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John finds it three months after he's moved back.

He's on the hunt for something to make for dinner, is scrounging through the cupboards, when he happens upon the graveyard of pasta boxes Sherlock still seems to create when left to his own devices. Behind seven boxes of pasta, all almost completely empty (Why do you never empty the whole box? Why??) is a dark-glassed bottle, with a paler coat of dust.

It's unopened.

John's face falls slack when he sees it, instantly recognises it, and for a long moment he just stands and looks at it.

His next breath startles him with its rush, and he lifts a hand to finish pushing the pasta boxes aside. They rattle as they topple, but John ignores the clutter and the clatter as his fingers curl around the neck of the bottle.

In a flash he's back, transported to one of the rare days Before when Sherlock had joined him in the weekly run to Tesco's. He'd followed John around, seemingly lost in thought, but every time John had thought he'd lost him, he'd turn around and there Sherlock was, absorbed in his phone, or in the ingredients list on a tin of canned asparagus, or the warning label on a box of multi-surface cleaner.

John had finished his shopping, bemused by his lanky shadow, and had led the way to the tills, choosing the shortest route – only to have Sherlock stop in the middle of an aisle.

They were in the wine racks, and Sherlock's gaze was now squarely on the contents of the shelves.

"See something you like?" John had asked after stopping and coming back to Sherlock.

Sherlock had huffed a breath out through his nose, but his face had remained otherwise impassive, utterly blank.

John, suppressing a huff of his own, had looked back and forth from Sherlock to the wine, trying to see which one had caught his eye.

"This one?" he'd asked, and reached to take the most likely culprit. It wasn't a label he was familiar with, and furthermore, it was a red – and a posh one, at that. Sherlock normally preferred a white wine, when he indulged at all. John was a beer or scotch man, himself, but wouldn't say no to a red wine for a special occasion – even if that special occasion was usually of a more intimate nature.

John had wondered, then, if Sherlock had noticed that association, the pattern in his relationships: cocktails and conversation, dinner and snogging, red wine and sex.

Sherlock had taken the bottle from him then, looked at it, as if caught by the shift of deep red liquid behind green glass. He'd stared at the label, and then, still expressionless, had put the bottle in the basket.

He'd turned to walk to the tills, and John had been hard pressed not to gape.

Then they'd returned home, and John had carried all the bags up the stairs, out of breath from keeping up with a suddenly talkative Sherlock, and Sherlock had disappeared into his room.

A moment later he'd called for John to join him, and John had gone to see what was what.

It wasn't until much, much later that he remembered that he'd had that bottle in his hands, had picked it up on the way to Sherlock’s bedroom – and it wasn't until After that he came to terms with what that little slip could have meant. But by then it had been much too late.

And now, three months in, three months back in 221b, there's that bottle, squatting in the back of the cupboard, sulking in its jacket of dust, and John can almost feel the wasted potential of it as he lifts and holds it in his hands.

He hasn't thought about that day in quite some time. The case, the Woman – events had conspired to keep them busy, keep them running. And then After there'd been no reason to, and plenty of reason not to.

So now, bottle once again in hand, John wonders what could have happened that day, what would have happened, given slightly different circumstances.

If Irene hadn't been in Sherlock's room, would he have gone to it all the same? Called John over? For what reason, then, if not to show him the interloper in his bed?

But then, what had been the reason behind the wine? Sherlock had stopped, had stared, had taken the bottle from John and given it his full attention, and then had placed it in the shopping basket.

And here it is, unopened, un-imbibed, and – going by the layer of dust – untouched after all this time. What purpose had this wine been bought for, what purpose had then been shelved and forgotten right along with this bottle?

John blinks: downstairs the door has opened, and then there is the clatter of Sherlock hurtling up the steps, taking them two or three at a time with his long legs.

"John? I stopped in at the clinic but they said you'd been let off early – ah."

John looks over his shoulder and sees Sherlock staring at the pasta boxes all over the counter and floor. There is a lively light in his eyes, and a bit of a flush on his cheeks from rushing up the stairs. His lips quirk into an amused slant.

"Peckish, are we?"

John snorts. "Starving, actually." The wine is still in his hands, out of Sherlock's line of sight, but John finds himself making a decision right then and there. From the outside, it would have looked sudden, spontaneous – but to John it feels like puzzle pieces falling into place. "We should finally open this."

John turns, looking up in time to see Sherlock's eyes land on the bottle and snag there. After a moment, Sherlock blinks rapidly and looks up at John. He doesn't say anything, so John does:

"Found it behind your stash of pasta boxes. No sense it letting it go to waste."

Sherlock comes back to himself at that. "It's red wine, John. It gets better with age." He steps forward then, holds out a hand, and inspects the bottle carefully when John relinquishes it. "True connoisseurs would probably argue that drinking it would be a waste."

John huffs out a laugh. "They don't sound like they have any fun, then. What's the point of having a bottle of wine and never drinking it?"

“True.” The amused uptick on Sherlock's lips evens out into something softer, warmer. There's a look in his eyes that John would have no trouble picturing or identifying on anybody else's face, but on Sherlock's it seems unfamiliar, unexpected, and it's gone before he can quite wrap his brain around it. What replaces it is a decisive look, almost businesslike.

"Alright," Sherlock says. "Let's have it then. But, thanks to the passage of time, it is a rather different wine than the one we initially bought. I'm afraid we don't really have anything in that would do it justice as a pairing."

"No?" John nudges a pasta box with his foot. "Pasta Remnant Surprise won't do?" He grins at Sherlock. "You know, Sherlock," he says very solemnly, "you should use every part of the pasta box."

"Don't be ridiculous, John," Sherlock says, rolling his eyes, but there's a bit of a smile still sticking to the corners of his mouth.

