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In A Changing Age

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"John!" Sherlock startles out of his mind palace state as he always does, John's name at the forefront of his thoughts. Always John’s name, even when he was gone, even when he was with her. Sherlock used to shout his name into an empty room.

The shuffle of John’s newspaper precedes his words, “Ah, Holmes, I was wondering when you’d reemerge. You've been under nearly all afternoon. Did you sort it out?”

Sherlock opens his eyes, able to only just make out the outline of the curtains at the window. The sitting room is dark, darker than it should be. Perhaps the streetlights are out. The room smells different too - smoky and woody, with an underlying scent of cherry tobacco that reminded him of his father’s study. The soft crackling of embers emanates from the fireplace.

“Holmes?” Sherlock laughs and sits up, reaching over to turn on the side table light. “What are you on about? Holmes. And no, I didn’t sort it out. I’ll have to go back to the -”

Sherlock stops mid-sentence, fumbling for the lamp that doesn’t seem to be there, and simultaneously realising that the sofa feels...wrong. Instead of the smooth buttery leather it should be, the upholstery is a thick velvet that catches at his trousers as he moves.

He swallows, his mind scrambling to catch up with his body’s sensory messages. Right. It seems unlikely John’s managed to replace the sofa right out from underneath him, even while he was deep in his mind palace. And while a lamp is more portable, why would John have moved it? A shiver of alarm rolls icily down his spine.

“John. Where’s the lamp?” Sherlock says uneasily. His tongue feels dry, pinned to the roof of his mouth.

“What lamp? Darling, are you certain you’re alright? You seem a bit - out of sorts. Let me ring Mrs Hudson to bring up the tea. I think you need fortifying. It’s been quite a long day.” As John stands up, stretching his arms over his head and rolling his neck, the outline of a bushy moustache that John certainly didn’t have that morning is clearly visible against the flicker of the firelight. A golden watch chain glimmers, dangling from a waistcoat pocket as he bends forward to put his folded newspaper back in his chair.

Something is very, very wrong.

“John, what are you wearing?”

John looks down at himself with comic exaggeration, his moustache twitching amusedly. “My...clothes? Oh, actually this is your collar, my apologies. Did you deduce I spilt tea on mine while you were away?”

“Why - why do you have a moustache? I thought you - you did - you shaved that ages ago.”

“I - I’ve always had - I never sha - Holmes, are you sure you’re quite awake?” Passing his fingers thoughtfully over the waxed tips of the moustache, John’s eyes narrow, squinting at Sherlock in the low light. A sudden grin spreads across his face, deepening his dimples. “Are you talking in

your sleep again? You know I find that remarkably attractive, and yet I’ve no idea why…”

Sherlock balks at him, unable to find his voice in the face of John’s easy amusement. Finally he swallows and hisses through clenched teeth, “Of course I’m not asleep. And I don’t find any of this funny. If this is a joke, John, it’s failing miserably.”

The amused expression falls off John’s face at once, his lips setting into a tight line. “Alright, you’re really starting to worry me now, Holmes. I’ve never seen you so agitated when you come out of one of your traces,” Crossing the room decisively and kneeling down so he’s at eye level with Sherlock, John spreads Sherlock’s eyes wide with thumb and forefinger and peers into them. He shakes his head. “It’s no good, I need more light. I’m going to fetch my bag and another lamp. You stay right there and don’t move.”

Sherlock wants to say he’s not even considering getting up, that his legs won’t hold him if he tries, that he’s not been this uncertain and nerve-wracked since he had to stand up in front of a room full of people and watch John Watson marry someone who wasn’t him. Instead he just nods, and manages a weak smile. John nods in return and leaves the room quickly, striding into the darkened kitchen - or what should be the kitchen, anyway.

He’s still at Baker Street, or at least the layout of the flat is the same. He scans the room while John’s gone, taking in the rich crimson colour of the fireplace wall, the antique furniture, the thick wool rug, patterned with wear. Piles of books sit stacked on the dry wooden floors, pushed against the walls. A finely detailed bone pipe lays on its side on the arm of a green leather chair. A pair of worn leather boots are tucked neatly under John’s chair where his laptop is normally stashed.

But there’s no laptop. No telly. Not a cord in sight.

But there is a calendar on the wall, pinned in the space between the windows, above a paper cluttered roll-top writing desk. November, 1895. Sherlock swallows hard, trying to get some moisture back in his mouth. Rising shakily from the sofa, he's heading to the window to look down into the street when John strides back into the room, carrying a large oil lamp in one hand and an old fashioned black leather doctor’s bag in the other.


The only thing that’s right here is John. Unchanged. The same inquisitive blue eyes, outlined with long honey-coloured lashes. The same furrow of concern on his forehead, the same gruff worry in his lovely voice. Comforting and familiar and still able to make Sherlock’s skin shiver all over with just a look. Sherlock would know John anywhere, in any time, in any universe. It is John. Of that much, Sherlock is sure.

“You’re as pale as a summer moon, Holmes, my god.” John rushes to Sherlock’s side and takes his elbow, easing him back down onto the sofa. He kneels again, eyes soft and warm, full of an easy affection that Sherlock has only caught glimpses of before. He reaches up and brushes his knuckles tenderly along Sherlock’s cheekbone, “You’re worrying me, my boy.”

Darling. My boy. John doesn’t call him these things, John doesn’t touch him like this, they’re not - why is John acting this way? Sherlock draws in a breath and wets his lips with the tip of his tongue.

John holds the oil lamp up to his face. Sherlock can see now that it has a curved mirror at the back, presumably to enhance the weak light of the wick. He also sees his own wavering reflection in the spotted glass. His hair is slicked back from his face and straightened, not in his usual loose curls, and he is wearing a high white collar buttoned tightly at his throat. He runs his hands over his own chest, thick tweed and braided leather buttons under his palms. He doesn’t even own clothes like this.

Summoning all his internal control, he inhales deeply and tries to quell the rising panic in his stomach.

John squints at him, holding the lamp close enough that Sherlock nearly flinches from the heat. “Well, your pupils are of normal and regular size, you don’t seem concussed. You don’t seem feverish,” he murmurs, almost to himself. “Tell me what’s the matter, darling, talk to me.”

“I’m not. I’m not in the right place.” A childishly absurd thing to say, but Sherlock can do no better in that moment. He’s never felt so wrong-footed in his life.

John looks up at him with that intense gaze that always makes Sherlock’s stomach flip over. He clears his throat, pauses, and then sets the oil lamp carefully on a nearby table and sits down next to Sherlock on the sofa. It isn’t right to keep calling this a sofa, really, is it, Sherlock thinks frantically. It’s a settee. It’s not a sofa at all, not their sofa, certainly.

He doesn’t realise he’s shut his eyes until a warm hand squeezes his knee and John’s voice murmurs low and gentle, right next to his ear.

Sherlock. Open your eyes for me.” John says his name reverently, as though it’s a rare thing, a locked away treasure in a secret cupboard. His moustache tickles at Sherlock’s earlobe.

Sherlock opens his eyes.

“There we go. Now breathe.”

John’s right hand on his back, rubbing a slow circle. John’s left hand on his knee, warm and heavy. John’s lips soft against his cheek. Oh. Kissing - John is kissing him.

The realisation of this makes him whimper - no, sob, if he’s being honest about it. Sob loudly. A desperate, unbound noise like he’s never heard himself make before. Because he’s vaguely frightened, frankly, and more than a bit lost, but even in the midst of this hallucination? dream? - John’s lips are at his cheek, warm and soft and tender, and Sherlock wants to let John soothe him, to fix whatever is happening. It's so easy, just to melt into John’s touch, allow himself to be held. His head tilts down of its own accord, hips and torso and arms naturally unfurling towards John’s body. Like he’s always wanted to, like he never believed he’d be allowed to.

“Shhh, that’s it, just - come here,” John slides his arm around Sherlock’s waist and tugs him close, then reclines against the velvet cushions until Sherlock’s head nestles snug in the cradle of John’s shoulder. “Now explain to me what this not being in the right place means.”

“It’s not 1895. It’s not, I - it’s - this is all wrong, John.”

“Shhh, alright, alright. I won’t argue the point. You tell me what year it is, love. You tell me.” John’s fingers come up where his hair meets his collar, sweeping gently back and forth. Soothing. Calming.

It’s impossible to think clearly, not with the scent of John’s skin all around him, with John’s belly expanding against him with every breath. This is all he’s ever wanted, to be held by John like this, he needs to just absorb every detail of how this feels. Even if it's nothing but a dream, due to dissipate at any moment into the glare of daylight.

“Go on, then. Tell me what year it is, and I'll believe you. I promise.”

God, he would do anything for this not to end - the cuddling, the warmth of John’s body stretched out against his, fingertips tracing lazy lines along his hairline. Now that the initial panic is receding, he really doesn’t give a shit what year it is. John’s still here, and John is really all he ever needed. Linear time is mostly a construction of human science anyway…

As he breathes steadily against John’s chest, a kind of sleepy calm falls over him, unable to find it in himself to be bothered about how he’s gotten here, or why. There’ll be time later to sort this through, but right now the flat’s cosy and John’s twirling a lock of his hair lazily between two fingers, and very little beyond that seems important.

“John, I’m so tired. Can we talk about this later, please?”

John sighs resignedly, turning his face so he can press his cheek against the crown of Sherlock's head. "Alright, love. I shan't press the issue at the moment. We'll have our tea and retire early tonight, let you rest."

Casting a worried glance over his shoulder, John crosses to the front door and jingles a large blackened brass bell. The sound of it’s quiet tinkling reminds Sherlock of a hand bell Mrs Hudson keeps on the mantle in her flat, one he often fiddles with while they take their tea.

“Mrs Hudson should be up with our tea any moment, and then straight to bed with you. We can discuss the case with Lestrade tomorrow, it’ll keep.”

“” At home, he and John are working a particularly gruesome murder of two rival gang members who were found in the basement of a derelict chip shop.

