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John pounds up the stairs, his feet heavy and aching. They feel swollen in his shoes after the day he's had—early morning at the station, the queuing, the train. He readjusts his rucksack over his shoulder, puts down his suitcase, and swings open the door.

"Sherlock?" he calls out into the lounge, and looks around. The lights are dimmed and there's an empty tin of baked beans on the floor next to Sherlock's chair. John snickers to himself and enters the flat all the way; he'd wondered what he was going to catch Sherlock doing, coming home two days early, but a sneaky uni-style meal of beans from the can was not what he expected. It's rather more cute than scandalous, and far more innocuous than other possibilities. Sherlock would be hard-pressed to blow something up with a tin of bea— John stops that thought in its tracks. It's likely Sherlock could easily blow something up with a tin of beans. He walks further into the room.

It smells…odd, in here. Like ammonia. Perhaps Sherlock has been conducting some sort of experiment. Still, even the weirdness of the smell feels like home, and after a week away full of sessions and drinking and falsely-chummy camaraderie, he's glad to be there.

With a half smile John drops his bags, toes off his shoes, and tosses his jacket onto to the chair. "Sherlock?" he calls again, wandering into the kitchen.

He hears the shower shut off and the grating rasp of the curtain being pushed back. "John?"

Rather than answering, John starts the water for tea and gets down the mugs. A few minutes later, the bathroom door opens. Sherlock doesn't immediately appear however, but the ammonia smell gets stronger. John cocks his head trying to place it. It smells familiar, but he can't put his finger on why.

He turns to the door and finally Sherlock appears in the doorway clutching a towel around his waist, hair slicked back and dripping down his bare shoulders, a poorly-concealed expression of shock hovering around his eyes. "John."

John flicks a look at him and drops two bags into the mugs. "I'm back."

"Yes, I can see that."

"They cancelled the last two sessions I actually cared about attending, so I decided to head home early. I was getting really annoyed with the people at the conference. They were— Hey, Sherlock, what's that smell?" As John had talked it had steadily gotten stronger, and now it's nearly overpowering. "It smells like perfumed ammonia." The recognition finally floats to the surface and John tilts his head. "Hair dye?"

If John hadn't known better, he'd have thought Sherlock's complexion coloured slightly. As it is, Sherlock only waves a hand in the air, clutching harder onto the towel with the other. "For a case."

"But…" It doesn't make any sense. "That's the same colour your hair always is."

"It's darker."

"Not it's not, it's…" The penny drops, and with it a strange sensation in John's gut coalesces. "Sherlock. Is it possible that…No." John shuffles his weight onto both feet and peers harder at him. "No, there's no way. Sherlock, do you dye your hair?"

Sherlock breathes with his diaphragm. John can see his stomach clearly, pushing in and out beyond his ribs on each breath, each muscle defined and alive. He watches this as Sherlock stares at him, and then John becomes aware of the feedback loop of Sherlock watching him watching Sherlock. The hairs on his arms prick up.

He feels caught in something, as if he were a voyeur standing out in the open. From this distance, he can see gooseflesh forming on Sherlock's arms and chest, and his nipples firm. John's mouth runs dry.

"Cold?" he says, then clears the rasp from his throat.

"You interrupted my shower."

"I interrupted you dyeing your hair."

And after a moment, John gets his shocking confirmation. "I had finished already."

"You usually wait until I'm gone?"

"At work. Or at some— One of your girlfriends' for the night."

"What colour is it really?"

"Isn't that a personal question?"

John half shrugs. He can't seem to look away. Sherlock has pinned him with his eyes, but still John can track a drop of water dripping down the side of Sherlock's face and off his chin, landing on his belly. Sherlock shivers, a full-body thing that John can almost feel echoing in his own nervous system. He takes a step toward Sherlock in the doorway. He feels pulled, a cord knotted in his gut slowly reeling him in. As he gets closer, the smell of the dye becomes stronger, perfumey and cloying. "How come I don't smell it when I come home?"

"I have time to air out the flat. And wash my hair a few times. Sometimes I smoke."

"Ah." John quirks up a corner of his mouth, dryly. "Is that why."

