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Counting the Steps of the Sun

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1.

He'd thought it was a bit of a long shot, her figuring it out, but she had. While he sits – in the garden which is truly much lovelier during the day, and when no one is trying to dig it up – he watches her. She is talking to the police, and keeps darting glances at him. She is too intelligent to think he could possibly relapse here, surrounded by police officers, no matter the stress he may be under, so it must be general concern which prompts her. He does not quite understand it, but then, he doesn't quite understand her.

"Are you sure you're okay?" She has returned to his side. "We should be able to go soon." There is a brief shift in her expression as she looks back to Captain Gregson. Not just concern, then. Guilt as well.

"I am as well as can be expected," he says, and leaves it to her to decide whether he is referring to his abduction or the reveal of his addiction. He slides to his feet and gestures to the nearest police officer. "Tell the captain we are leaving now, and arrange a car for us, if you will."

"Sherlock," Watson says. Ever his shadow, she has mimicked his movement and now stands precisely at his elbow. "Please," she adds, to the young officer, who leaves off looking at Sherlock disapprovingly to nod courteously at her. Sherlock has noticed that courtesy is the response she evokes in most people, and wonders if it is the neatness of her appearance or the openness of her manner that elicits the behavior.

"I am tired," he announces. "I would like to go home."

As expected, her eyes soften in sympathy. She surpassed expectations at recognizing patterns in behavior, but she is not too terribly unique. Everyone is willing to coddle the victim. She should know better, dealing as she does with addicts, that class of people who are simultaneously victims and abusers of the first order, but does not work only on her. They are put in the officer's car. The man and his partner try to chat the way back; Watson indulges them, but Sherlock leans his head back and pretends to sleep.

He wakes when Watson touches his shoulder. "We're here, Sherlock."

"I am aware," he says. "I was only pretending to sleep to avoid conversing with more of New York's finest. I have reached my quota for the day."

"That's impressive dedication to your act," she says drily. "Especially considering we've been sitting here for five minutes. Nick and Sharif went to get coffee while I woke you up."

"Thank you for your kindness," Sherlock says stiffly, and opens his door. He hears her sigh and hurry out after him, but he is unlocking the door when she catches up.

"You could thank them, you know," she says.

"Doubtless you already have," Sherlock says. "And besides, they are only doing their jobs."

"Yes, which is why you should—never mind." She starts unwrapping herself from her coat and scarf in the hall. He goes to lay on the couch.

The sun is bright through the windows. He closes his eyes again. By his feet, Watson says, "I'm going to get some sleep too. I'll be upstairs if you need me."

I won't need you is what first springs to mind, along with the accompanying Go away, but Sherlock doesn't say it. Watson elicits courtesy in everyone, it seems. Even him.

2.

Sherlock was surprised at the revelation of the addict boyfriend, though he shouldn't have been. He knows Watson is genuinely caring, and patient, and too willing to overlook the good in favor of the bad. She is the most optimistic person among his acquaintances, though she doubtless considers herself a pragmatist. So of course, likely despite her best sense otherwise, she dated an ex-client. That he also became an ex-ex-addict is something that does not surprise Sherlock – the statistics for relapse on highly addictive substances like theirs are not in their favor.

When he gives her the file, it is not because he wants to encourage her hope in someone who is so probably hopeless; it is because he wants to encourage her burgeoning detective skills.

But when he finds her waiting at the facility for a man who is already late, he sits with her because the death of hope is a very hard thing.

They wait until the woman at the front desk suggests, very politely, that they should head home. It's getting late, and it's dark, and it's cold and the facility is not the sort of place, really, where they like to have too many people waiting in the lobby – it can be disconcerting for the ones coming in for treatment. Watson nods along as she talks, and apologizes politely when she's done, and stands to leave without looking once back at Sherlock.

Sherlock darts ahead to open the door for her and walks close by her side. He pretends, out of courtesy, that he cannot see the lines by her eyes and the downturn of her mouth. When they are almost home, having walked the whole way, he says quietly, "You deserved better than him. You deserve better than an addict."

