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These Days You Don't Know How to March

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The first time Sherlock says it, it feels weird, but John learned long ago not to read too much into anything his partner might tell him during sex. Even if what he and Sherlock do is different from what he knows from any previous relationship, it's still very much sex. So considering John is naked save for his y-fronts, his hands tied over his head and a very naked Sherlock is holding his thighs open as he tries to fuck John through his underpants, well, what's a little bizarre dirty talk between friends?

"I just want to save you," Sherlock whispers to his chest, his voice oddly quiet and solemn, a direct contradiction to the sharp pain of his fingers digging into John's thighs. His voice sounds almost gentle, careful in a way Sherlock never is, especially not when they're like this, and John is startled out of his haze of need and opens his eyes.

Sherlock is gorgeous, bent over him, pale shoulders and a dark mop of sweaty hair, moving slowly against John in the most obscene way possible, dragging his cock up John's perineum, under his balls and back down to John's hole, pushing, pushing. And it feels so good, so fucking dirty to have that soaked cotton barrier press into him while his own prick is straining against the same wet fabric from the other side.

"Sherlock," he groans, because he wants to touch, he wants something. He wants so much.

"I am going to save you, John," Sherlock repeats softly and bites John's nipple, and John closes his eyes again because it's either that or coming, and he's not ready yet.  Sherlock keeps quiet after that, his sharp teeth and wet tongue occupied with marking up John's chest, John's throat, John's collarbone. 

"Please," John feels himself moaning. "Please, please… Just let me. Please."

And Sherlock spreads him even wider, his hips working faster and faster. John feels like he's drowning in his own escalating arousal, he never wants to be anything but Sherlock's. He feels the other man thrust against him, his breath sliding against John's neck when he moans, before he bites into skin and the sharp pain is intoxicating.

"I'll stay like this for you," John moans with each word. "Be yours. Just you, always you… Jesus."

John really can't define what they have. They're friends, colleagues, he loves Sherlock in a way he's never loved anyone before, but he's not inclined to say the words aloud, not even to himself. He doesn't know what Sherlock thinks they are. They live together, share their life with each other, sleep in the same bed and kiss some mornings. They only do the whole sex thing every few weeks, and when they do it's always a little too intense.  So, really, John finds its best not to question much who says what and why when they have sex.


The second time Sherlock says it John almost doesn't notice, because he's been running for the past two hours without actually knowing why and frankly he's ready to punch Sherlock's infuriating, obnoxious face himself by the time the stop to breath.

"Who exactly are we running from?" John asks, breathing heavily and leaning on the wall behind him for support.

Sherlock keeps pacing back and forth, eyes moving wildly from side to side.

"Sherlock!" John shouts.

Sherlock stops pacing abruptly, and turns to John with an expression of extreme annoyance. . "I am trying to save you here, John, please be quiet," he says. And that's it, John is going to turn back and go home now. Either that or press Sherlock against the wall and snog him senseless.

John can't decide what the preferable option should be so he does neither. Instead he stares: at Sherlock's gloves, Sherlock's shoes, the curve of his upper lip, until Sherlock smiles and says "Come on, John."

And then they're running again.


The third time is actually the one that John thought he understood. Looking back he knows he again - as the case with Sherlock induced situations often is - overlooked some of the facts and was totally wrong.

They'd been dealing with an oddly personal case for John - a woman who killed her lover's alcoholic, abusive husband - and it made him uneasy. Everything about this one echoed something in John's life, the painfully familiar image of Mrs. Grange's bruised hands, her black eye, even her accepting explanation of her husband's sorrows. But that part of him surprisingly didn't hurt anymore, he felt nothing but a dull ache as he fleetingly thought of Harry. His parents had been dead for fifteen years and Harry didn't want his help.  

Mary Grange and Jenny Crocker met during their last year at uni and fell in love like only reckless young people allow themselves to - immediately and utterly. But Jenny was on an army cadetship and was due to be deployed overseas a week after they would graduate. They made the few months they had together count more than any other time in their life and then went their separate ways. Mary married an older friend of her father, hoping to fill the emptiness inside her with family life while Jenny gave all of herself - mind, body and soul to what she needed to do.

 And John knew how that felt, used to know  bone deep that the Afghani sun and the desert heat were good, perfect even, when there was nothing waiting for you back home.

No sense of purpose but what you learn to be right when your friends' bodies lay next to you, when sand and dirt and blood is what you breathe, what you believe in. The army's own brand of insanity that is your whole life until, if you're lucky enough, you find someone who can live in that place in your soul, someone else worth living for.

Someone worth killing for. He'd done that too. He'd done that for Sherlock after knowing him for a day.

The women sit on the sofa in the same living room where Mr. Grange was murdered, the same room where the two had made their plan to hide the murder. They sit holding hands while Sherlock explains the workings of his brilliant mind and John tries not to be sick on the very nice, expensive-looking carpet.

"You'll probably want to board that plane back to Kandahar tomorrow, Capt. Crocker, before I give my account to DI Lestrade,-" Sherlock finishes with glee, looking at John, his trusty audience, holding his gaze until John, confused, turns away.

"And do what? Abandon Mary to deal with it? She'll be sent to jail!" Jenny is obviously distressed, but her voice is steady and resigned. "No, I'll stay. I'll give myself in first thing in the morning." Mary gasps and Sherlock's eyes narrow. "But you have to keep Mary out of this." 

Sherlock laughs, the bastard. "Very predictable, Capt. Crocker, but none-the-less admirable. Touching even, if you're prone to sentiment. But if a trial is what you wish for there is no need for you miss your plane. We should skip the predictable boring pieces of the trial. Let's see, you confess to shooting, the bullet will be confirmed as having been fired from your army weapon. Mrs. Grange gives her account on how her husband attacked you in his rage and you were forced to fire. There were ashes on his clothes and his hands were dirty. He was holding the poker, still hot, probably threatening Capt. Crocker with it.  The conclusion is unavoidable, the shot was self-defense." He turns to John, swiftly. "Dr. Watson, do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of murder?"