Shocking John's system, Sherlock steps even closer, his lids lowering in annoyance. "It's not the only reason."

"Well, you are an addict."

"So are you."

"I'm really not."

"You are, John, you just ignore it."

"Are you ever going to get sick of making grand pronouncements about me?"

"No."

"You're such an arse."

"I know." A smile begins to tug at Sherlock's lips, and John feels his face flush. He grins back.

"Why didn't you ever say anything?"

Sherlock twitches a bare, smooth shoulder. "Wasn't relevant."

"Doesn't need to be relevant, Sherlock. You could have just…told me."

For a moment, John is treated to the sight of Sherlock's profile as he stares off to the side. The kettle clicks. Then Sherlock moves in such way that seems to indicate another shrug. John notices the white around his knuckles where they clutch the towel at his waist.

John almost reaches for the tea mugs, but something stops him. "Is it supposed to be a secret?" he asks.

"It always has been, yes."

"To everyone?"

"Since I was fifteen, yes."

"What happened then?" Sherlock scrubs his free hand over his mouth. When he pulls it away the skin is reddened, sensitive as it is and prone to irritation. John thinks of face lotion, of razor burn, of colour treatment ravaging a scalp every six weeks, at the way Sherlock's eyes close when he pushes his fingers through his hair. Then John shoves all those thoughts away. "Never mind. You don't want to talk about—"

"I changed schools," Sherlock says. "Late. And I wanted a fresh start."

"Why?"

"It seemed… It was the logical choice."

"Why?"

"Because no one would have seen me before. My father's hair was always dark, so it would be a natural assumption mine was too."

"What colour is it really?"

Sherlock finally looks at him. The full force of his gaze freezes John where he stands, backed up against the table and about to reach for the kettle. John sees Sherlock's adam's apple bob. Then Sherlock's fist unclenches, and all at once the towel falls.

In the overhead light the trail of hair down from Sherlock's navel still gleams gold, but now it makes more sense as it leads down, spreading and wild, into a thatch of hair russet and copper as an old penny. John wants to stop staring—must stop staring—but it looks so foreign there, a spot of colour amongst the stark contrast of Sherlock's usual form, and he can't peel his eyes away. He exhales heavily, and blinks, numbness tingling in his fingertips. Parts of John's brain tells him that Sherlock is a bit larger than John had expected, based on his trousers, and purely as an autonomic reaction John licks his lips.

As he watches, Sherlock's cock jumps, filling, and John realises with a warmth that spreads through his limbs that his idle conjecture might not have been as wrong as he thought: this is Sherlock, yes, this is Sherlock standing here, but even before the towel fell Sherlock had already started to become aroused.

Expecting lord-knows-what, John drags his eyes up to Sherlock's face. He's greeted by a startlingly-vulnerable expression, a softness in his eyes and around his mouth, and a gaze John just can't bring himself to break. "Ginger?" he murmurs, and his voice sounds thick in his ears.

"Like my grandmother," Sherlock says.

"What about Mycroft?"

"Dyes it too. You can see his in the light more than you can mine."

"I thought it was just a very dark, like, auburn."

Sherlock shakes his head, though he doesn't release John's gaze to do it. "Bright ginger as a child."

"Were you teased?"

Quirking a smile, Sherlock lifts a probably-dyed eyebrow. "You've met me. What do you think?"

"I imagine you were probably a swotty ginger know-it-all whose parents had too much money, and you probably didn't rein in your mouth even half as much as you do now, which means you were probably an unholy terror. That couldn't have won you much with your schoolmates."

"And I was gay."

This, John hadn't expected. Well, the fact is expected, sure, it's something John had assumed long ago, but he had never in a million years thought Sherlock would say it out loud. In light of the current stirrings, however… John swallows and tries to breathe. "In the eighties? That probably didn't help, no."

"Not helpful. Not as such."

John blows out a heavy breath in an attempt to steady himself.

But Sherlock continues, needling him, pushing the subject. "Tell me. Did you tease people like me when you were in school, John? Or were you the defender of the innocent?"

"When were you ever innocent?" John says, forcing the joke through in the hopes it might break the attack.

