It's Sherlock’s hands, in the end, that do it. Those long dextrous fingers running over the bloody lump on the side of John’s head, probing and questing oh-so-gently and showing him, more clearly than anything Sherlock could say, exactly how much he cares.
Sherlock’s fingers do more than examine his wound though; John can feel them breaking down the last of the barriers he’d erected in his head to prevent how he felt about Sherlock showing on his face. Most of them had been blasted apart in the tramway - when the fear that Sherlock might be hurt had outmatched his fear for Sarah - and now it’s honestly just a relief to let the last few fall. So he doesn’t fight it, instead simply allows himself to feel everything he’s bottled up about Sherlock these past weeks.
‘I should have insisted you went to hospital. How dizzy are you?’ Sherlock’s voice is harsh and tight, and John realises that, in letting go, he’s swayed into the warmth of Sherlock’s body, pressed into his touch. That Sherlock has, for once, completely misunderstood the reason for his actions would be amusing at any other time; as it is, he has to make a decision. He has to choose whether to lock everything down again, assume he’s imagining Sherlock’s affections and carry on pretending with Sarah or to take a risk and offer up everything. Tilting his head, so he can look directly into Sherlock’s eyes, the decision makes itself when he sees the depth of concern, shot through with what John recognises as latent desire, in those mutable blue-green irises.
‘I’m not dizzy at all.’ John smiles and lets his tongue flicker across his bottom lip before adding, ‘I want to be this close to you.’
Sherlock inhales sharply, left hand coming up to cup the uninjured side of John’s face for a moment before letting it skim down John’s neck, across his chest and coming to rest just above his hip bone. ‘And Sarah?’
John doesn’t need to hear the derision in Sherlock’s tone to know just how he feels about the woman they dropped home not five minutes earlier; the curl of his upper lip and the narrowing of his eyes is more than enough. He opens his mouth to say something non-damning about her being a colleague and a friend but Sherlock’s pupils are widening and his fingers are circling on John’s waist in counterpoint to the motion of the cab and John finds himself saying ‘Who?’ and pressing even closer, wanting to kiss Sherlock’s annoyance away but not quite capable of it. This is uncharted territory in more ways than one and his usual bravery seems to have deserted him.
‘No-one,’ Sherlock husks, lips flexing into a half smile that creases the corners of his eyes. ‘No-one at all,’ he adds as slowly, he begins to close the gap between their mouths.
John can feel Sherlock’s breath, warm and coffee-scented, ghosting over his face, and knows his skin is flushing a little more with each exhalation. Sherlock’s fingers are no longer touching his wound, instead they are stroking the curve of the back of his skull and the shell of his ear; teasing touches that are making him shiver and, oh God, he’s whining. Tiny noises right in the back of his throat and how is this possible? How can one man reduce him to this with just his fingers and his eyes?
‘Is this really what you want?’ Sherlock’s voice is rough, shaking through them both.
‘You need to ask?’ John murmurs, winding the fingers of his right hand into the curls at the nape of Sherlock’s neck as his left sweeps up Sherlock’s outer thigh.
‘You said you weren’t gay.’ The words make Sherlock’s mouth twist as if they are bitter on his tongue.
John expects he has a similar expression as he forces himself to say, ‘You said you were married to your work.’
They stare at each other despite being almost too close to focus properly, frozen except for Sherlock’s fingers, which continue to stroke and circle until John finds his voice again.
‘I wasn’t being entirely honest,’ he breathes, tongue swiping over his upper lip in mute appeal.
‘Neither was I,’ Sherlock rumbles and then his mouth is over John’s.
Any lingering pain, from the pistol-whipping and the subsequent incarceration, is swallowed up by the burst of endorphins flooding through John’s veins as Sherlock’s lips move against his own. They are plush, if a little dry, but there is no hesitancy, no uncertainty in the gentle pressure and light touch; instead there is a sensation of raw power being held in check by will alone and it touches something deep in John’s core.
