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The Bells at the Top of the World

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“Now John, I’d poison. Sloppy eater. Dead easy. I’ve given him chemicals and compounds that way. He’s never even noticed. He missed a whole Wednesday once. Didn’t have a clue.”
-Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Three

 

There were times when Sherlock Holmes did something wrong and afterward remained blissfully unaware that he had been the cause of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Most of the time, in fact, he didn’t spare a thought for the negative repercussions of his actions. He simply acted and dealt with the consequences later.

This, however, was one of those times when Sherlock knew the consequences were going to be bad. This time, he had a feeling he might be in over his head. And if he reflected seriously on what had happened, he would have to concede that it was mostly almost all his fault.

Mostly.

It had all started with the poisoned pie.

Well, to be fair, that part really hadn’t been his fault. After all, he hadn’t asked John to eat the pie. John had gone and done that on his own. Which was a bit daft on his part, in light of the sorts of things Sherlock got up to in the kitchen.

Granted, he did deliberately drug John quite frequently, but in his defense, that was mostly just because it was so easy to do.

He often needed to test the effects of various chemical compounds, and who better to act as a guinea pig than his flat mate? It was a perfectly logical option. It wasn’t as if he could test the various tonics and tinctures on himself. How could he possibly keep track of the results?

John was an excellent test case for multiple reasons.

But this time, this, of all times, Sherlock hadn’t intended for John to eat the pie.

He’d been working his way through Scotland Yard’s old case files, when he’d come across a particularly fascinating case where a woman had poisoned her husband by feeding him a slice of pie. Spousal poisonings were nothing out of the ordinary, but the puzzling detail was that she’d served the pie to multiple guests at the same dinner party. She’d even eaten a slice of the pie herself but it had never been determined how she’d managed to poison only the husband.

Sherlock had simulated the scenario exactly, except instead of poison he’d filled the pie with a combination of mild sedatives and hallucinogenics. That way, if he were to feed a mere slice of the pie (just a slice) to someone (under very controlled circumstances, obviously), he could study the effects this particular combination of drugs would have, if ingested.

Of course, it had crossed his mind that John might be just the candidate for this sort of road test, but he hadn’t actually decided to give John the pie. Not yet anyway.

He’d still been mulling over the possibility when he’d stepped out briefly to restock his chemical supply cabinet (he hadn’t been gone more than an hour), only to return to the flat to find John Watson crouched on the coffee table, his gun in one hand, dressed in nothing but Sherlock’s coat.

“Um,” Sherlock said.

John looked up in alarm. “Careful!” He put out a hand intended to stop Sherlock in his tracks. “The floor is crawling with them!”

Sherlock didn’t take his eyes off the gun in John’s hand. “What?”

“Spiders.”

Sherlock looked down. There was nothing on the living room floor other than the carpet. Very carefully, Sherlock set the bag he was holding on the floor beside him.

“I really wouldn’t walk this way if I were you. Camel spiders. They can jump quite a distance.”

“I think the spiders have gone.” Sherlock took a cautious step forward. “You’re wearing my coat.”

“Yep. It smelled nice.”

John’s gaze was fixed on the very center of the living room floor.

“And… nothing underneath.”

John waved a distracted hand, as though the issue was irrelevant.

Sherlock took another cautious step forward. “John, did you happen to eat some of the pie that was on the kitchen table?”

John squinted at Sherlock and seemed to suddenly see him for the first time. His face filled with amazement. “Your hair.”

Sherlock ran a hand through it in sudden fear. “What about it?”

John was staring at him in wonder. “It’s so… soft.”

“Hmm,” Sherlock said. And then, speaking very clearly, “John, I don’t think you need your gun anymore. Why don’t you just—”

John hopped lightly off the coffee table and came toward Sherlock. He was barefoot, Sherlock’s coat swishing around his ankles.

“Amazing.”

“What is?”

“You walked right through them. They had no effect on you at all. It’s almost like…” John leaned closer, swaying slightly. Sherlock reflexively reached a hand out to steady him. “Magic,” he whispered.

John smiled at Sherlock. It was a mad, unsettling smile. It made chills run up and down Sherlock’s spine.

“John, tell me. How much of the pie did you actually eat?”