"At the very least you should mount some of these on the walls," John continues. He stoops to gather the boxes up and arrange them back in the cupboard as he says, "With little placards, dating the time of the kill, and the percentage of pasta actually consumed –"

"If you are quite finished," Sherlock interrupts, and rather obviously, too, "then I was going to suggest Angelo's for dinner. Seeing as you have a pasta fixation at the moment." He purses his lips and looks down at the wine in his hands. “And this is Italian, after all.”

“Perfect,” John says. He feels like beaming, but he’s not sure how Sherlock will take it, so he tucks his face towards the shelves and fusses with the boxes until he has his face under control. “Take out or…?”

“Angelo always has a table for us,” Sherlock says.

“For you, you mean,” John quips, and turns around.

Sherlock does a little half-shrug and moves forward to put the bottle he’s still holding on the counter John’s just cleared. “Well,” he says, but doesn’t add anything else. He clears his throat. “If you’d prefer take out –”

“No,” John says, and his hand shifts to rest his fingertips on the top of Sherlock’s wrist, mostly without consulting him first. “Get the table, it’ll be –”

“Like old times?” There’s something wistful in Sherlock’s voice, and he doesn’t look at John as he says it.

“Well, maybe not exactly,” John says, and he’d thought to say it one way, but it came out rather differently, especially since his hand is still resting against Sherlock’s skin. He doesn’t regret it, though, not with the way Sherlock looks at him before turning away. He doesn’t quite manage to do so in time to keep John from seeing the flush on his cheeks, either. John watches Sherlock’s back as he exits the kitchen.

“I’ll – I’ll call Angelo, let him know we’ll be by tonight,” he says, and then he’s gone into his room, door shut, and John is left in the kitchen with nothing to do but notice the effervescence of anticipation; nerves, and excitement all fizzing together in his veins.

 

There’s a candle on the table, and a white wine to go with their dinners (fettucine ai frutti di mare for Sherlock and gnocchi di pollo for John), and Angelo finally seems to have perfected the art of leaving them to their own devices. After the initial gushing of welcome (and subsequent outpouring of praise for Sherlock) he makes himself scarce. John hardly notices the bread arriving, which is replaced by their starters, and finally the main course.

Then again, that might be down to Sherlock, who – even when he isn’t laying out the finer points of a recent case or murmuring observations about the other diners for John’s ears only – is utterly captivating. John finds himself lost in the elegant line of Sherlock’s neck as he tilts his head to add emphasis to a point, in the refined curves of his fingers as they lift his wine glass, the soft play of his lips as he speaks, drinks, and falls silent –

John’s eyes snap up to Sherlock’s; he’s watching John, a question in his eyes. After a moment Sherlock looks away, and John takes a sip of his wine before asking one of his own:

“Finished?”

Sherlock’s plate is mostly empty, picked over for the seafood morsels. John’s eaten as much as he wants to tonight.

Besides, there’s still the red wine at home, waiting.

Instead of answering, Sherlock signals Billy, who brings boxes. Angelo follows. “How was everything?” he wants to know. “What about dessert?”

Sherlock stands, and John reaches for his wallet, but gives up when Angelo levels a stern look at him. “Dinner was delicious, Angelo – and no dessert, thanks,” John says with a smile.

“Ah – something sweet at home?” Angelo asks, and John hopes the redness creeping up his neck can be blamed on the wine.

“Just more wine,” John finds himself saying, trying to fill the silence Angelo is grinning into existence. Sherlock’s already at the door, but John knows he can hear the exchange. He picks up their boxes, only to have Angelo take them and sweep to the front with John trailing behind.

“Billy,” he says over his shoulder, “fetch some tiramisu for our lads.”

“That’s really not necessary –” John begins, but stops when he sees the amused smirk on Sherlock’s face.

“It’s a red, Angelo. Not exactly a dessert wine.” Sherlock shrugs at Angelo, who waves his words away.

“Tiramisu goes with everything, and everything goes with tiramisu. That’s because it isn’t a dessert – it’s a blessing. Here.” He hands Sherlock their boxed leftovers. “You carry these, and John –” he takes the box Billy brings over, and holds it for John to take, “you take care of this. And since it’s a red: wine first, then the tiramisu, yes? Good. Good!” He beams at them, and John manages to squeeze a thank you through Angelo’s exuberant goodbye before he follows Sherlock out. The door shuts on the tail end of a loud ‘Good night!’

Outside on the sidewalk, the night air is suddenly quiet and peaceful, despite plentiful foot traffic. A crowd has nothing on Angelo’s enthusiasm.

“Well,” John says, and leaves it at that.

Sherlock snorts, and John huffs a laugh.

“Shall we?” John asks after a moment. Sherlock nods, and they set off. After a few blocks of an ambling pace, Sherlock stops, though, so John does as well. “Hmm?” he asks.

They’re by the entrance to Regent’s Park. Sherlock tilts his head towards it, and John ducks his own in agreement, and without a word, they set off on the pathway, choosing the one that more or less meanders towards home.

It’s a lovely night, crisp but not cold, the feeling of spring just around the corner. Above them, the stars are a bright spatter against a light-polluted navy sky. Their feet punctuate the silence with the scrape of grit and the occasional dry leaf against pavestones. The plastic bags and cardboard boxes they carry creak and rustle as they swing.

John feels the rhythm of their steps mirrored in his heartbeat, steady, unfaltering. He steals a glance sideways, then again, because Sherlock is made for starlight, and then John looks off away into the lamp-cushioned dark of the trees and winter growth. He’s smiling again, doesn’t care to stop it, because there’s plenty of pathway on either side of them, but their shoulders are almost brushing.

They cross a footbridge, take another curve in the path, closing the distance to home.

 

Mrs. Hudson’s lights are already out when they arrive, so they keep quiet as they mount the seventeen steps up to 221B.

Once inside, John sets about packing the food away, and Sherlock produces a wine key from one of the five ‘anything goes’ drawers that were probably originally intended for cutlery or cooking utensils, but are now as much or more likely to contain shoes, baggies of lint, rusted safety pins in varying sizes, or tongue depressors.

