Chapter 1: Maggots, Scotch and Bad Luck for Forensics
John moves back in on a Saturday.
When Sherlock emerges from his bedroom in the early afternoon, dressed in his pyjamas and his blue dressing gown, John is sitting in his chair, staring blankly into the empty space in front of him. Sherlock notices the slight impression the wedding ring has left on his finger.
“Good morning,” John says without looking at him.
“It’s half past three,” Sherlock answers, running a hand through his own sleep-tousled curls.
“Yes.” John’s vacant stare turns into a sad smile. "But I know you, don't I?"
“Hm.” Sherlock wanders over to the kitchen table, puts on his safety gloves and busies himself with adding a drop of sulfuric acid (38 per cent) to each petri dish with lactate producing bacteria. No need to ask any questions. It has taken him precisely two seconds to figure out what happened.
“Mrs. Hudson let me in. I took my suitcase upstairs. Is this-“ John clears his throat. “Is this alright?”
“Yes.” The ‘Of course it’s alright, you complete imbecile’ remains entirely subtextual. It’s more than alright and the question is unbearably stupid, but then, John is an idiot. Naturally. No point in being upset about the fact.
Sherlock finishes his experiment in silence, carefully taking notes in his lab journal. John still doesn’t move, which starts to worry Sherlock a bit. He blinks at John's motionless form and makes a decision.
“Lestrade texted me, around three hours ago. Murder suicide, apparently, but some painting has gone missing and no one can quite explain why. Boring.” Sherlock wanders over to the door, grabbing his Belstaff on the way. “Come with me?”
John raises his head in slow motion. Their eyes meet for the first time. The corners of John's mouth twitch slightly.
“Thank God,” he murmurs, and gets up to follow Sherlock into another round of ridiculous, life-endangering, glorious insanity.
The game is back on. Or, as a matter of fact, this specific round has just been won. They have found a painting and caught a murderer. Considering the footprints in the flowerbeds it was obvious that the suspect had only one arm, anyway.
When they return to Baker Street, their catecholamine level is high and something in their heads is spinning in a not-at-all-unpleasant way.
John puts the kettle on, makes himself comfortable in his chair (i.e. where he belongs) and tries to solve the crossword. Turns out that’s impossible, since Sherlock has conducted an experiment on ink splashing patterns every single ballpoint pen in 221B has fallen victim to. For some reason, John doesn’t look too upset. He appears to be rather calm, actually, coming down from a decent adrenaline high, the tension vacating his body, leaving him relaxed and slightly exhausted.
Sherlock realises that staring at John (who is decidedly not solving the crossword) could be considered vaguely inappropriate. He walks over to the fridge to fetch a plastic bag full of frozen maggots, mostly because he wants to look occupied.
Seconds later, he drops the bag onto his right foot, howls in pain and jumps gracelessly around the kitchen on one leg, cursing under his breath.
“Oh, Christ,” John gasps out in shock, realising what happened. Sherlock glares at him, freezing mid-jump, his aching left foot in the air, steadying himself on the counter tops.
John laughs. Laughs until his cheeks are damp with tears, and Sherlock tries his best to be furious about it. It ocurrs to him, though, that he hasn’t seen John laugh like this in months. Years, maybe.
“I’m sorry, Sherlock.” John gasps, wiping a tear away. “Can... can I help you? Are you hurt?”
Sherlock doesn’t answer. John Watson’s laugh may be the one sound he loves and enjoys most in all this world. Almost as much as he loves John himself. Being the subject of John’s laughter makes something in Sherlock’s abdomen glow in a quite agreeable way, which doesn’t actually make sense, since Sherlock doesn’t enjoy being laughed at in general.
Pretending to sulk is very much the next order of business. Sherlock huffs audibly, collects his maggots and proceeds to cut them in accurate slices in order to test the effect of alkaline substances on defrosting flesh.
John returns to his newspaper, still giggling a bit.
They both feel strangely relieved, like someone has taken a weight off their chests. Outside, London moves in its own strange ways, hurried and turbulent. Inside 221B Baker Street, something has mercifully come to a halt.
“I really shouldn’t drink,” John announces, taking another sip of Scotch.
Sherlock, upon returning from purchasing seventeen different types of chlorine bleach, halts in the doorway, freezing in the middle of taking off his scarf. This is new. John slouching in his chair, drinking alcohol at four in the afternoon without a specified cause, that is.
“Scotch?” John offers, and Sherlock has no idea if a) it’s by courtesy, b) John has an unaccountable desire to get drunk with Sherlock, or c) he originally intended to get drunk by himself and Sherlock represents a welcome/unwelcome intrusion. Before he has properly determined what to do, Sherlock nods warily. John pours him a glass.
Sherlock cautiously hangs his coat and scarf up and walks over to the sofa. He sits down next to John, wondering if he’s sitting too close or maybe not close enough to offer whatever John is expecting him to (comfort? consolation? company?) and takes a small sip. It’s pretty disgusting, but then, Sherlock is not sure if you’re actually supposed to enjoy Scotch or if Scotch is to be interpreted as a metaphorical liquid landfill to get rid of unwanted emotions. He frowns. John is determinedly looking at the floor, not facing Sherlock, who decides to do the same.
“It’s been a year since I got married. That means the divorce has been finalised today,” John tells him after several minutes of silence.
Sherlock makes a vague sound of acknowledgement. It’s a bit of a predicament, to be honest, constantly not knowing how he’s supposed to react. The silence (that is not strictly speaking awkward but also far from comfortable) continues. Too long for Sherlock’s liking.
“Truth be told, I am a bit glad. That it’s… over. Officially.”
Sherlock contemplates the seriousness of the situation, taking several factors into account. John’s clenched jaw, his countenance, his body language, the consumption of an addictive substance despite his questionable family history. He does not come to a useful conclusion.
John clears his throat. Repeatedly. Bites his bottom lip before continuing. “That last appointment with our divorce lawyers-… I didn’t hesitate before signing the petition. She didn’t, either. That was the last time I saw her before today. It’s weird, because I… really used to love her. And now – you know how they say that when you see someone again after an extended period of time, you realise how much you’ve missed them?”
Sherlock nods. Something cold and entirely unpleasant starts to bubble in his stomach.
“I just… realised that I hadn’t missed her at all. Strange, isn’t it?”
The bubbling stops abruptly. Sherlock doesn’t know what to make of it.
“It has never been the same after… you know. She was not the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. She never had been and I- I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact. I really thought it could work. Jesus, I was so, so – wrong.”
John sounds genuinely upset about this. Sherlock contemplates offering consolation in some way, because that would be a publically accepted reaction to John’s state. Perhaps. He deposits his glass on the coffee table and observes John cautiously. (He’s not going to force one more drop of Scotch down his throat. He’s already getting drowsy, after all.)
“In the end it felt like being caught in a bloody nightmare.” John takes one last gulp. A huge one, sufficient to empty the glass. “I was afraid to leave the house because I couldn’t figure out what she was up to when I was away. I was afraid to stay at home because I couldn’t quite look into her eyes. It was… agony.”
“I’m glad you’re home, John,” Sherlock hears his own voice say. He isn’t sure if this statement is appropriate for the situation, which upsets him for around five seconds. Then he contemplates that now he’s already said it, and ruminating about it serves no purpose whatsoever. Time to observe the consequences, then.
Surprisingly, John lifts his head and smiles. Hesitantly, reluctantly, but he smiles. “Looks like you've missed your little sidekick.”
Sherlock snorts. “Don’t be preposterous,” he barks out, because a self-deprecative attitude doesn’t suit John at all. “While I agree on little as a suitable self-description, I recall having stated the reasons why I appreciate having you around. In case your long-term memory is still intact, you will remember that it is not merely because I require a… sidekick, as you so eloquently put it.”
John lets out a deep breath that sounds like repressed laughter. “This,” he murmurs, gesturing at the sofa, the coffee table, Sherlock or nothing in particular. “I missed this.”
Sherlock nods. Obviously.
It’s silent for a long time, so achingly quiet that they can hear water dripping into their kitchen sink. Someone (John) will have to call a plumber shortly. The pipes must be rusty again.
“There’s something,” John attempts to recommence the conversation, glaring into his empty glass, and all of a sudden it seems like he is very deliberately not looking at Sherlock. Sherlock frowns at him. John swallows heavily. “Something I have to… come to terms with.”
He deposits his glass next to Sherlock's and remains in a bent forward position, covering his face with his hands. “Never mind,” he adds after a while.
During the following weeks, they don’t talk about the fact that John drinks alcohol on a fairly regular basis when he’s alone. They don’t talk about the fact that he doesn’t waste a second on thinking about alcohol when Sherlock is around, either. And, most importantly, they don’t talk about the fact that John eventually forgets his Scotch, and that the bottle gets dusty in the corner next to the fireplace, never to be opened again.
They settle into their strange kind of domesticity. Their windpipes-in-the-fridge-and-strychnine-in-the-sugar-bowl domesticity, their chasing-murderers-along-rooftops-and-eating-omelettes-at-3am domesticity. It closely resembles their life together before The Fall, before everything, frankly, except this time, it feels a tiny bit more fragile, just like they’re trapped inside a bubble that could burst with one wrong word, one inappropriate action. They dance around each other with so much caution that Sherlock feels like the world is covered in a layer of cotton wool that’s softening every word, every accidental touch.
It’s strange to know how it feels to lose each other.
They both need time to adjust to a feeling that could possibly be described as contentment. Neither of them is very good at not being miserable.
The fact that Sherlock has just been thrown against a metal wall (headfirst) seriously impedes his ability to concentrate. Something in his head keeps throbbing in a profoundly unpleasant way and his right upper arm feels like it’s on fire. Must be a nasty, deep cut, judging by the knife that caused it.
“You really shouldn’t have chosen my little residence to look for a body, Mr. Holmes. Now you’re going to end up being the next one.” Charring chuckles over his own little joke and tightens his grip around Sherlock’s wrists that are pinned above his head, pressing Sherlock against the wall of the dingy little boat house with his whole body.
Sherlock groans in a mixture of pain and annoyance. “Your sense of humour bores me beyond belief. Lovely. Now if you’d kindly let me go so we can... talk about this like grown-ups.”
“No,” Charring grunts, drawing the syllable out with something he might consider a threatening attitude, while he’s, in fact, barely able to restrain his own nervousness. Well, it was worth a try. “I’m going to have to kill you.”
Rupert Charring is one among hundreds of mindless minions in a rather deadly business who merely does what he’s told. In other words, a complete moron with a gigantic knife. Said knife is currently being pressed against Sherlock’s throat, due to a minor miscalculation concerning the location of a corpse on the one hand and Charring’s on the other. Stupid.
Sherlock doubts that Charring has ever killed anyone himself, which is not exactly reassuring. Being the first victim means having an inexperienced murderer. Amateurism is dreadful, in all situations. In killing, it always leads to a lack of efficiency. Unclean cuts, extensive bleeding, lots and lots of pain. Sherlock closes his eyes, trying not to breathe in Charring’s mouth odor, and wonders why he is so unwilling to accept his own impending murder, when a few months ago, he wouldn’t have given a damn if he was dead or alive.
All he needs are three seconds of distraction. He has effortlessly catalogued Charrings’s countless weak spots, the problem is that, in his current position, he doesn’t have access to any of them. Within three seconds he could not only disarm Charring, but also reduce him to a whimpering mess on his knees. (Two broken ribs, fractured left radius, blunt abdominal trauma.) Three seconds.
The door flies open with a crack. Charring gasps in surprise, involuntarily turns his head, briefly loosening his grip. Long enough.
Sherlock struggles to free himself, rams his knee into Charring’s gut while simultaneously twisting his arm until the knife drops to the ground and the moron is begging for mercy in the most pathetic way imaginable. Once Charrings legs have given out, Sherlock aims several precise kicks at his ribcage and the area of his kidneys before stepping away. Charring moves into a bent-forward position and surrenders to his dry heaves. Idiot.
“Jesus Christ, Sherlock,” John yells, hurrying past several stolen yachts, barely noticing the headless corpse on the deck of one of them. “If you ever run off without me again, I swear I’m going to kill you myself, because you’re basically asking for it.”
“Shut up, John. Hand me your phone.” Sherlock really doesn’t feel like being lectured on safety right now.
“I already bloody called Lestrade,” John snaps impatiently, his eyes widening as he notices the blood soaking through Sherlock’s clothes. “Hang on, what happened to your arm? You’re… Sherlock, you’re bleeding.”
“Yes, I am. Your powers of observation never fail to underwhelm me. Now, would you kindly be a bit more convenient and hand me the damned phone?”
“Nope.” John makes his way up to Sherlock, manhandles him out of his suit jacket and straightforwardly tears his shirt sleeve apart to get better access to the cut. Sherlock sighs dramatically when John starts to examine it.
“Right. S’not as bad as it looks.” John finally announces, sounding oddly relieved. “No trip to A&E, but you’re going to need stitches. We can do that at home.”
Charring stirs a bit on the floor and John gives him another kick for good measure, glaring down at him like he’s the scum of the earth personified.
It hits Sherlock (without warning, as always) that he loves this unassuming and infinitely brave man so much, that, even though every part of his body hurts, he feels like he’s going to explode from the red-hot sensation inside his chest cavity.
Lestrade turns up about five minutes later, along with a few officers. Charring (who is definitely going to betray his employer as well as his fellow henchmen, the coward) is taken into custody. Sherlock pretends to be texting someone (while in reality he has no reason to use John’s phone at all, he’s just being decidedly stubborn and proving a point), and waits for everything to be over.
Lestrade, annoying as he is, has questions. John informs him that Sherlock is in need of medical attention which he is inclined to provide in the foreseeable future, and that due to this fact they are unable to a stay any longer. Lestrade merely sighs and lets them go.
Half an hour later, Sherlock is sitting on the lid of the loo in the safe shelter of their bathroom and John is busy tending to his wound.
“Hold this,” he orders, handing Sherlock a roll of dressing material and a tube of ointment.
“You know what pisses me off?” John asks, sounding a bit more furious than Sherlock would prefer. He was silent during the whole cab ride, and Sherlock’s reflection on possible reasons has yet to be conclusive.
“It pisses me off that after everything we’ve been through you still think you can run off and get yourself killed without even asking me if I’m okay with it.”
John disinfects the area of Sherlock’s wound, then proceeds to open the little package with the sterile surgical needle. Sherlock grits his teeth as the sharp piece of metal pierces his flesh.
“Are you trying to tell me that I need your permission to die?”
“You’re completely delusional.”
“Yes, I probably am. And you’re the most selfish, arrogant prick I have ever met, and you're all I bloody have, so would you kindly consider thinking about me for an instant?”
Sherlock jerks in spite of himself, blinking rapidly, not knowing what to say. John has his arm in a death grip while stitching him up.
“Sherlock, I’ve watched you throw yourself off a building…”
Unbelievable. Sherlock huffs in exasperation. “For God’s sakes, John, not that again! I said I’m sorry, remember?”
“Yes, you fucking said you’re sorry! But for God's sakes, I spent two years convinced that I had heard the sound of your… your skull cracking open.” John pauses, swallows, squeezes Sherlock’s arm so hard that it’s beginning to hurt. “And... and everything that happened with... Mary, the baby that’s not even mine and I… Do you think that's easy for me? Do you think I can... go on as if nothing had...-” John pauses again, searching for the right words. John is much more intelligent than Sherlock has ever given him credit for, of course, but he's never been an eloquent man. (And, as it transpires, his conversation skills are not improving.) This is getting tiresome.