“Have you forgotten?” John’s brow furrows. He chews his bottom lip thoughtfully, white teeth and pink tongue. “Holmes, what exactly do you remember of today?”

Sherlock swallows. What he remembers is a choked down breakfast of runny eggs and beans on toast at Speedy’s, a cab ride to Tower Hill, laptops on their knees, getting stuck in wretched traffic and deciding to walk the rest of the way, John forgetting his mobile in the loo at Starbucks and them having to run back through a downpour to retrieve it, thus being late for a meeting with Lestrade at NSY, and ending the day with dinner in front of the telly so John could watch the premiere of Bake Off. He remembers the blue light of the television flickering on John’s face, the crumb in the corner of his mouth that Sherlock wanted lick away. He remembers John saying Bake Off made him hungry and grumbling about it until he wandered into the kitchen and ate half a package of orange Jaffa cakes standing against the counter in the dark. He remembers John’s silhouette against the kitchen window, the streetlamp glow around his ears, the curve of his hip in his jeans.

But that almost certainly isn’t what this John is expecting to hear.

“I - I remember breakfast,” Sherlock says haltingly, trying to gather himself enough to come up with something convincing.

“And after? Mycroft’s visit? The submarine plans he showed us? Poor Arthur West?”

Sherlock shakes his head, overwhelmed, unable to lie.

“Our trip to Aldgate station? You don’t even remember leaving Baker Street?”

“I’m sorry, John.”

“What happened to you in there?” John whispers, almost to himself. He rubs a hand over his face, tugs at the corners of his moustache.

I prefer my doctors clean shaven.

That’s not a sentence you hear everyday.

“Honestly, John, I’m - I’m just very tired.” He realises as he says it that it’s mostly the truth. He is exhausted. Too exhausted to try and sort this out, and too tired to try and pretend that it’s normal. He can’t think.

John smiles, his indigo eyes softening, laugh lines crinkling at the corners. “You keep calling me John.”

“Should I - not be?” Sherlock looks at him out of the corners of his eyes, off kilter.

“No, I - it’s lovely. Just, I’m only used to hearing it,” John clears his throat, cheeks reddening, “At certain - more private - times.”


Sherlock’s face floods hot. So they do - in whatever place and time this is - they do most definitely have a romantic relationship. Beyond kisses on the cheek and warm arms around his back. The realisation dredges up something complicated within him - regret for what he and John don’t have back home and also a long buried hope about what might still be possible. If this John can love him, want him, then maybe...

Before Sherlock can formulate a reply, there’s a firm rap at the door, followed by Mrs Hudson’s familiar, “Yoohoo!”

She bustles in with a large wooden tea tray, cups and saucers in a sensible blue and white pattern, a mountain of baked good teetering on small plates. The scent of baked apples fills the air. She turns to set it on the breakfast table, and catches Sherlock’s eye. She looks exactly the same as always, her flyaway hair and a merry twinkle in her eye. It makes Sherlock’s chest ache.

“Everything alright, Mr Holmes?” Somehow the formality coming from her mouth doesn’t seem formal in the least.

Sherlock wants to leap off the sofa and hug her, kiss her papery cheeks, and tell her everything. She would believe him, utterly and completely. She wouldn’t even question it.

“Yes, fine. Thank you, Mrs Hudson.” How he manages to sound so normal is a bloody miracle.

The three of them share a quiet tea. Mrs Hudson clatters on about neighbours and her sister, as usual. John steals searching glances at Sherlock when he thinks he isn’t looking. Sherlock, for his part, uses the silence to try and parse out what’s going on. Allows his mind to stretch a bit. The most rational explanation is that this is a hallucination, or perhaps a vivid dream. Maybe he’s got a fever. In his mind palace, he’s had sequences that almost felt this real. Had he gone so deep inside his own mind that he’s irretrievably lost?

After they’re done, crumbs wiped up and delicate round tops places back on the teacups, John helps Mrs Hudson gather the dishes and walks her back downstairs. He re-enters the flat with a sleepy sigh and a tender smile that reminds Sherlock of the night he came back to him, the night he came home.

I’m sorry, you know. So sorry, for everything. It was all -

John, please. It’s fine. No need to discuss it. Your bed’s made up.

I missed you.

I missed you, too, John.

“Alright, then. We’ve got you fed and watered, let’s to bed. You need a good long sleep instead of your typical collapsing at the break of dawn, and I’ll not hear any arguing.”

John takes up the mirrored oil lamp and leads the way down the dark hall, glimmering golden light reflecting off the walls and shimmering in his grey blonde hair. Sherlock trails behind him, running his fingertips over the wallpaper, tracing the top rail of the wainscoting. The well-oiled wood is cool and smooth under his skin, the draught coming down the stairs from the skylight next to John’s bedroom makes him shiver.

It feels so real.

John opens the door to Sherlock’s bedroom and sets the lamp on a dry sink to the left of the door. Sherlock follows, looking round at another room that should be familiar, but isn’t quite. A wardrobe stood in the corner, just as it did in his other bedroom, but there the similarities ended. The wallpaper’s a buttery coloured honeycomb pattern, braided throw rugs are scattered rather haphazardly across the wood floors, and his bed is a huge four postered monstrosity, pushed up against the far wall.

It seems vitally important to touch everything, to make sure it’s solid. He runs his palm down the side of the wardrobe, drifts over to the window and parts the curtains to look down into the alley, which is pitch black. He perches on the edge of the bed, startles when he sinks down into it nearly up to his hips. Feather tick mattress. Obviously.

John isn’t leaving his room. John is, in fact, pulling his collar from his neck and unbuttoning his shirt, looking for all the world as though he’s getting ready for bed.

Bed. In Sherlock’s room. No. Their room, Sherlock realises abruptly, his eyes darting to the two nightshirts hung on the back of the door, to the two flannel cloths next to the wash basin, to the two mashed down pillows, the stacks of books on both nightstands, the now obvious evidence of two people sleeping in this bed every night.

A shudder of anticipation runs through Sherlock’s entire body.

“Planning to sleep in your day clothes?” John raises an eyebrow amusedly as he pulls off his own trousers and hangs them over the footboard.

“Ah. No.” Sherlock stands up, reaching with fumbling fingers for the stiff leather buttons of his waistcoat. He can’t get them undone, can’t even remember how buttons work - not with John standing there half naked, in nothing but a pair of cotton pants buttoned loosely at his hips, wavering shadows settling in all his curves and angles, making his jaw look more square, accentuating the hollow vee of his pubic bone.

Dragging his eyes away from the rather impressive bulge in John’s pants, Sherlock tugs uselessly at the top button of his waistcoat and tries to calm his thudding pulse.

John watches him struggle for a moment, then walks, floorboards creaking under his bare feet, over to where Sherlock’s standing. He runs his hands up Sherlock’s stomach, his touch sure and comfortable.

“Here. Let me.” John murmurs gently. He pushes Sherlock’s fingers away from his buttons and begins undoing them one by one, without even looking. His eyes roam over Sherlock’s face, a crooked smile just barely visible under his moustache.

“Thank - thank you.” Sherlock doesn’t know what to do with his hands, arms dangling useless at his sides. He looks up at the ceiling.

John is touching him. John is pushing his opened waistcoat off his arms and undoing his shirt. John is stepping closer, his hair tickling the sensitive skin under Sherlock’s tipped up chin. Sherlock shuts his eyes and tries not to hyperventilate.

How many times has he imagined this, wanted this - John’s breath against his throat, his hands sliding down to rest on Sherlock’s hips - and here he is, right here in front of him, and Sherlock can barely move.

The softest brush of lips sweeps over Sherlock’s Adam’s apple, and then John’s arms close around him, head tucked tight against Sherlock’s collarbone. Sherlock hesitates for a fraction of a second, unsure, then raises his arms and wraps them around John’s shoulders, resting his face in John’s hair. He breathes in, the wool and musk smell that is uniquely John, and sighs contentedly.

God, this feels so right. It’s such a relief - after far too many nights of wanting and not having, after all those mornings of laughter over the breakfast table, John winking at him as he got his coffee and a brush of bare feet under the table that neither of them were brave enough to acknowledge, after countless too long stares and bitten lips and John’s hand resting against the side of his thigh in the back of a cab - to just hold him like this. Such a simple thing, but Sherlock wants to cry from the relief of it.

“You had me so worried today.” John says quietly, voice muffled by his lips against Sherlock’s skin.

“I know. I’m sorry.” Sherlock speaks soft into John’s hair, his voice raspy with emotion. He’s glad John can’t see his face, the red rims of his eyes, the moisture gathered at the corners.

“No need to apologise.” John stretches back and up, pressing a kiss to the end of Sherlock’s nose. “I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

It seems the most natural thing in the world, with John smiling up at him in the low light, his eyes dark and sleepy, his face so close that Sherlock can see the pores on his bend his head and put his mouth on John’s. They’re kissing before Sherlock even registers that they are, John humming against Sherlock’s lips and nudging their noses together. John’s mouth is warm and dry, the only wetness between them a gentle flicker of his tongue against Sherlock’s bottom lip. He tastes of apple pasties and bergamot, and he kisses with quiet passion, slow but purposeful.

He kisses Sherlock like he loves him.

There you are,” John whispers roughly, his hand rubbing a soothing path along Sherlock’s spine.

“Here I am,” Sherlock manages to whisper back, his head reeling and his face burning. He just kissed John. On the mouth. And John kissed him back.

“Where have you been all evening, hmmm?” John scratches a path through Sherlock’s hair, massaging the nape of his neck.

Sherlock kisses John again, just because he can, and also to allow his voice time to stop quivering. “I don’t know. But I missed you.”

“Missed you. You ridiculous wonderful creature.” John’s mouth trails over Sherlock’s jaw briefly, glances along his chin and the side of his mouth. Then he’s stepping back, patting Sherlock affectionately on the rump as he turns away to pull the nightshirts off the door hooks. He tosses one to Sherlock and begins unbuttoning his pants.

