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Unwound

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It should be criminal, the lot of it, John thinks to himself as he gazes adoringly up at where Sherlock is moving on top of him. To wake up to the sensation of Sherlock’s hardness pressed demandingly against his hip. To open his eyes to find Sherlock’s jade green ones staring back, focused and fierce and downright feral. To pull him in for a kiss and feel the give of his lips, plush and moist, as John pressed his tongue past them to plunder his willing mouth. The way their bodies align, skin on skin, heat on heat, moving in perfect tandem--it should be bloody illegal.

Not to mention the fact that it’s not even 6AM.

John has work at the surgery today, but the obligation is a distant mirage flickering in the back of his mind as he delights in the fact that, by some miracle, both he and Sherlock had actually gone to bed the night before, slept through the night without an interruption from Rosie, and were now somehow both rested enough that they were game for a bit of morning delight.

He supposes he shouldn’t be surprised; they’d been in a bit of a dry spell the past two weeks, Sherlock immersed in a new experiment that had been commissioned by a private client at a local laboratory, and John taking on yet another round of baby-proofing in the flat (Rosie had recently gained the coordination to scale furniture, making even items on low shelves accessible, requiring a massive reorganisation of the sitting room and kitchen). They’d had a few family dinners together on the nights Sherlock wasn’t working late, and Sherlock had brought Rosie to John’s rugby practice on Sunday as promised, but it seemed neither of them had had energy for much else, and it was with a distinct sensation of surprise that John notes they hadn’t exchanged so much as a mutual wank in 15 days.

But now he’s here, on his back in their bed in the glow of an early dawn, Sherlock a vision as he moves on top of him, undulating his body with impossible grace. Sherlock is straddling John, and he has one nimble hand wrapped around both of their hardened lengths, thrusting his hips in slow, sensual drags, letting the friction overtake them in a bold, beautiful build. John gasps as Sherlock uses his free hand to flick his thumb over the tips of their cocks, wetting them with the pearls of precome gathered there, and Sherlock smirks down at him, biting his lip deviously.

John throws his head back and gasps, and Sherlock thrusts faster. John manages to use what little brain power he can muster to remind his hands that they ought to be helpful, too, and they find their way to Sherlock’s chest, where his fingers commence teasing and toying with his nipples, just how Sherlock likes it best.

Sherlock utters a little moan and his chin falls to his chest, eyes closing. “Mmm, fuck, John, that’s good… that’s-- nggh, good…”

“Mmm, yes, Sherlock...ohhhhh, just like that, yeah, are you--nnngh, gonna come for me, gorgeous?”

Sherlock’s breath hitches and his hips stutter a bit, but he manages to blink his eyes open to gaze down at John imploringly. “Want… want you to fuck me.”

John can feel his arousal ebb a bit. While he’d love nothing more than to fuck Sherlock into oblivion, they’re living on borrowed time here; most mornings, Rosie would wake them on the baby monitor before John’s alarm even went off, and the fact that for some reason she was still asleep this morning was no guarantee they’d have time to get Sherlock prepped, let alone actually follow through to consummation.

But he hates disappointing Sherlock. He chooses his next words carefully.

“Mmmm, that sounds amazing, love. How about you lie down next to me and I’ll make you feel good, yeah?”

Sherlock nods eagerly, then dismounts John with a near comical level of enthusiasm. John grins and pulls him down into his arms before kissing him passionately, and Sherlock melts into his embrace. For a moment, John lets himself get lost in the sensation, but before too long, Sherlock begins to rut demandingly against his thigh, and John pulls away.

“Alright, love. Will you get on your side, facing away from me? Yeah, just like that.” John turns and fumbles for the lube in the drawer of the nightstand, then returns his attention to Sherlock and proceeds to press a series of soft, sweet kisses down the length of Sherlock’s spine. Sherlock stretches and lets out an impatient little huff, clearly ready for John to get on with things.

