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Hope is a Subtle Glutton

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„Easy, mate, easy.“ The man grabbing Sherlock's left elbow is taller than him, so he has to look up, meeting dark-brown, rather concerned eyes. As Sherlock tries to wrestle free, the grip on his arm stays firm, steadying him despite his efforts to escape.

“You alright?” The man asks, tilting his head.

“Yes, I'm fine... I just need... some air.” Sherlock eventually squeezes past, exiting the overcrowded pub, almost stumbling onto the pavement. His head is throbbing – from the noise, the heat, the smell, the people. He hadn't wanted to come here.

But John had insisted. After having some cake with Molly and Lestrade in the afternoon, John had persuaded Sherlock to go on a bender (who's taking care of Rosie at the moment, Sherlock hasn't the faintest). And Sherlock had felt obliged to agree – which was a new and disturbing feeling. John had almost broken down this afternoon, confessing his infidelity, ending up sobbing guilt-ridden in his arms, grieving the woman who'd almost killed Sherlock and expecting consolation from him, of all people.

Sherlock had provided that comfort, much to his own surprise, because if that was the only chance to hold John in his arms, to touch him, to show how much he cared for him, than he'd take it, no matter what.

Predictably, John had been determined afterwards to erase the memory of this fleeting intimacy by drowning himself in beer; Sherlock, with his perverted sense of self-flagellation, needed to bear witness. Twisting the knife in his chest, he watched John chat to other patrons about football and politics and finally women while moving farther and farther away from Sherlock, who holds onto the pint John had forced on him like an anchor in heavy sea.

He doesn't like beer. He doesn't like pubs. He doesn't like mingling. And John knows all this. Yet John took him to this place, on his very own birthday. No wonder Sherlock is starting to feel sick.

Above all, his wounds and broken bones are barely healed. His kidneys are still not fully functioning, as he'd just been reminded of at the urinal, when he'd been pissing blood. Someone of John's new acquaintances had remarked upon the cut to his eyebrow and his still reddened eye, and John had laughed and played for a joke, raising his pint to clink glasses. That had been about the time when Sherlock had felt his knees go weak.

He has to get out of here.

Now, as he stands on the pavement, leaning with his back against a brick wall, he can at least breathe a bit easier. The chatter and music is muffled out here, and the cool, slightly damp night air surrounding him is a relieve compared to the hot, humid atmosphere inside, infused with sweat, booze and testosterone.

God, he could really do with a fag right now!

As if on cue, the pub door opens again and the man who'd just caught Sherlock as he was about to pass out steps outside, already fumbling in his trouser pocket. He gets out a crumpled packet and a lighter, looks to his left and, upon recognising Sherlock, walks over to him, offering a cigarette as he leans next to him. Sherlock takes it without a word, lights up, inhales deeply, and sighs.

“You needed that.” The man states, and he doesn't sound accusatory - like John does so often these days - just kind. His voice is rough and even deeper than Sherlock's, with a distinctive East London lilt to it, yet one glance at his attire tells Sherlock that he's left his roots far behind, without being ashamed of them. He wears brown leather shoes, green chinos and a white polo shirt (Lonsdale, not Fred Perry), a stark contrast to his dark skin. Boxing, then, not tennis (the body beneath the shirt looks quite toned, but Sherlock doesn't allow himself to dwell on that observation). There are tattoos visible on his muscular arms, but it's too dark for Sherlock to make out what they show. Despite the greying stubble on his jaw and indentions at the bridge of his nose, indicating the need for reading glasses, the man looks very fit. Sherlock reckons he's at leas his age, probably a few years older. His black curly hair is cropped rather short and just visible under the flat cap he's sporting. His whole demeanour speaks of style and confidence.

“It's my birthday, actually.” Sherlock blurts out, looking up at the sky, and his voice hitches at the ridiculousness of it all. He feels he's about to cry. Well, nothing changes, no matter if he turns 14 or 40. Isn't that at least reassuring?

The man turns and faces him now. “Is it? Well, happy birthday.” He doesn't smile. “Seems to be a pretty shit party, though.”

“I'm not exactly the partying type.” Sherlock flicks ash from his fag and looks down, examining the pattern myriads of chewing gums have left on the pavement. Beauty can be found in the most surprising and unusual places.

“I'd say that depends on the company. Those your mates?” The man shrugs, gesturing back at the pub.

“No... not really. I just... it's complicated.” Sherlock suddenly feels very tired and sore.

“Most things are.” The man states, gazing up at the stars, lost in his own thoughts. Sherlock takes a deep breath and pushes off the wall. He doubts John will have noticed that he'd left, but it's been made very clear to him that he's not about to sneak away and spend time unsupervised.

“Well, I better get back inside.” He says, just as not to let the silence creep up on him, to linger, to prolong this moment of solitude and peace.

“Why?” The man looks at him now with a piercing gaze, sharp, intelligent, almost flaying him. Sherlock blinks, then blinks again, and doesn't have an answer. “You nearly passed out in there. And no one came looking for you.”

Sherlock freezes to the spot. The knife in his chest is twisted another 90 degrees.

“I'm fine.” He says, tilting his chin up, but it just feels pathetic and sad.

“Whatever.” The man gives him a strange look. It's not pity, just sorrow. “I'm turning in. Have a blast, birthday boy.” And with that, he starts to walk past Sherlock, into the cold London night.

“Where am I?” Sherlock suddenly shouts after him. He has no idea, the cab ride had passed in some kind of fog, with John next to him, so close, just like it used to be, and yet so very different, the abyss between them stretching into infinity. Because John still loved Mary in his own, twisted way, and nothing Sherlock could do or say would ever change that, no sacrifice on his part would ever truly convince John of the truth and depth of his feelings. Sherlock had by now nearly died for him four times – but it still doesn't seem enough.

“Hackney.” The man turns around but doesn't stop walking, hands pushed in his trouser pockets, his broad shoulders swaying slightly. “Man, you're really fucked, aren't you? Don't talk too loud round here with that accent of yours. Could end up with a knife in your back down some dark alley.”

And wouldn't that be a relieve, Sherlock thinks to himself. But something must have shown on his face; he's so very tired of hiding everything that goes on inside him. The man stops and walks back up to him, while Sherlock experiences his legs moving on their own account. They meet half-way, and Sherlock is again forced to look up into that hardened dark face with those warm, sparkling eyes. A grin spreads on the other man's features.

“Let's get a cab.” He offers, and Sherlock knows that he could say no, turn, and go back inside the pub to watch John chat about mundane stuff to men he'll never see again. Or he could get into a cab with a stranger.

It's suddenly not that hard a choice.

“Where are we going?” Sherlock asks after sliding next to the man in the back of a black cab.

“It's your birthday. I know a place. Trust me.”

And Sherlock does.

----------

It's dark. It's packed. It's hot. It's loud.

It's bliss.

Sherlock has been dancing for hours. He's never done this since back in uni, when he escaped to London at the weekends, attending illegal raves in dilapidated warehouses, dancing for almost 48 hours straight on pills and tab water. He used to love it so much, he could loose himself in the music, no one cared who he was, and he didn't care either. The music, the lights, the drugs – it all wiped his brain clean and left him oblivious to the noise always buzzing in his head, at least for a few precious hours.

Until Mycroft found out and blocked this escape route as well with a few acerbic words and an ironic smile.

But tonight he feels it again.

The beat is throbbing through his body. His shirt clings to his skin. The darkness, only broken by flickering strobe lights, disguises everything and everybody, until he's just a tiny part of a convulsing, jerking mass. He's anonymous. No one is talking to him, expecting something, no one is paying him any attention. That is, no one but Adise, who's been pressing a fresh water bottle into his hand almost every half hour but left him alone otherwise, dancing by himself.

Sherlock has no idea what time it is, and when the bright lights are turned on, he blinks blearily into the white blaze, momentarily disorientated. Then Adise is by his side, and they get their coats to stumble out into the freezing London morning.

“How did you know this place?” Sherlock asks, pulling his Belstaff tight around himself.

“I used to DJ here.” Adise grins, waving at one of the bouncers.

It's January, so it's still dark, even at six o'clock in the morning, the time Sherlock's phone shows him as he retrieves it from his coat pocket. There's also one missed calls, but he doesn't bother to check.

“Man, I'll feel that in the morning.” Adise says, stretching beside him, chuckling.

“It's already morning.” Sherlock mumbles, still staring down at his phone.

“Is it? Well, let's get some breakfast then.”

And just like that, Sherlock is swept into an over-heated bagel shop on Brick Lane, and finds himself leaning against a slightly greasy counter, stuffing his mouth with a still warm onion platzel while sipping strong, sweet, black coffee.

“Bed news?” Adise asks and, as Sherlock frowns with his mouth full of soft white bread, explains: “The way you looked at your phone.”

Sherlock has difficulty to swallow. “It's nothing. Most likely John, checking in on me.”

“Your mate from last night?”

Mate. Of course, it's a four letter word.

“He's not my mate.” Sherlock almost hisses.

Adise just raises an eyebrow. “What's he then? To you.”

Good question, Sherlock thinks. The love of my life who'll never acknowledge me as more than a good friend. The man who said he loved me most in the world while marrying a woman who tried to kill me. The man I died for again and again and who, in the end, when I was lying on the floor, high as a kite, kicked me so hard that my ribs are still hurting.

“We used to live together... we shared, well, a life, to be honest... until it all fell apart...,” Sherlock can hear himself stammer as his wound starts to fester.

“So he's your ex. I'm glad to hear that.” Adise says before biting once again into his bagel, his eyes never leaving Sherlock's face despite his casual tone. “Wouldn't have wanted to come between you two.”

Sherlock can feels himself first blush, than pale. He coughs and has to take a sip of coffee to regain his composure before starting to blink rapidly.