Sherlock can’t look away, mouth dry, as John allows the pants to drop to the floor and kicks them away. He stands there easily, comfortable in his nudity, fiddling with the ties on his nightshirt, while Sherlock’s caught halfway between arousal and embarrassment. John’s right in front of him, completely starkers, and Sherlock just can’t help himself. He tries not to, focusing his eyes on John’s chest, his oval nipples, the gunshot scar on his shoulder, because after all, these are all parts of John he’s yearned to see, as well. But he just - can’t help it - as his eyes flick down to John’s cock. Soft, larger than average, and just barely duskier than the rest of his skin, nestled in thick blonde hair which feathers over the insides of his thighs and up to his navel.

He averts his gaze before John can catch him staring, and slides his own nightshirt over his head without taking off his pants. His face is on fire. Memories of every half-guilty daydream he’d ever had are rushing into his mind - John’s hands on him, John hard against his belly, John whispering filthy sweet things in his ear. He presses the backs of his hands cool against his cheeks and scrambles under the covers.

He watches John blow the oil lamp out, putting the room into almost complete blackness. He can’t even see John, only hear his soft padding footsteps coming closer to the bed. A sliver of pale moonlight cuts through the curtains, making an elongated triangle white on the floor. Sherlock’s eyes adjust as the bed dips down, he can make out the glowing pale edge of John’s face as his knee presses in along Sherlock’s hip.

“Sleeping on my side now? Alright then.” John shrugs, laughing, and crawls over top of Sherlock to lie down behind him.

John lifts the covers and spoons up along Sherlock’s back, knees and ankles and every knobby bony part of them aligned, John’s arm casually tossed over the indentation of Sherlock’s waist. He slides his hand up until he finds Sherlock’s hand, and threads their fingers together.

“Love you,” John murmurs, drowsy, pressing a kiss to Sherlock’s cheek.

Warmth floods through him at John’s easy endearment, his brain muddled with a rush of oxytocin. Love you. John’s arm over his waist, John’s breath soft at the nape of his neck, John’s cold bare foot tucked between his ankles. John loves him. He doesn’t even care anymore if this is only a hallucination, he wants this. He wants this every night, needs it. He’ll never be able to sleep again unless it’s with John Watson twisted around him like ivy.

“Love you, too, John.” He turns, catching the corner of John’s mouth with his own.

They settle and sigh, shifting against each other to get comfortable, until John finally falls asleep on his back, one leg stuck out from under the covers, his arm flung over his forehead. Sherlock rolls over and props himself up on his elbow, watches John’s eyelids twitching, watches each infinitesimal movement of that beloved face, breathing in the smell of him, sleep sweaty and sharp, until eventually Sherlock’s own eyelids grow too heavy to keep open. He curls against John’s side, overwhelmed and grateful that in some universe he’s allowed to lay his head against John’s heartbeat as he falls asleep, and finally surrenders.


Sherlock wakes up slowly, blinking at the patch of greyish daylight on his pillow. The tip-tap of a steady rain lulls his eyes closed again. He’s so - comfortable. Something heavy and warm leans against his back, and he nestles into it instinctively as he tugs the covers up round his shoulders.

“Mmmm,” comes a deep rumble behind him, and then a chilly nose presses between his shoulder blades. “Morning.”

Sherlock’s eyes fly open, the memories of last night rushing through his foggy mind. John, the Victorian flat, Mrs Hudson in her corset, John standing naked in their bedroom, I love you I love you I love you - he’s still here. Wherever here is.

It’s impossible to feel any panic about it with John’s overheated languid body snugged against him, the sound of the rain dripping steadily off the eaves. He can’t remember the last time he was so comfortable, so relaxed.

John stirs again, scrubbing his face against Sherlock’s back and cuddling closer. Sherlock shivers at the intimacy of it, the familiarity. John’s hand snakes up his belly. Sherlock catches it, and without considering what he’s doing, puts John’s fingertips to his mouth.

“Oh, hello, then,” John’s suddenly breathy voice tickles at Sherlock’s ear. “Woke up a bit gasping for it? Good, so did I.”

It takes Sherlock a few seconds of processing to realise that John’s rocking his hips rhythmically against Sherlock’s arse. And that he’s hard.

A full body shudder rolls down from Sherlock’s scalp to his curling toes. Oh god, they’re going to - right now - they’re finally, finally going to, after all this time, it's happening, and Sherlock’s mind surges white with million little anxieties, questions, memories, fears, wants, half-remembered dreams, and then goes completely blank, the constant noise of his brain drowned out by John’s lips gently brushing over his jaw.

“It’s Sunday…” John purrs, the tip of his tongue tracing little patterns along the sensitive skin under Sherlock’s ear, “Mrs Hudson’s at church. No one home next door. We could have a little...lie-in.”

“Uhhhhhh,” Sherlock manages, rubbing his head like a cat against John’s mouth.

John nips at his earlobe, exhales hot into his hair. “Is that a yes, darling?”

“God, yes,” Sherlock pants, reaching back with a shaking hand to grip John’s thigh, to pull him ever closer, never close enough.

John hums again, placing a lingering kiss on the nape of Sherlock’s neck, moustache tickling already goose-bumped skin, and noses up into his hair. “God, I love you in the mornings. I mean, Christ, I love you all the time, but - you’re so - sweet - in the mornings. So affectionate.”

John,” Sherlock murmurs reproachfully, but unable to keep the pleased grin off his face.

“You are. You’re lovely in the mornings. Look at you.” John rolls, taking Sherlock with him until Sherlock ends up on his back, John lying on his right side beside him. He inches up until he’s looking down into Sherlock’s face. “Soft and mussed and puffy-eyed and so very unlike Mr Terribly Important Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes. You’re just - you.”

Just Sherlock. He wrinkles his nose at John. “And that’s - you like that? Just. Me?”

“Mmm,” John presses a hard kiss to Sherlock’s mouth and grins. “More than anything. Just you is my favourite you.”

Sherlock reaches up, sinking his fingers into John’s hair, and pulls him down into a breathless kiss, all teeth and tongues and not artful in the least, not even objectively a good kiss. He just needs to crawl inside John and never leave, needs to make John understand how much this means, how long he’s been waiting.

John arches against him, letting out a hot gasp of breath into Sherlock’s open mouth. His cock stirs against Sherlock’s thigh and Sherlock drags his hips round in a little circle, his own penis straining uncomfortably at the buttons of his pants. John’s left hand sneaks up his thigh, under his nightshirt.

“You wore pants to bed?” John pulls back from the kiss and shakes his head fondly at Sherlock. “You really were out of sorts last night.”

“I just - forgot -” He wants to say God John stop talking kiss me again you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this and I don’t know how long I’ve got and I want you so badly I can’t breathe, but he doesn’t. Instead he rolls his hips again, watching wonderingly as John’s mouth drops open, the bright flush of arousal spreading up his stubbly throat.

“Well, let’s remedy that, shall we?” John breathes out, dragging his fingertips along the inside of Sherlock’s knee, dipping them under the hem of his pants. He nuzzles under Sherlock’s jaw and sucks, hard enough to leave a mark, hard enough that Sherlock can feel capillaries popping, his skin moulding round John’s teeth. He gasps, shocked at how much it stings.

Everything about this stings. Burns at the backs of his eyes and his throat, makes his chest tight. He doesn’t even know whether this is real or not. God, how he wants to believe this is real, that John wants him like this. That John loves him. He wraps his arms desperately around John’s shoulders and buries his face in the crook of his neck, muffling the pathetic little sob that he can’t quite contain.

“Alright, love?” John nudges at the side of Sherlock’s face with his own, slips his hand from under Sherlock’s nightshirt and instead pets soothingly down the length of his arm.

Sherlock can barely stand John’s tenderness. It reaches down inside him and turns him inside out, makes it impossible to conceal the torrent of emotions coursing through him. “Yes. Yes, please don’t stop.”

“Wasn’t even considering it.” The roughness of John’s moustache scrapes raw against Sherlock’s throat as he presses an open mouth to Sherlock’s hammering pulse and simultaneously insinuates his hand between them, rubbing at the head of Sherlock’s cock through his clothes. “Good? Yeah?”

“Oh, God.” Heat suffuses through him, his eyes rolling back, belly tightening with desire. His hips push up instinctively, rutting clumsily into John’s hand. “John.”

Sherlock,” John groans in response, his voice two octaves deeper than Sherlock has ever heard it. “Oh, god, how I want you. You’re so -”

John can’t seem to finish saying what exactly Sherlock is, as he deftly unbuttons the top button of Sherlock’s pants and lays a flat palm against the delicate skin of Sherlock’s lower belly. He rubs a slow purposeful circle, pinky brushing teasingly against wispy black curls. His eyes the colour of slate on a winter morning, John looks down at him with a gaze so loving, so soft, that it makes Sherlock’s chest feel tight.

Memories stir within Sherlock - memories of John watching him, with an amused half smile on his lips, the way his cheeks reddened and his lashes lowered when Sherlock caught him out; John standing proud and solid beside him at a crime scene, telling everyone to shove off so Sherlock can think, John with his head propped against his fist, researching at 2am, his red-rimmed sleepy eyes fixed on Sherlock. John does look at him this way, Sherlock realises. Just as intimate, just as possessive - just not twined together in Sherlock’s bed.

“What are you looking at?” Sherlock rasps, sounding snappish and not meaning to. He immediately quails, worried he’s broken the mood.

But John laughs and shakes his head, “You. I’m rather fond of looking at you, you know. Or haven’t you caught on to that yet?”

“No. Hadn’t.”

“Mmmm. You’re awfully slow on the uptake for a detective. Are you sure you’re in the right line of work?” John rubs his knuckles over Sherlock’s sternum, rumpling his nightshirt.

“You’re teasing me.”

“Never, darling, never.” John lowers his head, tracing Sherlock’s collarbone lightly with his teeth, and then looks up at him from under his lashes, his dark eyes mischievous. “Well. Maybe just a bit. You enjoy it.”