It feels like some sick game, like everything is wrong with the world. It's not their place to decide, he knows. There's a difference between pressing the trigger and signing off on it as a necessity. Seeing a drunk hitting your lover is not enough of an excuse to fire your army weapon, he knows, nothing but self-defense is good enough of an excuse to fire your weapon.  He wants to look Jenny in the eyes and suggest they both go and confess to Lestrade. He wants to tell her she will never be the same after this. That going on living with this will someday make her feel wrong, like some part of her went missing somewhere along the way. It's not his place and he refuses to pretend it is. He simply can't be the one to tell her that she did what was right, what was needed.

John wishes they were alone, without Sherlock's towering expectations and Mary Grange's pale hand holding on to Jenny's.  He wants to take her in his arms and gently explain that justice works differently on English soil.

"John?" Sherlock asks, voice soft, and their eyes meet again. John loves him and hates him, for changing him, for making him realize who he has become for Sherlock.

"Not guilty," John says, turning to Jenny and Mary. He hopes they'll forgive him his weakness, he wishes could make himself care either way.

"Good." Sherlock smiles at him, warm and approving and it shouldn't be worth it, but it is.

He tries not to think about what it means. It's easier to pretend nothing has changed when life keeps going on, and John just goes along with everything. He doesn't even know why this is so unsettling for him. He should be used to having power over people's lives, making hard decisions for others was a big part of how he had defined himself for the last dozen or so years. But this felt different.

The closest he comes to a freak out is lying one night on Sherlock's bed, their bed, just staring at ceiling. An hour later Sherlock comes in and sits next to him. John wishes he would lie down, let John hold on to him, but that's not how they work.. He half expects Sherlock to calmly ask him to go and make some tea or something.

"I want to save you," Sherlock says instead.  He sounds confused, and John knows the look on his face, brow furrowed and lips slightly open, annoyed that something isn't right. And that's a sentiment John can get behind.

"Is this you trying to console me?" John asks.

"Do you want me to?" He sounds curious, intrigued.

"I don't think saving has anything to do with this." John answers and his voice sounds lost to his own ears. He can't help but remember the last time he felt like this. He wonders if Sherlock took away his gun. "Why would you think I can just…" He doesn't even know how to ask.

"Because you are the best man I know," Sherlock tells him, and John wishes he didn't love him as much as this. John shuts his eyes, he'd rather do that than give in to the ache inside him demanding he look at Sherlock.

"This is crossing a new line for me, Sherlock," he says.

"I know." They're both quiet for a while. "I'm sorry, perhaps I've pushed when it was not my place to do so."

And John laughs, broken and miserable. He wants to say so much, wants to touch, to fuck, to cry, to shoot something. He wants to belong, wants to feel like he can fit in somewhere. He's so tired of finding out new places inside himself that feel wrong, alien and empty.

He wants something like redemption, forgiveness, he thinks. He'd ask Sherlock to forgive him, but that's not possible because Sherlock doesn't think there's anything to forgive, and there's nobody else.

"I wish I could do this for you," Sherlock confesses, and it has to be enough.

John tugs Sherlock by his shirt, pulls their mouths together with a sigh and buries his hand in Sherlock's hair.

"Save me," John whispers over and over between kisses and bites, not because Sherlock can, but because he wants to, and he finds they fit together, like this, rough and desperate and broken.


The fourth time it happens is during sex again.

John is naked on the sofa, his eyes covered by Sherlock's tie. He feels raw, exhausted, and on edge, cold and empty now that Sherlock is no longer pressed against him, inside him. He moans, and it's humiliating how needy he sounds. But there's a weird kind of freedom in lying blindfolded, legs spread wide and feeling thoroughly fucked. Like there's no shame in being this creature that gasps and moans at Sherlock's touch, like there can be no shame in anything they do together.

"Hush," Sherlock says sternly, but he places a quick kiss on John's cheek. John turns his head to him, but Sherlock is not there, instead he feels a caress down his chest. It's not Sherlock's hand, but the same riding crop he used to mark John's chest while fucking  him. Sherlock finds a knot of pain under John's left nipple, a bruise probably, he presses hard and John gasps.

"Touch yourself." John unclenches his fingers, not realizing until now he was gripping the edge of the sofa above his head and moves his hand down, but before he can touch his cock a fast sting lands on his hand. God, that riding crop, John wishes he could see.  "Behind you, two fingers."

John takes a big breath and moves his hand back, two fingers easily sliding in and then out.

"Sherlock," he gasps.

"Tell me," Sherlock asks, softly, his hand coming to rest lightly against John's cheek.

"I'm… I can't. It's too much. Please."

"Tell me."

John breathes heavily, his fingers moving in a merciless rhythm. He wants to be good, wants to please Sherlock, but he can't. It's too much.

Sherlock slaps him and John can feel the pain spreading on his cheek, Sherlock's hand absently petting the heated skin, patient in his own way.

"I can feel your semen inside me," John whispers.  It's true, he's wet with lube and Sherlock's come, spread open and leaking, his fingers covered in it, spreading the fluid inside himself.

Sherlock slaps him again, much harder and John can feel the coppery taste of blood in his mouth. He moans loud and obscene and Sherlock kisses him, opens John's mouth with his tongue, tasting saliva and blood and the words John can't make himself say. John can feel the heat of Sherlock's body above him, surges into his mouth, into the fingers curling possessively around John's bicep. 

When he releases John's mouth Sherlock's voice is deep, almost breathless. "Three fingers," he says and John immediately complies, adding another finger and it's almost enough. He feels the length of the crop against his lips. "Open," Sherlock tells him and John opens his mouth, ready for the pain, but Sherlock just presses the crop against his teeth. "Hold this."

John stays that way for long minutes, three fingers buried deep inside himself, slowing down and picking up the pace to Sherlock's instructions, the crop between his teeth muffling his sounds and forcing him to breathe through his nose.

He suddenly feels Sherlock's hand on his cock, moving up and down in short strokes and it's almost painful how much he needed that. Sherlock's other hand moves to press on his throat and John suddenly can't breathe.

"Faster," Sherlock says, and John tries, caught between the sensations of the brutal hand on his cock, the fingers deep inside him and the panic of losing oxygen.

"You're beautiful," Sherlock tells him, hand moving faster on John, and it sounds oddly like a command. He feels like he's going to die, like Sherlock is killing him. "You're amazing and no one sees this but me. I can have you forever. Let me save you, let me own you." 