John pours a generous dollop of lube into his palm and hastily slicks up his own cock, flinching only slightly at the cold temperature of the liquid. Then he pours a bit more into his palm and reaches around to spoon Sherlock, taking his cock into his hand as he does so. Then he thrusts his own cock in between Sherlock’s milky thighs, and begins to move.

“Ohhhh.” The low rumble of Sherlock’s baritone moan resonates through John’s chest. John had initially been concerned that Sherlock would be salty about the lack of penetration, but as it turns out, his fears were unfounded. Within seconds, Sherlock is willingly clenching his thighs around John’s prodding prick, and thrusting his own cock willingly into John’s slick grip.

They establish a steady rhythm, and John raises his head to kiss and suck at the crook of Sherlock’s neck, at the sensitive place where his neck meets his shoulder. Sherlock moans and preens, exposing more of his skin for John’s perusal, and John indulges without hesitation, nibbling his way up Sherlock’s carotid artery to his jawline before making his way back down and sinking his teeth resolutely into Sherlock’s trapezius.

Sherlock hisses and begins to rock his hips faster. He’s getting close, John can tell, and he tightens the grip of his fist around Sherlock’s throbbing member.

“Sock! Sock!”

Fuck. Rosie’s voice on the baby monitor sounds obscenely loud amidst their quiet ecstasy.

Shit. Just ignore it.

John begins to snap his hips in sharper, more demanding strokes. Sherlock tightens his thighs even more, and John bites back the moan that’s threatening to escape him.

“Sock! So-o-ock! Sock! Where you, Sock?” Rosie’s voice is absurdly persistent.

“Gah, fuck!” Sherlock reaches out and desperately twists his hands in the sheets, slamming his eyes shut as he chases his release.

“Shhh, Sherlock, yeah, that’s it, come for me, come on, you’re so close, fuck, so close…” John mutters obscenely in Sherlock’s ear, hoping desperately that it’ll drown out Rosie’s babble. He moves his hand as fast as he can, jerking Sherlock furiously.

“Sock! Where Sock? Sock! Want Sock! Sock!”

It’s no use; John can feel Sherlock going soft despite his best efforts. Sherlock hisses a few frantic, feeble gasps through his teeth, then pulls out of John’s grasp entirely and rolls away. “Fuck!” Sherlock buries his face in the sheets and slams his fist into the pillow in frustration.

“Shit. Sorry, love. I’ll get her.”

“No, I’ll do it. She’s asking for me.” That had become rather standard as of late; John had noticed that Sherlock was considerably more lax with the discipline than John was, and as such, Rosie clearly was currently preferring his company. He initially thought he ought to be jealous, but in reality, the whole thing was rather sweet and made him feel very warm and gooey inside, in a decidedly indulgent sort of way. Not only that, but he couldn’t help but notice the soft, pleased smile on Sherlock’s face every time Rosie insisted on receiving his undivided attention.

Today, however, is an exception to all that. Sherlock stands up and roots around for his t-shirt, which he’d discarded somewhere on the floor, and uses it to hastily wipe down his wilting cock and lube-slick thighs, then wraps himself in his dressing gown. His expression reminds John distinctly of the Grumpy Cat memes he’d seen circulating the internet.

“Sock! Sooock!”

Sherlock’s lips draw into a tight line. “Honestly, I thought by now she’d be able to struggle all the way through my name to the second syllable.” His tone is borderline condescending.

John closes his eyes briefly, and reminds himself that Sherlock isn’t really upset at Rosie, he’s just frustrated. “She’ll get it eventually, love. Either way, we can put her down early tonight and have some quality time just the two of us. You working late?”

Sherlock’s voice sounds tired when he responds, and he doesn’t meet John’s eye as he plucks his mobile off the nightstand and drops it into his dressing gown pocket. “No, I took the afternoon off so I could pick up Rosie from daycare on time. You have a therapy appointment, remember?”

“...Right.”

Sherlock walks out of the room, and moments later, John hears his footsteps on the stairs up to the nursery.

