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"What's this?" John asked, stepping around a dark brown trunk that had appeared at the entrance to the flat whilst he was at the cinema. Sherlock had claimed to have more interesting things to do than accompany John, not that he'd said what they were.

"Mummy sent it," Sherlock, seated at his desk, answered without looking up from his computer.

"Childhood mementos, then?" John wondered what those could possibly be for Sherlock. His first microscope and the remains of a dissected frog seemed likely. Maybe there'd be photos. He'd quite like to see a young Sherlock, maybe even a photo of a toddler Sherlock covered in birthday cake, because every parent in the Western world had to have taken one of those.

"Unlikely. It's from my great-uncle's house. He was a beekeeper in Sussex."

John wasn't surprised. He was fairly certain any Holmes lacking an unusual hobby was disowned.

"I've no idea why she sent it," Sherlock continued. Reaching into the pocket of his jacket, he tossed an object at John, who caught it neatly. It was a key. "You may as well open it before you perish of curiosity."

Completely unsurprised his curiosity had been obvious to Sherlock, John knelt in front of the trunk. "It looks like one of those old steamer trunks," he said, running his hands over the dark leather on the top and sides. The fastenings appeared to be brass. The key slid in easily, and John turned it, taking it out again before opening the lid.

A cedar tray filled with a hodge podge of items, including a rather large magnifying glass and a length of rope, covered the top of the trunk. John lifted the tray free and set it aside. Beneath it, the trunk was filled with leather journals of various sizes, all of them black or brown with odd pieces of yellowed paper sticking out of the tops and sides of some of them. Picking up the journal on the top of the center stack, John opened it.

April 3, 1883

I was awakened this morning by Holmes standing over me and informing me of a female visitor, a Miss Helen Stoner. She had come to Holmes about the death of her sister in a locked room. Holmes was predictably gleeful, although he managed to conceal his pleasure in her presence. There are few things my dear friend loves more than a death in a locked room.

"Sherlock," John called, turning to look over his shoulder. "Listen to this." When Sherlock looked up, John read him the paragraph.

Unsurprisingly, as soon as John reached the words 'locked room' Sherlock rose from his desk and folded himself onto the floor at John's side, holding out his hands.

John handed over the book and reached for another one, flipping through the pages. "They're diaries."

"Obviously."

John skimmed the page in front of him, on which the unknown diarist had written of an Inspector Gregson of the Yard consulting Sherlock's uncle about a case. "Your great uncle was a detective, a consulting detective," John said, allowing himself a slight emphasis on the word 'consulting,' subtly pointing out that Sherlock was not, in fact, the world's first consulting detective.

"Apparently."

"You didn't know?" John asked.

Sherlock shook his head. "My grandfather was the youngest of three sons, born well after the first two. He barely knew his elder brothers, as far I as I know. I've always believed my father named Mycroft and I after his unknown uncles just to irritate his father."

John nodded at the journal in Sherlock's hands. "So have you figured out how the woman died?"

"I will."

Of course he would, he was Sherlock Holmes. John turned his attention to the book in his lap.

They spent hours going through the journals, written by an unnamed man, not that there was a reason for him to name himself in his own journal. Still, John wanted to know who he was, this anonymous bloke who could put up with a Sherlock who seemed to be every bit as trying as John's, if more Victorian about it.

When John's stomach growled loudly, they ordered a curry and ate while reading, sharing the most interesting bits aloud. Sherlock, of course, dedicated himself to trying to find the solution before his ancestor did. John was amused enough by his proclamations—"No one hires only gingers. It's a scam," and "Whoever has the horse has dyed the blaze, that's bloody obvious" – not to comment.

Eventually, despite his best efforts, his eyes began to droop. "That's it," John said, rising from the floor and bending to pick up the remnants of the curry. "I'm for bed."

Sherlock waved him off.

Abandoning the dishes in the sink, John walked back through the sitting room toward the stairs, giving Sherlock's shoulder a squeeze as he passed. There wasn't any point in telling Sherlock not to stay up all night, so he didn't. "Good-night."

"Good-night, John. Sleep well."

 

The sun was streaming through his curtains when John woke the next morning. After visiting the loo, he went downstairs to put the kettle on. Sherlock, unsurprisingly, was laying on the sofa, still clad in yesterday's suit, an open journal resting on his chest.

"Morning," John said.

Sherlock turned his head to the side and looked at John. "Morning."

"Interesting reading, I take it?"

"Fascinating." Pushing himself into a sitting position, Sherlock added, "You'll never guess what I discovered."

"Which is why you should tell me."

The corner of Sherlock's mouth twitched. "I learned the name of our mysterious diarist—John Watson."

"You're having me on."

Sherlock shook his head. "I'm not."

"Seriously?"

"It's not all that uncommon a name," Sherlock said.

"I suppose not," John said, moving into the kitchen. "Still, it's a bit weird, don't you think? Your mysterious uncle Sherlock Holmes having a friend named John Watson."

Rising from the couch, Sherlock trailed after him. "It is improbable." As John began filling the kettle, he added, "Make a cup for me."

"Please."

"Please."

"We'll teach you nursery school level manners yet," John said, turning his attention to breakfast.

 

"Journals written by another John Watson, chronicling the investigations of another Sherlock Holmes, that's a bit weird," Sarah said.

"That's what I said," John answered, pointing his chopsticks at her before sticking them back into his lo mein. They'd decided to take advantage of the weather and have lunch in a small park near the surgery.

"So are they all Victorian and repressed?" she asked, eyes widening as her lips curled into a teasing grin.

"Watson describes Sherlock's uncle as Bohemian."

"Not a word I'd use to describe your Sherlock."

"No." Capturing a slice of water chestnut with his chopsticks, John lifted them toward his mouth, then paused. "Sherlock's quite taken with the journals. He was up all night reading."

"Hardly surprising. I mean, he's finally found someone like him, hasn't he?"

"I suppose he has."

 

Sherlock was sitting on the sofa when John arrived home, chin to his chest and hands resting on his stomach, feet, naturally, on the coffee table, but at least he'd showered and changed his clothes, not that pyjamas and a robe were clothes.

He raised his head as John passed, but didn't say a word.

"Tea?" John asked.

"Yes, thank you."

"Any more good mysteries?" John asked as he filled the kettle.

"Several."

"Did he take on the Ripper?"

"No," Sherlock answered, amusement in his voice.

"So there's still a Victorian mystery for you to solve, then."

"There's a bigger mystery than that."

Kettle on, John returned to the sitting room, stopping by the end of the sofa. "What's that?"

Picking up one of the volumes, Sherlock held it out to John. "I found this in a hidden compartment."

"What is it?"

"I think you should read it for yourself," Sherlock answered, rising from the sofa and starting toward the loo.

Journal in hand, John sat in his favorite chair and prepared to read.

Holmes should never forgive me if he knew, but he's gone and, as with his supposed death all those years ago, I find I need the comfort of words. Perhaps by writing of all that he was I can spend a little more time in his company before meeting my own end.

It is not as if there is anyone left to be harmed by the truth, and I find myself hoping that maybe someday these words will come to light in a more sympathetic time. The wheels of history are always turning, after all, and perhaps they will one day again turn in the direction of acceptance for men like myself and Holmes. Perhaps our story will be uncovered at a time when its revelation might help to create such tolerance.

When I picked up my pen, I pledged to record all of those things I had kept from my journals, the things which could not even be whispered about unless the doors were locked and the curtains drawn, but now

The words stopped and there was a small blot upon the page. To John, it looked like a water stain, and he couldn't help but imagine another John Watson, bent over his writing, surrounded by darkness except where the lamp shone down on his journal, a tear escaping.

How does one describe the loss of one around whom one's own life revolved? He was the sun and I a satellite trapped in his orbit. He would have laughed to hear such sentiment. 'My dear Watson,' he would have said, 'how melodramatic.' Then he would have reminded me of those times when it was I who had pulled him toward me, altered his direction, changed him. For I changed him as surely as he changed me. We were, both of us, the products of our interaction, of the life we lived together.

The kettle whistled, and John swallowed, reluctant to put the journal aside. At least now he understood why Sherlock had seemed so unsettled, to read another person's most intimate emotions in such a manner was, well, unsettling.

Pushing himself to his feet, he went into the kitchen and prepared two cups of tea. Leaving Sherlock's to steep, he carried his own back to the sitting room. Placing it on the table next to his chair, he picked up the journal. Unsettling or not, he wanted to know more about his namesake and his life with this other Sherlock Holmes.

I feel his absence like a missing limb. After his disappearance all those years ago, one would imagine I would be prepared for the loss. I had believed him dead for three long years, after all. In spite of all the good years following his return to London, and to me, I never forgot the pain of The Hiatus, as we took to calling it.

But this is far worse, coming as it does after decades of domesticity and partnership, though admittedly that domesticity was not always blissful.

Holmes is gone from me. Dead. There, I have written it, set it down in black ink on white paper, made it incontrovertible. Holmes, my brilliant, incomparable friend, is dead. This time there can be no doubt. I held him at the last, stroked my fingers through the remnants of his hair, pressed my lips to his brow. I managed, somehow, to suppress my grief until he had drawn a last, rasping breath. He would not have wished to see my tears.

It was his lungs, damaged by years of pipes and cigarettes. Apparently, I had focused my efforts on curing him of the wrong addiction.

He whispered to me at the end, spoke words I cannot bear to record, not even here. Of some things there should be no trace.

I lost Holmes the first time in April 1891. He returned to me three years later.

My beloved Mary having succumbed to consumption, I agreed to return to our old rooms and to life as the friend and colleague of the world's only consulting detective.

Even with his nemesis dispatched, Holmes did not lack for problems to keep his relentlessly active mind occupied. He deduced, pursued and schemed. I followed. For all the resemblance to our former lives, things were different between us. The air was thick with words unuttered. For myself, I vacillated between joy at his return and rage at his cruel deception.

For his part, Holmes seemed determined to forget the last years had happened at all, to pretend I had never married and he had never gone to those cursed falls, faked his own death, or spent years traveling the world alone without even a name to call his own.

Two months after his return, a drought in cases, accompanied quite ironically by what appeared to be never ending rain, brought matters between us to a head.

The symphony we had been scheduled to attend that afternoon had been canceled, the rains having turned the roads to mud. Holmes was puffing on his pipe, staring into the fire we'd lit in an effort to get some of the infernal dampness from the room, one hand resting on the mantle.

"Have you no experiments to conduct?" I asked, desperate to divert the pending foul mood before it descended.

"No."

"Perhaps an update of one of your monographs," I suggested.

"No."

The rain was striking the windows, as it had been for what felt like days, and I longed to hear something else, anything else. 'The violin—'

'Not in the mood.'

His mood was what I feared. He had managed to keep away from that damnable case and its contents since his return, and I did not wish to see him open it now. 'Tell me of your travels,' I said.

'My travels?' he repeated, turning to look at me.

'Surely you must have seen remarkable things.'

'If one considers tar remarkable.'

'Tar?'

'I spent time in Montpelier studying coal-tar derivatives.'

'How—'

'Dull?' Holmes suggested.

'Quite.' My answer was rewarded with an almost smile. 'Surely you must have done some detecting.'

Holmes shook his head. 'Only of Moriarty's men. I couldn't take the risk.'

Holmes without his work for such a long period was almost inconceivable. He must've been miserable. 'What else did you do? You could not have worked with coal-tar for three years.'

'I worked on a vineyard.'

'A vineyard!' An image of Holmes standing amongst the grapes, his pant legs rolled up as he crushed the grapes with his feet filled my head. It was ludicrous, and I found myself smiling. 'Whatever would you do on a vineyard?'

'Tend the grapes,' Holmes answered, as he crossed to the settee and sat, pulling his legs up alongside him into that sideways position I was quite convinced would eventually bring harm to his back. 'I was hired to develop a hardier strain of grape, resistant to the blight.'

'Did you succeed?'

'Of course, but the work was dull, Watson, so very dull. You cannot imagine how dull. I was so bored I took to imagining myself elsewhere.'

This revelation was quite enough to make me sit up straighter in my seat. Holmes praised imagination, and often berated the Yarders for lacking it, but only when used to find creative solutions to practical problems. He had never had much use for 'flights of fancy,' a term he frequently used to disparage the adventure novels of which I was fond. 'And where did your imagination take you?' I asked.

'Egypt. I imagined exploring the great pyramids of the Pharaohs, discovering some as yet unfound passageway, deciphering the hieroglyphics. Evidently, years in your company infected me with your romanticism,' Sherlock said, seeming rather pleased to have been so infected.

I smiled at the image of my friend, a torch in his hand, bending close to trace the strange drawings on an underground wall. 'Were there mummies?'

'Naturally, although you were unable to determine the cause of their deaths,' Holmes answered with a smile that equaled my own.

'Always difficult with a mummy. It's the wrappings, you see,' I said. Holmes's smile turned into something that on anyone else might have been termed a grin. First, Holmes had admitted to imagining other places and now he was grinning. I was almost perplexed. 'I was with you?' I asked though he had already told me as much. The idea of Holmes imagining us off adventuring together was quite beguiling, and I wished to hear it repeated.