He can't see, can't breathe, can barely understand the words, pleasure and pain and Sherlock's hands on him, on his cock and his throat and John can't figure out where it burns more. It feels impossible, too much and out of his control. It builds and builds to an impossible place inside him and John comes with a jolt, the crop falling from his mouth, Sherlock's hand pressing even harder on his throat and the world goes quiet.

John comes to it with Sherlock's fingers inside his mouth. He blinks to discover the tie is off and he can see Sherlock, sitting of the floor next to the sofa, eyes intent on John's mouth as he cleans his own semen from Sherlock's hand.

"Thank you," Sherlock says, quietly.

John releases Sherlock's fingers and sits up, Sherlock leans into him, head falling to rest against John's thigh. And John feels that he belongs there, in 221B with Sherlock, with the books and the experiments, with making questionable choices. With having this deep rooted connection to a man he will never understand and who doesn't bother explaining himself.

He can't imagine a world without all of it, can't fathom living a life that isn't shared with Sherlock Holmes.

"I think you've already saved me," he says softly and Sherlock turns his head to meet his eyes.

"Not yet," he answers, smiling. They sit in the quiet room, barely touching, until John stands up and pulls Sherlock into the shower.


Chapter Text


Sherlock doesn't say anything about saving after that and John doesn't mention it.

John used to think about it sometimes, try to figure out what it was Sherlock meant. If he wanted to save John from himself, or from a life that wasn't worth living, from eating his own gun… He was sure Sherlock knew about those thoughts, the ones John left behind in favour being here.

Sometimes he thinks he was wrong about it all, that Sherlock is much too pragmatic to think that way. So whatever John needs to be shielded from is much more concrete: Jim Moriarty, the string of girlfriends, maybe even Sherlock himself.

But really, after a while, he stops thinking about it. He can't figure out what could possibly threaten Sherlock's hold on him, but his friend's secrets stopped bothering him long ago. He trusts Sherlock, God help him, and so he just lets it go.

What they have together is what it is. John doesn't think he will ever be able to say he is "happy", he's seen too much of the horrors in this world to be naïve enough to think people work that way. But the thing with Sherlock somehow works. Crazy as it all is, they just fucking work.   


That is, until Mycroft offers to send him back.

John didn't expect for it to go quite like this when he got into the black car waiting for him outside the surgery and found Sherlock inside, practically vibrating with pent up irritation. But here they were, two Holmeses in dark suits and one John in a jacket that has seen better days, standing in an abandoned warehouse. With Mycroft saying he wants to hire John. He wants to get John on a plane to Afghanistan.  Give him a uniform and a weapon and send him back. There are contacts to be found in an army hospital and a USB drive to be destroyed. But John can't actually hear all the details for the roaring in his head. It's a painstakingly easy assignment, says Mycroft, but needs someone by tomorrow and that's not enough time to actually train anyone they have to pass as an Army trauma surgeon. Not anyone he can trust, anyway. And John only catches the utter and complete disappointment in Mycroft's voice because he sounds just like Sherlock discussing the idiots that surround him.

The easiest way, naturally, Mycroft tells them, is to send John.

Sherlock hears him out, mouth set in a tight line, and immediately says. "No."

"Don't you think it's John's decision to make, Sherlock?" Mycroft smiles and John can see, from the corner of his eyes, Sherlock's fists clench inside his coat pockets.

"No." Sherlock repeats and looks at John.

John looks at Mycroft. Thinks about pressing his hands over flesh and bone, seeing blood cover his fingers and feeling his eyes water at the ash and dirt, with the sound of choppers roaring above them.

He turns to looks at Sherlock. Remembers long fingers moving deep inside him, opening him so expertly and a voice at his ear, breathless and demanding, whispering "Tell me about your scar, John."

"Is he lying?" John asks Sherlock, because he can't risk it being a move in whatever game Mycroft is playing at.

Sherlock hesitates, eyes intent on Mycroft. "No," he sighs. "Not to the extent I can figure it." 

"I've got a medical discharge," John tells Mycroft. What he actually means is the army thinks he's mental and would never let him near a wounded soldier.  

"Yes," Mycroft answers dryly. "The papers in question have long ago been altered to suggest circumstance of a less," he pauses, turning to look at Sherlock and then back at John "inconvenient nature."

"How very generous of you," Sherlock spits snidely.

"Stop it, Sherlock." John says, harshly.

"You can't seriously consider –" And then Sherlock stops, his eyes wide, staring at John. He looks hurt, and disappointed, and angry, John half expects Sherlock to go and slap him, right there in front of Mycroft. But instead his expression changes to something foreign and inexplicable, he stands there looking at John for long minutes and then turns from them and starts walking way.

John can barely breathe as he looks at his back. Mycroft is mercifully quiet.

"I'll think about it," John tells him.

Mycroft smiles thinly and informs John that he has until tomorrow, John nods and walks away, a dull ache lodged deep within his chest.

Sherlock is not in the black car that brought them there and he's not in the flat when John gets there. He doesn't answer John's calls. Lestrade says he hasn't heard from him in days and Molly says he hasn't been to Bart's either.

John sends him three texts, starting with I don't like being a part of the fucking game you play with your brother. When Sherlock doesn't answer he continues with I am not your property, Sherlock. I'm doing this. The last one is Please come home.

To this Sherlock answers I will. -SH

John waits until 6 am, and then sends Mycroft a text consisting of a single word. Yes. He goes to bed, angry and disappointed, but determined.

He wakes up late, the sun shining bright from the window, which means it's close to noon. Sherlock is sprawled on his side next to John, his hand clenched in the sheet between them.

John groans and reaches for his mobile.

Only one text waiting for him. We shall discuss further information in person. I will be there at 9pm. -MH

Sherlock frowns as John reads then puts the mobile back on the bedside table, but he doesn't do or say anything. Actually, he hasn't moved at all since the moment John woke up. His knuckles are white against the dark sheet and his mouth is pressed into a thin line. John loves him a little too much.

"I need some time before I can talk about this," John says.

"Talking is really not what I had in mind," Sherlock says, shrugging, moves leisurely to push himself on top of John, pressing down with all his weight, and does nothing else except breathe on John's neck. No kisses, no bites, no tongue or lips mapping John's skin, just a warm familiar body covering his and the gentle tickle of breath on the underside of his jaw.

