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When the Dawn Comes Up

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October, 1940

The ARP wardens began to rouse those who had been able to sleep at around five. As soon as Sherlock noticed, he extracted his hand from John’s and squeezed John’s leg gently. ‘John,’ he murmured. ‘Time to go.’

Lifting his head from Sherlock’s shoulder, John sat up and blinked, clearing the haze of a fitful sleep that had fallen around him. ‘It’d be daft of me to imagine you managed to get your head down, wouldn’t it?’ he asked with a small, knowing smile.

‘Downright foolish,’ Sherlock said, standing and pulling his coat on, then his scarf, hat, and finally his gloves. John stretched his back out and yawned.

‘Do come along, John,’ Sherlock said, an urgent crack in his voice as he tried to tug John to his feet. Other people were beginning to stir and preparing to leave around them.

‘It’s alright,’ John said quietly, fixing Sherlock with an even stare as he rose to his feet, putting his trench coat and hat on. ‘You’re alright,’ he whispered, bending to pick up the case they’d brought with them, never taking his eyes away from Sherlock’s.

With the briefest touch to Sherlock’s forearm, John began to lead the way towards the stairs, weaving in between the people still lying or sitting on the floor. The baby from the night before had finally stopped crying at about three, and was just starting to fuss again at being woken. John and Sherlock were among the first to leave the station, running up the steps to face the crisp Autumn dawn. Smoke hung in the air around them, the smell acrid. Small piles of rubble littered Baker Street, though further down, in the opposite direction to 221.

Sherlock closed his eyes and sighed, standing still and breathing in the morning chill.

‘Five past five,’ John murmured, checking his watch. Sherlock’s gloved hand shot out and grabbed John’s upturned wrist.

‘Come on,’ Sherlock said, and in a sudden burst of movement they were running down Baker Street, back to 221, back to their flat. Dull brown leaves that had fallen from the trees in the past couple of hours rustled and snapped under their feet as they ran, the tall houses on either side of the road looming over them; groaning, empty giants.

They reached their front door after a five-minute dash, short of breath. Sherlock reached into the inside pocket of his tweed suit jacket and pulled out his set of keys. ‘There’s no time,’ he muttered as he shoved the key in the lock, twisting it with far more force than was necessary. ‘There’s never enough time.’ He kicked the door open and went inside, pulling John in after him.

They paused, staring at one another, the door still open.

The grandfather clock at the foot of the stairs struck quarter past the hour.

John,’ Sherlock breathed, twisting his fingers into John’s hair, knocking his hat off, pushing him back against the door so that it slammed shut. Sherlock crushed his body against John’s and stared at him, nose-to-nose. John dropped the case and brought his own hands up to Sherlock’s strange face and stared back, looking and looking and looking.

‘I--’ Sherlock began, but John pressed his lips to Sherlock’s with a vicious exhalation through his nose and cut Sherlock short. The tips of John’s fingers and thumbs dug into Sherlock’s skin and Sherlock’s hands tightened in John’s hair.

‘Upstairs,’ John mumbled into Sherlock’s mouth, rubbing their noses together, kissing him again. ‘Upstairs, there’s time, we’ve time.’

Sherlock nodded and hurried up the stairs, taking his coat and gloves and scarf and hat off as he went. John stooped to pick up his hat and the case and went after Sherlock, closing the door to their flat behind him once he was inside. He heard Sherlock’s footsteps on the second set of stairs that led to the room that had been John’s originally but was now theirs, saw Sherlock’s coat spread on the floor where he’d dropped it. John got out of his own coat, then his jacket, his jumper and his tie and followed the trail of clothes that Sherlock had left in his wake.

Sherlock was sitting on the edge of the bed, taking his shoes off. John sat down next to him, their thighs brushing as John removed his own shoes and socks. They were both silent. Still in his shirt and trousers, Sherlock leant forwards, resting his elbows on his legs, his head drooping, his hands hanging down between his knees.

‘I didn’t want it to be like this,’ he murmured.

John rested his palm on the small of Sherlock’s back. ‘No-one did,’ he said.

‘It wasn’t ever meant to be like this, John!’ Sherlock sat up, turning his pale, anguished face to the ceiling, his hands paused in mid-air, his long fingers spread outwards. ‘I don’t care! I don’t care about this bloody war, I don’t care! I want to stay here, in London, and do my work, with you.’