“You know that you do that quite often?” Adise asks, taking Sherlock's chin between thump and forefinger, gently swiping sauce from the left corner of his mouth. His fingertips are a little rough, and Sherlock shivers, instantly ashamed of how starved for touch he must seem. “The blinking. When you are nervous. No need to be nervous here, Sherlock.”

Sherlock can't move. He's mesmerised by those large dark eyes that stare at him with hunger for something else than Jewish pastry. The early morning buzz around them fades away, until it's just the two of them gazing at each other.

“I'm not nervous.” Sherlock lies, and they both know it.

“I'd really like to kiss you, Sherlock.” Adise says in his deep voice, smiling.

“I just ate half a pound of onions,” is all Sherlock can come up with as an answer. Adise barks out a laugh before brushing his thump over Sherlock's burning cheekbone.

“As if that could deter me.” He growls.

“But, the people.” Sherlock whispers, eyes going wide, suddenly acutely aware that they are by no means alone. “They might talk.” He wants to bite his tongue the moment he said it, citing John's words in this charged moment. Can't he never leave him alone, set him free, let him have just this!?

“I don't give a shit. And neither do you.”

Sherlock forces himself to stay calm, looking back at Adise in defiance. “Then why don't you just get on with it?” He asks, falling back on cockiness.

“Because you don't want me to. Not really. And I'll respect that, Sherlock Holmes. I just wanted to make my intentions very clear to you. So you can decide if you want to continue this. Sometime.”

As his bold fingers leave Sherlock's face, he feels bereft. The touch has grounded him, calmed him while setting his heart racing. Now he drifts.

“Ok. That's... sensible. I appreciate the gesture.”

Adise grins, his full lips parting, shaking his head in silent amusement. “I've never met someone like you.”

Warmth floods Sherlock's belly as Adise scribbles something onto a napkin, stuffing it in Sherlock's pocket. “My number. Call me, if you want to. Now, let's get home. You look like you are about to pass out again.” A finger slightly brushes the suture still decorating his eyebrow, the muscles in Adise's arm flexing beneath his dark skin. “I'd really like to know how this happened, by the way.”

Sherlock swears right here and there that he'll never tell him.

----------

“Where the fuck have you been?” John storms into the living room, slamming the door into the wall. Sherlock jerks awake, sitting up on the sofa, as John towers above him, his face white with anger, mouth pressed into a tight line, his blue eyes ablaze with fury.

Sherlock feels sore and tired. He aches. At least he managed to change into pyjama pants, a t-shirt and a dressing gown before falling asleep on the sofa just before eight o'clock in the morning. His still sleepy brain has for a few seconds trouble to catch on. What is John talking about? What has he done wrong this time?

“Sherlock! For fuck's sake... I swear to god, if you did drugs again...” John stabs the air with his rigid index finger and lets the threat dangle between them.

“Then what? You'll hit me again? You'll leave for good?” Sherlock has no idea where those words suddenly come from. Usually, he tries to placate John these days. They never discussed what happened in the morgue. Sherlock was too ill at first, and then it got too awkward afterwards. Besides, he had been so glad and grateful that John forgave him for Mary's death that he wouldn't have dared to risk their fragile advancement. But getting yelled at first thing in the morning never brought out the best in Sherlock – his parents could tell a thing or two about it.

John's mouth snaps shut; an angry vein starts to throb at his forehead. Sherlock ignores it and tries to get up. He's thirsty, his mouth feels kind of furry. He's not in a state to have a confrontation with Captain John Watson – at least not without having a cup of tea first.

But John won't let him pass. When Sherlock is still in the process of getting up, his long limbs somehow entangled in his dressing gown, John pushes him down again by planting his palm in the middle of Sherlock's chest, right about the scar his late wife has put there.

“You stay put until you've explained to me what happened last night. In detail!” John growls, and Sherlock finally snaps. Instead of giving in, yielding to John's command, he gets up again, unfolding his whole 6 ft. 1, squaring his shoulders while resting his balled fists onto his hips. John instinctively takes a step back, but puffs out his chest in defiance. They are facing each other, and the atmosphere is suddenly charged.

“Who do you think you are, ordering me around, telling me what to do, demanding me reporting to you? It was my birthday last night, so I went out and celebrated.”

“With whom would you go out, Sherlock?” John's disbelieving tone hurts Sherlock much more than he's prepared to acknowledge.

“That's none of your business, John. And now I'd kindly ask you to Leave.Me.Alone.” With that, Sherlock strides past and into the kitchen, banging the kettle on, while taking down one mug only. John has followed him and now leans against the door frame, watching.

“If that's your last word on the matter you leave me no choice but to call Mycroft.” John says smoothly, taking out his phone. Sherlock freezes.

As John presses the mobile to his ear, a mug smashes against the wall, missing his head only by inches.

“Jesus, Sherlock. Are you out of your mind.” John yells, but at least he lowers his phone.

“Stop treating me as if I was a disobedient child!” Sherlock shouts back.

“Then stop behaving like one.”

The kettle clicks off but Sherlock ignores it.

“I'm here to help you, Sherlock. I was worried when you suddenly vanished. You didn't answer your phone either.”

“Worried, John? You didn't even recognise that I was gone. Your call was made hours after I left the pub – a place you know I hate, yet you decided to drag me there on my birthday lest you could chat to some blokes and get hammered, drowning your self-pity and guilt while pretending to be a good friend, expecting forgiveness and understanding from me of all people for your sordid carrying-on while the mother of your child, who nearly killed me, had been still alive, caring for your daughter.”

The sound John makes as he smashes Sherlock against the tiled wall is almost inhumane. He feels all air leaving his lungs as John's fist punches his stomach hard before a knee crushes his bollocks. When Sherlock topples over, John grabs his curls. Sherlock can see the white in John's eyes as he's about to smash him head-first into the opposite wall.

He doesn't fight back.

John has his hands on his body, and that's enough for Sherlock to keep still and take it.

This time, it's Mrs Hudson who saves him.

She'd heard the shouting and came up the stairs – and just in time, because John lets immediately go of Sherlock's hair when their landlady peers around the kitchen door. Sherlock sags to the floor, breathing hard. John marches out, and Mrs Hudson has to take a step aside as not to get run over by him. Sherlock listens with a sickening mixture of relieve and longing as John stomps down the stairs and slams the front door shut. Mrs Hudson watches wide-eyed, a wrinkled hand pressed to her mouth.

She needs a moment before helping Sherlock to his feet, guiding him towards his bedroom despite his weak protestations.

“I'm alright, thanks, Mrs H... please, stop fussing!” But she only steps back when he's settled in bed, the duvet tugged under his chin. Sherlock can see that she's shaking.

“There's Whisky in the cupboard above the stove.” He tells her, and a minute later, she returns with two generously filled glasses. They both gulp the Whisky down in one go. It burns down Sherlock's throat but the warmth spreading almost instantly through his guts stops him trembling.

Mrs Hudson sinks down onto the mattress, clutching her hands in her lap. “What's happening with John, Sherlock? Why is he so angry all the time?”

“I don't know.” Sherlock sighs.

“Did you say something to rile him up? You have to be careful, Sherlock. Men like John, angry men, you have no idea what they are capable of...” She trails off, and Sherlock suddenly remembers what Mr Hudson did to his wife back in Florida and why it wasn't difficult to ensure his execution.

“I might have.” Sherlock confesses.

Mrs Hudson seems far away, not really listening to him. “He's all you have, isn't he? You have to make sure he stays. Otherwise, who's left in your life?” She absent-mindedly pets his shoulder before getting up and shuffling down the stairs.

Sherlock is left alone. 'Story of my life', he thinks. 'I drive everyone away. I'm kind of toxic, I poison the lives of the people dear to me, until I've turned them into twisted monsters like myself.' John had every right to beat him, to hurt him, to fight off this unhealthy development. Sherlock hopes he leaves him before it's too late for both of them. He doesn't deserve his attention anyway.

----------

Sherlock stays in bed the whole day, only getting up when night has fallen to take a shower and some Paracetamol. He plays his violin the whole night, and Mrs Hudson seems to understand his need for this form of consolation, for she stays in her flat and refrains from admonishing him.

When he puts his clothes in the washing basket the next morning, he makes sure to shred Adise's number into tiny little pieces before flushing them down the toilet without once looking at the digits. He doesn't have the strength to let someone new in his life. He can't risk doing to others what he did to John.

Afterwards, he tells himself he feels much better. He drinks endless cups of tea over the next few days, staring at the smiley face on the living room wall until it seems to stare back at him.

----------

On Friday, he forces himself out of his stasis by running through Regent's Park until his lungs burn and his legs ache. As he's mid-way through withdrawal, he has to make do with natural highs.

Mrs Hudson emerges from her flat when he returns, sweaty and breathing hard, indicating that a client is waiting upstairs. As much as that inconveniences Sherlock, the distraction is quite welcome.

But it's not a client, it's Adise, standing by the window and turning when Sherlock enters the room,his thin t-shirt clinging to his narrow chest while his dark curls are plastered against his forehead.

Sherlock stops dead in his tracks.

“Hey, I knew you wouldn't call. But you're not exactly hard to find, Sherlock Holmes.”

“Please go.” Sherlock snaps, frozen to the spot.

“I thought I could buy you a coffee.”

“No.”

Adise frowns and takes a step closer. Sherlock moves backwards, almost stumbling against the door.

“Ok.” Adise shoves his hands in the pockets of his trouser – burgundy chinos today, combined with a tight black and mustard striped jersey beneath a charcoal winter jacket. “Maybe I misunderstood... I won't force myself onto you or something. I just thought...” He doesn't continue, just shakes his head and shrugs. “Well, never mind.”

He makes for the door, but Sherlock is involuntarily blocking his way out. They come to stand rather close. Sherlock can smell a hint his expensive after-shave and that's apparently all it takes for the sensations overwhelming him. He stares, unblinking, takes in Adise's well-fitting yet unobtrusive clothes, the trimmed fingernails, the neat haircut, the healthy physique, combines this with the time of day and that the man is obviously free at eleven in the morning to make private visits, and reaches some interesting conclusions that spill out of him without moderation.