"Sherlock, this is –" John tries to say something about being angry, about being annoyed and very much not in the mood but he is shortly cut off when Sherlock's sharp teeth connect with his skin and lightly graze the spot just behind his ear. A deep, frustrated moan escapes John's mouth.

Sherlock, motivated by John's momentary lapse into participation, moves his mouth down, tracing the line of John's jaw with playful nips and open mouthed kisses. When he reaches his chin, he finishes with a small peck, endearing and disturbing and utterly unfamiliar.

He shifts then, sliding up John's body to level his face with John, his soft breath brushing against John's dried lips. John stares, entranced, at Sherlock, electric blue eyes intense on John. He loves being the centre of Sherlock's attention, having that entire clever, clever mind focused on him, it always feels a little too intense, too dangerous-perfect, something that shouldn't exist, but does .  

John darts his tongue to moisten his lips and immediately regrets it when he almost shivers with how good it feels to have Sherlock breath on his wet lips. They breathe together, sharing each inhale and exhale the way they share their flat, and their bed, and their life – with John watching Sherlock with such naked fascination that he hasn't noticed he fell in rhythm with him until he feels that if he tried to break free, he might just die.

John wishes he could close his eyes and let himself be led to wherever it is Sherlock's deliciously perverted mind wants to take him, but he is still too hurt to let everything go.

"I'm still doing it, and I will do it no matter what," he says. There is a lot he can, and has given up for Sherlock, but this can never be like that.   

"No talking," Sherlock whispers teasingly into his mouth and kisses him.

They spend the rest of the day in bed. Sherlock takes off his jacket and socks around lunchtime and manages to free John from his cardigan shortly after that, but other than that they stay clothed.

They fill the hours with smiling, and kissing, and breathing together, moaning, and gasping, and sighing, but never saying one word. It's not easy. John has to remind himself to breathe more than a few times and there are moments he can't stand to look at Sherlock, or have him look at John. Sherlock kisses him with both their eyes open, and it's the most terrifying thing ever. It's careful and affectionate, and while it's nothing like sex, it's obviously sexual. But it doesn't get John aroused enough to want to do more; he's wired a certain way and this just isn't enough for him to get to that place. Sherlock doesn't push for more and John is content to have this, whatever it is.

At 8:45 Sherlock's alarm goes off and John blinks, then sighs. His mouth is pressed to Sherlock's cheek, both their hands entwined. Sherlock kisses one last time, lazy and wet, and pulls back, ignoring John's soft sound of protest.

"Go take a shower," he whispers and John does, reluctantly separating himself from Sherlock's warmth.

He hopes this isn't goodbye, that Sherlock isn't fucked up enough to be that cruel. He hopes he still has a place in their life when he gets back.


Mycroft is already there when John steps into their living room, sitting comfortably on what is, unofficially, John's armchair and drinking tea.

Sherlock is leaning against the doorframe. A second cup is on the coffee table.

"You made tea?" John asks.

Sherlock shrugs. "I have a case," he says.

John nods, unsure if he should say or do anything. Mycroft coughs.

"Shall we begin?" he asks and John sits opposite him, taking a sip from his tea, which tastes abysmal, and tries to look as sane and reliable as he can manage.

Sherlock stands there watching for a few moments and then leaves.


I'm done. John texts Sherlock a week later, looking down at the unconscious body of the man he has just shot.

By the time Sherlock's reply comes, John's found the drive in the folds of Malcolm Reed's uniform, bandaged the shot wound to his stomach and checked the puncture at his thigh.  

Don't shower. –SH.  Sherlock writes, and John grins, heading to the crushed chopper to call for help.


By the time John walks into 221B nine hours later, dirty and exhausted, and still wearing the uniform, he is so tired he just wants to get to his bed and collapse there.

Sherlock wasn't at the airport, though John briefly fantasized he might be, and neither was his older brother. Mycroft's assistant, though, was there to greet John with a cursory half glance and a black car to take him home.

"I am slightly sorry we had to send someone this trained to handle it. I highly overestimated Mr Reed's resourcefulness," Mycroft says on the phone, calling John on his mobile during the ride.

"Sorry, but I'm rather pleased I didn't have to cut him open to get the drive," John answers and the assistant rolls her eyes.   


The flat is quiet when he opens the door and walks up the stairs.

Sherlock is sitting in the armchair, his back turned to the door.

John stops, breathless, until Sherlock turns to look at him. In a matter of seconds Sherlock gets up and strides up to John, one hand moving to roughly cup John's neck, their faces only an inch apart.

"You're here," Sherlock says, staring down at John. He sounds amazed, almost perplexed and kisses John lightly.

"Mmm…" John manages as Sherlock releases his mouth.

Sherlock laughs. "Come on, you need some sleep," he says and guides John to the bedroom and then on the bed.

John buries his face in the pillow - it smells like Sherlock's shampoo - and he falls asleep almost immediately.


When he wakes up the room is dark. John blinks and finds Sherlock staring at him

"You're covered with dirt." Sherlock says.

"You said no shower," John answers cautiously.

Sherlock stands up and begins unbuttoning his shirt. "Yes, I want to fuck you like this."

Sherlock is fast getting naked, removing his very expensive clothes and throwing them unceremoniously on the bedroom floor. John, still groggy from sleep, lays there- watching him. Sherlock is all long limbs, pale skin taut over muscle, and wild hair. He's half hard, and John looks up from his cock, meets Sherlock's gaze, and licks his lips.

"No," Sherlock shakes his head and begins to remove John's uniform. He's methodical and impersonal about it, slapping away John's hands first when he tries to help and again when he tries to touch Sherlock.

Sherlock cups his palms over John's ankles and spreads his legs open, pushes so his knees are bent, so John is magnificently open beneath him. He takes the lube, starts coating his fingers with it, and John moans staring at those capable hands when, instead of touching John, Sherlock takes hold of his own cock and moves his hand over it.

John doesn't think he can remember ever seeing Sherlock touch himself and it's fascinating and extremely hot how much self-control the man has. His hips never falter, never shove erratically, his mouth never gasps. Sherlock keeps moving his hand up and down in precise rhythm, spreading lube over himself, and John is ready to beg.

"Please," he gasps. "Sherlock, please."   

And Sherlock nods, shifts to align his cock with John's entrance, and pushes.