John leaned closer. The edges of Sherlock’s coat swung open. Sherlock kept his eyes resolutely on John’s.

“John.”

John leaned all the way in until his cheek was pressed to Sherlock’s chest. He sighed softly. He was still holding his gun in his left hand. Sherlock held himself absolutely still.

“Mmm, you smell even nicer than the coat.”

“John…”

John gazed up at Sherlock from where his head was resting against Sherlock’s shoulder. His eyes were dreamy, unfocused. He smiled up at Sherlock fondly.

“All of it.”

Sherlock put his hand over his eyes.

It really wouldn’t have been so bad. Things would have worked out just fine if it had been another normal day at Baker Street. After all, Sherlock was used to ministering to John in all manner of chemically altered states. He’d run the gamut. And although this one was perhaps, more severe than usual, it was nothing Sherlock couldn’t handle.

He managed to coax the gun out of John’s hand by promising to walk the perimeter of the flat with him to ensure all the spiders had gone.

“They’ve probably moved inside the walls.”

He’d even managed to get John back into his clothes (or some of them at least) before he’d lost his attention entirely in Sherlock’s room when John caught sight of the collection of pinned beetles on the shelf beside his bed, at which point he’d lain down on the floor with a cry of glee and held them up over his head, gazing at them in rapt admiration.

That had held his attention for a good forty-five minutes or so, which gave Sherlock a chance to go into the kitchen and restock his supply cabinet, after destroying all traces of the woebegone experiment.

When Sherlock returned to his bedroom, John was nowhere to be found. After a brief, panicked search, Sherlock found him on the second floor landing where he was rolling Sherlock’s neatly balled socks down the stairs one by one, convinced that the entire first floor was underwater.

“Remarkable,” he said, gazing at Sherlock with open fascination as he bent over to retrieve another pair of socks. Sherlock didn’t think he’d ever get tired of seeing that look on John’s face. The drugs just made his usual admiration all the more pronounced.

“What is?”

“You move through the water like… like you were born in it.”

Sherlock shrugged modestly.

“Can you teach me how you do that?”

John reached for Sherlock’s hand.

Sherlock took it, and showed John how to walk through water.

They encountered a minor obstacle on their way past the bathroom when John became convinced that pirates were after them.

“You scurvy bilge rats!” He lunged for the sword mounted on the wall of Sherlock’s room and there was a brief, furious struggle while Sherlock fought to restrain him.

“Let them go, John! They’re not worth our trouble. Look at the flag they’re hoisting! That means there’s plague on board. We don’t want anything to do with them if they’ve got the Black Death!”

Yes, it was all perfectly under control.

Or it was, until Lestrade texted Sherlock to report that the gang of smugglers they’d been monitoring for the past six months were back in London, and their ship was ready to leave the port.

They had agreed that when the crucial moment came, Sherlock would sneak onto the ship, in order to catch them in the act.

Everything was in place.

Everything, that is aside from John’s mental stability.

It had been several hours since Sherlock had come home to find John on the coffee table fending off spiders, and Sherlock was relatively confident that the effects of the drug (s) were beginning to wear off.

Sherlock experienced a rare moment of indecision as he endeavored to decide what the best course of action would be.

He glanced over at John, considering.

John was currently hard at work appreciating the vast diversity and dynamism of their flatware collection. He was lying on his stomach in the middle of the living room floor, surrounded by knives and forks, having upended the entire contents of the silverware drawer. His face was propped in one hand, feet waving merrily in the air, as he gazed adoringly at the handle of a shrimp fork.

Sherlock’s thumb hovered over the ‘send’ button, momentarily uncertain.

Then a thought that can only be best paraphrased as ‘Eh, what the hell?’ flashed through his mind and he let his thumb drop.

This decision, as it turns out, had been rather ill-advised, which is why Sherlock was thinking that perhaps he was, at least, partially responsible for the fact that he and John were currently chained up together on the salt-stained floor of a rusty, sea-battered fishing boat steered by drug smugglers through the choppy waters of London harbor.

Yes, he was willing to take some responsibility for his actions here.