This is nothing like being kissed by a woman, nothing like any other kiss John has either given or received, and for a moment he can’t process anything other than the fire under his skin at each point of contact between their bodies. Sherlock’s lips part and his tongue begins to trace the bow of John’s mouth and John yields, utterly and completely, melting into Sherlock as he lets him in, his own tongue embarrassingly uncoordinated as he attempts to reciprocate. Not that Sherlock seems to mind as his other hand comes up so that he’s now cradling John’s head with infinite care and then he begins to take John apart.
John clutches helplessly at Sherlock’s neck and waist as his mouth is invaded so swiftly and effectively that he cannot keep up, cannot follow the swirls and swipes of Sherlock’s tongue. All he can do is hold on as he learns what it is to be worshiped by another, to be kissed as if the kiss is all there is and all Sherlock ever hopes there will be. He’s moaning, he knows; his desperation and his desire bubbling up his throat without any recourse to his brain. He tries to concentrate - to move past the sheer joy of being touched like he is something precious, something that is worth taking time over - and start taking an active part in proceedings but Sherlock’s thumbs are inscribing tiny arcs just below the hinges of his jaw and his tongue is tracing the same motion on the roof of John’s mouth.
It feels so intimate John almost can’t bear it, yet when the cab jolts and forces their mouths apart he scrabbles at Sherlock, desperate to re-establish the connection. Only to be halted by a strident south London voice yelling, ‘Oi! You two! Stop mauling each other, pay me and get the fuck out!’
‘We’re home,’ Sherlock murmurs into the skin just below John’s ear and then, as calmly as if he’d merely been checking his texts rather than turning John into a mess of nerve endings and need, he slides a couple of notes from his wallet – when did he get that out? – shoves them through the gap in the screen with a barely concealed sneer and slips gracefully out of the cab. John blinks myopically and tries to remember how to coordinate his legs. He succeeds up to a point and his exit isn’t a complete disaster, although it’s shaky enough to make the cabbie snigger before he roars away.
They don’t say anything to each other as they make their way inside and up to the flat but it isn’t an awkward silence. No, it’s an electric space between them that heightens John’s sense that this, this … connection, that was made the day they met and has been growing and strengthening ever since, is the most essential, the most necessary thing in the world. That everything they’ve ever been and everything they’ve ever done has led them to this point. That what they’re about to do, what he hopes they’re about to do, is simply one more step they were always going to take. That they’ve both been waiting for each other, without ever realising it before.
‘Sher…’ his voice cracks and he swallows hard before trying again, ‘Sherlock.’
Oh God, he sounds wrecked. Hell, who’s he trying to kid, he is wrecked. He’s never wanted anyone like this and his skin is almost itching with the need for Sherlock’s hands, Sherlock’s mouth … anything Sherlock will give him.
‘John.’ Sherlock stands in front of him as he shucks both coat and jacket off in one smooth movement, letting them drop, unheeded to the floor. His voice is dark and deep as the night sky outside. ‘John, I … I need you to ….’
Heat pulses through John and he grabs two handfuls of Sherlock’s shirt and pulls, slamming their bodies flush against each other even as he crashes their lips together and kisses the rest of the words right out of Sherlock’s mouth.
It’s definitely the right thing to do. The noise the act elicits from Sherlock - a growl of desire that sounds as if it’s coming from the centre of his soul – drives out the last of John’s nerves and suddenly the fact that he doesn’t know instinctively what to do, how to touch, where to taste, couldn’t be more irrelevant. Sherlock wants him, he wants Sherlock, and that’s all that matters. He’s a fast learner and Sherlock seems pretty clued up about what he’s doing. They can figure the rest of out together.
Sherlock’s fingers find the skin of John’s back under the edge of his jumper, the calluses from the violin strings catching lightly as Sherlock begins to map the vertebrae, from the bottom up.
‘Too many clothes,’ John says into Sherlock’s mouth and then, as he’s longed to do on many occasions in the past two months, tightens his grip on Sherlock’s shirt and yanks. Hard.