“You have been self-employed, but don't have to work anymore. You were born in Hackney to parents originating from West Africa, but you went to good schools – on scholarships – and an excellent university. Business mathematics – combining your mental abilities with a certain degree of practical use – you would never just have pursued a mere scientific career, not with your background and upbringing – no, you value money and know first hand how it is to be without. In fact, you became pretty successful in the city, a trader, perhaps even ran your own firm. You spent some time overseas, until making money started to bore you, so you sold up everything and are now looking for something else to occupy your time. Believe me, I'm not what you are looking for.”

Sherlock's mouth snaps shut. He feels disgusting. He can smell his own sweat, and now he even did the thing that John told him was very much not good and put people off because it made them feel uneasy. A freak, that's what he is, and what Adise must see in him, standing in his cluttered sitting room in his dingy flat.

But instead of raising his hands and moving away, mumbling some non-committal parting words before running for his dear life, the man opposite him just grins broadly.

“Ah, here's the thing Seb told me about. Well, spot on Mr consulting detective. Except the last assumption. I think you are exactly what I'm looking for.”

“Seb?” Sherlock sinks onto the couch next to him without realising that he's moved. “You know Sebastian Wilkes?” He feels a bitter taste fill his mouth. (My friend, John Watson. - Colleague. - We all hated him.) He has to shake his head and balls his hands into fists, pressing them against his temples to make the voices go away.

Tentatively, Adise sinks onto his knees in front of him and places his large hands over Sherlock's white-knuckled fingers.

“Hey, I don't know him. I met him at some function where he boasted that he'd hired you. I remembered that after our night out. Sherlock Holmes, it's a pretty unusual name. Stuck in my head. So I called him yesterday and asked him about you. He's a complete tosser, but he told me a thing or two about you back at university...”

Sherlock closes his eyes and swallows.

“How could you hang out with a dumbass like him?” Adise's voice is warm as his thumbs stroke Sherlock's skin. “I'd thought you'd rather gnaw off your right arm...”

“I was high most of the time.” Sherlock realises a little too late what he's just said.

“Understandable.” Is all Adise says by way of comment. “Could you please look at me now?”

Sherlock reluctantly opens his eyes only to drown in Adise's deep brown ones. He's still holding Sherlock's hands, now resting onto his thighs.

“How about you have a shower, and then I take you out for lunch?”

“That's not a very good idea.” Sherlock replies weakly.

“Why not? Because you think fast and speak faster? I don't mind. Because you did drugs in uni? Who didn't?”

“Because I know what lunch implies and I'm really not available for... that.” Sherlock whispers as a deep blush flushes his thin face.

Adise sits back on his heels and crosses his arms in front of his broad chest. “If I'd wanted to hit on you, Sherlock, I'd done that when we went out. But I put you in a cab and send you home. Lunch means lunch.”

“You said you wanted to kiss me.”

“Yes, but I also realised that you didn't reciprocate.”

“But, then, why are you here?”

“Because I enjoyed talking to you. You are honest, smart, you speak your mind. I like that. I could tell you what else I like about you over lunch.”

Sherlock feels how his body relaxes a fraction despite his brain spinning, running scenarios, his thoughts jumping this way and that. Analysing, scrutinising, double checking, questioning.

STOP!

“Ok. Give me half an hour.” He eventually agrees.

“Fine. I'll pop down to that cafe and wait for you there, alright?”

Sherlock nods briefly before getting up and walking over to the bathroom.

----------

They have lunch.

It's nice.

They have dinner a few nights later.

It's fun.

They go running on Hampstead Heath on Sunday morning, Adise fetching Sherlock with his Aston Martin. Sherlock doesn't care for cars, but even he has to admit that this one is actually beautiful.

“Lets go to my place to freshen up, I live nearby.” Adise suggests after they've finished their five mile run, and Sherlock accepts without hesitation.

It's a large, old brick house with a yellow door, hanging baskets filled with bellflowers and a turret decked with grey slate shingles.

“You live here all alone?” Sherlock asks, somewhat impressed.

“You tell me.” Adise answers with a wink before letting them in.

The house is furnished simple but with taste. Sparse modern furniture, a few bright abstract paintings on the walls– originals, Sherlock presumes – gleaming wooden floors. Adise leads them upstairs where there's the master bedroom and an adjacent bathroom.

“You go first.” He says, taking fresh sweat pants and a t-shirt from one of the large cupboards. “Those should fit you. I'll be downstairs and get us something to drink.”

It's a walk-in shower and Sherlock takes his time, relishing the hot water washing over his body. His ribs are still a bit bruised, but he's much better. His eyebrow has healed as well. He's removed the sutures himself a few days back.

As he dries himself off, he walks over into the spacious bedroom. There's a chest of drawers between the two large windows overlooking the garden. On it sits a framed photograph of a man, approximately in his early thirties. He smiles, broad and happy, and there's intelligence in his look as well as gleeful anticipation. His hair is longer at the top of his head, matted into dreads, while the sides have been buzzed short. He has a ring through his nose and flesh tunnels piercing his earlobes.

Sherlock stares at him while he's getting dressed, feeling watched.

As he walks down into the kitchen, Adise leans against the counter, water bottle in hand. He opens a fridge the size of Sherlock's wardrobe and hands him another one, ice cold. It starts to fog over when Sherlock drowns it.

“You can have a look around while I'm in the shower.” Adise says before ascending the stairs.

Sherlock wanders the ground floor, from the kitchen into a sitting room overlooking the garden, through a dining room and into a study. It's tidy but feels lived in nonetheless. He browses the book shelves – economics, mathematics, history, art, political science, anthropology – before opening drawers at random. There are some photographs – snapshots of Adise and other men, taken in New York, New Orleans, San Francisco – but also the usual mess (paper-clips, pens, notebooks, reading glasses, postcards from acquaintances, invitations to events).

As he powers up the laptop, the screen lights up with the background picture of some tropic jungle. There are only the usual folders – bills, mails, trade, private, pics – and Sherlock opens private. There's a subfolder named 'dad', in which he finds correspondence with a care home. Another folder is labelled 'Kayode'. There are letters as well, to insurance companies and universities, a folder titled 'works', some others named 'Papua', 'Niger', 'Oman'.

“Anything interesting?” Adise asks, leaning in the door frame, water still glistening in his short black hair. But he grins as Sherlock's head jerks up.

“How long did you stay in the US?”

“Six years.”

“Did you return because your father's health deteriorated?”

“No, not exactly.” Adise seems intrigued by their little game.

“The photograph in your bedroom, is that Kayode?”

The smile on Adise's face turns sad.

“Yes, that's him.” He sighs

Sherlock tilts his head. “You have his picture framed and his works on your laptop. From your other partners you only kept the odd postcard or snapshot, so why is he important? He meant a lot to you, but he's not around anymore, hasn't been for a few years. The picture above is at least five years old. He seems to have travelled far and wide, to exotic places, and among your books are some on anthropology, a bit at odds with your usual reading habit. So, what happened to him?”

“He died.” Adise says.

“Ah, that explains the special place he has with you. But you don't feel guilty for his death. Was it an accident?” Sherlock asks curious.

Adise takes a deep breath. “He was an anthropologist with Oxford University. Got bitten by a snake while on a field study in Borneo. No antivenin was at hand. He died on the way to the nearest hospital.”

Sherlock frowns. “You seem rather calm talking about it. Was your relationship over by the time? Did he leave you for a colleague? Or did you leave him? No, then there would be guilty feelings on your part. He had an affair with someone else, and you accepted it.”

Adise looks back at Sherlock, not batting an eyelid. “He wasn't my boyfriend, Sherlock. He was my little brother.”

“Brother! There's always something.” Sherlock shakes his head and slams the laptop shut. “My condolences.” He adds stiffly.

Adise suddenly chuckles. “You are not really the sentimental type, are you.” It's not a question.

“Not exactly, no. Problem?”

Now it's Adise's turn to shake his head. “It's a relieve, actually. Anything else you like to know?”

“Your mother?”

“She couldn't get over the loss of her little boy. Died three weeks after him, heart attack. I had come over for my brother's funeral and decided to stay. My dad needed me. He's demented and requires constant care. I found a very pleasant facility for him. That was four years ago.”

“You left someone in the US.”

“My then boyfriend, Craig. He didn't want to come over here with me. It all happened too suddenly. That was my last serious relationship, by the way. Afterwards, there were only casual affairs. In case you wondered.”

“Why should I wonder?” Sherlock asks, perching on the side of Adise's desk, playing with a loose thread on the hem of the t-shirt he's wearing that's obviously a few numbers too large.

“No reason at all.” Adise says, looking intently at Sherlock. “Come on, let's get something to eat before I drive you home.”

----------

“What about your family?” Adise asks unexpectedly while they stroll through Regent's Park three days later. It's cold but sunny, so they'd decided to head out and over up Primrose Hill.

“I have an older brother, who's a pain in the arse. My mother and father live in the country and thankfully stay there most of the time. My father is a retired civil servant, and mother used to be a mathematician.”

“Interesting.”

“Hardly. They are dreadfully dull, both of them.”

Adise stays silent. Sherlock gives him a sideways glance. “What? Most people are a nuisance to me. My family is no exception.”

“Yet I'm glad you make exceptions.” Adise mumbles, shoving his hands deeper into his pockets.

“Me too.” Sherlock doesn't look his way, just stares into the distance ahead as they keep on walking.

----------

Of course, Mycroft can't stay out of it. He arrives late the next morning at 221b, dropping a manila folder onto the coffee table.

“Adise Obiye, 44, made millions at the gas exchange before retiring last year.”

“Don't you say?” Sherlock huffs out, annoyed, plugging at his violin while lounging in his chair.

“What is it about him?” Mycroft asks, sounding puzzled.