However, his store of humility was quickly running short in the face of John Watson’s indiscriminate rage upon waking from his drugged state (thanks to a particularly nasty blow to the head—Sherlock filed this fact away under the heading “To Be Used Only In Extreme Duress” for future drugged John Watson incidents) to discover that he was chained up in the bottom of a rusty fishing boat commandeered by drug smugglers, with one Sherlock Holmes.

It was difficult to reason with an angry John Watson in the best of circumstances, but try reasoning with him when he was chained to your back and you couldn’t even look pleadingly into his eyes the way you usually did after you’d done something wrong.

No, here, Sherlock was defenseless. Stripped of his ability to use his natural good looks, his senses assaulted on all sides by the smell of rancid haddock, he was forced to persuade John to see reason armed with nothing more than his quick wits and silver tongue.

"Don't worry,” Sherlock said, suavely and confidently as the boat gave another violent lurch and a wave of seawater gushed in under the door. “I'll get us out of this."

Sherlock’s tone of calm assurance failed to have the effect he’d hoped.

“Yeah, so you’ve said. What I wanna know is why we’re chained up in the bottom of a fishing boat and WHY THE HELL I don’t remember how we got here, or anything that happened since breakfast, for that matter.”

Sherlock didn’t say anything. He was considering the best way to broach the subject.

John’s patience was not at its most exemplary. “I’m waiting, Sherlock.”

“Yes.” Sherlock decided a straightforward approach would be best. “Do you recall encountering a pie in the kitchen at Baker Street earlier today?”

Silence as the rusted cogs of John’s memory turned. “Yyee…ss.”

“To the best of your ability, do you remember if you ate some of the pie that you happened upon?”

An angry silence indicated that John’s patience after having slowed to a mere trickle had dried up entirely.

“I’ll take that as a yes. In which case, it would appear, John, that you may have tampered with one of my experiments.”

“What was in the pie, Sherlock?”

Sherlock could hear that John was having difficulty unclenching his jaw.

“Rather than dwell unnecessarily on past events, at this time, I think perhaps it would be wiser to focus our energy on choosing the manner of our esca—”

“WHAT WAS IN THE BLOODY PIE?”

“Nothing that will harm you permanently. It was only a mild combination of sedatives and hallucinogenics. In my defense, let me just emphasize that the pie was not intended for you to—”

“WHO MAKES POISONED PIE AND LEAVES IT LYING AROUND? YOU’VE NEVER EVEN COOKED ANYTHING IN YOUR LIFE.”

“Shh.” Sherlock glanced toward the scarred and beaten metal door that stood between them and their captors. “I’ve cooked plenty. I only do it when absolutely necessary.”

“Oh, so, eating food like a NORMAL PERSON doesn’t count as necessary but making POISONED PIES DOES?”

“You should know by now not to eat anything unlabeled that’s been left out in the kitchen. Who goes around eating poisoned pies? I think that’s the real issue at hand. If we’re going to start pointing fingers here, perhaps we should talk about that.”

“I THOUGHT MRS. HUDSON MADE IT.”

Sherlock glanced again at the rusted metal door. “Really, John. Do you have to keep shouting?”

“YES, SHERLOCK. YES, I DO HAVE TO KEEP SHOUTING. THIS IS ONLY THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOUTING. I’M JUST WARMING UP.”

“It’s just that shouting might aggravate our already disgruntled assailants.”

“OUR WHAT?”

“Smugglers, John. Drug smugglers.”

An angry silence ensued while John mulled this over.

Sherlock could feel John’s rage crackling like a wall of raw electricity at his back, refusing to subside. Being in such close proximity to John’s fury was both terrifying and exhilarating. Sherlock could almost feel it making his hair stand on end.

It was remarkable, the contrast between this small, dangerous person bristling at Sherlock’s back, and the John of a few hours before who had draped himself in Sherlock’s lap, sleepy and agreeable, his hair a soft sweep of gold at Sherlock’s lip as he’d wriggled closer.

That John kept trying to put his face in Sherlock’s neck, his body warm and pliant as he settled against Sherlock, hands traveling over Sherlock’s shoulders and up into his hair.

“So not fishermen, then?”

Sherlock dragged himself with reluctance back to the present moment. “Not entirely, no.”

“And why is it that they’re… to use your words ‘already disgruntled’?”

