Nudity was nothing new to John. Between being a doctor, rugby player, and a soldier he’d seen more naked people than he could count.
It was when it came time to cut up the painfully beautiful cadaver of a 22-year-old-woman during uni that he put any conscious thought into turning off the parts of him that reacted to beauty, putting them in distant, separate places in his brain that didn’t overlap. Bodies were just bodies, natural wonders, and the doctor and soldier never thought much about nice-looking ones besides registering their presence and moving on. Particularly fit patients (or fellow soldiers, on occasion) were deemed “nice” and promptly dismissed.
Coming back from Afghanistan was the first time in ages he didn’t have to push away those thoughts, where he could act on it. So he goes for it even when he knows there’s no chance because it’s nice to live a little. And Mycroft’s assistant really was gorgeous.
Living with Sherlock, he reverts to the old pattern. Sherlock is very fit, if ridiculously tall—all long, lean lines. But John puts it away and moves on, not wanting the hassle. He doesn’t care that Sherlock never respects his privacy in the bath and will come to brush his teeth or flush away some grated cow liver while he’s showering. It makes having a wank impossible, but another person seeing him naked doesn’t really bother him.
Sherlock is generally so fastidious about his dress that John never sees much of his body, aside from the parts that fall exposed between rumpled shirts and dressing gowns. He’s learning how to pick the bathroom lock so he can turn the tables on Sherlock, but isn’t quite there yet.
Once, it goes too far. John had just finished showering, wearing nothing but a towel when Sherlock barges in and starts inspecting his shoulder scar with a magnifying glass. His heart gives a few excited thumps but John pushes it away and doesn’t do anything besides raise his eyebrows.
“Don’t have enough detailed analysis on scar tissue,” Sherlock explains, not bothering to look up. John sighs, but decides it isn’t so bad. “Shot from the front, shooter was elevated in comparison. Bullet exited out the back with relatively small muscle damage. Most likely a 7.62x39mm cartridge from an AK 47 fired while you were treating somebody.”
“Very good,” John says, not bothering to fill in details as his mind is already trying to skitter away, but he takes a deep breath of the soapy air and grounds himself. He doesn’t want to relive that moment today. He does that enough at night.
Then Sherlock is tugging the towel down, kneeling on the floor of the bathroom and making a pleased noise when he spots the scar on John’s hip. He’s so close John feels the breath on his skin, the brown curls brushing against his abdomen, and it’s impossible to maintain the distance now.
“Sherlock!” John steps back, scrambling for his towel. “Really, that’s a bit much.”
“Why? You never minded before.”
“This is different.”
Sherlock pauses, eyes flickering as he analyses it. John can’t help but think of a computer loading bar.
“Ah. Too close to a sexual act for you to maintain distance. Would putting pants on help?”
“Not really. You’re a bit too distracting.” There wasn’t any point not being honest. Sherlock would figure things out eventually, anyway.
“You find me attractive?”
“Yes. I’m not blind.” Sherlock might not always be the greatest at social cues, but John was sure he was aware enough of his own good looks through people’s responses to him.
Sherlock tilts his head to the side a bit, considering. “Your reaction is unusual.”
John finally gets the towel back in place, covering the incipient erection. He isn’t sure if Sherlock means in general or regarding John’s wide range flirtation, so he lets it remain ambiguous. “Doctor, remember? “
Sherlock looks like he’s about to say something, probably horribly insulting and refuting the point, so John interrupts him. “And I don’t date men.”
The occasional bit of fooling around is fine, but John’s never wanted to date another bloke. Harry would be insufferable about it, and John prefers how things usually play out with women. The times it’s happened with men they were mates that blurred the line occasionally and left it at that, no complications.
Doing anything with Sherlock would definitely qualify as insane. It’s stressful and wild enough just living with him, there’s no need to go there.
“Ah,” Sherlock nods, as if all the pieces have lined up neatly in his head. He seems a bit disappointed that he can’t look at the scar a bit more, but heads back to his laptop where he’s surely perusing the internet for more research.
There are no changes; Sherlock takes the fact that John finds him attractive in his stride, and John tries very hard not to remember too much about the feeling of curls brushing his hip. It’s not completely successful, but dating Sarah gives him other things to think about.
When John learns to pick the bathroom door lock, Sherlock’s only reaction is to ask him to pass the shampoo, the lazy sod. The lithe angles of his body are about as he imagined. John doesn’t let himself think about it lest he become some kind of creeper pervert eyeballing his flatmate.
It’s a bit harder to box things off when things with Sarah go south. (It was only fair he explain Moriarty, and there’s nothing wrong with deciding that it’s too dangerous to have a relationship, but it’s still depressing. John will be too paranoid to pull for a while.)
It’s nearly impossible to get enough privacy to masturbate. Sherlock walks in on him one time in the shower, demanding to know how long it would take a five stone girl to bleed to death while John is leaning against the tile, hand on his cock. Sherlock makes a face like he’s the most insufferably dull person on the planet and walks back out. There’s no way he can continue after that.
