The cold, blue light from the fridge pools around John in the gloaming dimness of the kitchen as he gazes into the barren box. It is completely and utterly naked of anything remotely edible. His stomach growls and tears at itself in aching emptiness and he groans pitifully.
After three days with barely a nibble while tracking and chasing a group of clever thieves through the streets of London, he feels positively hollowed out. Their usual routine of a nice post-case dinner had been omitted when the doctor had needed to tend to some lacerations his companion had managed to receive on his torso when he’d been knocked into a barbed fence during their final chase.
He had been so utterly knackered that, as he’d knelt before Sherlock in their bathroom cleaning and covering the (mostly shallow) cuts across his flatmate’s bared chest, his eyes had kept sliding closed and his head drifting forward. He'd nearly found himself with his face in Sherlock’s lap at least three times, each time jerking himself back up with a startle, even while his hands still tried their best to work on the paler man’s chest with steadily slowing movements.
Finally, feeling satisfied enough with his doctoring to admit defeat, he’d been unable to resist surrendering to the heaviness of his body; slumping forward right there at Sherlock’s feet.
“John, you should go to bed,” Sherlock had said lifting him up off his lap by gripping both shoulders. John had blinked up at him blearily, mumbled something incoherent, struggled to his feet and stumbled upstairs to his bed throwing himself down heavily.
It is now the middle of the night and he is so famished that the pang of hunger has roused him from sleep after the meager rest of only a few hours.
Last night he was too tired to be embarrassed about the whole incident, but now his face burns while remembering his cheek coming to rest on the top of Sherlock’s thigh, the firm flesh and muscle beneath the expensive trousers, that felt smooth and cool against his skin. Recalling this, he is currently grateful for the chilled air drifting from the fridge to temper the heat of his body.
“Well, sustenance is not going to magically appear the longer you stare, John,” rumbles the deep, sleep gravely and slightly amused voice from beside him. John resists the urge to jump in alarm, but his hand tightens on the fridge handle as he looks over at Sherlock standing at the door from the kitchen to the hall. He is yawning widely and ruffling his hand through his disheveled hair.
“Really? Always seems to work for you,” John teases and watches his flatmate’s lips turn up in that slight smile that is uncharacteristically shy. It had been so rare to see such emotion on his face before, that it still takes John by surprise when he is so open. Even though genuine emotion appears more and more often now, John feels a slight tightness in his chest every time he glimpses this flicker of humanity beneath his friend's nearly impermeable shields.
The dark and wild curls shift around his face as Sherlock looks off towards the sitting room, his pale skin pulling taut over the muscles of his neck.
“Yes, well... I have since been informed that that didn't actually just happen but rather was Mrs. Hudson and… you, John.” He swallows, adam’s apple bobbing as his eyes grow slightly glazed and the corners of his mouth twitch down, as if recalling something sad and painful.
John has only been back four months now after the whole Mary/Moriarity fiasco reached its inevitable, ugly conclusion. Moriarity dead, Mary (A.G.R.A) in jail and the baby, if there ever had been one, was a ruse by the time the Christmas of Magnussen’s demise occurred. All that, confusing and painful as hell, slid away as some sort of horrible nightmare now that he was back at 221B. Things quite naturally fell back into their pattern of cases, take-away, scientific experiments and evenings of crap telly.
Yet, he knows it is not truly as it was before. There is something more in looks and casual touches and sometimes the conversation feels unaccountably fragile, like there are unspoken things hovering just below the surface that neither man dares to touch. It remains the silent elephant in the room.
John looks down at his own feet and realizes abruptly that he is only wearing a rather form fitting pair of boxers and a white t-shirt. He hadn’t expected Sherlock to rouse anytime soon and so upon waking had just shed his jeans and button down and slunk down into the dark to find something to hold him over. He quickly shuts the door to the fridge to put out the revealing light.
“I was expecting you’d be dead to the world for the next eleven hours,” he says with a small tight, laugh that makes his embarrassment at his state of undress clear.
Immersed in darkness, the ex-soldier’s other senses kick into high gear in an effort to compensate and he is acutely aware of the physical form of Sherlock and their proximity to each other. He takes a small step back into the kitchen.
“It seems that my transport is insistent on satiating certain needs,” Sherlock says with less disdain than he usually imbues such statements .
“Yes, well, it is ok to be human, Sherlock,” John reassures with a fond smile. This only earns him an exasperated sigh from the sheet-clad form.
“It seems I have little choice in that matter,” the voice sounds reluctantly resigned. John can hear more than he sees the rustle of a cotton sheet that indicates a shrug from Sherlock. John snorts, only now realizing the detective is once again in nothing but a sheet. So much for being embarrassed about being caught out only being in pants and a t-shirt.
Standing in the shadowy veil of the unlit room, everything feels different; a little more surreal. As the ex-soldier’s eyes work to adjust; the familiar is turned strange, everything becoming near formless lumps. The glowing white of sheet and Sherlock's skin become one to his straining eyes. He is unable to distinguish where one begins and the other ends. He can hear his companion’s breaths, slow and steady, and he can smell his expensive soap and the edge of antiseptic.