Sherlock can’t deny that he does. It feels - possessive - and more than that, it feels familiar. John always teases him, has the ability to make him blush and stutter, in a way no one else has in his entire life. It’s just their way, and here, now, even though Sherlock’s half sure he’s gone completely mad, John’s just the same as always. Except, of course...

“Christ, but you’re lovely,” John whispers, slipping under the covers and rucking up Sherlock’s nightshirt with both hands, kissing slowly over each bump of Sherlock’s ribs.

Oh, yes, except for this. Sherlock would most certainly remember if John had done this before.

Sherlock stretches and sighs, one hand falling naturally to the back of John’s head. He can’t see John under the covers, can’t anticipate his movements, but can only allow sensation to wash over him as John nuzzles his way across Sherlock’s chest. It sends his whole body shivering, the soft hot press of John’s mouth, the way he draws little circles on Sherlock’s skin with the point of his tongue.

“John, John.”

It’s the only word Sherlock can find, the only one left in his brain.

John slides his hand up and out from under the blankets, fingers splayed and palm raised, and Sherlock grasps it tightly. John’s hand is calloused in places - his thumb, the tip of his middle finger - but his palm is soft and hot, a bit damp from the warmth of the heavy blankets. Sherlock rubs at his knuckles, feeling the tiny bones moving under his touch, and tries to breathe in this moment. He wants to remember every second of this, every gasp, the feel of John’s body on top of his, the smell of their sweat. He shuts his eyes and lets his consciousness spread, casting round in his memory for a space in which to keep this.

Abruptly, John’s weight lifts as he throws the covers back, assaulting Sherlock with a blast of chilly air and startling him out of his contemplations. John’s blonde head emerges, face red and covered in beads of perspiration. His moustache is drooping.

“Apologies for interrupting the proceedings. But it’s rather hot under there.” He grins and kneels up, peeling his nightshirt from his body and tossing it carelessly on the floor.

John’s body gleams golden in the grey room, lit up as though he’s the human embodiment of the sun itself. His skin blushing pink down to his navel with arousal and heat both, his cheeks ruddy, the ropey muscles in his forearms glistening.

“I’ve a better idea for keeping warm.” John presses a kiss to the centre of Sherlock’s chest, climbing across his knees and padding across the bare floor to a small fireplace Sherlock hadn’t even noticed the night before.

John crouches down to build the fire, seemingly unconcerned about being two feet away from open flames and completely nude. Sherlock rolls to his side, watching him hungrily, because he’s allowed to. Allowed to want him, allowed to let his eyes roam over the movement of his back, the way his shoulder blades knit together when he reaches for a chunk of wood, the tension in his slim hips as he shifts his weight.

He’s so beautiful, so strong and masculine without being hardened. John is capable of such extraordinary gentleness. A fierce protectiveness surges within Sherlock, thinking of all John has been through, all Sherlock has put him through, and John is so good, so steady and resilient and just impossibly good, that it’s heartbreaking. He wants to wrap John up in these overwarm blankets that smell like their bodies, close the curtains, stay here in this room forever - suspended in time - and never allow anyone to hurt John Watson ever again. Even himself.

Sherlock’s been in love with him since the second that lab door swung open, and all they ever seem to do is hurt each other. Without meaning to, never meaning to, but somehow...they always mess it up. When all Sherlock’s ever wanted to do is love John.

And now, inexplicably, he's been given the chance to.

It aches, god how loving someone this much aches, down to his bones. He can’t stand it. He makes an involuntary noise that prompts John to half turn round, one side of his face cast in grey, one side lit rosy by the fire.

“Impatient,” John teases, misunderstanding.

“No. I just. I love you.” It’s an entirely inadequate, common thing to say, but it doesn’t seem to matter to John, whose eyes soften and crinkle at the corners, and Sherlock loves him even more than he did just a second before.

“I love you, too, you sentimental old fool,” he grins, throwing one last log onto the fire before dragging a metal screen in front of it and dusting his hands off.

He saunters to the bed, hips moving just that much too much to not be deliberate, and crawls onto it slowly, nudging Sherlock over onto his back and straddling his legs. He’s not hard anymore, not really, stopping to build the fire has slowed down the heat that was building between them. Sherlock doesn’t care. John’s weight on his thighs is the most perfect thing he’s ever felt.

John leans down, bracing himself with a hand on either side of Sherlock’s head, and noses under his jaw. He purrs against Sherlock’s skin, low and dirty and promising, “Now where did I leave off?”

“Oh, right about there, I think,” Sherlock gasps, his whole body trembling, and lets his head fall back so John can suck at his throat.

John nips lightly along the edge of his collarbone, and Sherlock breathes evenly through his mouth, tries not to completely lose control of himself before they’ve even really begun. John pushes at his nightshirt, drags it up over his ribs and thumbs at his nipple, pinches it between two fingers and rubs.

He hikes the thin cotton higher, bunching it inelegantly around Sherlock’s chest, and replaces his thumb with his mouth. Sherlock feels it all through him, his blood absolutely simmering in his veins. He spreads his thighs, trying to get John between them. John catches on immediately, shifts up and in until he’s kneeling between Sherlock’s bent legs, then slides his knees apart and drops his hips so their cocks are pressed together, John all bare skin and heat, Sherlock trapped and leaking inside his pants. John hums, swirls his tongue around Sherlock’s nipple, and rolls his hips in a filthily slow circle.

“Oh - oh - I - fu -” A string of monosyllables fall from Sherlock’s swollen mouth, his brain unable to catch up to the instinctual responses of his body, which knows exactly what to do.

John looks up at him, sloe eyed and flushed. His lips are wet.

“Sherlock,” he growls, words barely anything but breath.

Sherlock’s desire surges at the look on John's face, the sound of his arousal-roughened syllables. He's never wanted anything in his entire life as much as he wants John Watson right now. He wants him in his mouth, in his arse, between his legs, inside every secret place no one’s ever touched him before this morning. He wants his beautifully dexterous short fingers, the hard length of that perfect cock, John's tongue leaving trails of saliva all over him - anything, everything. He wants everything. He reaches down and hauls John up by the shoulders, wraps one hand around the back of his neck and pours ten years of pent up desire into a searing kiss.

John lets out a little gasp of surprise and Sherlock licks it away. Bites down on John’s lower lip while he’s busy wrapping his legs around his hips. John groans at the contact, reaches back and runs his palm down the outstretched length of Sherlock’s thigh, digs his fingers into the fleshy part of his arse and holds on.

The moustache scrapes Sherlock raw, it hurts, and Christ, it’s glorious. He wants to be marked, be sore and aching for days, he wants to look in the mirror and see the evidence of John’s love scratched pink across his face. He claws at John’s head, and pulls him so close he can barely breathe, licks behind his teeth and under his tongue. Their teeth clack together and John pulls back, rocks their foreheads together and breathes hard.

“You haven’t kissed me like that - in ages -” John’s shoulders heave up and down while he tries to get air.

Sherlock runs his fingertips over them, traces the starburst outline of John’s scar, and he wants to say I’ve never kissed you like that ever, but instead he says the next truest thing, “I missed you.”

John doesn’t answer. He tips his head back enough to look curiously into Sherlock’s eyes, his brow furrowed. Sherlock can’t look away - he’s never been this close to John for this long, never been able to stare into those inky blue eyes for as long as he wants. They’re streaked with zigzags of black and silver, dark at the edges, and heavy with desire. Sherlock takes one hand from John’s shoulders, brushes two fingers over those long curling eyelashes that always drive him crazy.

John shuts his eyes and smiles. “Kiss me again.”

When their lips meet this time, it’s softer, but no less bruising. It reaches down inside Sherlock and twists, until he has to blink back hot tears. John’s touching him everywhere, running his hands over his thighs and his chest, pressing thumbs into the hollows of his hips.

John breaks the kiss, slides down and tucks his head under Sherlock’s chin while he tugs at the two remaining buttons on Sherlock’s pants. Sherlock breathes in through his nose, huffs a breath out through his mouth, and tries not to act as though he’s never done this before.

“You alright, darling? You’re tensing up.” John lifts his head, his eyes an ocean of concern and affection and desire. His fingers sweep inquiringly along Sherlock’s lower belly. “We don’t have to. If you just want to kiss, if you’re not feeling more amorous than that, it’s alright.”

“God, no. I mean, yes, I am,” Sherlock gasps, desperate for John to resume his explorations. Desperate for every inch of their skin to be touching. He tangles his fingers in John’s hair and drags him down, close enough to whisper hoarsely against his mouth, “I don’t want you to stop.”

“Good. Good, because, Christ, I don’t want to,” John kisses him again, tender and slow, tasting the edges of Sherlock’s mouth with the tip of his tongue.

He sinks down, entwining their bodies even further. His knee pushes against the inside of Sherlock’s thigh as he rocks up and his tongue pushes just that much farther into Sherlock’s mouth.

Sherlock opens his eyes, which is bizarre because he didn’t even remember closing them, and John’s still kissing him. All he can see is the fuzzy golden edge of John’s hair and the water stain on the ceiling above them. John is on top of him. He shuts his eyes again and trails his fingers up John’s bare back, hard enough that he can feel the skin wrinkling under his touch.

John moans into his mouth and shivers, pops both buttons on Sherlock’s pants. “Get these off,” he mumbles, shoving at them clumsily.

Somehow both pants and nightshirt get removed and Sherlock finds himself naked and surprisingly unembarrassed about it. He always thought he’d be self conscious, that being naked with another person would be terrifying. But it’s not at all. It feels...oddly normal. Because it’s John, and nothing about John could ever be terrifying, except his absence.

John lies half on top of Sherlock and shifts his hips, rubs a hand up over Sherlock’s ribs and kisses at his shoulder. “I wonder,” he pauses, nuzzles Sherlock’s bicep and kisses a path down to the inside of his elbow, “I wonder if I tell you often enough. How much I love you.”

“You can tell me again. If you want,” Sherlock breathes.