“Ah.”

Sherlock was suddenly treated to the memory of John, standing on top of the barrel they had been hiding behind (quite remarkably, in light of the fact that the ship had been heaving to and fro, the decks pummeled by waves and salt spray) and shouting at the top of his lungs, “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU LILY LIVERED COWARDS? DIDN’T ANYONE EVER TEACH YOU SEA DOGS HOW TO USE A CUTLASS?”

Sherlock was silent as he considered carefully how best to convey this information.

“Sherlock…”

Sherlock could actually feel John behind him prickling with rage. It was rather like being chained to a small, extremely agitated hedgehog.

“There may have been an… incident.”

“What. Happened.” John could barely get the words out from between his clenched teeth. Sherlock stretched his own jaw in sympathy.

“Everything was going according to plan. We had made it onto the ship without being seen. We were just waiting for Lestrade’s signal, but then I made the mistake of mentioning to you that we had to keep quiet because we were dealing with pirates. At the mention of pirates you became what I can only describe as agitated with excitement.”

Another memory leapt to the forefront of Sherlock’s mind: John climbing nimbly to the top of the barrel as Sherlock snatched unsuccessfully at the back of John’s jumper in a fruitless effort to restrain him, calling out in a carrying voice, “AHOY MATIES!” while Sherlock’s own frantic whisper (“No, John! They’re not that kind of pirate!”), was lost in the din of the surrounding sea.

“I managed to get you down off of the barrel and actually had some success reasoning with them. They were offended more than anything else. You see, they thought you were making fun of them. Turns out narcotics smugglers don’t have a very thick skin. I had everything back under control until…”

“Until?”

Sherlock cleared his throat. “You started singing ‘Blow the Man Down.’ Quite enthusiastically I might add.” He paused and then added as an afterthought, “Let it never be said that you don’t have a lovely singing voice.”

“Sherlock?”

“Yes?”

“I think it would be best if you refrained from talking for the foreseeable future.”

Sherlock pursed his lips.

John groaned from behind Sherlock. It sounded very like the heave of their narrow prison as the ship lurched once more violently to the side, sending a tide of seawater over John and Sherlock’s already very damp and very fish saturated behinds.

The room they were locked in was crowded with barrels piled high with glistening, ripe-smelling haddock.

A single fish slipped from one of the barrels and flopped to a halt beside Sherlock’s outstretched legs.

“There is no way this is actually my life.”

Sherlock stayed silent in an attempt to honor John’s recent request.

“What else did I do?”

A sequence of images skipped through Sherlock’s brain like a reel of film sped up: John standing on the coffee table with his arms over his head singing My Fair Lady, John building a pyramid out of jam jars under the kitchen table, John crawling up Sherlock’s legs, his hands hot on Sherlock’s knees leaning into him and smiling, John settling himself between Sherlock’s thighs and putting his tongue in Sherlock’s mouth.

“Um.”

Sherlock reasoned that perhaps now was not the best time to disclose that John had put his tongue in Sherlock’s mouth.

“Never mind. I don't want to know. The question is, why the hell did you bring me with you when I was so clearly out of my mind?”

“Well, it wasn’t as if I could leave you in the flat unattended.”

“It’s a really good thing my hands are bound right now.”

“Why is that?”

Silence.

“Ah, yes. Otherwise you’d be strangling me. I see.”

“Pretty much that.” John fumed in silence for several seconds. “So what’s your brilliant plan then?”

"Yes, working on it... Just, give me a minute."

With a triumphant flourish, Sherlock thumbed open the fastening on the lock that was binding his hands to John’s.

While John had been busy raging, Sherlock had been working on the lock with a small pin he always kept in the lining of his coat sleeve. It was in situations like these that Sherlock was grateful for his abundance of first-hand experience with kidnapping.

John was less than impressed with Sherlock’s dramatic reveal. His only response was to mutter angrily, “About time.”

Sherlock reflected sadly that the John of earlier today would have been notably impressed with this accomplishment. He might even have kissed Sherlock in thanks.

It was with this grim realization that Sherlock turned around to release John’s hands.

“Wait a minute,” John hissed out of the corner of his mouth. “Someone’s coming.”