'Yes,' Holmes said, but he pulled his gaze from mine as he said it, and I could not help but think there was more.

'Did we have any other imaginary adventures?'

'We journeyed through Greece.'

'I have always wanted to visit the ruins in Athens.'

'I know you have, my dear chap.'

We had spoken of it often enough in the decade of our acquaintance, the places we should like to visit. It pained me to think of Holmes traveling the world while I sat at home, deceived into believing him dead, mourning my loss.

'We are back to anger, I see,' Holmes said.

He had always been able to see into my mind, deduce my thoughts from the blink of an eye or the tapping of my fingers. I had never resented it more. 'I have a right to it.'

'So you do, my friend, so you do.'

"Tea's cold."

"What?" John asked, turning in the direction of the voice.

Sherlock was standing in the kitchen, holding up a teacup. "Tea's cold."

"So put it in the microwave."

"Would you like me to reheat yours?" Sherlock asked, looking meaningfully at my untouched cup.

"That would be nice. Thank you." Sherlock walked into the sitting room and picked up the cup. "It's quite absorbing," John said, holding up the journal.

"You haven't reached the interesting bits, yet."

Given the initial paragraphs, John was fairly certain the interesting bits were going to concern an intimate relationship of the sort that had been quite illegal in Victorian England.

He resumed reading.

His admission did little to mollify my anger, even though it was the closest he would ever come to apologizing for my abandonment, convinced as he was that it had been necessary.

Rising from the sofa, Holmes crossed to the sideboard where he removed the stopper from a snifter of brandy and filled two glasses. I refrained from commenting on the earliness of the hour and accepted the glass when it was held out to me.

Instead of resuming his seat on the settee, Holmes squatted by the fire, poker in hand, and engaged in a bit of unnecessary stirring. 'If it is any comfort, those years were difficult for me as well.'

Part of me was glad of it, but the larger part, the part that wished never to see Holmes harmed or distressed in any way, won out. 'I am sorry to hear that.'

He returned the poker to its place. 'I believed it would be easier, that being without you on the continent must surely be easier than being without you in London,' he said as he stood.

'You were never without me. You had only to ask—'

'And you would follow wherever I led. But with the danger increasing I could not put you at risk, my dear, not when you had a wife to care for.'

'If I hadn't married...'

'I would have involved you in all of it.'

I looked down into my glass, my stomach constricting. 'I see.' Had I not married, I would not have had to grieve for him, could have gone adventuring with Holmes instead of mourning the dual loss of my closest friend and my beloved wife. The rain pounded against the windowpanes, echoing in my skull. 'Were you punishing me?' I asked. Holmes had never approved of my marriage.

'Not intentionally, but that does appear to have been the result.'

Unable to stay still any longer, I rose from my chair. Had the roads been passable, I would surely have grabbed my hat and coat and fled Holmes's presence. As it was, I had nowhere to go but my room. Abandoning my glass on the table next to my chair, I started for the stairs.

'There was a time when I thought nothing of being alone for days, even weeks, on end. It was my natural state. I was apart, separate, but not lonely. How can one be lonely when one has never known anything but solitude?'

I had stopped at the sound of his voice, my head bowed as I listened.

'Then I met Dr. John Watson, a handsome but otherwise non-descript man who upon deeper examination was revealed to be the most remarkable individual of my acquaintance. I grew to depend on him, his presence a balm to wounds I had not realized I possessed.'

'Holmes,' I said, turning. He was staring into the fire.

'I know what it means to be alone now and I find I do not care for the feeling.'

Such a statement from Holmes was completely without precedent. He was not given to the ready expression of emotion. 'Neither do I,' I answered, my voice roughened by the impact of his words.

'I am sorry for the pain I caused you.'

'Evidently, I am not the only one owed an apology,' I said, moving toward him. He looked up and our eyes met. Reaching out, I placed a hand on the back of his shoulder. 'My intention was never to hurt you.'

Holmes nodded. 'You merely did what any respectable gentleman would do.' Holmes was the only man of my acquaintance who would condemn a man for respectability, but there was no irony in his tone. He looked down at the fire and we stood together for a long moment, my hand still pressed to his shoulder.

When Holmes raised his eyes to my face once again, there was something evasive in his gaze. 'Holmes?' I asked, leaning closer.

For an instant Holmes seemed to shift toward me, then he took a step backward and my hand dropped to my side. Turning from me, he took a long drink from his glass, emptying it before returning to the sideboard for another.

My eyes on Holmes, I walked over to my chair and picked up my own glass, sipping at the amber liquid within.

Holmes cast a quick glance in my direction before picking up his glass and returning to the settee. He avoided my gaze, focusing on his drink.

Years of living with him had taught me the value of ignoring social conventions, and I kept my eyes on him. While he did not shift beneath my gaze, the urge to do so was evident in the tense line of his shoulders.

'Holmes,' I said gently.

'Watson,' he answered, looking up at me at last.

'You do know you can tell me anything.'

'Certainly,' Holmes answered, his attention once again on his glass.

Forcing a confidence from Holmes is a difficult task; one I had managed only a time or two in all the years of our acquaintance. Yet, I could not escape the feeling that if we were ever to set things to rights between us I would need to do so again.

I placed my glass back on the table, barely touched. Confronting Sherlock Holmes was not a task to be undertaken with compromised faculties. Next, I considered my location. My chair was too far away from him, but the settee might be too close. After a moment, I joined him on the settee, but at the far end, with plenty of space between us.

'How else did you keep yourself occupied while you were away?' I asked.

Holmes looked at me sharply, eyes narrowing. 'Why do you ask?'

'You must truly have been bored if you were given to flights of fancy.' My own eyes narrowed. 'You did not discover new chemicals for that vile case, I hope.' Holmes's drug use had been an issue of contention between us for nearly as long as we had been acquainted.

'No.' My disbelief must've shown in my face because he added, 'I needed my wits about me, Watson.'

'Of course,' I answered, doubt gnawing at me. Something was troubling Holmes, something connected to his time away, I was certain of it. 'What of the other places you visited? Did you meet anyone interesting, make any friends?'

Holmes looked at me as if I had said the moon had turned purple and a cow had jumped over it.

'Holmes, I know something is troubling you. Please tell me,' I said urgently.

'You are like a dog with a bone,' Holmes cried, springing to his feet. 'Can you not accept that not every part of my life is your concern?'

Standing, I placed a hand on his arm. 'No, I cannot.'

'You may trust me when I tell you it is nothing,' Holmes said, briefly covering my hand with his own.

'If it is truly a trifling matter, then it must surely be something you can share with your closest friend.'

Holmes shook his head. 'I have not missed your bullheadedness.'

'Yes, you have.'

To my relief, he smiled. 'I do not wish to risk our friendship over a triviality.'

'Do you honestly believe a triviality could threaten our friendship?'

'In this case, yes.'

'Holmes, things between us have been strained since your return. Surely, you've felt it?' He nodded. 'Whatever this thing is, I cannot escape the feeling that unless it is aired this strain will continue.'

He was quiet for a long moment. 'Perhaps,' Holmes said at last, crossing to the sideboard and pouring himself a third drink.

My concern was growing. Holmes enjoyed his drink, certainly, but this evening's consumption did not appear to be about enjoyment. It seemed rather as if he were trying to bolster his courage. Given Holmes's general fearlessness, it was a disturbing thought.

'When I first took quarters in Montpelier, I searched my room for a place to conceal my valuables – some money, my notes about Moriarty's organization. I discovered a hidden compartment beneath the floorboards. It contained a book, a work of fiction. A romance,' he added with a touch of something that might've been irony. 'Eventually, I grew so desperately bored I read it.'

I stared at him, unable to fathom what this book had contained that it could disturb him so.

'It was quite explicit,' Holmes said.

Such novels were not uncommon. I owned a couple myself, carefully hidden away. 'I know you pride yourself on your reason, but many people enjoy such—'

'The romance was between two men,' Holmes interrupted before drinking deeply from his glass.

It took me several moments to answer. When I did, the words 'I see,' were all I managed to choke out. There were so many questions in swirling through my mind it was dizzying. Had Holmes always been an invert? Had he had lovers? Why hadn't he told me before now?

'Do you?' he asked without looking at me.

He had tried to keep all inflection from his voice, but he hadn't succeeded. I had known him too long not to recognize when Holmes was trying to appear calm while internally he struggled with –

Shame. Fear.

The realization slammed into me. Holmes was ashamed of his enjoyment of a harmless novel, afraid I would condemn him for finding the idea of two men being physically intimate pleasurable.

'Have I ever told you about Tom Wilkerson?' I asked.

'No.'

'We trained together at Barts. Wilkerson was from Somerset, and he had a friend from home, James, of whom he spoke quite often. When he did...' I trailed off for a moment, searching for the words with which to describe Wilkerson. 'He seemed transformed, as if his entire being had become lighter somehow. I thought nothing of it at the time. But once his training was complete Wilkerson moved to Paris. He took James with him. Our fellows were scandalized, of course.'

'And you? Were you scandalized?' Holmes asked, still without turning towards me.

I shook my head. 'No. I wanted my friend to be happy, and I couldn't see how his regard for another man harmed me or anyone else.'

'Remarkable,' Holmes murmured.

Crossing to the sideboard where Holmes still stood, I placed my hand on his shoulder. I had intended to offer a last bit of reassurance before letting the subject drop, but Holmes spoke before I could.

'They had a deep and profound friendship,' he said, his voice rough and low.

It was obvious he was speaking of the men in his book. Not knowing what to say, I squeezed his shoulder. Holmes turned to face me then. I had been drawn to Holmes almost from the moment we met. His brilliance was compelling. He was compelling. From the beginning, he had captured my attention, my imagination, as no one else ever had. Gazing into those familiar gray eyes, I found myself as ensnared in his orbit as I had ever been, more so.

There was a vulnerability about him in that moment, almost a fragility, which spoke to something inside me. 'As do we,' I answered, my tone as low, as intimate, as his had been.

He nodded once.

I slid my hand from his shoulder to the nape of his neck.

'Be sure, John,' he whispered. 'For both our sakes.'

Were our positions reversed, Holmes would undoubtedly have considered each and every possible outcome of this moment, carrying his projections far into the future. But I wasn't Sherlock Holmes, I was John Watson, a different sort of man entirely.

I pressed my lips to his.

"You've reached the kiss," Sherlock said.

Jerking his head up, John found Sherlock sitting on the sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him, crossed ankles resting on the coffee table, sipping his tea. John glanced at the side table. His own teacup was back where it had been. "How did you know?" John asked.

"Indrawn breath."

"Everyone needs to breathe."

"Sharply indrawn breath."

"Yes, well, it's quite captivating, isn't it? Two men, obviously in love, have been for years, finally finding one another."

"Yes, the sheer romance of it is quite overpowering," Sherlock said, rising from the sofa and flicking the edge of his robe across his front as he passed.

"What's your problem?" John asked, but instead of answering Sherlock closed the door to his room quite firmly behind him.

With a shake of his head, John went back to reading.

It was an awkward kiss, both of us stiff and uncertain. Our noses bumped. Stubble from my beard scraped his chin. Yet for all that, it remains in my memory as one of the most perfect moments of my life. For when we parted, Holmes smiled at me, a wide, genuine, happy smile.

I smiled in return and he raised his fingers to my lips, brushing lightly across them, tickling the edge of my moustache. If the answer had not been obvious, I would've asked if he had enjoyed our kiss. Instead, I leaned forward again and Holmes dropped his fingers, meeting me partway.

We had a better sense of how we fit together this time. Nevertheless, the physical sensations were overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of who it was I was kissing. I had long revered Holmes above all other men, but I had never expected to feel his lips on mine, nor his arms encircling my waist, drawing our bodies together.

Holmes's manhood pressed unmistakably against my hip. Such a thing should have shocked me, I suppose, but all I did was clasp him more closely to me, determined to press every bit of him against every bit of me, clothing and propriety be damned.

How long we kissed, I do not know, but if I close my eyes I can feel it all still, his lean lines and angles, the firmness of his lips, the soft moan he made when our tongues brushed for the first time. When at last we drew apart, my aching arousal was every bit as obvious as his.

'I'm afraid I have you at a disadvantage, my Watson.'

'Do you?' I asked, entirely too caught up in the moment to care if I were being disadvantaged or not.

'I have had time to think about this. You have not.'

'You thought about this while we were apart.'

Sherlock nodded.

'You imagined us together.'

'Obviously.'

'What did we do?' I asked, smiling at the very idea of Holmes doing something so out of character as imagining romantic scenes.

'We kissed,' he said after a lengthy pause.

'Obviously.' My response drew a narrow-eyed look, but I simply smiled more. I couldn't seem to stop myself, which seemed a trifle absurd given we were discussing activities which could get us both sent to prison, activities in which we were very close to engaging.