Quite frankly, John is shocked one of them actually contained something so prosaic as a wine key.

A few deft twists, a bit of jimmying, and the cork pops out. Sherlock pours a half glass for them both. It feels momentous, but distantly so.

“Strange to open it after so long,” Sherlock murmurs, echoing John’s thoughts. He sets the bottle back down. A drop of wine traces the curve of the glass southward. Sherlock trails his finger up the trail the drop left behind, before picking up both glasses. “We should let it breathe.”

John nods and accepts his glass when Sherlock holds it out to him. Their fingers don’t touch, but they might as well have for the tingle John feels in the skin that came closest to Sherlock.

Sherlock lifts up his own glass, examining the colour against the kitchen lights. Whatever he sees he keeps to himself, and they move through to the living room, neither quite following nor leading the other. A magnetised migration.

There’s a breathless quality to the air, and an electric shiver runs through John. He looks down into his own cup of deep red as he asks, “How long do we wait?”

“A few minutes,” Sherlock murmurs. He presses his lips together, looks down at his glass, at the fireplace, out the window.

John watches Sherlock look everywhere but at John. He feels a pang, a hollow stab of uncertainty. He clears his throat. “Listen, if – if this isn’t –” he swallows, tries again: “If you don’t –”

“I do,” Sherlock interrupts. His eyes are caught on the fireplace now. “You were right, earlier.” His free hand rakes through his curls. There’s a look one shade shy of trepidation in his eyes. “It’d be a waste, not to at least try it.”

John’s mouth is suddenly dry. “Just –” he has to swallow again. “Just so we’re clear – we’re not talking about the wine anymore, right?”

Sherlock glances at him, then away again. After a long moment, he moves his head, a quick, jerky shake of his head.

“And you want…to try this thing…that is not the wine…with me?” John’s pulse is in his throat, in his mouth.

Again, Sherlock seems to steel himself before nodding. His curls shift with the abrupt movement.

“Alright then.” John looks down at the glass he’s holding. “Is that enough time, do you think?”

“Probably,” Sherlock says, and it’s almost a whisper. “Yes.”

“Good.” John puts down his wine glass, and Sherlock blinks in surprise – three blinks in rapid succession – and then John takes Sherlock’s from his unresisting fingers and sets it on the mantle.

“John –” Sherlock begins, eyes widening, but then John places a hand against his jaw, and Sherlock falls silent. His eyes flutter closed for a moment. He takes in a half-breath.

“Ready?” John asks.

Sherlock nods, and then adds, “Yes.”

With a soft, guiding pressure, John brings Sherlock down into a kiss, a touch of lips becoming a firm press, warm and gentle. After a long moment, John’s tongue comes forward for a taste, just a flick against Sherlock’s mouth, which parts, and then John’s tongue is back, licking along that parting, which widens, and then there – the kiss of wet heat from Sherlock’s tongue, a shy copy of John’s movements.

John sighs at that touch, that invitation, and licks deeper into Sherlock’s mouth, chasing his tongue back across the threshold, and then retreating, drawing Sherlock into his mouth, and when Sherlock follows with a whimper, John has to pull back and breathe for a moment.

“Oh god,” he breathes. “That’s –”

“John –”

“Was that alright?” John needs to know. “Did you like it?”

Sherlock’s eyes fall closed, and his head tips forward to rest against John’s. “Yes,” he says, and then he nods, which moves his skin against John’s, becomes a sort of nuzzling movement, and John feels like he’s lighting up from the inside out. “Did you?” Sherlock asks, stilling, and his voice is breath and hope.

“God, yes.”

“So…” Sherlock’s eyes are mercury, fixed on John’s, and John can see them dilate as he watches, waits out the pause after his voice trails into expectation.

“Yeah,” John breathes, and he has barely a moment to see his answer land and ignite inside Sherlock before the next kiss, Sherlock’s mouth urgent against John’s, calling up a matching need inside him, and everything turns a bit clumsy – hands grasping, clutching, clinging, lips sliding, noses bumping –

The sofa is suddenly behind John, and then they are tipping, toppling, sprawling onto it. John’s never gone from vertical to horizontal faster, and that’s counting all three continents.

He laughs a breathless laugh into Sherlock’s mouth and chin, and Sherlock lifts away for a moment, looks down into his face. The look of surprised joy in his eyes has John twining his arms around Sherlock’s shoulders and neck, reeling him in for more kisses, angling Sherlock’s neck so he can drag lips and teeth along it, pulling shivers and gasps from Sherlock with each touch.

“How do you – what do you –?” John asks, desire weaving its quiver into his words. Part of him hasn’t really caught up to this, to reality, to this reality where this is happening – but that part is dwindling, unimportant. What is important is the man in his arms; touching him, holding him. His hands ache every time he lifts them from Sherlock, even if it’s just to hold or grip anew.

“Anything. Everything – John, I – ahh –” Sherlock cries out as John clutches a palmful of curls, shudders and then moans. Sherlock’s hands seize in the folds of John’s jumper. Glorious.

“God, you are so –” John interrupts himself with a scrape of teeth against Sherlock’s neck, “– responsive,” John finishes in a murmur against Sherlock’s pulse. “I want to kiss you all over.” His fingers relax, comb through the curls they’ve just crushed, luxuriate in the soft and thick tangle of Sherlock’s hair. “Want to taste you everywhere,” he says, breathing in deep right at Sherlock’s hairline. “Oh god –”

Sherlock groans, tilts his head into John’s touch, and John can’t resist. He darts out his tongue and laps at the dewy sweat where Sherlock’s jaw meets his neck, savours the half-swallowed cry that elicits. He can’t decide whether the salt or sound of Sherlock is more intoxicating.

Every touch seems to writhe through Sherlock, arching his spine, angling his pelvis, and with Sherlock on top and grinding down against him, John finds he’s in much the same state: frantic and wanting, pushing up against Sherlock’s body, pushing up into the next kiss, and the next, and the next.