Her mouth hardens, as if he's said the wrong thing, for all he meant to say the right one, and for all it was true; but she takes his arm when he offers it, and he is glad that she at least does not cry for the hopeless man.

3.

He goes to her, after Moriarty is taken away, and his Irene with her. He puts himself in her bed, and when she comes out from her leisurely bath and has finished her nighttime rituals, her activities slowed to the point of indulgence because she finds comfort in them, he is in her bed. He is lying on his side, and he is wearing pajamas. By the way her eyes catch on the silk pinstripe, he knows she is surprised by them. She probably did not believe he had them. He never wears them, because they were a gift from his father, bought by a secretary who knew only a little better than the absent parent what to buy the wayward son. Silk pajamas are ever a fallback.

She blinks at him once, swallows, squares herself, and turns off the light and climbs into bed without saying anything. Sherlock closes his eyes to the darkness.

"I can't do anything," she says. He knows she is looking up at the ceiling, at the play of streetlight through the windows and the shadows cast across the walls, wavering brighter and darker as cars pass and the occasional truck. She normally reads herself to sleep, with a book and lamp or her phone, and she makes this concession for him. "I can't do anything, and I think that's one of the things that I'm most angry about right now. She did this to you and I can't do anything."

"You do not need to," Sherlock tells her, because it is not her job, he is not her job, not anymore and never again. He will never again be so burdensome that someone will feel the need to be rid of him.

She sighs again, with a small hitch in her breath, and she turns and puts her arm over him and scoots awkwardly up onto the pillows so she can push her head down into his hair. Sherlock ducks his head a little to make it easier on her, and hopes she did not notice.

He is able to sleep like that, but Watson cannot; he wakes uneasily just before dawn, and she has moved. She does not sleep like Irene, who sprawled across the bed and everything else in her path as if it were her natural born right; she sleeps gently, quiet and still, her breaths her only movement. Sherlock knew she did, because he has woken her up often enough. He likes it, the way she sleeps and watching her do it, because it is easy to imagine her in her residency at her hospital, resting when she could, economical in her movement and sound. A glimpse at the budding Watson, however embarrassed she would be to know it.

He touches her face, and she wakes. She whispers, "Are you okay?" and he kisses her.

She pushes him away, like he knew she would. She is supposed to.

"Sherlock," she says again, no louder. "You're upset."

And because she says it, he is. Not vulnerable, which is how she probably meant it, but suddenly, ragingly angry. "Am I?" he snaps, and she sits up in a jerk. He is glad she is at least somewhat unsettled. "Why should I be? We caught Moriarty, the greatest criminal we've chased so far."

"It's okay," Watson says. "However you feel, it's okay."

"Why should I feel anything?" he demands of her.

"Because you were betrayed by the person you love the most," Watson says, in a rush and at her own higher volume. They are both still in her bed in their pajamas, and she is entirely unselfconscious in her indignation. "Because she used you and treated you worse than anyone should ever have to deal with, and has revealed she is an evil person, and you can't help it that you love her."

If Sherlock told Watson the truth right now, that he only loves her more because of it, because she is so much more than even he thought she was,

If she had not revealed how worthless he was in her eyes, he would have gone with her in a moment.

Watson has taken his momentary silence as agreement or weakness; she continues, "She said horrible things to you, because that is what she does. She hurts people, and she hurt you, and it's alright that you feel that way."

"You don't know how I feel," he tells her, and removes himself from the tangle of bed coverings.

"No, I don't," she admits, easily, as if it were a part of her own argument. She doesn't move from the bed. "But I will still help you however I can, as your friend."

The final words, an insurance that he understand her rejection. He scoffs at them and leaves her room.

She calls after him, "I will be here when you need me!" as if he had any doubt that she will always be there, whether he needs her or not.

He names the bee after her because it is an impossibility just as she is. She is touched. Sherlock hates her, but only a little, and he loves her in equal measure. He is used to the two twisting together inside him. Irene was the only thing he ever only loved, and now she is Moriarty, settling inside him with a ferocity of feeling orders of magnitude greater than the sudden fury he feels at Watson sitting with him on the roof. He wants to tell her to go away. He wants her to stay. If she touches him, he will scream at her again.