“What do you mean?” Sherlock arches an eyebrow as he continues to torture his instrument.

“He sounds fairly boring. You don't care about money. Yet you two have been meeting regularly for two weeks now. I wonder why.”

“It's none of your business.” Sherlock doesn't look up but his voice has an hard edge to it.

“What does John think about it?”

Sherlock sits up. “I don't know. You should ask him if you want his opinion on my private life.”

“Does he know?”

“Does he know what? Since when am I accountable to John for the choice of my friends.”

“Friends?” Mycroft say it like it leaves a bad taste in his mouth. “You don't do friends. You have just one.”

“Piss off, Mycroft.” Sherlock hisses and slams his bedroom door shut.

----------

“That's thorough. Who compiled it?” Adise asks upon his next visit when Sherlock drops the manila folder in his lap before setting two mugs of tea down on the coffee table.

“My brother. He's the thorough type.” Sherlock can't hide the vitriol creeping in his tone.

“He must be. He even dug up one-night stands from uni. I always wondered what became of Daniel. He had a rather spectacular...”

Sherlock's head snaps up and he snatches the folder from Adise's hands, skimming through the pages.

“... approach to vector geometry.” Adise deadpans.

Sherlock throws the folder back at him as he tries to hide behind a sofa cushion (the Union Jack pillow, Sherlock registers).

“Be careful. Next thing you know, he might kidnap and interrogate you. He did that with my last...” Sherlock falls suddenly silent.

“Your last what?” Adise asks tentatively.

Sherlock shakes his head as if that could dislodge the memories. “Never mind. Dinner? Let's order in. Thai? Chinese? Or we could go down to that new Turkish place...”

“Sherlock, you are babbling.”

Sherlock sighs, exasperated. “Just promise me to ignore my brother, ok?”

“Ok. Right up until he kidnaps me.”

Now it's the Union Jack pillow that has to serve as a projectile.

----------

They are about to go out clubbing the following Friday when Sherlock hears heavy footfall on the stairs. Adise is still putting away the remains of their meal into the fridge (“Don't open the crisper drawer! And don't touch anything on the upper shelf!”) while Sherlock is getting ready on the landing when John rounds the corner, ascending the last steps on unsure feet. He has been drinking.

“Sh-Sherlock.” John greets him, his bright spirits fuelled by at least four pints. “Where're ya goin'? Case?”

“Hello, John. I'm not taking cases yet.” Sherlock knows he sounds cold and stony but he can't help it.

“Then wha' 's tis?” John slurs the words slightly as he grabs the bannister to stop swaying.

“I'm going out.” Not we – I. Sherlock swallows, feeling like a coward.

“Nah, let's stay home, watch some telly...” John is making for the living room when Adise opens the door to the kitchen. John stops dead, one hand already reaching for the door knob.

“Good evening. You must be John.” Adise is not offering his hand as he leans in the door frame, arms folded over his chest, a wet kitchen towel thrown over his shoulder, shirt sleeves rolled up tattooed forearms. His eyes are darting from Sherlock to John and back to Sherlock, who has his coat pulled halfway on, the dark wool dangling like a dead weight from his left arm.

John slowly turns around, looking the taller man up and down, taking in the clothes, the tattoos, the colour of his skin and the natural attitude with which he occupies space in 221b.

“And who are you?” John asks, pulling himself visibly together.

Adise looks over John's shoulder right into Sherlock's eyes. “Would you be so kind as to introduce us, Sherlock?” He's put on his Oxbridge accent, and the crisp tone adds to the icy atmosphere.

“John, this is...,” Sherlock's mouth has suddenly gone dry “... Adise Obiye. Adise, this is Doctor John Watson, my former flatmate, who's apparently still in the possession of a key.”

John bristles a little, trapped in the middle between the two men.

“You didn't complain when I came by to buy you food and pick you up from the living room floor...” He suddenly sounds almost sober.

“Yes. Well.” Sherlock is about to go to pieces on his own staircase. He has to get of here. “We were about to leave. Make yourself at home, John, you can crash on the couch. I won't be back until dawn. There are left-overs in the fridge. Bye.” With that, Sherlock puts on his coat, turns, and almost runs down the stairs.

Adise follows after a few moments. Sherlock has already hailed a cab and sits in the font, his fingers thrumming on the empty seat next to him.

“That came as a bit of a shock to him.” Adise says after they've put some distance between them and Baker Street.

“He's just inebriated. He tends to get sentimental when drunk.” Sherlock stares out of the window, but his fingers are still twitching.

“Why would he get sentimental over an ex-flatmate?”

“Don't ask me.” Sherlock spits out and Adise decides to stay quiet for the rest of the ride.

----------

When Sherlock returns around six in the morning, sweaty but still buzzing with energy, the flat is empty, yet somebody obviously had sat on the couch. The bottle of Laphroaig Sherlock keeps for emergencies is empty as well, sitting on the coffee table next to a dirty glass. It has left rings on the dark wood. When John had lived here, he had insisted on coasters, Sherlock thinks, before stepping into the shower to wash the remnants of the night away.

----------

John comes by the next day, this time in the early afternoon. He knocks before entering the living room where Sherlock sits at his desk and reads his emails, just wrapped in a sheet.

“I thought you weren't taking cases yet?” John's face has turned a little pink, but that can be attributed to the stairs.

“Thinking about returning to work. I need something to do.”

John lets his gaze wander over the familiar clutter accumulated on every surface. “Well, is your new friend not entertaining enough anymore. Have you become bored that fast?”

Sherlock turns and looks at John. He dressed with care, put something in his hair, wears a hint of aftershave and his date shoes.

“You should know how important my work is to me.” Sherlock says slowly.

“Oh yes, I know.” Does John sound bitter? Why would he sound bitter? Apparently, the thrill of the work has been what kept him by Sherlock's side all those years and even made him return after his marriage. “I just thought... well, you are going clubbing now. With millionaires. Did he invite you on his yacht yet? Paraded you around among his other rich friends like some kind of trophy, showing off the eccentric asset he's acquired?”

“Adise doesn't own a yacht.” Sherlock states, somewhat confused.

“I was speaking figuratively.” John snaps, sitting down into his old armchair.

“Why is everyone suddenly concerned about me meeting... someone?” Sherlock erupts, throwing his hands in the air. The sheet parts over his chest, revealing one pale bony shoulder.

“Because you didn't do that when...” John falls silent. “Back then.” He stares at Sherlock's white skin,marred with a dark scar just visible on his shoulder joint.

“You've lived here... how long? Eighteen months? A few years back. And yet you assume to know me, what I do and don't do?” Sherlock is getting angry. John's behaviour doesn't make sense. And it's rather tiresome.

“I'm just worried.” John says. “You are not exactly... he might take advantage. Of you.”

Sherlock barks out a laugh. “Oh, that's what this is about. I can assure you, I'm perfectly capable of defending my honour. Besides, I'm not a blushing virgin, regardless what my brother professes.” The sheet falls from his other shoulder as well, pooling low around Sherlock's waist.

“Just be careful, ok?” It's John who's blushing know. “He looked pretty frightening to me.”

“Why? Because he's tall and fit and tattooed? Or because he's black? Do you experience some sort of ethnic inferiority complex? Penis envy, competing with the allegedly well-endowed black man?”

Hearing those words from Sherlock make John's ears go bright red. A tiny part of Sherlock revels in his embarrassment.

“How would I know how well-endowed he is!” John shouts, getting up again and balling his fists, staring at the white cotton that doesn't hide much from his view, remembering a moment all those years ago at Buckingham Palace.

Sherlock goes very still.

“Me neither.” He says.

They stare at each other, and there's a void opening up between them until John suddenly turns and makes for the door. He drops his set of keys on the coffee table as he walks past and leaves without another word. Sherlock holds his breath until he can hear the front door close.

----------

When he next talks to Adise, Sherlock's in Newcastle, investigating the strange death of Helen Stoner's sister. He takes the call while on a stakeout in her house, sitting in darkness, waiting for the murderer to make his move. He already knows it's the stepfather, but he needs proof for his client and wants to find out how he did it for himself, to satisfy his curiosity. Yet he might have to wait for hours still, so he takes Adise's call.

“Hey, Sherlock. Where are you?”

“Newcastle.”

“Newcastle?” There's a smile in Adise's voice. “What the hell are you doing in Newcastle?”

“A case came up.”

“Ah... of course...” There's a short silence. “Then I'll have to give your ticket to someone else, I guess.”

“My ticket?” Sherlock is confused.

“We were going to watch Klitschko against Joshua at Wembley.”

“Oh.” The fight. Sherlock remembers now. “Was that today?”

“Yeah. But never mind. I know, your work... it's good you started working again. Just call me when you're back in London.”

They hang up after Sherlock promised.

----------

Back in London, he tells Adise all about Grimsby Roylott, but leaves out the part a venomous snake has played, and instead invents some other poison. Adise in return teases him about the fight he's missed, describing Joshua's victory in all its glorious detail until Sherlock solemnly swears to accompany him next time.

“You know, you taking up your work again somehow inspired me.” Adise adds over dessert.

“Please don't tell me you want to chronicle my cases.” Sherlock sighs.

Adise grins. “No way. But I think I found a field to apply my talents and funds as well. Micro-financing.”

Sherlock arches an eyebrow and nods. “That seems to be a good idea.”

“I'm getting involved with the Micro Loan Foundation right now. They have pretty good concepts for Africa, especially in Somalia and South Sudan, where the failure of state makes normal banking almost impossible...” His eyes shine bright as he starts to outline his plans to Sherlock, who listens with interest.

“it's just a small contribution but it might have some impact. Change something for the better.”

Sherlock thinks about Mycroft and wishes his brother would use his not insubstantial powers to achieve something like this as well.