Right.

John did have a therapy appointment today.

Because in three days, it would be Mary’s birthday.

At least, he thinks it’s her birthday. He supposes he’ll never really knew. After all, chances were, the date on Mary Morstan’s forged passport was probably not, in fact, the birth date of the woman who had assumed her identity.

But it was still the date that John had baked Mary a cake that first year they’d been dating. She’d said her favourite was red velvet, and oh God, John had tried, but the damn thing had tasted bloody awful and looked even worse. Despite that, she’d devoured an entire piece and told him it was delicious. Then they’d opened a bottle of champagne and brought it to the bedroom and made love for hours. She’d said it was her best birthday ever.

It was still the date that they’d celebrated when Rosie was barely a few weeks old. Mary was too tired to go out, too tired for dinner, too tired for even a drink. So John had brought home carry-out from the restaurant where he’d tried to propose (before Sherlock had interrupted him, the sodding git) and run her a bath and rubbed her feet and they’d gone to bed at 8:30. But as they lie curled up with each other, Mary had looked him in the eye, and said it was her best birthday ever.

He’d believed her.

It’s hard getting out of bed this morning. The depression settles across his shoulders like a wet wool blanket, thick and oppressive in its weight. He tries to focus on the good things: On the sound of Sherlock engaging in early morning babble with Rosie (he loves eavesdropping on the two of them through the baby monitor). On the fact that Sherlock’s current job will be wrapping up soon, and they’d been discussing taking a family mini-break to the country. On the knowledge that the last time he’d visited his mother, she’d inquired about Sherlock’s wellbeing without flinching or referring to him as John’s flatmate.

All good things, he reminds himself. All good things.

But there’s no denying the fact that he can’t shake the sadness enveloping him. He watches Sherlock feed Rosie her breakfast as if through in a fog; normally the sight of her beaming up at Sherlock as he offers her prodigious praise for properly using her spoon for once would make John’s face sore from smiling so hard, but today it feels like he’s watching the entire tableau on a TV screen, distant and removed. When it’s time for him to leave for work, Rosie feels just a bit heavier than usual as he settles her into her pram to walk her to daycare.

And as he drops her off, he’s suddenly overwhelmed with just how wrong everything is.

He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be raising Rosie in the city, dropping her off three days a week to be cared for by total strangers. He was supposed to be raising Rosie in their terraced house in Watford, the one that had belonged to Mary, the one that had been their home, back when they were still a family. The terraced house had had a backyard with a playset. Baby gates on the stairs. A carseat in the Volvo. And Mary would be at home, caring for Rosie and raising her in their perfect suburban paradise.

And instead, he’s dragged Rosie here, to this filthy, fetid warzone of a city. There’s no backyard at 221B, no baby gate will fit the awkwardly-lopsided staircase, and he and Sherlock don’t even own a car. The flat is a perpetual death trap, filled with toxic chemicals and rotting body parts and dodgy electrical outlets that smoke and spark. Rosie goes to daycare three days a week, stays with Molly on Fridays, and when Sherlock and John are on cases, they hand her off to Mrs. Hudson, Sherlock’s parents, the Stamfords, or, in a pinch, John’s mother.

It’s not right.

None of it is right.

The only thing that gets him through the day is knowing that he’ll have an opportunity to get it all off his chest with Dr. Richards before he has to go home. He mentally commends himself for having the foresight to make the appointment for this week, knowing that he’d be struggling.

He arrives at Dr. Richards’ office 15 minutes early, but she’s already there, and her door is open. She greets him with a warm smile, and he musters a wavering one, and she makes them both tea, and asks John how he’s doing.

And it all tumbles out, in a jumble of choked-off sobs and bitten-off phrases, the guilt and the grief and the all-consuming fear all elbowing their way to the forefront of his consciousness, lobbying for the upper hand. He rants and rambles and talks until his throat is hoarse and his eyes are puffy and he can’t find the strength to form another word.