Abruptly, the cockiness in Sherlock's expression melts. He stands there and looks at John. "Not since I was very small."

A long list of possible circumstances for that race through John's head, and his chest clenches. He takes another a step closer as if to…what, console him? The naked man standing two feet away, whose groin John is steadfastly ignoring? But on John's face and hands he can feel the humid warmth rolling off Sherlock's body, and the urge to touch becomes nearly overwhelming. In fact, his arm comes halfway up before he can stop himself.

"You can touch, John," Sherlock says, so quietly it's almost a bare rumble.

John's fingers hover somewhere near Sherlock's lower belly. He stares at them. "I'm not actually gay."

"Well, I am."

His mind focussing on the breath shaking Sherlock's abdomen, the steadiness of his own hand, and the thickness of the air surrounding them, John murmurs, "Look at us both." And his fingers make contact, dragging gently through the coppery curls at Sherlock's groin.

Sherlock's cock twitches harder, then fills yet again as John watches. He's aware of an unexpected but undeniable throb of sympathy in his own pants, of the subtle aching sensation as bloodflow steadily pulses down, down, already beginning to make his trousers uncomfortable. He wants to adjust himself but doesn't, instead licking his lips and letting out a shaky breath and focusing on the feeling of Sherlock's skin under his fingertips as he drags them slowly up the centreline of Sherlock's body.

Sherlock must shave; there's the hint of stubble over his sternum. John idly wonders if the hair on his chest grows in the same old-penny colour as the hair on his groin, then he brushes his hand over Sherlock's shoulder as he walks around to examine his back.

John has never considered himself to be one much for arses, but he has to admit to himself that the view from Sherlock's rear is lovely. It's round and high and looks touchable in a way John is unused to. The angle his shoulders take as they narrow past his heaving ribs down to his narrow hips is aesthetically pleasant. His vertebrae are perfect along the ridge of his spine as John drags his finger over each one, and the softness of the tiny hairs at the top of his arse, just at the triangle above the crack, makes John want to pet him. So he does. And Sherlock shudders.

"Mammal," John says quietly, a nonsensical admonishment.

"You're not?" Sherlock says.

"But we're not examining me." John is aware of the heavy potential of the unsaid 'yet'. He pushes that thought aside to adjust himself in his jeans and crouch down.

The hair on Sherlock's thighs is darker, almost auburn, but it still glints red in the kitchen light as John brushes his hands over it. The muscle underneath is firm, and it feels strange but pleasant to hands used to a more feminine softness. The hard muscle at Sherlock's calf, in fact, is so lovely that some quiescent part of John's brain calls for him to bite it, to sink his teeth in and leave dents in the flesh. He compromises and presses his tongue there instead. There's a quiet sound from above, like Sherlock trying to suck in a breath silently through his nose.

The ankles below the calves are strong and sinewy and uninteresting, but the hair scattered over the tops of Sherlock's feet looks sparse and straight like strangely-feathery rust, and John smears his fingers over the arches and down towards Sherlock's toes before he has a second thought.

Sherlock bites off a yelp and pulls his foot out from underneath John's hand. "John—"

"Sorry," John says, a giggle bubbling up, and he drags his fingers up the front of Sherlock's ankle, shin, knee, thigh, all one line as he stands.

Sherlock shivers again, and before John can experience more than the briefest flush of pride at how reactive Sherlock is he finds himself leaning in. He can't help it; he's compelled, all of a sudden, with the sharpest of pangs, to kiss Sherlock's chest, his sternum, his nipples, his ribs, and with single-minded focus John does so all the way down to the light trail of hair that stretches south from his navel. Sherlock's breath, shaking but steady as John covered his torso with kisses, actually stutters at this point, and he places his hand lightly on John's shoulder.

"I like this part," John murmurs, ruffling the hairs with his breath and then slowly, gently, dragging his fingertips down it all the way to the top of Sherlock's pubic bone. He stares from inches away at the red-gold of the hairs as they catch the light, and at the way they grow darker and more coarse past a certain point. Then compulsion takes John again and he crouches further to press his mouth to the hair at the side of Sherlock's cock. He inhales.