John flushes the toilet on Sherlock in the middle of his shower in retaliation. His only reaction is a quick intake of breath and a glare at the sudden shock of cold water. There’s a head and a leg sitting in ice in the tub the next day, which John discovers by stepping on it. Many loud words are exchanged, most of them curses, and Sherlock is smiling the entire time.
Touch is similar. John was never a tactile child—that was Harry, all rough-and-tumble. Outside of sports and the occasional familial hug, he didn’t seek it out. Growing up it didn’t change; he only ever touched close friends and girlfriends, and never too much. At school he learned to inspect, examine without feeling like an invasion, short and simple. It was only with the occasional lover that he let it become something else, rough and messy. To John, it didn’t feel like the same kind of touch at all.
Sherlock has no sense of personal space. He drags John by the arm, stands far too close when talking, seizes him in the middle of using that ridiculous brilliant brain, once or twice even drapes himself along the couch and John’s body like an oversized cat. He’ll steal John’s laptop from under him, or lean over his shoulders with those endless arms of his to take over typing.
For about a week there’s an experiment where Sherlock blindfolds himself and smells John when he comes in. Sherlock tries to determine what he’s been doing and where he’s been, nose swooping in close and intimate, hands grabbing various parts of John’s body and holding them close. If it weren’t so impressive, Sherlock being right or getting at least the gist of it about 70% of the time, John wouldn’t put up with it.
In the spring, a sudden rainstorm leaves them both sopping wet. Sherlock’s suit is surely ruined, and John’s leather jacket will likely fare the same. The zipper is proving troublesome but Sherlock’s hands are suddenly there, dexterously coaxing it open. John tugs Sherlock’s jacket off as they go up the stairs, leaving it in a wet heap in the doorway. It doesn’t strike him as odd when he helps Sherlock unbutton his ridiculously expensive grey shirt because he can tell Sherlock is tempted to rip it off and he really doesn’t want to clean up the buttons later, or when Sherlock reaches for his belt and they ease the stiff material off together.
That’s when Mrs Hudson walks in and starts backing out as soon as she looks at them. “Oh! Boys, I didn’t realize. The door was open, you should really be more careful!” She gives them a sweet smile. “I’ll just be off, then.” She closes the door behind her.
John looks at where their hands are almost touching on the belt, John holding it away from the denim while Sherlock tackles the buckle. Sherlock, shirtless, hair dripping rivulets down pale skin.
Oh, they must be a sight. So much for dissuading anyone they aren’t a couple now.
He can’t help it, he starts laughing. That ridiculous, high-pitched giggle that always catches him unaware at the most inappropriate moments.
“Did you,” he gasps between chuckles, “did you see her face?”
And Sherlock is laughing too, body curling to muffle his deep laughter on John’s damp shoulder so John can feel every bit of it. And the thought of how this must look just starts him all over again. Really, there’s no hope in fighting it.
They laugh for a minute or two, damp and entwined in the doorway, and it’s the most intimate thing John has done in ages, it’s just perfect. John loves this utterly ridiculous life he shares with Sherlock. And it hits him that really, they already are dating, minus the sex bit. He already has candlelit dinners courtesy of whatever restaurant owner Sherlock saved from this or that, they live together, and John isn’t closer to anyone else.
Their eyes meet and it’s suddenly awkward, the closeness blurring territory. There’s the possibility, real and there, of something else. Never looking away, Sherlock goes back to removing the belt and it’s entirely different. John feels suddenly warm despite his soaked clothing and wet hair.
“Sherlock. I’m fine with this meaning something else. More than fine.” It almost surprises him that he means it, that it doesn’t feel jarring to decide to go in this direction. Sherlock erases all the boundaries John draws for himself, seems to relish it. “But you’ve never shown interest.”
Sherlock takes a moment to consider his words, thumbs sliding over metal buckle in a distracting manner. John swallows and forces himself to ignore it.
“In general I’m not. I have the same irritating impulses. I simply don’t act on them most of the time.” His thumbs brush over the fly of John’s jeans. “But this is acceptable. I think you’d keep it from being dull. ”
John gives him a crooked smile. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“But nothing,” Sherlock makes a disgusted face, says the word like he says the name of a certain member of the forensics team, “romantic.”
“Such a shame. I had a nice bouquet of roses in mind. Pink ones.”
And then they’re laughing all over again. John pulls Sherlock down for a kiss because he’s too damn tall but misses and mashes his face into corner of Sherlock’s mouth. They keep giggling onto each other’s faces before adjusting so their lips actually meet.
They’re both damp and taste like rain. Sherlock is rubbish at kissing, there’s too much tongue too fast but it’s brilliant all the same.
(then John's jeans get stuck and he knocks Sherlock over in his attempt to get them off)