He leans forward again to count how many bees are supposed to emerge. She only sits with him, at a fair distance, and he makes it to the sunset.

After, not only after the bees and after dinner and after sleep, which he does on the couch and on the floor and against the wall in the hallway outside her room, after that, he wakes blearily to the early dawn and Watson stepping out of her room in her running clothes. They regard each other, and then she pushes her bedroom door back open behind her. "Go to sleep," she says. "I'll get you up when I come back."

When she comes back, it will be morning in New York. It will be bright and the city will be busy, and she will find something for them to do, if he cannot do it himself. They will distract themselves. He sleeps.

He wakes and it is afternoon, judging by the sun, and he is terribly afraid, for a moment, that Watson did not return. That something has happened to her, to turn her perhaps into a victim of a belated scheme of Moriarty's, and he has slept through it all, and failed her entirely. He makes it only to the top of the stairs in a near-blind panic before the sound of her downstairs draws him to a standstill and he is able to qualify the small details: her running shoes, placed neatly outside her door, doubtless so she wouldn't wake him by coming in to put them away; her running jacket, resting on top of her other coats on the coat hooks at the bottom of the stairs; the sound of the water in the pipes, muffled but still clunky, running for the dishwasher and washing machine and the sink. She is cooking something, and listening to music, and humming along with it just a little. It must be playing quietly, or she would be louder.

"Watson," he says, only loud enough for her to hear him, and makes his way to the kitchen.

He is arrested on the way by the sight of his mattress leaning against the wall. He only stands, staring at it, and she comes and stands beside him.

"I'm sorry I didn't wake you up," she says. "But I thought you could use the sleep. And besides, I wanted to do this." She nods at his bedroom.

She has replaced his bed. He steps into the doorframe and tries to catalogue the mattress, the sheets and blankets and pillows.

"I bought a duplicate of the mattress you had," Watson tells him, and he is glad that she is stating the obvious this once, because it seems like he cannot process this simple sight. It is as if his eyes will not even focus, he looks around so quickly. "The sheets are mine, and all the extra blankets. I threw all of your stuff in the wash. There's a service coming by to get the mattress." A short pause, then, "I hope that's okay."

"It is," Sherlock is able to force out, though it feels like a croak. Watson pats his arm, and he wants to turn to her and hug her for being unpredictable and perfect, and beg her as best he knows how to never leave him alone.

He can sleep in his own room that night, and he does from dusk until well past dawn, waking as seems natural to the shutting of the front door – Watson's return. He joins her in the kitchen, watching soundlessly as she makes herself breakfast. She hasn't looked at him yet, but she has tilted her head a little and smiled, an absent greeting. He looks at her and realizes she was right to take herself away. He is entangled with her already, by both coincidence and design, and he likes to lose himself in things. Irene has left, and with her all his hope and his love, and Watson could see that, even if he himself could not.

"You have my apologies," he says. She pauses in making coffee to look at him. "For my behavior. It was inappropriate. I was not thinking clearly, and I behaved badly."

"You were grieving," she says, quiet but implacable. "You love her, and you lost her twice." He cannot voice any protests against that tone, even could he muster the effort to protest at all. If he were robbed of his kidneys at this precise moment, he does not think he could protest. Still, her cruelty is meant to be kind.

He did not lose Irene. She was taken from him, then dangled like a toy before him. And he was only the pet to be taunted and teased and occasionally coddled, when it pleased Moriarty. "I am sorry," he repeats, hesitating. "And thank you."

She looks genuinely startled, as she rarely does. "You don't have to thank me," she says.

"Perhaps not," Sherlock says. "But I would like to. You are a good person, Watson."

"So are you," she says, insistent as if continuing their earlier argument, and Sherlock gives a short nod and takes himself away before he can disprove her.

4.