“Then you went and almost died on me again," John murmurs after a small eternity. "I had to watch them perform CPR on you and you weren’t responding, and...“
“That’s because your wife shot me,” contributes Sherlock matter-of-factly, and realises a moment too late that this probably wasn’t the ideal thing to say.
A vein on John’s forehead swells dangerously. He looks a lot like he’s going to punch Sherlock in the face. He doesn’t, though. He just starts to shout incontrollably. Sherlock wonders if Mrs. Hudson downstairs is already having a panic attack.
“Shut up! Fucking hell! Fuck, I... Didn’t… Didn’t you think about... for a fucking bloody second today, didn't you-“
Sherlock is on the verge of getting profoundly irritated. Really, seriously, profoundly irritated.
“Would you consider communicating like a human being?” he yells, knowing perfectly well that he is being rude and possibly a bit unfair. He finds that he doesn’t care.
“Now I have given up everything I had. Everything, do you understand? The only thing that’s left is you. Are you entirely unable to grasp that I couldn’t possibly bear losing you again, you complete and utter dickhead?”
“John, I hope you are aware of the fact that I will never ask you for permission to do anything, just because you’re emotionally compromised and under the temporary impression of being... in some way dependent on me. You should probably reconsider compensating the loss of your wife with... with something else,” Sherlock snaps and it sounds even harsher than intended.
John licks his lips. Neither of them speaks while John applies ointment and tapes Sherlock’s arm up.
“You know,” John murmurs while packing their first aid kit back together. “You’re right. Perfectly right. I’m condemned to lose every single goddamned psychopath I hold dear. What’s the sodding problem? That’s what everyone in their right mind would expect in the first place, isn’t it? Maybe I should make my peace with it. Maybe I’m not supposed to have… anyone.”
Sherlock exhales heavily, squeezing the left-over dressing material in his hand. That’s not what he was trying to convey. Because even though he may not be the right person to judge interhuman relationships, he realises that if there’s someone in the world who doesn’t deserve to be alone, it’s John.
Sherlock is just not the one to make things right. His whole life, Sherlock has never been the one to make things right. He’s a problem solver, someone who reveals secrets and uncovers the unattractive truth, who hunts people down and leaves a gigantic mess behind. He’s not someone who pieces broken people together. He would try, though, for John, if only he knew how. He would also move the sun and stars to Baker Street for John, if only he knew how.
It’s rather scary, being in love like that, but then, he’s never had a choice.
“John.” he says tentatively. “You’ll never know how wrong you are.”
Their eyes lock. Sherlock squeezes so tight that his knuckles turn white. Something in John’s eyes lights up for an instant as he begins to understand.
Anderson is on sick leave. God (i.e. abominable, destructive concept made up by lesser minds) bless the influenza virus and its ability to mutate.
He is being replaced by a young forensics technician. Said young forensics technician possesses a set of aesthetically pleasing female secondary sexual characteristics. Furthermore, she has long, slightly curly brunette hair, blue eyes and is marginally less annoying than the idiot she is currently taking the place of. She is the quintessential embodiment of John’s Pre-Mary type of woman.
Her name is Leslie, she insists on being called by her first name because we’re colleagues after all, and she has been flashing John a bright smile whenever he has turned in her direction since the moment they have arrived at the crime scene.
Sherlock isn’t even entirely sure why he despises her from the depth of his heart.
He eyes her out of the corner of his eye while carefully palpating the hem of the cotton shirt currently worn by the victim (Caleb Anthony Wilks, 37 years old, barbiturate poisoning, clearly not self-inflicted). If Lestrade stopped wasting his time with his idiotic suicide hypothesis, he would be able to concentrate for a second. What a wonderful world that would be.
Leslie runs a hand through her curls while pocketing her examination gloves, demonstratively batting her eyelashes in John’s direction.
Sherlock doesn’t approve of this.
John, meanwhile, doesn’t even seem to have noticed Leslie. He ignores her in favour of observing Sherlock. John watches him examine the corpse, smiling slightly, looking fascinated, completely in awe, maybe even more than usual. It doesn’t make any sense. It occurs to Sherlock that John has not dated any women for an unusually long period of time. He hasn’t been looking for one-night-stands, either. It’s not due to erectile dysfunction or a lack of sexual appetite. Sherlock knows that. He keeps track of John’s masturbatory habits for a reason, after all.
Be that as it may, even though Leslie is female and obviously available, John has yet to respond to her flirting. This fact is way more interesting than the frankly not-at-all-boring murder mystery in front of Sherlock, and thinking about the John/Leslie equation significantly decelerates his thought process, which is counterproductive. He needs to focus.
Sherlock regains control over himself eventually. (He does so by insulting the entire team, including John, and ordering them to shut up. Leslie looks thoroughly taken aback, everyone else just complies. Standard procedure.) Ten minutes of quiet concentration enable him to solve the goddamn murder.
He delivers his deduction (poisoned by step brother who was being blackmailed for having sex with his own sister). John calls him brilliant and incredible, and a quite agreeable fluttering spreads in Sherlock’s stomach.
“She asked me out,” John announces cheerfully when they’re seated in the back of a cab heading towards Baker Street. “while you were busy sniffing Wilks’ fingernails.”
Sherlock experiences a sensation that resembles being punched in the gut.
“Boring,” he says, not quite succeeding in sounding disinterested.
“Exactly,” John agrees. “I declined.”
The weight on Sherlock’s stomach disappears abruptly and is instantly replaced by the familiar fluttering. “Why?”
John clenches his jaw. He places his hand on the backseat, pressing his fingertips into the leather. His hand is shockingly close to Sherlock’s. John’s fingers are twitching slightly, moving closer. For a brief instant, Sherlock is almost sure he is going to place his hand on top of his own.
John exhales heavily. “Just... because?” It sounds like a question.
Sherlock shakes his head slowly, clenching his hands and turning away to look out of the window.
He could imagine things right now. Things that would inevitably turn out to be wrong. Sherlock has dared to imagine things before and it has never ended well. He won’t try this time.
He realises too late that he has already started.
Chapter 2: Chopsticks, Pocket Knives and How To Warm Up Your Detective
Let's figure out if they're maybe, possibly, perhaps, a tiny little bit in love with each other.
The casual touching is completely inexplicable at first. It starts six months, two weeks, two days, three hours and forty-two minutes after John has moved back in. It starts with a hand in Sherlock’s hair.
Sherlock is peering through his microscope, cataloguing the effect of cephalosporine based antibiotics on conserved Purkinje cells (extracted post-mortem), when his thought process is brought to a halt by the presence of fingers casually brushing through his curls.
He sucks in a sharp breath. His heart decides upon wild hammering as an appropriate reaction. Oh.
It’s not that Sherlock is uncomfortable with physical contact in general. Touching people is not much of a problem for him; as a matter of fact, he invades people’s personal space all the time, like it’s the most natural thing in the world. It is, however, usually a necessary evil, a means to an end. Lots of touching occurred during his brief fake relationship with Janine (entirely chaste touching, much to Janine’s chagrin). It wasn’t necessarily unpleasant, but nothing to waste much thought on, either.
John’s hand in his hair, though, manages to render him speechless and unable to breathe properly within the fraction of a second. There is no logical explanation for the fact that being touched by John evokes this kind of abnormal physical reaction.
Sherlock catches himself hoping for it to happen again. He needs data.
It does happen again. The next day, to be precise. And the day after that.
John’s fingers brush Sherlock’s arm whenever he’s passing by on his way to his room or before going to work. He lets his hand linger on top of Sherlock’s after handing him his morning tea, ruffles his hair affectionately when Sherlock is thinking, curled up in his chair. Sherlock acts like he doesn’t notice. Well, mostly. Sometimes, he can’t help blinking too rapidly a few times, or even leaning into the touch. Just a tiny little bit.
One day, when they are getting ready for a crime scene, John takes Sherlock’s scarf and wraps it around his neck for him. It’s a pointless act, really. Sherlock has been perfectly capable of performing this task all by himself for nearly thirty-five years.
The butterflies in Sherlock’s lower abdomen beg to differ.
It becomes normality, in the sense that Sherlock doesn’t panic right up to entering a state of paralysis whenever John touches him. Well, not always.
When John sits down next to Sherlock on the sofa one evening, and just unceremoniously pulls him closer until Sherlock's head is in his lap, if feels almost natural for Sherlock to relax and nuzzle his face into John’s belly. And when John leans down to press a tiny kiss to Sherlock’s temple, Sherlock is almost, almost prepared for it.
John feels like home, like a safe shelter, and as much as Sherlock appreciates the adrenaline pumping through his veins on a semi-regular basis, he has to confess that it is rather agreeable, being enveloped in John like that.
Sherlock is quite sure, of course, that The Touching Thing is merely John’s way of procuring the amount of physical contact he craves. He doesn’t really mind being a means to an end, a convenience, even. He will do his best to provide whatever makes John calm and content. If John is touch-starved, Sherlock will be there to compensate for his lack of physical intimacy. He knows that some kind of romantic interest for John will show up at some point, and he will lose him again. Inevitably.
Adding John to Sherlock is like adding sodium dehydrogen phosphate to a potent organic acid. It will look perfectly peaceful for some time, and then it will blow up, everything will be a mess and Sherlock will be alone. Sherlock knows that. It has happened before.
Sometimes, though, Sherlock allows himself to imagine that this, whatever on earth it is, may mean something. And very, very rarely, he imagines that it will last.
It’s the most ordinary (dull) Wednesday evening imaginable, when Sherlock dares to reciprocate for the first time.
John is watching some kind of science fiction movie. Sherlock pretends to be sulking. In reality, however, he is equally captured by this ludicrous apology for adult entertainment. They have wrapped up a case this afternoon (barely a 5), and now they are trapped in their living room without anything to do. It’s exactly that sort of terrible domesticity they both pretend to hate. (Neither of them would ever admit that they actually enjoy those evenings. A lot.)
“I’m going to order take-away,” John announces. “And you’re going to eat.”
Sherlock grunts. John is fluent in Sherlock’s non-committal noises.
“No. I won’t tolerate you starving yourself again, just because you get a bloody kick out of being stubborn. You haven’t actually eaten anything in ages, except half an apple. And that was yesterday. Is Korean okay?”
Sherlock doesn’t move. John informs him that if he refuses to choose from the online menu of Mr. Fu’s, John will order Beef Pad Thai Noodles for Sherlock, and that’s what Sherlock is going to eat, then.
Sherlock assures him that he has never voiced any kind of fondness for Beef Pad Thai Noodles, and that there is no plausible scenario or any kind of parallel universe where he would eat Beef Pad Thai Noodles voluntarily. They bicker about Beef Pad Thai Noodles for five minutes, during which John loses track of the preposterous movie plot and Sherlock still refrains from looking at the menu.
In the end, John orders Roast Duck with Mushrooms for Sherlock. Sherlock makes him order Beef Pad Thai Noodles for himself.
They eat in silence, and surprisingly, it’s not uncomfortable at all. Sherlock eats hardly any Roast Duck with Mushrooms and steals more than half of John’s Beef Pad Thai Noodles instead. John attempts to stab him with a chopstick on three separate occasions. Sherlock throws a mushroom at him. It gets lost between the sofa cushions and Sherlock makes a mental note to retrieve it later. (Or, more precisely, to tell John to retrieve it later, which is pretty much the same thing.)
As soon as they’ve finished, Sherlock notices two things at once. Firstly, there are little laugh lines forming around John’s eyes. Sherlock isn’t sure how long they have been there, but admittedly, they are beautiful. John’s skin looks a bit like rumpled parchment. Secondly, there’s a warm hand on his thigh. Feeling a lot like he’s crossing a border, Sherlock places his own on top of it. The back of John’s hand feels fascinating. Sherlock cautiously traces a particularly prominent vein with his finger.
John does the thing where he looks at Sherlock like he’s worth something. Sherlock decides that whatever on earth this is, it has to mean something, anything at all, really, because if it doesn’t, he will shatter into a thousand pieces, and nothing will ever be able to put him together again.
Mrs. Hudson walks in with a tray full of chocolate cupcakes. John is in the process of reading his newspaper and Sherlock is having an intense conversation with himself about how to reach the carotid artery with a pocket knife. The delicate detail about the situation is that Sherlock’s head is in John’s lap and John is lazily stroking his riot of curls.
Sherlock jerks in surprise, straightening himself and hastily sliding away from John as the door opens. He is not inclined to jeopardize their arrangement by letting anyone see them while they’re… like that. He’s too slow, though, and Mrs. Hudson gets an eyeful of, well, everything.
“Evening, boys,” she coos cheerfully, not looking the slightest bit startled. That that’s not exactly surprising, of course. She has been mistaking their relationship for a romantic one for several years. Mrs. Hudson per se is not the problematic factor here. The problem is that Mrs. Hudson will talk to people who will proceed to talk to other people. John doesn’t appreciate people talking.
“Thanks, Mrs. Hudson,” John says calmly, looking up from his newspaper as if nothing had happened whatsoever.
“Would you mind trying my cupcakes, dear? It's this new recipe from Mrs. Turner’s daughter and I’m not sure if they’re, you know, good. I think they’re alright, but I do need a second opinion. She’s a strange girl, Mrs. Turner’s daughter. Have you ever met her, John? A sweet young lady, and I really don’t want to say I’m under the impression that she’s a bit bonkers, but with the blue hair and breeding pugs and everything…”
Mrs. Hudson chatters away happily, pushing several test tubes aside before depositing her tray on the kitchen table. John listens to her, still on the sofa with Sherlock next to him, smiling mildly and occasionally nodding. Sherlock is puzzled.
He gets even more bewildered when John decides to go fetch a cupcake and, before getting up, presses his lips against Sherlock’s temple. He sucks in a sharp breath, closes his eyes, tries to collect his thoughts and opens them again. 221B is still there, as is John who is currently munching away on a cupcake and complementing Mrs. Hudson on it. Not sure how to proceed, Sherlock resumes his conversation. “I am about eighty-eight per cent sure that the sulcus jugularis is not even accessible from this angle. No, no, no… that’s because the pocket knife is foldable.”
Mrs. Hudson stops her chattering and frowns in his direction.
“This is rubbish.” Sherlock contradicts himself, because it doesn’t have anything to do with the pocket knife being foldable. “Why didn’t he try it with a screwdriver in the first place?” It’s a rhetorical question, that’s why Sherlock doesn’t answer immediately.
Mrs. Hudson eyes him curiously. “What are you talking about, dear?”
“Ignore him,” John advises her, shrugging, taking another cupcake. “He’s been doing that for hours. Something about how to properly cut people’s throats.”
There’s an interesting moment in which John and Mrs. Hudson simultaneously sigh, shake their heads and look at Sherlock with an expression that could probably be described as affectionate. Sherlock frowns at the two of them.
”Those are absolutely delicious. No need to be worried about the recipe,” John announces with his mouth full after successfully having shoved half of his second cupcake into it.
“Thank you, John. I’m relieved. I was so worried about the sugar sprinkles, but they make a nice contrast to the frosting, don’t they? Do make Sherlock try a cupcake, John.” Another thoughtful frown in Sherlock’s direction. “I’ll leave you boys alone, then, shall I?”
“See you later, Mrs. Hudson,” John says cheerfully before closing the door behind her.
“I will have to assess the average diameter of the left carotid artery,” Sherlock explains to himself as John returns to the sofa. He pulls Sherlock back in his lap without further explanations. Sherlock finds that very pleasant, albeit incomprehensible. Completely incomprehensible, all of it.
He nuzzles his nose into John’s jumper and tells his belly about different blade types of pocket knives manufactured in Hungary.
Food usually just sort of happens.