Above him, Sherlock grits out a loud, wrenching moan. His fingers, now lightly touching John’s hair, twitch.

Next to his cheek, John feels Sherlock harden, and it draws his focus. John stands, and at last, with only the slightest of hesitations, he brushes his fingertips down along Sherlock's cock.

It's so soft. Perhaps it's something to do with not having to mentally uncross signals from both his hand and his cock, but against his fingers the skin of Sherlock's cock feels so much softer than John's, even at this liminal state of arousal. John wants to compare. As Sherlock's cock begins to stretch upward, lengthening, reaching before John's eyes, he grazes the pads of his fingers around the head and catches the foreskin on the way down. He feels Sherlock's resulting huff of breath ruffle his fringe. Sherlock hasn't even shifted his weight throughout the entire ordeal, but that doesn't mean he's not unaffected. Apart from the obvious arousal his stomach is betraying his reaction to the whole strange situation; he's breathing rapidly, shallowly, with tiny flutters each time John touches him.

It feels powerful, the control, the ability to affect like this. The liquid headiness settles along John's spine and flushes another pulse of blood down to his cock, and it's necessary to adjust again. He tries to make it as subtle as possible, grabbing himself through his jeans and orienting himself upward all the while circling the fingertips of his other hand around the darkening head of Sherlock's cock, but he should have known Sherlock wouldn't have missed it. No sooner has he arranged himself than Sherlock's hand is right there, placed carefully over the bulge in his jeans, not moving, not stroking, just warmth and gentle pressure all along the length of his cock. John wants to moan, feeling himself throb impossibly harder at the friction from the unlikeliest of sources, but he bites it down in favour of focussing on what he is doing to Sherlock.

He softly strokes up, all the way from Sherlock's balls to the emerging head of his cock, rough to smooth, dry to damp, feeling the ridge of the raphe and conjuring up the sense memory of how such a touch feels.

The tip of Sherlock's cock is hot when John rubs his middle finger over it, the meatus parting wetly as he slides his finger back and forth. He hears Sherlock make a sound, a high, thready noise that resonates in his nasal cavities and sounds like anguish. And as he looks down at it, at the flushed dark head and the paleness of John's finger, at the rich colour of Sherlock's pubic hair and the plain arousal of his fully-receded foreskin, every single synapse in John's brain begs for him to put the cock in his mouth.

So he bends his knees, and he does.

The effect it has on Sherlock is gratifying enough that John doesn't mind that no one is currently touching his own cock anymore. Sherlock lets out a full-voiced moan and slowly rolls his hips, then folds almost double over John's body in a shuddering hunch.

He can hear Sherlock gasping for air when he straightens up, and feels the flutter of Sherlock's hand rest for the barest moment on the back of his head. John's mouth has been watering like mad, the thick saliva of arousal, and when he sucks down Sherlock's cock and pulls off the wet sound is filthy and loud in the room. He bobs his head again, and again, registering an echo of it in his own cock and feeling desire sizzle in his blood. John pulls his mouth off to breathe and roll around the taste of Sherlock on his tongue, but almost immediately he's tugged up into a desperate, sloppy kiss.

Up until this point, John had managed to fortify the wall in his brain that was somehow brushing this off as academic, a push and pull of sensation and play and power. A bit of madness. But now he feels that wall explode outward in a soundless explosion of white, and the shockwave carries with it a need that sets his whole body on fire.

The kiss is a frenzy. John can't stay still. One of them is whining into the kiss, and one of them is whimpering, and Sherlock digs his fingers into John's hips to pull him as close as anatomy will allow. Close is not close enough, however; he wants with every fibre of his being to crawl inside Sherlock's mouth—his slippery, fumbling, unpractised mouth—with the hopes that something in there will sate him. The thought is electric. This time, at least, John is aware the whine is his. It goes on and on until it breaks. He hitches up his leg to wrap it around Sherlock's knee, but as he rolls his hips against Sherlock's thigh in a bid for friction both of Sherlock's hands grasp his arse and pull him up onto his toes.