They cannot consult for the police forever, Watson said, after their relations became ever more strained. It is never the same after Detective Bell's injury, though she will not acknowledge that explicitly. Instead she says there is not enough work, or at least not enough work that they are brought in on, and she has adapted enough of his personality that boredom does not sit well with her. She laughs when he tells her this, and tells him that she was a surgeon before him; any tolerance for boredom or downtime was beaten out of her in medical school.

She is insistent, and he is stubborn but not always more stubborn than she; eventually, she says Sherlock, we should take more cases; we should open a business and he is foolish or impulsive enough that day to agree.

There isn't much capital required to get started; they are both the largest assets and the biggest liabilities, and they have already received plenty of press. With a little notice to interested parties, they get their first investigative cases.

Watson takes to it as she does to everything: with wary enthusiasm. Sherlock is a little more reserved, but by the fourth month, when summer is coming to a close and Watson is compiling their cases, most of them ones they still work together because they are good apart but they are better together, and they have made more money, she says, laughing disbelievingly, than she has ever before, and that includes when I was working surgery, Sherlock!; then he looks at her, flush with pride not in their income but in their success, and he lets go of some of his dread, slowly and consciously. Money is not a harbinger of doom, and true work will not draw her away from him, or ultimate control of their cases from them. He cannot jump at every police case, but it is a good thing: Captain Gregson is less angry at him when his input or interference is necessary, and he does not need the constant distraction of the police work, when he can pick any new case from ten submitted through their simple, tasteful website – maintained for free by a friend of Watson's, who was that grateful only because Watson apprehended the man who stole her purse.

Watson says that she sleeps better, now she does not guiltily hope for a crime during the night. Sherlock refuses to agree with her, because crimes are yet the most interesting cases, but he can appreciate her relief.

5.

It was only a matter of time.

Watson did not bother him the entire plane ride over, though this may have been because she spent most of it happily snuffling into his coat jacket's shoulder. He had spent it reading, old files on paper and old evidence on his computer, and the flight attendants had spoken to him often, as one of the few people on the plane who was awake the entire flight. When he grew too bored, he stood and wandered about, stealing little things from people's bags and persons, amassing a collection of varying but unimportant items to amuse Watson with when she woken, thievery made inoffensive by its small scale.

He gets through customs more quickly than her because he can claim citizenship. She is blinking blearily by the time she gets to him, all the way at the luggage claims where there are no more security personnel telling him to move along. "So where now?" she asks, grabbing the handle of her bag.

"A hotel," Sherlock says. She looks disappointed. "You will see my father soon enough," he reminds her. He has no desire to rely on his father's or Mycroft's hospitality for lodging during their stay, even if Mycroft's flat is actually Sherlock's.

"Your father in your childhood home," she says. "I'm interested. You never tell me about your life before New York."

"It is not my childhood home," Sherlock corrects her. "It is where I lived until I was old enough to be sent away for school."

Watson frowns. "Well, still. It will be interesting."

"Yes, it will," Sherlock says. "thought not for the reasons you predict."

Sherlock's father is not a nice person. None of them are; not Father or Mycroft or Sherlock. Their genetics do not predispose them to kindness, and they are each – even Mycroft, though to a measurably lesser degree – too clever to be patient or forgiving. Sherlock likes to believe his mother would have been kind, had she been able to survive his father. But she hadn't, dying of handfuls of several different pills before Sherlock was three. Mycroft won't speak of her, except to say that it was from her they had both inherited their addictive personalities.

Sherlock tells Joan this as their taxi takes them to his father's London home after they leave their luggage in a hotel near Waterloo. It is business hours, so his father will be working, but he has been generous enough to meet them from his home office, where they will only have to get past one secretary. This is as much to save himself the embarrassment of having Sherlock be seen in public as for their comfort. Sherlock tells Watson this too.

"Jesus, Sherlock," she says. "I'm sorry. I had no idea about your mother."

Of course she hadn't. She didn't research people she knew. She had never so much as run a Google search on him or any of their colleagues. "It's not important. I barely knew her. I am telling you only to help prepare you for my father." Though he is beginning to doubt his strategy. She looks shaken.

