It takes two days of Sherlock folding up in his favorite chair with the book for John to ask what the hell he's reading. Sherlock's been quieter with that book than he's ever been in all the years John's known him. John hasn't seen the book anywhere other than in Sherlock's hands, so it's probably been riding around in Sherlock's coat pocket otherwise. The detective's kept his hands strategically pressed against the covers as he reads, knees drawn up to his chest, so that John hasn't gotten a good look.
When he asks about it, Sherlock peers up at him from his position and watches John carefully with his bright blue eyes. John stands in the kitchen and looks back. Sherlock lowers his eyes again.
"Unimportant," he says.
John rolls his eyes. "Nothing can hold your attention longer than three seconds unless it interests you. You've been staring at that bloody thing for hours; it's not even a long book."
Sherlock doesn't respond, staring into the book but obviously not reading.
"Sherlock. Don't make me snatch it from you."
He gives a long-suffering sigh, closes the book, and thrusts it out toward John in one hand. John squints at it, snorts, and breaks into a toothy smile.
"The Cuddle Sutra? Really?"
Sherlock pulls it back and opens it again, not making eye contact.
"Let me see that," says John, taking a few steps toward him and taking it out of his hands. Sherlock doesn't protest. John flips through the little book, discovering it's half-pictures of different cuddling positions with accompanying descriptions. Sherlock has, of course, marked off all the positions he likes. Some, they've tried and others, they've haven't.
John looks at him again. "You silly git. Do you want to try these? Is that why you've been staring at it for two days? You can't have been reading it this whole time, I could read this in a half hour."
Sherlock looks away and fidgets in his chair. John shakes his head. Almost nine years of marriage and the man still can't just ask for what he wants.
"All right, come on, then," John says, holding out his empty hand. Sherlock looks at him for a beat, as if deciding whether it's safe, but takes John's hand and gets up from his chair.
The Main Squeeze
They lie down in the center of the bed, on their sides, facing each other. Sherlock wraps his legs around John's waist and both his arms around him too. John bends his knees and angles his legs into a sitting position, so Sherlock's bum rests in his lap. John curls his upper arm around Sherlock and tucks his other arm in between their bodies, as the book suggests. John has his face in Sherlock's throat, and Sherlock's head rests on the pillow, angled up with his chin brushing into John's hair. He can feel John's hot breath puffing against his neck. He has himself completely wrapped around John, holding him as close as he can, and he closes his eyes, feeling waves of oxytocin washing through his body. John can smell Sherlock's cologne and laundry detergent on his shirt and that clean, cool, masculine scent belonging distinctly to Sherlock.
They don't speak even though they're awake in this position for at least an hour. They only hold each other as close and tight as possible, squeezing with their arms and Sherlock squeezing with his legs too. John tucks his head beneath Sherlock's chin, brow against his collarbone. Sherlock holds John with as much enthusiasm as he can, like they've been separated for months with no contact. He can feel his own heart beating full in his ribcage and the warmth and life of John, so true at every point of contact. He is overwhelmed with love.
And John, who couldn't be any closer to Sherlock unless his own body melted and soaked straight into him, feels deeply loved in turn.
Sherlock lies in the middle of the bed, flat on his back with his arms outstretched to his sides. His hands lay palm up and the pale, sensitive skin of his inner wrists white enough to glow. John lies next to him on his side, pressed against Sherlock's right, arms around Sherlock's chest and hands clasped over Sherlock's left shoulder. His bent legs sandwich Sherlock's, and Sherlock's hip points into John's belly.
"Is it working?" says John, eyes closed and head on the other man's shoulder.
"Quite well, in fact," Sherlock says. He stares at the ceiling, thinking about his case, fully awake and his brain running beautifully. The distinction between the warmth on Sherlock's right side and the cool emptiness on his left, the familiar weight of John, keeps him clear-minded.
"Talk it out for me," John says.