It burns, a sharp overwhelming sensation like he's being torn open. Sherlock feels big, impossibly so, like he always does, pushing harder and harder, his hands on John's arse, holding John open for him to take, to use.  He moans, writhing under him, breathless and desperate, when Sherlock bottoms out, skin sweaty and cool against the cup of John's hips.

John sucks in a deep breath, but he doesn't get longer than that to collect himself as Sherlock pulls out, and the drives in again, faster and harder, impossibly perfect, hitting John's prostate.

On the third stroke out, John is shivering, it feels like Sherlock is splitting him in half, mercilessly taking what's his and John can't take it, he moves his hand over his eyes, gasping.

"Don't you dare" Sherlock growls, taking both of John's arms and holding them in a tight grip above John's head, as he fucks him. "No one will ever have you like this," Sherlock tells him, eyes wild.

John nods, moaning, bucking his hips to meet Sherlock on every stroke, and Sherlock moves his other hand to support John's back.

"Sherlock," John keens, lost and impossibly desperate.

"Such a good soldier," Sherlock chides and John shivers.

Sherlock pushes John a little into the mattress, shifts the angle and drives in with all the force he can manage. Then does it again and slaps John's arse, sharp and unexpected.

John's cock twitches between them and Sherlock smiles, does it again and again, slaps John's arse until it stings as they move desperately against each other, his other hand tight on John's wrists.

"Whose soldier are you, John?" he whispers into John's ear. He can feel Sherlock's cock inside him, huge and unbearable, his hands taking and giving and shaping John the way Sherlock wants to have him. But Sherlock's words are even worse, scolding hot and tight in John's chest, forcing him to find new places for Sherlock to hurt, to fill. The answer is so clear John wonders why he needed to go back to Afghanistan to see it. Or why Sherlock, with all his brilliance, needs to hear the answer.

"Yours," he says. "You, it's always going to be you. Just you."

Sherlock stops hitting him, releases his hands and grips John's hips tightly.

"Always me," he says, voice rough and commanding, and drives so deep inside him that John screams, the snap of Sherlock's hips pushing him over the edge until he is shaking and empty.

Sherlock pulls out, but doesn't release John from his hold, one hand digging into the skin of John's wrists, and moves his other hand to stroke himself. It takes only a few minutes for him to come, with a groan, on John's abused arse. Sherlock looks down, his thumb gently rubbing in his semen into the hot skin and John shudders, he feels open and dirty and home.   


They take a long shower after that, Sherlock pushing down on John's head with a smirk on his face, and John enthusiastically going to his knees. Sherlock lets him mouth his cock for a few minutes, leisurely petting John's hair, but he pushes John off him when his own breath gets laboured.

They dry off and Sherlock strips the dirty sheets off the bed, sits down and then directs John so he is practically in Sherlock's lap, straddling him face to face. He guides John's hands around his neck, and then pulls John down on his cock.  

"Tell me everything you did," Sherlock says, fingers pressing tight on the red marks already forming on John's hips.

John stammers through it, truthful and crazy with lust.


"And then I went back to the chopper…" John gasps out as he finishes. "And then, God, Sherlock, then I called the base. And, fuck," he breathes heavily, blinking sweat from his eyes. "I told them we got shot down and they sent a team."          

"And then you came back," Sherlock notes as he guides John on a down stroke.

"Yes." John feels like he's going to die of pent-up arousal, it's all too slow and not enough, Sherlock's cock deep inside, with his fingers leaving marks on John's hips, almost there, and his cock desperate for attention and leaking on both their stomachs.

Sherlock, as if reading his thoughts, presses harder, guides John to a faster, almost brutal pace, two, three, four strokes and then comes , biting on John's throat.  John throws his head back and follows.

They lay on the mattress, naked and thoroughly spent, John's fingers drawing intricate patterns on Sherlock's collarbone, their legs entwined.

"You were angry with me," Sherlock says. "Before you left. Because of how I reacted to Mycroft."

John sighs, but nods. "Yeah, a bit. But, honestly, I was angrier with myself."

"Because you don't like to feel like you have no choice."

"Among other things," John doesn't like to feel like he's losing himself in Sherlock too much, but he doesn't think Sherlock could understand the emotion behind the statement even if John could master the ability to say it out load. 

"But you came back," Sherlock tries and then stops, the question silent, but John understands.

"Because the fact that I've realized I'm practically your pet doesn't suddenly makes me less dependent on you, " John manages to say, even though he feels humiliated. Sherlock stays silent for a while and John doesn't know what to do, hopeless and terrified.

"You're not. That," Sherlock finally says, very quietly. "That's not it. That's too… simple." The last word is said with disgust and John is suddenly furious.

"Because I'm simple, Sherlock," he says. Sherlock frowns but keeps quiet, and with a sigh John continues. "I'm a capable doctor and a damn good shot. I like my tea unsweetened, and doing the crosswords in the Sunday Times, and sometimes I also like to get on my knees and suck your cock. I know those things about myself and I don't care if there are labels for them or not or what it means pathologically, because to me they are just what they are. And that makes me simple. And I don't mind, Sherlock."

"I don't find you simple," Sherlock says challengingly.

"No," John tells him bitterly." You find me convenient."

Sherlock laughs, a loud, surprising noise as his eyes dance with amusement. The sheer beauty of him like this, open and warm and so easy to love throws John so much that he's still staring when Sherlock moves to hesitantly press his thumb to John's lips.

"You are improbable, John," he says, staring into John's eyes, willing him to understand. "You make me crave things I never imagined I could want, much less depend on. You are the most inconvenient person I've ever met."

John bites on Sherlock's thumb in response. He doesn't see that, doesn't know what it means.

Sherlock strokes his thumb over John's lips. "I love you," he says, confident and abrasive – a unique kind of honest.

John blinks. It's a little too much to handle. Sherlock moves closer, pressing himself against John's body, filling every empty space between them.

"I don't want you to go," Sherlock whispers into the crook of John's neck. "But if you do, I will always wait for you to come back."

John nods, overwhelmed and broken. He wishes he could answer, but he can't, everything is too much to bear, to think about, so he closes his eyes and rests the palm of his hand against the warm skin of Sherlock's back.

And Sherlock hums in satisfaction like that's enough of a promise by itself.


