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Sherlock is aware, on some level, that Baker Street has seen tidier days. John was—away, and then he was back but apparently not at the top of his form, and while Mycroft did shell out quite a bit of money, in between then and now, to hold Sherlock's life open for him, Sherlock doubts that there's enough in any of Mycroft's accounts to convince Mrs. Hudson to be anything other than their landlady. But today, Sherlock has a case—an actual, significant case—so when John asks if it's all right if he cleans the flat while Sherlock is out, Sherlock agrees without really paying attention or thinking to offer anything in the nature of an exclusion, and then later, when John texts to ask if it's all right if he cleans in Sherlock's bedroom, Sherlock texts back an affirmative automatically, hardly glancing at his mobile.

He has a case.

He picks up more Lemsip on his way home, since John's still not finished with the headcold that's forced Sherlock out alone for five days in a row and if John's not finished theirs off yet, he will soon. Mrs. Hudson would, undoubtedly, cluck revoltingly if she knew that John was up and about trying to clean the flat and not in bed resting, but Sherlock thinks that John declining to come along on a case (a case, a proper case, with the police) is concession enough to his cold and the miserable autumn weather, and also that John's bored enough to be just about ready to start taking potshots out the window: well-meaning deference to Mrs. Hudson's wallpaper, perhaps, but not, in general, an activity approved of by the police. Sherlock hurries home.

The living room is much tidier, the kitchen is almost disturbingly pristine—Sherlock's been gone for... just over six hours, hm—and the flat is, overall, silent. He drops the Lemsip on the coffee table and tugs off his gloves. "John?"

"Upstairs," John calls, so Sherlock hangs up his coat, then grabs the Lemsip again and heads up the stairs.

John's lying the wrong way around on his bed with—hm—Sherlock's laptop in front of him, the thick blue fleece blanket Harry gave him last Christmas tugged up high over his shoulders, down over his feet. The room is cold, but John looks a little flushed.

"Are you getting worse?" Sherlock demands, and then holds out the Lemsip. "You're out of Lemsip."

"Not quite, actually." John clears his throat noisily. "Almost, though. Thanks." He coughs, then clears his throat again.

"If you're trying to be reassuring, that noise isn't helping," Sherlock tells him.

"I really am fine," John says, smiling, and Sherlock sighs and comes over to sit on the edge of the bed. John twists to look up at him. His expression has gone unreadable: mouth relaxed, eyes not.

"You don't have a chair," Sherlock explains. "If you're going to stay up here, this is the only place for me to sit."

"Oh." John shrugs under his blanket. "Sometimes you want me to—not be around, when you're thinking."

Sherlock waves a hand. "Nothing to think about," he says. "Brother-in-law. Tedious. DNA evidence all over the gardening shears, too, unless I'm wrong—I'm not wrong—so proving it won't even be hard."

"Mm." John rests his chin on his hand, regarding him. Sherlock frowns at John's bare forearm, then at the laptop.

"Why do you have my laptop?" Sherlock asks.

"Something happened to my power cord," John says, mouth twitching, and Sherlock straightens.

"Oh, right." He clears his throat. "I'll get you another."

"I know." John is watching him. "You really want me to come downstairs?"

"I'm not particular," Sherlock says, then hunches his shoulders. "I should've got my dressing gown—is it always this cold up here?"

John is quiet for a minute, watching him. Then he says, apropos of nothing, "I did clean your bedroom, you know."

Sherlock frowns at him. "What does that have to do with anything? Thank you."

"Of course." John stops, then clears his throat. "You... you have rather the, um. Collection. Under your bed."

Under his bed. Under his—oh. That collection. Yes. Well. Sherlock looks out the window and clears his throat. He isn't at all certain what John would consider to be the appropriate thing to say, under the circumstances.

"I don't mean to embarrass you." John's voice is slow. John is embarrassed. Sherlock doesn't know why he continues. "But. I—I couldn't help but notice a, um. Theme."

Sherlock turns to look at him. "The gender of the participants is in no way specific enough to constitute a theme," he says, "and at this point it can't possibly be a surprise to you—"

John holds up a hand. "It's not," he says. "Or, well—the fact that you have porn under your bed—porn on DVD, no less, that seems rather... Luddite-ish, for you—that was a bit of a surprise. But otherwise—no. It wasn't a surprise."