Sherlock bites John's lower lip and rolls their hips together, a movement which immediately syncs itself into a joint effort, improvised choreography as their hips grind and sway against one another, matching perfectly as Sherlock's breath huffs out between their mouths. It's as much like sex as John has experienced in months, maybe even a year, and while most of his brain is shouting for more a tiny bit realises that Sherlock is going to do himself damage if he keeps this up.

He reluctantly lets go of his stablising grip on Sherlock's arse to unfasten his belt and trousers, but after a moment Sherlock knocks his hands away to do it himself. The first brush of Sherlock's hands that close to his skin make John huff out a needy breath and grab onto Sherlock's hair, holding on and riding the sudden wave of emotion.

"Bed?" he says, and hopes it doesn't sound as much like begging as he suspects it does.

"Wait," Sherlock replies, and in one great tug pulls both of John's shirts over his head. He hadn't even noticed Sherlock unbuttoning the cuffs.

But the next moment they're chest to chest, grinding against each other, breath puffing between them. Sherlock's skin still feels like flame with the residual heat from his shower. He skims his palms up and down John's back and John buries his shaking hands in his hair, and with a groan Sherlock ducks his head for a kiss. This one is desperate, and hot, and slick, and there are far too many teeth, but something about it makes John grit out an embarrassing noise, and when Sherlock's cock brushes his through the vee of his jeans, even through the fabric of his pants, it makes John's knees buckle.

He shoves everything down to his feet—pants, trousers, all—and steps sideways out of them to press all four naked limbs against Sherlock. John gasps out a moan. His throat thickens as he touches every inch of Sherlock's skin he can reach, and his chest aches. This feels shockingly good, and it hurts. Affection rises up and chokes him.

John buries his face against Sherlock's neck to breathe him in. Slowly, he wraps his arms around Sherlock's ribs and clutches him close. He takes a few breaths and, shaking, lets himself be swamped by sudden, shattering emotion. After a few rough moments the rush recedes a bit, and he trails his fingertips up and down Sherlock's spine as he relaxes.

Sherlock shivers and, for a wonder, seems to pull John closer. He sucks in a slow breath, and when he exhales it trembles wildly. Before John can find words to fill the silence, Sherlock bends his head and starts to mouth along John's shoulder. All thought vanishes. He buries his hands in Sherlock's hair again. It's starting to dry, just a little, with little tiny flyaways tickling the backs of John's hands, and between that and Sherlock's mouth John's nervous system shudders at the overload. He bites down on Sherlock's shoulder.

The reaction is violent. Sherlock cries out into John's ear and scrapes his fingernails across John's lower ribs, but before John can begin to process the sting Sherlock has dropped to his knees and taken John's cock into his mouth.

John's head snaps back and his jaw drops open. His eyes roll into his skull; he'd thought Sherlock relatively inexperienced based on his unsubtle kissing technique, but for some reason the things he's doing with his mouth are absolutely fucking exquisite. Perhaps it's the enthusiasm, or perhaps it's John's desperation, but whatever reason there is for it John feels the tension of an approaching orgasm already spinning up a knot at the far base of his cock, all the way back near his perineum.

When Sherlock begins mouthing sloppily at the shaft John looks down. Sherlock's hair is a wreck, a dark, frizzing cloud of fluff obscuring his face, but when his face rises accompanied by a long stroke of his tongue John is punched by a strange realisation: these sensations and that sight are one and the same, and together that makes it all real. His stomach flips at the same time his cock throbs with arousal.

"Sherlock…" John says, almost at a whisper, and he reaches down to run his thumb around Sherlock's reddened mouth. The expression when Sherlock looks up is wary. With his other hand, John takes his cock and replaces his thumb with the head of it, rubbing it over Sherlock's lips, the frenulum catching on Sherlock's wide lower lip and revealing his teeth. Sherlock's tongue darts out to lick up a drop of pre-come and John huffs out a breath.

Before John can speak Sherlock's eyes have rolled back and fluttered closed, and he devours John in one swift bob of his head. This time John watches, feeling the pull of suction and the hot roll of Sherlock's mouth in concert with the movement of his body as he rocks on strong, widely-spread auburn-haired thighs. Almost immediately, John's orgasm begins to coalesce once more.