'I touched you. Everywhere. Repeatedly,' Holmes said, his voice a touch lower than usual. 'I studied your reactions, your responses, learned what would bring you the greatest pleasure.'

I swallowed past the tension in my throat. 'Was there tenderness?'

'Of course,' Holmes answered as if the stiffness of his words would make this less of a confession.

'Was there love?'

'Most certainly.'

He had imagined us loving one another because he loved me. It was a deduction so obvious one need not be Sherlock Holmes to make it. Holmes loved me. I thought fleetingly of the times he had condemned the softer emotions, perhaps his words had been a diversion meant to keep me from perceiving the truth, perhaps he had been denying his feelings even to himself, or perhaps he had simply not loved me then.

Holmes loved me. The thought was so pleasant I thought it again. Holmes loved me.

'Watson, you have the oddest expression on your face.'

'I'm sure I do.'

'All the more reason for us to stop this. You need to take time to consider—'

I stopped listening. Holmes loved me. He had missed me so desperately he had taken to imagining us together as lovers, imagined touching me, caressing me – how had he put it—learning what gave me the greatest pleasure.

I halted his speech with a quick, firm kiss. 'I do not need time to consider my actions,' I said.

'But-'

I kissed him again. 'No,' I said firmly, denying whatever he had been about to say. 'I am going to bank the fire. You are going to go into your room and clear your bed of whatever books and papers you have piled there since breakfast. Then I am going to join you, and you are going to show me all of the things you imagined us doing.'

Holmes looked as though he was about to open his mouth again, but I placed a hand on the center of his back and gave him a strong shove in the direction of his room. Surprisingly, he went without a word.

Looking at that night from my current vantage point, it amazes me that I did not consider the risks we were taking or hesitate to join another man in his bed. At the time it was happening all I could think of was Holmes and his love for me, and mine for him. That we should express that love with physical intimacy seemed right and fitting.

Now, at the twilight of my life, with the benefit of hindsight, I find that my views are unchanged. That two men who loved one another as deeply as Holmes and myself should express that love with intimate caresses is neither shameful nor perverse. It is, rather, joyous and beautiful. For that is what I discovered that night in my lover's bed, in his arms, joy and beauty.

Picking up his teacup, John took a long drink, then wrinkled his nose. It was tepid. He took a second sip before putting it back on the coffee table.

Joy and beauty in the arms of a loved one, it had been a long time since John had experienced anything like that. But he was quite happy to read about someone else experiencing it, even if the fact that they were named John Watson and Sherlock Holmes made it seem a bit personal.

Holmes was tying his cravat when I arrived in his room, the papers and books which typically adorned the corners of his bed stacked somewhat precariously on a chair near the window. The shades had been drawn and the light was positioned so as to prevent any hint of what was happening inside from showing outside.

Placing myself in front of Holmes, I wrapped my hands around his, stopping them.

'I started to remove it, but then I was uncertain if I should wait for you so I tied it again,' Holmes said.

'I'm happy to remove it for you, my dear.' Releasing his hands, I undid his cravat and tossed it in the general direction of the chair with the books.

With a hint of a smile, Holmes copied my actions, deftly removing my own cravat and tossing it carelessly behind him.

I had every intention of undoing Holmes' collar next, but his lips were quite close and it seemed a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity presented to me. I pressed my lips once again to his. There was more then pleasure in this kiss, more than passion. There was happiness, pure incandescent happiness. Holmes actually chuckled when we parted, to which there was only one possible response.

I undid the buttons of his waistcoat as we kissed, then began working on his shirt. Holmes, for his part, pushed my frock coat from my shoulders, but then appeared to forget about my clothing entirely, running his hands over my back. His touch was strong and firm and I reveled in it even with layers of clothing still between us.

With only the buttons around his neck remaining closed, I withdrew reluctantly from our kiss.

'You are most disordered this evening, Watson,' Holmes said, glancing at the state of his clothing. His waistcoat was open but still on, his shirt still tucked in to his trousers, but unbuttoned between his trousers and neck.

'So I am,' I answered, reaching for his uppermost buttons. 'Perhaps you should assist me.'

'Perhaps I should,' he said. But instead of reaching for his own buttons, Holmes began undoing mine. It wasn't a terribly efficient way to undress, each of us getting in the other's way, but we managed.

Once my braces were hanging free and my shirt was on the ground at our feet, Holmes ran his fingers over my chest, watching as the hair on my chest curled about the tips. 'My dear Watson, you are exceedingly attractive. I cannot hope to compare.'

'I believe that is for me to decide, not you.' Holmes was slender, yes, but he did not lack for muscle, a fact accentuated by his slenderness. His skin was pale and smooth and it seemed to me that there was a great deal of it, every inch in need of a caress, multiple caresses to make up for all of those my dearest friend had no doubt missed in his life so far.

I placed a kiss on the curve of his shoulder, another next to it, gradually moving toward the graceful line of his neck. When my lips brushed the spot where neck and shoulder meet, Holmes closed his eyes and drew a sharp breath. Utterly captivated, I repeated the kiss.

Holmes opened his eyes and lifted his hands, curving his fingers around the sides of my neck and stroking my jaw with his thumbs. 'My dearest Watson,' he whispered and kissed me.

Seared, his kiss seared me right down to the marrow, his lips somehow managing to plead and demand at the same time, while his tongue seduced my own all over again.

Wrapping my arms around him, I pulled him to me, causing bare skin to connect with bare skin. The feeling was electric for me and apparently for Holmes who gasped into our kiss.

I stroked his back, delighting in the feel of smooth skin beneath my hands, even as I continued to press my mouth heatedly to his.

His member was firm against my hip and I found myself overcome with a desire to see it, perhaps even to touch it. Drawing away, I reached for his flies.

'Watson,' Holmes whispered with the barest of breaths.

'I wish to see all of you.' I fumbled with the buttons of his trousers, distracted by the hardness I could feel beneath them. In spite of my fumbling, or perhaps because of it, Holmes's arms tightened around me.

The final button came free at last and I shoved Holmes's trousers downward. Alas, I was to be disappointed. I had forgotten to remove his boots and the trousers remained about his ankles, becoming tangled when Holmes attempted to step out of them.

Taking hold of his shoulders, I guided him to the edge of the bed. Holmes sat and I knelt in front of him, undoing the ties on his boots with a decisive tug before removing first one and then the other. It was not until I had removed boots, socks and trousers that I became aware of the eroticism of our relative positions. Yet, instead of being daunted by the fact that I was kneeling between the legs of my seated friend, my face close enough to his most personal area to allow me to inhale the heady, masculine scent of him, I took a deep breath and moved closer, sliding my hands along the tops of his thighs.

The hair on his legs was fine and dark and I swallowed at the sight of a nest of darker hair visible through the thin cotton of his drawers.

Holmes captured my attention by placing his hand against the side of my face and rubbing his thumb along my cheek. 'You are wearing too many clothes, my Watson.'

A thrill passed through me at the tone in his voice, and I did not hesitate to rise to my feet. This time I remembered to begin at the bottom and made quick work of my shoes and socks before unbuttoning my flies and pushing my trousers to the floor.

Holmes pressed his hand to the bulge between my legs, making me gasp.

He smiled. 'You are simply too tempting.'

His hand was warm, his touch inviting, and it took all of my self-control to keep from pushing my hips forward. 'You may remove the rest, if you wish,' I said.

Holmes flushed, but his smile remained. 'I believe I should like to do just that,' he said, rising to his feet and standing so close we were separated by less than a handbreadth.

He deftly undid my drawers. They joined my trousers at my feet and I was naked before another man, before Holmes. I raised my hand to clasp his shoulder as I stepped free of my clothing, but Holmes took a step back.

I frowned, but it faded as I watched Holmes's gaze move down my body and then back up.

'You are…' Holmes shook his head. 'I never imagined I could find the sight of another human being so pleasing.'

'I am glad I please you, Holmes,' I said. Taking his hand, I used it to pull him back toward me. 'However, you have me at a disadvantage.'

'Do I?' he asked, rather archly I thought.

'You do.' I kissed the edge of his mouth and brought his hand to his flies. 'This needs to come off.'

'If what you say is true, you should remove them as expeditiously as possible, should you not?'

Grinning at his playfulness, I made quick work of his drawers. As they fell to the floor, I understood his earlier reaction, for I could not seem to stop myself from tracing every inch of his exposed skin with my eyes. Nude, he was a long, lean, lovely line.

His prick did not break that line for all that it was angling upward as if asking me to notice it. Not that I could keep from noticing it. It was flush with arousal, the foreskin having retracted fully, exposing a nearly perfectly round head.

I slid my fingertips along the shaft.

'Oh,' Holmes breathed, closing his eyes.

His prick was firm, smooth and very warm. I stroked the length of it.

'My bed is just there,' Holmes said.

'So it is.'

'If you like, we could lay upon it.'

'Yes,' I answered, too distracted by the feel of him in my hand to evaluate his suggestion.

'Watson,' he said sternly enough to draw my gaze from his prick to his face. 'I am going to get on the bed.'

'Very well.'

Holmes crawled onto the bed. Clothed, he was graceful. Naked, he was breathtaking. He settled onto his side near the center of he bed and, without a fraction of his grace, I followed.

As I lay facing him, I found myself growing bashful and uncertain, for Holmes was looking at me with that incisive gaze of his and I was exposed, my nakedness more than physical.

After a long moment, during which his eyes did not leave my face, the corners of Holmes's mouth began to stretch and spread. It was a slow, gentle smile of the sort I had never seen on his face.

Lifting my hand, I traced it with my fingertips. His lips were soft on the surface, firm underneath, just as they had been when we kissed.

I moved my hand upward, circling his cheekbone with the pads of my fingers.

Holmes placed his hand on my hip, and then slid it up along my side. I twitched when his fingers passed over a ticklish spot.

I stroked his neck, explored the contrast of smooth, almost soft skin, over hard muscle, while Holmes traced the scar on my shoulder.

We took our time, learning one another's bodies by sight and touch, and sometimes with a press of lips.

Swallowing, John leaned his head against the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. He was hard as a rock. It felt wrong somehow, dirty, to be getting off on someone else's tenderness.

Porn was different. That was people being paid to simulate desire and lust. This wasn't a simulation. This was someone else's honest, real emotion, and he was responding like… like a man who hadn't been touched in far too long.

His stomach rumbled.

He should put the journal down, maybe have a cold shower and order some take away.

That's what he was going to do.

He opened his eyes, which immediately fell to the spot where he'd left off.

Holmes caught me by surprise when he traced the edge of a nipple with his tongue. None of the women I had been with had ever been bold enough to try such a thing and I started at the sensation. When he closed his lips around it and sucked firmly, I moaned and buried my hand in his hair.

He pressed me onto my back, giving him easy access to my other side, where Holmes promptly repeated his ministrations.

I was still dazed when he wrapped his hand around my prick, and I responded instinctively, crying out and lifting my hips.

Holmes stroked me with slow, firm movements, my prick settled securely into his palm. 'This is what I like,' he whispered. 'Is it enjoyable for you?'

Holmes's motion was quite different from what I used on myself, but I nodded anyway, for it was Holmes's hand on me and that was all I needed. I clung to his shoulders as he caressed me, hiding my urgent breaths in the skin of his neck.

Far too quickly I found myself approaching the precipice and I scrambled for his hand. 'Wait, wait,' I gasped, pulling his hand free.

Holmes frowned. Tugging his hand to my lips, I pressed a kiss to the palm then the inside of his wrist. I could smell myself on his skin. 'I don't wish to spend yet,' I explained. Before he could answer, I pulled him into a kiss.

I felt as though I was burning from the inside out and Holmes was both the only source of water and the fuel feeding the fire. Feeling our bare chests press together as we kissed had been quite pleasurable, but now I had all six feet and three inches of Holmes in my arms, completely naked. We tangled together, determined to get as close as possible.

Holmes shifted us slightly to the side, creating just enough room for him to slide his thigh upward along the inside of my own. I groaned, but the sound was swallowed up by our kiss.

I had never imagined that I would welcome the feel of another man's muscular form as much as I had the give of a woman's soft curves, but I did. The planes of Holmes's body were both foreign and intoxicating as we found ways to fit together, to rub and touch.

His prick brushed my own.

I clutched at him, encouraging Holmes to repeat whatever he had done to create such a delicious sensation.

Holmes rubbed his shaft along my own and I instinctively lifted my hips.

'Watson, my extraordinary, exceptional Watson,' Holmes whispered, kissing the side of my neck.

The words, the tone, were like nothing I had ever heard from him, or expected to hear, even though I knew he loved me. The only reply I could seem to manage was his name, which I murmured repeatedly as we rocked together.

It wasn't long before Holmes stilled and then shuddered, his face pressed tight to the side of my neck as he came apart in my arms, his precious fluid spurting between us. As much as I wanted to see his face at that moment, it was enough to hold him close, to protect him in his most vulnerable moments.

As he finished, I stroked his back and hair, pressed kisses wherever I could reach.