Sherlock begins to run through the latest developments in the case, starting with the most obvious and general detail and becoming more and more specific as he speaks, running the information through a funnel. His voice fills the room like a cloud of perfume slowly dissipating throughout the whole space.
Soon, John's asleep, and Sherlock continues to think for a while as he listens to John breathe. The clues and details float around his head like satellites.
Once he reaches a conclusion, he stretches to turn out the lamp and folds his arms in over John to sleep.
They swiftly install this position into their cuddle routine and rename it "The Thinking Pose."
Breakfast in Bed
Sherlock lies on his back, outstretched across the length of the sofa, and John lies on top of him, elbows tucked against Sherlock's sides and hands curled under Sherlock's shoulders. He rests his head on Sherlock's chest and listens to his heart beat. Sherlock keeps his arms folded over John, hands layered together on his back.
"Can you breathe okay?" John says.
Sherlock smiles, looking at John's hair. "I think you can deduce that on your own, Doctor."
"Tell me if this gets uncomfortable. I'm not exactly schoolgirl weight."
Sherlock runs a hand over John's head. "I like where I am."
They lie quietly like that together for a while, until John starts chuckling. Soon, he's laughing hard, body shaking against Sherlock's, and Sherlock smiles with face quirked in confusion, hands still folded on John's back.
"Why are you laughing?"
"We really are in the most asexual relationship ever," says John, bursting into giggles. "Christ, I've never used the actual Kama Sutra!"
He laughs and laughs until Sherlock joins him, thinking the whole time how very lucky he is.
They lie on their sides in bed, backs to the door, and Sherlock spoons John, his face pushed into the base of John's neck. Despite how much he loves being the little spoon, the position does work better when he's the big one, since he's taller. He has his upper arm wrapped tightly around John's torso and his other arm shoved upward, beneath the pillow. He and John are touching from head to toe, and Sherlock breathes in the warm scent of John's skin and soft jumper. He finds that when he is the little spoon, his joy comes primarily from feeling loved by John, whereas when he's the big spoon, his joy comes from loving John. He cannot, in all fairness, decide which feeling is better.
After a bit, Sherlock starts to kiss the back of John's neck: small, gentle kisses with a closed mouth. John makes a humming sound of utter contentment. Kisses from Sherlock are very rare, although John doesn't kiss him much either. They don't kiss each other on the mouth except for the brief and extremely occasional peck, since it would feel too erotic otherwise. Usually, it's John who kisses Sherlock on the forehead, the temple, the knuckles, the cheek. He's never given much thought to receiving them back. But this feels perfect: the tender, back-of-the-neck peck. John's smiling wide with his eyes shut, even after Sherlock stops.
From that night forward, when Sherlock is the big spoon, the kisses are routine.
They lie on their sides in bed, facing each other, arms wound around each other tight. Sherlock has his face buried in John's shoulder and neck, while John rests his head on the pillow and smells Sherlock's expensive shampoo. John has his legs bent a little and held together, slotted between Sherlock's legs which are also bent. Like the tines of two forks. Sherlock's still wearing his dress trousers and his purple shirt, all the material unfailingly soft and fine, almost silky. They've both still got their socks on, as usual. The bed's still made beneath them. They haven't had dinner yet; Sherlock will inevitably whine and argue for skipping it in favor of staying right where they are. But as much as John is enjoying this position, he'll want them both to eat eventually. Delivery Chinese or Indian likely.
John runs his hand up and down Sherlock's back, slowly and lovingly, following the length of his spine because he knows that's a sensitive area for the detective. Predictably, Sherlock shudders and purrs and presses himself closer to John, one hand curling more tightly into the back of John's shirt.
John smiles to himself and doesn't stop.
Through the Woods
John lies on his back with his head on a pillow, feet flat on the bed and knees bent to make a triangle of space. He has one arm around Sherlock, who curls against his right side with his legs through the space under John's and his upper arm draped across John's chest.
"This is really relaxing," says John, with a touch of awe in his voice.
Sherlock hums contentedly with his eyes closed.