It turns up on a relatively regular basis, sometimes on the kitchen table, sometimes in the fridge or on the countertops or on the coffee table. Sometimes it’s half-eaten. (John’s, saved for later. John is a military man, he is used to living on restricted resources, he would never let good food go bad. Dull.) Sometimes it’s decorated with tiny carrot and cucumber slices, or, if it comes in the shape of pie or pancakes, with icing sugar. (From Mrs. Hudson, who has read that a vitamin-rich diet is important and is convinced that sweets cannot possibly contain enough sugar.) Sometimes it’s left-over take-away. And sometimes it’s something that has been cooked by John.
If food is there, Sherlock will probably contemplate eating it. If food isn’t there, Sherlock won’t bother eating anything. This has worked perfectly for years.
Sherlock rarely witnesses the process of food actually being prepared.
When Sherlock returns from Bart’s morgue on this particular Thursday evening, John is busy cooking. This is unusual. What’s even more unusual is that he’s a) not wearing his jumper b) he is wearing an apron over his shirt instead and c) aforementioned jumper (dark brown, woollen, hideous) has haphazardly been thrown over the back of a chair.
John looks genuinely surprised to see him. Well, Sherlock hasn’t been away for very long. His experiment has failed to produce results. (Who would have expected human skullcaps to literally combust?)
“Sherlock, I’m cooking. Don’t look at me like I’m conducting some bizarre embalming ritual.” John seems to ponder over that for a second. “Bad metaphor,” he finally says, frowning. “I think this would alarm you less. Take your coat off and get over here.”
Sherlock contemplates this and complies. Waltzing past John and retiring to the sofa for a nice sulk is a tempting thought, indeed, but Sherlock decides it’s not worth the trouble.
John proceeds to hand him a giant knife, which Sherlock eyes warily. He didn't know about the existence of anything in this flat that would make such a splendid murder weapon. Interesting.
“Chop the onions, Sherlock. Do you think you can do that?”
Sherlock squints. John eyes him curiously, smirking. “You haven’t deleted onions, have you?”
“Stop being tiresome, John. I haven’t deleted onions.”
John chuckles affectionately and casually wraps an arm around Sherlock’s waist, just for a second or two, before returning to the pan on the stove. The world comes to a halt for an instant, and then continues to turn just like nothing had happened.
Sherlock chops onions. Well, he tries. He ends up mostly squashing them, wondering how such a mind-numbingly boring task can possibly be this frustrating. John is watching him attentively.
“This is pointless. Disgusting,” Sherlock spits out when he’s had enough, putting the knife down. His eyes are burning. (To be vaguely more precise, it feels like they are being put out with a rusty spoon.) He curses a higher power he doesn’t believe in for creating sulfoxide amino acids and stashing them inside innocent looking onions.
John chuckles some more. “You’re crying, Sherlock.”
“I’m not,” Sherlock informs him.
“Yes, you are.”
“I am not crying, John. My eyes are tearing.”
“Ah.” John looks very amused and doesn’t appear to be understanding.
“My lacrimal glands have been sympathetically activated due to a sudden contact of afferent receptor neurons with sulfuric acid, derived from an enzymatically catalyzed reaction following the exposition of Alliiase from plantal cortex cells. Crying is considered a way of expressing emotion or reacting to pain. I am currently neither influenced by any kind of strong emotion or physical pain, nor did I make a conscious decision to cry. Thus, the term is incorrect, or at least not used in the sense that is approved of by the greater public. In other words, you’re being an idiot. Stop it, it’s annoying.”
John’s ears are delightfully red for some reason when he walks over to the kitchen table, casually ruffling Sherlock’s hair as he passes. He has to stand on tiptoes to do so, and Sherlock notices that he looks like he’s enjoying himself immensely. He is surprised that he’s not irritated by the fact.
Still giggling a bit, John grabs his neglected jumper and chucks it to Sherlock, who catches it reflexively. “Wipe your face. You’re not crying, naturally, you just look an awful lot like you are.”
Sherlock snorts and buries his face in the woolly fabric. The effect is unprecedented and entirely unexpected.
The jumper is soft and fleecy and smells incredible. Indefinable, even. It smells like cheap soap, a tiny bit like sweat, and a lot like the shrimps on the stove. It smells like tea and machine oil (see: The Adventure of the Homicidal Lawnmower, the latest imbecilic blog post John has come up with), like Mrs. Hudsons anis biscuits, and it smells like John. It smells like home. Fascinating.
Sherlock notices that he has lost himself a little in all those delicate sensations, and that he has basically been sniffing John’s jumper for at least ten seconds. He is not familiar with opinions about sniffing jumpers owned by flat mates (he should contemplate conducting a survey). More importantly, he is uninformed about John’s opinion on the topic. This could be problematic. Sherlock lowers the jumper and cautiously raises his head.
To his surprise, John has stopped his chuckling in favour of studying Sherlock’s actions, which seem to interest him infinitely. Something in his expression appears to be completely altered. Hands clenched, taking one deep breath after another, he practically radiates sincerity. Even the slightest hint of amusement is gone, the shrimps on the stove forgotten.
He looks like he’s struggling with himself. Like he’s trying to make a momentous decision.
It doesn’t make any sense.
Sherlock wonders if he has done something a) awfully right or b) awfully wrong. It must be b), he assumes. (Never underestimate the probability of failure. Never allow yourself to be mislead by the delusion that is optimism.) Why on earth is he still here, anyways? He should be plotting his escape from this disastrous situation, he just doesn’t seem able to form one single coherent thought and his legs refuse to move.
“Try not to panic, Sherlock.” John says quietly after a long moment of tentative peering into each other’s eyes.
Sherlock blinks in confusion. “Why?”
“Because I’m going to walk over there and then I’m going to kiss you, that’s why.”
The jumper falls to the floor without Sherlock having decided to drop it.
John reaches him before he has finished trying not to panic, which is inconvenient.
Sherlock feels John’s body warmth, smells more soap and tea and John, and then John cups his face with both hands and slowly leans in.
John’s lips are soft and a bit wet. And salty. It takes Sherlock several seconds to realize that he’s supposed to react. He knows how to do this. He’s done that before, even though this time it is so very different, because past kisses have exclusively involved people not-John, and people not-John are irrelevant.
Sherlock kisses back, cautiously, trying to find a pace that suits them both and, miraculously, it works.
John hums his approval into his mouth. A hand appears on Sherlock’s shoulder, slowly, soothingly moving down his back. Sherlock realises that his arms have gone around John’s waist at some point, that they’re holding each other. That if they were not doing exactly that, he would have collapsed in a heap on the floor by now.
Sherlock tries to process what’s happening, whatever it is, but he can’t. It’s like his hard drive has switched to overload. He’s kissing John on stand-by, trying hard not to faint, and he’s not sure if this isthe desired outcome of this evening.
This is exactly the reason why he doesn’t do this kind of thing, Sherlock reminds himself, shortly before he loses his grip on the electric impulses racing through his brain, turning it into a disastrous chaos of firing neurons. This is exactly the reason why he wouldn’t even dream of acknowledging that he’s so in love with John Watson that he’s going to break in two if he ever stops kissing him.
“Breathe, Sherlock.” John's voice is distant. Sherlock feels him murmur against his lips before he pulls away.
Sherlock blinks at him. John’s lips are wet and Sherlock determines that his own lips must be wet as well. Interesting. Terrifying.
John has kissed him, for no reason whatsoever. It was calm, unspectacular, really, not the slightest bit heated or frantic or desperate, and there is no logical explanation for the fact that Sherlock can’t tell if his brain is still functioning, can’t think of a single sentence to say. All he can do is stand there, with John in his arms, and wonder how he’s supposed to be able to deal with not having this forever.
“Hey. Everything alright?” John whispers, genuinely concerned. “You’re shaking.”
Sherlock raises a hand to touch his bottom lip tentatively. That’s where John’s lips have been mere moments ago. It’s so surreal a concept that he’s unsure what to do with it.
John smiles and closes the distance between them once more. He hugs Sherlock close to his chest, buries his face in his neck, strokes both hands firmly along Sherlock’s sides. Sherlock observes a surprisingly calming effect on his heart rate.
“Tell me that this is alright,” John begs quietly, not letting go of Sherlock, who experiences severe difficulties in finding air in his lungs.
“A…alright. Obviously,” he rasps after a small eternity. Because it is indeed alright (even though his heart is throbbing violently and there’s a lump in his throat), and why on earth shouldn’t he enjoy it, at least as long as it lasts? John’s embrace tightens a bit and some kind of tension vacates his body as he gives Sherlock’s waist a gentle squeeze.
“Good,” he hums against Sherlock’s collar bone before leaning in to kiss him again. “Because we’re going to do this a lot.”
Sherlock is shaking like a leaf. He is quite sure that he has never been this cold in his entire life. John, beside him, is shivering so violently that he barely manages to get the key out of his pocket and into the keyhole.
“Qu… quicker, John. Please. Please,” Sherlock croaks, wondering if he is going to collapse on the bloody doorstep. He is already getting dizzy, for God’s sakes, his blood pressure has probably never been lower and John still fails to open the stupid door.
“Shut up, f… fuck. Fucking… shit. I can’t move my f… fingers,” John stutters, finally unlocking the door and nearly tripping over the threshold.
They have to stop twice while stumbling upstairs, so wobbly on their legs that it feels like their soaking wet clothes are actively pulling them to the ground. It’s incredibly hard to walk. They end up leaning on each other while struggling to get upstairs, step by step, clutching at each other’s coats with numb fingers, panting hard.
“Get your clothes off,” John orders, already pulling his own drenched jumper over his head and clumsily unbuttoning his shirt.
Sherlock frowns before a particularly intense fit of tremors shakes his whole body. It takes him a second to comprehend that he needs to get out of his wet clothing in order to prevent himself from slipping further into hypothermia. He shrugs off his coat, not even bothering to hang it up somewhere, then proceeds to get out of his shirt and trousers until his clothes are a dripping pile on the floor and he is standing there in his pants.
John, equally wearing nothing but his boxer briefs at that point, shuffles over to the sofa and grabs the blanket that’s lying on the armrest. He tosses it in Sherlock’s direction before staggering towards the bathroom. Sherlock wraps the blanket around himself and flops onto the couch, trying to make himself as small as possible to conserve the tiny bit of heat that must be left somewhere in the core of his body.
John returns from the bathroom wrapped in another blanket. There’s a towel in his hands and Sherlock wonders what he’s about to do with-… Oh.
“Here, budge up,” John simply says and when Sherlock fails to react in time, he bodily shoves him towards the back rest and crawls up next to him. A moment later, their bodies are aligned, John’s belly against the small of Sherlock’s back and his face nuzzling into Sherlock’s curls.
After a few moments of squirming and writhing and shivering against one another, they are both as comfortable as their current situation allows it, and John begins to dry Sherlock’s hair with his spare towel. He tosses it aside when he’s finished, locks his arms around Sherlock’s midsection and slowly rubs his belly and chest through the fabric of the blanket to generate a bit of frictional heat.
“You’re such a complete nutter, it’s unbelievable,” John declares, voice still shaky. “I can't think of anyone else who’d be idiotic enough to jump off a bridge to retrieve a fucking plastic bag.”
A plastic bag with finger prints on the inside, thank you very much, Sherlock wants to explain, then thinks the better of it. “What on earth am I supposed to say to that?” he grunts instead, from the spot where his face is practically squashed into the sofa cushion. He makes an attempt to pull the blanket even tighter around himself, which, at this point, is entirely impossible.
“I don’t know. How about: Thank you, John, for fishing me out of the bloody Thames?”
John’s imitation of Sherlock’s baritone is absolutely dreadful. Sherlock huffs.
“Thank you, John, for fishing me out of the bloody Thames,” he retorts as sarcastically as he can manage in his current state of near-unconsciousness.
“You’re welcome. Already getting warmer?”
“A… a bit.” Sherlock’s lips are still trembling in a profoundly unwelcome way.
It hits Sherlock that this is, without doubt, the most intimate position they have ever been in, even though there are several layers of fabric between them. He is not sure how he feels about that.
He allows himself to close his eyes as John resumes his gentle rubbing at his upper body and feels warm blood rush into his limbs, his skin becoming less numb with each passing second, his muscles slowly relaxing. It feels like being brought back to life.
It makes sense that John is the one responsible for this sensation.
“Good?” John mutters into his hair.
Sherlock sighs, then rolls over with some difficulties so they are face to face, their noses touching. It’s easy to close the tiny distance between their lips. They kiss tentatively, pausing to exchange tiny pecks on each other’s necks and foreheads, and then John cups Sherlock’s jaw and kisses him properly, with enthusiasm. When they break apart, gasping for air because they both tend to forget how to breathe properly while kissing, John is giggling and Sherlock can’t help smiling.
He decides that this is an exceedingly pleasurable way to warm up.
At some point, a hand slips under Sherlock’s blanket, softly caressing his naked chest.
Sherlock’s blood pressure increases rapidly. He tenses up briefly, inhales, determines that it is alright and lets it happen.
When John’s finger tips reach Sherlock’s bullet scar, John lets his palm rest on top of it for a long moment, like he’s trying to cover it, protect it, and they both exhale simultaneously. John’s breath is wonderfully warm on Sherlock’s skin, his eyes are soft and he is beautiful. Sherlock feels a smile spread across his face.
All of a sudden, Sherlock needs to touch him. Just a little bit more. Just a tiny bit of sensory input, to uphold the illusion that all the skin covering this exceptional human being is his to explore, to taste, to worship. He pushes John’s own blanket out of the way and lets his hand slide over John’s collar bones and down his chest. He feels like he’s uncovering a mystery.
Sherlock has never considered the possibility of getting a glimpse of John’s scar. It’s beyond fascinating. He plants little kisses on the damaged, still too cold skin on John’s shoulder, again and again, until he can feel it on his lips, like a structure transferred from one patch of skin to another.
John shivers and Sherlock is not sure if it’s because he’s still freezing. “Don’t… do that,” he whispers, his body stiffening.
Sherlock looks up in confusion. “Why?”
John kisses his forehead. “Because it’s not pretty, you curious arse.”
“No, it is,” Sherlock contradicts very earnestly, resuming his explorative kissing. “You are perfect, John.”
John simply shakes his head at this, smiling ever so slightly, and Sherlock loves him.
Sherlock determines that John’s damaged body is the most perfect thing in the world, and simply kissing this small part of it makes him feel warm all over. This is a pleasant convenience, given that he was close to hypothermia mere minutes ago.
John eventually relaxes, lets Sherlock kiss his shoulders and chest as he pleases, pulls him even closer. He locks his arms around Sherlock’s midsection, intertwining their legs, and then they just listen to the sounds of London outside their flat. They listen and listen and breathe in unison, and for some reason it’s not dull at all.
John prepares to leave for his bedroom at 10:30. Military habit.
Sherlock gets up as well, stretches a bit awkwardly, runs a hand through his dishevelled curls. There is no point in continuing to lie there in his pants, he decides, without John to... cuddle. Cuddle? Sherlock isn’t exactly keen on labelling what they just did.
He contemplates going back to his latest experiment, cleaning his test tubes or retiring to his room to sleep, but he is extremely indecisive for some reason. He must look a bit lost with his blushed cheeks and tousled curls, nearly naked, slightly embarrassed about the fact and... absolutely clueless.
John has paused on his way to the staircase, only to turn around and stare at him with an almost unreadable expression. Sherlock takes a cautious step towards him.
John clears his throat. “Sherlock, would you… like me to stay? Just to sleep?”
The butterflies in Sherlock’s stomach seem to be extremely enthusiastic about that.
“I guess that would be agreeable.”