“I love you. Beyond reason, beyond measure.” John’s teeth scrape lightly over Sherlock’s pulse in his wrist. “I love you so much I can hardly bear it.”

“Oh, John,” Sherlock chokes out, half in pain hearing those words. Because he doesn’t know why, or how this is happening, or when it will end, as it surely must. The possibility of him just closing his eyes again and waking up in world where John doesn’t kiss his throat and lay on top of him naked while whispering I love you - the possibility of losing that hangs over him, suspended like a weight about to drop.

John lays his face flush against the hollow of Sherlock’s hip, brushes his lips back and forth, back and forth, unhurriedly, over the swell of bone. It makes Sherlock’s entire body twitch, his arse clenching as his pelvis tilts. He wants more, more of everything, he doesn’t even know how to name what it is he wants - his head filled with a jumble of words that amount to consume, take, burn, fuck, harder, more, more, more, John. John. Always John.

He lifts his hips again, purposefully this time, and watches John watching him, his mouth still hovering hot over the crease of Sherlock’s thigh, his eyes round and dark with desire. The head of his cock smears wet across John’s cheek, and he groans, heart pounding, stomach clenching, his whole body thudding hot with need. John huffs a breath that ends in a moan, rubs a hand up the inside of Sherlock’s thigh, presses his leg down into the mattress, holding him there.

“Do you -” John mouths gently at the side of Sherlock’s cock, shuts his eyes. He’s being careful about his moustache touching sensitive skin, the way holds his head tilted away, the inside of his bottom lip easing along Sherlock’s cock gently. Tenderly.

It’s almost. Sweet.

Sherlock can’t stop watching John’s pulse thumping in his neck, how red his ears have gotten. He’s never seen John fully aroused before today. He’s seen the before, how his eyes get sharp focused and he licks at his lips constantly. He’s seen the after, John tiptoeing down the stairs to wash up, someone who won’t be there in the morning still upstairs in his bed, while Sherlock swallows his jealousy and tries not to look at the way John’s hair curls sweaty against his neck. But Sherlock’s never seen the during before - John’s cheeks scarlet, his eyes black and glittering, how soft and swollen his lips are. He’s beautiful.

“Yeah,” Sherlock gasps, and reaches down, pushes his fingers into John’s hair. He rubs his thumb along the outer curve of John’s ear - burning hot - and touches the square edge of his jaw. “Yeah, I want -”

Before he can stutter out what he wants, John surges up and puts his mouth over the head of Sherlock’s cock, wraps two fingers around him and sucks.

It’s like nothing - nothing - Sherlock’s ever felt before. The pleasure of it courses through him so fast his head goes light. He can actually feel his eyes rolling back as his head thumps against the pillows, his hips desperately trying to rise off the bed. He’s so hot, his lower belly, the insides of his thighs. He shifts and shifts, trying to push up and in, the primal instincts of his body taking over until he’s shaking with it, until his face is burning with the effort.

John shakes his head, his teeth scratching just perfectly hard enough over the Sherlock’s frenulum to make Sherlock shiver down to his toes, clench his thighs against John’s ears, and moan John’s name to the ceiling.

“Keep still,” John whispers, and licks at the slit, letting Sherlock see his tongue - flat and pink and hungry.

“I’m trying.” Sherlock rubs a palm over his own stomach, his face, tugs at his own hair. He’s whimpering.

“I know, lovely, I know,” John grins, knowingly, full of affection, and Sherlock has the strangest sensation that they’ve had this exact exchange many, many times before now.

John’s forearm lays bracingly across his lower belly, keeping him still. With a gentle slide of lips, he draws Sherlock back into his mouth and settles flat between his legs. He sucks and sucks and pulls, long liquid hot movements that draw sounds out of Sherlock he didn’t even know he could make. He feels like he ought to be paying attention, because this is their first time, at least to him, and he needs to catalogue it, he needs to have this memory for later - John’s bobbing blonde head, his body splayed loose half off the bed, the sound of his little hums and grunts, the way his hips move restlessly against the mattress.

But it’s impossible to separate himself from the pleasure absolutely coursing through his veins, from the sparking white heat in his nerves. His skin prickles everywhere, tiny stars exploding in every cell - it feels like it doesn’t fit anymore, too tight.

He whines, not meaning to, and John pulls off, nuzzles at Sherlock’s sweat damp skin, drags his moustache along the insides of his thighs.

“You want to - like this - or - ” John pants, reaching a hand down between his own legs. His breath stutters, catches, as his hips jerk. “Because…”

Sherlock shuts his eyes, rubs his hand in a slow circle against the crown of John’s head, musses his hair. His face is burning. “I want - ”

“Yeah?” John licks at Sherlock’s bollocks, casually, as though he’s just doing it because he’s waiting and they happen to be there. He’s pulling his own cock lazily now, rubbing his thumb across the tip - shiny wet and swollen.

He sucks Sherlock’s left testicle into his mouth and hums.

Sherlock jerks so hard he nearly knees John in the ear. “Oh my god.”

“If you’re...amenable,” John breathes, rough, and slides his thumb against the crease of Sherlock’s arse. He licks at him again, the pointed tip of his tongue pushing through hair to find skin. His cheeks are very very pink. “We could - ”

“I am. Amenable.” Sherlock pulls a little on John’s hair.

John slides up, kissing his way - navel, ribs, sternum - gets distracted by Sherlock’s nipples and stops. He cups his hand over Sherlock’s right hipbone and puts his mouth over his left nipple, tongue moving in maddening little circles, while his lips stay soft and hot against Sherlock’s skin. He drapes his leg over Sherlock’s thigh and cants his hips, hard against him, so hard.

Sherlock lies there, helpless, scratching his fingers against John’s scalp and wondering how he never knew that having his nipples sucked would make him go completely insane. His other hand wanders down his belly.

John swipes his tongue up the breadth of Sherlock’s pectoral, nips his collarbone. He lays himself tight against Sherlock’s side, kisses his neck. He twists, stretching so he can reach into the bedside table, and sets an icy cold tin of petroleum on Sherlock’s chest.

Sherlock’s gaze fixates on it. The blue and white writing, the threading of the lid. It looks like an antique. John screws the lid off, dips two fingers in. It’s more than halfway empty - been used many times before. It hits Sherlock again, suddenly, that this isn’t at all the first time they’ve done this, and now, somehow, his other life seems like the dream. This, this feels real and right and normal - maybe he’s always been here, maybe he’s got amnesia, maybe -

His train of thought is cut short by John’s slicked fingers pressing between his arse cheeks.

“Oh,” Sherlock gasps, trembling.

“Put the lid back on for me, love?” John mumbles, his face tight against Sherlock’s throat.

“Yeah, alright.” Fumbling, one-handed, the clink of the metal lid not fitting, and Sherlock gives up immediately, throws the whole damned thing to the floor while his legs fall open and John laughs and laughs into the hollow of his shoulder.

Sherlock laughs too, turns his head and rubs his lips against John’s forehead, John’s temple, until John lifts his head and finds Sherlock’s mouth with his own. He kisses him messily, with puffy lips and bad aim, and presses his fingertips in just that much. Sherlock bites down on John’s lower lip, hard.

Sherlock can taste himself on John’s tongue, salty and bitter. He’s never tasted come before, his own or anyone else’s. He licks at his lower lip, curious.

“You always taste good.” John grins and touches Sherlock’s lip with his index finger.

“And you always know what I’m thinking.” Sherlock murmurs, meaning it, because even when that isn’t true, it is.

“Not always. Not last night.” John pulls his face back enough to look into Sherlock’s eyes and thumbs at his mouth. “You’re still - a bit - different. Today.”

No. Sherlock doesn’t want to be different. He wants to be what John wants. His face must register this, because John says quickly, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to - no. You’re perfect, love, you’re fine.”

Before Sherlock can respond, John is kissing him again, and Sherlock can feel the apology in it, in the way John pulls his lower lip into his mouth, the way John strokes the hair right above Sherlock’s ear. Sherlock sighs into John with every part of himself, twines around him, and pulls him close. They kiss and kiss, Sherlock’s fingers tracing patterns down John’s sweaty back, dipping into the spaces between his ribs, while John's busy taking Sherlock to pieces with just two fingers.

“Oh - fuuuuu - oh my god, John - ”

“Yeah, yeah - Christ - ”

John’s mouth slack, moustache rough, rubbing against Sherlock’s upper lip. His fingers push a little farther. Sherlock breathes and breathes, aware of the expansion of his lungs in a way he usually isn’t. Aware of everything that’s happening inside his body because a part of John is inside him.

He bends his leg, pushes against the mattress, turns toward John and wraps both arms around him, realising as he does that he hasn’t touched John at all. John’s been lavishing attention on him, worshipping Sherlock’s body with his every breath for god knows how long - Sherlock's lost any sense of time passing - and Sherlock’s just lain here, the whole time, and let John touch him and suck him and drive him crazy with desire, and he’s not reciprocated a single thing.

He wants to, god how he wants to. It’s just he’s never done this before. He doesn’t know -

John presses his knuckles against the throbbing pulse point between Sherlock’s legs, and any worries about doing it wrong dissolve into the liquid heat spreading through his entire body. His back arches, legs squeezing together, and John pulls him close. Whispers little shhshhshh’s against his temple.

Sherlock rubs one hand - slow - down John’s ribs and licks into his mouth, finds the curve of John’s hipbone and traces it with two fingers. John’s gorgeous leaking cock slips against his hip.

“Can I?” Sherlock whispers, his hand resting against John’s peach fuzz pale belly, waiting. It occurs to him this might be a strange thing to say, since they’ve obviously done this many, many times.

John doesn’t appear to notice anything strange, as he quakes and moans, cock twitching wet and hot into the meat of Sherlock’s thigh, and whispers, “God, Sherlock, yes, darling, of course,” against Sherlock’s upper lip.