After a few moments, he lifted himself onto one arm, reaching between us with the other. 'I wish to see you spend,' Holmes said as his fingers closed round me.

It wasn't a sentiment with which I could argue, not when he was stroking me with a combination of determination and tenderness that could only come from Holmes.

Holmes's gaze remained on my face, no doubt studying my reactions, cataloging them for future reference. It should have been unsettling being watched so closely, but I felt oddly cherished. Cherished and deeply aroused as Holmes's touch stripped me of my self-control, leaving me panting and groaning and completely exposed to those piercing gray eyes.

It didn't take long for me to reach the precipice, and Holmes seemed to know, for he slowed his touch, keeping me suspended for a long, breathless moment before allowing me to fall.

When I reached the ground, I had Holmes's arms tight around me.

For what seemed a long time, but was undoubtedly mere minutes, we lay quietly together. Then Holmes spoke. 'It would appear,' he said, 'that I have greatly overestimated my ability to imagine.'

It took my addled brain a moment to understand what he was saying, but then I smiled. 'Perhaps,' I suggested, 'your imagination simply requires more experience on which to draw.'

'I suspect you are right. I would of course be completely in your debt if you would agree to help me acquire the necessary experience,' Holmes said, resting a hand somewhat proprietarily in the center of my chest.

'My duty as your friend would not permit me to do anything else.'

'I can always count on you, my dear Watson.' The words were teasing, but his tone was not. Turning to where his head rested alongside mine on the pillow, I found his expression strangely serious.

I pressed a hand to his cheek. 'You shall always be able to rely upon me. I shan't leave your side again.'

'Nor I yours.'

Bringing my lips to his, I sealed our vows with a kiss.

Closing the book, John reached for his tea. It was cold, but he drank it anyway.

He was still hard, harder now than he'd been earlier. And he was still hungry, his body beginning to threaten him with a headache if he didn't provide it with some nourishment.

Placing the journal onto the coffee table, he stood and stretched. He needed food, but first he needed to do something about the arousal coursing through him. He was too far-gone for it to fade away on its own, at least not quickly. There was nothing for it. He needed a wank.

The climb to his room wasn't exactly comfortable and once there he tore open the buttons on his jeans. Pushing his jeans down just far enough, he moved into the center of the bed, on his side, facing away from the door.

Curling slightly, he took himself in hand. Keeping his strokes short and tight—the last thing he wanted to do was drag this out – he thought of Sarah. But that was not on. They were friends now, just friends. Good, not having sex, friends.

His brain offered up an image of two men together, one tall and lean, with thin lips. The other shorter and broader, with a thick moustache.

Naked, they kissed.

A jolt of arousal went through John, settling in the area of his cock.

Fine, it that's what his body wanted, he'd go with it, just this once.

In his mind's eye, the taller man – John was not going to think of him as Sherlock, or even Holmes – began to stroke the other's prick with the same rhythm John was using on himself. The mustached man arched into the touch, exposing his throat for kisses.

If he tried, John could feel those lips on his own skin.

That was all it took. John came hard, remembering too late to cover the head of his cock with tissues.

Now he was going to have to clean up the bed.

This was entirely Sherlock's fault. John wasn't sure how, but it was.

 

After wiping up the bed and changing his shirt, John went downstairs. Sherlock was sitting in his favorite chair, his violin under his chin. Seeing John, he smirked.

"Not a word," John said.

Sherlock plucked a string.

"Either play it properly or put it down."

Sherlock raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't you be feeling more relaxed?"

"I'm getting Thai. Do you want some?"

"Yes," Sherlock said after a moment.

"Drunken noodles?"

"Of course."

Pulling out his phone, John hit four on his speed dial and placed the order.

 

"I don't understand this weakness you have for romance."

"It's not a weakness," John said, shoving his fork into his Pad Thai and coming up with a large bite.

"Of course it is," Sherlock said.

John wondered why he had to sit so close. They had perfectly good chairs. There was no reason Sherlock had to sit next to him. "Isn't," John said, and shifted subtly to the side.

"Romance, emotions, they're irrational. They get in the way of reason."

"Your uncle managed to solve crimes after becoming involved with Watson."

"Which proves nothing," Sherlock said, taking a bizarrely contrary bite of his dinner.

"Come again?"

"My great-uncle was an outlier. For the vast majority of humanity love and lust lead inevitably to irrational, frequently violent, behavior."

"That's nonsense. Only a minority of people are criminals, but nearly everyone feels love at some point. In fact," John pointed his fork at Sherlock. "I would argue that it is madmen like Moriarty, the ones who are incapable of love, who are the most dangerous."

"Another outlier."

John wanted to argue, but he'd been in the army, he knew when something was futile. Reaching for the remote, he turned on the telly.

 

I woke just before dawn. Sherlock was shaking me gently. 'You need to go,' he whispered.

It would not do for Mrs. Hudson or the maid to find my bed untouched. I started to rise. Stopping me with a hand to my chest, Sherlock kissed me gently. 'Now you can go.'

Rising from the bed, I pulled on my trousers before gathering the rest of my clothing and going to my own room. Once there, I tugged on a nightshirt, ignoring the traces of our intimacy decorating my chest.

Sliding into my bed, I drifted off to memories of Holmes.

Hearing footsteps on the stairs, John put the journal down and picked up his laptop.

Sherlock entered the room, his eyes dropping to the journal and then moving to John. He smirked, but didn't say anything.

"How's Molly?" John asked. Sherlock had been at Bart's. John studied him, looking for any sign of parts that might turn up in his breakfast.

"I didn't ask."

"You don't need to."

"I didn't deduce, either" Sherlock said, seating himself rather primly in the chair across from the sofa.

"Yes, you did."

"She has a new cat."

John didn't even attempt to hide his smile. "That's good."

 

Even though it made him feel a little bit perverted, John had finally admitted that if he wanted to read the rest of the journal, he'd have to take it to his room, since Sherlock had a habit of materializing every time John picked it up.

Piling pillows against his headboard, John settled against them and opened the journal.

'I will be conducting some rather delicate experiments this morning, Mrs Hudson,' Holmes said as our landlady gathered the breakfast dishes. 'I must request that you and the other staff not return to the flat until lunch.'

'This is dusting day.'

'A little dust never harmed anyone.'

She looked at me.

'I have no objection to a delay in the dusting, Mrs Hudson,' I said.

Her reluctance was obvious, but she agreed. 'Very well.'

As soon as she departed, Holmes locked the door behind her. 'Well, Watson,' he said, rubbing his hands together, 'it appears we shall have four uninterrupted hours alone.'

'That is quite a bit of time to fill,' I said, watching as he approached my chair.

'I have some thoughts on how we might do so,' Holmes said, stopping directly in front of me.

I craned my neck so that I could see his face. His expression was delightfully playful. 'Do you?' I asked.

Bending so his lips were near my ear, Holmes spoke. 'I have read that it is possible to do quite interesting things with one's mouth and lips. I would like to test those theories and wondered if you might consider aiding me with my experiments.'

'I am completely at your disposal.'

Holmes's grabbed my wrist and tugged me from the chair. 'Come, Watson.'

If someone had told me Holmes would not only enjoy physical intimacies but would approach them with playfulness and glee, I would never have believed him. It was, nevertheless, true. Holmes was a wonder that morning, smiling and teasing as we undressed one another more speedily than we had managed the night before.

His sheets still smelled of our activities from the previous night, and I found myself inhaling deeply as we settled into the center of the bed. Holmes gave me only a moment to get comfortable before kissing me. For a man who a mere twelve hours earlier had had virtually no experience, he was quite skilled, teasing my lower lip with soft suction before releasing it and returning for my upper lip.

Wrapping my arms around his shoulders, I relaxed into the mattress and let myself be kissed.

Holmes drew away long before I had had my fill of his lips, turning his attention to the side of my neck, where he unerringly found the sensitive spot he had discovered the night before. I tightened my arms around him as he sucked lightly, drawing pleasure from my member to the place where his lips touched my skin.

Clearly pleased with my reaction, he set about testing my reactions to his lips and tongue, kissing his way along my collarbone, down my chest, along my sides, up the inside of my arm.

'Holmes,' I gasped, as he brushed his lips to the inside of my elbow, an action that should not have been as stimulating as it was.

Lifting his head, he smiled at me, warm and unguarded, and my heart lurched in my chest. 'My dear Watson,' he answered, before pressing his mouth once more to mine. Sherlock stretched out on top of me, his weight holding me down, his hardness alongside my own.

I kissed him with all of the desire he had built up inside me, and Holmes responded by shifting against me, his hips rocking into mine, the sensation every bit as pleasurable as it had been the night before.

Within moments we had found a rhythm, our bodies pressing heatedly together as we kissed away three years worth of separation.

But once again I was to be disappointed. Holmes pulled himself away from me, sitting on his knees between my legs. 'You are intoxicating,' he said, running a hand down the center of my chest before curling it around my prick.

'Holmes,' I answered, reaching for him.

He shook his head. 'You agreed to assist with my experiment, remember?' he asked, his hand sliding almost lazily along my length.

'Very well,' I said, lowering my hands to the bed. 'Do your worst.'

'On the contrary, I intend to do my very best.' Holmes was wearing a rare, mischievous expression. All I could do, all I wished to do, was play along.

'Your best experiments do tend to result in explosions. Do you anticipate this one will lead to a similar outcome?' I asked, endeavoring to sound innocent.

Holmes chuckled. 'Indeed. I'm hoping to produce a rather shattering climax.'

Before I could think of a response, he bent forward and took the head of my prick between his lips. I cried out at the sensation. I showed more control when he rubbed the glans with his tongue, pressing the back of my hand to my mouth to contain my moans.

I had received this type of caress from prostitutes in India, but those experiences in no way prepared me for being pleasured by Holmes. Receiving such an intimate touch from Holmes moved me in ways I cannot describe. It was not a service for which I had paid, but an act of love, given freely, and I ached with the need to return the gesture, to shower Holmes with every touch and caress that might give him the smallest bit of pleasure. I wanted him to know how deeply he was loved, how my life had been colorless and empty without him.

I may have whispered my love for him. I cannot be certain, because at that moment he released my prick and drew one of my testicles into his mouth, sucking gently. This new sensation was enough to bring all of my thinking to an end.

He repeated his ministrations on the other side before licking his way along my shaft.

When he reached the tip, he once again wrapped his lips around me. This time he sucked steadily, moving his mouth back and forth along my shaft. The pleasure was overwhelming, but I kept my eyes open, determined to watch as Holmes caressed me. His own eyes were closed, and his expression, what I could see of it, was blissful.

My own bliss was building and I struggled to contain my reactions, not wanting to reach too quick an end. But as always I was no match for Holmes, who hummed around my member.

I clutched at his shoulder as my climax overtook me, causing me to shudder helplessly as Holmes swallowed around me.

When I lay panting against the mattress, Holmes released my prick, placing a soft kiss on the shaft before lifting himself over me.

'That was magnificent,' I said, lifting my hand to Holmes's cheek simply because I could. 'You must let me reciprocate.'

'I should be happy to, but I fear the slightest touch will set me off.'

'You are that aroused?' I glanced down the line of his body to his stiff and ready member.

'I could smell you, and taste you, feel your skin beneath my hands and lips, your stiffness in my mouth. Good God man, of course I am that aroused.'

Chuckling, I closed my hand around his prick.

'Yes, Watson, that's—' Holmes stopped speaking as I stroked him voluptuously.

Wanting to maximize his pleasure as well as my own, I guided Holmes onto his back, stretching out beside him. I stroked him steadily, my gaze on his face. The previous night Holmes's face had been hidden from me when he reached his peak, and today I was determined to see all of him, to watch as he came undone from my touch.

His prick was slender with a distinct leftward curve. As I stroked upward, my grip tight, his foreskin moved partially across his glans.

His eyes were bright, his gaze shifting between my hand and face, observing everything, or perhaps only trying to. Holmes's breath was fast and shallow, his lips slightly parted. His expression was one of stunned pleasure, and I doubted how much even his extraordinary brain was capable of retaining at such a moment.

Holmes's estimation of his own state was inevitably correct, for I had been stroking him for less than five minutes when he cried out my name and his prick began to pulse in my hand.

The image of him, his head thrown back, his entire body stretched toward me as he ejaculated is one I have never forgotten. To this day I can close my eyes and conjure it up perfectly.

Later that morning I used my mouth to bring him to glory a second time. I found I enjoyed bestowing that particular caress every bit as much as Holmes had. Holmes, too, enjoyed himself immensely.

Our happiness that morning was incandescent. It remained so in the days that followed. We kept to ourselves as much as possible at first. I am not the actor Holmes was, and I feared that I would somehow betray what we had become to one another to others. In time, I was able to once again look at him with only a friend's fondness showing in my face, but I made certain that Holmes was always aware of the depth of my regard for him, and of my desire.