Sherlock breaks away with a breathy cry. “I want to –”

“Yes,” John gasps. “Whatever you want.”

Sherlock’s hands loosen where they’ve curled into his clothes, try to push up John’s jumper, but John’s hands get in the way going after Sherlock’s shirt buttons. John ends up with his shirt and vest and jumper rucked up halfway, an annoying lump between his spine and the sofa cushions. He can’t be bothered to stop and fix it, though, because Sherlock’s shirt is open now, draping to reveal his chest: moon tan skin, dusky, peaking nipples, the complicated pock of his scar.

John reaches up, his breath stilling in his lungs, and places a hand flat against Sherlock’s sternum. His thumb just brushes the edge of the scar. Almost, he thinks, and shivers hard – but then Sherlock’s hand is cupping over his, and there’s worry in his expression. John is caught, trapped in the flood of that care, and for a long moment they simply breathe, almost in tandem, their hands layered against Sherlock’s chest.

He can feel Sherlock’s heartbeat.

John can see the hesitation seep into Sherlock – his muscles tighten, his face blanks – and he can’t bear to see that, feel that, so he pulls Sherlock’s hand towards him, feathers a kiss across knuckles, curled fingers.

Sherlock trembles, and it seems that slight tremor is enough to dislodge the mask, the distance; they’re breathing the same air again, drinking the same moment.

Lips still pressed to Sherlock’s skin, John feels a tightness claim his throat, and his breath shakes on the way out, growing harsher again, and the next breath in is laced with the scent of Sherlock, subtle, complex, heady.

Irresistible, John decides, letting his thoughts shift along skin. Time enough to worry about what could have been, what almost never was – but later. Right now, Sherlock is here, breathing shallowly above John. He’s resting his weight on one forearm, that hand wrapped around John’s side and ribcage, thumb twitching every now and then, almost absentmindedly, as he watches him.

John is watching right back, holding Sherlock’s other hand still. Every little move of Sherlock’s fingers sends a scintillating cascade of want through John, washing through his chest, spilling down his arms. He wants to wash Sherlock in touch, wants him to feel like he does, right now, adrift in sensation, even from something so simple as a shifting thumb. John wants, and so he acts, one hand moving to cup a nipple, running the pad of his thumb over it.

Sherlock cries out. His muscles shake, dropping him lower, and his stomach quivers and presses against John’s exposed skin – and oh, that is a new and glorious closeness. His skin is hot, soft, smooth, instantly addictive. John rubs his palm against the tight bud of Sherlock’s nipple, and again, revelling in the shivers running through him. With each pass John lets his palm cover more distance, going further down that taut stomach.

“This,” Sherlock gasps, “this is –”

“Good?” John lifts both hands, takes Sherlock’s head in both hands, runs his thumbs along those cheekbones. He can’t seem to get enough of this, of feeling Sherlock, holding him.

Sherlock’s mouth falls open as his eyes close. “Better than I expected. More.” He’s panting, and the sound of that lands like coals inside John’s skin. His distraction fans them to a blaze, but he needs to know, so he asks:

“You’ve never --?” John looks up into Sherlock’s face.

“Not like this.” Sherlock swallows, and for all that he’s on top, could claim some space between them, he presses closer instead. “I’ve – I’m not a – I have had – but not –”

Oh.

“– This?” John gets his hands up inside that open shirt, drags his hands down Sherlock’s back and ribs, letting the hungry palms of his hands feast on Sherlock’s skin, his heat, the braille of his gooseflesh.

The groan that pours from Sherlock’s mouth is honeyed sin, and he pools against John, seems to melt and mold to him. So John does it again – and again, keeps right on touching, drenching Sherlock in his touch, running his right hand up the back of his neck to rake down from the roots of his curls, along his spine to his sacrum.

When he lets the fingers of his left hand dip below the waist of Sherlock’s trousers, Sherlock arches against him, brings their mouths together again into a searing kiss, unyielding in its intensity, just like the man himself. When they break for air, Sherlock takes John’s hands and guides them to open his trousers.

“Sit up, just for a moment,” John urges after several unsuccessful attempts at undoing Sherlock’s trouser closure. “And I’ll get rid of my jumper, while we’re at it.”

Sherlock pulls the offending layers from John even as they sit up, and then while John is still blinking at the sudden divestment, Sherlock opens and pushes his trousers and pants down. John does a fair job of catching up, shimmying out of hastily unbuttoned jeans, and then they are naked, side by side, breathing hard and looking at each other.

John can barely blink as he drinks in Sherlock’s skin, the dark, springy curls around his flushed and leaking erection. Sherlock’s arousal – the fact that he’s affected by John, John’s want – is beyond arousing. John takes a steadying breath. It’s beyond anything he’s ever thought he’d feel.

“You –” John swallows the rest, out of habit – then he says it, because he can: “– are gorgeous.”

Sherlock’s eyes are wide, and his eyebrows lift and soften in a rare display of surprise and unguardedness. “You really think so.” It’s not said as a question, but John doesn’t want to chance it. They’ve spent enough time not saying things.

He leans in and kisses Sherlock’s temple, drifts down to kiss his mouth softly. “I really do.” He wants to wipe that surprise away, that hidden thorn of doubt. John trails his fingers along Sherlock’s cheeks, along his jaw, down his neck. “I have for a long time.”

Sherlock closes his eyes, his hands coming to rest on John’s thighs. “You never said.”

Sherlock’s tone isn’t accusatory in the least – nevertheless, regret and guilt lance through John, sour as vinegar. “I was afraid,” John says. It hurts to say, to admit. He feels the words like a shadow. He swallows, and his mouth turns hard for a moment, a spike of shame becoming anger at himself, at time wasted. He looks down, cannot meet Sherlock’s eyes in the unfolding quiet, until –

“You weren’t the only one.”