John figured out, somewhere on the road to Bastion base, in the passenger seat of a land rover, that what was offered was probably more than one mission. It was a second chance at something bigger, the chance to play a part he could excel at. But looking at a land he never thought he'd see again, it's painful but obvious the scorching Afghani sun over the desert plain has lost its comfort and familiarity. John has remodelled himself so he could fit at Sherlock's side and now being any other place would just be wrong, unnatural.

"No, thank you," he answers when Mycroft makes the offer.

Mycroft is obviously taken aback. "Why?" he asks, turning to look at Sherlock, noisily practicing his violin, as if he is to blame for all that is wrong in the world.

John shrugs, pouring milk from the posh creamer into his posh cup of tea. The tea service was a gift from Mycroft for John's birthday. When it came John sat and stared in horror at the package while Sherlock screamed on the phone, "You have no right to send birthday gifts to my friends, Mycroft!"

"I do appreciate the offer," John says now.  "But I already have a job; two actually."

Mycroft shakes his head, exasperated at them both.

Sherlock smirks from the other side of the room, gleeful and manic. John smiles fondly at him.




Chapter Text


John's life doesn't change very much. He still spends a few days in the surgery being bored senseless, and dedicates the rest of his time to following Sherlock into what are mostly crime scenes, but occasionally turn out to be actual crimes. He does the shopping and the dishes, while Sherlock once a month dusts half-heartedly and calls it "cleaning the flat". They share the rent and they eat together whichever meal Sherlock eats that day, and Sherlock still mercilessly mocks John's typing.

They don't touch more than they used to, at least not that John's noticed. Kissing has become part of their means of communication, so there is a little more of that going on, but it's not like they've suddenly became interested in engaging in public displays of affection. Sex is still a once-a-fortnight, mind-bogglingly dirty, and intense affair. Nothing really changes, except Sherlock starts telling John he loves him. All the time. John doesn't think Sherlock has actually noticed just how much he says it.

"I love the way you make tea," Sherlock says, when John hands him the old trusty RAMC mug because Sherlock tends to refuse drinking from the posh new service from Mycroft.

"I love you best in real clothes," he comments absently when John dresses up for Clara's PhD graduation celebratory dinner.

"I do love you John, but you're being extremely stupid about this," when John suggests they wait for a postmortem for once.

"I love you," Sherlock whispers against his lips, kissing John one morning, sleepy and warm and perfect.

John doesn't mind being told. It's quite nice, really, to have the emotional-and-social-interactions-are-beneath-me Sherlock Holmes declare his undying adoration for John on a daily basis, but John hasn't yet managed to say it back and it sours the whole experience.

John wants to tell Sherlock he loves him, because he does love him, to some crazy extremes that apparently include murder and giving up on consulting for the RAMC, to name a few. But he can't force the words out of his mouth.

He spends one lunch hour in front of the mirror in the loo at work, looking at his own face and trying to say it out loud. Four simple words: I love Sherlock Holmes. Or even simpler: I love you, too.  

"I…" he stares at his reflection stubbornly, "I. Love. Hmmm."

His mouth seals in a pout, refusing to cooperate, and John gives up and goes back to busy himself with flus and coughs and one broken wrist.


The only thing he can do now, John decides one day on his way home, is tell Sherlock he loves him while fucking. Which might be easier than saying it seemingly out of nowhere, considering John has tons of experience telling previous partners he loves them during sex. But that also means Sherlock would probably dismiss the declaration as John being overenthusiastic.  Because apparently Sherlock would never 'hold John to any promise or declaration made in those moments', even if Sherlock himself insisted John can 'always rely on his own words being as truthful as if they were said any other time'.

"Why?" John asked, exasperated and somewhat hurt when Sherlock told him this.

"Because while I find sexual interactions of the kind we have a natural manifestation of the fact that I love you, you categorize them as sessions to be played at and that are nothing more than addenda to our life, not to mention you find it offensive when those patterns repeat in other aspects of our partnership," Sherlock replied absently, staring at his computer screen.

"I do not –" John tried to protest.

"I have to finish this, John," Sherlock cut across him. "I wasn't aware you were still oblivious to the way I see things, after the conversation we had when you accused me of treating you like a pet. But let me assure you that whatever difference of opinion we hold, it has no significance in reality. So I would appreciate it if you save the personal self-examination for later and let me work."

Sherlock stopped typing at that and turned to look at John, waiting. John sighed and nodded, defeated.

He spends most of that week annoyed that Sherlock seems to think he is more invested in their relationship than John, which is ridiculous because John has, and always will, put Sherlock in the centre of his whole existence. Even worse was John couldn't do anything about it, no matter how much he tried, because he's never really learnt how to verbalize the things he wants and feels.

Saying it during sex seems like a good enough start, if not the solution to his problem.

Only suddenly whenever they have sex, John's mouth is preoccupied (kneeling between Sherlock's legs, hands tied behind his back), or gagged (a handkerchief stuffed into his mouth, Sherlock holding him open, saying "harder, come on" as John's nails scratch at his own skin), or really busy trying not to let water into his lungs (Sherlock's hand gripping him by the hair, pushing his face into the bath again, and again, and again until John's desperate with it, shaking and screaming every time he's allowed oxygen until he's finally coming, glorious, and painful, and desperate).

In the quiet moments that always come after, John stares at Sherlock and wonders how it is Sherlock cannot see that it's just as real for John. He studies Sherlock's shoulders, his fingers, the pale skin of his thighs and thinks I love you, I love you, I'm yours, but stays quiet.           


Sherlock takes on a case, trying to prove to a very young, very pretty Violet Merville that her seemingly amazing, handsome boyfriend, Albert Gruner, is actually only interested in her trust fund. Sherlock wouldn't have deemed it remotely interesting enough, of course, if Gruner hadn't been suspected of murdering a previous girlfriend in Italy a year ago.

"The Italian authorities said it was an accident," Sherlock tells John, who missed the day's events, working double shifts all week while covering for Sarah, who was off in the south of France on her honeymoon. "The report states the polizia found him crying over her naked body. She was asphyxiated, of course. Not really much to doubt there."

"How can you be sure?" John asks, quietly.

"I read the file."

John stares at Sherlock's figure, sitting in their bed and reading through a book while watching John change for bed, completely unfazed. "Was… Did he strangle her with his hands?" John asks, tentatively.

"Oh no, he used a collar," Sherlock answers, calmly turning back to the book.