Setting the journal aside, John swallowed. He was damned aroused, but he couldn't—not again. It just wasn't right, getting off on images of Sherlock's great-uncle and his Watson. If it had just been descriptions of sex he might've been okay with it, but this went far beyond sex. They had loved one another with the kind of passion John could only hope to experience some day.

Scrubbing his hands over his face, he decided to take a very cold shower.

 

Sherlock glanced up from his most recent experiment when John entered the sitting room. "Moved by tales of my uncle and his erstwhile biographer again, I see."

"Sod off," John said, moving past Sherlock and the equipment piled on the kitchen table to the kettle. The shower had been quite cold. He needed warming up.

Once the kettle was full and on, he turned his attention back to Sherlock, watching it would only cause it to heat more slowly after all. "Did you notice that your uncle's housekeeper was named Mrs Hudson?"

"I did, yes."

"And you don't think that's strange?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"The Hudson family has owned 221B for generations."

"Hold on, you're saying they lived here? Your uncle and Watson lived here?"

With an eyedropper, Sherlock sent a couple of drops of something blue into the test tube he was holding. "That is what I said, well, implied."

"Did you know they'd lived here? Is that why you wanted the place?"

"No."

"And you don't think it's a little weird – you having a friend and a housekeeper with the same names as your uncle's friend and housekeeper, not to mention living in the same flat."

"It's an odd coincidence, I'll admit."

"You believe in coincidence."

"When it's the only plausible explanation," Sherlock said.

"Right. And what would be the implausible explanation?"

Sherlock turned to him, the corners of his mouth turning up. "Reincarnation."

"That would be ridiculous."

"Precisely."

Leaning against the counter, John watched as Sherlock played with his test tubes. "You read the whole thing, then? The journal."

"Of course. Although I wasn't as moved as you've been."

"Yes, fine, I find reading about sex arousing. It's called being a bloke."

"Is it?" Sherlock asked, one eyebrow arched.

"Yes."

"Then it would seem I am not 'a bloke.'"

John shook his head. "You're impossible. People, lots of people, dream about having what they had."

Sherlock smirked. "A regular source of fellatio?"

"Love, Sherlock. Complete, unconditional love."

"Doesn't exist."

"How can you say that when you've held evidence of it in your hand?"

"The romantic scribblings of your namesake hardly qualify as evidence."

"He's not my namesake, if anything I would be his namesake."

"Semantics," Sherlock said, lifting the test tube in his hand to eye level and shaking it gently.

The kettle whistled and John shifted his attention to the tea.

 

John managed to find time to finish the journal over the next three days. Fortunately, the focus shifted from Holmes and Watson's sexual discoveries to the ways their new relationship changed their daily lives.

In some ways Watson's descriptions of a Sherlock Holmes who treated Watson's lap like a pillow and was fond of copping a feel while the two were hidden within the confines of hansom cab were even more captivating than the sex had been. John found himself smiling as he went about his day, his head filled of images of Holmes and Watson solving crimes and happily shagging.

In all honesty, the journal had given him hope. If that other John Watson had managed to find happiness at mid-life, then maybe he could too.

It had also made him wonder a bit what Sherlock might be like if he were to ever fall in love, not that Sherlock would ever admit such a thing was even possible. Which was why when John arrived home early from the surgery he was surprised to see the journal on the coffee table near Sherlock's feet, instead of in John's room where he'd left it.

Unable to stop himself, John smirked. "Getting in a little light reading?"

"I was merely cross-referencing some dates from one of the other journals."

"There are no dates in that one," John said, nodding at the journal on the coffee table.

"No specific dates. It is possible to extrapolate dates, especially given records of the weather from the summer and fall of 1894."

"Course it is," John said, not bothering to hide his amusement in the slightest. It was far more likely Sherlock was finding himself as drawn to Watson's journal as any other human being would be, but John was a nice enough friend to keep that opinion to himself for now. Besides, he needed a cuppa.

John was partway to the kitchen when Sherlock's phone buzzed.

"John," Sherlock called, bolting to his feet.

With a mournful glance at the kettle, John turned round.

 

The body waiting for them in the park was too young, but then John tended to think pensioners were too young to be murdered.

Unsurprisingly, her youth didn't appear to make a whit of difference to Sherlock who pulled on gloves and immediately knelt to touch the congealed blood along the side of her face. The other side was resting on the grass.

"Name's Shirley Jackson," said Lestrade. "She's in sixth form at Marylebone."

"Obviously," said Sherlock. He glanced up. "John."

"Right." Squatting next to the body, John examined the wound at her temple before turning his attention to her wrists. "Finger marks," he said, pointing to the bruises.

Sherlock nodded. "There was an argument. The other person was holding her wrists. She wrenched herself free— So possibly an accident."

Without saying a word, John gently turned the victim's face toward Sherlock, exposing a bruise on the side of her cheek.

"Or she was felled by a blow to the head." Taking out his lens, Sherlock squatted down to examine the grass near the body before moving to examine the area in front of the bench.

Hearing muttering behind him, John turned to where Donovan and Anderson were watching Sherlock. He didn't have to hear them to have a good idea what they were saying. Not for the first time, he wondered how Sherlock withstood it, the name-calling, the judgment. Although, John supposed, practice made perfect. What Anderson and Donovan were doing now Sherlock endured more often than not.

What might that do to a person, John wondered. How would you come to see yourself if the word directed at you most frequently was 'freak?' Standing, he positioned himself between the two Yarders and Sherlock. Not on purpose, mind. It was a simply a convenient place to stand.

"Boyfriend," Sherlock said, standing and pointing at the grass in front of the bench. "Most likely jealous, controlling. They came down here for a romantic rendezvous, but he was angry about something, maybe he saw her chatting a little too long with someone else. They argued. His anger escalated. He grabbed her. She tried to get free. He let her go, but that wasn't the end. He struck her hard enough to knock her down. She hit her head on the bench as she fell. Normally, it wouldn't have been a deathblow, but she caught her temple on the corner of the bench. Bad luck, that."

"Bad luck," John echoed. "She can't be more than seventeen!"

"Tragic luck, then."

John shook his head.

"How do you know there was a boyfriend?" Lestrade asked.

Squatting, Sherlock lifted her hand showing Lestrade a delicate ring with a diamond chip. "Expensive clothes, expensive school. She wouldn't own a ring with a diamond this small unless it was a gift. Wouldn't wear it unless it was a gift from someone important to her."

"That could be anyone, a family member, a friend."

"As I said, the diamond is too small to be a gift from her family. They're well off; they'd have gotten something fancier. Also, it's the wrong style. A friend would've gotten her something in keeping with the rest of her jewelry." Lying her hand back down, Sherlock pointed at the chunky bracelet on her wrist. "Not family, not a friend, that leaves boyfriend."

"Why not a girlfriend?" John asked.

"Footprints," Sherlock said, standing.

"Right then." Lestrade turned and stepped away to speak with two of his men.

"Teen romance gone wrong, hardly worth our time," Sherlock said to John, not bothering to lower his voice.

"I'm sure her parents feel differently."

"Undoubtedly."

 

Sherlock was quiet throughout the cab ride home. In itself, that wasn't unusual, but he seemed more pensive than usual. Then again the scene they'd just left hadn't exactly put John in the mood for casual chit chat.

When they arrived back into the flat, John resumed his interrupted tea-making while Sherlock went back to sitting on the sofa, his feet on the coffee table and his hands pressed together with his fingers just below his chin. John had long ago stopped commenting on how closely Sherlock's thinking pose resembled someone praying.

"Pondering the boyfriend?" John asked, holding out a mug of tea.

Sherlock's fingers brushed John's palm as they closed around the mug. "In a way." He took a drink as John took a seat on the end of the sofa, facing Sherlock, his back to the armrest. "Tell me, which do you think is the more accurate portrayal of love, the account written by my great-uncle's lover or the scene we witnessed today?"

"What we witnessed today isn't love, Sherlock. It's control, there's a difference." Given what John knew of Sherlock's family, it wasn't surprising Sherlock might have trouble seeing that difference.

"How so?"

"Part of loving someone is trusting them to know what's best for themselves, not deciding you know what's best and pushing it on them."

"You're referring to Mycroft," Sherlock said. Placing his mug on the coffee table, he turned so he was facing John, placing his feet on the sofa cushion and his arms around his chins.

"I am. But also the kid today. We don't know what made him angry, maybe he'd never struck her before, but it's also possible this was a pattern with them. I used to see those kinds of relationships when I worked A & E. When one person tries to own or control or another they aren't acting out of love, no matter what they say."

"What about your sister?"

"What about her?" John had long ago concluded that Sherlock's understanding of relationships was bizarre. He seemed to grasp the human heart well enough to understand motives for crimes - or maybe he'd devoted so much energy to the study of crime that he recognized patterns - but he had limited understanding when it came to relationships that didn't end in violent death.

"If you could force her to stop drinking, would you?" There was genuine curiosity in Sherlock's voice.

"That's a trick question. I can't stop Harry's drinking. I can't make Harry do anything."

"But—"

Shaking his head, John cut him off. "No, Sherlock, you can't make other people be who you want them to be, even when who they are is killing them. That isn't how life works."

"So you've never tried to change anyone."

"I wouldn't say that. It's a common mistake, thinking you can save someone else, maybe even save them from themselves. Just ask Clara."

"But you just said love wasn't control." Leave it to Sherlock to try and find fault with John's logic.

"Trying to convince someone you love to stop engaging in self-destructive behavior isn’t controlling unless you're sneaky and manipulative about it. Saying to someone 'I love you, but I can't be with you if you're drinking' isn't control. It's simply stating your own limits and needs. Tricking someone into rehab against their will, that's control."

Sherlock nodded, his expression suggesting he was beginning to understand, or maybe he just knew what it was like to be forced into rehab. John had no doubt Mycroft was capable of it.

"Is that why you're wary of romantic relationships? You don't want to be controlled?" John asked.

"That, and I'm certain anyone I became involved with would want to change me, make me more-" Sherlock's lip curled – "normal."

"Watson didn't try to make your uncle more normal," John pointed out, finishing off the last of his tea and leaning forward to set the mug on the coffee table. "Wouldn't you like what they had, the unconditional acceptance, the certainty of knowing there was someone who would always have your back?"

"No one has ever accepted me unconditionally," Sherlock said, and John was reminded of Donovan and Anderson at the crime scene.

"That's not true."

"Three weeks ago you bought my favorite curry when I was in the middle of case, and you made me scrub the bathtub."

"Purchasing your favorite foods when you haven't eaten in almost 24 hours is being a considerate friend, and it's only fair you scrub the tub when you use it as a dissection site for entrails. Changing you would be trying to get you to stop bringing entrails home in the first place. Controlling you would be tying you to a bed and feeding you intravenously."

Sherlock gave him a knowing smile. "You've thought about it."

"I have. But I haven't done it." As adamant as John was about every adult having the right to control his or her own life, if it came down to it, he'd insert the IV line himself.

"For which I am grateful," Sherlock said, picking up his mug and taking a long drink. "What about my uncle and his Watson, do you think Watson's account of their relationship is accurate?"

John considered turning the question back to Sherlock, after all he was the detective, but Sherlock wouldn't have asked if he had an answer. For once, John was the expert, at least in Sherlock's eyes. "Yes and no."

"Explain."

"Yes, I believe they cared that deeply for one another, but I don't think it was as easy as Watson describes. For one thing, getting caught would have ruined them and having to hide like that is bound to put a great deal of pressure on a relationship. Two, for all Watson's apparent flexibility, they were both stubborn men and I'm sure there were times when they clashed."

"So Watson's covering things up."

"No," John said, shaking his head. "The man he loved had just died and he's comforting himself by writing of the early days of their relationship. It's only natural he'd focus on the happy memories."

"The days when they had lots of sex," Sherlock muttered.

John laughed. "That is what tends to happen."

"So why include their failures?" Sherlock asked, frowning.

"Failures?"

"When they tried to have anal sex."

Only Sherlock would see that as a failure, John thought. Watson's descriptions of the mess Holmes had made with the oil they'd used as a lubricant and how his attempts at penetration had left them both breathless with laughter had made John laugh along with them. Thinking of it now was enough to make him grin. "That wasn't a failure, Sherlock."

"They were attempting to have sex, and ended up giggling instead of ejaculating, while also making a mess."

"They had fun together."

"But they didn't have sex," Sherlock said.

"Yeah but they still had a good time together. In the end, that's all sex is, another way to be close to someone you care about."

"Why, then, do people put such emphasis on it, when they could simply laugh together?"

Sherlock was persistent. John had to give him that. "There's the pleasure," John tried.

"Laughter is pleasurable." Sherlock's expression was so earnest that John had to close his own eyes for a moment to keep from laughing. At least Sherlock asking questions was better than Sherlock being superior and dismissive.

"Yes, but sex involves orgasms. And there are other kinds of pleasure, too. Sometimes there's laughter, but other times there's tenderness or lust. You never know what's going to happen, going in. Instead, it's something you create together, in that moment."

"We're creating this moment."

"Yes, well, with sex it's a bit more intense."