Sherlock managed to scramble back in place just as the door swung open to reveal one of their pockmarked-assailants pointing a gun at the pair of them and sneering, bringing with him a fresh wave of sea-spray and the pungent smell of the open water.

“Party’s over boys. Time to feed you to the fishes!”

Sherlock rolled his eyes at the triteness of this line, and waited for the man to come closer, using the tension in John’s back against his own as a cue for when to move.

“On your feet!”

John waited until the man bent down to reach for his arm, and then sprang into action, propelling himself off the floor, and delivering a roundhouse kick that knocked the gun from their captor’s hands in one smooth motion.

He did all this with his hands still bound at his back.

Sherlock wasted a valuable .005 seconds admiring the impossible magnificence that was John Watson.

The man let out a squawk of indignation, fumbling to regain his balance.

Sherlock snatched the gun from the floor and then clocked him with it on the back of the head, bringing him to his knees.

John thrust his bound hands towards Sherlock, and Sherlock released the mechanism with the pin from his coat.

As soon as his hands were free, John squared his shoulders and looked Sherlock in the eye.

“Ready?”

Sherlock nodded and cocked the gun.

John grinned at him.

There was madness in the corners of that smile and it reminded Sherlock of the John from earlier today, and he felt a shiver move through him that had nothing to do with the biting wind blowing in through the open door.

Once again, Sherlock was struck with a memory from earlier, from the second time he thought he’d lost John, when after fifteen minutes of frantic searching he had discovered him up on the roof of Baker Street, wearing Sherlock’s checkered dressing gown and a mismatched pair of socks, standing very still with his eyes closed, face turned toward the sky.

“John!” Sherlock had panted, out of breath from fear and running up the fire escape in such a short space of time.

John took Sherlock’s hand in his and Sherlock was startled by how small it was, how warm.

“Listen,” John said without opening his eyes. “Can’t you hear them?”

“Hear what?” Sherlock asked.

John looked up at him with the same rapt expression he’d worn when Sherlock had found him on the stairs and told him he could walk through water.

“The bells at the top of the world.”

The only thing Sherlock heard was the rush of the cars going by on the street below and the sound of a siren a long way off, but he shut his eyes with his hand warm in John’s and listened.

It occurred to Sherlock in that moment that out-of-his-mind John wasn’t so different really from regular John, except maybe less prickly round the edges, and the resulting realization made Sherlock feel as though his chest were being pumped with helium. His lungs felt tight and swollen and he wondered for a panicked second whether he was having a heart attack, just as he realized John had run up the stairs without him.

Sherlock raced after him, up the battered metal stairs and onto the deck.

When he emerged into the dark turmoil of the winter night with the roar of the wind in his ears, he discovered John Watson had already incapacitated half the crew and was well on his way to bringing a fourth man to his knees. He had the man in a headlock and he glanced up as Sherlock appeared, shouting a warning just as someone leapt onto Sherlock from behind and closed an arm around his throat.

Sherlock drove an elbow, hard, into the man’s spleen but his grip didn’t loosen.

He tried to throw his opponent over his shoulder but the pressure on his throat was too tight. The gun slipped from Sherlock’s numb fingers as he felt his airway closing.

Sherlock felt his knees strike the cold metal of the deck and he saw more than heard John scream his name through a veil of sea spray.

He struggled feebly, his hands tugging uselessly against the arm over his windpipe, and just as it occurred to him that he was going to breathe his last on the decks of a ship strewn with the carcasses of fish, Sherlock felt the grip on his throat loosen.

He looked up in time to see John Watson head-butt his assailant, snatch the gun from his hand, and then promptly fall over the side of the ship.

“JOHN!”

Sherlock staggered to his feet, ran to the ship’s railing, and without stopping to think, dove over the side after him.

***

It was many hours later that a bedraggled John and Sherlock bid farewell to Lestrade at the water’s edge, and crawled cold, wet and stinking, into a cab back to Baker Street.

After diving headfirst into the freezing dark water, it had taken Sherlock only a minute or so of blind thrashing to locate John, at which point he’d thrown his arms around him and cried out reassuringly, “Don’t worry! I’ve got you!”