‘Sherlock, there’s a war on--’

Stop telling me there’s a war on, John!’ Sherlock roared, standing up, towering over John. ‘Stop telling me that, do you think I don’t know? I don’t care--’

‘Well I do!’ John shouted back, standing up as well, pushing Sherlock’s chest, causing him to stumble backwards. ‘I care, I care a great bloody deal, Sherlock, and I am sick of arguing about this with you.’

The clock downstairs struck half past five.

Sherlock leant against the dresser and stared miserably at the floor. ‘Why must you go so far away?’ he mumbled.

Sighing, John crossed the few feet between them and pressed his hand to Sherlock’s abdomen, stretching up just slightly to kiss his neck.

‘Now don’t get wasting what little time we have with your bloody melancholy, do you hear me, Sherlock Holmes?’ he said quietly.

Sherlock swallowed and nodded.

‘Kiss me,’ John whispered, pulling Sherlock down by his chin. ‘Kiss me.’

As their lips and tongues met, John spread his fingers out on Sherlock’s chest outside his shirt, rubbing back and forth for a moment before slipping Sherlock’s buttons through their holes. He ran his warm hand down Sherlock’s torso, undoing the buttons of his trousers as well. Tilting his head, John deepened the kiss further, pulling Sherlock closer still by his waist.

Slowly, Sherlock began to respond, began to come back from inside his head. He returned John’s kiss and gripped John’s arms hard, using his hips and his height to push John backwards until they tumbled onto the bed together.

His breath catching in his throat, Sherlock pressed his lips to John’s forehead and pushed John’s braces off his shoulders, unbuttoning his shirt with a frantic urgency.

‘I don’t mean to be like I am,’ Sherlock said, cupping John’s face in his large hands, kissing him deeply. ‘I don’t mean to do the things I do.’

‘You’re a fool for thinking I’d want you any different,’ John murmured, brushing Sherlock’s curls back from his face. Sherlock closed his eyes, his face pained as he bent to kiss John again, curling his tongue around John’s. He pressed down with his body, tugging his shirt away so that their skin brushed, touching as much of John as possible.

The grey dawn light broke through a gap in the curtains and fell across them both, throwing half of their faces into shadow. Every wrinkle, every mark was exposed on the other half; Sherlock’s eyes with the flawed right pupil even more unearthly and knowing in the half-light until he closed them.

John fisted his hand in Sherlock’s hair and held him close, his other hand stroking Sherlock’s chest, pushing his shirt off his shoulders. Sherlock moaned into John’s mouth and pressed down with his hips, eliciting a high-pitched gasp from John.

John,’ Sherlock groaned, biting low down on John’s neck, somewhere that his uniform would cover the inevitable mark. Sherlock spread his hands out on John’s hips and ran them slowly up John’s sides, licking and biting and sucking hard at John’s skin. He sat up and threw his shirt onto the floor, throwing one leg over John and bending to kiss him again. ‘Please, John,’ Sherlock breathed, reaching down and stroking John through his trousers, pressing his face to John’s neck. ‘John, please, I...’

‘Yes, yes, here,’ John replied, turning to kiss Sherlock’s forehead before taking the jar of petroleum jelly they used off the bedside table and pressing it into Sherlock’s hand.

Moaning, Sherlock pulled John’s trousers and underwear off, pushing John’s legs apart and settling in between them, lying so that their bodies were pressed together as much as possible.

Sherlock swallowed and closed his eyes, brushing kisses over John’s neck and throat. ‘You are... entirely necessary to me, John Watson,’ he murmured, rubbing around the entrance to John’s body for a moment before sinking two fingers into him, smothering John’s deep grunt with a kiss.

Sherlock worked John open quickly, their breath mingling as they panted and gasped, their lips constantly brushing. The bed creaked, the sound loud in the early morning stillness.

‘Sherlock,’ John whispered, reaching up with a clumsy hand to stroke Sherlock’s face.

‘Yes.’ Sherlock kissed the palm of John’s hand and nuzzled into it as he stroked himself. ‘Yes, John,’ he said, biting down on his lip as he shifted on his knees in between John’s legs, one arm insinuating itself between the back of John’s neck and the pillow, the other sliding around John’s waist, pulling him upwards so that their damp chests were together. Slowly, Sherlock breached John’s body, pushing inwards until his angular hips met the soft curve of John’s rear.

