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The hickey on Sherlock’s neck was large and dark and embarrassingly there. Yet there was some small part of Sherlock (the fourteen-year-old boy part, John laughed) that seemed oddly proud of it. It was, after all, his first hickey (not technically true, he explained to John later, there were certain – he paused, searching for the right word – experiments, with the hoover). But it was certainly the first that had resulted from the ridiculously pleasurable sensation of lips against skin. . .

John’s lips. Sherlock’s skin. More precisely, that small area of skin between his ear and the base of his neck- the one that John had spent months staring at, wondering how it would feel to lean in and nuzzle his head there, imagining the taste of him, the clean smell of sandalwood soap, the press of Sherlock’s body against his . . .

Two months after meeting Sherlock (“Almost like joining a cult”, he'd explained to Harry, “nothing looks quite the same afterwards,”) he’d started the lists – the first one titled “101 Reasons not to Kiss Sherlock” typed in crisp Times New Roman and later, “Top 10 Reasons to Kiss Sherlock” in casual Calibri, and then finally “Kiss Him or Die Trying.” This last one was in Comic Sans, because really, it was comical. 

So on the night that John stood behind Sherlock’s chair, bent down and finally kissed him slowly on the neck (kissing a standing Sherlock on the neck involved balancing on tiptoe, an image of himself John wasn’t ready for), he was not surprised when Sherlock raised one arm and wrapped his hand around the back of John’s neck, and laced his fingers tightly in his hair. Cue the die trying part . . . Before Sherlock could pull him away, John tried to stand, his hands raised in surrender, but Sherlock held him there.

“Don’t stop,” Sherlock said.

John heard something new and raw and tentative in Sherlock’s voice. And then he couldn’t breathe because his heart was knocking against his chest and his back was beginning to hurt from bending over the chair, and he wanted to laugh because maybe this kiss would kill him after all. But it didn’t kill him. Not even close. Turned out Sherlock had a list all his own. Written in invisible ink, of course.  Sherlock never understood the irony of that.

Sometimes now, late at night, John would lay on his side facing Sherlock. He'd lean over and softly kiss that same spot on Sherlock's neck. That he was allowed, even encouraged, to do this, never failed to astound him.   On nights when he’d had too much to drink, he imagined he could still make out the faint outline of the hickey, like an old man's faded tattoo.   “Sorry about that,” he said.

Sherlock pressed John’s hand against the spot. “You saved me, John Watson. Never apologize for that.”