Sherlock doesn't say anything. John's bed is a single. Sherlock is sitting on the very edge, leaving perhaps... fourteen inches, maximum, between John's head and Sherlock's own hip. John hasn't moved, though.

"I didn't mean the gay thing, when I said there was a theme," John says, very gently.

Sherlock closes his eyes. The problematic piece of being shoehorned into this particular conversation is that there is a theme. Sherlock doesn't know if John would've noticed five years ago, or four, or three, but the... collection, to borrow John's term, is of later date, and John's observational skills have been improving. Sherlock isn't a sentimental person, but in this he knows that he betrayed himself: when he was... traveling, his internet access had been by necessity limited, so he'd ended up resorting to more tangible technologies when acquiring a smallish number of films, all of which happened to feature highly implausible and (in Sherlock's experience) vanishingly infrequent sexual encounters between men in shared living situations. It had been clinical, really; it had been something to take him out of the brutal efficiency of his own day-to-day existence; he couldn't afford to be sedated and chemicals were risky for him in any case, so masturbation was just about the only sleep aid he'd been able to utilize, at the time. It was only after he'd purchased the fourth DVD that he'd caught the more humiliating undercurrents of his own motives. It hadn't made a difference. He hadn't stopped at four.

"My apologies." Sherlock clears his throat, blinking up at the ceiling. "I didn't—it didn't occur to me, when you asked about my room, I wouldn't—I'm perfectly aware of your feelings on the subject, and I wouldn't ever have brought it up, I know that—"

"Sherlock," John says, and Sherlock stops.

Sherlock rubs at his face.

"If you're cold, I have a blanket," John says, very quietly. "We could share."

It hurts. Sherlock curls his fingers up tight and doesn't press at his breastbone or his throat or the aching sharp feeling inside his nose, beneath his eyes. "Your pity is both inappropriate and unwanted," he manages, a hair too fast. He takes a breath. "I wouldn't—can't we just. Pretend. That—"

"Sherlock." John sounds exasperated. "I in general save my pity for people who make me homicidal on a less regular basis. Are you going to get under the blanket or not?"

Sherlock looks down at him. John's face is very pink, and his forearm—his forearm is bare. His forearm is bare, but John always wears long-sleeve shirts or snuggly jumpers and sleeps in sweats in the winter that make Sherlock overwarm just to look at him and naked in the summer (same effect, different reason) but he always puts his dressing gown on, wrapped tight, covering himself up, before he comes downstairs. Sometimes, very rarely, when Sherlock has inexplicably managed to please some deity he doesn't really believe in, John rolls up his sleeves. It is almost unbearably distracting, and also why Sherlock has found himself in growing sympathy with the Victorian fascination with ankles, but today, right now, under his long thick fuzzy blue blanket, John's forearm is unapologetically and inexplicably bare.

Sherlock exhales. He reaches over and curls his fingers around the edge of the blanket. John is watching him. Sherlock tugs the blanket down, a fraction of an inch, and then another, and then another, and John lets him, until each sliver of skin adds up to the swell of John's right shoulder, bared and golden. Sherlock stops. John has a mole on his back, not quite four inches out from his spine, three-quarters of an inch down from the ridge of his shoulder. Sherlock wants to put his mouth on it. He puts his finger on it instead, and John shivers.

"You're letting the cold in." John's voice is rough.

"You haven't, ever." Sherlock drags his eyes up to John's face. "You—this is a foolish thing to do, John. With me. You haven't, ever."

John licks his lips. "No," he says. "But—I think about you. I, I think about you a lot, when I." He clears his throat. "So."

Sherlock swallows. "I don't think about you," he explains, too fast, "because I—if I start I won't stop, and I—I wouldn't be able to be—normal, I wouldn't—"

John is shaking his head, pushing up onto his knees, saying, "No, I—Sherlock," and oh, God, he really is naked, that wasn't just some helplessly over-hopeful delusion—Sherlock has to touch him but he can't because John is leaning towards him because John is going to kiss him, oh. John's a good kisser; Sherlock knows, because he pays attention, and now Sherlock knows because John is kissing him, his mouth firm and a little rough at the edges with stubble and when he opens his mouth Sherlock opens his mouth and John's tongue is thick and tidally slow and Sherlock will happily get his headcold—would happily get six headcolds—for the way John's body heat is seeping into him, dripping down through all the suddenly hollow spaces inside him to pool at the root of his body—

