A/N: If I ever needed proof that the ones that wake you up on a Sunday morning are the easiest to write... Cross posted to tumblr, but I know not everyone is over there. Quick shoutout to MizJoely and RooneyKMara for planting the seed a few weeks ago...

Tiny Ways

by Flaignhan

Marriage, for her, is more natural than she'd first anticipated.

When they'd bitten the bullet, when they had said the words and exchanged the rings, when they'd signed the papers at the registry office, she'd wondered if it was real, if it had any chance at longevity.

But here they are.

People used to joke, used to call her his babysitter, but the truth is they look after each other, and everything evens out. She supposes it's because she takes care of him in more visible ways; she's always the one to sort out the Christmas and birthday cards for his side of the family, the one to send Mycroft a bottle of port and a mini hamper of baked goods from the farm shop, on the day that he tries to pretend doesn't exist.

She does other things too, like remind him when to eat, sometimes when to drink, and often when to sleep. He still gets caught up in interesting things, and shuts out the world for a bit but it's fine, because she'd rather that than him wallow in boredom.

Boredom, she has always known, will be the death of him.

Marriage, for her, is also full of little quirks and sources of amusement. Some years, she receives a large bunch of flowers anything up to three weeks in advance of their anniversary, just in case he forgets. Some years, he forgets he's already taken care of it, and a second bunch arrives a few days before the big day.

There's never been a year when he's forgotten altogether.

Marriage is also coming home with a pile of dissertations to mark, because now she's a consultant (the house is big enough for two after all) she has a responsibility to pass on her knowledge to the next generation. She'll fall asleep on the sofa while halfway through the third one, but she'll wake up in bed the next morning. He'll be snoozing quietly next to her, limbs splayed at awkward angles because even after all this time, he's still a restless sleeper. She'll go downstairs and discover neat piles - firsts, two-ones, two-twos, and the don't even bothers. They'll be stacked from worst to best, and all she has to do is read the important bits and scribble a grade onto them. He won't surface until around noon, and by then she'll be finishing up, while he wanders around in his dressing gown, nose in a book, a piece of toast hanging from his mouth while he turns the page.

Sometimes she wakes in the middle of the night, and can hear the sound of his violin, filtering through from his study. She can hear the bow gliding across the strings as he composes a new piece, or learns something from hundreds of years ago, sheet music perched haphazardly on his music stand. She listens for a while, and even though it's the early hours of the morning, and even though she has to go to work in a few hours, she smiles as she looks up at the ceiling, because she doesn't know anyone who can play music like he does, and she'll spend all day operating on a few hours' sleep if it means she gets to hear him play.

When she goes back to London, to meet up with friends and have a few drinks that will inevitably stretch out until she misses the last train home, he is always on hand to drive up to collect her; he offers in advance, so she doesn't have to worry about finishing up too soon. He will put the heated seat on a few minutes before he arrives at the bar where she and her friends have set themselves up for the night, to ensure it's appropriately cosy. When she gets in, he asks if she's had a good time, gives her a once over, just in case he needs to think about pulling over at any point, and he turns down his podcast so she can settle into her seat and close her eyes.

On the evenings when she's a little more awake, he'll take a detour on the way back, the detective's tour of London, taking in their old haunts; Baker Street and Bart's of course, but the Embankment too, where they have walked and walked for hours, when the lights of the bridges twinkled in the reflection on the rippling river surface. They had driven past her old flat once, but it's now a new development with glass panelled balconies and lines of identical trees planted at regular intervals along the path that leads to the lobby to give the illusion of greenery. They've not bothered driving past that again.

He takes care of her in tiny ways, ways that people don't often see, and frankly, she doesn't want them to see. It's just the two of them, and that's all that counts, it's all that's ever counted. So long as they're ticking along, she doesn't mind what anybody else thinks.

Marriage, for her, is having the courage to not give a damn, because she's got everything she needs.

Marriage, for him, is an excellent construct.

He hadn't considered it before, before she'd asked if he wanted to come with her. He had always thought it was the sort of thing that other people did, the sort of thing that would inevitably fall apart because statistically, he, even more than most, wouldn't stand a chance.

But when Lestrade had been promoted to DCI and his legwork days were over, it was he who had been left behind to collaborate with the bright young things who had worked their way up through the ranks. Fans of the blog, many of them - not his, never his. He's yet to meet a single one who has shown any interest in tobacco ash.

But, he supposes, it's probably all about vaping these days. It's one of the few things he can't get addicted to. A childish toy with childish flavours designed for a new age of not getting cancer from cigarettes, but from much more fashionable sources instead.

The trouble is, all the young guns who read the blog every night at Hendon had started to bring him stupid, simple cases, with ridiculous conspiracy theories attached.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

He had tired of it quite quickly, so when she had asked, when her brown eyes had fixed his, earth meeting sky to form the horizon, he'd realised that a tiny part of her was genuinely asking. When she'd said that with the money from the sale of her flat she could buy a three bedroom cottage, with a garage that could easily be converted into a lab, he hadn't been able to say no.

And the rest had followed.

Sometimes, the gold band on his finger reflects a hint of sunlight, and the resultant glint captures his attention, reminding him that she cares for him so much that she's willing to spend her life with him, good days, bad days, and all those days in between. She's willing to put up with him and all his habits, at which he knows most normal people would baulk.

But she's never been normal, she's always been completely extraordinary. When he thinks about it, he supposes it shouldn't have really been a surprise that he's ended up here. Not really.

She doesn't mind if he doesn't come up to bed some nights, but spends his time in the garage instead, pottering about. She doesn't complain if he finally heads up at four o'clock in the morning, and inevitably wakes her as he slips into bed. Instead, she snuggles up to him, slings one arm over his waist, and presses a tired kiss against his neck before she sinks back into slumber.

Some mornings, after a night when he has had good intentions, but never quite made it up the wooden hill, he wakes under a thick patchwork quilt, and rolls over to see his book resting on the coffee table, a bookmark poking out from between the pages, marking the spot where tiredness had consumed him.

She also doesn't mind if he retreats for a few days. She just leaves him to it, and comes into the garage in the evenings, with a flask of tea and something filling to eat that will keep him going until the following evening. Sometimes she stands behind him for a while, arms draped over his shoulders while he sits, hunched over his microscope. He's not sure if he feels her heartbeat against his shoulder blade, or if he just imagines it, but the little bit of contact reminds him that there is a world outside of his garage.

She won't ask him any questions about what he's doing until he resurfaces, and they can talk for hours on end, sprawled across the sofa, the fire crackling in the grate. She gets him a pass to the university library, and he can spend a contented day in there while she gives seminars and lectures.

It all works rather well.

Marriage, for him, is the lazy, hazy, Sunday mornings that creep up on them at the end of every week. He'll go down to fetch a pot of tea and the papers first thing, and returns to bed, where they'll lounge about for a few hours. They surface in time to head down to the pub for the carvery, and a cosy afternoon with some pale ales, followed by a slow walk back home.

He supposes it's the normal life that people sometimes dream of, but because the two of them only have little pockets of normality, they get to enjoy that more than most. It's real, as opposed to some constructed aesthetic, tailored so that the outside world can be envious.

Maybe that's why they're still happy.

For the first few years, he had been anxious that she would discover even worse habits than those she already knew, that he would be found out as a scoundrel and a heathen and everything she doesn't want around. But that had never happened, and she had surpassed herself, by knowing him better than he first thought, even better than he knows himself.

Marriage, to him, is a lifelong commitment to the person who loves him best, and a lifelong commitment to ensure that she doesn't regret a single second of it.

The End