Title: 221Bees
Author: Jessie Blackwood
Pairing: Sherlock/John & Mycroft/Lestrade
Fandoms: Sherlock
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are not my characters, they are public domain. Anything that resembles Sherlock BBC belongs of course to Mr Moffat and Mr Gatiss and is theirs alone. The plot is mine. Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is otherwise purely coincidental.
Note: Just a random idea that struck me for the boys' retirement. I'm no apiarist and this is fluff so if I've got it wrong about the bees please forgive me and tell me what I did wrong. I like to learn and make stuff better.
Series: 1) However Improbable, I Promise, This is the Truth
Warnng: Minor character death mentioned
Summary: What do you get a man who doesn't want a birthday for his 60th? John knows exactly what to get.


What do you get for the man who dislikes birthdays, John Watson thought on his morning constitutional, especially when he's reached a significant one? He walked into the newsagents on the corner of the main street—the only street—and bought his regular copy of the Independent, picked up a packet of mints and a pint of milk and set off back to the cottage. The pretty Sussex village of Sherringford was lovely at this time of year, when the lush summer foliage was heavy across the lane and the fields of barley were turning gold in the early morning sun. The morning was turning warm, and John took his time on the way back, pausing frequently to gaze across the fields and wonder at his life.

John was past haring through the streets of London chasing criminals. On the one hand he had dreaded their retirement, fearing that Sherlock would get bored and the fine mind would either tear itself apart or atrophy. So far—and they were nearly at the end of their first decade—it hadn't happened. Sherlock had found he was in demand for consultancy work, advising people on their security which he relished by testing in new and involved ways, always coming up with the perfect solution for their needs. John had initially been sceptical that it would hold his attention but Sherlock had come up with new and inventive security measures for his clients. His methods of assessment might be a touch unorthodox, but the results were always spot on.

His beloved bees kept him occupied. He had already written one practical book of beekeeping and was halfway through a second, a far more academic tome, studying their communications and some of the rather more esoteric aspects of bee life. His first book had hardly qualified for the bestseller list but it had been given rave reviews by the apiarist community.

As always Sherlock's violin was the saving grace the rest of the time. He composed, he played, he twiddled, as John called it. He had even been approached to compose a theme tune for a documentary about Nikola Tesla, a particular hero of his. It had been the only reason he had agreed to do it. Melody floated through the house almost every night, partly because Sherlock knew John loved it, partly because it soothed him after a mentally taxing time. Haydn, Paganini, Saint-Saëns, Walton and Williams, John loved them all. The former detective's own compositions ranged from the frivolous to the sonorous but John could listen to every one, because they were Sherlock's, his creativity and passion overflowing into the music.

As he strode back home enjoying the clear morning air, John wondered at the fact that he was still alive to breathe it. Alive and kicking after such a long career; healing on the one hand, meting out justice with the other, happily following sherlock into danger, thriving on the adrenalin high. He was happier now to sit in his favourite armchair, read his paper, drink his tea and write his memoirs, bringing the cases to life again on paper this time. Several publishers were currently fighting it out to outbid each other to gain the rights, such was Sherlock's notoriety. One or two were even talking about the possibility of a movie, although John knew Mycroft would insist on heavy editing if that ever came to fruition. He contemplated casting, wondering who they would get to play Sherlock. Few names came to mind, although there was that tall thin Shakespearean actor with the pale eyes that had been bloody good in that period drama last year on the BBC, he could never remember the lad's name...Besides they could do wonders with hair dye and contact lenses these days.

Sherlock was pottering about in the garden by the time John arrived home again; he was tending and studying his beloved bees. John paused and waved, watching the white-clad figure as he made notes and lifted frames, the bees buzzing around him in the increasingly warm and somnolent air. The sun had risen above the trees and the morning had lost its freshness. It looked as though it would end up another hot day. John made a T with his hands, and Sherlock nodded, immediately going back to studying the bees clinging to the frame.

John smiled and went on inside, relieved to be in the cool and comparatively dim interior, breathing deep of the familiar scents of their haven. He loved their cosy cottage with its exposed oak beams and open fireplaces, its sitting room reminiscent of their old home on Baker Street but sadly without the comforting presence of Mrs Hudson. When she had died it had been the catalyst for them to move, things would not have been the same, and a move was past due. They had brought everything to the cottage in the village near Sherlock's family home, where his brother, Mycroft, now lived with his partner, Greg Lestrade. Unless Greg was spending the night on their sofa because Mycroft was away, that is. The man hated to be alone.

A familiar snoring reached John's ears and he saw Greg sprawled on his back on the sofa. "Hey, old man," John nudged him and Lestrade stirred and came awake with a snort.

"Hmph...wa?" Greg struggled to sit, startled awake.

"Very articulate," John said, amused. "You want some tea?"

Greg yawned and nodded. "Yeah, thanks. Where were you?"