Sherlock pulls back, away, heart pounding, saying, "You—just—hang on, please," and then tugs the blanket up hastily over John's shoulders, wrapping it around him, tucking it under his arms to keep him warm while John blinks at him, looking confused. "It's just," Sherlock explains, bending to untie his shoes— "you're very—I really haven't, I genuinely haven't thought about having sex with you—" tugging at the buttons on his shirt— "or, well, I—I have, but not—I always made myself stop so I don't—" pushing off his socks, because it's important to consciously take off his socks before his trousers because otherwise he inevitably ends up naked except for his socks and that just looks ridiculous— "I don't have ways of—you know, not, um—so I think this is probably going to be unfortunately rather fast and I really like these trousers, so—" and he finally gets the button undone, and—and John is laughing at him, a little, but also pushing the blanket back and pulling Sherlock in by the waistband of his pants and rolling on top of him, which—oh, oh, John is really very naked.

"You're very naked," Sherlock tells him.

"Yeah." John gets, improbably, pinker, and then touches his fingertips to Sherlock's mouth.

"The first time with a man you've never had sex with before is frequently terrible," Sherlock tells him miserably, pressing up against John's solid warm weight and oh, God, just—tremendously, tremendously naked. "It does get better; please don't give up."

"For the record," John says, very gently, "that's true with women, too," and then bends down and kisses him again and again and again until the edges of it all melt together and Sherlock is drowning in it, John's mouth on his mouth and John's body on his body and John is so—hot, well, yes, of course he's hot, he probably has a fever. Sex is reputed to boost the immune system, though, so that's all right, isn't it? Sherlock puts his hands on John's arse, which is—entirely in line with Sherlock's hypotheses—fantastic.

"Can I take off your pants?" John manages, then ducks his head towards his own shoulder, coughing a little.

"Are you all right?" Sherlock asks worriedly.

"Yeah," John says, and then, "Can I take off your pants?" He keeps putting his hands in Sherlock's hair but he's much gentler about it than Sherlock is used to, which makes Sherlock's throat hurt. "I mean." John shifts, a little, and Sherlock sucks in a breath, because yes, no, his pants are both uncomfortably tight and really shockingly superfluous at this point, the head of his cock already nudging out against the soft warm skin of John's belly.

"Yes," Sherlock tells him, and then John proceeds to accidentally kick him twice while they're struggling to get them off. "Next time," Sherlock tells him, anxious and hopeful, "next time we should just—be already naked—"

"I was already naked," John reminds him, rubbing his nose against Sherlock's cheek and then kissing him again—oh, skin. Sherlock pets at John's back. "It's just—" John kisses him again— "you were, you took an awfully long time—" and again— "to catch on—" and again, and Sherlock can't stand it. He rolls up onto his side, tucking his leg between John's legs and rolling his hips into John's hips as John gasps, "Oh—Christ—and you call yourself a detective."

"Shut up," Sherlock tells him, and John laughs, then coughs—he oughtn't to cough, he's a doctor—and Sherlock kisses his throat and his jaw and his mouth and his mouth and his mouth and John keeps breathing too hard and arching into him, his cock sweaty-slick against Sherlock's cock and his hands in Sherlock's hair, down the backs of his shoulders, then suddenly pressing down hard into Sherlock's arms as Sherlock squeezes his (fantastic) arse, pulling him closer—and closer—and closer—and Sherlock can feel it, when John curls his toes up, his foot tucked against Sherlock's ankle; Sherlock can feel the stuttering rhythm of John's breath, before John even makes a small, ragged-edged noise, coughing then gasping then coughing as he wells up slick between them, oh, oh, Sherlock's mind is going in too many directions at once, he wants to taste John but he doesn't want to pull back, he doesn't want—he wants to make John take more Lemsip and go to bed—he wants no space between them, he wants John's knuckles, soft over his cheek and then digging in hard into his hair and pulling

"Okay," Sherlock hears himself saying, very high, and John laughs, breathless, and kisses him again like Sherlock isn't already overfull of them, John's breath John's saliva John's heat John's tongue, and Sherlock tightens his arms around John's back and drowns happily, shivering and helpless. John isn't coughing anymore; maybe he's better and later they can do it again.