John looks up. Sherlock’s gaze lifts from his fidgeting hands, meeting John’s after a moment, bright and steady. Sherlock tries for a smile then, John can see it in the corners of his mouth, one side lifting just a bit more than the other – and because he’s looking, he sees the quiver, quickly hidden by pursed his lips.

“Well,” John says around the sudden tightness in his throat. He feels his anger recede, fizzling in the face of now, of not wasting another second. “I guess that makes us both idiots.”

Sherlock huffs a solitary laugh, and John doesn’t point out that it doesn’t quite sound like a laugh. It’s a bit too damp, but John’s throat’s a bit achy right now, so the less said the better.

And besides, there are so many things John wants to say that don’t involve words, but skin: palms, and hips – tongues, teeth, and lips, just the slow slide of skin, of touch. A carnal conversation.

John feels his face set in determination, and something of it must read well for Sherlock, because he surges forward then, pressing kiss after kiss to John’s mouth. His hands come up and hold John’s face, fingers carding through John’s hair, and John’s hands come up and hold Sherlock’s forearms, thumb running along the thin skin of his wrists. The feeling of Sherlock’s breath breaking against his face, his fingers shyly combing along his scalp, has John reaching for him, aching to hold him in his arms again, to make up for moments lost.

Sherlock seems to agree – long arms wrap around John, bring him in close, and they are chest to chest, still kissing, hands urgent in their exploration, their voices reduced to gasps and each other’s names.

John’s hands shift lower, find Sherlock’s hips, the crease of his thigh. Sherlock jerks at the light touch, then shifts closer, and John can feel the heat radiating from him, feel it increase. It makes John dizzy with want.

Sherlock’s hands are drifting south, too, except drifting is the wrong word. It feels predatory, targeted, like some laser-focused beam is homing in on nipples, rib cage, hipbones –

John gasps, breaks away, Sherlock’s nails against his skin too much to bear, not nearly enough to sate. “D’you – do you mind if we move this to a bed?” John pants. “Only,” and John pauses to squeeze the fingers now winding into his and kiss Sherlock’s parted mouth again, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep anything in the sofa.”

Sherlock smiles against John’s cheek, then shakes his head. “Nor I.” His eyelashes tickle John’s brow as he blinks.

“Bed, then.” John starts to stand.

“Yes.” Sherlock follows, keeps his hold on John’s hand. “My bed.” With a tug, he urges John to follow him, and John does, and close behind, his free hand coming up to touch Sherlock’s hip, unwilling to be parted from that skin even for a moment.

Sherlock’s room is calm and dark, but the sudden glow of weak yellow light from a corner lamp warms the space. Sherlock heads straight for the bed, then turns to catch John up in his arms before falling back into the pillows and covers.

John laughs, braces himself with his forearms, doesn’t bother untangling their limbs, because kissing is more important, taking Sherlock’s lips and tongue and tasting what is offered. Their skin drags together, a sumptuous, full-body friction –

John gasps into the kiss as their cocks touch – hot and hard, beginning to dew at the tips – and then grinds his hips down as Sherlock pushes up. He leans in again to capture the little sounds welling from Sherlock’s throat, keen little noises of surprise and urgency.

“John – John, in the –” Sherlock’s hands are everywhere, clutching at John’s sides and hips and arse, leaving heat and longing in their wake.

John throws a hand out to pat the top of the bedside table, realises it is empty, realises Sherlock said ‘in’ not ‘on,’ and then hoists himself halfway up to actually open the drawer and thrash his hand around inside.

Papers, books, a bevy of pens – success! – there, a half-filled bottle of personal lubricant – but:

“Condoms?”

Sherlock shakes his head, bites his lip. “Haven’t bought any in ages – there didn’t seem to be a need.” His cheeks colour even deeper, shading closer to crimson.

“I have some upstairs,” John offers, but Sherlock is shaking his head.

“Not necessary.”

“Sherlock –”

“Your last test results were satisfactory. And I have been clean for a long time, John.” Slender fingers curl around John’s waist, insistent, guiding, bring him back over Sherlock.

John’s balancing on one fist, the other hand holding the lube – he drops to his elbow, lets the lube drop to the sheets to free up a hand to trace his thumb along Sherlock’s jaw. “You’re sure about this – wanting this – with me?”

“Please, John.” Sherlock’s eyes are large, darkness and depth. They close for a moment. “Please.”

And just like that, John is done waiting, worrying. His mouth is against Sherlock’s, his hands are all over that skin, rubbing, pressing, clutching, his legs are caging longer, paler ones.

Sherlock hangs onto John – shoulders, ribcage, waist, arse again – almost like he can’t stay away – and it takes John a moment to realise one hand has disappeared, but then it returns, places the lube into John’s grasp. “John –”

Yes.” With hastily-slicked fingers, John reaches down, past the patch of springy curls, to stroke his thumb down Sherlock’s perineum. Sherlock jolts, squeezing a high-pitched sound from his mouth, and John grins up at him before kissing him again, swallowing his softer sounds, tugging at that plump lower lip with his teeth.

Sherlock shivers, and John shifts lower, his thumb now swiping over the furl of Sherlock’s anus. The skin there twitches, a clench and release that arrests John’s thumb. He swirls around once, twice – and on the third pass he swaps fingers, lets the slimmer tip of his index finger push against that slicked spot.

“John – oh –” Sherlock’s back arches as John slips his finger in, just to the first knuckle.

“Tell me if –”

“More,” Sherlock breathes, and John’s throat aches to hear that gasp. Sherlock clings to John’s shoulders. “Now, if you please – ah!”

“Bossy,” John teases, finger now seated all the way, twisting, rubbing, feeling the muscles inside tense and slacken, hot, so hot. John pushes in a little, pulls out a little, sticks with that: quick, shallow in-and-outs, teasing the inside, easing the rim.

“How long have you known me?” Sherlock asks, and if he weren’t breathless and squirming from being finger-fucked, John might have believed his haughty delivery.

