It starts in the morning. Really, if John were to be honest, it starts over and over again, at all different times of day. It starts at night, when he shoots the cabbie. It starts in the evening, when Angelo hands him his cane. It starts in the afternoon, when he walks into St. Bart’s looking for a flatmate.
But this particular time, on this particular day, which is the day it really begins, it starts in the morning.
John rolls over onto his back, suddenly aware of the difference in temperature between his bed and the rest of the room. He pulls the covers over his face and shifts down into them. He closes his eyes and notices the tension in his body. He can remember wisps of a dream from the night before. He can't say for sure what happened, but it involved skin and heat and Sherlock and god, so much kissing.
And if, thinking about it, his hand drifts lower, and finds its way into his pyjama bottoms...well. He is only trying to relieve the tension. And perhaps recapture his dream.
John goes into the kitchen and makes a cup of tea, then sits down at the sitting room table, across from Sherlock. Sherlock takes a deep breath, and John wonders if the smell of pleasure is somehow still drifting around his body.
"You may have noticed that it's colder in the flat than usual," Sherlock says.
John looks up. "Yes...why?"
"Heat's broken. Mrs. Hudson says we'll be without it until tomorrow afternoon."
John nods, and sips at his tea too soon, burning his tongue. He grimaces, and puts his mug down on the table.
"Well then I guess we'll just have to dress in layers and huddle together for warmth."
Sherlock raises an eyebrow and John flashes him a roguish grin.
Sherlock looks at John like he's solving him, then stands up and pushes in his chair. John leans over his mug to blow steam off the top of his tea, and Sherlock comes up behind him and rests his hand on John's shoulder. He leans down and presses his lips to John's head without saying a word. John feels him exhale, then Sherlock squeezes his shoulder, pulls away, and disappears into his room.
John is still. He is watching swirls of steam float up from his tea, thinking to himself that he saw this coming far before today. It was written all over their first meeting. It was written in the way he lent Sherlock his phone. It was written in the way Sherlock sashayed across the lab towards him. It was probably written far before that, in the bullet that struck John’s shoulder. Now, suddenly, it’s real. It’s come to life, and just like that, Sherlock kisses him, John stills, Sherlock disappears, and John realizes that his breathing is ragged and his heart is beating faster than it should be.
John doesn't say anything. He finishes the rest of his tea while Sherlock gets dressed. When Sherlock comes out of his room, John is washing his mug in the sink, and they make eye contact. Everything that has been unspoken is spoken in that look. John smiles, and Sherlock smiles back, and that is how it begins.
They follow Mrs. Hudson into the kitchen, where Christmas cookies are stacked on the table. She apologizes profusely for the heating situation, and suggests they make use of their fireplace. She knows they don't have any firewood, so she offers them some of her own.
"And if you'll just give me a moment, let me take this cake out of the oven and you can bring it upstairs with you. I just feel awful about the heat. I've been meaning to get that part replaced for ages now." She turns to the oven and peeks inside to check on the cake.
John looks at Sherlock, who is standing just outside the kitchen, reading the Christmas cards that are taped around the doorway. He loses interest quickly, then takes a casual step forward and leans against the doorframe. John walks towards him. Mrs. Hudson is occupied with her cake.
"You do know where you're standing," John says.
Sherlock gives him a quizzical look. "What are you talking about?"
"I refuse to believe that you managed to miss the giant sprig of mistletoe hanging above your head. The great Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective, does not miss things like that."
Sherlock looks up and fakes surprise. "Oh. Look at that. Mistletoe." He looks back down at John. "It's poisonous, you know."
"How romantic," says John, rolling his eyes with a smile.
"Not as poisonous as some make it out to be, but certainly unpleasant to digest. Some varieties are more poisonous than others."
"Hmm. Well I happen to know that the one hanging over your head is quite harmful if ingested."
"How do you know?"
"Because it's plastic."
Sherlock begins to smirk, then purses his lips tightly. His eyes flicker over to Mrs. Hudson briefly. "So are you going to kiss me or not?" he asks. "You do tend to be one for tradition."
John opens his mouth to answer, but is interrupted.
"John, be a dear and hold this pan for me, please."
He turns to look at Mrs. Hudson, who is facing the opposite direction, struggling with a sticky spice cake. Sherlock puts a hand to the small of John's back and nudges him toward her.
"Yes, be a dear, John," Sherlock murmurs. John stumbles forward and crosses the kitchen. Despite his layers of clothing, the spot on his back that Sherlock has touched is warm, and tingles slightly.
When the cake is separated from its pan, Mrs. Hudson wraps it up and hands it to Sherlock, then motions John over to the wood stove. She piles firewood into his arms. John looks over at Sherlock, who is watching him, carefully. Mrs. Hudson hands John almost more firewood than he can carry, then pats him on the arm and makes some remark about how strong he is. John straightens his back and looks at Sherlock again. His eyes have darkened a bit.