----------

To make up for the missed boxing match, Adise invites Sherlock to go to Cornwall with him over the next weekend. It's just March, but the weather promises to be sunny. They drive down Friday afternoon, and as they pass Dartmoor Sherlock remembers the Baskerville case and starts telling Adise about it – at least what he's allowed to disclose without him having signed the Officials Secrets Act. He doesn't mention the inn he stayed at with John, nor him wandering the moor all night to avoid sleeping in the same room yet not the same bed as John Watson.

Something stirs low in his belly as he remembers. Excitement? Anticipation? He has no idea what arrangements Adise has made for their stay, he just knows that they go somewhere by the sea, to a small village called Portmellon.

They stop in the small town to retrieve a key for a cabin from the tourist office and to do some shopping. In the only supermarket the few other customers and the woman manning the cashier stare openly and a little hostile at the tall black man who ignores the looks and fills the shopping basket with wine and bread and cheese and pasta.

Sherlock feels a tingle between his shoulder blades as the hair on his arms stands on end. He takes the basket and slips his free hand into Adise's left, entwining their fingers. Adise looks down on his dark skin wrapped around Sherlock's alabaster white hand and grins, tugging him along towards the vegetable, filling their basket with gherkin, egg plant and corncobs until Sherlock's ears burn but he can't suppress a smirk. He lets only go of Adise's hand when they have to pay, taking his time putting their purchase into plastic bags.

“That'll be delicious” He breathes softly just before they leave the shop, leaning in close to press his lips against Adise's stubbly jaw. He can hear glass shatter somewhere and swings his hips enticingly as he walks outside while Adise holds the door open for him. They laugh in the car the whole short drive over to the cabin, that turns out to be a spacious house outside the village, overlooking a white sandy beach.

“It's horrible. Have you seen their looks?” Sherlock huffs between giggles.

“All my life, Sherlock.” Adise smiles, but there's something underneath, a tired detachment that makes the laughter die in Sherlock's throat.

“I could plan their murder. We would get away with it.” He offers.

“I'm chuffed, but you can't kill them all.”

“I could try.”

Adise shakes his head, smiling again, his elbow resting on the open window, only one hand on the steering wheel. His pink shirt is open at his neck, revealing a bit of his chest, and Sherlock suddenly desperately wants to know how he tastes if he licked his suprasternal notch.

The house is bright and airy, all white wood and pale pastel colours. They put the shopping into the fridge and have a look around. There's a large bedroom upstairs with a panorama window overlooking the beach. Just one large bed stands beneath it. Both men decidedly don't comment on the sleeping arrangements as they drop their bags on the mattress.

“Lets go down to the beach.” Adise suggest, pulling on a thick sweater. Sherlock is wearing his Belstaff and just turns up his collar.

They stroll along the waterline in silence, the wind tousling Sherlock's curls, and no one knows who took the other's hand but they don't let go for the whole walk, entwining their bare fingers despite the sharp breeze.

Eventually, they return back to the house. Sherlock is pink-cheeked and Adise's lips and nose are cold as he nuzzles against Sherlock's neck, brushes his cheek. Sherlock turns a little, and suddenly, they are kissing, soft at first, but growing more and more urgent until Sherlock moans softly and Adise says a little breathless: “Come upstairs.”

----------

Sherlock is naked, fisting the sheets, while Adise has two fingers inside him and his right fist wrapped around his cock, thankfully sheathed in latex. Otherwise, Sherlock would have come by now (he'd frowned when Adise had retrieved lube and condoms from his bag but had said nothing. Now the supplies prove their worth).

Sherlock writhes and moans, pushing up into the tight channel of Adise's fist before grinding down on his fingers up his arse. Adise's fingertips brush over his prostate and Sherlock almost arches off the mattress.

“God, you are lovely.” Adise whispers against Sherlock's sweaty temple before kissing him, hard and deep. He moves down Sherlock's pale chest, sucking at his left nipple, kneeling between Sherlock's spread legs. Sherlock pushes up on his elbows and looks down, watching Adise's dark hand move on his rosy cock while touching him deep inside, his strong body a stark contrast to Sherlock's lithe white limbs. Adise's muscles shift and tighten beneath his skin, glistening with sweat.

“Fuck me.” Sherlock sighs, sinking back down into the pillows.

“I really don't want to brag, but you are in no way ready to receive me, Sherlock.” Adise chuckles, pushing his fingers in once again, making Sherlock beg and shiver even more.

Sherlock floats. “Don't underestimate my determination.” He whispers, clenching around Adise's fingers, reaching for his thick cock. He's barely able to wrap his large hand around it.

Sherlock is stronger than he looks and knows a judo throw or two. When he sits up and wraps himself around Adise's body, his lover doesn't stand a chance. His fingers slip out of Sherlock's arse when he has him on his back and towers over him, bracketing him.

Adise grins up at him. “Smooth.”

Sherlock smirks, grabbing the root of Adise's cock, kneeling over him with his legs spread wide.

“Don't...” Adise protests, but it's half-hearted at best.

Sherlock sits back onto his heels, his free hand scrabbling for the condom wrappers. When he finds one he tears it with his teeth. The taste of the lubricant is disgusting and he pulls a face which has Adise grab his thighs.

“Careful. Don't rush it.” He breaths in surrender.

Sherlock rolls the condom onto Adise without looking and lines himself up, taking a deep breath before sinking down. The pain almost blinds him as the fat cock breaches him, but he doesn't stop. When his arsecheeks make contact with Adise's thighs, he's trembling, sweat dripping into his eyes, but then Adise moans and thickens inside him, and Sherlock falls forward, resting his forehead just above his heart beating heavily in his broad chest. He can see where they are joined, and reaches back to feel his stretched rim. Adise pulses again under the touch, and when Sherlock rocks his hips tentatively, they both sigh with pleasure.

It's not perfect. Sherlock can't even move much or bob up and down; Adise is just too big, but he clenches his tight rim, spasming, and that's apparently enough to drive Adise over the edge with a sharp yell. Sherlock stays crouched on top of him and would have remained there for the rest of the night if Adise hadn't shifted at some point, pulling out, tying of the filled condom and dropping it to the floor beside the bed.

Adise carefully lowers Sherlock onto his side, takes him in his arms and strokes his hair and shoulders, murmuring sweet praise into his sweaty nape until Sherlock falls asleep, aching but content.

Sherlock is woken next morning by a hand around his cock and a hard shaft nudging his sore cleft. He hurts all over, from his tense shoulders down to his clenched toes, but he doesn't brush the hand fondling him away. Instead he lies very still, feigning sleep.

Until Adise bites the junction of his neck and shoulder and it's just this side of painfully arousing. Sherlock's whole body jerks forward, and he squirms in the large black fist gripping his cock.

“Good morning.” A deep voice rumbles behind him, hot breath ghosting over his exposed throat.

The nudge between his arsecheeks becomes more insistent.

Sherlock low-key panics.

“I can't, possibly... again, just now.” He whispers, mortified, and closes his eyes as he anticipates being kicked out of their rumpled bed or being abandoned there alone.

And as if on cue, Adise pulls back. But instead of anger there's concern in his tone. “I wasn't going to... Jesus, I know it must hurt. I warned you, remember?”

Sherlock half-turns to look at him over his shoulder. The large hand on his cock has stilled and just holds him now. Despite the ache searing through his body, Sherlock is rock-hard. He didn't come last night, it had all been too much, but now he suddenly wants... he needs...

He doesn't know what he wants or needs and it's driving him insane.

“Please...” he huffs, and it's a bit embarrassing how desperate he sounds, but Adise seems turned on by his wordless plea. He moves his hand again, more tender now, and Sherlock arches up into the touch until a low moan is wrought from his throat.

It doesn't take long afterwards until he shudders to completion, shooting come all over his quivering abdomen and up his chest, coating Adise's blunt dark fingers with his pearly-white fluids.

“That was the hottest thing I ever saw.” Adise murmurs as they just lie there, afterwards, panting, until Sherlock remembers Adise's hard cock, leaking against his thigh.

He first wraps his fingers around it in reciprocation, but that doesn't feel enough. He wants to taste, to lick and suck, and therefore clambers between Adise's strong thighs and nuzzles his nose into the coarse black curls there, looking up at the man beneath him from under his lashes.

Instead of giving in, however, Adise threads his fingers through Sherlock's dishevelled curls and pulls him an inch away from the mouthwatering object of his desire.

“Condom.” He says, pressing another blister into Sherlock's hand. Sherlock shudders, remembering the taste from last night. He's always hated it.

“I won't let you suck my cock without one.” Adise states, and no matter how doped his brain might be with oxytocin, he means it. Sherlock has no choice but t roll it on – but he uses his lips as a tease and would have grinned as Adise's eyes rolled back in his head if that had been possible.

Only, he's prevented from displaying his mirth by the largest cock he's ever encountered. He has to stretch his lips obscenely wide to be able to swallow him down, and can't manage more than half of it, but Adise doesn't seem to mind. He holds himself very still as to not choke Sherlock, who claws to his hips, his alabaster hands a beautiful contrast to the dark skin he's caressing with his lips and fingers.

Despite the condom, Adise tries to warn him and pulls at his curls, but Sherlock keeps his mouth fastened around the glans as he sucks even harder. He's been drooling, his mouth stuffed full of cock, and Adise swipes his thump through the saliva on his chin while Sherlock's head bobs and his throat tightens.

“God...” Adise sighs. “Your mouth should be illegal.”

Sherlock licks his lips once again as he eventually releases Adise with a wet slurp, resting his burning cheek on one muscular thigh while he rolls off the condom. Adise moves and pulls him up before he could do something really stupid, kissing him deep and insistent until they are both kind of dazed and slip into a relaxed slumber once again.

Sherlock wakes with his head resting against Adise's chest, the short black curls there tickling the tip of his nose.

“Hey, gorgeous.”

Sherlock just shuffles closer and sighs, wrapping his long limbs around the solid body next to him.