"Seriously, Sherlock. It's bloody fantastic."
"Does this mean you're going to start meditation?"
John makes a little snorting sound.
Sherlock starts stroking a spot on John's bad shoulder with his thumb, and for a few moments, they lie in silence and contentment.
"Ommm," says Sherlock.
John tells him to shut up.
The Most Comfy Chair
Sherlock's been home from the hospital for two days, and he wasn't much hurt to begin with: a dislocated shoulder he could've brushed off easily fifteen years ago, his arm in a sling until the soreness is well and truly gone. Minor cuts and bruises. He has no idea why on earth John's being so fussy; the man's been in an awful mood since the doctors sent Sherlock home, the kind where he hardly says a word and constantly frowns. When Sherlock finally asked him what was wrong, the answer was of course "nothing."
Sherlock goes upstairs to John's bedroom and waits until John starts calling for him. He listens to the footsteps coming up the stairs, and John stops in the doorway, looking at him with a more relaxed face than he's had since before Sherlock got hurt.
"What are you doing?" he says.
Sherlock's sitting on the side of the bed, back straight and his knees together, facing the door.
"Come here," he says, holding out his hand to John who doesn't go right away. He waits a beat, sizing up Sherlock with a bit of uncertainty. Sherlock waves his fingers toward himself.
John sits in Sherlock's lap, twisted at the waist to rest his feet up on the bed. He folds his arms around Sherlock and rests his head against the other man's. Sherlock curls his good arm firmly around John, the other one in the sling held close and carefully to his own body. He tucks his chin into John's shoulder, moving his thumb back and forth over a small spot of John's back.
"Are you all right?" Sherlock says softly. He feels John swallow and cling to him.
"I think we're getting too old for this."
Sherlock smiles faintly. "If you're calling me old at forty-nine, I'll have to object."
"You know what I mean. This isn't going to get easier."
"Are you suggesting we stop? Are you suggesting I stop?"
"No. I don't know. I just wish you wouldn't get hurt, Sherlock."
"Occupational hazard. Same for you. And I'm fairly sure you won't stay home without me for the sake of self-preservation."
John sighs and sags against Sherlock, who wraps his good arm around him tighter.
"Look. You and I both know realistically, I've only got another ten years left before running around London becomes truly infeasible. It's not much. Not when I love it the way I do."
"I know. I'm not asking you to give it up now."
"Part of you wishes I would. Despite how much you love coming with me."
John doesn't answer, his head warm and solid against Sherlock's, his body pleasantly heavy against the taller man. They remain in this pose until Sherlock's thighs are numb and tingling, but he doesn't complain or ask John to get off. After a while, John leans back a little to look at Sherlock, each of them with one arm around the other, and he touches Sherlock's injured shoulder gently, running the back of his fingers along the seam of Sherlock's shirt where the sleeve is attached. Sherlock can see discomfort in his eyes, but eventually, John leans in and kisses Sherlock's forehead.
There isn't anything else he can do.
The Lap of Luxury
John's the one who picks out this position, and he does it strategically, suspecting that it would be of particular comfort to Sherlock when he's feeling sad or vulnerable. Such occasions do not happen often, but at the first opportunity, John's ready to utilize the recommended cuddle pose.
No work in a week and a half and Lestrade made a comment about needing to retire soon, last time Sherlock and John saw him. Sherlock's bored and moping and wandering around the flat in his dressing gown looking a little sad. He isn't depressed, not yet anyway, but he could become depressed without a distraction.
So John sits at one end of the sofa and folds his legs Indian-style, beckoning Sherlock to lie down. It doesn't take much coaxing. The detective crawls onto the sofa and lays his head in the cradle of John's legs, facing the room on his side with his knees drawn up to his chest. John reaches down and starts to caress Sherlock's curls.
He strokes over them first, before digging his fingers into the curls and massaging Sherlock's scalp with his fingertips.
"You okay?" he says gently.