John's hands on him feel far away. "I'm not asleep," Sherlock tells him, blinking.

"Of course not." John stretches over him to drop whatever he'd used to mop them up over the edge of the bed—Sherlock's pants, apparently; Sherlock will be irritated about that later. Sherlock pulls John back over him and then the blanket over them both, tugging it awkwardly up to John's ears. John is laughing, which is familiar, and pressing his face down into Sherlock's shoulder, which isn't. Sherlock curls his toes and slides his arms around John's back, and then finds that they are kissing—and then finds that they are nose-to-nose, unmoving—and then finds John's breath has gone slow and even—

Sherlock opens his eyes. "You watched it," he says.

"Fshrgh," John tells him, and pats at Sherlock's face without opening his eyes.

Sherlock squeezes John's arse, because it's handy, and John mumbles and squints up at him.

"You didn't just find my collection, you watched it," Sherlock says.

John blinks at him. "Yes?" he says, voice thick, and then yawns, then coughs. "Some of it? I mean, I'd apologize, but—"

"That's rather an unfair advantage," Sherlock says, pressing his fingertips to John's lowest rib, light. "You—"

"You steal my laptop all the time," John points out. "I know you've watched my porn because afterwards, you argue with me about it."

"That woman's breasts were absolutely fake," Sherlock tells him. "Well-done work, I admit, but—"

"Not the point." John sighs. "You can't expect me to find out that you watch porn and not have a go at getting some of my own back."

Sherlock snorts.

"Besides." John shifts against him, which is—hm. "It's not like I'd ever have greeted you naked under my blanket in my bedroom with no clue that you wouldn't run screaming in terror, so." He's turning pink again, which is—especially given his continued copious nakedness—endearing.

Sherlock runs his hands up John's back. "That was a bit of a risk." He twists to meet John's mouth. It's easy. "Would've been, um. I mean—it does seem like in general, statistically speaking—"

"Yes," John says, "by all means, let's speak statistically."

"Well, you do have to admit." Sherlock clears his throat. "It's not, um. Tremendously realistic, is it?"

"No, it isn't, is it?" John is smiling. "All those years I never once had it off with a nurse over, um, my charting—"

"Or asked Lestrade to handcuff you," Sherlock suggests, "for general antisocial behavior—"

"Or all those years Harry and I traded off babysitting for the kids next door without either of us getting lucky with their parents." John pauses. "I mean. As far as I know."

Sherlock turns his head away, a little. He can't stop grinning. "I suppose I shouldn't—um." He pauses, then says. "I'm not complaining. It was, ah. It was a good risk."

"Yes, well, you rather wear one down, on the subject of, um." John coughs. "'scuse me. Appropriate danger."

"You invaded Afghanistan," Sherlock reminds him, and John laughs.

"True." He pulls back a bit, propping himself up. "So, next time, should I—what, join you in the shower, I liked that one, or—"

Sherlock's heart does something stuttery and terrible. He clears his throat. "Or, um. Join me while I'm, um, working off a bit of steam—"

"You are allowed to think about me, you know," John says. "You've rather got some ground to make up, since—"

"Right, thinking about you while masturbating." Sherlock mimes a checkmark. "It's on the list."

John grins at him. "You know," he says, shifting his weight, slow. Sherlock shivers. "You told me it'd be terrible," John says. "Does that mean—do you owe me a terrible shag, or—"

"Well, I could probably arrange for a terrible shag—or we could just carry on having lovely sex, which seems more straightforward." Sherlock clears his throat. "I mean. If you like."

"Oh, well." John ducks down to kiss him, then settles onto his side. "That certainly does seem simpler."

Sherlock rolls up to face him, tugging the blanket up high around their shoulders. John hums, then coughs.

"Do you want some Lemsip?" Sherlock asks. "Or—tea?"

"I'm really fine," John says. "I haven't been running a fever or anything; I'm feeling much better. It's just—hanging on. You know. Colds do."

"Yes, and it probably ought to be disgusting," Sherlock says. "I probably should be worrying you're going to sneeze in my mouth."

"Are you?" John asks.

Sherlock clears his throat. "No," he admits.

John smiles at him.

"I really won't be able to be normal around you, you know," Sherlock tells him, sliding his hand up over John's side.

"You're already not normal around me," John says, still smiling. "I don't mind."

"Oh," Sherlock says. "Well, then."