. His life had changed drastically, turning in a direction he had not expected to find himself facing. The old Sherlock might have found the concept of significant life change abhorrent, intimidating.
The new Sherlock, the one who stood among his bees for enjoyment, not because he sought unimaginable solace, was filled with expectation. With excitement and buoyant capacity for serendipity.
Setting the violin aside, he sank onto a stump and faced the hives, content with watching the industry of the tiny workers as they tended to life and continued survival. Hands dangling loosely between his bent knees, Sherlock leaned forward and sighed.
“Mike is ordering some new wildflower varietals,” he told them, his voice low and almost rough compared to the lingering notes of his playing still fading from the air. “I anticipate that they will be hardy enough to thrive in the climate.” Steepling his fingers, he pressed them against his mouth, his expression turning contemplative. “You’ll like them, I think. Bright colours and sturdy stalks.” His lips twitched up at the corners with faint amusement. “Nothing like last year, with the windy summer days and the being blown about the yard.”
A bird sped by, trilling a light, ecstatic note that shivered down Sherlock’s spine. He tilted his head, leaning back on his hands as he planted them on the edge of the stump. The sound was repeated as the bird turned a delicate spiral and plucked some hapless insect from the air. He wondered if he might be able to replicate the note’s pure clarity on his violin and made a mental record of the possible chords. The sun warmed his face, and he turned his attention back to the bees.
“John has been well.” Eyes closed, he stretched out his legs with a sigh. “He found a therapist. It’s mostly over-the-phone and video sessions, but the man seems to be helping.” His fingers picked at the loose, softened bark of the stump, eyes opening slowly to half-mast, his countenance relaxed and open. “His sleep is better, and so is his colour. It’s good to see him smile.” His mouth quirked as he added, “And eat. Did I tell you? He’s too skinny, but I’m working on it.” Sherlock straightened, legs crossing at the knee as he cast a fond look toward the hives. “Lucky for us, he’s a fiend for honey. We’ll make sure there’s lots of his favourite stocked for the winter.”
A light quiet followed his words, the drone of the hives unintrusive and blissfully welcome. Sherlock watched a single cloud pass overhead, its shape vague and thin, the wispy cirrus form almost whimsical.
He wet his lips slowly, tasting the temperate air and the thick, almost-dizzyingly sweet smell of wildflowers on the breeze. “I’m happy,” he said, sounding at once bewildered and utterly delighted. “John is… he is brilliant.” Closing his eyes, Sherlock exhaled a quiet breath, feeling it warm his bottom lip. “He tells me I am the bright one, the genius, the absolute madman.” He chuckled, head tilting in a dubious gesture. “I don’t think he realizes that he is the bright one. He is pure incandescence.” Eyes popping open, Sherlock sat forward, his expression intent, earnest, as he addressed the bees. His hand rose, catching the downward spiral of a bee as it alighted upon his knuckle. “Have I told you about his eyes? They’re blue, like the sky before a storm, or the ocean beneath the golden hour of sunset. Sometimes, when I look into them, I feel I might drown before I remember that he is him, and I am me, and there would be no greater way to lose myself.” The bee’s wings twitched, and Sherlock smiled as it crawled toward his wrist before spiralling back into the air, leaving behind a vaguely tickling sensation from its tiny footsteps.
“You’re right,” he said, smiling indulgently to himself. “I know, I know, I talk entirely too much about him. Love is a strange concept, isn’t it? There have been many songs written about it, entire orchestras have dedicated the very sweat of their brow, the quiver of their instruments, to its fanfare. And when it arrives?” Sherlock shook his head, his expression turning sombre and wonderous. “When it arrives, it is so soft, yet it is like an avalanche, rushing upon oneself without warning.” A soft exhalation escaped him, bourne away by the breeze. “Listen to me, waxing poetry: simile and metaphor. I am a changed man. John Watson has changed me. I never thought it possible, would have believed I’d fight tooth and nail against such a metamorphosis, and, yet…” the words trailed off, and Sherlock fluttered a wistful hand in the air. “I am a changed man,” he repeated. “A better man? Perhaps. If not, I am reluctant to look any closer. I am… content. Loved. I, Sherlock Holmes, have found love. I feel love.” A laugh drifted from his lips, made light by disbelieving joy. “What an alarming, shockingly strange reality.”