Or at least, that was what he’d intended to shout, had the polluted water of the Thames not chosen that moment to surge into his open mouth. What emerged from him may have been more of an unintelligible gurgle.

He then attempted to swim bravely to shore with John in his arms.

In retrospect, it might be more accurate to say that John swam to shore with Sherlock in his arms.

It was a good thing the shock of the cold water had revived John from his swoon as Sherlock inadvertently swallowed a great deal of filthy water when he opened his mouth, and the fit of coughing that ensued prevented him from effectively pulling John to safety.

It just so happened that John Watson was a strong swimmer, who’d spent consecutive summers as a lifeguard for his neighborhood swim club. He’d had his share of dramatic rescues on summer afternoons after one too many Magnum bars caused the local youth to sink like stones to the bottom of the pool. Navigating the long limbs and sharp elbows of one coughing, spluttering Sherlock Holmes, albeit slightly more challenging was in essence, no different.

Thankfully they hadn’t been too far from the shore.

Just as John dragged a waterlogged Sherlock up the bank, Lestrade and company had swooped in to make the arrest.

Thanks to John’s effective incapacitation of the majority of the criminals onboard, overtaking the boat and rounding up the remaining smugglers had proved short work for Scotland Yard.

Lestrade clapped the pair of them gratefully on the back before he sent them on their way, eliciting a feeble cough from Sherlock and then, what he suspected was half the water in the Thames, which had found its way to the bottom of his stomach.

Lestrade displayed an admirable level of grace toward the man who had just vomited all over his shoes, and helped John steer Sherlock toward the taxi queue.

As the taxi made its way through the London streets back to Baker Street, Sherlock struggled to assess the degree to which John’s rage had subsided.

It was difficult to tell through his waterlogged haze but judging by the force with which John slammed the door of the cab when they pulled up outside 221, Sherlock feared the answer might still be ‘acute.’

Sherlock was careful not to say anything as John stomped his way up the stairs and flung his soaking jacket over the arm of the couch. John grunted something which Sherlock suspected must have been ‘Shower,’ before locking himself in the bathroom and neglecting to emerge for the next forty-five minutes, steam issuing out from the cracks in the door all the while.

Sherlock stood outside the door and leaned his cheek against the wood, thinking longingly of the John from earlier today, and how they’d crawled the perimeter of Baker Street on their stomachs, looking for spiders.

Just when Sherlock was afraid that perhaps John himself had evaporated and turned into steam, the door opened and John’s small angry face appeared, looking very flushed.

“Not now, Sherlock.”

Sherlock stepped aside to let him pass.

He went into the kitchen and decided it was time to do something nice for John. He filled the kettle and put it onto boil, but it took him twice that time to find where they kept the mugs (having never made tea himself). By the time he got the mugs ready he had to put the water on to boil again, and then he accidentally upset the tea tin and had to spend fifteen minutes cleaning it up for fear John would rage at him when he discovered tea leaves all over the kitchen floor (it took him fifteen minutes because he couldn’t find where they kept the dust pan).

By the time he brought the mug of tea up to John’s room it wasn’t really warm anymore.

Sherlock didn’t knock. He simply hovered outside, knowing John would hear the familiar creak of the floorboards.

When John opened the door he looked slightly less angry. He was wearing his lumpy, oatmeal colored jumper that Sherlock said made him look like a walking, breathing bowl of oatmeal. John tended to wear it when he was in a defiant mood. (Secretly, it was Sherlock’s favorite of John’s jumpers but that was a secret he would take with him to the grave.) His hair was still ruffled from toweling it dry. He looked like a tiny, especially ferocious woodland creature that had just been prodded from its burrow.

Sherlock bit his lip.

“What is it?”

Sherlock held up the lukewarm mug of tea.

“Oh. You—? Oh. Well, that’s nice. Ta.”

John took the mug from Sherlock’s hands.

Sherlock continued to stand in the doorway, looking at John.

Sherlock watched his face soften gradually as he studied Sherlock. It was one of Sherlock’s favorite things to witness—the shift on John’s face from one emotion to another. He couldn’t always identify exactly what the shifts signaled but he loved watching the changes in John’s expressive face as he moved between them, the grooves around his mouth deepening or vanishing depending on the emotion, the way his eyes would darken. Sherlock watched him now and marveled.