They both gasped and remained motionless for a moment, breathing together, joined in every possible way.

The downstairs clock struck quarter to six.

‘Hold me,’ John murmured, almost inaudible, his gaze fixed on the wall next to the bed.

Sherlock tightened his grip on John’s body and began to move his hips slowly. He coaxed John’s mouth open with his tongue and kissed him desperately, clinging onto John’s body with a grip of iron, the ends of his fingers going white where they dug into John’s skin. Sherlock’s breath huffed across John’s cheek from his nose as he began to breathe harder, move faster; frenetic and overwrought. Still he kissed John. Still John kissed back, writhed and pushed underneath Sherlock, held on to Sherlock tightly.

John bit Sherlock’s bottom lip and then moved down onto Sherlock's neck, mouthing along his alabaster skin, licking his collarbone as Sherlock thrust, gathering pace.

'There,' John groaned at one particularly vicious shove inwards, arching into Sherlock's body, pressing against him so hard it was almost painful. Sherlock paid this no mind and clung on to John, his fingers clenching and releasing around John's skin.

'There?' Sherlock whispered, doing it again, their rickety old wooden headboard slamming into the wall, the springs of their mattress groaning.

'Yes,' John moaned, stretching the word out. 'Sherlock.'

Sherlock licked his way into John's mouth again, moving at a frantic pace, pulling out only the slightest amount before he pushed in again. He moaned lowly and pulled away to murmur into John's ear.

'Touch yourself,' he whispered, tugging on John's earlobe with his teeth. 'John, touch yourself, I want to feel you, I want to feel you come undone around me.'

Breathy gasps and sighs fell from John's lips as he moved his hand between his legs and began to work himself, rubbing his nose against Sherlock's jaw.

Sherlock whimpered and grabbed hold of John as hard as he could, his movements violent and desperate.

'It's going to be alright,' John breathed, pressing a kiss to Sherlock's cheek, moving his right hand to stroke Sherlock's face and hair. 'It'll be alright, Sherlock, it's going to be alright.'

Screwing his eyes shut, Sherlock nodded. 'I...' he pressed his forehead to John's temple, stroked John's skin with his thumb. He heaved a loud sigh. ‘I... John, I...’ His voice cracked and he shoved John into the mattress, freeing his arms from where they were wrapped around John and pinning him by his shoulders. Sherlock's Cambridge blue eyes bored into John's as he thrust in, hard and quick.

'Do it,' Sherlock said, his lips parted, his eyebrows knitted, his expression pleading. ‘Come on, John, please--’

Crying out, John’s hand tightened around himself, the veins in his forearm standing out as his release shot across both of their stomachs. He twisted and moaned underneath Sherlock, his eyes closed as he shuddered. The hand he had tangled in Sherlock’s hair tightened.

Oh,’ Sherlock sighed, gathering John into his arms again, pressing small, gentle kisses all over John’s face and neck. ‘John, I--’

‘Sherlock,’ John murmured, quiet and undone, touching their foreheads together. ‘Let go.’

Sherlock groaned, long and low as he climaxed, his hips shoved against John’s, his face buried in John’s neck. He held his body taut, the long line of his spine straight straight and unyielding until he collapsed on top of John, trembling and gasping for breath.

‘Come here,’ John whispered as Sherlock shook, resting one protective hand at the back of Sherlock’s head, wrapping his other arm around Sherlock’s chest and back. ‘I’ve got you, I’m here,’ he murmured, kissing the top of Sherlock’s head, making soft soothing noises under his breath. ‘Shh, shh, you’re alright. Shh. I’m here.’

The downstairs clock struck six.

***

As soon as he’d recovered, Sherlock ran a bath for John, putting in more water than he was strictly meant to, what with the rationing guidelines. He boiled a kettle of water on their rusty hob (damaged from a chemical accident almost a year ago) and poured the hot water into a bowl, carrying it up to the bathroom.

John lay in the bath, leaning back against its sloped edge. The water barely covered his legs and goose pimples stood out on his forearms. His expression was cloudy and he looked lost in thought.

The downstairs clock struck half past six.

‘Come here,’ Sherlock said to John, putting the bowl of hot water on the toilet’s lid, sitting himself on the edge of the bath. He unwrapped John’s shaving kit from its leather case and spread it out across his knees. John handed Sherlock the soap and Sherlock worked up a lather between his hands, reaching for John’s face and rubbing the soap across it.