John gets under the covers, exhausted and confused, lying with his back to Sherlock, and falls asleep almost immediately with the soothing sensation of Sherlock's fingertips against his nape. He wakes up in the middle of the night, alarmed and breathless for reasons that have already slipped away from him and finds the bed empty.


"How is the case going?" John asks when he sees Sherlock next, getting out of his morning shower two days later, and kisses him lightly on the lips.

Sherlock blinks at him, kisses him again, harder, mouth slightly open and demanding, his hand curling around John's bare hip. John smiles against him, taking a step back.

"Work," he says apologetically when Sherlock hums in disappointment.  

"Boring," Sherlock quips, sighing dramatically and John grins at him.

"Tell me about Gruner," he asks, crossing the room to Sherlock's wardrobe.

"He's smart," Sherlock frowns, "very handsome, and extremely charismatic.  He meets women and charms them into having a relationship. He chooses girls who're ready to be submissive, but aren't daring enough to try alone.  He plays the part of a hedonist, only what he wants is actually to break them." He waits for John to turn and meet his eyes before he continues. "Gruner makes them depend on him, adore him so much they're crushed when he leaves them. The ones he doesn't kill, anyway."

John nods, silent. Sherlock needs an audience more than he needs conversation, and John doesn't really know what to say. Everything seems daft, or insulting, and Sherlock would surely find anything John asks irrelevant. It's strange how he never noticed that Sherlock and he never discuss their sexual habits, but it's glaringly obvious now. And any question he has seems too intimate to discuss for the first time in relation to a case.  

"She thinks she's in love with him," Sherlock continues, sounding annoyed. "And she's young enough that any danger she is aware of seems romantic. It's so stupid, John, she doesn't think at all." He stays silent after that, retreating into his own head.

John kisses the mess of hair on top of Sherlock's head, getting an appreciative noise in return, and leaves for the surgery. He can't help wondering what Sherlock sees when he looks at John.


When John is back, Sherlock is lying on the sofa, still dressed in his coat, obviously sulking.

"Tea?" John asks and Sherlock nods miserably.

"Gruner told her everything," he tells John later. The two of them are sitting on the sofa, Sherlock's head resting on John's good thigh, the fingers of their left hands entwined. Sherlock's taken off his coat and opened his shirt collar as well as removed John's jacket and shoes.  "He made her think people were judging him because of his tastes."

It's not something John thinks they usually do, sitting together like this, having a real conversation while touching. But Sherlock obviously needs the comfort, gravitating nervously around John, and it is oddly comfortable.

"They probably were," he says and Sherlock tenses. "Every good lie needs some truth to make it believable," John reminds him.

Sherlock sighs. "He is good at that. She believes nothing, but what he tells her."

Sherlock's fingers curl around his wrist lightly, thumb pressing on John's pulse and then drawing it against his lips, kissing John's wrist.

"Why does this bother you?" John asks.

Sherlock grazes his tips against John's skin. "I love how you taste," he says instead of answering.

Lying in bed that night, John finds everything about that case makes him uneasy, makes him look at Sherlock, his warm body wrapped around John, and wonder if maybe he's been brainwashed and conditioned as well. He doesn't think he would leave if anybody came up to him and told him Sherlock was going to kill him. He remembers Sally Donovan's warning that first night, remembers Sherlock's hands tightening impossibly around his neck. 'Someday it's not going to be enough' and then one squeeze too much, one second too long, and John would stop breathing, vision going black, and never wake up. He doesn't think he'll ever believe it, but even if he did, maybe, someday, he doesn't think he could leave anyway.

John wonders if Violet is having trouble falling sleep as well, held in Gruner's arms the way he is held in Sherlock's , and has the same thoughts running through her head.


Sherlock is still agitated next morning, pacing back and forth in the living room. 

"Is this because you think you're like him?" John finally asks him.

"In what way, exactly, am I like him?" Sherlock stops and turn to, his eyes focused on John, studying him.

"A." John coughs, uneasy, and looks at the floor. "A sadist."

Saying the word out load is more frightening that it should be. It hangs between them, heavy and dangerous. When he looks up again, Sherlock's jaw is clenched tight and his hands are fisted, he looks like he's going to hit John, but his voice is steady and cold when he speaks. "Why," he asks, taking a step closer to John. "Afraid I'm going to kill you?" 

"No," John answers quickly, but there's something in his voice that makes Sherlock's face twist in disgust.

"Your self-loathing is really quite pathetic," he tells John snidely and moves dangerously closer, backing John into the wall, in a few short steps. "You do. You think I might just push a little too hard and kill you someday. Do you think about it and touch yourself?" He whispers in John's ear, voice low and breathless. "A masochist with a death wish, of course, how could I miss this?" Clever fingers trace John's hardening cock through the trousers and John closes his eyes as Sherlock lips whisper in his ear. "Tell me, John, do you dream of an orgasm that kills you? Do you dream of my cock up your arse and my hands around your throat and dying like that?"

"I… No." John mutters, because that's the right answer. It has to be.

Sherlock laughs, short and bitter, and goes to his knees so fast it makes John's head spin, making quick work of John's trousers and pushing everything down. John stares, breathing hard. He doesn't know what he wants. He feels small, too small for everything to fit inside himself.

Sherlock's hand is tight and perfect on his cock, twisting with every upstroke. "Come on, John," Sherlock tells him, moving it faster. "Show me you can come like this. Just my hand, come on, prove me wrong."

John whines. Sherlock knows his body and in a matter of minutes he's close, too close, to coming. And it's an impossible, perfect pleasure, sweet and uncomplicated and it's not enough, it never was for him.  

"Please," He gasps. "Please, please. God, Sherlock."

Sherlock's hand moves faster, tighter. "Please what?"

John bites his lower lip, his nails dig into his palms and he concentrates on that. One small scrape of pain and it's still not enough. He's impossibly close to orgasm, hanging desperately on edge, and he needs.

"More," he growls, barely coherent. "More, please. I want you to. Make me."   

 Sherlock's thumb slides over the slit, spreading John's precome over the glans. "Just this, show me you can," he whispers.

But John can't, he really can't. He needs Sherlock now, needs him like he always does, to take, to own, to hurt. John opens his eyes and looks down. Sherlock's eyes are wild, dilated and desperate, his free hand digging into his own thigh, and John is in awe at how much in control he is.