"Oh, god, look at you," he says, then swallows down the rest of his words for a moment before they rise up again and tumble out in an incoherent murmur. "I never wanted to think about this but I did, I did, you on your knees sucking my cock, greedy for it, wanting me…I thought about how hard you'd get as I fucked your throat and how you'd want to touch yourself but I wouldn't let you, so you'd just get harder and harder as I got harder and harder, but I never imagined that little sound you're making every time I push in—nngh, that one, god, Sherlock don't stop, I want to come… Are you going to make me come like this, come down your throat— Oh god, make that noise again, oh my god look at you, you're such a mess, oh harder, faster, yes, oh god just like that—"

Sherlock tugs on John's balls at the same time as he's swiping wide, intense circles on John's frenulum and that's it. The tension shaking John's entire body breaks and he comes with almost violent force, striping once across Sherlock's cheek with a powerful spasm before being sucked down, rolling his hips into Sherlock's mouth as he shudders. He pulses over and over, feeling himself come into Sherlock's mouth, feeling that wet mouth working, swallowing, pulling with tremendous suction as pleasure rolls out in waves through his system. His head lolls on his neck, his jaw slack.

John moans as his climax winds down, bliss coursing in his blood, and Sherlock sucks him practically dry before letting go. John floats on a sea of hormones with his eyes closed before he hears a grunt that opens his eyes; Sherlock has sat back on his heels and is jacking himself rapidly, convulsing with pleasure, grimacing with it, John's semen still glistening on his cheek. Before John can stop him Sherlock grunts again and his hand slows. He arches his hips up with a groan and comes, spurting all over his hand, then sits back on his heels to stroke himself slowly through the rest of his orgasm, making a mess of his thighs, his stomach, and the floor. John can only watch motionlessly, entranced.

When Sherlock slumps to sit on the floor, it occurs to John for about a split-second that he should let Sherlock enjoy the lassitude, but nonetheless he lowers himself to the ground next to him and takes his face in both hands, pulling him into a kiss. It seems necessary. It seems mandatory. And it also seems like a pleasant way to postpone the inevitable.

Sherlock kisses back, and rests his hand on John's ribs, but doesn't otherwise seem enthusiastic. The kiss falls apart after only a few seconds. They stare awkwardly at different parts of the kitchen, which appears oddly foreign from the unaccustomed vantage point of knee-level. John looks down at his hands, unseeing for a moment as he casts about for a way to…what? Apologise? Walk this back? Is there any way to salvage what's left? Just as despair sinks his stomach like black lead John's eyes focus on his thumb, which had smeared the semen on Sherlock's cheek.

"Oh," he says. Embarrassed, he looks for something to wipe it on, but before he can snag his jeans Sherlock has grabbed his wrist and is pulling it up. John watches him take John's thumb into his mouth and suck it clean, all the while pinning him with a gaze that seems to be conveying something of tremendous import.

"What?" John says shakily, when Sherlock pops the thumb out of his mouth.

"Stop."

"Stop what?"

"Thinking."

John scoffs. "This is coming from you?"

"I guarantee you're thinking very hard about something completely idiotic."

"Ta very much, yeah."

"You're thinking this was a mistake, and that you don't know how to fix it, and you're wrong."

"I'm wrong."

"There's nothing to fix."

"Sherlock, we just…" For some reason, John catches himself looking around before he hisses, "We just had sex."

"Astute."

"Oh, for christ's… Sherlock, what are you saying, you think this was a good idea?"

"I think it was an excellent idea."

"It was hardly an idea at all. Ideas indicate that there was some thought involved. This was some kind of…fucking…I don't even know. Hindbrain thing. Unsafe, idiotic thing."

"Next you're going to tell me you're not at all gay."

"I'm not gay!"

"When your cock was in my mouth it didn't seem like such a bad concept to you."

John blinks. "Well, yes. That's because. That's." He exhales. "Sherlock, it was a mouth, and my cock. Of course it's going to feel—" He cuts off that thread of conversation before it goes somewhere even more bizarrely uncomfortable. "Listen, this was a mistake." He pushes up off the floor to stand and his hand slips on a slick patch. It's Sherlock's semen. He'd just put his hand in Sherlock's semen, and there is no dignified way to get out of this situation. He stands and angles his very naked body away from Sherlock.