“Don't you ever eat? I could murder for breakfast. Just imagine, eggs, and toast, jam, honey...”

Sherlock's traitorous body betrays him as his stomach rumbles audibly.

“Just a minute...,” he mumbles sleepily, tracing the outline of a tattooed rose on Adise's pectorals right above his heart.

“It stands for Ododo, my mother's name. It means flower.” Adise explains.

“Oh.” Sherlock says, moving his index finger to touch another pattern on Adise's skin, an intertwined design of twisted lines surrounding his biceps-

“Don't touch that.” Adise says, patting Sherlock's hand away. “It's a symbol protecting me against the evil eye.” But when Sherlock's finger recoils, Adise laughs. “Just kidding, Whitey. It's just something I thought looked cool.”

Sherlock grunts and swats a pillow into Adise's face before resuming his rightful place on the man's broad chest.

He can feel Adise's fingers stroke his back and suddenly remembers, trying to pull the sheet back up to cover the traces of what happened to him during the time he was dead. How he'd wished he'd been, sometimes...

“It's ok.” Adise says, a low rumble that Sherlock more feels than hears over his blood roaring in his ears. “I'll show you mine some day. Got a lovely knife scar just above my left kidney from a street fight when I was a teenager.”

“I thought you went to boarding school.” Sherlock's voice is too high and thin but he's grateful for the chance to opt out.

“I came home during the holidays. Hackney was gangland back then. I wanted to belong.” He shrugs as best he can with Sherlock wrapped around him.

Sherlock grabs him tighter. “Me too.” He admits.

Adise pulls the sheet back up over them both and they stay like this a little while longer, warm and save. Together.

----------

They eat breakfast in their sunny kitchen. Adise did scrambled eggs and toast while Sherlock showered. Now he sips sweat tea and gazes out over the beach.

“Let's go for a swim.” Adise suggests, and Sherlock agrees, despite the chilly weather outside and not having brought his trunks.

They return fifteen minutes later, freezing, Sherlock's lips turned blue while Adise is covered in goose flesh; but both giggling like mad. Adise just runs towards the shower, staying inside it for nearly a quarter of an hour while Sherlock puts the kettle on. They huddle against one another under a blanket on the sofa afterwards, cuddling, laughing, kissing.

----------

Surprisingly, the fine weather holds, and they can go for a stroll through the sandy dunes surrounding their cottage in the afternoon. Sherlock has left the Belstaff and is just wearing one of Adise's thick woollen jumpers, and if that makes him feel good he doesn't dwell on it too much. They meet very few people walking their dogs, and while they smile when Sherlock bows to pet them or nod a greeting in his direction, they eye Adise with disapproval.

Eventually, Sherlock has enough and decides to lie in a sheltered spot below the crest of a large dune, his pale skin quickly reddening from the sun. Already freckles start to show on the ridge of his prominent nose. After some time, he sits up on his elbows and squints at Adise.

“How do you cope with it?” he asks.

“With what?”

Adise sits down beside him, frowning.

“The people... how they react to you... looking at you...?” Sherlock suddenly feels uncharacteristically at a loss for words.

“Why don't you say it?”

“Say what?” Sherlock pushes a curl out of his eyes. The wind is freshening up.

“It has a name Sherlock. It's called racism. Prejudice. I've experienced it all my life. Now, if people don't outright shout abuse at me or threaten me with violence, I choose to ignore it. I won't give them the satisfaction to get angry. Not anymore.”

Sherlock huffs in indignation. “You let them get away with it.”

“Maybe. But I can't live my life in anger. Hatred poisons you in the end, seeping into every corner of your life. I don't want that.”

“I don't think I'll ever reach your level of serenity.” Sherlock bites out, fiercely, before grabbing Adise's thick seamen's sweater and pulling him in for a kiss.

“My knight in shining armour.” Adise grins, kissing him back.

Sherlock learns this afternoon that sand has the unpleasant capacity to trickle into every available orifice of his body, causing severe chafing.

----------

Back in London, both Mrs Hudson and Molly comment on his healthy complexion. It soon pales, however, as Lestrade presents him with a rather fierce abduction case. A young boy has been kidnapped from his school. It turns exceptionally nasty when a teacher comes under suspicion. Despite Sherlock telling everyone that he's innocent, the poor man sees no other escape but to hang himself in a classroom.

That the boy is found save is just a minor consolation, as the villain was his half-brother, who plummets to his death during the rescue of his victim. Another family left shattered.

Sherlock doesn't sleep or eat during this case. He knows that it gets to him more than other cases, but he has no time to think too much about it during the investigation. He even has to leave London, as the boy's school is located in Surrey. He feels tired and lonely upon his return, despite having solved the case.

But no one's been there to compliment him, to witness his deductions, to cheer him on, calm him down, feed him and admonish him to rest or not to insult the kidnapped boy's father or classmates.

He's both glad and annoyed when Adise picks him up at the station and takes him to Hampstead. He falls asleep on the couch while Adise prepares their dinner.

When he wakes, the sun is just rising. A blanket has been thrown over him, and there's a glass of water with some Aspirin beside it on the coffee table. Sherlock thankfully drowns it. But he feels grubby, so he walks upstairs, through the bedroom where Adise is snoring, and takes a long hot shower, only to climb into bed, still damp and naked, afterwards.

“Better?” Adise asks, his voice rough with sleep.

“I didn't mean to wake you.” Sherlock excuses himself, surprised that those are the first words tumbling out of his mouth.

“Never mind. What time is it?”

“Six-ish...”

Adise groans and throws one arm over his face. Sherlock moves closer.

After a while, Adise asks: “So, you found the boy?”

“Yes.” Sherlock's voice is tense. He doesn't want to talk about it, not now, not here.

“I imagine it's always worse when kids are involved.”

Sherlock just swallows.

“When was the last time you saw your god-daughter?” Adise murmurs.

Sherlock feels adrift.

“What does Rosie have to do with this?” He snaps.

They both lie silent, staring at the ceiling, until Sherlock says: “Not once after Mary... got shot.”

He's told Adise a little about it, Mary, John, Rosie. Just the basics, what happened. He never mentioned the complicated web of feelings, blame and sorrow surrounding all four of them, tying them to one another even beyond death.

“Do you know why?” Adise sounds carefully neutral.

“Because I haven't seen much of her father as well.” It's true. Nowadays, John just calls from time to time. He visits Mrs Hudson, though, but only when Sherlock is out. He brings Rosie to see her as well.

To Sherlock's surprise, admitting not seeing Rosie hurts more than admitting not seeing John.

Adise turns and looks right at him: “Is that my fault?”

“Don't be absurd. If anyone's, it's my fault, though I doubt that's the right term to use.” Sherlock sighs, turning on his side as well. “John doesn't trust me. And I can't blame him.” A bleak sadness fills his chest.

“Why?” Adise sounds suddenly angry. “You are clean now. Nothing that happened was your fault.”

“I jumped off a building in front of him and played dead for two years. I've come to learn that friends don't do such things to one another.”

“It seems to me you paid for that.” Adise says much softer, touching Sherlock's cheek.

“His wife died when she accompanied me... Do you really think he would trust me with his daughter?” There's a lump in Sherlock's throat and he has to blink rapidly.

“He did choose you as Rosie's godfather. He knew what he was doing. He knew you. And yet...”

“Why do you care? It's none of your business!” Sherlock erupts, throwing back the sheets and starts to get up again, turning his back to Adise.

“Because I love you and I don't want to see you suffer.” Adise says, sitting up as well.

Sherlock freezes. He's never expected to hear those words directed at himself, and surely not sitting naked and hungry and worn out on the edge of a mattress in a villa in Hampstead at six in the morning on a Wednesday in April.

Adise's touch to his back pulls him out of his reverie. “I hate what all those people did to you. How they hurt you. How you are hurting yourself over and over.”

Sherlock chokes, pressing his fist against his mouth.

“I want you, so much. I want to be with you.” Then Adise's touch is gone. The mattress dips as he gets up and leaves Sherlock alone, giving him room and the privacy he needs to deal with the emotional onslaught.

---------

Sherlock calls John after breakfast. They arrange to meet the following Sunday in Hyde Park, taking Rosie to the playground there. She loves it! She's too small yet to climb the pirate ship (Sherlock makes a note to himself to take her again when she's older) but she sits happily in the sand nearby, playing with her shovel, baking cakes in her mould and offering them to both men who crouch next to her. It's a little awkward, at first, but they all soon unbend as other children start to get interested in Rosie's bakery. Sherlock gets some tea for himself and John and an ice-cream for Rosie that ends up coated with sand and mostly smeared all over her t-shirt and face, but it doesn't matter.

He and John retreat after a while to sit on a bench (a sandpit is apparently murder on the knees), watching Rosie play and babble happily. John only has to intervene from time to time when the little girl starts to eat her cakes for real or throws sand after an older boy who took her shovel without permission.

Sherlock smiles, whispering encouragement to Rosie while her father makes excuses on her behalf to the peeved mother of the little thief.

“Don't let them get away with it, darling.” Sherlock says under his breath while picking her up and sitting her on his hip before handing her to John, who smirks at him over his daughter's shoulder, mouthing 'fucking bully'.

They leave soon afterwards, John pushing Rosie's pram through the park. The little girl falls asleep almost imediatley.

“You look well.” John says after a while.

“Thank you. You too.”

They walk in silence for a little while, but it's not awkward anymore. It's almost companionable.

“I read about the abduction case you solved. Good work.”

“I missed your input.” Sherlock admits.

John looks at him, shrugging a little as if sorry.

“I can't do that anymore. Not with Rosie.”

“No need to apologise. I understand.” And he truly does. “I just want you to know that I still value... your assistance.”

John stops and looks at Sherlock. He has to squint a little because of the sun, yet Sherlock can see that his eyes are very blue and his hair shimmers almost golden.