John smiles. “I’m just going to, you know, fetch my pyjamas and then I’ll be right back.”
It occurs to Sherlock after approximately two minutes that he’s not supposed to keep standing there, rooted to the spot. He wanders into his bedroom and changes into a pair of comfortable pyjama bottoms.
The following three minutes and forty seconds are devoted to finding out if he should put on a T-shirt or stay naked from the waist up. He is unacquainted with the standard dress-code for people who are about to share a bed with their flatmate (whom they are allowed to kiss and cuddle and call an idiot without being scolded) for the first time. He ends up putting on a grey T-shirt he didn’t even know he possessed.
When he hears footsteps coming down the stairs, he turns off the lights in a hurry and nearly jumps onto his bed, slipping under the covers as fast as he can.
This is unknown territory they are entering. Sherlock has been sleeping alone for thirty-nine years. He wants to do this right.
John looks tousled and sleepy and soft, and all around adorable in the faint light that’s falling through the curtains when he crawls into bed with him. Sherlock wonders if he’s allowed to call John adorable, temporarily of course, now that they’re... apparently something. He must ask John, one day. John will probably kill him, but risks have to be taken.
They take their time shuffling around under the covers, arranging their limbs and finding an adequate position that allows them to share an appropriate amount of body heat. John ends up being the big spoon, Sherlock’s head tucked under his chin and their hands clasped on Sherlock’s belly, bodies pressed together tightly. Fortunately, Sherlock’s arse fits perfectly into the space between John’s thighs.
John grumbles contentedly. Sherlock responds with a small humming noise.
The entire situation is quite agreeable.
That is, until Sherlock feels a slight pang in the area of his rib cage that must be panic or concern. He determines that something has to be done about it. Before he can make up his mind, he notices that he has already spelled it out. He blinks for a bit because that was not exactly supposed to happen.
“How long, John?”
“How long what?” murmurs John sleepily, nuzzling at Sherlock's hair with his nose.
“That.” Sherlock fails terribly at putting it into the right words. He doesn’t know why he asked. He isn’t sure if he even wants to know when this is going to end. He is not that keen on watching a countdown tick away in front of his inner eye.
“As long as you want. As long as possible.” John snuggles closer, softly kissing that little patch of skin behind Sherlock’s ear.
Sherlock closes his eyes, wondering what to make of John’s last statement, because it cannot possibly mean what it sounds like.
It’s strangely easy to be tired in John’s arms. Sherlock feels the faint touch of lips on the back of his neck, on his shoulder, in his hair while he slowly drifts into sleep.
When John presses one last sleepy kiss on the top of his head, Sherlock wonders if this is happiness. He decides that if it’s not, it must be the closest he’s ever been to it.
John never sleeps in the upstairs bedroom again. There’s no need to talk about it.
It’s cold outside and the chill creeps through the walls. Relentlessly. Sherlock barely notices he’s freezing.
He doesn’t have a case and spends his time with one experiment or another. Mostly, though, he plays Schubert. And, occasionally, Tchaikovsky.
John has told Sherlock not to play the violin before seven in the morning. But then, other people’s sleeping habits are boring. Sherlock has no idea that it is, in fact, half past six in the morning when the piece ends in a vivid adagio. What does it matter? Sherlock is only a bit tired, and his mind is currently not in the mood for leaving him in peace. It’s rattling like a restless steam engine that can’t decide in which direction to rotate.
Still facing the window, Sherlock lowers the bow.
When he turns around, John is sitting in his chair, watching him curiously, a slight smile on his face. Sherlock squints at him.
“That was beautiful,” John murmurs, his gaze wandering up and down Sherlock’s body.
Sherlock tries to control the blood rush to his face. He is not sure if he appreciates being observed like that right now.
“Don’t tense up,” John says. “When you’re playing you look so... relaxed. At ease. It’s brilliant. You are brilliant.” He gets up, approaches Sherlock, who carefully sets his violin aside on a pile of chemistry text books.
John is still smiling. Patiently. Affectionately. He is going to touch Sherlock. Here. Now.
Sherlock is still not used to this. He’s getting there, but right now, in this precise situation, everything is happening dishearteningly fast.
It’s one of those moments where everything’s just a tang too much.
“I don’t know how that works, John,” Sherlock blurts out. Because John needs to understand. He needs to understand that Sherlock is clueless and afraid and that, however hard he tries, Sherlock will never be able to give John what he wants him to have. Which is everything.
“How what works?”
Sherlock shrugs helplessly. “You. This.”
“You don’t need to know, Sherlock. This is not something you can catalogue or experiment on. Stop trying to analyse things.”
“No!” Sherlock whines desperately, because he really isn’t experimenting, not this time. He isn't analysing. He's just trying to do it right. And then, somehow, his brain overtakes him and his vocal chords start to act completely without his consent. “You don’t understand, John. I’m not... I'm not what you want. This-“ he directs a vague hand gesture towards his violin, the window or whatever- “This is going to happen again. I am going to play the violin and not notice what time of the day it is.”
John is still smiling at him. This is not working.
“And everything else is going to happen again, as well,” Sherlock continues. “I will ignore you for days on end and sometimes forget you’re even there. I will conduct experiments on the kitchen table and grow my mould cultures in the sink and leave viscera in the bathroom to dehumidify. I will continue calling you an idiot since you will continue being one. I won’t stop smoking. I will never eat those noodles with tuna you like so much. I am going to be rude and cruel and inappropriate and I don’t know how to do this. I really don’t have a bloody clue how to do this and it’s making me sick!”
John has taken a step back. He sounds oddly composed, considering the outburst he just witnessed. “I don’t want you to become a different person.”
“Yes, you do,” Sherlock all but yells.
“Why would you think that?”
“Because no one, John, could possibly want me to be the person I am!”
John raises one eyebrow. “Yes, I can,” he informs him calmly.
Sherlock’s heart is racing uncontrollably. Terribly inconvenient. He blinks, lowers his head because he doesn’t want to see John’s face the precise moment this childish little dream they have built around themselves during the last few months will dissolve into nothing. Sherlock will never be an acceptable substitute for everything John has lost. And, what’s even worse, he doesn’t aspire to be.
“I will never make a good replacement. I can try, John, but I will never be… suitable. I will never be Mary.”
“No, you won’t.” John snorts. “Thank God.”
For some reason, this irritates Sherlock immensely.
“So tell me, John. What am I? What can I possibly be? Even for a second choice I am indescribably pathetic. I’m just me, John. I will never be able to be more. I’m obnoxious and damaged and utterly ridiculous. You’re doing a bloody marvellous job coping with my … inadequacies. You always have. I hope you spend the rest of your life patting yourself on the back for your gigantic self-sacrifice. But I don’t want your fucking pity!”
He spits the last word out like it’s something utterly disgusting.
Sherlock still refuses to look at John. Seconds pass and melt together. Little dust grains spin in circles on the floor.
In the end, it’s John who breaks the silence by clearing his throat. He does that a lot.
“I think you have gotten an entirely wrong impression,” he says quietly. “What are you even talking about? You’re not a… substitute for anything.”
Sherlock doesn’t answer. He is good at pretending to ignore John. John doesn’t fall for it, of course, but that way Sherlock can pretend to have a tiny bit of dignity left.
“Let me explain that to you, Sherlock. Please.” John’s always found it hard, finding the right words, and he despises this kind of talk just as much as Sherlock does, but he’s a romantic after all. So at least he tries. For Sherlock, that’s enough, and more than that, as long as it’s directed at him. (It’s still hard to understand that it is, in fact, directed at him.)
“Sherlock, you know how they say that everyone’s life is a story.”
Trust John to try it with useless metaphors. Sherlock sighs. John continues regardless.
“So is mine, of course. With... with chapters and paragraphs and everything. God, I feel... I feel so stupid explaining it like that, but I can’t think of anything better, because... that’s exactly what Mary is. What she was. A paragraph, maybe a whole chapter, I don’t know. She’ll always be there, a part of the story. A paragraph that’s been concluded. But you, you are-”
John pauses. Sherlock isn’t sure where this is going. He considers the possibility of John making him the next paragraph. He dislikes the prospect, for some reason.
“I’m not going to make you the next paragraph, Sherlock.”
Sherlock squints. He isn’t accidentally thinking aloud again, is he?
“Yes, you are,” John informs him. “Stop pondering and listen.”
John’s voice is still soft and patient without even the slightest hint of exasperation in it. Sherlock finds this a bit astounding. He is usually bad at not making people feel exasperated.
John seems to struggle with himself for a bit. Sherlock wonders if John Watson has ever been in a state of not-struggling with himself.
“You’re not merely a paragraph or a chapter. Sherlock, you are the story. You’re the one writing it. You’re the one who keeps me alive. And you have done for a long time. I should have seen it, but I didn’t.”
A hand appears on Sherlock’s arm, gently trailing along his shoulder, his neck, finally cupping his jaw. Sherlock finds that he doesn’t mind. John moves closer. The first rays of morning sun fighting their way through the closed curtains create tiny spots of light all over his silvery-blonde hair.
“You’re everything, Sherlock. Never, ever think that I would choose anyone over you,” he whispers. “I made that mistake once.”
“I’m difficult.” Sherlock feels like he needs to clarify that.
John’s smile is a thing of delicacy. Of elegancy even. Sherlock will never get tired of seeing it.
“I know. And I never said it was going to be easy, but the truth is: There’s only you and I couldn’t possibly imagine it to be anyone else. So we’re going to make it work. If you’re amenable.”
Sherlock can feel John’s body warmth, the stubble on his cheek as it touches his neck. He can smell his aftershave and the aromatic, musky scent that is exclusively John’s. He decides that he really wants to taste him on his tongue, so he kisses him.
Sherlock inhales. Exhales. Melts into John’s embrace and never, ever wants to stop kissing him.
Afterwards, the words are just there. It’s surprisingly easy. They tumble from Sherlock’s lips before he becomes fully aware of it.
“I love you, John. Apparently. I think I do. I’m nearly entirely sure that I do.”
John looks at him in the way he does when Sherlock has delivered an exceedingly brilliant deduction, smiles some more, brushes a curl away from his temple, his palm lingering on Sherlock’s cheek for a long moment. John’s eyes are very, very blue. Azure, even. Like the sky twenty minutes after a short shower of rain in July. Sherlock is quite sure that they sparkle a little more than usual.
“I love you, too. God, Sherlock, I love you so much.”
John makes it sound so natural, effortless. Like it’s completely obvious, not the tiniest bit surreal that Sherlock loves John and John loves him back. Like it’s not a problem that John’s devotion will always be a sacrifice. Like Sherlock can give John more than the willingness to kill and get himself killed and give up his entity to keep him safe and content and protected. Like Sherlock could ever, ever be enough.
He puts his arms around John, buries his face in his shoulder and breathes.
Chapter 3: Herpes, Royal Jelly and Oxytocin, perhaps
Sex, Ladies and Gentlemen. Sex and awkward discussions thereof. Also, cheating officers and another conversation about onions and crying.
They have found a treasure in a forest. An actual treasure. Gold coins from 1867 and antique jewellery, stuffed into a wooden chest - an exhibit at a local museum that has been stolen two weeks ago. The chest had been buried under a tree marked with a giant X, and they have actually dug for it with spades and shovels. It has taken them two days to catch the thieves and another day to find the damn thing, and it was the most disgustingly cliché treasure hunt Sherlock has ever witnessed. (Well, the first treasure hunt, really, since that infamous day Mycroft nicked his Chemistry Set and hid it between Mummy’s yellow tulips. For God’s sakes.)
Now, all evidence has finally been secured and the stolen goods have finally been catalogued. (Those idiotic museum employees have considered it necessary to examine every single coin immediately and on-site, local police officers are standing around being a waste of space, and Lestrade is slowly getting impatient. Tedious.)
“Right. That’s it. Everybody, pack your things. Come on! Let’s get out of this bloody forest before it gets dark,” orders Lestrade, finally, finally, finally, and everyone sighs in relief.
Lestrade is in an exceptionally good mood today. (Meeting his Football lads tomorrow. Starting to get over the fact that his wife is sleeping with his younger daughter’s Volleyball Coach. Again.)
“I’m going to give you a lift, right?” he asks brightly, directed more at John than at Sherlock, since he doesn’t expect Sherlock to listen, anyway.
“Cheers. Thanks, Greg,” John answers for both of them.
Sherlock is busy observing the goings-on between Donovan and Willoughby, one of the local unproductive officers. (Married. Notorious cheater. Two children. One Labrador Retriever. Herpes.) She is going to be thoroughly disappointed later tonight. Donovan may be a naive, prejudgemental idiot, but she is also quite capable of caring for herself and easily outsmarts most men around her. She deserves to know what she’s getting herself into. In some way.
Sherlock seriously contemplates warning her.
“Never found a treasure before, have you?” Lestrade asks jovially as they are approaching his car. Sherlock cannot be bothered to answer. He makes a breathy neutral sound and expects to be left in peace.
“I don’t know about you,” John declares, stopping in front of the car, grabbing Sherlock’s coat collar and pulling him close. “But I have found a brilliant treasure today.”
He taps Sherlock's nose with his finger. Sherlock squints at him.
And then, John raises himself on tiptoes and kisses Sherlock. In front of Lestrade. Well, in front of Scotland Yard’s finest, six museum employees and a small township’s assembled police force. It’s not like they’re out of sight.
Sherlock doesn’t know what to make of it. Kissing people in public is a very un-John thing to do.
Their lips part with a little smack, John whispers “Brilliant.” against Sherlock’s bottom lip before letting go of him, and Sherlock feels like he’s going to evaporate. Spontaneously. The concept of making this, whatever it is, public has never occurred to him. Apparently, though, John doesn’t mind being seen like that. With him. Sherlock turns his coat collar up to hide his flushed cheeks.
“Alright, great we settled that,” Lestrade comments with a bit of a delay and a slightly shaky voice. He does have difficulties closing his mouth, but he doesn’t look anywhere near as horrified as everyone else.
Twenty-one people are openly gaping at them. Donovan, in particular, sports the facial expression of someone who has just seen everything they thought to know about the universe dissolve in front of their eyes. Sherlock deliberates that this may be partly due to the fact that she just lost a considerable amount of money to Lestrade.
“Jesus, shit,” she contributes after a few seconds, still gaping like a goldfish.
Sherlock wraps his coat tighter around himself, trying to look as dramatic as possible, and rolls his eyes at the lot of them.
“Oh, for God’s sakes!” he yells at no one in particular. “Stop staring like that. Don’t you have anything else to do, like... working or reproducing or spreading your collective idiocy somewhere people are interested?”
Nobody moves, except Willoughby (the cheating officer), who seems to have picked up on the reproducing, judging by the way he ogles Donovan’s backside (pathologic sex addiction, penis length slightly below average, one more deduction than expected).
Measurements Measures have to be taken.
“Donovan, don’t fuck Willoughby,” Sherlock decides to shout in her direction, casually, while opening the car door. Nothing wrong with a dramatic exit. “Herpes is contagious, and since you’re clearly planning on accompanying him home for the night, odds are that his wife’s dog will attack you in the morning.”
Several people are even more dumbfounded than before, Willoughby's face turns deep red within half a second and he looks all around like he's going to let steam off through his ears. Irrelevant.
Sherlock takes John’s hand and pulls him onto the back seat of Lestrades car, where he proceeds to kiss him until they’re both grinning like lunatics and Lestrade in the driver’s seat is coughing discreetly.
“Now that’s what I call a successful evening. Have a great time, you two,” Lestrade tells them when he drops them off at some Chinese restaurant John has picked.