"Ordinarily I'm rather fond of your single-minded stubbornness, but this time it's less than endearing," Sherlock says, rising to his feet in an annoyingly-fluid movement. No slipping on semen for him.

John goes to the sink to wash his face and hands. "What are you proposing, that we do this again?"

"Of course."

"Sherlock." John turns around to scrub his face dry with a towel. "Why?"

"Because, John," Sherlock says, explaining as if John were a small child, "contrary to form, you enjoyed that, and I very much enjoyed that, and I can think of no adequate reason why we shouldn't. It would be convenient, don't you think?"

"No, Sherlock, I don't." John desperately wants a shower, preferably one that lasts three days and requires a hot water tank as large as Lake Windermere, but he fears if he walks away right now Sherlock will just follow him into the bath. So instead he slams down the button on the kettle to reboil the water for tea. "I don't want to just…have sex. Like scratching an itch."

Sherlock snorts. "As if those women you bring home aren't doing the same thing."

John turns to rest his back against the worktop. "No, Sherlock. No they're not. I have relationships with those women."

"Which last one date. Maybe two."

"Whose fault is that?"

"You had plenty of time to have long-term…" Sherlock pauses for a particularly-mocking brand of air quotes, "relationships while I was gone, didn't you? And look where all that got you." He gestures around the kitchen, to their clothes on the floor, to their naked bodies, and presumably to the semen still spattered on the floor. Red fury rises up in John.

He growls, "Don't you dare."

"What? Bring up That Which Shall Not Be Spoken, as if that somehow makes it go away? I'll grant you, it helps, but not when it's immediately relevant to the conversation."

John throws up his arms in righteous exasperation, fury spinning to impotent anger. "How? How, Sherlock? How is any of that relevant?"

"Kiss me."

John splutters. "What?!"

"Kiss me." Sherlock stands there with his head tilted to the side, and all the fight seems to drain from him at once.

Unwilling to quit the argument that easily, John turns to wait the last few seconds before the water boils. "No."

"John." Sherlock's voice is muffled, as if he's covered his face with his hands, and he sounds defeated in a way John has never heard him. "This is ridiculous."

The water clicks off and John pours himself a tea, but bitterly ignores Sherlock's mug. "You're right. It is. Go away, please."

There's a heavy silence behind him for a few minutes before Sherlock says, "Good night, John." And then he's gone, and John turns to find nothing but an empty kitchen, a pile of clothing, and a slowly-drying wet spot on the floor.


John thinks all night.

He really has no choice about it; sleep won't come, even after a long shower and a boring chapter of his book. Wanking just isn't an option, there's nothing interesting on telly or the internet, and even though he spends about an hour and a half in the wee, small hours pottering around the lounge he sees neither hide nor hair of Sherlock until late in the morning.

By that point he's turned the situation over and over in his mind so often it's become fuzzy at the edges, but the solution he settles on seems…possible. Maybe even pleasant, if John isn't fooling himself so thoroughly he's lost touch with reality.

He hears Sherlock disappear into the shower at about half nine, and he emerges some minutes later fully dressed in one of his suits, buttoned-up and socked-down and ready for battle.

"Good morning," John says from his chair, brushing residual toast crumbs from his magazine as he pretends to read an article about…flossing, it appears to be. It doesn't matter. He can't focus anyway.

Sherlock ignores the opening salvo and makes himself a coffee. John waits until the stirring has stopped before he tries again. "I said, good morning."

There's a noise of exasperation from the kitchen, and Sherlock comes in to retrieve his laptop. Apparently he'd planned on hiding out in his room all day, the coward. "Listen," John continues, "if there's going to be a relationship, the least I ask is a bit of courtesy. Especially first thing in the morning."

The volley strikes home, and it stops Sherlock in his tracks. He turns to John. "Relationship?"

"Yes. Ours."

"John. What are you talking about?"

"You should know," John says, smugly, and pushes up from his chair. "Your idea."