"It's really that unique an experience?"

"With someone you care for and trust, there's nothing like it."

"The trust is important?" Sherlock asked.

"Look at your uncle. Do you think he'd could've shared so much of himself with someone he didn't trust?"

"No." Sherlock rested his chin on his knee. "You do realize that nothing you've described remotely resembles what I've read elsewhere about sex."

"If by elsewhere you mean Internet porn sites, I'm not surprised." At Sherlock's puzzled frown, John added, "Those sites are meant to titillate. They're more about fantasy than about what people actually do."

"Why fantasize about something you wouldn't do?"

"Because you wouldn't do it."

"That makes no sense."

"That's human beings for you," John said, patting Sherlock's foot. "I think you've probably got enough to cogitate about for tonight. I'm going to bed."

When he reached the stairs, John stopped. "By the way, with no case on, it wouldn't hurt you to actually go to bed at a decent hour for once." Before Sherlock could answer, John added, "And that's not being controlling, that's being a physician with a friend who thinks good health is one of those things he deserves just because he's Sherlock bloody Holmes and not something that requires attention or effort."

"Good-night, John."

"'night, Sherlock."

 

When John came home from the surgery the next day, Sherlock was sitting on the floor next to the coffee table with the trunk open beside him and stacks of journals open on the table, along with his laptop.

John thought about asking what Sherlock was doing, but decided to wait until after he'd had some tea. He was seated at the table, sipping from his mug while reading The Guardian when Sherlock called, "I'd like some tea."

"Kettle's right there," John replied without looking up.

"Please."

John titled his head toward the counter. "Kettle's still right there."

"I said 'please.'"

"Doesn't always work."

"What's the point of saying it then?" Sherlock asked, rising to his feet.

"Because sometimes it does."

Not bothering to answer, Sherlock walked to the counter and poured himself a mug of tea, adding honey and a splash of milk. Surprisingly, he brought his cup to the table and sat down across from John. "I've compared my great-uncle's success rate before and after he embarked on a sexual relationship with Watson."

John wasn't remotely surprised. "And?"

"He was slightly more successful after they became involved than before. However, that is likely the result of his having a greater level of experience and knowledge. Alternatively, Watson may not have recorded all of my uncle's failures post-1894."

"That seems unlikely," John said.

Sherlock frowned. "How so? I think he would've sought to conceal his lover's failures, particularly since they could reflect poorly on their relationship."

"To begin with, he wasn't expecting some future Sherlock Holmes to examine the diaries for proof that romance harms the deductive faculties." Sherlock pursed his lips, but he didn't argue. "Trust me," John continued, "no matter how much Watson loved your uncle, he wouldn't have hesitated to record his failures, especially since your uncle was apparently every bit as arrogant and overbearing as you can be."

"You're claiming their relationship wouldn't stop Watson from deriving some sort of satisfaction in Holmes's failures."

"I am, as long as they weren't large failures."

"This would be much easier if my uncle had left his own records," Sherlock said. John took the change of subject as a victory. "I would very much like to know what led him to change his views on sex and intimate relationships. The idea of a grown man being swayed by a pornographic novel is frankly absurd."

John sipped his tea, his paper long since set aside. "He did say the men in the novel were friends."

"Yes—" Sherlock shook his head. "That hardly seems sufficient to explain such a change."

"He was alone, without the one person he had come to depend on and care for. Without a case to distract him, without London to keep him occupied, he was able, or maybe even forced, to examine his own feelings for once, to question why he missed Watson so deeply. The novel was probably nothing more than a catalyst."

"Perhaps."

"It seems obvious that he recognized himself and Watson in the characters," John said, lifting his mug to his lips.

"I've been examining the arguments about sexual desire, specifically whether or not homosexuality is innate." Sherlock's eyes narrowed and John squared his shoulders. He knew what that look meant. "In the time I've known you, you have not shown any sexual interest in men, aside from that one incident the night after we met. Yet, you were aroused by Watson's accounts of his exploits with my uncle."

"I would hardly call them exploits," John said.

"Do you think your sexuality has changed?"

"Sherlock—"

"I haven't observed any evidence of attraction to men, other than your reaction to the journal. Was it the idea of two men together which aroused you or something else?"

Closing his eyes, John shook his head. "You're impossible."

"Just answer the question." After a moment, Sherlock added, "Please."

"I honestly don't know. I haven't thought about it. Yes, the stories were arousing. No, I've never been all that attracted to men, but if I could have a relationship like the one they had… Well, I'd be willing to consider it."

"If it was someone you cared for and trusted," Sherlock suggested.

"Yes."

"And wished to be close to."

"Yes."

"Someone who made you laugh."

"That, too."

Lifting his mug, Sherlock downed the rest of his tea. "Thank you, John. This has been a most enlightening conversation."

"You're welcome."

Placing his empty mug on the table, Sherlock swept from his chair and returned to his spot by the coffee table.

John resumed reading his paper.

 

John hummed to himself as he climbed the steps to 211B. He'd actually enjoyed lunch with his sister. Harry hadn't been drinking. They'd talked, mostly John had talked, telling Harry about the cases he hadn't posted on the blog. Harry had laughed and teased him a bit. He'd had fun, with his sister, and John honestly couldn't remember the last time that had happened.

When he opened the door to the flat, he immediately spotted Sherlock, stretched out on the couch. At least he was dressed. "Your sister didn't drink," Sherlock said, looking over at John, his fingers still pressed together in his thinking pose. John should really hire someone to sculpt him in that position.

"No, no she didn't."

"Good," Sherlock said, catapulting himself to a sitting position and then to his feet all in one motion. "There is something I'd like to ask you, and having come home happy, you'll undoubtedly be much more agreeable."

John shook his head, but he wasn't exactly surprised. Of course, Sherlock's concern for Harry was limited to how her behavior impacted Sherlock.

Sherlock held out his hand. "Give me your jacket and I'll hang it up."

Shrugging off his jacket, John gave it to Sherlock and watched as Sherlock hung it over the hook on the far side of the door.

"Now," Sherlock said, eyes narrowing as he looked John over, "are you comfortable?"

"For a man standing in the middle of his sitting room, I'm quite comfortable." John had no idea what Sherlock was going to ask him for, but the lead up was rather entertaining.

"Good, that's good." Sherlock stepped close, directly into John's space. "I would like to kiss you." Sherlock barely paused before adding, "I can see you're surprised."

John was still processing Sherlock's request when Sherlock said, "I've never kissed someone I trusted or cared for, someone whose company I enjoy, and I would like to know if liking the kissee, as it were, changes the experience."

"You've never kissed anyone?" John asked, searching for a part of that statement, any part, which he could wrap his brain around.

"I didn't say that. I've kissed people, but only for cases."

Cases. Of course Sherlock had kissed people for cases. What other reason would he have?

"Based on our conversations and the evidence from Watson's journal, I suspect that kissing someone I genuinely like will change the experience."

Sherlock was leaning quite close to him, and John took a step back before crossing to the sofa and dropping onto it. When Sherlock opened his mouth to speak, John held up his hand. "Give me a moment."

Closing his mouth, Sherlock nodded.

"Thank you," John said. He had his moment, but he couldn't seem to get his thoughts into any sort of order. There was sadness for a man in his thirties who'd never kissed a person he liked, a stray observation about the shape of Sherlock's mouth and how it appeared designed for kissing, and, drowning out the rest, the words Sherlock wants to kiss me on what seemed to be perpetual repeat.

Sherlock sat beside him. "John." Sherlock placed his hands on John's shoulders and turned John towards him.

"Okay," John said, lifting his gaze to Sherlock's.

"So I can—" Sherlock said and John nodded. "Good, that's good. That's really quite good. Thank you. For agreeing."

"You're welcome," John answered.

"I should just—" Sherlock leaned slightly toward John as if to indicate with his body what it was he should do.

"Yes."

A firm nod and Sherlock leaned in all the way and pressed his lips to John's. It was more a bump than a kiss. John was, somewhat bizarrely, disappointed. Sherlock frowned.

Placing a hand on the side of Sherlock's face, John drew him back, guiding Sherlock's lips to his. He brought their lips together carefully, wanting to know if Sherlock's lips were as soft as they looked. They weren't. They were firm, sweetly so, and John kissed him again as soon as the first kiss had ended.

Sherlock, being Sherlock, caught on quickly, and they sat together, perched on the edge of the sofa, exchanging simple, easy kisses.

Releasing John's shoulder, Sherlock slid one of his hands around John's back, using it to pull himself closer to John. John settled his free hand on Sherlock's waist, holding him close, his other hand remaining against the smooth skin of Sherlock's cheek.

There was an innocence to Sherlock's kisses that made John feel like he was fifteen again, fifteen and unsure of where to put his hands or what to do with his tongue. Still, he had Sherlock's lips pressing into his, backing away for a fraction of a second and then returning, the angle varied just a bit.

For a moment, John held Sherlock's lower lip between his own, squeezed it softly as he pulled away so he could return for a new touch.

Sherlock copied the move, his lips firm as he tugged lightly at John's lip.

They kept going and going and just when John was convinced the kissing couldn't stay this innocent for one moment longer, Sherlock pulled away.

Breathing deep, John stared at him. Sherlock's eyes were wide, his lips parted, his hair a bit disheveled. He looked like a man who needed to be pushed against the back of the sofa and kissed senseless.

Sherlock looked down at his lap. "I have an erection."

"Kissing does that."

"So I'd heard."

"Does it bother you?" John asked, concerned by Sherlock's frown.

Sherlock's frown deepened. "No," he said after a moment.

"If it helps, I'm erect, too."

"I wondered if your affection for me would be enough to overcome your preference for women."

Affection. He'd gotten hard because he'd kissed a man for whom he had affection. It was as good an explanation as any. "Guess I'm a little higher on the Kinsey scale than I'd thought," John offered, more to draw Sherlock out than because he wanted to discuss his apparently fluctuating sexuality.

"Unsurprising."

"To you."

"And to you," Sherlock said.

Okay, given John's reactions to the other Watson's journal, John wasn't all that surprised he'd been turned on by a man. Turned on by Sherlock, however, that was something else. John rubbed his hands across the top of his thighs. "So—"

"Where would you like to get dinner?"

"I just had lunch."

"Yes, of course," Sherlock said, standing. "I have some experiments that need tending." He straightened his jacket. "Perhaps we can go to Angelo's later."

"All right."

"Good, I'm just going to—" Sherlock pointed at the collection of glassware on their kitchen table.

"You should get to it."

Sherlock walked past, heading for the kitchen and John averted his eyes, because, well, certain places were right there.

Sinking back into the sofa, John closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

 

"I kissed Sherlock." John blurted out the words as soon as they were alone, because he had to tell someone. Oh god, this thing with Sherlock really was turning him into an adolescent all over again. "Technically, he kissed me. First. I mean, he asked."

Sarah's lips were pressed tightly together in an obvious effort not to laugh, and John found himself chuckling at the look on her face. Leaning against the closed door to the staff room, he rubbed his hand across his face.

"Was he any good?" Sarah asked.

John's face began to heat.

"I'll take that as a 'yes.'"

John lowered his hand. If anyone could understand how mad the idea of him and Sherlock was, it would be Sarah. "What am I going to do?"

"Kiss him again."

"But I like women."

"You aren't really having a sexual identity crisis, are you, John?" Sarah asked. She hadn't taken a step since she'd entered the room, still standing midway between the door and the table, her pretty eyes fixed on John.

"No. It's more like a Sherlock-crisis."

"You like Sherlock crises."

The truth of it was, he did. As frustrating, as irritating, as downright infuriating as Sherlock could be, he was never dull. The head of his unit in Afghanistan had once said that John excelled at being the calm in the center of the storm. He'd been right. John was good at keeping calm while everything swirled around him. Even his anger, though abrupt, was calm, forceful but calm. Hell, even when John was deadly he was calm.

He needed Sherlock's chaos and Sherlock needed his calm, but that dynamic was part of their friendship, their working relationship; it had nothing whatsoever to do with kissing on the sofa. "Kissing isn't a crisis."

While John had been thinking, Sarah had walked to the kettle and was pouring them each a cup of tea. "So why are you making it into one?"

Pushing himself away from the door, John followed, taking the cup when she held it out. "Because a romantic relationship with Sherlock, that's a big deal."

"What would change?" Sarah asked him over the rim of her cup before taking a drink.

"There'd be sex."

"And?"

John thought about it. "We'd get closer. Sex brings people closer."

"Okay."

Sarah was looking at him expectantly, but John didn't know what else to say. He'd still live at the same place, still work as a part-time doctor and a full-time assistant and blogger. He'd still be the one to go to the shop and wash up the dishes. That was the problem so much of his life was tied up in Sherlock. If they kept kissing, if the kissing turned into more, John didn't think there'd be anything left that wasn't tied up in Sherlock. "I can't let him be everything," John said.

"So don't. Keep some friends of your own. Spend time with them. I know you're making more money working cases with him than you are here, but keep your own job anyway. People balance romantic relationships with other interests all the time."