“You, too, Greg,” retorts John brightly. Lestrade winks at him, raising one eyebrow suggestively. John winks back and chuckles, and Sherlock grunts irritatedly because he doesn't quite understand what's so funny.
They eat some splendid Roast Duck, Sherlock predicts the fortune cookies and gets it all wrong, and then they walk home through the calming atmosphere an already sleepy London provides at the end of summer.
In their flat, John pushes Sherlock up against the wall and kisses him, until Sherlock’s legs tremble and his skin prickles and his cheeks are even rosier than before.
Sherlock agrees on this being a successful evening.
Drone larvae are not dependent on royal jelly. This is preposterous.
“What’s so funny, love?” John demands curiously from the kitchen while preparing their afternoon tea. “You’re giggling.”
“Don’t be an idiot,” Sherlock snaps, currently sprawled decoratively across three quarters of the sofa. The position is not necessarily comfortable, but one must make sacrifices. He frowns at John, looking up from a frankly ridiculous discourse on regular harvest of royal jelly and its impact on bee colonies in Southern Wales. “I never giggle. It’s something I don’t do.”
John walks into the sitting room and places a cup in front of him. Sherlock makes a vague breathy noise before returning to his discourse.
“You giggle all the time, Sherlock, you just don’t notice.”
“You’re being juvenile. I don’t giggle.”
“Yep, you do. Look.” Without further warning, John invades Sherlock’s personal space and pokes a finger into his side. Sherlock produces an exceedingly embarrassing sound and squirms. John reacts by shoving his hands under Sherlock’s armpits and tickling him in earnest.
Sherlock is not pleased.
He pushes John’s hands away, which leads to John grabbing both his wrists and pinning them together so Sherlock can’t do anything except wiggle gracelessly in an attempt to escape John’s touch.
John seems to enjoy himself immensely. “Oh my God. You’re actually ticklish,” he chuckles, teasingly poking at Sherlock’s ribs. His ears are turning delightfully red, and it would be a rather appealing sight if John wasn’t in the process of physically molesting Sherlock.
“You’re right. You don’t giggle, you squeak.”
Sherlock is about to protest with vigour. John prevents him from doing so by climbing onto the sofa and straddling Sherlock’s hips, lightly pinching his belly, hips and thighs (in that exact order), succeeding in making Sherlock completely incapable of forming words. His ability to articulate is reduced to choked back chuckles. It’s humiliating.
Sherlock struggles to free himself, but John is just too quick for him.
He plans on throwing a fit of epic proportions as soon as this attack is over.
“Stop, John. Argh… stop, stop.”
John’s fingers are relentless. He has Sherlock completely at his mercy. Sherlock narrows his eyes to slits and peers at John in the most intimidating way he can possibly manage.
“Say the magic word.” Another poke at Sherlock’s belly.
“W…what?” Sherlock chokes out, desperately trying to suppress the laughter that’s trying to force its way out.
“The magic word, Sherlock.”
“Please, John. For God’s sakes, stop tickling me.”
John obeys. He releases Sherlock’s wrists, still chuckling. Sherlock prepares to push him off the sofa, roll over and indulge in an extensive sulk.
He didn’t even know he was ticklish. Nobody has ever tickled him. Well, he can’t remember being tickled by anyone, to be precise. He contemplates the probability of having been tickled by his parents (or, God forbid, Mycroft) at some point during his early childhood and does not really come to a conclusion.
However, Sherlock doesn’t appreciate having been tickled against his will, and John is going to pay in some way or another...-
His plotting is interrupted by a kiss. A proper one. With tongue. Sherlock’s plans to push John away dissolve into nothing within the fraction of a second. John is still straddling him, his body is pressed up against Sherlock’s, their tongues are moving slowly, lazily, and it feels delicious and languid and something in Sherlock’s stomach starts to flutter pleasantly. Sherlock locks his arms around John’s back and relaxes. He feels warm, calm, covered by John like that, and, even though he can’t quite understand his own lack of perseverance, he finds that he’s not angry about the tickling anymore.
When John finally pulls away, lifts his head and smiles down at him, Sherlock is panting and his heart rate is increasing rapidly. He is not a hundred per cent sure why this is happening. John wiggles a bit, struggling to prop up on his elbows.
That’s when Sherlock discovers that his groin feels strangely… hot and sensitive.
Sensitive indeed. Oh. Oh.
Sherlock can literally feel the blood rushing to his head. (Well, at least the percentage of his blood volume that’s currently not concentrated in a very specific part of his body.)
“John, it seems that I...”
John freezes, still half on top of Sherlock, his gaze slowly wandering down Sherlock’s torso… and up again.
“Oh. That’s… er,” he supplies helpfully after a few seconds of staring.
Sherlock attempts to snort in indignation, but all that comes out is a rather pathetic sniffling sound. The utter idiocy of his transport has chosen this exact opportunity to make itself shown and ruin everything. Naturally. He should probably have expected that. Sherlock decides to take a deep breath and wait for this situation to be over. Experience undoubtedly shows that even situations like this tend to be over at some point.
“Yes, John,” Sherlock admits weakly. “That’s an erection.”
It's far too silent for far too long after that. Sherlock closes his eyes, shaking his head slightly. He has never felt more humiliated in his entire life.
“You know that’s completely normal, right?” John finally mumbles.
Sherlock is trying to look as smug and unashamed as possible, and fails. “I know it’s normal. I’m not stupid."
John licks his lips. It’s his turn to blush crimson. “Do you… want to do something about it?”
Sherlock’s insides erupt in a swarm of butterflies. Fiery, flesh-eating butterflies, or so it appears. His eyesight has become a bit blurry. He tries to blink the blur away and remembers too late that he is supposed to stop blinking after an appropriate number of blinks.
John considers having sex. John considers having sex with Sherlock. Utterly surreal, that.
“Ungh,” Sherlock gasps, at a complete loss for words.
“It’s not, - I didn’t mean to… We don’t have to…” John stutters, apparently slightly alarmed by Sherlock’s reaction. He clumsily crawls off him and moves himself up to a sitting position. Sherlock mirrors him, ignoring the bulge in his trousers as he sits up. John reaches for his hand. Sherlock pulls it away defensively and crosses his arms in front of his chest.
“Look. We don’t have to do anything you don’t want, or… anything you’re not ready for.”
Sherlock glares at him.
They have had erections in each other’s presence before, of course. It’s bound to happen when two men are sharing a bed on a long-term basis. Sherlock merely assumed, up to this point, that ignoring each other’s excursions to the bathroom for a discreet wank is standard procedure in such situations.
John licks his lips awkwardly. “No reason to feel… insecure or something. No pressure here. I mean it. Should I… leave you alone for a bit?”
Sherlock is not sure what the correct response to that would be. “Why,” he begins, frowning, “Why would I want you to leave?”
John’s ears have gone so red that they are basically glowing in the afternoon light. Interesting.
“Well, I assume you’d like to… take care of it.”
“No, I won’t.” Sherlock says, slightly taken aback. “It will go away eventually.”
“Hang on,” John orders, staring at him with a profoundly startled expression, “Do you… I mean, don’t you ever? Er, you know…?”
“Masturbate?” Sherlock snaps impatiently. “Please, John, spelling it out doesn’t do any harm.”
John sighs. “Exactly. So, do you masturbate? Everybody does, it’s only healthy, you know, and from a medical point of view-.”
“On occasion. It’s unavoidable under certain circumstances.”
“You don’t enjoy it?”
“Alright. Alright, so, sex in general is not… appealing to you?”
Sherlock frowns. He has never given his sexuality much though, and he has always been profoundly uncomfortable at the thought of being intimate with most people. He has experienced sexual attraction before, of course, but he has never considered sex an experience it’s worth having. It’s quite an appealing thought, though, being closer to John than he already was, feeling John's skin on his own, discovering every part of his body with his hands and lips and…
Oh. Sherlock glances down at his erect penis which is pressing uncomfortably against the inside of his trousers and notes that imagining things is not helping matters.
Eyeing his own crotch accusingly isn't helping either, which is quite disastrous, really. Sherlock’s bottom lip twitches.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure if I am even capable… I’m sorry, John,” he whispers, feeling awkward and humiliated and like a complete disappointment. John smiles at him.
“Don’t apologise, please. Do you identify as, ah... asexual? Or are you attracted to anyone? Women? Because I thought...-”
Sherlock snorts and insinuates something resembling a shake of his head.
John swallows. “Men?”
Sherlock chokes out a laugh that’s supposed to sound imperious and condescending but comes out as an awfully awkward giggle. “Considering my current physical state, even you should be able to come to the conclusion that I experience... something.”
“Okay. And has this happened before?”
Sherlock nods in slow-motion. John is still smiling, which is thoroughly confusing.
“With other men? With me? Are you…?”
“Gay? Yes, John.”
John clears his throat. Twice. “Oh. You know it’s all…”
“Fine. It's fine, John. We established that around seven years ago. I know it’s fine, I just…” Sherlock sighs heavily, the corners of his mouth twitching as he’s struggling to find words that can probably explain this awful situation in one way or another. “I’m just not sure if this is...” – he gestures at his crotch with one hand –“a good idea.”
“Hmmm.” John’s jaw clenches minutely before he manages to get the question out. “Have you ever had sex?”
There’s no point in lying, is there? “No.”
“Not even, I mean... what about Janine?”
“So, everything the newspapers said, was not…”
“No, John, for God’s sakes. She was not my... No. I am not sure I’d have been able to… do, ah. That.”
Sherlock clenches his teeth. For some reason, John still doesn’t look bothered in the slightest. His expression actually resembles one of relief when his gaze softens a bit.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says gently. “It’s perfectly fine if sex isn’t your thing at all, you know.”
Sherlock doesn't understand. John likes sex, that’s the whole point. That’s why this situation is a complete mess, after all. Whenever John pursued a relationship with a woman in the past, he made sure that sex was being had within the first four dates, and Sherlock not being able to satisfy him will, without doubt, culminate in a legit catastrophe.
Maybe John’s not interested in the first place, due to the fact that Sherlock is in the possession of a set of male genitalia. This would contradict several deductions about John’s sexual orientation, but then, Sherlock has a habit of being wrong when it comes to John.
“You’re not gay,” he says slowly.
To his surprise, John burst into laughter. It takes him several seconds to compose himself and Sherlock has probably never been more confused in his life.
“Jesus, Sherlock. After everything that’s happened, you… you tell me I’m not gay. Now. What’s that even got to do with it?”
“Everything!” Sherlock blurts out. “That’s got everything to do with it!”
“That’s got so much less to do with it than you think, Sherlock.”
“If you were physically attracted to me, you would actively pursue a sexual relationship. Even though I do realise that my experience in this area is very limited, the only logical conclusion I can draw is that you are not interested in having in sex with a man, because if you were, you wouldn’t be indifferent about my sexual orientation and needs.”
John sighs, puts an arm around Sherlock’s shoulders, pulling him close enough to plant a kiss on his cheek. “That’s not it, Sherlock. I am attracted to you. Enormously so. But that doesn’t mean I need to have sex with you to be satisfied.”
It’s come to the point where Sherlock is entirely unable to comprehend what John is talking about.
“So, in fact,” Sherlock concludes. “You are... you are attracted to..., ah-?
“Both.” John says curtly, nodding. Spelling it out doesn't do any harm, indeed.
Sherlock swallows, still slightly perplexed. “I did suspect that for a long time, of course, but since you exclusively dated women in the past, I never got a chance to verify the hypothesis. You abstain from dating other people since you moved back in with me. You’re obviously not inclined to sleep with anyone else, and yet you don’t rely on me becoming available as a partner in sexual intercourse. I don’t understand.”
“Sherlock, I’m forty-two years old. I have had my fair share of sex, I am not desperate to get a leg over and I have two healthy hands. We have established that I love you and never want to be without you again, because that’s proven fatal the last few times, and I assure you that I am perfectly content with the relationship we’re in.”
That’s what they are doing, then. They’re in a relationship. He and John. Sherlock has already speculated that this may be the case, but right now, it’s profoundly important to have heard John say it.
“I mean it, love. If you don’t want to sleep with me, that’s perfectly fine. I couldn’t care less if we ever have sex.”
“It’s not that I don’t… want,” Sherlock clarifies quietly after another far too long pause. “I just. I don’t know… how to do this. Everything. I’m not used to this.”
“I know, love,” John draws him a bit closer, presses a close-mouthed kiss to the corner of Sherlock’s mouth. “We have all the time in the world. It’s not going to happen today, alright? Stop panicking.” Another kiss to Sherlock’s temple. “Relax?”
“We’re in this together,” John continues. “I’ve never... I’ve never been with a man, either. We are going to need to discuss this, anyway.”
“Yeah. You know, ah, we can just... try, of course, but since you’re someone who usually makes elaborate plans for everything more complicated than clipping your toenails, and since you’re absolutely awful at dealing with failed experiments, it may be... safer to, you know, discuss the mechanics of it at some point. Make preparations.”
Sherlock begins to understand. He sucks in a sharp breath. “You want to determine our hypothetical respective positions during intercourse, which represents a problem that has never occurred to you, since you used to be the only partner in the possession of suitable genitalia to perform what is considered the active part of sexual activities. Given that we are both adequately anatomically equipped to undertake the... fucking, so to speak, we need to discuss logistics beforehand.”
John is laughing so hard that Sherlock seriously considers getting mad at him again.
“Stop worrying, Sherlock. I – I shouldn’t have said that. That’s a step too far for now. We don’t even need to engage in that specific set of activities. Ever. If it doesn’t agree with us, that is.”
“Hmmm.” Sherlock doesn’t know if there’s anything else to say. It’s silent for around half a minute during which Sherlock’s gaze wanders between John’s face and the bulge in his own trousers. Status quo refuses to change.
John clears his throat once more, breaking the silence. A hand appears on Sherlock’s back, gently stroking up and down. “Are you sure you don’t want to?”
“Jerk off, Sherlock. Make your erection go away. I don’t mind, and you will feel better afterwards. Besides, it can be fun. Try to enjoy it a little.”
Sherlock eyes him suspiciously.
“Why don’t you go have a shower, love?” John finally advises him with a long-suffering sigh, still gently rubbing Sherlock’s back. “I’ll go pick up groceries, meanwhile, shall I? We need butter and tomatoes as far as I recall.”
“Ointment,” Sherlock adds weakly. “Ran out after that experiment on wasp stings.”
“I’ll pick up some,” John promises. He kisses Sherlock goodbye and Sherlock manages to kiss back with much less enthusiasm than usual. And then John walks over to the door, puts his jacket on and leaves.
After a few minutes of contemplation and trying to get his trembling thighs under control, Sherlock decides that John has a point. It doesn’t make sense to feel insecure right now. He has taken care of countless erections in his life, he will just... make short work of it, there’s no reason to be disheartened about anything.
Sherlock walks into the bathroom, takes his clothes off as fast as he can manage (there’s no point in procrastinating) and steps into the shower.
He leans against the wall, clenching his teeth, about to start stroking himself rough and fast to get it over with, like he normally does. He hesitates, this time.
Sherlock has touched himself thinking about John before. Of course he has. And he has broken that abominable habit, years ago. He never fancied that feeling of guilt that inevitably creeps in after having wanked over one’s friend and flatmate.
John told him to enjoy this today. He’s not sure how to.
Sherlock takes his time to get used to the hot water, lets it run down his body until he feels a little calmer. His skin is prickling with heat, the last traces of sweat, and every patch of skin John has ever kissed seems to tingle. John. Sherlock touches himself lightly, experimentally, lets his hands trail down his upper body, closes his fist around his cock, and a jolt of heat shoots up his spine. He decides that if he just lets himself imagine things he has been craving to imagine without feeling guilty for years, it will work in some way or another. He’s always been up for an experiment.