“Not long enough,” John says, the sincerity slipping out. He’d wanted levity, but there is no stopping his words now: “Never long enough.” He looks down to conceal his face. He pulls his finger out, twists two fingers in, and now there’s a definite wet sound to his movements. A quick glance up shows Sherlock doesn’t seem to mind the soft slicking noises – his eyes are closed, his kiss-rouged mouth is open, and there’s a little frown right between his eyebrows, just above the bridge of his nose, like when he’s utterly perplexed by some new development on a case. The flush on his cheekbones is scarlet, rosing its way down his cheeks, his neck, his collarbones.

“John, you – ohh –” Sherlock’s hips twist into and against the new pressure – three of John’s fingers now – and his breath stutters. His hands flail and anchor on John’s biceps. “That’s – there –” He huffs out a breath, and it’s a bit quivery, “I’m ready, John – please – please –”

John twists his fingers out, slowly, leaving as much lube behind as possible, paying special attention to the rim. He slicks himself with some more, hissing in a breath at the pleasure that floods him with each stroke. When he opens his eyes, Sherlock is watching him with dazed eyes, looking half blissed-out already, sweaty, flushed, panting.

John,” he says, and it sounds like pleading, like a question, and John lines up, leans forward, presses kisses where he can reach, and then, “Jo-hhhhhn –” he’s pressing in, slick, slow, steady all the way in to the hilt. Sherlock curls, arches, tilts his pelvis down, taking John just that much deeper.

“Oh god, Sherlock –” John curls his fingers around Sherlock’s waist, right above the hip bones, and just breathes, tries not to give in and rut mindlessly into the writhing coil of Sherlock’s heat, body, desire.

“John –” Sherlock urges, and John hitches out a half-breath.

“Just – give me a moment – let me breathe.”

“What?” Sherlock asks, chest heaving. “Like the wine?”

John catches his breath in a surprised hiccup, and then he can’t help it – and he’s sure Sherlock wasn’t expecting it, either – but John’s laughing, nothing for it, giving over to breathless, panting laughter, leaning forward into Sherlock’s body, and every pitch and swell of his mirth shifts pleasure through him right along with the delight, a tidal force of desire and joy.

And then he hears Sherlock’s laugh, a deep rumble, and it sounds utterly carefree, surprised and wanton, and John can’t get their mouths together fast enough, can’t press enough kisses against Sherlock’s shaking chest, his peaked nipples, his tilted chin, Sherlock’s long fingers twining into John’s hair, the almost curls at his nape, his lean thighs shifting to rub against John’s hips, bony ankles slipping over John’s thighs to rest beside one another between his legs.

They are vined together, tendrilled and trellised, not moving now except to breathe, except to smear kisses into each other’s necks.

“I’m going to say it,” John says into the sweat of Sherlock’s hairline, right where his ear meets his jaw. He isn’t laughing anymore. The light inside him is thick, golden. Molten ore, ready to be shaped.

“Say it?” Sherlock whispers, and it could so easily have been a command, but his voice curls up at the end, unsure.

“Could have said it before,” John murmurs, and he shifts his hips a bit, still inside Sherlock, still hard and held in a yielding heat, “but I didn’t. I should have.”

“John?”

“Sherlock – I love you.” John holds his breath, and beneath him Sherlock stills, his fingers going lax in John’s hair.

“You –”

“I really do, yes.” John watches Sherlock’s face cycle through surprise, disbelief, confusion, and then – there it is again – that rare glimpse of unguardedness. John watches as even that shifts and changes, becomes effervescent joy, aching tenderness, and then he’s kissing Sherlock, or maybe Sherlock’s kissing him, his arms tightening to bring them closer, closer, his ankles lifting and hooking around John’s lower back, so that no space is left, so they tessellate into one another.

John – I – oh, I –”

“Sherlock, oh god –”

Words fall away, then, replaced by gasping as they move together, a mutual rhythm that has John thrusting up and into Sherlock, urged by his arms and legs, urged by every bit of skin, by every shocked cry of pleasure from those lips.

John feels his way through a couple of different angles, and when he finds the one that makes Sherlock arch and drop a shocked ‘fuck’ from that posh mouth, he pushes home and grinds his pelvis against Sherlock, deep and dirty friction, unrelenting.

He doesn’t need the sudden change in pitch of Sherlock’s groans, doesn’t need the sharp intake of breath, the botched attempt at saying his name – not when he can read the tightening of Sherlock all around him, the way it pulls him forward, against, deeper –

Sherlock stiffens, falls silent for one stunning moment, and then collapses back into the sheets, into sound, his hips jerking as ‘ah, ah, ah!’ falls from his lips, continuous, his cock pumping come into the space between their bellies. John keeps rocking his body into Sherlock’s, doing what he can to draw out the sweetness of release for Sherlock, whose hands grasp and clutch, palms hot against John’s skin, and slick with sweat, their sweat, mixed, blended everywhere they’ve touched, are touching still –

John cries out, back arching, burying himself inside Sherlock’s still-trembling body, and comes. His hips stutter back into motion a moment later, and god it’s glorious – silky slick and wet, John’s come inside Sherlock, and outside, too, after a few good thrusts, every movement wetter than the last.

“Oh god,” Sherlock is saying now, “oh god, oh god John, John – ”

John slows, stills, settles. He feels like his skin might be steaming, feels they might be incandescent together, a completed circuit.

Sherlock’s mouth lands against his, kiss by kiss, and his skin is cooler now, damp, and John can feel the stickiness set in already. He can’t be arsed to move, though, because he’s kissing Sherlock right back, long, languorous drinks from the cup of that mouth.

Sherlock hums and sighs into John’s mouth, pulls back, breathes.

John grins, says, “That was –”

“– long overdue?” Sherlock asks, and his whole face is unabashedly happy in a way John’s seldom seen.

