“After so many years together as flatmates, friends, lovers and husbands oftentimes their silences spoke more fluently than their words.” Beautiful words by a talented writer, here’s another amazing story by mydogwatson! Enjoy! An Elderly Sherlock and John drawing by sweetlittlekitty on DeviantArt!
He woke less quickly than in the past, groaning a bit as he stretched his cramped bones. Sleeping on the sofa was not a good idea, even when the cushions had been permanently shaped to fit his body. He knew that very well, but waking up twisted and in pain was still better than spending the night in a bed that was much too large and too cold. Too empty. A part of Sherlock Holmes’s mind bemoaned his descent into such sentiment and blamed it on his age.
At least, he still retained enough rational thought upon awaking to know it was necessary to move carefully, slowly shifting one leg and setting that foot firmly on the floor, before repeating the process with the other. Finally, he stood and shuffled into the bathroom. His morning routine remained much as it always had been. Piss. Meticulous teeth clean. Shave. A quick shower. He still took time with his hair, which, although it was all silver now, was still thick and curly. Finally he went into the bedroom, quite deliberately ignoring the empty bed, to choose his clothing for the day.
He decided on the aubergine shirt, now undeniably a bit threadbare, but it had always been John’s favourite. For many years, a new one always appeared under the Xmas tree. This one however, was five years old because they had decided that it would do him. Last Xmas, instead of another aubergine shirt, he had received a warm jumper in the same shade, which he would only wear when no one but John was around.
He pulled on black silk briefs [on some things, one did not compromise] and then black trousers, socks, and jacket, before pausing to study himself in the mirror. His shoulders straightened a bit and he fluffed his curls. Satisfactory.
Although it annoyed him, Sherlock went next to the kitchen for some breakfast, because he had promised. Although some people would probably not agree that one piece of toast laden with honey and a glass of orange juice really qualified as a satisfactory breakfast, Sherlock felt as if he were at least adhering to the letter of his promise.
Finally, he donned his much repaired old Belstaff, wrapping a navy scarf around his neck with practised precision. He stepped out of the cottage just as the cab was pulling up.
He never took the bus.
It would have been quite convenient and involve only a short stroll to the main road, as well as being more economical than using the village’s sole taxi. But old habits were resilient and Sherlock Holmes had never willingly taken a bus, unless it were necessary for a case. [And they still never talked about that occasion upon which he had literally taken a red double decker.] In any event, he saw no reason why, in his eighth decade, he should change his ways. There was more than enough money for such necessities.
After three weeks, Ethel, who traded driving shifts with her husband George, never had to ask the destination. It was always the same and at any rate Sherlock invariably announced it without being asked. “Shady Oaks Convalescent Home,” he would say, briskly, as he settled into the backseat.
“Off to see your fellow, then?” Ethel asked on this sunny morning.
Obviously, was what Sherlock thought, but “Visiting my husband, yes,” was his rather tart reply.
“How’s Doc doing?”
Sherlock was looking out the window as they passed through the village centre, which was busier than usual because it was market day. He knew that Ethel’s question was sincere. John, annoyingly, had made far too many friends during their years in Sussex, but Sherlock could not begrudge someone asking after his well-being. “He is recovering well. Hopefully, he will be home soon.”
Not soon enough, of course. Sherlock was so tired of all the silence in the cottage. Having had so many years of John’s chatter serving as a constant soundtrack to the detective’s life made its absence now physically painful. Mind Palace John could only provide so much companionship, after all.
The cab slowed and then stopped in front of the tidy brick building. Its pristine white faux-Georgian architectural trim gleamed in the bright sunshine. “Collect you at the usual time?” Ethel said cheerfully.
“Of course.” Sherlock handed her a five pound note and eased out of the car, remembering at the last moment to add a “Thank you.”
The overly-ebullient young woman at the front desk greeted him with her apparently permanent smile, but he managed to avoid the usual dull conversation about the weather and/or her cats. Occasionally she reminded Sherlock of Molly Hooper all those years ago. Luckily without the annoying infatuation. Molly had been a good friend to them in many ways and Sherlock would always be grateful to her. Still, he had been a bit relieved when she married a ginger vicar and settled happily into being a wife and mother. Occasionally, the four of them met up for tea in a village halfway between their homes. Today, he just gave the receptionist an absent-minded half-smile and kept moving as quickly as his ancient joints would allow.
John had a corner room of his own. Mycroft always claimed to be far too frail to travel out to the country, although Sherlock thought it was pure sloth that kept him in London. But, fortunately, from his lair in Mayfair he could still wield some power. At least enough to procure a private room for his brother-in-law. The morning sun poured in and made the place quite cheerful. Which rather annoyed Sherlock, because there was nothing cheerful about John being here rather than at home where he belonged.