Once she steps into the house her back straightens. Sherlock smiles inadvertently, prompting a dubious flick of an eyebrow from the secretary, which he ignores. Watson has braced herself as if they are approaching a suspect on a case and not a parental figure who has demanded an accounting for Sherlock's sudden financial independence. Still, she isn't braced against the surprise of his father facing them from behind his desk.

He is small and slight, and unassuming in the way that Sherlock is, the way that they both had to learn to use to their advantage – Sherlock from necessity when dealing with criminals and fellow drug users, and his father from a cunning desire to be underestimated by his competitors. Sherlock knows that if his father were to ever be told of the similarity between them, he would be enraged at the suggestion. It is one of the things Sherlock enjoys hinting at in their interactions, where he has to take his pleasure where he can find it.

"Sherlock," his father says, and Watson shifts closer, perhaps unconsciously. His father's voice is hardly fond. It was one of the first things Sherlock took note of with her family – her mother, for all their disagreement, loved Watson with every word she spoke, and her brother as well. Sherlock's father does no such thing.

"Father," Sherlock says in return. A short pause, enough for propriety to register the greeting, and then time for good manners to take hold as he puts a hand lightly on Watson's back and presents her. "This is—"

"Miss Watson," his father says. "I gather."

"It's Ms," Watson says, and Sherlock is inordinately pleased. His father's glare increases, and Watson bears up under it as she does anything, only smiling a little tightly.

"Ms Watson," his father says, reluctantly, when neither Sherlock nor Watson say anything more.

"It's nice to meet you," Watson says.

His father regards her flatly. "I have you to thank for Sherlock's recent behavior?"

"I'm not sure what you mean," Watson says, and this time even Sherlock cannot tell if she is lying.

His father turns his attentions to him. "You've opened a business for your disturbing hobby. Far from appropriate, and you've attached our family name to it."

"Yes," Sherlock says simply. "Because it is my name as well, and mine to use."

"And I have been informed you have been doing well." There are spreadsheets on his father's desk; doubtless the financials of their business, obtained illegally and infuriatingly, excessively in the black.

Sherlock inclines his head.

"Since I doubt I can impose on you to close it, I have asked you here to request that you change the name. I am tired of getting questions about it in my own business dealings."

"Excuse me," Watson says. Sherlock is nearly impressed she managed this long without her outrage overcoming her. "But I think you're being a little unfair. We're doing well. There aren't many people who do what Sherlock does, and he's the best at it. Don't you think whatever attention our work has gathered is a compliment?"

His father snorts. "Hardly. Who would respect a pair of children chasing after clues like characters in a mystery novel? It is hardly—"

"I am not a child," Watson says sharply. "And neither is Sherlock. And we are making a very respectable living off what we do. That should be proof enough that it is valuable work."

"You make a nice profit with few operating costs, based out of a building which you live and work in, owned and paid off by me." His father seems to believe he's won, smiling grimly when Watson's face tinges just the slightest bit pink. "I don't ask much, Ms Watson. I am used to my son being a disappointment. I only want him to remain safely away from our family legacy."

"A family legacy with no family to continue it," Sherlock says, "can hardly be called a legacy, can it?"

His father grinds his teeth, a detestable habit, but a sign that Sherlock has succeeded in angering his father to at least some genuinely deserved degree.

"No, you know what?" Watson says. "We're not changing the name. He was right when he said it was his name too. You have no right to take that away from him."

"Ms Watson," and his father's deliberate overemphasis on the Mizzz is starting to grate Sherlock's ears, not least because it is more obtrusive when he hears it in the studiedly cultured tone he knows so thoroughly. "I had no idea when I hired my son a sober companion that he would also gain a partner, accountant and lawyer."

Watson flushes darker, though she shouldn't. She is Sherlock's partner, and the accountant for their business, though only because Sherlock has no patience for financials and Watson loves them more than he expected. "If that is all, father," Sherlock says. Watson is almost shaking in anger next to him.

"If you are determined not to be reasonable," his father says. "I will continue to get regular updates on you. If your business fails, you will not have my assistance."

"Of course not," Sherlock says, and takes Watson's elbow to tug her gently from the house.