He imagines John’s lips on his skin, John’s hand on his body instead of his own, his smell in his nose and his taste on his tongue. It’s surprisingly easy because he’s allowed to do so. It’s easy because John was so close to him mere moments ago, and he will be allowed to be close to him again, soon. Unbelievable. Sherlock pumps his fist slowly, deliberately, just like John would do it if he were here to touch him right now. John, who’s so scared of overwhelming him, who would be so giving and considerate...-
Sherlock’s orgasm builds quickly, and when he reaches his peak, it nearly takes him by surprise. He cries out John’s name, quickly pressing his left hand over his mouth to muffle the sound, slumps against the wall, lets the hot water wash away the mess he’s made and catches his breath.
It’s alright. It really is.
Sherlock has made major miscalculations. Firstly, he didn’t expect John to follow him into the living room. Through the window. Secondly, he didn’t expect the victim’s husband to be there, sitting on his couch dressed in a purple bikini, a blonde wig and copious amounts of make-up, happily drinking Capri Sun and smoking a Cuban Cigar. Thirdly, he didn’t expect the moron to set his own couch on fire.
It's getting dangerously hot within a second or two. Sherlock launches himself blindly towards the window and miraculously doesn’t miss it. After gracelessly hitting the ground outside, there is a moment of absolute horror when he realises that John is still inside and the room is rapidly filling with smoke, and if something happens to John in there, it will be Sherlock’s fault, and even considering that something may happen to John is simply not an option, and...
Sherlock manages to right himself enough to peer through the window, prepared to crawl back in (because it doesn’t matter if he burns to a crisp as long as John doesn’t). He blinks into an empty room. John is gone. Along with the half-naked husband who clearly is the killer. (And a pretty decent crossdresser as well, but that’s not the point.)
Sherlock falls back onto his arse and blinks for a far too long time, because this is easily the most surreal and simultaneously most terrifying moment of his life.
John marches through the front door of the building around thirty seconds later, dragging the unconscious husband/murderer along behind him. Sherlock feels like he could vomit with relief.
“What a complete dickhead,” mutters John dismissively, taking the murderer’s pulse while simultaneously reaching for his phone to call the fire brigade, “Tried to beat me up with his fucking cigar box while I was trying to save him.”
Sherlock loves him so much he can barely remember how to breathe.
As soon as the door of their flat snaps shut behind them, Sherlock grabs John and hugs him close to his chest, planning on never letting him escape again. John makes a strangled noise. Sherlock squeezes harder, until John coughs uncomfortably into the crook of his neck.
“Sherlock, I know you’re glad I’m fine and everything, and I’m glad as well,” he mumbles, “but I’d like to breathe from time to time.”
Sherlock grunts imperiously and refuses to loosen his grip. John apparently decides to make the best of it and relaxes a bit. His arms go around Sherlock’s waist and he squeezes back.
“It’s been a year,” he mutters against Sherlock’s shoulder. “since I came home.”
Sherlock nuzzles his nose into his hair, breathes in the smell of ash and smoke and sweat and John. “I know.”
John smiles at him. “Look at us now. Look how everything’s changed.”
They embrace for a long time. It’s calm and tender, close and intimate and loving, and all of a sudden, it’s not enough.
It’s like something’s stung him. Sherlock’s head is spinning, his pulse is throbbing in his throat and his skin feels prickly with sweat and heat and desperate need. Desperate need?
He has never experienced this amount of desire to be close to someone. Right now, he would like to touch every inch of John’s body, smell him, taste him, inhale him, make sure he's right here and safe, and it’s strangely frightening and pleasant at once. John kisses him and Sherlock kisses back with as much force as he can manage, moving his hands up and down John’s body, holding onto skin and fabric and everything he can reach. It’s happening so fast that Sherlock is beginning to feel dizzy, and before he can get a grip on himself, hot, liquid arousal floods his body.
They break apart after a few minutes, or hours, who knows, when they’re both out of breath, and their lips are red and swollen, and John's hair is delightfully tousled. John grins at him. “What’s the matter with you today?” he murmurs before leaning in for another brief kiss. “Bloody enthusiastic.”
Sherlock observes him carefully. “I need to touch you, or so it appears,” he explains. “Do you mind?”
John is still grinning from ear to ear. “Are you kidding? Of course I don’t mind.”
“Yes,” Sherlock says, not sure what’s going to happen next. “Good.”
Fortunately, John notices that Sherlock is completely clueless (John always notices) and assumes control of the goings-on. He drops small kisses to Sherlock’s jaw line, both arms still firmly around his waist. Sherlock tilts his head back to give him access to his neck. Naturally, John understands, presses his lips directly to the pulse point. They both sigh heavily at the sensation of Sherlock’s pulse throbbing against John’s lips. Sherlock wants to crawl under his skin, wants to feel the rush of his blood, wants to drown in him.
“Sherlock,” John whispers cautiously. “Maybe we should... Maybe we could take this to the bedroom?” It’s a question, not a statement, it's hesitant and tentative, and Sherlock’s heart clenches.
The sensation in Sherlock’s lower abdomen expands gradually, spreads to every fibre of his body, and he needs more, more, more.
“Yes,” he says, unable to suppress a slight lisp, his voice lower than it should be. John actually groans in response. Something very warm trails up Sherlock’s spine and makes the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
It’s going to happen. Now.
John Watson lost his virginity to a blonde girl called Bethany at the age of seventeen. Sherlock Holmes is about to lose his virginity to an army doctor at the age of thirty-nine.
John takes Sherlock’s hand, leads him into his room, their room, to the bed they’ve been sharing for months now, and Sherlock is only a tiny bit scared.
“Is this okay?” John whispers, stroking his hands along Sherlock’s arms before wrapping them around his waist once more.
Sherlock nods. His fingers tremble a bit. He toys with the hem of John’s shirt for an instant before slipping his hand under it, pushing John’s undershirt out of the way and gently letting his fingers run along John’s sides. He’s allowed to do this now. He feels his warm, sweaty skin, the tiny hairs all over John’s body he has never touched before, lets his fingertips glide over it all. John places little kisses on Sherlock’s lips and his neck and his cheek, and then he moves forward and slots their hips together.
Sherlock hisses breath in between his teeth.
They’re both hard and their erections are basically being pressed together through their trousers, and Sherlock has to remind himself that this is alright, because they’re supposed to be aroused at that stage of the game. The thought of John being aroused because of him while he’s aroused because of John is new, though, and a bit hard to grasp, and also pretty overwhelming if he’s perfectly honest with himself. Sherlock swallows heavily and he feels his fingers twitch minutely, in spite of himself.
“Don’t be nervous,” John breathes against his lips, smiling. “We’re just going to explore each other, right?”
Sherlock can’t do anything but nod again, because he’s really keen on exploring, but he’s not sure if he’s going to manage any kind of further exploration without fainting dead away. John looks at him a genuinely worried kind of way, which is disagreeable.
“You are nervous, love,” John asserts, that familiar crinkle appearing between his eyebrows. “Do you want us to stop?”
“No,” Sherlock gasps out quickly. Too quickly.
John kisses the tip of his nose. “Sure?”
“Yes.” Sherlock clears his throat forcefully. “I… I’m not some blushing bride or something.”
“No.” John agrees. “But you’re currently a paling virgin.”
Sherlock grumbles at that and kisses John again. That familiar feeling, the warm, lazy slide of tongues manages to calm him down a bit. John slowly moves his hands to Sherlock’s chest, starts to undo his shirt buttons. Sherlock leans into the touch, their bodies pressed up against each other’s, John’s hands trapped between them. Sherlock cups the back of John’s head with one large hand, admiring the fact that it fits rather nicely in there, and starts to brush his fingers through John’s hair. It feels nice and reassuring and John smiles in the way that suggests that Sherlock has done something very affectionate without really noticing.
“It won’t be perfect,” John explains, smiling at him when their kissing pauses for a bit. “It’s not supposed to be.”
“It isn’t?” Sherlock has done research. He wants to make this good for John. Sherlock still isn’t enough, of course, but maybe he can trick John into thinking he is by trying really hard.
“Sex is a messy and uncoordinated. It has to be. That’s what it’s like.”
“Oh.” Sherlock doesn’t know what he’s supposed to say to that.
“Sherlock, look at me,” John orders calmly, his hand stilling in the middle of undoing Sherlock’s fourth shirt button. He lifts a hand to cup Sherlock’s jaw, tilts his head down to make him look directly at him, making sure that their eyes lock. “Tell me if you really want this. You don’t have to do this for me. I just want you to be honest. Do you want me to take you to bed?”
Sherlock bites his bottom lip. He slowly untangles his right hand from John’s hair, lets it move lower, finds John’s hand and lets it slip through his own larger one, starting at the finger tips, caressing the back of John’s hand with his thumb as he passes it. John’s gaze drops as Sherlock moves on to his sleeve cuffs. Sherlock undoes them slowly, deliberately, one by one.
“I want this.” he breathes, taking both of John’s hands in his and slowly lifting them to his mouth, pressing his lips against his knuckles. All of John’s knuckles deserve to be kissed like that. He won’t skip a single one.
“I want this.” he repeats when he has finished kissing. “I am sure.”
John’s eyes are soft, tender. He is still holding Sherlock close, wordlessly encouraging him to take this further, offering guidance. His body language represents patience, affection, an urge to protect. Sherlock is very talented at looking through people like they’re made of glass. That’s basically why he is who he is. If John was in fact trying to hide any expectations, any demands, Sherlock would see it. All he sees, though, is something he knows he doesn’t deserve. He sees John, who is about to let Sherlock have a part of not just his friendship, his devotion, his love, but also his body, open and defenceless and trusting, which, given that John doesn’t trust easily, is undoubtedly the most miraculous gift of all.
Sherlock finds that he doesn’t merely want to take what he is offered. He wants John to take all of him, instead. He wants to surrender himself completely, and it feels very important to do so.
Sherlock’s body relaxes in John’s arms, the tension leaves his muscles and if he wasn’t ready before, he is now.
The leisure in their movements vanishes entirely. Soon they’re kissing hungrily, a warm, messy slide of lips and tongues that makes Sherlock dizzy and his body slacken in a rather agreeable way.
John starts to undress him slowly, drops Sherlock’s shirt onto the floor, letting their kisses become more heated and frantic at the same time. His ability to multi-task is admirable. He makes short work of getting out of his own shirt, and Sherlock barely notices it’s gone before John’s warm, naked chest is being pressed up against his.
“Let’s do it like that,” John mutters, his breath hot on Sherlock’s lips as he slowly pushes them both towards the bed. Sherlock lets himself be pushed onto the mattress. The brief lack of body contact feels unrealistically cold and makes him shiver a little, but then John straddles him and is kissing him again, and Sherlock kisses back with as much enthusiasm as he can possibly muster. John 's breath hitches in his throat as he presses their crotches together, rutting against Sherlock, slowly, just a little bit. The liquid heat in Sherlock’s abdomen intensifies even more. He groans breathlessly, a barely audible sound of approval, letting his mouth drop open a bit.
He reaches for John’s belt and unbuckles it clumsily. His fingers are acting by their own accord, which is good because Sherlock has no idea what the rest of his body is doing. John hums in pleasure, breathes small sounds of encouragement down Sherlock’s throat, proceeds to move one hand to his own waistband. He helps Sherlock pull his trousers down and casts them off. They end up on the floor, on top of Sherlock's shirt. The outline of John’s erection is clearly visible through his grey boxer briefs, and Sherlock needs to see it, he needs to see every bit of John right now, otherwise he’s going to hyperventilate. He’s already breathing much faster than he should.
Their lips part with a little smack and John slowly slides down Sherlock's body, kissing his chest, leaving the spots he has kissed prickling and burning like they're on fire. Sherlock arches his back a little as John reaches his belly button and dips his tongue into it.
“Oh,” Sherlock hears himself say, and it sounds surprisingly astonished. There’s a lot to be astonished about right now.
John pulls Sherlock’s belt off, unzips his trousers. The pressure on Sherlock’s erection vanishes rapidly. His hips jerk in reaction.
“Yes,” John gasps out, pressing another kiss to the sensitive patch of skin right over Sherlock’s hip bone. “Let’s get you out of this.”
Sherlock lifts his hips a bit and John hooks his thumbs into his waistband, pulling his trousers down along with his pants, and then Sherlock is naked, entirely naked, and it occurs to him that he hasn’t got the faintest idea where his socks have gone, but it doesn’t matter because right now John is casting off his boxer briefs and settling back on top of Sherlock, pressing his hot, throbbing erection against Sherlock’s thigh. He can feel it, see it when he lifts his head a bit, and it’s unbelievable that this is happening because of him, that he is influencing John in that way. It’s too much and it’s not enough, he needs to touch John, needs to be touched so badly, and... oh God.
“Look at you,” John says admiringly. Sherlock is sprawled out beneath him, panting, his cock flushed and red against the pale skin on his belly, almost achingly hard at that point, with one tiny drop of pre-come just appearing, glistening in the dimmed lighting. John's eyes are glassy, there’s a sheen of sweat on his forehead and he smiles down at Sherlock like he can’t believe that they’re both here. That this is happening.
“Ah, ah,” Sherlock breathes, spreading his legs a bit further so John can settle between them.
“My God, you,” murmurs John, slowly trailing a hand over Sherlock’s collar bones and down his chest, bending forward to kiss him again. “You have no idea how incredible...”
Sherlock fails to understand how there could possibly be anything more incredible than John in this very moment. He kisses back, wraps his arms around him and pulls him as close as physically possible. They both exhale audibly when their erections are aligned without any barriers between them. Sherlock groans and tilts his head back, giving John better access to his neck as he presses more feather light kisses to his pulse point, his Adam's apple, his clavicles. He trails his hands down John’s back until he reaches his arse, lets them rest there. John makes a sound that could be a moan as well as a giggle. Sherlock squeezes a bit, and this time it’s definitely a giggle. He kisses it away and feels John’s hips pushing down against his.
“Oh,” he whispers into John’s mouth. "Oh. Oh."
John kisses every part of Sherlock he can reach. The crook of his neck, his cheek, his nose and his red, kiss-swollen lips. Sherlock feels enveloped in him, like they have fused into one person somehow. It feels natural to start moving, to roll his hips cautiously. John reacts immediately, thrusting against him, their cocks sliding hotly against warm, sweat-slick skin. They build a rhythm, thrusting simultaneously, and Sherlock breathes small, non-verbal sounds against John’s skin. John clutches at the sheets with one hand and brushes sweaty curls away from Sherlock's forehead with the other, whispering words that could be confessions or declarations or anything at all. Sherlock feels their breathing becoming ragged, their movements becoming more urgent. He explores John’s back and his arms with his finger tips, palpating the muscles and tendons under his skin, one by one.
“Sherlock,” John whispers tenderly, “God, I love you. I love you.”
I love you too, Sherlock wants to say, but he finds himself unable to speak. He takes John’s hand instead, twines their fingers together and squeezes a bit before he continues to move.
It’s like the most preposterous, over-romanticised, stereotyped description of sex imaginable, and more than that. Sherlock can physically feel something shatter around him, he all but sees broken fragments spiral downwards in front of his eyes as he lets go of everything that has separated his body from his brain for twenty-odd years. It has taken him so much time and self-discipline to build those barriers around himself, and now they’re being smashed and it doesn’t feel scary at all. It feels so infinitely right to let John in.