His annoyance was considerably diminished when John looked up from the book he was reading and smiled. “Good morning, love,” he said. His voice was still raspy from the anaesthesia, but still Sherlock felt comforted. He walked closer and bent over the bed so that John could kiss him. Then he lingered there a moment longer, just needing to inhale the man’s scent and feel the warmth of John’s breath against his cheek.
John smiled again.
Sherlock pulled the visitor chair close to the bed and sat. One hand stretched out to clasp John’s. Neither man spoke for several moments. After so many years together as flatmates, friends, lovers and husbands oftentimes their silences spoke more fluently than their words.
It was John who finally spoke. “How are things at home?”
Sherlock frowned. “Quiet. Dull. Hateful.”
John stroked Sherlock’s hand with his thumb. “We need another dog,” he mused. “Just for the company.”
“If we had a dog,” Sherlock muttered, “there would now be two melancholy creatures roaming the cottage instead of one.”
They had decided against another pup after the passing of Gladstone IV six months previously. “We’re too old,” John pointed out and while Sherlock would usually demur at that statement and perhaps set out to refute it by some leisurely and tender lovemaking, this time he only shrugged. Still, he had put the leash and the dog bowls and some toys safely into the hall wardrobe instead of the rubbish bin.
But now John clearly had a plan in mind, so Sherlock just waited for him to continue.
“One of the night nurses had an elderly neighbour who died two days ago, leaving behind a ten-year-old bulldog. He needs a new home. I thought we could manage one more old fellow in the cottage.”
“If you like, John,” Sherlock replied, knowing very well that his studied nonchalance would not fool his husband for a moment.
Just then, the tea trolley arrived and they were caught up in a flurry of activity as their tea was poured, milked and sugared to taste and biscuits were chosen. Once they were alone again, John smiled and Sherlock knew that he had been holding something back until that moment. “Oh, by the way,” he said casually, “the doctor says I can come home on Friday.”
Sherlock blinked rapidly, thinking that it would be very silly to tear up now, when he had not cried at all when John suddenly and terrifyingly collapsed in their back garden as he watched Sherlock tend to the single hive he still maintained. Neither had he wept as they took his husband into the operating theatre or during the two days in which he had set at the bedside watching and waiting for a grey-faced, too silent John to awaken. “About time,” was all he said, knowing full well that his gruff tone would not fool John for a moment.
They finished their tea in companionable silence.
“What is the dog’s name?” Sherlock asked finally.
Sherlock smiled faintly. “Mycroft will be pleased.”
They shared a soft chuckle.
The rest of the morning passed much too quickly, as usual. Lunch arrived and Sherlock watched John eat. Then he helped him wash and gave him a quick, but efficient shave, during which John made a joke about once again growing a moustache. Sherlock only smiled, because the quip was one more sign that the man he loved was very much back to being himself.
Soon, the aide arrived to take John off to his physical therapy session, meant to keep his muscles working well despite his lengthy spell in bed. Since they both knew that afterwards John would sleep, they had come to see this moment as the end of Sherlock’s daily visit.
Ignoring the aide waiting by the door, he leaned over the bed to give John one more long kiss. “Just two more days,” he whispered, “and then the world will be set right again.”
John gave him a one-armed hug.
This time it was George behind the wheel of the cab, which made for a quiet trip since he was far less inclined to chatter than his wife. Sherlock very nearly shared the news that John was coming home, but then he decided to hold that information in his own heart for now. Others would know soon enough.
Once he was back inside the cottage, Sherlock changed into his pyjamas and second-best dressing gown. He made himself a cup of [sub-par] tea and finished off the HobNobs. The empty biscuit tin reminded him to go online and order groceries to be delivered on Friday morning.
Before forgetting, he called the number that John had given him and it was quickly arranged that Winston would arrive on Saturday. John would enjoy having a dog about the place as he continued to recover. Sherlock took the dog bowls from the wardrobe and washed them carefully.
It was dark by the time all his chores were completed. He locked the cottage up for the night and stretched out on the sofa. Right on time, his phone rang.
“Just wanted to say goodnight, love,” John said softly
“I miss you,” Sherlock replied.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
John always tried to look on the bright side, but, for once, Sherlock was not inclined to argue. “Good night, John,” he said.
“Sleep well, love.”
They both ended the call at the same moment, as was their habit.
Sherlock rested back against the cushion. Through the window, he could see clouds skittering across the moon and the sight made him remember a night so long ago in a place called Dewer’s Hollow. Idly, he wondered how things might have been different if either one of them had been braver back then. It could have saved them so much pain and anguish. But it also might have meant a different future and maybe they would not be here now.
That possibility did not bear thinking of, so Sherlock began to muse instead about having John back home again. Back where he belonged.
Sherlock Holmes was still smiling a bit as he finally drifted off to sleep sometime after midnight.
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