John closed his eyes and stroked Sherlock’s knee with his thumb.

‘Sit up,’ Sherlock said, leaning forwards, John’s razor held in his right hand. John did as he was told and shifted forward, tilting his face up towards Sherlock.

‘You will be careful, won’t you?’ Sherlock murmured, dragging the razor down John’s cheek.

‘I’ll do the best I can.’

The only sounds for a while were the rasp of Sherlock running John’s razor across his face, and the splashing of the water whenever John shifted. Sherlock rinsed the razor in the bowl of hot water at regular intervals, being as gentle as possible. When he’d finished, he rinsed John’s face with fresh water from the tap, patting it dry with a flannel. Sherlock cupped John’s cheek in one hand, rubbing with his thumb. He bent to press his lips to John’s, slow and soft.

‘Light me a fag?’ John said quietly.

‘You don’t smoke.’

‘Come on, Sherlock,’ John said with a half-smile.

Rolling his eyes and arching one eyebrow, Sherlock reached into the pocket of his trousers and pulled out his cigarette case, offering it to John. John picked one out and put it in his mouth, holding it between his fingers. Sherlock bent forward to light it with one of the matches he kept in a box on the bathroom shelf.

Inhaling deeply, John sat back again, keeping one hand on Sherlock’s knee. He blew the smoke out through his nose, watching as Sherlock lit a cigarette for himself as well.

The downstairs clock struck quarter to seven.

‘You will be careful, won’t you?’ Sherlock repeated, looking down at the tiled floor, smoke from both of their cigarettes curling up towards the ceiling. ‘No heroics.’

‘I thought heroes didn’t exist,’ John replied.

Sherlock gave him an unreadable look, his eyebrows drawn together in a frown, his lips pressed tight together. He shifted his gaze to the small, dirty window and sucked in a breath of smoke from his cigarette.

‘I’ll be careful,’ John murmured, resting his hand on Sherlock’s thigh.

Sherlock nodded and rested his hand over John’s.

***

Staring into the mirror in his and Sherlock’s bedroom, John straightened his deep red beret and stood to attention. His uniform was stiff, his boots blacked, his kit bag packed.

Sherlock appeared in the doorway, still wearing his grey tweed trousers and nothing else.

‘Mycroft’s sending a car for you this evening, is he?’ John asked, turning away from the mirror slowly.

Sherlock nodded.

The downstairs clock struck quarter past seven.

Sherlock walked over to where John was standing and wrapped his arms around John from behind. ‘You have all of your things?’ he murmured, kissing John’s neck.

John nodded.

The light from the window was at their backs, casting shadows across their faces. Sherlock closed his eyes and pressed his forehead to the back of John’s neck, just above his collar.

‘My train’s at eight,’ John said, gazing at their reflection in the mirror.

‘I know.’ Sherlock reached out and took a pair of nail scissors off the top of the chest of drawers. He pushed John’s hair up at the back and snipped a lock of it off, combing the rest of the hair back down with his fingers.

‘Experiment?’ John asked with a smile.

‘Reminder,’ Sherlock replied.

‘Oh,’ John said. ‘Right.’ He turned to face Sherlock and kissed him gently. ‘Try and be nice while I’m not around to apologise for you,’ he said, stroking Sherlock’s side. Sherlock huffed a laugh and placed the lock of John’s hair carefully on the dressing table.

‘I’ll be perfectly civil as long as people aren’t stupid,’ he mumbled, looking down at their feet, his hands resting on John’s hips.

‘Well I should hope that the Government Code and Cypher School’s boffins aren’t stupid,’ John replied, smiling.

Slowly, Sherlock sank to his knees, wrapping his arms around John and pressing the palms of his hands to John’s back through his uniform. Sherlock rested the side of his face against John’s stomach and inhaled deeply.

His smile fading, John tangled his hands in Sherlock’s hair, holding his head close to John’s body.

‘It’s going to be alright, Sherlock,’ he whispered.

Sherlock didn’t reply.

‘I love you,’ John breathed, closing his eyes tightly, his chest constricting. His next breath was a gasp. ‘I love you, Sherlock.’

Sherlock held on tighter. He breathed John’s scent in once again.

The downstairs clock struck half past seven.