They are still kissing messily, rutting against each other faster, furiously at some point, in need of friction. Sherlock snaps his hips upwards, faster, more forceful, and there's not enought air in his lungs, it's not enough to merely breathe anymore. He starts to take huge gulps of air instead. The air tastes like sweat and a bit like iron, and Sherlock notices that that’s because he has bitten his lip so hard it’s bleeding. John notices as well, pauses to pry Sherlock’s bottom lip from his teeth, kissing his cheek soothingly. John groans, and they both still need more, more. John reaches down to wrap his hand around Sherlock’s cock and starts to stroke, brushing his thumb over the slit, spreading Sherlock’s pre-come to slick up the whole process. Sherlock can’t help but moan in surprise at the sensation, sucking in another sharp breath. The slick sound of John’s hand jerking his cock combined with the noises escaping his throat startle him infinitely. He can’t process it, can’t process anything, and for some reason it doesn’t matter in the slightest.
“Ah,” he mouths breathlessly, in time with John’s strokes. “Ah, ah, ah...-“
“God, yes,” John groans, speeding up a bit, pressing his own hot, leaking cock against the inside of Sherlock’s thigh, slowly thrusting into his soft, over-sensitive skin, and Sherlock feels the warm, liquid something in his gut beginning to build up.
He makes a strangled sound, pressing himself tighter up against John’s body, rolling his hips, starting to fuck his fist furiously, helplessly, unable to stop.
“Oh my God,” he hears himself cry out. It sounds more broken and vulnerable than he could ever have imagined, and under different circumstances he would be embarassed about it, but right now it doesn't matter, nothing matters anymore, except being here, right here, with John.
“I’ve got you,” John whispers, his voice almost equally shaky. “Let go, love, I’ve got you. You can let go, it’s okay. It’s alright.”
“John,” Sherlock gasps helplessly, his hips jerking uncontrollably as he thrusts into the tight passage of John's fist, again and again. “John, I- I’m going to...“
“God, oh God, oh-“ John sounds equally far gone, squeezing his eyes shut, trembling against Sherlock as his thrusts become erratic, his hand shaking slightly.
And then Sherlock is lost, completely lost in sensation, in John’s body warmth, their contact, the breathy sounds John is making as his own orgasm approaches, and he can’t think, he doesn’t even want to think, he just wants to feel John, John, John. It’s coming, like a wave, like a bolt of light that wants to roll over him and claim his entire body, and Sherlock doesn’t try to resist. He thrusts into John’s fist once more, and then he screams, presses his finger tips into John’s back, so hard that he may leave bruises, feeling tears prickle in the corners of his eyes. It crushes over him with so much force that he feels like it could send him flying. For an instant, he loses contact, he is disconnected from everything around him, and he is still screaming, clutching whatever part of John he can reach, holding on for dear life, and it should be scary, it should be so terrifying, but it isn't.
John strokes him through it, murmuring tender words of reassurance the entire time. "Beautiful, so beautiful, you have no idea...”
“John,” Sherlock breathes, and John kisses him, gives his softening cock one last, slow stroke before taking himself in hand and pumping his fist furiously, snapping his hips. He collapses onto Sherlock’s chest, barely a minute later, Sherlock’s name on his lips. “Oh my God,” he whispers, over and over as he comes down from his climax.
Sherlock just breathes and waits for his brain to come back on line.
He notices that there are copious amounts of ejaculate on his belly, that his chest is heaving. That there's evidence of what they just did. His head feels deliciously cloudy, like he’s dreaming.
He is about ninety-six per cent sure that he isn’t dreaming, which is good.
“Breathe, love,” John whispers. He wraps his arms tightly around Sherlock and rolls them both on their sides so they’re facing each other, reaches for the duvet and pulls it over both of them, kisses the corner of Sherlock’s mouth, gently smoothing a hand down his back.
Sherlock’s cheek feels strangely wet and he notes that he may be crying. He touches his cheek tentatively, rubs his eyes and assesses that he is definitely crying. He is quite sure that crying after sex is not what you’re supposed to do.
John states the obvious, as expected. “You’re crying, love.”
“I’m not,” Sherlock protests automatically, and his voice is way too shaky for it to sound convincing.
“Hm, sorry. Of course you aren’t.”
John grins at him. Sherlock has difficulties keeping his eyes open, for some reason. “No onions near, right?” murmurs John, planting another kiss on Sherlock's bottom lip.
“Under the bed,” Sherlock sniffles. “Experiment on germ buds.”
“You didn’t slice them up, did you?”
“The Aliiase hasn’t left the cortex cells, then. No logical explanation for any kind of extrinsic activation of your lacrimal glands,” John chuckles, presses his lips again Sherlock’s left eyebrow. “You still look like you’re crying, though.”
Sherlock surrenders. He hasn’t got a clue why he’s crying, but he is quite sure that it has something to do with the fact that he’s just had an orgasm and that the love of his live is currently rubbing soothing circles into his back while kissing his forehead.
“Oxytocin, perhaps,” he mumbles, failing terribly at sounding annoyed.
John’s smile is so bright that it effectively eclipses everything else around them. He laughs, kisses Sherlock, continues to giggle and regularly pauses to run a thumb over Sherlock's cheekbones to wipe a tear away.
And then, suddenly, for no discernable reason, he is crying as well.
“Oh God, I’m... I’m teasing you and now I’m... God, I love you. We’re two complete idiots, aren’t we?” he gasps, his voice high-pitched, shaking with laughter, a tear trickling down his cheek. “We’re two naked men crying under a duvet.”
Sherlock sucks in a deep breath that sounds awfully like a sob and buries his face in John’s shoulder. “John,” he whispers.
“I know,” John says, kissing the sweaty curls plastered to Sherlock’s forehead. “I know, Sherlock. I know.”
Chapter 4: A Paradox, Diamonds and John Watson's Zygomaticus Muscle
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Sex happens again. On a regular basis.
Sherlock never expected the process of producing incoherent noises and making a mess of the bed sheets (the sofa/the floor/the staircase – so sorry, Mrs. Hudson) to be a vaguely pleasurable experience. He most certainly never expected it to be an earth-shatteringly, indescribably… earth-shattering and indescribable experience.
Revelations have happened during the last few weeks.
John has an interesting reaction to Sherlock’s mouth on his cock, as it turns out. This reaction involves meaningless breathy sounds, a frankly inordinate amount of disembodied vowels, as well as a cascade of occasionally very creative swear words.
Sherlock, on the other hand, has an equally interesting reaction to John complimenting him during sex. (John accidentally calling him his beautiful boy during what was supposed to be foreplay taught them both a lesson.) He isn’t entirely sure why it happens, but John telling him he’s brilliant or precious or his pretty darling while aroused makes Sherlock go off like a two-stage rocket. (Two-stage. Literally.)
John says it’s fine, and Sherlock is only a little embarrassed about it.
The first time they tried anal sex was a legit disaster, despite all kinds of precautions that had been taken. It ended with a very sore Sherlock and a very apologetic John, and in the end they just cuddled and Sherlock frowned into his pillow, asking himself if John would overlook his inadequacies. John had to take a day off work to haul him out of his epic sulk, assuring him that it was completely alright and most couples had to try multiple times until it worked. Sherlock asked cautiously if John was disappointed in him, and John reacted by staring at him in complete and utter disbelief, then proceeded to shake his head for a far too long time and kiss his answer into the surprisingly soft skin on Sherlock’s belly.
They figured it out a few days later, of course.
They have tried it both ways. Sherlock likes being inside John, especially when they’re both on their sides, Sherlock’s nose in John’s hair, and John writhing and gasping in front of him, making little sounds of approval, grinding back against him every time Sherlock snaps his hips. Sherlock loves, absolutely loves John on top, though. It sounds ridiculous, downright obscene, and it surprises him infinitely, but Sherlock cannot imagine living his life without regularly being fucked by John Watson anymore. The slight discomfort and tiresome preparation that come with bottoming pale in comparison to the absolute pleasure, the connection, the feeling of John around him, inside him. Sherlock loves it. Needs it. It’s John who sets the pace, who initiates things, who stays in control, but that’s mostly due to the fact that he’s more experienced. Sherlock, however, is learning how to control things, at least as far as he wants to control them.
John is a wonderful lover. Generous, considerate and comfortable in his own body. Once he has started, Sherlock can barely remember how to stop touching him.
Sherlock has learned a lot. For example that it’s entirely possible to be in a state of such indescribable desire that you feel like you are going to die unless some sort of desperate fucking on a more or less horizontal item of furniture occurs within the following five minutes. Furthermore, he has learned that he is allowed to act upon this kind of desire.
This morning, he has woken up with an erection pressed against his pyjama-clad backside and spontaneously decided that something had to be done about it. Said something consisted of rolling a still half-asleep doctor onto his back, pulling his pants down to his knees, working himself open with copious amounts of lube while straddling John, and finally sinking down on his cock until his arse was flush against John’s hips.
Now, almost half an hour later, they’re still fucking lazily, languidly. Sherlock is rolling his hips in an achingly slow, still slightly sleepy rhythm, John’s hands on his hips and their breath mingling as they kiss, an endless slide of soft lips and tongues. His own untouched cock is bobbing up and down between their bodies as he rocks gently back and forth, leaving little drops of pre-come on John’s belly underneath him. Sherlock is waiting for the moment the long, delicious build-up is over, the moment John takes control and-
There it is. “God, Sherlock,” John gasps, wrapping an arm firmly around him and rolling them over so Sherlock is on his back, his legs locked around John’s waist, John still inside him.
“Yes,” Sherlock whispers. “John. Need you. Need you.”
John positions them both properly once more and starts thrusting in earnest. He wraps his hand around Sherlock’s cock and works it in time with his thrusts, steadily, rhythmically, kissing his neck as Sherlock closes his eyes and mouths John, John, John over and over. Sherlock resumes the gentle roll of his hips, fucking John’s fist to get more friction on his cock and simultaneously meeting every thrust, making John hit the spot, that spot, over and over again.
“Oh God,” John grunts, thrusting deeper and a bit faster now, slowly coming undone on top of Sherlock, eyes rolling back and mouth dropping open.
Sherlock’s orgasm overwhelms him and he comes for ages, his cock squeezing out shot after shot while John is still moving, moaning incoherent noises into the crook of his neck when Sherlock’s body clenches and trembles around him. And then, finally, John finds his release with an audible gasp. Sherlock feels warm wetness spread inside him, feels his own come drying on his chest, and he can’t help sighing heavily. He feels invaded, taken, which is extremely pleasant and makes him feel so warm all around.
John slides off him and slumps onto his back, twining their fingers together.
“You okay? Jesus, that was incredible.”
“Hmm,” Sherlock hums contentedly, tilting his head back on the pillow, stretching his neck luxuriously. “What day is today?”
John mumbles into his shoulder. “Mmh. Sunday.”
“You don’t need to get up, then. We should do that again.”
“Christ.” John mutters, gasping for air before dissolving into giggles. “Give me some time. Your refractory period is a crime. I haven’t had this much sex since uni.”
“Mmmh.” Sherlock grins (because John being giggly is oddly contagious), and then he is laughing, for some reason. Sherlock’s laugh is a deep, rich sound that seems to build in his belly and make its way up to his throat, leaving a trail of warmth behind as it does so. It mingles nicely with John’s ridiculously high-pitched giggles.
“Christ,” murmurs John. “If I’d known that, one day, I’d wake up like this-“
Sherlock blinks at him. John doesn’t finish his sentence. It’s silent for a bit. “An... an hour or two,” John finally says, rubbing his eyes.
Sherlock sighs contentedly before rolling over, prepared to doze off until round two is due. “Fine by me.”
Sherlock decides that John Watson is a paradox.
Right now, John is talking to the five-year-old daughter of their latest client and Sherlock observes him attentively as he does so. The little girl, Emily, is clutching her teddy bear with one hand and keeps poking John with the other. She’s an extrovert, obviously. Interesting. She has declared John her new best friend the moment they arrived at the crime scene, which happens to be Emily’s parents’ house.The child has seen her father nearly being beaten to death by a burglar in their own living room. Understandably, her Daddy is the only thing on her mind.
She finds Sherlock scary, though. John has assured her that Sherlock is harmless as long as he is kept warm and dry and has his supply of cigarettes and tea within reach. Emily is sceptic.
“You’re a doctor,” Emily determines, pointing at John with her little index finger.
John beams. “Yes, I am.”
Emily looks very excited. “You’re doing things to Daddy? Doctor things? To make him healthy again?”
John shakes his head. “Look,” he explains, “I’m not one of the doctors who are treating your Daddy. Sherlock and I, we're just here to help the police find the bad person who did this to him.”
“Oh.” Emily looks a bit disappointed. Then she has a new brilliant idea. Her eyes light up and she hands John her teddy bear. John takes it and eyes it curiously. “But you know what’s wrong with him, don’t you?" Emily asks hopefully. "You know what they’re doing to help him?”
“Yes, Emily, in theory, I know what his doctors are doing to help him.”
“Show me, show me, show me,” she squeals, pointing at her teddy bear.
“Alright,” says John, “Your Daddy’s chest has been injured, that’s why they had to bandage his upper body. Like that. Look.” He takes off his scarf, wraps it firmly around the teddy bear’s chest and hands it back to her. “Now his broken ribs are stabilized. The injury has time to heal. Your Daddy needs rest now, and a bit of pain medication, and soon he'll be fine.”
Emily jumps up and down in delight, cuddling her newly cured bear. John smiles mildly and starts a conversation with Emily’s mother, who seems deeply worried and keeps repeating that she just wants her family to be safe. John listens patiently, occasionally nodding and handing her tissues whenever she's about to start crying.
Sherlock wonders if John misses the daughter he never had.
In any case, John Watson is a paradox.
He is brilliant at offering comfort in all kinds of situations and, at the same time, barely notices when he, himself, needs to be comforted. He is protective, caring, patient, but it would be the worst of mistakes to think he can’t be dangerous. Because he can be.
On the one hand, he is unassuming, a bit buttoned-up (which can be profoundly annoying, really), but on the other hand, he’s an indescribably self-confident person. When John walks into a room, he takes the space out of it and barely leaves enough air in it to breathe, in his modest, gentle, incredibly determined sort of way. John is a quiet authority, someone who will follow orders as long as he deems it fit, but who will take over command whenever it really matters, impulsive and controlled at the same time.
John is so self-contradictary. He makes so much sense and, at the same time, he makes no sense at all.
Sherlock loves him. He doesn’t understand how and why, and, miraculously, he finds that he doesn’t need to know. He just does. It’s all he can do, and it’s enough for it to be real. It doesn’t matter if it’s a delusion or simple chemistry or the synapses in his hippocampus region going wild. There’s no great, universal truth behind it. Nothing he needs to uncover. John is a paradox, a mystery Sherlock will never try to unravel, because he doesn’t want to. John is his mystery, his endless source of fascination, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
It’s perfectly obvious after all. A crime of passion, not a burglary. Disgustingly simple. Stupid. The ‘burglar’ is actually the victim’s cousin, who's been fancying Emily’s mother for years and was desperate for a way to get rid of her husband. Not unrequited love. Just primitive obsession.
They track the man down and confront him in his basement where he’s hidden his jemmy and the black ski mask he has worn when ‘breaking in’.
“You have no idea what it feels like,” he yells, after Sherlock has proven that the hair on the living room carpet was clearly his due to its unusual reaction to sunlight (keratine depigmentation, very rare), and the police has arrived to secure the evidence. “You have no idea how it feels to love someone you can never have. Have you looked at her? She’s... she’s a flower. She’s perfect. She should have been mine. But he was... he is better than me. He always was.”