“That is very kind of you to say.” John says eventually, nodding once, breaking the spell. “We should make this into a regular date. Rosie enjoyed herself very much. And me too.” He starts walking again and Sherlock falls into step next to him.

“I can't promise that.” He answers truthfully. “The cases... you know. My lifestyle is rather unpredictable.”

John huffs a small laugh. It almost sounds regretful.

“I've heard about your boyfriend.” John doesn't look at him but doesn't stumble over the word either.

“Boyfriend?” Sherlock has to clear his throat. His cheeks go pink.

“Well, what do you call him?” John asks, totally at ease.

Sherlock has to think about that.

----------

“How was it?” Adise asks over dinner that evening.

“He called you my boyfriend.” Sherlock blurts out, staring down into his pasta.

“Did he?” Adise sounds amused. “What's wrong with that?”

This is thin ice, uncharted territory.

“We are not fifteen anymore.” Sherlock looks up now, uncertain.

“What would you prefer? Partner? Lover? Friend? Fling?”

“I... don't know. This is all very confusing.” He picks at his bread.

“Marry me, then you can call me husband.”

Sherlock almost chokes on his penne. But the thought sticks.

--------

John is somewhat mortified when Sherlock shows up early one Summer morning at the surgery, demanding a blood test.

“Why? I mean, you don't have to prove to me that you are clean. I can see that.”

“That's a good idea, screen for drugs as well.”

“As well? What am I to screen for in the first place?” John's eyebrows hit his hairline as he pulls on latex gloves.

“STD's.” Sherlock snaps, a crimson flush creeping up his neck.

The kidney dish John's been holding clatters to the floor.

“What?”

“Please, don't make me repeat myself. This is as embarrassing to me as it is to you. But I can't imagine walking into a hospital, asking a stranger. Or Molly, for that part.”

“No! Definitely not Molly.” John agrees emphatically.

Sherlock quickly unbuttons his cuff and rolls up his sleeve. Faint track marks are still visible on his pale skin – and always will be – but they are old and scarred by now. Yet John is somewhat shocked how professionally Sherlock puts on the tourniquet and balls his hand into a fist. As John sinks the needle into a protruding vein he wishes for a split second to touch Sherlock's skin without a sheath of latex in between.

He concentrates as Sherlock's red, warm blood fills the syringe and desperately tries not to remember the last times he saw him bleed.

“I'll email you the results asap.” John mumbles.

“That would be very much appreciated.” Sherlock says aloof, already buttoning his cuff again.

“What am I to do if they... you know...?” John is at a loss for words.

Sherlock doesn't bat an eyelid. “Just email me the results. Thank you.”

He leaves immediately, not staying to exchange even the briefest small talk.

John is grateful. He has to sit down behind his desk and take in what just happened. What it means. It means Sherlock Holmes is having sexual intercourse. Regularly. With someone he trusts enough to do it unprotected.

What shocks him even more is that Sherlock didn't deny the possibility of his test results to come back... positive. The implications make John rest his head in his hands.

He's been such a bloody fool!

--------

Molly has to comfort a crying Mrs Hudson when Sherlock, John, Greg, Billy and even Mike Stamford pack his belongings into crates. How can a single man hoard so much stuff!

John smiles at a few pieces he recognises as remnants from old cases – the riding crop (don't dwell too much on why Sherlock is taking it with him), the ashtray from Buckingham Palace (Sherlock had kept it when John moved in with Mary, he's the smoker after all), even a mended Thatcher bust Sherlock seems to use as a door stopper.

It's Autumn, and Sherlock has decided to move to Hampstead. It's just sensible. The house is so much bigger than his flat, and much better equipped. There's a cellar in which he conducts his experiments – safely. He hadn't been at Baker Street much anyway over the last few months. It's just ridiculous to keep two separate homes in central London.

Sherlock is sure Mrs Hudson will love pampering Harry and her new girlfriend. Perhaps she might get married one's soon as well, to compete with Mrs Turner. She just has to get used to her new tenants. John will still come over regularly, now that Rosie's aunt lives at 221b Baker Street.

Before finally leaving, Sherlock walks through the empty rooms after everything has been packed up and carried into the van waiting outside. He's not sentimental. This was just a rented flat, after all. He's just making sure he hasn't left something behind. He has no idea why his chest suddenly aches. Must be all the dust stirred up, floating in the air.

There, in a creak between wall and skirting board where the couch used to stand, the edge of a photograph is barely visible. He crouches down and retrieves it, smoothing it between his fingers. It's an old pic, cut from a newspaper, of him standing next to John. It must have been taken when he was honoured for finding the Reichenbach painting.

They both look so young. Untouched by disaster. It had been so much fun back then. The very best of times.

When John coughs behind him Sherlock almost jumps.

“We are waiting for you. Ready?” John asks, but there's a quiet sadness in his eyes, a hint of something like remorse.

“Me... yeah... yes. Sure. Let's go.” Sherlock straightens and walks towards the door, for the last time descending the seventeen steps. The newspaper clipping sits safely in the back pocket of his rather tight jeans. John allows his gaze to linger there a moment before pulling the living room door shut behind them.

---------

The next day, Adise and Sherlock have their first real fight. It erupts around Sherlock's stuff – the skull, the books, the... things he keeps – but they both know it's not about any of these. It's about adjusting to a new life. Apparently, shouting at each other doesn't help much with the process.

In the end, Adise goes for the first of many long runs over Hampstead Heath while Sherlock explodes something in the kitchen – their kitchen, now, as he reminds himself to quiet his guilty conscience.

After rather spectacular make-up sex – also the first of many to come – they call in delivery for dinner, eating it from Sherlock's disarray of dishes.

The next morning, Adise makes an appointment with his lawyer, to put half the house's deed in Sherlock's name.

----------

John is woken late on an icy December night by his buzzing mobile. He doesn't recognise the number but takes the call anyway, out of deep ingrained habit.

“Doctor John Watson?” A female voice asks. There's noise in the background, sirens, some rattling.

“Yeah...” He huffs, yawning.

“Nurse Hopkins, St. Mary's hospital, speaking. You are listed as the emergency contact of a Mr Sherlock Holmes...”

John is suddenly wide awake.

“Yes, of course.” He sits up, already one foot on the cold floor. “What happened?”

“There's been... an accident. Could you please come as soon as possible.”

“Yeah, I'm on my way. His blood group is A+. He's allergic to penicillin, and don't put him on opiates if it's not strictly necessary...”

“You better hurry.” Is all the nurse says before hanging up.

John leaves Rosie with his sister and Mrs Hudson, dropping the drowsy toddler off at Baker Street on his way to Paddington. Only after he'd pressed his crying daughter into his sister's arms does it occur to him that maybe something is not quite right here.

Getting back into the waiting cab, John calls Adise. The man is almost as tired as John has been when answering his mobile a quarter of an hour earlier.

“Yeah?”

John swallows. “It's John Watson.” Silence. “I think there's been an accident. Sherlock's in hospital.”

“What? Where?” The voice on the other side sounds suddenly alert.

“St. Mary's hospital...”

“I'll be right there.” The line goes dead before John can say anything else.

They bump into each other in the hospital foyer, two men who apparently dressed in a hurry, unshaven, John with cow-licks to his hair and Adise sporting miss-matched socks and sweat pants.

“What the bloody hell...” Adise curses under his breath. He looks sick with worry. John just shrugs in reply. He's done this much too often.

Together, they run over to the counter.

“Sherlock Holmes?” John asks, out of breath. The nurse on duty looks up at them both and frowns.

“And you are?”

“Doctor John H. Watson. I'm listed as his emergency contact.” John can sense the man next to him take a step back. “Apparently, this must be a mistake. Or your information is out of date.” He takes a deep breath. “I've just been his flatmate. This is his husband. If you please let him through and tell him what's happened.”

The nurse gazes from John to Adise. “What's your name?”

“Adise Obiye.”

“Just a moment, please.” She takes up the phone and places a call, shoving a clip board with a blank form strapped to it at Adise.

“You have to fill this out.” John explains.

They sit down in a corner while Adise fills in the required information. Suddenly, another nurse appears.

“Mr Obiye. If you'd please follow me?”

Adise hands her the clip board and gets up, turning around just before he marches through the electric doors that close off the ICU. He mouths 'Thank you' into John's direction, who forms a receiver with thumb and pinkie to indicate 'call me'.

John stays seated for a few more moments, watching the comings and goings in the hospital foyer: anxious parents, a heavily pregnant woman, nurses making their way to other wards, determined yet not in a hurry, a man in a wheelchair, dozing.

It takes him a while to accept that he's not needed here anymore. That he can go and fetch his daughter and return to his house in Acton and his peaceful life with Rosie. That there's someone else now who'll take care of Sherlock, who'll lie awake at night, waiting for a phone call, a key in the lock, steps on the stairs. It's not his vigil, not his responsibility anymore.

He's not sure if he likes the change.

----------

Sherlock's been stabbed in the abdomen by a thug he pursued in Kilburn. No vital organs have been damaged, but he has lost a lot of blood. Adise learns this from a young doctor, too tired to spare more than a glance at the paperwork he's handed over from the nurse.

Sherlock's still in theatre, but Adise will be informed of the outcome of his husband's surgery as soon as they know more.

Adise just blinks at this. He feels numb, shocked. He knew Sherlock had a dangerous job, but never would he have thought that actually something life-threatening could happen to him. He sits on a hard plastic chair in a windowless waiting room, watching the clock on the wall creep slowly forward, and dwells on the unfairness of it all.

It takes over an hour before the door opens and a man walks in. He doesn't wear a white coat, but instead has an umbrella dangling from his arm. Another relative, maybe, waiting for another loved one?

But instead of choosing a chair as far away as possible, as any proper English man would do under these circumstances, the man sits down next to him and hands him a plastic cup filled with an indistinguishable hot beverage before retrieving a Mars bar from the pocket of his impeccable suit jacket.

“Caffeine and sugar. Believe me, you'll need it.”