“Yeah,” John says, then adds, “hang on, let me –” and shifts his hips, slips his softening cock out of the warmth of Sherlock’s body. Sherlock grunts, but lets his legs fall to the sides, freeing John to lift away.

Opening his legs also allows John to look at Sherlock’s belly, slick and sloppy with his release. John lets his gaze travel down Sherlock’s body to where they were joined, where his own come is beginning to leak from Sherlock. He reaches a finger down, swipes it up along a drop-trail, until he brushes lightly over Sherlock’s anus, which twitches under his touch.

“Hnn,” Sherlock says. “Sensitive.”

“I’ll bet.” John’s mesmerized, watches for a bit longer. “Want me to fetch a towel?” He looks up to see Sherlock blushing. “What?”

“You’re…um.” He glances at John’s groin, and John looks down to see his cock making an ambitious attempt to harden. It gives a half-hearted twitch.

John snorts. “Can you blame me?” John asks, sliding up alongside Sherlock to kiss him again. “What with you so gorgeous and debauched…”

Sherlock makes a face in between kisses. “I’m covered in sweat and semen.”

John kisses him again. “Covered in me,” he says, and smiles into the next kiss when Sherlock shivers. “‘s a good look,” he murmurs against Sherlock’s neck.

Sherlock snorts. “Sticky,” he says, but tips his jaw up, and John takes the offering. It’s slow and sensual and unhurried in a way he wants to keep.

“Well, I did offer to fetch you a towel,” John teases, lipping along Sherlock’s jaw now. The salt of his skin keeps reeling John back in for another taste, and another. Sherlock’s soft sighs land like song, like praise.

“You’ll come back to bed, if I say yes?” he asks after a long moment of shared breath.

“Fetching a towel does imply delivering it.”

Sherlock just looks at him for a moment, then nods. “Alright, then.”

John scrapes his teeth in an almost bite against Sherlock’s chin, then huffs a laugh and gets up. His bare feet are cold against the wood floor, and his muscles are tired in a wholly delightful way.

The light in the bathroom is too bright for a moment, and then John can see again. And what he sees is an absolute dearth of towels. “Sherlock?” he calls.

“Umm.” It’s the sound of someone who is aware there are no towels in the bathroom, the sound of someone who is responsible for there being no towels in the bathroom. The silence that follows that sound implies that this certain someone will take the story of their involvement to the grave.

John is grinning even as he rolls his eyes. “Back in a tick.”

“John?”

The air is chill against John’s bare skin, but he pads through to the living room all the same. He stops by the door to lock it, shakes his head at their luck in lack of interruptions, then goes into the kitchen. There are a few washcloths under the sink, and he grabs the whole stack – they are clean, intended for dishes. He wets them at the sink, wrings them out, cool water trickling over his wrists.

On his way back to the room, John pauses, considering, then goes back to snag the tiramisu before bringing the whole lot back to Sherlock’s room.

Sherlock, for his part, is leaning on one elbow, halfway to sitting up.

“I come bearing gifts,” John says and puts down the tiramisu box, then drops the towels onto Sherlock’s chest.

Sherlock huffs, but gathers the damp washcloths into one long-fingered hand.

“Budge up,” John says, sitting down next to him. He takes back a towel, kisses Sherlock’s upturned mouth. “Let me.” Sherlock’s eyelids dip for a moment, and his hands clear the way.

The cloth leaves a trail of goosebumps as John trails it down from Sherlock’s sternum. “Bit cold,” he murmurs, and watches Sherlock’s eyes bat open slowly.

“’s fine,” Sherlock mumbles on an exhale. He clears his throat. “It’s fine,” he says again, and John grins. Sherlock sighs as John reaches his abdomen and starts wiping more firmly, cleaning him in broad strokes.

John runs his free right hand down Sherlock’s side, lets his nails scratch lightly over the crest of his hip, and then smooth down along his thigh. When he reaches the knee, he hooks his fingers under and grips, lifting Sherlock’s leg, letting it fold as he pushes it up. Sherlock’s stomach and the few curls of pubic hair that were caught in the mess are now clean, so John moves lower, leans down, rubs his lips along Sherlock’s inner thigh to where his come is still marking Sherlock.

“John?” Sherlock’s breath stutters.

“Is this okay?” John asks, nosing into Sherlock’s hair, smelling him, himself, them. John glances up to see Sherlock nodding.

“Yes,” Sherlock says a moment later, and John nuzzles closer. He turns the cloth so a clean side is ready for Sherlock’s skin – but first, he gets his mouth right against Sherlock’s perineum and kisses him. The smell – sex layered over Sherlock’s musk – is heady, and John inhales deeply. “Oh,” Sherlock says weakly, and John reaches up to check – yes: aroused again, erect again.

“Too much?” John asks, because if it were him, a second go so soon would not be welcome.

“No,” Sherlock says, and his feet are sort of pushing at the sheets, harvesting friction.

“Can I –?”

Yes.

John wraps a loose fist around Sherlock’s cock and sets up a slow, teasing tugging. At the same time he presses the hand-warmed damp cloth to Sherlock’s pucker, not pushing in, simply holding it there firmly. The result is a tiny, hitching noise from Sherlock – and a tiny hitching jerk from his hips.

John grins, lifts up, and brings Sherlock’s cock closer to his mouth. “I’ve never done this,” he says. He looks up at Sherlock, who’s watching him with his mouth open. John keeps his eyes on Sherlock as he takes the tip into his mouth, tastes the traces of semen, quickly replaced by a renewed flow of precome.

Sherlock’s neck goes limp, and his head falls back with a groan. “That – that –”

“This?” John does it again, an open mouthed, tasting, taking kiss to the head of Sherlock’s cock, this time greedier, and Sherlock jerks, a surprised cry between one breath and the next.