Sherlock’s never touched any cock except his own. His inexperience doesn’t matter at all as he gets his hand around John’s, satiny hard and wet - hot - and does what comes naturally, sliding his hand up and over the swollen head of him, makes John curl up and groan, whimpering quietly into Sherlock’s mouth.

“Good?” Sherlock breathes, pulling the soft skin of John’s bottom lip between his teeth as he strokes his cock slow, rubs his thumb over the the slit. God, John’s so wet, leaking everywhere. It makes Sherlock hot all over.

“Yeah. Yeah, s’good, love,” John breathes back, hardly audible, his open mouth resting against Sherlock’s, not even really kissing anymore. His fingers are still at the rim of Sherlock’s hole, just barely in. He applies a little pressure, questioning. “You’re so - tight - can you handle three? Or should I - ”

Sherlock has no idea what he can handle, but he wants more, more of whatever John has to give him.

“Three,” he chokes out, his open mouth rubbing all over John’s lips, John’s cheeks, John’s jaw, as he jerks John off in the scant space between their bodies, his forearm cramping over top of John’s forearm between his legs. They’re all tangled up, just how they’re meant to be.

“Alright. Alright, three.” John kisses the underside of Sherlock’s chin and pushes half his hand inside him.

Sherlock twists, stomach tight and arms shaking, to hold John closer. He throws a leg over John’s hip so their bellies are flush together with John’s arm between Sherlock’s legs, the heel of his hand pressing deliciously against Sherlock’s testicles. Everything below his waist is hot, amorphous. Spreading. He feels like they’re melding into each other, John’s body indistinguishable from his own. He tightens his arms, John’s laughing mouth against his throat.

“I don’t think I can get any closer, darling.” John licks Sherlock’s jaw, pivots his fingers inside just so and makes Sherlock see stars.

“Do that - do that - again - please - ” Sherlock forgets to move his hand, slack and loose around John’s cock pushed up against the soft skin under his navel, as his body shivers hard from head to curling toes.

John pants against Sherlock’s cheek, twisting his hand round and rubbing himself against Sherlock without shame. Sherlock tries to kiss John, wants their tongues twined together, their hot wet mouths gaping against each other, but he gets a mouthful of short blonde hairs instead, John’s whole body contracting as he leaks and leaks and leaks against Sherlock’s stomach and rubs his fingertips slick against the stretched rim of Sherlock’s hole.

“Need more - you’re so - tight - this morning - ” John licks up the side of Sherlock’s face like he can’t stand not to, and clambers off of him quickly, crawling over to the edge of the bed. “Where did you - ?”

Sherlock flails his limp ragdoll arm in the vague direction in which he tossed the tin of petroleum and whines at the emptiness inside him now that John’s fingers are gone. He teases his own fingers down the length of his body while John’s cursing and leaning half off the bed to look for the tin, and wraps his hand around his cock, cups his bollocks up against his body, makes himself shudder. It feels different now than ever before, different because he knows what John’s hand feels like on him - John’s mouth - and he’ll never touch himself again without thinking of John’s glittering blue eyes and his warm swollen mouth.

He stretches two fingers between, just to see if he can reach, and oh. He’s never felt himself like this, open and wet and waiting. He runs his fingers around the loosened rim and then slips a fingertip just inside. His cock twitches against his belly, leaks a dribble of precome warm on his skin.

John kneels up, the petroleum tin in one hand, his eyes dark-edged and dangerous. “Jesus Christ, Sherlock, if you could - if you could see yourself - ”

“Come ‘ere,” Sherlock hears himself saying, arousal-slurred and low, slipping his hand up onto John’s hip, caressing the curve of his arse, the taut musculature of the back of his thigh.

“No place I’d rather be.” John bends back down, licks at the fluid on Sherlock’s hipbone, and then sucks a mark there, making Sherlock’s hips shift restlessly.

John moves his way up Sherlock’s abdomen single-mindedly, leaving no inch of Sherlock’s bare skin unkissed. When he’s finally at eye level again, he brushes his lips so gently against Sherlock’s mouth that it could almost be chaste, and taps the ends of their noses together.

“I love you.” John presses hard kisses all over Sherlock’s face, whispers against his mouth.

“I love you, John.”

Time slows. They’re completely lost in each other, Sherlock sinking down into the mattress with John’s weight on top of him, the fire crackling and spitting, rain skidding down the wavering window panes. It’s romantic, a word which before this morning already reminded him of John - John’s horrible blog and bad poetry and the way he always burns the toast in the mornings, endearing and a bit of a mess - but now. Now that word will mean this - John’s bare shivering skin and soft I love you’s and the heat of their bodies entwined on rumpled sheets.

Sherlock finds it’s remarkably easy to forget he’s never done this before, as he allows his legs to fall open again, while John reaches over him to dip two fingers in the tin. He bears down this time, wills his body to open to John’s touch. He can feel himself contract and loosen as John presses up inside him again, two fingers first and then again three, and he chokes out a groan, arching up, while John kisses him quiet.

“John, I - oh god, want to - touch you - ” Sherlock mutters, most of the words lost on John’s tongue, and works a hand in between them.

John’s groan resonates all the way down Sherlock’s throat, as Sherlock wraps his slippery hand around John’s cock and pulls. John shoves his fingers harder into Sherlock, moaning brokenly, and rolls him over flat on his back. He gets on all fours, caging Sherlock underneath him, cock standing out hard and blood hot, the wet tip nudging against Sherlock’s thigh. He sucks a bruise on Sherlock’s collarbone, to match the ones on his hip, on his throat, and thrusts into Sherlock’s grasp. His cock swells between Sherlock's fingers, a thin strand of precome dripping.

“Ah, fuck, fuck,” he grinds out between clenched teeth, hips jerking faster, fingering Sherlock harder and harder, fucking him with his fingers instead of his cock.

Sherlock has to look, he has to see, has to watch as John tugs him apart the edges, turns him inside out. He lifts his head. The dip and swell of John’s back as he moves, sweat slipping in rivulets along his flanks, arse tightening as he rocks, and his right arm, pushingpushingpushing between Sherlock’s trembling thighs - the sight of him there makes Sherlock’s heart catch in his throat. He never believed, never thought he could have this, that he didn’t deserve it. And yet.

He feathers his fingertips wonderingly over John’s face. John kisses at them, smiles with his eyes shut. He shifts, moving down, his arm bending, and oh. Sherlock almost blacks out, his spine arcing up like a live wire as John circles his finger over and over in the same spot - inside - varying the pressure, seemingly trying to find the best way to make Sherlock swallow his own tongue.

“Oh, god, John - I - ” Sherlock’s whole body shakes, his blood thudding through his veins so hard he can feel his pulse in his temples. He can’t take much more of this. His body is crying out for more - the instinctive want to be filled, to be fucked is becoming unbearable. He needs John inside him.

John slips his fingers out and surreptitiously wipes them on the sheets in the vee of Sherlock’s legs. He nudges Sherlock’s thighs wider with his knee, crawls in between them. “Ready then, love?”

“I’ve never been more so, John.” Which is the truth. He’s never wanted this with anyone but John, and he’s always wanted it with John. He lets his legs fall open wider. “Please.”

“Ah, you’re lovely,” John whispers, slicking his cock with petroleum and shivering hard, curling his shoulders as his touches himself. He exhales a long calming breath, his cheeks very pink, and takes hold of Sherlock’s hips, tilts them up so Sherlock’s shoulder blades press into the mattress as his arse slides onto John’s bent knees. He leans down over Sherlock, bracing himself on one arm. “Lovely. I - oh - ”

John stutters to a stop as he begins to push inside, his eyes close and his lips part, pink and full. Sherlock runs his hands up John’s back, slick with sweat, and tries to remember how to breathe. The sensation of John’s cock pressing into him is so much different than his fingers - wide and full and unyielding - and Sherlock has to bite into his lip and concentrate on relaxing his muscles. John takes his time, gazing down at Sherlock with soft heavy-lidded eyes as he rolls his hips slow and dirty. Purposeful.

Sherlock sucks in a hard breath and huffs out through his nose, helpless to hold back the whimpering, gasping, desperate noises that are coming out of him as John sinks slowly deeper. His hips arch up instinctively, pulling John deeper and deeper, and John groans and drops his face into Sherlock’s neck.

“Ah, you’re so tight,” John pants against the hollow of Sherlock’s throat, moustache scratching deliciously rough on delicate skin. He tucks his arms under Sherlock’s armpits and cradles the back of his head in both hands, pressing their bodies flush together from hips to shoulders. His lips sweep back and forth over Sherlock’s collarbone, up the side of his neck, somehow both gentle and fierce simultaneously.

John keeps saying that, that he’s tight. Tight must be a good thing, a very good thing, judging from John’s rumbling groans, the way his breath trembles and catches, the hunger of his kisses. John rubs his thumbs in circles at the back of Sherlock’s scalp, mouth roaming messily across Sherlock’s shoulders and throat. Sherlock tries to reciprocate through a cloud of desire, turning his head and kissing at John’s hair, pressing his fingertips into John’s neck and running them down his spine.

He’s aware of his body in a way he’s never been before, conscious of the way his body connects to his heart, his brain, because he can’t think right now. All he can do is feel, feel how every centimeter of his body is throbbing with John’s presence, the heady scent of sex filling his nostrils, the thickness of John’s cock inside him, the sting of his skin stretching. It feels somehow as though his entire body is expanding, evaporating, under John’s tongue and fingers and blazing black eyes.

Sherlock keeps trembling, little spasms of his limbs that he's got absolutely no control over. And he's making ghastly helpless hiccuping noises every time John rolls his hips, pushes in a little more and a little more. He wants to sound sensual, not like an overgrown pigeon. But he can’t stop himself, and John doesn't seem to notice. In fact, he's staring into Sherlock's eyes with something that can’t be described as anything but adoration.

He doesn't want to come. Doesn't want John to come. He wants to stay like this for as long as possible, suspended in this fog of pleasure, feeling John's hips sliding slick between his thighs as his toes curl into the sweaty sheets. His stomach aches, throbbing and cramped. He doesn't care. He's delirious with want, with love, with the weight of John's forehead rocking rhythmically against his collarbone.