“What is it, Sherlock?”

“Um,” Sherlock said.

He took a deep breath. Then he leaned forward and put his mouth on John’s.

He thought about how John had been today, how small and sharp and brave and prickly, and how warm his lips were under Sherlock’s now, how soft.

It had occurred to Sherlock that for all the times John told him how fantastic he was, he rarely did the same for John.

Sherlock thought John was absolutely extraordinary. He wanted John to know he thought so, so Sherlock tried to tell John all of this without speaking.

Sherlock parted his lips a little and breathed into John.

John promptly dropped the tea.

The mug shattered, sending lukewarm tea and shards of fractured mug in every direction.

Sherlock broke the kiss and stooped immediately to pick it up but John hung onto the front of his shirt, laughing.

“Leave it, you mad bastard. I wasn’t going to drink anything you offered me anyway, after today.”

Sherlock conceded that this was a fair point and returned immediately to kissing John.

It was even nicer then he’d imagined it would be after having John’s tongue in his mouth. This John kissed back with intention and made small breathless noises in the back of his throat when Sherlock explored the inside of his bottom lip with his tongue.

John pulled away suddenly, his arms around Sherlock’s neck, his breath unsteady against Sherlock’s cheek. “It just occurred to me that I have no idea why you’re kissing me and I don’t even care. Should I care?”

Sherlock kissed the corner of John’s mouth where his lips turned up in amusement.

“Do you like kissing me?”

Sherlock kissed the skin under John’s eye.

“Yes.”

“Then, no.”

John tugged hard on the back of Sherlock’s shirt until they both fell back against the bed, John maneuvering backwards on his elbows and simultaneously pulling Sherlock between his legs.

Sherlock framed John with his body, bending low to kiss the skin below John’s ear.

“I’m sorry I drugged you and brought you on board a fishing boat full of smugglers,” Sherlock said breathlessly, kissing his way down John’s neck. “And that you fell overboard in a swoon after saving my life.”

“I forgive you,” John gasped as Sherlock’s tongue came out to trace his jugular. He reached up to thread his fingers through Sherlock’s hair, and then growled (he actually growled), “And I didn’t swoon.”

John tasted just as good as Sherlock had imagined, and not even a little bit like haddock.

“Hang on a minute,” John said, pulling away. “You’re not just kissing me to make me forgive you are you?”

John narrowed his eyes at Sherlock.

Sherlock assumed his most contrite expression. He threw in a little bit of horror to bring the message home.

“Alright, alright, you don’t need to give me the puppy dog eyes, I was only asking.”

Sherlock kissed John again with satisfaction.

John broke the kiss again a minute later. “You’re not wearing some kind of poisoned lip gloss?”

“John!”

“Kidding, I’m kidding. Don’t look like that. Actually it’s kind of sexy when you pout. God help me.”

Sherlock put his face against John’s neck, trying not to look too pleased.

“You know, this is going to sound crazy but I just had the strangest feeling of déjà vu… I didn’t by any chance…?”

John groaned and put a hand over his eyes.

“Oh god. I did, didn’t I? I kissed you when I was out of my mind.”

Sherlock stroked John’s hair soothingly.

John groaned again but Sherlock felt him lean into the touch.

He sighed. “I suppose it was only a matter of time. The signs were obvious.”

“What signs?”

John leaned back to look at Sherlock. “That I’m in love with you, you stupid git. Now come here and kiss me.”

Once again, Sherlock experienced the alarming sensation that his chest was filling up with air, and he looked down at John, panicking, but when his eyes found John’s, he saw that his expression was the same one he had worn earlier that day when he’d walked toward Sherlock clad in nothing but his coat, and he realized that this John and mad John really were one in the same, and that the feeling in his chest was the same one he experienced when discovering that Mycroft had done something wrong, or that there had been a triple murder, but this feeling was much stronger, brighter, fuller.

It really didn’t get better than John Watson, and John Watson was all his.

That thought made the bright feeling in Sherlock’s chest swell.

But also, poisoned lip gloss, Sherlock thought to himself with quiet eagerness. He filed the idea away for later, before pulling John in for another kiss.

Somewhere in the distance, he thought he heard the sound of bells.