Sherlock glares at him, feeling anger rising in his stomach. “If you loved her,” he hisses in the man’s ear before they take him away, his voice too low for John or anyone else in the room to hear, “you would never have harmed him. You wouldn’t have done that to her. What you did was an act of possessiveness, a primal instinct getting the better of you. Animalistic. Weak.”
The man stares at him in complete and utter disbelief. Sherlock lights a cigarette und turns his coat collar up. “You disgust me,” he drawls, already heading out with no intent to waste another second on him.
John follows him out on the street, of course. There’s no taxi in sight, so they walk for a bit, marching past suburban houses and neat little front gardens. John is unusually quiet. Sherlock notices that John seems distracted and that he keeps shooting little glances at him, and Sherlock is slowly getting annoyed because he can’t figure out why, and Sherlock has a profound dislike for not being able to figure things out. He stops walking and stares him down.
“What’s wrong?” he confronts him.
“N…Nothing,” John stutters. He licks his lips, then reaches up to cup Sherlock’s jaw and pull him down for a kiss. Sherlock is not sure why he’s being kissed this time, but then, he’s still not one hundred percent sure why he’s being kissed at all.
“It sounds so cheesy,” John murmurs against his lips. “But you solved it and it was amazing, and I know I shouldn’t act like a lovesick lunatic every time you make a brilliant deduction, because we both know it happens all the time, but... I still can’t quite believe it, and it’s just…” He pecks Sherlock on the cheek before pulling away. “I guess I’m happy.”
Sherlock smiles and locks his arms around his waist, his coat enveloping them both, and he decides that he doesn’t object to John acting like lovesick lunatic. Not at all.
They rarely talk about their... thing. Their relationship. There’s generally no need to, and everything has been said at some point. They don’t kiss and touch in public. Well, not much. It does happen sometimes, but neither of them feels the urge to prove anything to other people. This is about the two of them, after all. It’s always been about the two of them.
John calls Sherlock love, git, arsehole, complete dickhead, darling, arrogant prat, and occasionally, very occasionally, baby. (That last one mostly in the throes of orgasm.) Sherlock calls John John.
Sherlock rarely tells John that he loves him. He assumes John knows already. John tells Sherlock approximately once or twice a day. While handing him his morning coffee, while getting ready for work, during sex or when Sherlock is being difficult and John calls him a complete arse and voices his disbelief about the fact that he loves him regardless.
Sherlock is getting better at accepting what John is trying to give him, although he still knows he is not actually worth being treated like that. He’s getting there, though. He really is.
There’s still The Work, of course. Sherlock’s concentration on crime solving is unabated, although it may have suffered a bit during the first few weeks after discovering sex. The Work still comes first. Theoretically, John comes first, too, but practically, Sherlock occasionally confuses him with a piece of furniture or a coffee vending machine, or forgets him in a walk-in refrigerator. Nothing new there. It works, for some reason. Why shouldn’t it? It has been working for years.
The doubts always come in the middle of the night.
Sherlock wakes up with a start, untangles himself from John’s limbs that are wrapped around him and sits up abruptly, panting hard. He glances down at John’s no longer sleeping form beside him and feels his jaw clench.
“W… what’s wrong, hm?” murmurs John, reaching for Sherlock’s arm in an attempt to pull him back in his arms. “Go back to sleep.”
John frowns at him, blinking sleepily. “Bad dream?”
“No. Yes.” There’s a pause. Sherlock’s breathing calms a bit and John grumbles sleepily, on the verge of dozing off again. “I love you, John,” Sherlock blurts out, and it’s the first time he’s said it in sixty-nine days, eight hours and fifteen minutes.
John smiles, cracking one eye open. “Love you, too. What’s the matter with you, hm?”
Sherlock buries his face in his hands. I don’t know what I’m doing, is what he wants to say. I don’t know if I’m supposed to lie in this bed with you, I don’t know if I’m supposed to watch you sleep, I don’t know if I’m supposed to listen to your breathing to know you’re still alive and warm and here. I don’t know if you’ll want this forever. To be here, in this bed, with me. Because I will. I don’t know if you’ll ever leave and move on and if you'll have someone else sleep in your bed and if you'll allow them to listen to your breathing to know you’re still alive and here. Because if you do, I might not survive it. He doesn’t say any of this. “Nothing,” he says instead. “Sleep, John.”
“Mmh, you too,” mumbles John and rolls over, and Sherlock stays awake for a long time, watching the rise and fall of the duvet as he breathes.
They are lying on a blanket, on the roof of an abandoned suburban house.
The house is Sherlock’s, of course. Purchased by auction fifteen years ago, just to have a place to hide from his parents and Mycroft and Mycroft’s stupid minions, when all Sherlock wanted was to get high in peace. It was cheap as dirt at the time, logically, given that a family of four had been slaughtered with an axe in the sitting room. People don’t want to live in murder houses. Nightmares, irrational fears, unpleasant mental images. People are strange like that. It was as good a hiding place as any other. (It worked fine for exactly ten days, until Mycroft found him and personally dragged him out by the hem of his filthy sweatshirt.)
Sherlock still owns the house, though. He hasn’t felt the urge to visit it for years, and yet, here they are. He and John. With a blanket and a picnic basket, too much red wine and boxes of chicken curry, and currently, they are silently gazing at the stars, fingers twined together. John has already shown him three constellations, and Sherlock hasn’t deleted them. Yet.
It's disgustingly romantic all around, Sherlock determines. It should put him off, shouldn’t it? The sheer banality, the stupid cliché. He should be ranting about the uselessness of romantic stereotypes and the inability of society to recognise them as such, about emotional behaviour being a waste of time, about the world being full of morons and clichés and predictability, about how hateful everything is. That would be the logical thing to do.
Sherlock fails to apply logic in John’s presence. He just continues lying on their blanket and has no idea why.
John sighs and shifts a little, squeezes Sherlock’s fingers and Sherlock turns his head towards him. John smiles, and after a moment, they both look back at the stars.
And right there, on the roof on a blanket, beneath the stars that are glistening like bacteria in a luciferase-coated petri dish (or like diamonds, which may or may not be a more appropriate metaphor), Sherlock Holmes has no desire to be anywhere else, which still startles him, although it occurs on a fairly regular basis, lately. He can hear the engine noises of cars on the motorway several miles away and the rustling of leaves in small front yards. It’s frighteningly quiet out here. He needs the noises of his London like oxygen. He’s incomplete without his city talking to him in its own language.
John breaks the silence, of course. “I wouldn’t be alive, you know. Probably.”
Sherlock’s mind goes absolutely blank for an instant. “What?”
“I thought about it. When I met you. I thought about taking my gun and putting a bullet through my temple. I’d been trying to build up my courage for days.”
Sherlock swallows. He knows this. That day John stepped into the lab at Bart’s, the suicidal thoughts had been as obvious as his profession, his limp, his sister’s alcohol problem. He had the demeanour, the body posture, the reaction time of a strong, self-confident person who was looking at the shreds of his life, hopeless, entirely resigned to his fate. Sherlock never expected him to spell it out, though.
“I thought... I thought I could just get it over with,” John continues after a pause. “Then you came, and you just... captured everything I knew and turned it all over, and... though you were an arrogant arse and everything, I’m so glad you were there to show me that life still had something in store for me.”
Sherlock is still unsure how to react. John must be wondering if he’s even listening.
“I’m just... I’ve been through a lot, Sherlock. I know it sounds... strange, but - I always felt kind of... clueless. I hadn’t got the faintest idea what I wanted. But just so you know, now I’m sure what I want.”
Sherlock swallows. “Me?” It sounds only marginally like a question.
“Of course, you. You daft git,” John tells him.
Sherlock takes a few deep, very deliberate breaths, feels the cool evening air rush into his lungs. He would kill for a cigarette right now. Or for John’s breath in his mouth, a warm, damp puff of air against his palate. That would work, too.
“I just wanted to say that I’m sorry,” John continues. “I’m sorry it took me so long to understand. And I know you’re an insufferable arsehole, and you have a hell of a lot to be sorry for, as well, but I want you to know that I love you with all my heart, and I’m sorry I can’t be more than that. More than... the broken man I am.”
Sherlock rolls onto his side to face John, even though it’s uncomfortable and the thin blanket isn’t soft enough.
“Be broken, John,” Sherlock tells him, his voice deep and silky, coming from somewhere deep in his chest. John tilts his head and eyes him incredulously. His eyes are cerulean today, at least that’s what Sherlock assumes. It’s too dark to see. Right now, they just reflect the stars, bright and sparkling.
“Be broken,” Sherlock repeats, “and don’t think for a second that you need to be fixed.”
John shakes his head in disbelief, not responding. Sherlock imagines taking a pull on his non-existent cigarette to make a few seconds pass and get his brain back under control. He chooses his next words deliberately, which is something he rarely does.
“Be what I need, John," he says tentatively. "Be so broken that you don’t need to fix me because you’re equally damaged. That’s what I want. That’s what I need.”
John sighs, still looking incredulous, lips slightly parted, the moonlight making his hair shine like liquid silver.
“We’re a right mess, aren’t we?” he rasps, finally, with complete and utter affection in his voice.
Sherlock agrees. “We are.”
“Let’s climb down and... go for a walk,” says John a few minutes later. Sherlock nods wordlessly.
It’s a very long walk. Together, they approach the heart of the city which envelops them like a warm, familiar blanket, with its noises and smells and its feeling of belonging that makes something inside Sherlock fall into place. They hold hands the entire time.
When they’re in bed later that night, Sherlock clings to John like he’s holding on for dear life. He pushes his tongue between his lips, runs it over John’s palate, tasting wine, curry and saliva, relishing the heat. He wants to devour him, he thinks, and at the same time, he wants to be devoured until there's nothing left of him.
Sherlock craves John inside him. It’s like a primal need to be spread and filled, to be marked so thoroughly that he will be able to feel it for days. He feels like his chest is going to explode with sheer desire when John is lying on top of him, kissing him tenderly, mingling their breath as his tongue gently grazes Sherlock’s.
“Take me, John.” Sherlock gasps, and he couldn’t care less that it sounds a lot like begging. “Fuck me. Claim me. Make me yours.”
Apparently, John approves of this turn of events. He turns Sherlock over so he is on all fours and begins to prepare him, kisses his way up Sherlock’s back, caresses his vertebrae with his lips, one by one. It’s not happening fast enough.
“Fuck me. Please, John. Fuck me.”
“Yes, love.” John mouths breathlessly, watching Sherlock unravel as he opens him up with his fingers, his tongue, gently, too slowly.
They’re alive. They are both so very much alive and Sherlock needs proof. Now.
“Inside me! Do it!” he orders.
John slides in with one sharp thrust. Sherlock spreads his knees a bit more, presses them into the mattress. He pushes back against the warm, reassuring weight behind him, until John is buried inside him to the hilt and it aches. It does so in the most blissful way imaginable, but still not sufficiently so. Not today.
“Move!” Sherlock yells.
John pull out with a gasp and slams back into him. Sherlock's arms trembles, his muscles tightening under his skin.
John speads up his thrusts, holds onto Sherlock’s hips with both hands, digging his nails into the pale skin. He will leave it bruised and scratched, and the mere thought makes Sherlock want to evaporate with need. He will have physical proof of what John has done to him, he will be able to see it for days, and Sherlock is absolutely sure that John has never been this close to his very core. More.
Sherlock grips the headboard, steadies himself on it. He’s not sure if his arms would be sufficient to support him at this point. John is fucking him hard by now, relentlessly, faster than he ever has before. The headboard hits the wall with each of John’s thrusts, the bedsprings are squealing rhythmically, the duvet and pillows have ended up somewhere on the floor, and Sherlock is on the verge of screaming himself hoarse.
“Jesus, Sherlock,” John gasps out. “So close.”
Their sweat has made their skin wet and slippery, creating a sound that is positively obscene as their bodies smack against each other’s furiously.
“Touch yourself, Sherlock. Come for me! Come on, love, let go.”
Sherlock does. He closes his eyes, lets go, abandons his self-control and the last bit of connection his transport has to his brain. He feels John swell inside him, hears his breath becoming erratic along with his thrusts. Their carnal symphony, their connection, reaches its last tremolo. Sherlock hears John’s strangled cry, feels the heat of his release spread, expand inside him, and then Sherlock’s back arches, his whole body curving as his orgasm rips through him with a force that makes white sparks explode on the inside of his eyelids. Sherlock screams at the top of his lungs as his barely touched cock twitches in his hand, emptying itself completely. He collapses headfirst onto the pillow, into the wet spot under his belly, distantly aware that John is draped over him, out of breath, gasping, cursing.
“Fuck, Sherlock. Christ. F-…fuck. Love you. So much.”
Sherlock cannot possibly remember how talking works. He doesn’t bother. His throat feels sore, anyways.
John snuggles up to him and even though his arms feel like jelly, Sherlock manages to wrap them around him. John’s eyelids look like rumpled silk as he closes his eyes. His eyelashes glitter with sweat and, maybe, tears.
Nature is imperfect. Faulty, morbid and in a constant state of flux. Sherlock fails to understand how nature alone was able to create something as perfect as John Watson. He surrenders to sleep without having figured it out.
The next morning, Sherlock awakes with an armful of sleepy army doctor. John murmurs incoherent syllables into Sherlock’s chest and snuggles a little closer. Sherlock observes the movement of his eyelids, the response pattern to manual stimulation of his zygomaticus muscle. REM phase. Dreaming, then. Definitely not a nightmare, judging by the relaxed expression on his face and his calm, rhythmic breathing.
Sherlock dares to trace a finger along John’s upper arm, exploring, caressing each muscle underneath the firm layer of skin. When John doesn’t wake up, Sherlock feels safe to place a soft kiss on his forehead.
Sometimes moments of recognition just happen when you least expect them. And right now, with John completely safe and at ease in his arms, Sherlock understands. He understands that he and John cannot be apart, and they never will be. He understands that one day, he will have a cottage in Sussex and bee hives and his curls will be greying, and he will need reading glasses, and he understands that when that happens, John will still be here.
Sherlock tightens his grip around John’s midsection a little and is rewarded with a soft, contented sigh. He can feel John’s heart and his own beating nearly synchronously, and he understands that this is what it all amounts to. That they are part of a bigger story.
This is not a temporary arrangement. They aren’t contenting themselves with less than they actually want. And, as unreal as it may sound, they are both exactly where they want to be.
Later today, they will get up, maybe share a shower, have breakfast, bicker over the scapulae in the vegetable crisper and the dung beetles on the mantle. John will coax Sherlock into eating Chinese for lunch, although Sherlock won’t be hungry. They may get a call from Lestrade, they may take a cab to New Scotland Yard, and they may pick up on a new case or not. In the evening, they will return home (provided that they aren’t locked up in some murderous blackmailer’s broom cupboard). They will watch crap telly, and Sherlock will complain about it, and at some point John will take Sherlock’s hand and lead him to their bed where Sherlock will straddle John’s hips and unbutton his shirt, and they will embrace and kiss and giggle and make love until they’re whole and satisfied and reassured.
They will keep each other alive for another day.
This is it, Sherlock thinks, when John squints at him sleepily, the corners of his mouth twitching ever so slightly, this is the ending of a story and the beginning of the future at once. This must be happiness. And this time, he’s sure.
Whew! That’s it. That’s the thing!
Thanks to everyone for reading, thank you for every click on the Kudos button, for every lovely comment. That REALLY means a lot to me.
This is not betaed (since I didn’t know who to ask for beta), so thank you for overlooking the occasional wrong use of vocabulary or weird grammar. I’m still trying to improve my English, and I think I’m getting better. :) So thank you for your wonderful encouragement, it helps a lot.