As they walk toward the door, Mrs. Hudson plucks a large bag from a corner of the sitting room and gives it to Sherlock.
"Just some extra decorations to cheer up the flat," she says. She looks at John, then looks at Sherlock, and her face changes. John wonders what she sees. He catches her eyes as he says goodbye, and she gives him a knowing smile.
Sherlock follows John up the stairs. He walks a little bit closer than usual.
John is typing out a blog post when Sherlock starts to unpack Mrs. Hudson's bag. He asks Sherlock a question, then looks up to find that Sherlock is suddenly and inexplicably wearing a Santa hat. John bursts into uncontrollable giggles. Although his eyes are watering with mirth, he doesn't miss the look of surprise and satisfaction and pure unadulterated affection on Sherlock's face as he watches John laugh. It's as if he has created something unexpectedly essential. Something miraculous. He keeps the hat on, and John knows that the only reason he does so is because he wants to see John laugh again.
John abandons his blog post in favour of helping Sherlock with the decorations. The bag contains a string of Christmas lights, two nutcrackers, a dozen snowflake ornaments, and a wooden angel with straw hair. They hang the lights around the entryway to the kitchen. John tries to put the nutcrackers on the mantle, but Sherlock complains that the skull will be jealous, so they settle for the sitting room table instead. Sherlock takes one look at the wooden angel and tosses it in the fire. When John gawks at him, Sherlock insists that Mrs. Hudson wouldn't want it back, as it was clearly a gift from an ex-lover. He explains his reasoning at length.
All that's left now are the snowflakes. Sherlock picks them up. John turns away for a moment to fill the kettle, and when he looks back, Sherlock has a light sprinkling of glitter all over his hands and clothing.
John laughs. "What did you do?" he asks. Sherlock looks frustrated. He tosses the snowflakes aside and tries to brush the glitter off his clothes, but only ends up spreading it further. When a lock of hair falls in front of his eyes, he makes the mistake of brushing it away.
"No, don’t touch anything," John says. He takes a few steps toward Sherlock and ruffles his hair where it sticks out from under the hat. Glitter falls to the ground in front of them.
John takes Sherlock's hand and tries to wipe the glitter away, but it sticks fast. "Glitter is hell to get off of your skin," he says.
"You have experience with getting glitter all over your skin?" Sherlock asks. His voice is soft and teasing.
John snorts. "Don't ask." He is still holding onto Sherlock's hand, brushing over the palm with his thumb. Forgetting about the glitter for a moment, he traces over Sherlock’s fingers with his own. He looks up, and Sherlock is watching him. John leans in, and Sherlock's lips part. He's a breath away from Sherlock’s mouth when Sherlock speaks.
“Kettle’s boiling,” he says. John pulls back and blinks at him. Sherlock’s eyes are playful in a way that usually means someone has died a particularly creative death. He bites his lip, then puts a hand on John’s hip and nudges him to the side. It’s only the third or fourth time John has ever seen Sherlock make tea.
"Tease," John murmurs. Sherlock hears him, and smiles.
“How long have you wanted this?” John asks. He can tell by the look in Sherlock’s eyes that he doesn’t need to elaborate.
Sherlock swallows and takes a small sip of water. “A long time,” he says.
The warmth of the fire is putting John to sleep. Wrapped up in a blanket, with hot tea in his stomach and two pairs of socks on his feet, he is almost too comfortable to keep his eyes open. His eyelids begin to droop, and he feels all the tension slowly leave his muscles.
The firewood pops, and John suddenly jumps and comes awake. He looks up to see that Sherlock is watching him, his head tilted back, resting against the arm of the chair. The fire makes his bone structure even more dramatic. One cheekbone is highlighted. His outstretched neck looks like an invitation.
And this is when it happens.
Sherlock stretches his legs, pointing his toes like a ballerina. The blanket comes up a bit too short, so John pulls it down to cover Sherlock's feet. Sherlock looks up at him, and John is looking at the fire, and it takes a moment before he realizes that his left hand is still curled around the arch of Sherlock's foot. John removes his hand just as Sherlock pulls his foot back, and suddenly, Sherlock has lunged forward, and the blanket has fallen off of him, and John supposes there was no point to covering Sherlock's feet anyway. Because now the blanket is pooled between them, Sherlock's knees pinning it to the floor, and Sherlock's hands pinning John's shoulders in place, and Sherlock's mouth pinning John's head against the chair cushion.
Sherlock kisses like he's fifteen years old and wants to impress someone. Like he's saying "I can do this, just bear with me." Like he's taking notes as he goes. John corrects the tilt of his head, and has never wanted Sherlock to experiment on him so badly.
The fire makes crackling and snapping sounds in the background. Sherlock takes a sharp breath through his nose before pressing harder into John, and suddenly he is sitting on John's lap and John isn't sure if he should be willing away his erection or not. When Sherlock grinds purposefully against him, John has his answer.