Buttons pinwheel away, their threads no match for the strength of a determined ex-soldier who’s spent the last four weeks working out in the hopes physical exhaustion would burn away the desire to jump his flatmate; a flatmate who, so John had thought, was as likely to reciprocate his feelings as he was to bed Penelope Cruiz. And yet he is, literally, ripping Sherlock’s clothes off whilst Sherlock takes a slightly more restrained approach, undoing John’s shirt one button at a time, fingers brushing each centimetre of John’s stomach and chest as it becomes exposed.
I’ve never been so glad to be wrong, John thinks, breaking the kiss as he pushes the ruined shirt off Sherlock’s shoulders, blinking at the vast expanse of unsullied pale skin he’s exposed. It seems to shimmer in the gloom of the flat which remains lit by the glow of the street lights alone.
‘You’re beautiful,’ he murmurs, ‘Utterly exquisite.’
Pulling back a little further he presses his palms flat to Sherlock’s chest, feeling the thrumming of Sherlock’s heart under his hands before sweeping them up to Sherlock’s shoulders and down his arms. The action effectively halts Sherlock’s attempts to undress him as they end up with their hands tangled together, staring into each other’s blown pupils.
‘You really want me.’ It’s a statement of fact, Sherlock’s tone confident and sure, but there is an edge of awe laced through it that shakes something deep inside John. He had known from the minute their lips touched that this would be more than just sex for him and he hoped it would be the same for Sherlock but now he knows that it will be and that knowledge blazes incandescent through every atom of every one of his cells. Suddenly the only thing that matters is making sure Sherlock knows it too.
‘I do.’ He lifts their hands and kisses Sherlock’s knuckles, starting with his left hand and then doing the same to his right. ‘I want all of you - every single molecule of your body and every single note of your soul.’
Sherlock smiles. It’s a soft smile, shaping his mouth into a curve that subtly radiates a joy so bright it’s almost blinding. John has never, ever, seen Sherlock express such unadulterated emotion before. The fizz of pleasure that knowing he is the one to have made that happen is akin, he thinks, to what it would be like to have a champagne bottle opened in his stomach.
‘I want to make you smile like that every day,’ he says and Sherlock’s fingers tighten round his own.
‘I’d like to think I’ll be able to reciprocate,’ Sherlock murmurs, backing John against the door and nuzzling his nose into the hair at John’s temple, ‘but I suspect I’m going to make you frown more than I make you smile.’
‘I’m possessive,’ John says by way of an answer, twisting so he can nip at the skin just below Sherlock’s jaw, revelling in the tang of salt mixed with the remnants of cologne. ‘I don’t share and I don’t compromise and I expect the same from you. This is all or nothing, Sherlock.’
‘Yes, John, I do know.’ Sherlock angles his head to give John better access to the smooth, creamy column of his neck and adds, in a voice that is richer than twenty five year old whisky, ‘I choose all. I choose you. Now please … Captain, put your mouth to better use than talking. Mark me … my neck … so everyone can see I’m yours.’
John complies with a growl that clearly goes straight to Sherlock’s groin - judging by the way he bucks up against John even before John’s teeth latch onto the pulse point - and he sucks, hands kneading Sherlock’s fucking fantastic arse at the same time. Sherlock’s moans are shockingly loud but the way he melts into John - like a kitten rendered immobile by a grab to the scruff of its neck - is even more surprising. John can almost feel the tension draining out of Sherlock’s muscles as he continues to bite, suck and lave Sherlock’s skin until he’s certain his handiwork will leave a sufficiently obvious bruise.
‘God, Sherlock,’ he gasps, desperate to do something more but uncertain exactly what more should entail when the half of the partnership who actually seems to know how this is supposed to go is currently so blissed out they appear incapable of movement. ‘Please …. tell me what to do.’
‘Take me to bed,’ Sherlock pants out into the crook of John’s neck. ‘And then take me.’