Emboldened, John hoists himself a bit higher, gets a proper grip, his left hand still pressing the cloth against Sherlock under the guise of cleaning up, and takes as much of Sherlock’s cock in his mouth as he can. It’s awkward and his jaw aches a bit, and he’s worried about his teeth, but Sherlock’s just clenching his fists into the sheets, his pelvis jerking in tiny, aborted thrusts, apparently not worrying about teeth at all.

“John – oh – oh –” he gasps, keeps gasping, so John keeps kissing, mouthing, sucking –

Sherlock comes with a surprised keen, a soft, almost delicate cry. His come is thin and bitterly metallic tasting, but John’s always liked having his come swallowed, so he does his best to do the same for Sherlock. There isn’t much, anyway, this go around.

A moment later, he’s distracted from the unpleasant taste by a rush of warmth against his left hand, the muscles there kicking and twitching, pushing John’s come out of Sherlock. John groans around Sherlock’s softening cock, shifts the cloth to catch most of it, savouring the quivering gasps escaping Sherlock’s mouth. John can’t help but smirk as he pulls back, even as Sherlock’s cock slips from his mouth. He kisses it sloppily, then grins up at Sherlock, who’s flushed red and damp, his chest heaving. “How was that?”

Sherlock groans. “Oh god.”

John cannot stop the smugness from commandeering his mouth: “That’s one way to get you cleaned up, I suppose.” He wipes Sherlock’s arse clean, and drops the cloth over the side of the bed.

“Oh god, John,” Sherlock groans, except this time he sounds mortified.

John laughs, delighted. He positions himself right over Sherlock again, watches him squirm and stretch, still reacting, still recovering, and god how John wants to lick into that primly pursed mouth. John swallows, hyper-aware of the taste in his mouth. “Can I kiss y–”

Sherlock has John down against him and snogged to within an inch of reason before he can even finish his thought. “John – you taste like –”

“Like come?”

“Like me,” Sherlock breathes, lips dragging against John’s, breathing still ragged, thighs shifting to rub against John’s legs. “Oh god, John. That was –”

“Good?”

John’s being kissed again, Sherlock rumbling, “Very,” into the space between their mouths.

As their fervour subsides, John rolls off to lie beside Sherlock. He ends up on his back, with Sherlock’s head tucked up on his scarred shoulder, Sherlock’s finger drifting in spirals over John’s sternum, almost tickling as it moves through his chest hair.

Sherlock breaks the quiet eventually: “John.”

“Hmm?” John blinks his eyes open, drowsy but present.

“Earlier, what you said…”

John’s first instinct is to jump in, to cut the moment with humour – but he doesn’t. He’s learning to speak when he would have kept silent, learning to wait when he would have blundered forward. It feels like a balancing act above an unending unknown.

“…was it – was that –?” Sherlock falls silent, looks up at John, and his heart is raw behind the casual façade John can see on his features.

“It was,” John says, and his voice is serious, but he’s filled with a tight joy, just waiting to burst. He scoops his arms around Sherlock and holds him.

“Why did you – say that?”

“I felt it. I feel it. And,” John adds, “I was tired of not saying it.”

Sherlock watches him for a moment, perfectly still, and then says “I – that is to say –”

“You don’t have to say it back right now, you know.”

Sherlock is quiet for a long moment. “What if I want to?”

John gathers him close, kisses him. “Think you just did.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, John –” but Sherlock’s smiling, and his whole face is a patchwork of delight and nerves and – “that’s not even remotely the same –” he breaks off as John kisses him “– as – saying – it – stop kissing me so I can say it!”

John laughs, pulls back to look at a very flustered Sherlock. He opens his mouth to tease, and a pale hand sneaks up to cover it.

“I love you, John Watson,” Sherlock says, and it’s clear and determined and quivers just a bit on John’s name. Doesn’t matter, John’s already kissing the words out of Sherlock’s mouth, caught up in the flood of that sentence, of Sherlock saying it.

“See,” Sherlock says, kissing back hard, “not even remotely the same.”

John just grins, and holds him close, and after a spell, they pull apart. They’re busy just looking at each other when Sherlock’s stomach rumbles.

John snorts and Sherlock tries to look serious and aloof.

“It’s the tiramisu,” he complains. “I can smell it now.”

“Right.” Dessert in bed sounds grand, actually. “Shall we, then?” John reaches over, grabs the box, only just then realising he’d forgotten to grab utensils – but then, inside, next to the oversized slice of tiramisu, is one takeaway fork, courtesy of Angelo. John holds it up for Sherlock to see. They quirk matching lopsided smiles at one another, but say nothing of it.

“Come on.” John hitches his hip against Sherlock’s. “Shift over.”

They end up on their sides, the open box between them, sharing the fork back and forth, polishing off the generous portion of Angelo’s finest. It is the same recipe as always, and it’s also the best it’s ever tasted.

Sherlock rolls over with a sigh when they’ve finished, licking his lips, eyes closed.

After a minute, he snorts.

John puts the empty box on the bedside table, dirty fork tucked inside. “What?” he asks, shifting closer to Sherlock.

“We still haven’t actually tasted the wine.”

John huffs a bemused chuckle, and Sherlock joins in, his peals soft but deep, the moment blooming into shared laughter. Somewhere in there, they join hands, and not too long after, there’s kissing, too.

“It’ll keep,” John says after their lips part, coming back to the issue of the wine.

Sherlock snorts again. “No it won’t – red wines are notorious for their flavour profile shift after opening – in fact, depending on the vintner and year, it’s possible to give an accurate time of opening, working backwards from the flavour complexities lost. Leaving it until tomorrow would be tantamount to letting it go to waste –”

John kisses him, pulls away with a grin. “Alright then, let’s go and get it.” He doesn’t think he’ll ever get over seeing Sherlock’s face shift from subtle surprise to unabashed delight.

There’s a half-hearted effort to find pants, which becomes a thorough tussle over robes, which somehow leads to a mostly-naked race to the living room. There’s laughter and snogging, grabbing and holding.

Somewhere in there, they get the bottle.

They don’t let it go to waste.