Sherlock's brow furrows and he looks like a cartoon. "My idea."

"Last night. You said we should have a relationship, and I'm willing to try it. But I'm going to want things from it, too."

"I'd have thought a blow job or two would be its own reward," Sherlock says, obviously going for 'cold' or 'aloof', but missing and hitting 'wary' instead.

"Ah," John says, warming to the topic, already feeling victory spinning in his chest. He walks toward Sherlock, pointing. "That's where you're wrong. You're so very wrong about these things, aren't you? So wrong."

John suspects the sing-song tone of voice makes Sherlock frown just as much as the words. "John, what are you talking about?"

"You. Wrong."

"In English?"

"You're an idiot. You're the smartest man I know, and you're an idiot."

"John."

Within about nine inches of Sherlock, John stops. "You think, so hard, but you miss it. I missed it, last night, because I was thinking. That was the wrong tactic entirely."

"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

"Of course not. Look," John says, "you went about it all wrong. That's not how you convince me a relationship is a good idea." He reaches for Sherlock's face. "This is."

He pulls Sherlock down, and encounters no resistance bringing their lips together in a soft, gentle kiss.

The intention was something chaste, something sweet, but that plan is scattered to the æther almost immediately. The moment John parts his lips for another kiss his brain is overrun, and he pours himself into it, kissing Sherlock with every drop of emotion his heart can conjure up. There's affection, and attraction, annoyance, frustration, desire, and so much ridiculously-tender care it aches at the core of him. The kiss morphs and though it becomes no quicker it turns firmer, more intense, and John realises Sherlock is kissing John so hard he's fisting his hands in the back of John's shirt and shaking.

The stupid moron won't talk about his emotions, and obviously doesn't want to show them, but he sure as hell feels them. It floods John with something unnameable and so strong he's forced to break off the kiss to press his face against Sherlock's and breathe through it.

Sherlock gathers him up in his arms and holds tightly. "So you're saying that's how to do it."

"You tell me. Did it work?"

"The results are inconclusive. Technically, you'd already decided overnight, I think."

"Is it convincing you?"

"I didn't need convincing, remember."

John huffs a laugh, feeling a bit giddy. "So we're both on board with this plan."

"The same as before, except now with sex, and I have to greet you in the mornings?"

"I'm sure any relationship with you will be an ongoing series of negotiations, but yes, I think that's a good start."

"How do we begin?"

"I thought we already had."

"No, John. The sex."

"Again, I thought we already had."

"No, John." Sherlock relaxes, and purrs, and John realises the expected ‘messing with John’ stage of their new relationship has started. "I never got to examine you. Fair is fair."

Chuckling, John rubs his face against Sherlock's collar. "When the hell have you ever cared about fairness?"

"Aren't relationships about fairness?"

"Where did you get that idea?"

"Can't we continue this conversation in the bedroom so I can study you while we talk?"

"I think you got a close enough look last night."

"Not everywhere." It sounds like Sherlock is pouting. "You got to look everywhere. I want you naked and spread out on my bed so I can examine everywhere."

The image is…tremendously appealing. A mental vista spreads out before John, of a life filled with brief patches of Sherlock's undivided attention, an increase in even-more-inappropriate humour, and possibly a satiating amount of morning sex. He grins broadly and steps back. "Well?"

A smile quirks up the corner of Sherlock's mouth. "Well?"

John gestures toward the kitchen, indicating Sherlock's bedroom. "After you," he says, but stops Sherlock after only two steps. "Ah, there is one thing you still have wrong, and I think I should correct you before we get too far."

Sherlock tilts his head, frowning. "No I don't."

"Yes. You do."

It takes a few long seconds for Sherlock to ponder that then shake his head. "No I don't."

"Sherlock," John says, sliding smugly past him on the way to the bedroom. "Even last night, you never let me explore everywhere. That is, I'm afraid, non-negotiable. I have questions I need answered."

John leaves Sherlock casting about for a retort in the lounge and wanders victoriously to the bedroom. He expects Sherlock will regroup and follow soon, and hopes when he does he brings his magnifying glass; John wants to see what spun copper looks like by lamplight.