Sherlock's whole body is warm from the blanket and the fireplace. His hands are just a bit dry—a sharp contrast to his mouth. His mouth is hot and wet and John thinks that maybe there's just a bit too much saliva, but he doesn't care, because it's Sherlock and therefore it's perfect.
Sherlock breaks away to cup John's face in one hand and pull it to the side, baring as much of John's neck as he can. He runs his tongue down John's throat, and John can't stop the moan that escapes just then, and when Sherlock slides one hand under his jumper, John's whole body shudders.
Sherlock's hand is between the soft knit of John's jumper, and the smooth cotton of the shirt underneath. He runs it up and down John's chest, and John is quite certain that he's never been this turned on from someone touching his clothes. Sherlock's face is buried at the crook of his neck, and John knows that he will find a mark on his skin the next morning, but he can't find the strength to care. Especially not when Sherlock's fingers find a gap between the buttons of his shirt, and slide through. He makes skin-to-skin contact with John's chest. John's hands grip tightly where they lay on Sherlock's thighs. He feels Sherlock smile against his skin, and for the first time in many long minutes, Sherlock speaks.
"You’re very aroused," he says. His voice is casual, like he's remarking on the weather. He scrapes his teeth across John's skin, and John whimpers.
"Not surprising. We've been leading up to this all day."
"We've been leading up to this since we met," Sherlock husks, and John swallows a knot in his throat because he knows that it's true.
John is entranced by the way the shadows move across Sherlock’s skin. He looks warmer—more pink than usual, and John’s not sure if that’s because of the fire, or if Sherlock’s skin is flushed with arousal. He likes to think it’s a little of both.
Sherlock slides off John’s lap and lays on his back on the floor, pulling John on top of him. He slips one leg between John’s, bending at the knee and allowing John to thrust against his thigh. John takes Sherlock's hands and pins them above his head, close to the hearth. Sherlock starts breathing harder.
They kiss and they kiss and they kiss and all of a sudden, Sherlock pulls away and says—
"If we could just...the fire's a bit too hot."
He looks so flustered and reluctant that John laughs. He pulls back and Sherlock sits up and then Sherlock is pushing him down backwards and the air back there is cooler and so Sherlock pulls a warm blanket from the floor and drapes it over their heads.
They can't see under the blanket. Everything is hot breath and wet mouths and John feels like his every inhale is Sherlock. Sherlock kisses John and his hair is in John's eyes. He tastes like cardamom and he smells like curry, and John thinks for a moment that this—this is the way he wants to die. He would be happy to drown this way.
Sherlock pulls back and flings the blanket from their heads and rolls to the side. Their legs are tangled together. John's trousers feel too tight. He reaches for his belt buckle just as Sherlock does the same, and their fingers clash. Sherlock laughs again. John doesn't know if he's ever heard Sherlock laugh so much.
Sherlock is wearing slate grey cotton with tiny white buttons that John's fingers fumble over. He's all pressed edges and crisp lines, and John can't help but feel rumbled in his navy blue knit. Sherlock doesn't seem to mind. He's petting John as if John will purr, and really, considering the deeply satisfying feeling of Sherlock's hands down his shoulders and back, John wouldn't be surprised if he did.
Everything becomes a mess of sleeves and buttons and zippers and why is there a hidden button on the inside of Sherlock's trousers, and why does John insist on so many layers. But soon there is nothing. There is nothing between them and they're looking at each others' bodies and trying not to be so obvious about it, but all they want to do is look. Sherlock's pupils have taken over his eyes and he ducks his head to kiss John's neck, and looks down, and then up and then kisses John's temple and John knows that he needs this for the rest of his life.
Things happen very quickly.
They grasp each other and whisper requests into each other's ears. Faster, a bit tighter, like that, just like that. But then John realizes that he wants to be closer, he wants to feel more, and so he pushes Sherlock back and Sherlock parts his legs and John lays on top of him.
And now this—this is perfect. Sherlock's skin feels like warm silk, and the heat from the fire is tickling at their feet. Sherlock grips John's hips with his thighs and John begins to thrust forward in tiny tidal waves.
They're pressed together, and Sherlock's hands are sliding down John's back, and John's fingers are tangled in Sherlock's curls. John kisses Sherlock's neck and Sherlock sighs into John's hair, and everything feels so right. Sherlock slips a hand between them. John gasps. Sherlock groans.
John chokes out three words that they have never spoken, but that have always been understood. And then—
It's like he's fallen into a black hole and he's fresh out of oxygen. In all his long and not-unimpressive sex life, it has never been like this. For a moment, this is everything, and Sherlock has consumed him.
That will happen soon. Right now, they are just breathing against each other, and thinking about each other, and every now and then, pressing a kiss to each other.
The fire is still licking at their feet. Sherlock drapes the blanket back over their bodies, and pulls John a little closer.