He can see everything Sherlock's even done to John in his white knuckles, every way he's ever hurt him or made him beg, every way he loves John, every way John loves him back.          

"I need you," John says, looking in his eyes. "Please, Sherlock, please hurt me."

Sherlock growls, his hand tightening even further on John's cock, and he bites, sharp teeth piercing the skin of John's bad thigh. John shouts as he comes, the pain and pleasure perfect, shattering John as he slides down to the floor, gasping.

Sherlock pushes himself back, still on his knees. His shirt collar and throat are covered in John's come, and the wet patch on his own trousers in obvious.

Both of them stay long minutes on the floor, sweaty and dirty and breathing hard, staring at one another. Neither of them says a word.


Sherlock gets himself into the A&E that very night. Apparently Gruner did not appreciate the interest in his affairs and sends a warning in the shape of three broken ribs and concussion. 

"You careless bastard," John tells Sherlock's unconscious body. "You're too brilliant to act like this."

Sherlock hums and turns in his sleep and John sighs.


When two days later John finds himself alone with Gruner in his flat, very much involved in a case he'd tried to stay away from, just because Sherlock, looking miserable and restless in his hospital bed asked him to help, it really shouldn't come as a surprise Sherlock doesn't do the one and only thing John asked him. Namely – stay in bed and rest. 

Gruner is standing in the middle of the room, aiming a knife at John. "I'm going to carve your face so nobody knows it's you," he tells John, "You're not as pretty as I'm used to, but I'm still going to enjoy it."

John braces himself, pulls all his weight to his left side so he'll be ready to jump Gruner the moment he's close enough. He breathes fast and hard, trying to make Gruner think he's more hurt than he really is when a shot rings through the air and Gruner's body slumps on the floor.

John looks right to see Sherlock standing in the door leading to what he thinks is the garden, holding John's gun.

"You're supposed to be in bed," he tells Sherlock, as he gets up and goes to Gruner, checking for pulse.

"If I had stayed in bed, there would be nobody here to save you," Sherlock answers, smiling faintly as he leans back against the wall, pain evident in his face.

"I would manage," John scoffs, goes to Sherlock and pushes up his shirt, ignoring the wince when he presses on the bandage around Sherlock's torso.

"I know," Sherlock says, sharp eyes looking down at John, taking in every small detail. "But I couldn't bear to think about him touching you. Also, you forgot your gun at home."

"I wasn't planning on shooting anyone," John sighs, kissing the underside of Sherlock's jaw.

"Well, obviously, that was stupid of you." Sherlock answers as the sounds of sirens grow stronger.   


Sherlock tells Lestrade one of Gruner's previous girlfriends shot him, and when John checks the ballistics report the bullet is found to match another gun.

"Mycroft," Sherlock answers simply from his sick bed on the sofa, when John asks him about it.

"So you could go on a killing spree and Mycroft would just cover it up?" John asks, curious.

"Yes," Sherlock grins and then cocks his head, expression softening. "Well, to a certain limit, of course.  Had you taken that job offer, he'd probably ask for your help."

John snorts and leans back in his armchair. "I tidy up after you enough as it is."

Sherlock smiles indulgently. "You do."

John smiles back, wants to say things like I love the way you hurt me and I'll never be able to leave you. But Sherlock has three broken ribs and John's not ready. 

"I'm going to tell you," he promises Sherlock instead.

Sherlock nods and doesn't push.  


A month after Sherlock shot Gruner, John's still waiting.   

He's coming home rather late one evening from the surgery, and discovers Sherlock sitting on the sofa, holding a collar. Holding a thick, black leather collar. John gulps audibly and Sherlock smirks at him.

He's ready to sink to his knees, crawl over and beg for it, whatever it actually is, but he can't. Can't move, can't breathe, the world seemingly goes quiet, focuses on Sherlock's fingers caressing the leather. The revelation is like a slap. No, like being run over by a bus, sudden and brutal. He thinks he should have known this about himself, about them. He always thought that someday Sherlock would cross that line, the one that will break John. But he figures there is no line. There's no going too far with this, because he doesn't know where what Sherlock wants stops and what he's willing to do begins. Everything is blurred together, inseparable. They fit together, broken, and twisted and perfect.

"Your ribs?" John asks breathlessly.

"Are fine," Sherlock answers. "Come here."

And John does, moving fast to stand in front of Sherlock, who smiles wide and pulls him into his lap. John straddles him, knees spread on either side of Sherlock's thighs, and presses his mouth against Sherlock's. Close, but barely touching, breathing together and then Sherlock kisses him, deep and soft, his free hand twisting in John's hair.

"Do you still want to –"

"Yes," John moans, "Yes, I –"

"Shh," Sherlock silences him, pressing one last peck on his lips. "Put this on me." He hands John the collar, and John stares at it, heavy and unfamiliar in his palm. He looks up at Sherlock's eyes, and just breathes, overwhelmed and slightly unbalanced.

"Okay?" Sherlock asks, and John nods.

John's fingers deftly place it around Sherlock's throat and close the buckle with a surgeon's capability. John makes sure Sherlock can breathe comfortably and then caresses the band, just for a second. It's striking, dark against Sherlock's pale throat, the colour matching his hair and his pupils. He's gorgeous, and John's in awe.     

"Tell me now," Sherlock whispers, covering the hand still on the collar with his own. "Tell me like this."

"I –" John begins and stops, touches with his thumb across the leather and then up across Sherlock's skin. "I love you." He can feel himself smiling. "I love you because you're impossible. I love you because you saved me from myself. I love you because you want me, and because you love me back," it comes out in a rush, easy and freeing, and the best thing John ever said. "I love you when you kiss me, and when you fuck me, and when you hurt me. I love you because you forgive me and I am yours because I don't want to be anything else. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, Sherlock.  I love you, I love you, I love you."

He grins, breathless and exhilarated, and Sherlock grins back, brilliant and stunning, and all his. John kisses him, deep and happy, and opens the buckle, removing the collar and giving it back to Sherlock, who throws it away.

Sherlock kisses him back, open and wet, and then pushes John to the floor, covering him with his body.

"I love you," John whispers between kisses. "You're all mine and I love you."

Sherlock bites his lip playfully. "I love you, too. Now be quiet."


Nothing really changes after that, except everything does.