“Sher - oh - fu -” John shudders suddenly, his hips dropping into an uneven rhythm.

“No,” Sherlock grabs the sides of John's head and lifts it up, kisses him bruisingly hard on the mouth. “No, please, I don't want it to be over yet.”

“Uhhhhh - oh god - Sherlock, I - ” John makes a low choked sound and stills, places a carefully light kiss to the end of Sherlock’s nose. He’s panting, voice breathless. “Are you - alright?”

It’s so tender, so tender it breaks down something inside of Sherlock that he hadn’t even known was there. He’s never permitted anyone to get this close to him, never allowed anyone to see him gasping in pleasure, giving in to the most primal desires, because it was terrifying to cede the control of his own body to someone else. To allow them to have that part of him. Not even John.

Oh. Epiphany. He realises - with the kinetic force of a freight train - in this moment, with John looking down at him as though he’s the sun and the moon, smoothing a sweat soaked lock of hair behind his ear, that he hasn’t been ready to see what’s always been right in front of him. John’s been there, all these years, waiting. Waiting for Sherlock to let him in. It seems so bloody obvious now, that Sherlock’s been the one unable to see them for what they already were.

So, a boyfriend, then? John licking his lips, his eyes wide and cornflower blue. Good, you’re unattached, like me. John in a semtex vest, his arms around Moriarty’s throat. Run, Sherlock! John hated Irene, despised her. You think you’ll be seeing her again? How do we feel about that? John standing silhouetted against the front window, waiting for the police to come and take them away. No, I know you for real.  John fighting back tears, thinking they’re about to die. Of course I forgive you. John’s warm hand on his knee. I don’t mind. John shaking with fury, barely able to look Sherlock in the eye. Look at you two, you should have gotten married. John standing in the rain with two suitcases, his eyes guilty but hopeful. I’m home. For good and all. If you’ll have me.

Sherlock’s refused to see it because he’s been afraid of this, of them, what they are, and all the things they could be. Afraid of letting down his guard enough to truly let John love him.

He’s not afraid anymore. This is John, and he can trust John with every part of him - even the messy, ugly, ridiculous, overgrown pigeon parts of him. He’s been holding himself back from John for so long, and suddenly, it’s all fallen away. He can do this now.

“John,” Sherlock murmurs, reaching up and brushing his fingertips over John’s moustache, tracing the outline of his mouth. He hitches his hips up, feels the warm wet slip of John’s cock against his stretched taut skin, and draws in a shuddering breath. “Keep going.”

John rubs the ends of their noses together and exhales into Sherlock’s open mouth. “I was rather hoping you’d say that.”

Maddeningly slowly, John begins to move again, his back muscles undulating beautifully under Sherlock’s splayed out fingers. He kisses Sherlock’s throat, and mouth, and earlobes, rubs the welcome roughness of his moustache against Sherlock’s cheeks and nipples, and doesn’t speed up. Sherlock’s heels bounce loosely against John’s lower back as he stretches and writhes, exhaling slow and deep, allowing his entire body to flood with molten pleasure. His thighs are beginning to tremble.

John insinuates a hand in between their pressed together bellies and tilts up on his other arm. As his fingers close around Sherlock’s cock, the liquid heat in his veins begins to coalesce into something much more immediate. John smiles crookedly at him, those startlingly blue eyes sex-drugged and unfocused.

“I want to watch you.” John whispers, his voice breaking.

Oh,” is all Sherlock can manage as it starts to overwhelm him - his body shaking  uncontrollably, shivering even in the nearly oppressive heat of the room.

“That’s it, darling, that’s it,” John encourages, his hips snapping ferociously as his hand speeds up, dragging his palm over the head to spread Sherlock’s precome, gripping him lightly just the way Sherlock likes it.

“Oh, oh, oh my god, John,” Sherlock gasps, his back beginning to bow, hips stuttering upward as he chases his climax.

John fucks into him harder now, faster, the grip on Sherlock’s cock faltering as his own pleasure heightens. His head bows, rolls to the side, as his mouth drops open. “Ah, fuck - I'm so - close - ”

They come at the same time, Sherlock’s body completely given over to it, his eyes rolling back as he keens and twists against the pillows. His arse muscles contract around John’s cock, and he can feel - god he can actually feel John coming - the warm pulse of semen inside him, the way John’s cock gets stiffer, wider. He throws his head back and grinds upward, meeting John’s every thrust with one of his own, nearly wailing in pleasure while John trembles and curses and whimpers little ah ah ah sounds that make Sherlock’s toes curl.

They’re both still wracked with tremors when John pulls out gently and collapses beside Sherlock with a sigh. Sherlock wordlessly rolls, tucking himself into John’s waiting arms and burrowing his face into John’s neck. John’s fingers drift idly up and down Sherlock’s back, and eventually Sherlock realises they’re both falling asleep. He fumbles for the blankets, pulling them haphazardly over their naked bodies. John grumbles contentedly and mouths a messy kiss at Sherlock’s hairline.

“We must arise, my dear. Mrs Hudson will be back from church soon.” John makes no move to get up, however, instead yawning and scratching at his tangled hair.

“Five more minutes,” Sherlock mumbles back, suddenly unable to even open his eyes. He curls an arm over John’s stomach.

John laughs, but it sounds far away, as though he’s down a tunnel.

Sherlock feels himself drifting, falling, and then. Blackness.


Sherlock opens his eyes slowly. His eyelids are sticking together, the edges stinging, sandpaper rough. His mouth is horribly dry.

He blinks, aching from the sudden influx of light. The walls are startlingly white. Sunshine streams over every surface. It’s blinding. He shuts his eyes again and listens. Gradually he becomes aware of a muted beeping noise, the shuffle of feet against a lino floor, hushed voices.

Hospital. He’s in hospital.

He finally makes his eyes focus, and the first thing he sees properly is that familiar swirl of blonde-grey hair. John’s bent over the edge of the bed, his arms folded under his face, snoring softly.

No moustache. That’s strange. No. Wait. That’s not strange. John only had a moustache while Sherlock was gone. Sherlock made him shave it, it was awful. There was another moustache. But when? Where?

Sherlock shakes his head at his own confusion, and oh god does that hurt. His skull feels full of sharp edges and explosions. His ears ring and ring and ring as he settles back against the pillow and tries not to be sick.

The bed moves, and John yawns. Sherlock can hear him stretching, the catlike way he moves in the mornings, all loose limbed and slow. He smiles, despite the throbbing physical discomfort, because he can’t help but smile at John. He still has his eyes closed, doesn’t realise John must be looking at him, until the sharp intake of John’s breath.

“Sherlock?” John’s sleep-scratchy voice is tentative, wary. He’s afraid.

“Mmm,” is all Sherlock can manage. If he opens his mouth, he’ll be sick. His head is spinning, stomach lurching. He drags his eyes open, squinting.

“Oh, Christ, thank god,” John stands up, leans over the bedside and takes Sherlock’s hand in both of his. He looks a fright, his hair sticking up in unwashed spikes, his skin greasy and pale. He’s clearly been wearing the same clothes for days, they’re stained and creased, his jeans yellowed with dirt. But he’s smiling, and his tired, bloodshot eyes are brimming with relief and happiness. He reaches out and presses the red call button next to Sherlock’s head. “Need the doctor to come and evaluate you. But I’m not going anywhere. Promise.”

Sherlock smiles weakly again. It’s the best he can do.

The nurse comes in seconds later, sees Sherlock is awake, and hurries back out to bring back a cadre of doctors and assistants. They take his blood pressure, his temperature, peer into his eyes and his throat and palpate his abdomen. He becomes aware that his left arm is in a cast, and hurts rather a lot.

John stands there, holding his hand, immoveable. The doctors ask Sherlock questions he can’t answer, and John answers for him. He lets his eyes drift closed again. He’s not really tired, but looking at things seems quite effortful. John’s fingers thread between his own and squeeze. Sherlock tries to squeeze back and John whispers, “It’s okay, just rest.”

He drifts in and out, and each time he awakens, John is there. It could be a day, it could be weeks, he doesn’t know. It all bleeds into one. John feeds him applesauce and holds a straw to his lips so he can drink ice cold Coke, and metallic tasting water. He reads to him, mostly from The Guardian, and sometimes from the Daily Mail, just for a laugh. Mrs Hudson brings a case of John’s clothes, along with some books and his laptop. She cries over Sherlock and kisses his forehead, and he’s never been happier to see her.

John touches him, in ways he’s not done before, at first tentatively, and then with more certainty. He holds his hands, strokes his fingertips up and down Sherlock’s bare arm while he’s reading to him. Sherlock lets John brush his hair, which sends pleasurable little shivers cascading down his spine. John wipes his face with a damp cloth in the mornings, smiling at him the whole time as though he’s doing something clever instead of lying in a hospital bed like a lump, and dots the end of his nose with his index finger when he’s done. Sherlock thinks he should find this kind of mollycoddling intolerable, but in fact, it’s just the opposite.

Sherlock doesn’t talk much, finds himself uncharacteristically lacking for words. He’s content to let John take care of him, to just be here together, and allow whatever’s blooming between them to take root. All he knows is that he dreams of pipe smoke and muslin underclothes, of John’s mouth on his bare back, hands sliding up the insides of his thighs, John whispering I love you into the darkness of a candle lit room. He remembers soft skin and wet mouths, the thump of John’s heartbeat against his ear.

When he wakes up, John’s always there, moustacheless and in rumpled jeans, but looking at Sherlock with the same unguarded affection that Sherlock sees in his dreams.

They don’t talk about themselves much, or what’s changed between them. Sherlock’s trying to heal, which is both consuming and tiring, and John’s comfortable in his natural role as the caretaker. Once, Sherlock awakens to John’s mouth pressed against his hair, whispering something sweetly but unintelligibly. Sherlock pretends he’s still asleep, strains to try and discern what John’s saying. He thinks he hears a love and a lost you in there, but he can’t be sure.