"Mmm," says Sherlock, which could mean anything or nothing at all.
John smiles down at him, patience in his face and his hand. "You'll have something to work on soon enough. And you know Lestrade isn't going to retire tomorrow."
"In roughly three years," says Sherlock.
"See? No need to worry about it right now."
John leans forward and begins to stroke Sherlock's back, his other hand cupped at the base of Sherlock's skull.
"Just because he won't always be a Yarder doesn't mean he'll stop being your friend," John says. Sherlock doesn't answer, not with dismissal or sarcasm or anything, which tells John he was right in his reading of Sherlock's emotions.
"It's more than that," the detective says quietly, after a while. "I don't like this ending business."
"Everything must come to an end," says John, with his own sense of wistfulness. "Let's not think about it today. We still have time."
So Sherlock doesn't say any more, lying still on the sofa as John's touch carries away his unhappiness wisp by wisp, a wind in the clouds.
Tête à Tête
They sit on the floor of their sitting room, face to face, their hands resting on each other's shoulders. Sherlock's long legs rest around John's, which are folded in the space between them. They look deeply into each other's eyes, Sherlock's lighter blue clear and bright and John's darker blue constant. They don't speak for several minutes, just looking.
"I love you," says Sherlock. He pronounces the words clearly and deliberately.
"I love you too," says John.
Earnestness softens the skin around their eyes and their mouths. They look at each other for a long time, until lingering any longer will force them to smile in a strange breaking of intimacy.
A pack of Yarders surround a crime scene in the rain, the sky gray and thick with clouds and the air cold but not unbearably. The police cars are silent but their lights flash and swivel. Bright yellow tape closes off the area where the murder suspect lies in close proximity to his last victim's blood on the ground, said victim having been already taken away in a body bag. Sherlock leans up against the wall of the building, out of sight, smoking a cigarette and brooding. He'd been chasing this killer for the last ten days; the death leaves him sour. It makes no difference Sherlock solved the case; this one, he wanted in his grip, in a cell.
John approaches him with his hands in his jacket pockets and doesn't make any visible gestures of disapproval or sympathy. He stands against the wall next to Sherlock, and they both ignore the thin drizzle of rain.
"Where'd you get that?" John says.
"Yarder," says Sherlock, blowing a stream of smoke out of his mouth. "My mood calls for it."
"We'll have to take out the nicotine patches when we get home."
Sherlock doesn't answer, and they both look out into the street together, the pavement gleaming with water and every bit of the world gray or black or something in between. They're quiet for a while, listening to the distant sounds of the Yarders hollering to one another, car doors opening and closing and engines running.
"Up for a cuddle?" says John.
"When we get home, I suppose. Might want to stop somewhere for something to eat if you're hungry."
"No, I meant now."
Sherlock looks at John with his brows narrowed in skepticism. "Now? How?"
"Drop the cigarette and I'll show you."
"John, I'm really not in the mood to be the mockery of the police force at the moment."
John gives him a pointed look. Sherlock considers it, sighs, and drops the cigarette on the ground, grinding it out with his shoe. John moves to stand in front of him and leans in, his arms resting against Sherlock's sides as Sherlock instinctively lifts his arms to circle them around John.
"Lift your leg," John says. "Foot on the wall."
Sherlock bends his right knee and rests his foot on the wall behind him, thigh between John's legs. He holds John close, feeling that familiar wave of relief wash over him, and closes his eyes. His arms folded horizontally against John's back and shoulders, and John hides his face in Sherlock's coat, smelling the damp wool and the faintest trace of smoke. Their heads are close and solid against each other's.
"God, are you okay?"
"Yes, of course."
They stand pressed together, almost stepping on each other's feet, hugging passionately with both arms. John's face is half pushed into Sherlock's shoulder, and they're nearly off balance, they're holding each other so hard.
"I thought—I was so scared you were—"
"Shhhh. I'm all right. We're both all right."
They don't let go for a long time and they keep their eyes closed.