"You are not a disappointment!" she says, high and sharp, almost before the front door shuts behind them.

Sherlock only says, "I am sorry you did not get a proper tour of the house."

"That's okay," Watson says. "I didn't want to spend any more time in there."

Sherlock, in one of the noblest moves he has ever taken, does not say anything to Watson for the next two blocks. As they approach the tube station stairs, she blows out her breath and says, "Yes, okay, you were right. I won't doubt anything you say about your father again."

"Thank you," Sherlock says, a little too primly so she will smile.

As they descend the steps, her smile fades a little and she mutters, "He's wrong. You're the furthest thing from disappointing."

Sherlock doesn't reply, but as they wait for their train, he says, "Before I could go to school, I had nannies."

Watson looks at him from the corner of her eye. "Which one was your favorite?"

It is testing, cautious, asking permission in light of their recent trial. It went far better than Sherlock had expected, but he is not going to tell Watson that. It's best, in his experience, to ease people into these things. He answers her question instead, telling her about Martha, and Alice with Egbert and the chariot.

1.

The one year ceremony was not so torturous when it was not for him, even if he had to present the chip. Watson had accompanied him, asking dozens of times in the preceding weeks if it was alright. Of course it was, he told her, he wouldn't want to do it without her; and she smiled at him, and moved onto asking Alfredo and everyone else when she thought he couldn't hear. It was bearable, though, for them both, and better for Sherlock because she was there.

It is even better now they are home, though, and the familiar click of her shoes on the steps to the door heralds their arrival and the relaxation of his shoulders even before the door is opened.

"So has all this changed your opinion about the program?" She has hung her coat up. She is smiling at him, teasing, and her shirt hangs down in front.

"I believe my opinions changed long ago," he says, and tugs her shirt back up by the shoulder as he passes her to go to the kitchen. He wants to make some soup, and he needs to feed Clyde. "If I had any to be changed to begin with."

"You are admitting you allowed your mind to be changed?" she asks, still intent on teasing. She takes the soup can he has chosen from him, replacing it with one she apparently prefers instead. He gives a sound of annoyance and goes to feed Clyde. If she will change their menu, she can make it.

She laughs, doubtless still at him, and he hears the sound of the can opener. He grabs the lettuce and the tomatoes and the bread. Watson snatches the loaf from him, says, "Not for the turtle!" as she always does, and he takes it back and pulls out a piece anyway. Clyde will not actually eat it, only chew at it a little and let it fall from his mouth, and Watson's look of consternation or irritation at the display, depending on her mood, is always worth the little charade.

"My mind has changed more, I think, than you're willing to acknowledge," he tells her.

She looks elaborately doubtful, pursing her mouth and peering at him, and puts the lid on the soup to let it warm. When she gets to the table, she takes the bread from Clyde, and from his fingers.

"Not for the turtle," she says again, chidingly, and puts it in her own mouth.

Sherlock smiles at her.

She smiles back, and finishes chewing, and says, "You really did a good job, though."

"It was not a difficult ceremony to conduct," he informs her, and gets up to stir the soup. It doesn't need to be stirred yet, but he does need something to do with his hands, if she will not let him feed Clyde.

"I didn't just mean tonight," she says, "and you know it."

"Yes," he says, and looks at her fully as she comes to stand next to him. "I think I do."

She looks proud, with her half-crooked smile as she looks up at him, the height difference less prominent when she wears her ever-present heels but still there. Sherlock would do anything to keep that look on her face, but he thinks it is not so terribly difficult after all to put it there. She blinks once, and her eyes stay closed a millisecond longer than usual, perhaps from tiredness, perhaps from something else, and before her next breath Sherlock leans the short distance between them and kisses her.

"I thought you'd never do anything, you know." She licks her lips unconsciously, looking quizzical.

"I couldn't," he says. "I'm still not sure I can." But he's used to people relying on him now, even her; doesn't balk at the implication of permanency or the pressure of responsibility. He still knows, as surely as anything, that she deserves better than him. But he's not so bad, after all, and he thinks she could do worse.