"Not with Sherlock Holmes they don't."

"He does tend to take up all the space in the room," Sarah conceded. "But he doesn't take up the space where you are. You're like this little bubble of Sherlock-resistance."

John shook his head at the idea that he, of all people, was Sherlock resistant.

"I'm not saying you don't go along with him. We both know you do, but it's by choice. With everyone else, Sherlock simply drags them along; even people who don't like him get pulled along in his wake. They shout their resistance, and he doesn't even notice. When you put your foot down, he stops."

"Thank you," John said.

Sarah squeezed his arm. "You're welcome."

"I don't even know where this is going, if it's going anywhere at all. Sherlock was pretty obviously cogitating about it all last night."

"Taking it slowly, thinking it through, that's probably a good thing."

John didn't mention that Sherlock Holmes was not a man who thought slowly.

 

"There was no tongue," Sherlock said, whirling to face John as he entered the flat. Sherlock was standing near the fireplace and John suspected he'd either been pacing or talking to the skull, or both.

Probably a case then, John decided. "Who's missing their tongue?"

"Me. Yours. Or perhaps you were missing mine."

"Excuse me, what?"

"Yesterday."

"Ahh," John said. That explained it.

"Do you find it distasteful? I always have, but then I never particularly liked the people I was kissing, so it remains possible I might enjoy such an act with you. And why ever is it called French kissing? Did a Frenchman try to patent it or something equally absurd?"

Laughing, John crossed the room, placed a hand behind Sherlock's neck and tugged him down for a brief kiss, sans tongue. "I have no idea why it's called French kissing. I do enjoy it, although I prefer it to come after things are well along rather than at the beginning, and yesterday was quite enjoyable without it."

"Well, um, yes." Sherlock's eyes narrowed. "I take it by your actions you would not be averse to some additional kissing."

"You want to replicate your results."

"Replicating results is boring."

John raised his eyebrows.

"Normally. When the experiment involves inanimate or formerly animate objects. Although it still might be wise to take the proceedings a bit further this time, so as to avoid boredom."

Smiling to himself, John left Sherlock standing by the fireplace and went into the kitchen to turn on the kettle. Not that he really wanted tea, but he wasn't about to come home and plunge immediately into making out with Sherlock two days in a row.

"You had tea at work," Sherlock said, following John into the kitchen and leaning against the counter.

"And now I'm going to have tea at home."

"It'll go to waste."

"Will it?"

"Yes, because once you're seated on the sofa with your tea, I'm going to sit next to you and kiss you, and you will forget all about your tea in favor of finding out if kissing me today is as enjoyable as it was yesterday."

"I already know the answer."

Sherlock narrowed his gaze.

John smiled. "I will thoroughly enjoy kissing you, provided you're a quick study with your tongue."

"I make you laugh. You enjoy my company. You feel affection for me, and you trust me. After enjoying the physical contact we shared yesterday, you've concluded you would enjoy a sexual relationship and have decided to allow me to set the pace at which we enter into such a relationship. Nevertheless, it gives you pleasure to tease me."

"Brilliant," John said.

Sherlock kissed him. Some of yesterday's innocence lingered in the kiss; it was drowned out by sheer want. Arms closing around Sherlock's shoulders, John kissed him back. Apparently mindful of John's earlier statement, Sherlock didn't press to deepen the kiss, but it was still heated enough to create an instant response in John's prick.

"You win," John said when Sherlock at last drew back, reaching over and turning off the kettle.

There were few things Sherlock loved more than a concession from someone else and he smiled, wrapping a hand around John's wrist and pulling him toward the sofa. When Sherlock sat, John knelt, one knee on either side of Sherlock's thighs. He wasn't all that keen on being spread across another man's lap, but he rather liked the idea of being taller than Sherlock for once.

With one hand on either side of Sherlock's neck, John stroked Sherlock's jawline with his thumbs before bending down and pressing his lips to Sherlock's. He held back, keeping things at a low simmer as he teased Sherlock's lips with his own.

Sherlock slid his hands down John's back. Sherlock's hands were strong, his touch firm, somehow managing to be arousing and relaxing at the same time.

John had wanted to keep things at the same intensity as yesterday, at least for a while. But between Sherlock's touch and the quiet sound Sherlock made in the back of his throat, John didn't think twice when Sherlock tilted his head just that much more and parted his lips.

Sherlock tasted like chocolate digestives and strong black tea, and he responded to John's kiss by reaching out with his own tongue, tasting and exploring like he had every right to be there. In the small part of his mind still capable of thought, John supposed he did.

Wrapping his arms around John's waist, Sherlock pulled him closer, bringing John's cock against his belly. Sherlock was holding him tight, stretching toward John's kiss, clearly thinking about John and only John. It was enough to strip away the remains of John's control and the kiss got deeper, wilder, each of them feeding off of the other's desire in a mutually reinforcing spiral.

John rocked his hips, a small push against Sherlock's firm torso, and Sherlock pulled him downward until his erection pressed against John's balls through their trousers. Groaning, John rubbed his body against Sherlock's.

Breaking away from John's mouth, Sherlock dropped his forehead onto John's shoulder, his hands clutching at John's hips. "Not boring."

John chuckled. "No, definitely not." Unable to keep his lips away from Sherlock, John pressed a kiss to the side of Sherlock's neck, felt what might've been a tiny shudder run through Sherlock.

"This is what lust feels like, I take it."

"Kind of," John answered, sliding his lips along Sherlock's nice long neck. "I'd say this is more passion than lust."

"There's a difference?" Sherlock asked, lifting his head.

"Mmm." John snuck in a quick kiss before answering. "I always thought of lust as being more general, more about surface things like appearance. Whereas passion is about a particular person."

"Similar to lust, but accompanied by feelings other than physical attraction."

"That's a good way of describing it," John said, ready to stop talking and resume kissing.

But Sherlock kept talking, even when John's lips covered his. "So I'm unlikely to ever feel lust for you."

"Not entirely," John said, accepting momentary defeat. "Even when you're absolutely mad for someone it's possible to catch sight of them, maybe getting out of the shower or simply tilting their head a certain way, and feel pure physical want."

"This is all very nuanced."

"Nuanced enough to keep that big brain of yours occupied for a while?"

"Possibly," Sherlock said with a soft smile, giving John the feeling that the question he'd asked wasn't the same one Sherlock was answering.

"I can make that a definitely," John said, leaning in to kiss that smile. This time he took his time about it, caressing Sherlock's lips with his own, less innocent than yesterday, but more tender than anything they'd shared so far that afternoon.

Sherlock picked up on the change instantly, responding in kind.

When Sherlock ended the kiss, it was to press his lips to John's neck. "So much," he murmured, his hands on John's hips. "There's so much to taste and feel and discover."

Feeling the same way, John slid his hands into Sherlock's hair. It was thick and soft, and John wondered how often Sherlock would let him get away with touching it.

"I know we haven't discussed this, but I would like it if you took off your shirt," Sherlock said, abandoning John's neck, much to John's disappointment.

Sitting back on his heels – he was definitely not sitting on Sherlock's knees – John pushed his cardigan to the floor and undid just enough buttons on his shirt to let him pull it over his head.

"Oh," Sherlock said, placing his fingers over a pectoral before John had even finished dropping the shirt on the floor. John had expected Sherlock to focus on the scar on his shoulder, but instead Sherlock slid his fingers down the center of John's chest. "You're quite fit."

"Military life will do that to you."

"You've been back for a while."

"Chasing after you will do that."

Sherlock continued exploring John's chest with his fingers. "Maybe I should market my own fitness plan. We could use you as the spokesperson. You'd have to be shirtless, of course."

"There's undoubtedly a big undiscovered market in people who want to get fit by alternately chasing after criminals and being chased by them," John answered.

Instead of answering, Sherlock brushed his fingers across John's nipple. Sherlock seemed fascinated by the feel of it beneath his fingertips, moving them over, across and around it. John was content to watch him explore.

Evidently satisfied with his nipple explorations, Sherlock slid his hands downward, across John's abs. John instinctively sucked them in, but in truth there wasn't much need. Sherlock was right; he had stayed pretty fit.

"I've seen you bare-chested before," Sherlock said. "It didn't feel like this."

"I was bloody and bruised at the time."

"Mmmm," Sherlock acknowledged absently, moving his hands up John's arms and across his shoulders. "Do you like it when I touch you?"

"Very much."

Sherlock lifted his gaze to John's. "Do you want to touch me?"

"Yes." Cupping Sherlock's cheek in his hand, John brushed one of those ridiculous cheekbones with his thumb. "God, yes."

Sherlock's mouth stretched into a pleased smile. "You'll have to get off of me." But instead of letting John up, Sherlock kissed him again, moving his hands over John's bare back at the same time.

"You like having your back touched."

"Which is good, since you seem to like touching it," John said, moving to the side and letting Sherlock up. He put one leg on the floor, bending the other and resting his knee on the sofa in an effort to give his erection a bit of breathing room, angling his body for the best view of Sherlock.

Sherlock pulled off his jacket as if its existence had become an annoyance, abandoning it on the floor behind him before starting on the buttons of his shirt. John was torn between wanting to watch and wanting to help, although Sherlock was making such quick work of it there didn't seem to be much point in offering assistance.

The shirt joined the jacket and John pulled in a breath as Sherlock knelt in front of him on the sofa, one hand resting on the back, his eyes on John's face. "Touch me, John."

That had to qualify as one of most erotic things anyone had ever said to him. Placing his hands on Sherlock's bare waist, John slid them up his sides.

When Sherlock was dressed in his body skimming black suits, he looked thin, maybe even too thin. After the first time John had seen Sherlock shirtless, he'd wondered if the suits were intended to deceive people into underestimating Sherlock's physical strength. Without the suits, Sherlock was still slender, but it was whipcord slender with solid muscle defining his arms, chest and abdomen.

Leaning forward, John kissed a small hollow in the center of Sherlock's rectus abdominis.

Sherlock slid a hand into John's hair, and John looked up. Bending down, Sherlock kissed him.

"Lay down where I can get at you, you damned giraffe."

With a small smirk, Sherlock stretched out along the sofa. John settled above him, holding himself up with one hand and sliding the other over Sherlock's chest, taking in the firm muscles and smooth skin. It should have been weird, but it wasn't. It was just Sherlock, exposing himself for John to look at and touch.

Sherlock dropped his gaze to John's hand, watching as John circled Sherlock's nipple with his fingers. When he sucked in a breath, John dipped his head and captured it between his lips, flicking it with his tongue.

Arching his back, Sherlock slid his hand into John's hair, holding him in place. John sucked. Sherlock gasped.

"You like that," John whispered, letting his breath ghost across Sherlock's skin. Before Sherlock could answer, he shifted his attentions to the opposite side.

"Yes," Sherlock answered with a shaky exhale.

Sherlock's nipples were smaller than John was used to, but perversely that just seemed to make them more attractive, maybe because there was no way to deny they were Sherlock's even with his eyes closed.

Sherlock tugged at him and John lifted his head, complying happily when Sherlock guided him down until their mouths were once again pressed together.

Kissing Sherlock while John was stretched out on top of him, bare skin pressed against bare skin, their erections tantalizingly close, was enough to make John groan and press his hips into Sherlock's.

Sherlock slid his hands along John's back. John really did like that.

Their kisses became deeper and wilder and they were moving together, pressing and pulling, trying to get closer. Sherlock bent one of his legs, wrapping it around the backs of John's thighs.

"Is this creating something together?" Sherlock gasped out between kisses.

"Yes," John answered, pressing his lips to the place just below Sherlock's ear and sucking.

Sherlock's hips jerked.

John did it again.

"John."

Shifting his attention lower, John sucked again.

"John."

"Too much?" John asked, pulling back.

"Not enough." Sherlock moved his hands across John's shoulders. "This might be easier with more room and fewer clothes."

"Good idea." John nuzzled into the curve of Sherlock's neck, searching for more sensitive places to kiss and explore.

"We should move to my bed," Sherlock said, tilting his head to provide John with better access.

"Soon as I'm finished here," John answered, his attention focused on tasting the curve where neck met shoulder.

Sherlock chuckled, wrapping his arms around John.

"You're laughing," John said, lifting his head and smiling down at Sherlock.

"So it would appear," Sherlock answered and kissed him.

If they were ever going to finish undressing, they were going to have to stop kissing, at least for a few minutes. But Sherlock's mouth felt so damn good; it was downright beguiling, and releasing it seemed like an awful lot to ask. Instead, John moved his hips, stroking his length along Sherlock's again and again. Sherlock was hard beneath him, hard and wanting, and right there. And he was kissing John wildly now, deep, desperate, out of control, all things Sherlock had likely never been before.

John groaned.

"Stop," Sherlock said, taking hold of John's shoulders and pushing him back.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't want the first orgasm I experience with you to be in my trousers."

John closed his eyes for a moment, because the idea was kind of appealing. "Right." He forced himself to climb to his feet. "We should –" He pointed in the direction of Sherlock's room.