“How are your cuts,’ John asks quietly and it comes out hushed and a bit breathy even to his ears. He is not sure if it is something primal rising to the surface, but there is a sense of danger about the darkness. He feels an electric, tingly sensations crawling across his skin.
“Good… You take good care of me, John… Even at detriment to yourself.” John lets those words sink around him. They rest heavily on his chest; a dull aching throb and emptiness like hunger of a different kind. Days and hours filled with the pain of loneliness and the hurt and sadness of forced separation that cannot simply be erased or deleted.
“You do the same for me,” he says sincerely. He feels a burning at the back of his eyes, and a compulsion to reach out and fold Sherlock into an embrace. He has only done so once before, during the wedding. It had been safely confined to platonic. Now, with them both nearly naked, embracing in the dark, it is hardly safe and he isn’t sure he would have any valid reason to let go. He clears his throat and clenches and unclenches his hands at his sides as he listens to the taller man shift within his sheet.
“Hungry, then?” John inquires.
“Starving,” Sherlock retorts almost too quickly and there is something a little too edgy about it that brings all of John’s body to attention. He straightens his spine and feels his pulse quicken slightly.
The form moves forward swiftly. John’s heart automatically studders to a faster pace and a long breath punches out of his lungs all at once at the sensation of heat and the soft sheets brushing faintly against his chest. He tilts his head up to study the face now so close to him, trying in vain to pick out a little more of the features.
In the cloak of darkness surrounding them he can’t tell the nuances of that typically guarded expression. He needs to see what is in those eyes; the arch of eyebrows, the crease of brow, the twitch of lips and the thousand subtle tells that are so key to revealing Sherlock’s intentions.
“Do you remember what you said last night?”
“It was a long night, Sherlock. You may have to be a bit more specific.” John’s voice is deeper and strained on the edges. He stays still, holding his breath and trying to study that indistinct face.
“The last thing you said, John. After I roused you from my lap?” John gives a tight laugh, the heat flooding his system again at the memory. He can only manage a grunt and shaking his head in the negative as Sherlock takes another step forward and his hands clutching the sheets around himself is pressed between their chests as the only thing keeping their bodies from being flush together. Sherlock’s warm breath on John's face makes his eyes slide closed for a moment as he tries to take in air normally, but it comes fast and shallow.
“Do try, John. It’s important,” The deep voice rumbles from slightly above John. He swallows and tries to cast his mind back to those hazy moments of half sleep, Sherlock’s hands on his shoulders and the sensation of his warm and soft thigh still on his cheek as he blinked into the too bright light.
He can now hear the words spilling from his lips into the warm air of the bathroom, thick and slurred with sleep.
“I really wish you’d let me take care of you... in all ways, love. I’m here if you want me.”
“Shhhhhiiiiiiiiitt.” John hisses. He cringes and his head falling forward nearly rests against the sheet clad chest in front of him. “I’m -”
“No. Don’t you dare apologize, John Hamish Watson,” Sherlock growls and two hands have the doctor’s chin firmly in their grasp.
“Sher-” John shudders at feeling the sheet pool at his feet. His eyes strain through the dark to look his friend in the eyes and discern what emotions might be there. They are utterly useless, only gathering indistinct oceans of pale white giving way to dark valleys. Sherlock is in front of him... in the dark... completely naked.
John’s blood flow is being dangerously diverted in a moment when he is pretty certain he'd like to keep his wits about him. He clears his throat and tries to start again “Sher... Lock... What?”
“I’m taking you up on that offer, Doctor.” Sherlock says evenly; his voice low and sensual. His hands shake slightly. “I am placing myself in your capable hands.”
Sherlock’s hands skim lightly down John’s neck and ghost over his arms, closing around his hands. He pulls those hands forward and places them on the small of his waist just above his hips and leaves them there, his own arms going limp at his sides.
“Will you take care of me, John?” Beneath the aura of confidence there is some anxiety as he shivers at John’s touch. The weight of those words and the feel of Sherlock’s warm, smooth flesh under his palms makes John’s head swirl. He feels like he is stuck in a moment of weightlessness, somewhere between flying and falling. His fingers sink into the flesh of narrow hips to try to steady himself, but his body is rocking forward.
“Oh, god, yes!” The words spring from his mouth unbidden, eager and a bit desperate, just as they had the first time Sherlock had asked him on a case. John knows that this is far bigger than that. He had had no idea what he was getting himself into then, any more than he has any idea what ‘taking care of Sherlock’ means now, but he is ready to face it. He knows, as he did then, that he wants it, he needs it, and this is what he has been always waiting for, even if he couldn’t see it until this moment.
He pulls Sherlock flush to himself and groans at feeling the hot flesh, the lean and tightly coiled muscles and the evident arousal slotting against his own. He wraps his arms around his back to hold him close and feels those violinist fingers playing at the base of his neck as if exploring the feel. “Always,” he breathes into the valley between the collarbone and shoulder. “Whatever you need, Sherlock. Always.”