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where the living goes when it stops

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The rise of sun, inexorable, is the only sign that the night’s been spent.

His heart trembles, to think of it—to insinuate endings where they have no rightful place.

The body beneath his own is still hard lines and heat, despite everything, anything, and when he reaches for the smouldering cigarette at the side of this wretched bed in a wretched room inhabited by so many, but just these two: when he reaches, and breathes, the only thing that’s steady are his hands.

He’s still wrapped in, sheathed in John, still a part of him: he’s soft, and slick, and if he flattens his body to John’s body beneath him—John’s body that breathes and welcomes him like a given: if he flattens his body to John’s he only needs to half-imagine the pulse of him around Sherlock’s shaft, against the line of his sternum: enveloping.

He sets the cigarette aside, and then he does just that: allows, invites consumption of a different kind.

He exhales into John’s mouth, all smoke and ash, and John breathes it in, breathes him in, dangerous.

Exquisite.

John’s prick starts to harden between them; Sherlock can feel his own length stiffen as John clenches soft around him, as the muscles flutter wild.

When Sherlock raises up, settles into John’s body from all angles, to all ends, John sighs, deep: and Sherlock aches with it, magnificent.

He rolls his hips lazily, and John moans, a soft smile on his lips.

“Where is she?”

The words are real before Sherlock can halt them; he reaches for the smoke and tries to bury the trembling of his heartbeat in chemicals and loathing.

John steals the cigarette from Sherlock’s fingers and drags long, deep. “I’ve no idea.”

And as simple as that, the fight, the fear drains from Sherlock’s bones, and as he sinks against John’s body, arcs himself just so to tease John to shaking, to grasping and arching up so that Sherlock can feel John’s chest against his own once more: as Sherlock pushes in and draws back slow, wanton, perfect and light, he doesn’t think about the world beyond.

He doesn’t think, beyond John and his breath and the heart in his hands.

“Will you seek her out?” Sherlock heaves the breath against him, not yet panting, but close.

So close.

John huffs, still seeped in tar and nicotine, and Sherlock sucks more than tangible addiction from his lips as he bends down, as he breathes: “I don’t know.”

Sherlock hears and doesn’t hear, cares and doesn’t care, as he mouths down John’s neck, laps at the line of his carotid and measures the steady pump of blood as it resonates against the tender flat of his tongue—tastes of salt and bitters and the gentle hum of home.

“Do you love me?” Sherlock whispers against the hollow of John’s throat, and watches, mesmerised, as the beads of sweat that are yet to dry tremble mad with the breath of it, shiver like willows in a storm.

John’s hands are in his hair, and Sherlock melts for the contact, the feel of fingers threading through his curls, and his face is buried against the chest that rumbles deep as his answer spills forth:

“More than the sun in the fucking sky.”

“Is the sun beloved by you?” Sherlock turns his head, listens to the heart in that chest because he knows, by now, what it does when it lies. “Or should I take offence?”

John breathes in deep once, twice. Sherlock closes his eyes and listens to the rush, lets it soothe and consume him, all whirling dervishes in the empty chasm of him: too sheer.

“When the sun rose, in the desert,” John finally speaks; “it meant life could stay a little longer.”

The heart of him beats deep, but firm beneath Sherlock’s ear.

Sherlock feels it pulsing, everywhere, and begins to rock in time.

“The sun was salvation and damnation,” John murmurs. “The sun was everything, and never nothing,” and there’s a gorgeous edge to it that shoots straight to Sherlock’s cock and even as his rhythm falters, John rises against him in perfect time, John pushes them close and Sherlock shudders, because there’s something here, just now, that he’s never found before, and it feels like Ragnarök and the birth of stars.

“I love you more than the sun,” John’s eyes are fire and water and air: “Even when it sets.”

Sherlock’s breathless, and the whole of him is still tender, still open wounds and raw nerves from the last climax as he peaks again: the come on his stomach, his chest is still damp, still viscous as John spills against him again, as they both shake with the absolute aching of it, of this, of what they have become.

It’s John, who seeks Sherlock’s hand with his own and grasps, as Sherlock pants into the centre of John’s chest, entirely wrecked.

“She’ll be needing you.” It’s a truth he wishes he could ignore, could deny, but it’s impossible.

John is never less than necessary.

“She can rot.”

John’s voice is deceptively blank.

“You don’t mean that,” Sherlock whispers, but in the darkest parts of him, the shadowy recesses of his soul, he wishes John did.

God.

John’s hand releases him, and Sherlock tenses for the loss as John’s fingers find the scar, the divot of the hole that ripped through him, that stole his blood and the beat that made it run.

The beat restored now races, pounds beneath the hand of the only reason it deigned to return at all.

“If I’d lost you,” John hisses, heartfelt, and Sherlock covers his hand at the site, because there’s nothing else: nothing else.

“John...”

“If I’d lost you—”

“Don’t,” Sherlock breathes. “Don’t. You’re better than that.”

Because Sherlock knows that tone of voice, the set of those features, the hate in those eyes.

Sherlock can read what burns in John’s heart as he measures Sherlock’s own.

John inhales, exhales, and Sherlock settles against John, trapping their hands between a wound and a heady pulse.

“I don’t even know if it’s mine,” John gasps out as his heartbeat settles.

Sherlock is silent, turns his head and presses harder against John’s body, against his warmth.

“You know,” John says, and it’s static: it’s not an accusation when he shakes his head, when he chuckles, half despairing: “Of course you know.”

Of course Sherlock knows.

He presses his lips together, squeezes his eyes shut tight, and breathes.

Breathes.

“I won’t be your regret, John,” Sherlock whispers to the dark, and memorises the outline of John’s hand against his skin. “I will not stand by while you learn to regret the light of day.”

John cups his cheek and lifts his chin so eyes meet eyes.

“I’ve regretted more and worse,” John tells him. “For two years, the air in my lungs was a goddamned regret.”

And it should be awkward, should be viscid and painful to extract and move, to meet lips to lips and pull souls through open mouths for the give. It should be awkward.

“You will never be more a regret than a revelation, a miracle, my world,” John exhales against Sherlock, grazing the swell of his lower lip as his lashes form a veil to the whole of his heart in his eyes. “Do you understand?”

Sherlock kisses him, deep and slow and fierce.

John gives back all that he’s given, and Sherlock forgets what it feels like—if just for a moment—to be bereft.

It doesn’t last, but Sherlock doesn’t wholly mind.

He’s learned to love swiftly, and deeply, for all the fleeting things.

“Why did you marry?”

He’s not sure why he asks it. He’s not sure what he means to learn.

John chokes on a bitter laugh, and Sherlock pulls his body closer.

“Why does anyone?”

Sherlock listens to the way John holds air in his lungs and thinks: this is not a regret.

This will never—never—be a regret.

“How long do we have the room?” John breathes, and Sherlock tries not to relish the way John’s arm tightens around him too much.

He fails.

“As long as we need it,” Sherlock whispers just beside the bud of John’s nipple, presses his lips to that dimpled flesh and stays.

Stays.

“I need it,” John exhales, shaky: “I need it a little longer.”

“As long as you need,” Sherlock murmurs back when by rights he should stay silent.

He only speaks because he understands that where John says it, he means, has always meant: you.

And the both of them need.