Adise takes both automatically. “Thank you.” He takes a sip and it just tastes hot.

“I'm Mycroft Holmes.” No hand is offered. The man eyes him like a hawk down his long nose. “I hear you are my brother-in-law.”

“Not yet.” Adise replies, gulping down what is apparently coffee.

Mycroft gazes down at his polished shoes. “But you have serious intentions regarding my little brother.” It's not a question.

“If the bloody idiot survives tonight, I certainly have.” Adise says and is surprised by the vigorous sincerity in his tone.

Mycroft sighs. “I'll only say this once. If you'll harm my brother in any way, no one will find your body.”

Adise is tired and anxious, and getting threatened by this posh stranger in the middle of the night in a nondescript hospital waiting room gets to him. He feels white, hot anger well up inside him. “You think this is the right moment to tell me that? Did you give this talk to John Watson as well, or is it reserved for ethnic moniroties?” He gets up and walks over to the far wall, just to get some distance between himself and Sherlock's brother.

“Do you really think me so petty?” Mycroft asks, thrumming his fingers against his umbrella handle.

“I don't know! I don't know you!”

“Then let me assure you that not warning John Watson properly off has been a cause of great distress to me over the last years.” Mycroft looks Adise straight in the eye, grinding the tip of his umbrella into the beige linoleum at their feet.

Adise feels himself falter a little. He'd always assumed... something, but then thought he might have been biased. Getting proof for his worst assumptions knocks all the fight out of him.

“Yet I believe that Doctor Watson has been punished enough.” Mycroft says rather grimly. Adise just shrugs. His head is spinning.

“Are you going to eat that?” Mycroft asks next, indicating at the chocolate bar Adise still clutches in his fist.

“I... no.”

“Than maybe I might have it?” Mycroft extends his hand and Adise carefully places the Mars bar in his palm like an offering.

They wait in silence side by side for two hours more until another tired looking doctor tells them that Sherlock will pull through and that they can now go see him.

“Just give him my regards.” Mycroft says, taking his leave.

“But won't you...?” Adise is too exhausted to finish his sentence, just gestures towards the door of Sherlock's private room.

“I would, very much really. But I doubt he wants to.” Mycroft offers his hand. It's cool and surprisingly soft. “Good luck, I've been reliably informed that my brother is a patient straight from hell.” With that, Mycroft smiles a crooked smile, turns, and is gone.

Sherlock is almost as pale as the sheets that cover him. Various tubes have been attached to his body, connected to drips or beeping monitors. His eyes are closed but he breathes on his own. Adise sinks down into the visitor chair and stares at the body in the hospital bed with a mixture of horror and gratitude.

After about half an hour, Sherlock stirs. His eyes flutter open and upon seeing Adise, he tries to sit up.

The next thing Adise knows is that Sherlock makes a strange sound before vomiting all over the bed.

“Jesus!”

Sherlock sinks back with a miserable sigh while Adise bends over him, trying not to get covered in sick.

“Listen to me, Sherlock Holmes. When this is over, I'll drag you to the nearest registrars office and marry you. No, I don't want to hear anything right now. Just shut up and get well.”

That said, Adise rings for the nurse, apologising for the mess as she enters. It's the first in a long string of excuses he'll make over the next few days before Sherlock is released, much to the relieve of the whole ICU staff.

Adise swears to himself to make a large donation to St. Mary's for the patience and kindness they'd shown towards him and his insufferable fiancée.

---------

It's a bleak Monday in January when they get married at Camden Town Hall. As Adise's father is too frail to attend, Sherlock didn't invite his parents either. Adise thinks he's just chickening out, yet lets him. Sherlock's relationship with his parents doesn't seem an easy one, and as this is apparently their day, Sherlock should have a chance to enjoy it.

But Adise draws the line at Mycroft.

“Do you know what I would give to have my brother with me at my wedding? You'll invite yours or we call it off.”

After that, Sherlock complies.

It troubles him that they both need a witness. Adise asks a long-time friend who lived next door to his family in Hackney, Martha, now a professor at the LSE. Sherlock wants to ask John but is not sure it that's appropriate. He'd been the best man at John's wedding, true, but Adise seems rather hostile towards him. And would John really like to officiate at a gay wedding?

They discus this as Sherlock returns from hospital a few days before Christmas.

“It's your decision.” Adise says, handing Sherlock a cup of tea. He sits, wrapped in a soft blanket, on their couch, a bright fire burning in the crate because it's already dark outside at four in the afternoon.

Sherlock miserably glares at the Christmas tree in the corner and sulks.

“You don't like him much? Why?”

Adise sighs. “Because... because I'm jealous. And angry.”

Sherlock blows on his tea. “Again, why?” He knows he sounds like a petulant child but can't help it.

Adise is quiet for so long Sherlock starts doubting he'll ever get an answer. Just as he's about to suggest someone else, Adise speaks: “Remember the night we met? I clearly saw how distressed you were. You looked cornered, haunted... you were literally swaying, almost collapsing. And the bloke you were certainly with just... chatted to his mates. You were staring at him, silently pleading, and he didn't bother. He never even looked at you. He didn't care.”

Sherlock swallows, staring into the flames.

“He didn't care for you.” Adise continues, sounding incredulous. “And your face. Your back... what you told me later about him and his wife... you loved him. But he didn't deserve you. I'm glad you get on again. I'm grateful he lied at the hospital. But I won't ever trust him around you. He hurt you, and I won't forgive him for that.”

Sherlock fiddles with his cup. “How do you know...?”

“Your brother.”

“Oh.”

----------

In the end, Sherlock asks Greg, who gets on rather well with Martha. If John is miffed he doesn't let on. Rosie is their flower girl, helped by Mrs Hudson. The few other guests are just Molly, Wiggins and Craig, who flew over from the states. Sherlock watches him over lunch at Wild Honey and secretly admires his casual ease as he talks to his brother about politics, food and Victorian poetry. Sherlock must have stared, for Adise nudges him under the table, but grins as well. Sherlock just arches an eyebrow and shudders in disgust.

They are just having a small reception at the Mayfair restaurant. They didn't exchange rings, but Mycroft has noticed that his brother is touching his left upper arm carefully and much more than usual. As he combines that with an appointment made by Adise at a rather exclusive tattoo parlour in Camden last week, he frowns a little while imagining how their parents might react to that. Well, as he'll have to explain why they weren't invited to their youngest son's wedding as well, he doubts it will be of much consequence.

Rosie falls asleep before pudding, drooling onto Mrs Hudson's lap, her flower basket forgotten. John and Wiggins swap stories of past cases. Molly smiles a bit sad as she empties a bottle of Chardonnay with Mrs Hudson, who beams at Sherlock and Adise like a proud mother hen.

“What are your plans for the honeymoon?” She croons, her cheeks tinged pink, sounding slightly tipsy.

“That's a secret. Sherlock still needs rest... yes, you do, stop kicking me under the table.” Adise laughs.

“Just you know what you've got yourself into, mate.” Wiggins stage-whispers, and Mycroft, John and Greg simultaneously pull a sour face. Craig smiles oblivious while Molly and Mrs Hudson clink glasses.

As they are having coffee, a young bike courier walks into the restaurant and talks to one of the waiters. He's shown over to their table.

“I've got a delivery for a Mr Sherlock... Holmes-Obiye?” He searches the faces of the diners until Sherlock gets up.

“That'll be me.”

“Well, here you go. Congratulations, by the way.” The young man hands Sherlock a longish parcel. Mycroft and Greg tense visibly. “There's a card as well.” The courier points out. Sherlock absent-mindedly hands him a five pound note, staring at the wrapping paper: blood red, with a black ribbon.

“Thank you. Don't worry, Mycroft, Greg, I know exactly who did send this.”

John frowns. “I thought she was dead.”

Molly gasps.

“Oh please, honestly, at my wedding day?” But Adise seems more intrigued than unnerved.

As Sherlock reads the card, he smiles to himself before blushing furiously. The package holds a single beautiful black rose, and a smaller parcel Sherlock slides into his pocket. “Irene made it very clear that this is something I should open in private.”

“Dear god!” His brother mutters while Adise gets even more interested. He's heard about Irene Adler and can't suppress a rather salacious grin.

As they all gather their coats half an hour later, Mycroft takes his new brother-in-law to the side.

“Here, this is the mobile number of a good friend of mine in New York, Felix Leitner.”

“How do you know...?”

“Please, give me some credit. Just call Felix if, no, when Sherlock gets into trouble. He knows the right strings to pull.”

“I'm sure we won't need it, but thank you for your consideration.” Adise shakes Mycroft's hand, but suddenly the man clasps his shoulder and pulls him into a brief hug.

“Take care of him.”

“I will.”

Sherlock is already waiting by the door, winding his scarf around his neck. “Oh, for god's sake, can't this wait till... later.” He decisively pets the pocket of his dark suit that holds Irene's present. John is standing next to him, his sleeping daughter in his arms, and suddenly it hits Sherlock that he has no regrets whatsoever. He has dreamt about having something like this with John, but it was always destined to be just that, a dream, wishful thinking.

Discovering that he's happier in this moment than he's ever dared to hope fills him with such joy that he can barely contain himself.

Because what he has with Adise is something solid. It's real. He's married to a man who loves him, and he'll have a lifetime ahead to prove that he's worth of his affection.

That night, Sherlock and Adise will discover what magic a bullet vibrator can do to a prostate. They arrive at the airport the next morning tired yet happy, having nearly missed their flight because of their first domestic as a married couple (Adise had to remind Sherlock that he shouldn't put anything electric in their hand luggage if he didn't want to cause some major embarrassment at the security check, and no, he wasn't that eager to join the mile high club.)

Of course, Sherlock gets into trouble on their honeymoon in New York, yet this is in no way connected to sex toys.

Felix Leitner grins broadly when he has to bail Mycroft's little brother out.

But that is another story, for another time.

- The End -