"The village. Walked to the shop for milk and a paper." He tossed the newspaper at Greg, who clasped it to his chest before it could fall to the floor. "Where was Mycroft last night then?"

"The Palace apparently," Greg replied. "There was this big diplomatic shindig and he ended up staying over. The King was insistent."

John smiled. "That's the minor government official that we know and love. So what are our plans for Sherlock's 60th? I've come up with a present for him. How about you and Myc?"

"No clue," Greg said, easing himself upright. He grimaced and rubbed his shoulder.

"Stiff again?"

"Always am these days. Arthritis is a permanent houseguest I guess." Greg smiled at the view of Sherlock through the cottage window, white veiled hat bobbing as he worked. "Does he even want a birthday? He never used to. Old age must be mellowing him," he chuckled.

"Dunno but he's getting one. It's his 60th and I just thought of his present."

"That's good cos I have no idea what to get him. Mycroft might settle on something expensive and meaningless from Garrards, maybe."

"Maybe but I want to get him something meaningful. I know what to get too, just hope it doesn't take a month to arrive."




The leaves were just turning shades of brown and gold as the summer started to reluctantly give way to autumn. John was hoping his delivery would arrive that afternoon, along with the guests for their party. It would be a low-key affair, although Sherlock had maintained he didn't want anything or anybody. John had also remained adamant that he was going to get a party for his 60th because John wanted one. Sherlock wasn't a sociable sort but he was almost happy in the company of John, Greg, Mycroft, and Molly. He wasn't too keen on Moll's husband, Phil, but her two children were adorable and Sherlock was their Godfather so he really couldn't object to their presence. He treated them as adults and usually managed at least one kitchen science experiment while they were visiting. They particularly liked the gooey ones.

Presently the cottage was full of people, food, presents and wine, not to mention children. Sherlock had no problem with children, always maintaining they were better when young, before the world turned them stupid and cynical. Mycroft, as always, was charmed by the children and spent the afternoon reminiscing to anyone who would listen about Sherlock's childhood, usually with embarrassing results.

A knock at the door heralded the courier and John glanced at Sherlock who was lounging in a chair, drawing his bow across the strings of his violin in a thoughtful way. Sherlock glanced back with a frown. "Answer it, Sherlock. It's for you," John said.

"How do you know?" Sherlock's eyes narrowed, manner suddenly suspicious.

"Perfunctory knock, just enough to announce a presence, not enough to irritate the resident," John said with a grin. "Not a guest, the knock was too short and not loud enough, and besides, everybody's here already. So, not client, too late for the postman and certainly not police. Courier then? For you, it's your birthday." Sherlock heaved himself to his feet with a sigh. John waited for a moment and then followed. He watched Sherlock answer the door, exchange a few words with the delivery driver and then bring a box into the hall.

"John, what have you done?" Sherlock said, examining the label, and John stepped into the hall, a smile of satisfaction on his face.

"I got in touch with that professor whose blog you were following, the one you told me was experimenting to find a resistant strain of honey bee. There's a catch though."

"Which is?"

"He wants to meet with you, he's read your book. He would like you to come in on his research, help him with monitoring the new bees, and send him updates and reports. Would you be okay with that?"

"Would I be...? John, of course I would. I respect Professor Armitage's work immensely." Sherlock smiled and nodded. "Only you would get me bees for my birthday," he observed, cradling the box protectively. "Come on, I'll settle them in."

"Apparently they're all marked in some way so you can tell which ones they are. He particularly wants to know if they pass the resistance to the other bees we have. If that's quantifiable." Sherlock nodded sagely. "There's two hundred and twenty bees and a queen," John said.

"Two hundred and twenty one bees? Really?" A broad grin was now settled on Sherlock's generous mouth.

"221 Bees," John said reverently. "Here's to happy memories."

"Thank you, John, for everything. Above all, thank you for knowing me so well." John leaned in and kissed him, smiling. "Pleasure, love. Now go settle our new guests and then you can come back in for champagne and see if you can blow all the candles out on your cake."

"John, I do hope you haven't put 60 candles on my cake. The statistical probability that you will set fire to the cottage has just risen to .085, not to mention the unlikely eventuality that said cake will be both large enough and substantial enough to support 60 candles."

"They're only small candles..." John grinned and Sherlock knew he was joking. "It's alright, I've only put two candles on it; one shaped like a 6 and the other like an 0 so you can calm down, Spock, and quit predicting the probability that I'm going to commit arson on your birthday. Now take your little minions out and get them settled in and then we'll toast your continued good health and theirs and stuff ourselves with cake." He watched fondly as Sherlock disappeared outside, murmuring nonsense to the bees in their box...

One day John knew he would no doubt miss the dozy drone of the bees and Sherlock's deep silky baritone voice talking to them, but until that day he would relish every minute, and regret not one of them.