"Yes, absolutely," Sherlock agreed.

When he made no move to get up, John offered him his hand. Sherlock took it and John tugged him to his feet. Leaning close, John pressed a quick kiss to Sherlock's shoulder and then led him into the bedroom.

Sherlock closed the door behind them, and John turned to face him. There was vulnerability in Sherlock's face. But then Sherlock was always vulnerable, just like everyone else; he was simply better at hiding it than most people.

Taking a step toward him, John placed his hand over Sherlock's heart, felt it hammering away.

"You're not like anyone else," Sherlock said, his voice unusually quiet, almost soft. Coming from Sherlock it was the equivalent of a Shakespearean sonnet.

"Neither are you." It was a statement of fact, but it was also a statement of feeling, and John was confident Sherlock would hear both meanings.

"Obviously," Sherlock said, his tone almost teasing.

John slid his hand from Sherlock's chest to the waistband of his trousers. It took him only a few minutes to get them open. Sherlock's pants, surprisingly, were simple white cotton.

When John crooked an eyebrow, Sherlock said, "Sometimes the classics are best."

John kissed him, because Sherlock was right.

Sherlock kissed a path along John's neck to his shoulder, his hands on John's waist. "We're still overdressed," John whispered.

"I know. I just—"

"Don't want to lose this feeling," John suggested.

"It's ridiculous, I know."

"No it isn't. I don't want to lose it either. But I also really want to watch you come." Sherlock pressed closer, wrapping his arms around John. "I want to touch you," John confessed. "I want to hold you in my arms and feel you shake and moan, know I'm the one who did that to you, made you feel like that, made you want that."

"Passion," Sherlock said, tucking his face against the side of John's neck.

"Yes."

Cupping John's arse in his hands, Sherlock said, "I want that, too. Want to watch you and feel you, touch you, taste you."

"Take off your trousers," John said, his hands sliding over the smooth skin of Sherlock's back and sides. "Please."

Stepping back out of John's arms, Sherlock pushed his trousers from his hips. He stepped out of them easily, pausing to tug off his socks.

He stood and there he was, Sherlock Holmes, naked and erect, and John felt his own arousal edging even higher at the sight. John breathed deep, his lips parted, as his gaze moved down Sherlock's chest to his cock, long and thicker than John would've thought given Sherlock's build. John's hand twitched with the urge to touch.

"John," Sherlock said.

John lifted his gaze to find Sherlock looking at him with a mixture of bashfulness and amusement.

Sherlock nodded at John's groin. "Your turn."

John's hands had suddenly become clumsy and it took longer than it should have to get his flies open. His cock was grateful for the change, pushing forward, demanding attention. Attention Sherlock was apparently happy to give, pressing his fingers to John's shaft through his pants, making John gasp.

"That's incredibly arousing," Sherlock said.

"Which part?" John managed to ask, although it required ignoring the sensations coming from his cock.

"All of it. Hurry up and undress."

"Easier to do if you aren't touching me."

After brushing his fingers over the head of John's cock, Sherlock moved his hand to his side. It was clear, however, that John had only a small amount of time before it would return.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, he removed his shoes and socks, and then stood again to push his trousers and pants to the floor. As soon as he was free of them, Sherlock's hands were on him, one curling around his shaft while the other gripped his shoulder.

John groaned, deep and heartfelt. What else could he do? Sherlock's hands were on him. Sherlock was naked and John was naked and Sherlock was touching him. And, damn it, John wanted to touch, too. But before he could get his hands on Sherlock, Sherlock was kissing him again, pressing him back until his knees bumped the edge of the bed.

John pulled away from Sherlock's mouth long enough to get onto the bed, squirming his way into the center. Sherlock settled half on top of him, kissing and stroking.

"I'd ask what you like, but I want to figure it out for myself," Sherlock said.

"Okay," John answered and pulled him into another kiss. John moved his hands over every bit of Sherlock he could reach, from that damnably soft hair to the arse whose curves seemed to have been designed for John's hands.

Sherlock stroked him the whole time, trying different speeds and touches, stopping periodically to caress the head. There was too much variation to get John off; John didn't object because it all felt bloody fantastic.

Finally Sherlock settled on a rhythm, his hand moving steadily over John's shaft, focusing mostly on the head. At the same time, he started rocking his own hips, his cock rubbing against John's hip.

Another man was rubbing his cock against John and John liked it, liked the feel of Sherlock's erection on his skin. Liked the quick, desperate breaths coming from Sherlock. Liked the way Sherlock couldn't seem to decide if he wanted to look at John's cock or his face.

This was Sherlock utterly gone, totally outside himself, and it was one of the hottest things John had ever experienced.

Sliding his hand into Sherlock's hair, John guided Sherlock's mouth to his. A tender kiss, totally at odds with the wildness of everything else they were doing. "You feel good," John whispered. "Incredibly, amazingly good."

"John."

Rolling them, John settled on top of Sherlock, his cock up tight to Sherlock's and rocked his body against Sherlock's.

Arms around John's shoulders, Sherlock pulled John into a wild kiss, his hips lifting to meet John's.

A little lube probably would've made things better, but John wasn't about to stop, not when Sherlock was so obviously close, his head titled back, eyes closed, small moans coming from his throat. John pressed heated kisses to Sherlock's neck, moving, rubbing Sherlock's cock with what felt like his whole body.

Sherlock opened his eyes, his gaze locking on John's just as John felt Sherlock's cock pulse. Warm fluid hit his skin, landing on his chest and abdomen, streaking the underside of John's cock as he continued to move.

Sherlock shuddered hard.

"God, Sherlock," John said, unable to stop looking at the man beneath him, at the open, unguarded pleasure on Sherlock's face.

"John," Sherlock whispered, sliding his hand along John's cheek. "John."

That final touch made everything stop for a moment, go perfectly still as the pleasure that had been building inside him let go, moving through him a rush, making him cling to Sherlock as his fluid spurted between them.

Breathing hard, John relaxed into Sherlock.

Sherlock kept his arms firmly around John.

"I had no idea," Sherlock murmured at just about the time John's brain came back online.

Turning his face from where it was tucked in close to Sherlock's shoulder, John kissed his cheek. "To be fair, that was an exceptionally good first time."

Sherlock stroked a single hand up the center of John's back, his touch more relaxing than arousing. "Only to be expected, given that we are both exceptional individuals."

John laughed, more from happiness than because Sherlock was funny. Lifting his head, he grinned down at Sherlock who smiled back, just a small upturn of his lips. Sherlock was always compelling, even when he was sneering, but in that moment he looked downright radiant.

John kissed him, easy and unhurried, before shifting onto his side, his head on Sherlock's shoulder.

"Resolution," Sherlock said. "When the neurohormones prolactin and oxytocin create feelings of relaxation and wellbeing."

"Only in the right circumstances," John said. "Orgasm itself isn't enough."

"It isn't?"

"Even if you come, if the overall experience wasn't a good one you won't feel like we feel right now."

"Interesting."

"You're not going to go looking for bad sexual experiences to test that, are you?"

Sherlock was quiet for a moment. "No. I'm certain we'll have bad sex eventually."

John pressed his face into Sherlock's chest just because he could. "Nice to know you have so much confidence in me."

"It's not a question of confidence," Sherlock said, stroking John's nape. "It's a question of statistics and probability, assuming, of course, that you wish to continue having sex with me."

"I think that's a safe assumption."

"Good, that's very good."

"Yes, it is," John answered, more to have something to say than because his agreement was required.

Sherlock fell silent. John was fine with that, content to rest against Sherlock and feel the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. Sherlock had been wrong, breathing wasn't boring at all.

Closing his eyes, John let himself drift.

He opened them at the sound of wood being struck. "Is that knocking?"

"Lestrade," Sherlock said, his arms tightening around John. "He texted earlier."

"Case?"

"Most likely natural causes. I told him I was busy."

The knocking got louder, accompanied by Sherlock's name.

Sherlock sighed. "I'll get rid of him." Giving John a quick kiss, he slid from the bed and pulled on his blue robe.

"Be nice," John said as Sherlock pulled open the door.

Sherlock grinned and closed the door behind him.

Resting his hands on his stomach, John stared at the ceiling and listened to the voices coming from the sitting room. It wasn't quite loud enough for him to make out words, but Sherlock's tone was imperious. Not that it would be anything else.

A third voice joined the fray – Sgt. Donovan. Sighing, John sat up and scanned the floor for his trousers. Spotting them, he rose reluctantly from the bed and pulled them on. He opened the door.

"Why are you naked at half five in the afternoon, then?" Leave it to Donovan to ask the obvious.

John stepped out into the sitting room and three sets of eyes turned toward him.

"Yes, Sgt., John is quite fit. Yes, some of the dried semen on his stomach is mine. Now do you understand why I had better things to do this afternoon?" Sherlock asked turning toward Lestrade.

Face flushing, John pressed his lips together in an effort to contain his anger. Donovan shifted, the movement enough to draw John's attention. She looked shocked, as if the idea of anyone wanting Sherlock was inconceivable. John's anger with Sherlock evaporated.

Lestrade cleared his throat. "Yes."

Squaring his shoulders, John turned and captured Sherlock's gaze with his own. "Fry up, Sherlock?" John asked, putting as much warmth as he could manage into his voice.

"Please. I am oddly hungry for some reason."

John rolled his eyes and started toward the kitchen.

"About this body—" Lestrade started.

"Most likely natural causes. Boring."

"Maybe natural causes. He worked for a defense company."

"Which one?"

"MBDA."

John knew that name. They'd been part of the Bruce-Partington fiasco. Putting the eggs he'd taken from the refrigerator onto the counter, John crossed to the kitchen door, his eyes seeking Sherlock's.

"He was jogging, John. It's still most likely natural causes."

"He was 28," Lestrade said.

"Could've been a heart condition," John said. "Previously undetected. Or an aneurism"

"Most likely," Sherlock agreed.

"The body's at Bart's," Lestrade said.

"You need to eat," Sherlock said to John. "I can hear your stomach growling from here."

"We can stop at the Criterion for coffee and a pastry."

"Is that what you want, John?" Sherlock asked, with just enough emphasis on the 'you' to make it clear he genuinely wanted to know John's preference.

"No," John admitted. He wanted to stay here, have a bit of food and take Sherlock to bed again.

"You heard the doctor," Sherlock said, turning to face Lestrade. "We're staying home tonight. If the autopsy shows it was murder, we'll take a look."

Lestrade looked from Sherlock to John. "Very well." Looking pointedly at Donovan, who was still staring at John, her expression alternating between a glare and the shock she'd shown earlier, Lestrade tilted his head toward the door. "Let's go."

"You weren't supposed to shag him," Donovan said.

"Yes," John answered, "I was."

 

John woke slowly, not wanting to open his eyes. He was in that pleasant place between sleep and wakefulness, and he had do desire to leave it. There was light on the other side of his eyelids, but the lack of street noise meant it was too early for the sun to be up.

"What are you reading?" John mumbled.

"Would you like me to read it to you?" Sherlock asked. He was sitting with his back against the headboard and his legs stretched out in front of him.

"Okay." Shifting closer, John rested his head on Sherlock's abdomen and stretched an arm across it.

"Holmes moved slowly inside me, as though each movement were creating its own collection of sensations to be considered and cataloged. The look on his face, though, was not one of intense concentration, but rather intense feeling. His love for me had never been more obvious than it was in that moment when his entire being seemed filled with wonder at the beauty we could create together.

"For myself, I could not imagine ever loving him more than I did at that moment.

"I was wrong, of course. My love for him would become deeper and more profound with each passing year, not that it was easy. Holmes was never easy. For a time, his struggles with cocaine nearly destroyed us. He was never the most considerate of partners, although he could be kind, generous, even loving when he took the time to think about the impact of his actions. Gradually, he became better at remembering to consider my feelings and reactions before running off to wherever his remarkable mind had sent him.

"He was proud of me, of us. If public knowledge of our affair would not have sent us both to Reading, I believe he would have shouted from the rooftops that I was his and he was mine.

"I miss him. The loss feels too great for such simple words, but I know of no others that would fit. I have grieved before. I have even grieved for Holmes before, but with this, my final work, complete, I shall not grieve much longer."

John squeezed Sherlock's middle.

Setting the journal on the bedside table, Sherlock turned off the light and lay on his side next to John.

"Perhaps we really are their reincarnations," John said, voice quiet.

"Nonsense. There are no such things as souls, or karma, or souls returning to life."

"No."

Sherlock was quiet and John started to drift again. "I have begun to understand Watson's descriptions of his feelings for Holmes," Sherlock confided.

"Me, too," John said.

Sherlock snuggled closer. "Go back to sleep. You're going to need your rest."

"I am?"

"I'm going to fellate you tomorrow."

"Well in that case I best rest up."

"Good-night, John," Sherlock said, his lips pressing so lightly and briefly against John's cheek that John might've imagined it.

Smiling into the darkness, John let sleep overtake him.