A stronger wind rustled the grass beneath his feet, blowing wayward curls over his brow. Sherlock brushed them away with impatient fingers, feeling the delicate sensory memory of John’s fingers doing the same. Just that morning, he had roused to the clement touch of John’s lips upon his brow, the lazy brush of a hand stroking down his bare back. It was an echo of many mornings spent in John’s bed, waking to bright sunlight, or grey storm clouds, sometimes the pale light of rainfall. The weather always changed, but the presence at his side remained constant.
Sherlock coveted such moments, storing them in entire sections of his Mind Palace, a place that had once looked like a mash-up of his childhood home and his cabin, and now had taken on familiar facets of John’s farmhouse. If he were to push open the blue door at the end of a long, sun-lit hallway, he would find endless rooms dedicated to such happenings.
There was the atrium, glass windows and ceiling set to gold fire by a sun that never set. Within, he could look into John’s face and see the first time they’d laid together as lovers. He could close his eyes and feel John’s hands on his body, taste the unshed tears in John’s eyes as Sherlock showed him how truly radiant he was, all with his lips and tongue and his aching desire.
Through an adjoining door was the first time John surprised him with a trip into the countryside, where Sherlock tasted fresh oysters and smelled rich, red tannins in the bottle of wine they shared. He had lain on his side on a soft, checkered blanket beneath the burn of starlight, and John had rocked into his body with slow and tender devotion, his chest sticking to Sherlock’s back from their shared perspiration. The moon had been no more than a silver crescent overhead, and John had whispered such perfect words into Sherlock’s ear. In that section of his Mind Palace, he could still hear them.
You feel amazing. Love, you have no idea what you do to me. Let me hear you, Sherlock, let me taste you.
The John section of his Mind Palace was in constant expansion, rooms growing as needed. There were infinite cherished memories stored in the delicate curl of a flower in a vase, in the silvery sheen of the windowpanes, the silken-soft fabric of a threadbare blue rug. There was a room where Sherlock could stand to taste and feel, to smell and hear and touch, the sensations captured in synaptic flashes of imagination. He could brush John’s skin with his fingertips, hear the perfect pattern of John’s heartbeat, taste the salty, musky place in the dip between John’s thighs, smell his excitement and willing vulnerability.
He hoarded these sensory recollections like a miser hoards wealth, stored with incandescent accuracy like an insect preserved in amber. Of course, none of it compared to reality. When Sherlock found himself growing lost in his memories, slipping ever-deeper into fantasy, he needed only to pick up the phone or cross property lines, knowing he would find John in reality just as quickly.
Soon, he would not need to ask for John’s presence. Sherlock would have him within reach of his fingertips. No longer searching but simply finding, with John no further than the length of an old, inherited farmhouse.
Sherlock’s hands folded over his knees, his eyes turning liquid and luminously pastel as he focused on the bees. “I’m moving,” he told them in a voice turned mild by indulgence and unfettered felicity. “Not far. Just next door.” His smile returned, soft on his lips, warming the pale cast of his gaze. “John asked, and my place is too small. I am hardly home as it is, and I know he is a man of routine. He will not want to leave what he has inherited, and I would never ask him to, though I know he would accept if I asked for us to live here.” One booted foot wiggling back and forth in an idle gesture, Sherlock blinked slowly at the buzzing bees. “Don’t think that I am abandoning you, I assure you that I will tend to your needs as I always have.” His expression turned contemplative, his eyes drifting to the gently swaying grass. “My cabin is the perfect size for a workshop. Perhaps the bedroom can remain for guests, as long as they do not mind sharing the house with numerous jars of honey and the occasional, wayward bee.”
Still smiling, he touched light fingertips to his lips, feeling how his plans shaped them into something soft and warm. With the breeze faded, the sun prickled on his skin as Sherlock listened to the bees and thought, once more, that he was indeed a changed man.