At some point, Sherlock drifts awake to the smell of coffee and lemon muffins. His stomach rumbles, hungry in a way he’s not been in what seems like forever.

He opens his eyes and John’s there, sitting in what Sherlock’s come to think of as his chair, left ankle crossed over his right knee, sipping coffee from a takeaway cup and chewing thoughtfully. Sherlock pushes up with his good arm, and John immediately reaches up to help him, pushes a pillow behind his back to support him while he sits up.

“Morning.” John grins broadly and hands Sherlock a cup. “Thought you might want some real food, to fortify you for the trip home.”

He pauses, giving Sherlock time to process this.


“Home. They’re discharging you. Seems a fall from three stories up only warrants a month in hospital. I think it helps I’m a doctor. They’re letting me take over your care at home.” John raises his cup to his mouth, then lowers it again. His eyes look troubled.

“What’s wrong, John?” Sherlock slides his good hand across the bed, palm up.

John takes the invitation, scooting closer and lacing their fingers together. “Listen. I haven’t wanted to make you feel badly while you’ve been recovering, but. I need to.”

“It’s alright. Go ahead.” Sherlock rubs his thumb along the nub of John’s wrist bone.

John swallows, offers a sad smile and nods. “Okay. Here’s what it is. I almost lost you. Again. And I can’t keep going through this without - I mean, look. I understand what our lives are and I understand that we’re going to get hurt sometimes, it’s just the nature of what we do, but Jesus, Sherlock. I don’t know how many fucking buildings one person can fall off of and still survive, you know?”

“I assure you, this time it was entirely unintentional.” Sherlock tries for the haughtiest tone he can muster, and is rewarded by the rich warm sound of John’s laughter.

His eyes crinkle at the edges and lose a bit of their sadness. “Very funny, Mr Punchline. It’s just. You know, I don’t want to have regrets. I have so many goddamned regrets, and I just. I don’t think I can manage one more.”

“Alright…” Sherlock shifts, leans forward so their faces are merely inches apart. “What regret would you have. If I happened to be unlucky enough to fall off a third building.”

John looks stricken. “God, don’t. Don’t say that.”

Sherlock keeps himself from making a smart arse remark about John having just said the exact same thing. “Sorry.”

John nods. He looks down at their entwined hands, stares at them. He traces the outline of Sherlock’s nailbeds with a fingertip, rubs the webbing between his fingers. Sherlock waits, allowing him time to be silent.

“I’ve tried, you know, over the years. To just. Show you, because I thought - and you’re so fucking observant. You notice everything. You notice shit no one else in the world would notice. You can tell if someone’s committed a murder by the colour of their trainers, for godssake,” John’s voice rises, agitated. He’s chewing the inside of his lip hard enough to break skin. His eyes flick up to Sherlock’s, black rimmed with indigo, rough as a storm tossed ocean. “But. You never saw me. You never noticed. You never. I tried and I just. I have to tell you, and that’s - hard. I’m bad at this part.”

Sherlock knows what John’s trying to say, knew in fact before he even began talking, but he wanted to give him the space to say it. Now he’s struggling, because he thinks Sherlock doesn’t feel the same way, because he’s worried this will ruin them. But Sherlock’s not afraid anymore. He knows what he wants, what he’s always wanted, and it’s right here in front of him.

“John.” Sherlock tips forward until their foreheads are touching, and extracts his hand from their tangle of fingers, cups John’s jaw instead. “I love you, too.”

John says nothing, just jerks his head back and searches Sherlock’s face. His eyes are shining, half a smile on his lips. He shakes his head in disbelief.

Sherlock’s hand is still on his face. He tugs a little, and John acquiesces, sinking forward fractionally. John’s spent so much time trying to get Sherlock to understand. It’s his turn to do a bit of the heavy lifting in this relationship. He runs his thumb along the edge of John’s bottom lip.

“You heard me. I love you, too, and I’m an idiot.” Sherlock lets his eyes close, tipping his head down until John’s nose is lined up with his. They’re breathing in each other’s air. “I was afraid before, but. I’m not now.”

John smiles, and Sherlock can feel the movement against his own mouth. It’s a ghosting kiss, barely there. Then Sherlock tips his chin up, offering, and John captures his mouth in a kiss that’s half a sob, relief and joy and wonder pouring out of them, mingling on each other’s tongues. It’s familiar, in a way Sherlock can’t quite put his finger on. It feels as though they’ve done this before, and now Sherlock is just coming home, putting his mouth exactly where it’s always meant to be.

The kiss goes on and on, lasts until their lips are wet and raw, until Sherlock’s dizzy from sitting up on his own this long and absolutely has to lie back against his pillows before he tips right out of the bed. John helps him, standing up and holding his elbow, easing him back. His eyes are sparkling like July sunshine, cheeks flushed, his lips kiss swollen and pink. He’s radiant.

“I can’t. I can’t believe.” John sits on the edge of the bed, as though he can’t stand to even be as far away from Sherlock as his chair. He brushes Sherlock’s fringe out of his eyes and puts a kiss on his brow. “I didn’t think you would - ”

Sherlock interrupts. “Well, you must have, a bit. We didn’t used to go round holding hands. I mean, even you aren’t that unobservant.”

John laughs, still looking absurdly happy, happier than Sherlock’s ever seen him. It’s a good look on him. Sherlock wants to see him this way much more often.

He smacks Sherlock’s thigh with the back of his hand. “Arse.”

“Gently there, I’m still recuperating.” Sherlock teases, a deep calm spreading through him. This. This is how they’re supposed to be. It just feels right. “You still haven’t said it, you know.”

“You interrupted me. Rude.” John arches an eyebrow, looking mischievous. He shifts, leaning over Sherlock and staring into his eyes with an intensity that makes Sherlock’s stomach flutter. He doesn’t blink. “Sherlock Holmes. I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

“I know. I know you have. I’m sorry I was so stupid before.” Sherlock reaches up with his good hand, runs his fingers through John’s hair, pulls him forward. “Come here.”

“You sure it’s okay?” John looks worried, glances at the half open door to the hallway.

“No one’s coming in, and yes, I can handle it. Please,” he adds, knowing the effect his asking nicely has always had on John.

John climbs gingerly up the bed, arranges himself carefully in the narrow slice of mattress between Sherlock and the bed rail. Sherlock sighs and settles, moving down so he’s shorter than John, so he can lay his head against John’s shoulder. John hands him his coffee, and picks up a crumpled brown paper bag, spreads it across their pressed together thighs. They drink their now cooling coffee and eat four lemon muffins between them, leaving crumbs all over the sheets. Sherlock’s never felt more content in his life.

Late that night, Sherlock’s propped on the sofa with the telly on, his broken arm resting on a nest of pillows, well dosed with pain medication and nearly drifting off to sleep. John emerges from the darkened kitchen in his pyjamas, holding something in his hands and looking confused.


“What’s the matter?” Sherlock murmurs drowsily, only half interested.

“Where did you get this? I found it in your things from the hospital.” John crosses the room and sinks down next to Sherlock on the sofa, placing what he’s been holding in Sherlock’s blanket covered lap.

It’s a bone pipe, intricately carved, well-used, and clearly an antique. Sherlock’s immediately more awake. This looks...familiar. He picks it up and turns it over and over in his good hand, running his fingertips over the engravings, the tobacco stains. John watches him curiously.

“I have no idea. I’ve - ” He wants to say he’s never seen it before, but that doesn’t feel quite true.

“It’s got your initials on it. Look. There.” John turns the pipe over, points to the bottom.

Sure enough, a small WSSH is etched lightly into the surface. A thrill races down Sherlock’s spine, overcome with a scent memory of vanilla tobacco and old leather. He hears John’s voice in his mind, rough and dusky - intimate - That’s it, my boy, that’s it.

He swallows, sure his cheeks are flaming red, and shakes his head. “Honestly, John, I’ve no idea.”

“A mystery you can’t solve? You really are off your game.” John grins and takes the pipe from him, places it gently on the side table. “Well, we’ll have to grapple with that particular mystery tomorrow, because it’s time for you to get some sleep. Come on, then.”

John helps him up, and trundles him down the hall into bed. He tucks the blankets in around Sherlock, fetches water and a granola bar from the kitchen so Sherlock can take his medication in the middle of the night without getting up.

“Alright.” John puts his hands on his hips and looks down at Sherlock. “All set?”

Sherlock knows he’s waiting for explicit permission. He tugs gently on John’s hand. “No.

“Good.” John grins and doesn’t let go of Sherlock’s hand as he crawls over him to lie down. He spoons up beside Sherlock without hesitation and sighs. “This is - ”

“Perfect,” Sherlock finishes, snuggling down into John’s warm body, relishing the weight of John leaning against him.

“Yeah,” John tips Sherlock’s chin up with two fingers, kisses him so sweetly that it hurts. “I love you. God, how I love you.”

Sherlock thinks of the pipe in the sitting room, of how many times they’ve almost lost each other, and how easy and right this feels now. John’s fingers curl into his hair and they kiss softly for a few minutes.

“Goodnight, John,” Sherlock finally whispers, no longer able to stave off sleep.

“Goodnight, Sherlock.” John reaches over and turns out the light, rolls on his back and brings Sherlock with him. Sherlock’s head fits into the curve of John’s shoulder, their legs slide together, bare feet rubbing, bodies locking into place as though they were created just for this singular purpose.

The next morning, Sherlock puts the bone pipe on mantel, right in the centre. John smiles when he sees it, but doesn’t ask. They never talk about its origins again - where it came from, how it could possibly have gotten Sherlock’s initials on it. Occasionally Sherlock takes it from the mantel and chews on the end, his teeth fitting perfectly into the grooves already there. Some nights, especially those nights, after he's held the pipe, touched it, he dreams of a sooty fireplace in the bedroom, the flickering light of oil lamps, and a tweed waistcoat smooth against his cheek.