Dr. Richards gives him a small, sympathetic smile.

“I hear you, John. That’s a lot to take on. I think before we go any further, we ought to do some breathing exercises. How does that sound?”

John swallows hard. “Good.”

So they do breathing exercises together for a while, and John supposes it should make him feel silly, but instead it makes him feel immeasurably better in a weird sort of way. By the time Dr. Richards is counting out their last set of Sama Vritti breaths, John’s feeling calmer than he has all day, and she beams at him as he finally picks up his mug of tea again, and notes his hands aren’t shaking. It makes John feel rather unreasonably proud of himself, but he doesn’t mind.

Dr. Richards picks up her tea as well, and takes a deliberate sip. “Alright. So. The first thing we should talk about is the feelings of wrongness you’ve been experiencing today. Aside from right now, do you have these feelings often?”

John mulls it over. “No. No, not really. Most of the time, everything feels… fine. Not easy, exactly, I mean, I have a two-year-old that I’m trying to raise while working part time and keeping my partner fulfilled, but it generally feels… fine.”

Dr. Richards nods encouragingly. “Well, I think that’s a really good sign. That means that what you’re feeling today is probably fairly circumstantial. Knowing that Mary’s birthday is coming up is bound to conjure up a lot of fond memories, and those can make feelings of grief much more acute. It says less about your actual life as you’re currently living it, and more about the loss you’ve experienced.”

John nods slowly. “That makes sense.”

“So if Mary saw the life you have today, what do you think she’d say?”

John purses his lips. “I think she’d… I think she’d be proud. She… she wanted me and Sherlock to be together, on some level, she… she told us that in a note she left before she passed.”

Dr. Richards raises her eyebrows appraisingly. That’s the first time John’s mentioned the note, and he feels his face flush with the enormity of that omission.

“So you… know for a fact she’d approve of your relationship. And what about your lifestyle? London? Raising Rosie in the city with a community of caregivers?”

“She’s never mentioned it.”

Dr. Richards cocks her head.

John realises what he’s said too late. Shit. Maybe she’d think he’d misspoken, or that she’d misheard…

“When you say, ‘She’s never mentioned it,’ do you mean… before she passed?”

John scrambles to overcorrect. “Um. Um, yeah. Before she passed.”

“But you said that in the present tense.”

“Well, I meant… I meant… in the present before she died.”

Dr. Richards narrows her eyes appraisingly. “John, correct me if I’m wrong, but Mary died in a violent altercation, correct? It wasn’t a gradual illness, in which you had time to discuss and prepare for your next steps.”

“Well, no, but she was always a bit of a fatalist.”

“Understood. But when you said she hadn’t mentioned the lifestyle you were raising Rosie in currently… that makes it sound as if you’ve spoken to her since you moved back to the city.”

The walls seem suddenly too close and the air is too hot and John’s hands are trembling so hard he has to put down his mug.

Well, fuck.

He supposes there’s no use in hiding it, now.

After all, what would Dr. Richards do, call him crazy and kick him out?

“I still see her sometimes.”

Dr. Richards’ face stays politely blank. She simply sits in silence, and waits for him to elaborate.

John takes a deep breath. “It was… it was the worst right after she died. I saw her all the time. All the goddamn time. She rarely left my side. And it wasn’t… it wasn’t like, a fond memory or a silly visualisation technique, it was… it felt like a corporeal manifestation. She was there. I saw her. I’d talk to her. And she’d… she’d talk to me.”

Dr. Richards nods slowly. “Was this during the time you were drinking to excess?”

“Yes, but that wasn’t it. I saw her when I was drunk. When I was sober. At home, at work, everywhere I went, she was there.”

Dr. Richards blinks at him. “And then?”

“And then, she gradually sort of… disappeared. I’d go for hours without seeing her, then days, then weeks.”

“Did this have any correlation to your reconnecting with Sherlock?”

John furrows his brow as he tries to remember. “To a degree, maybe. But Sherlock was still recovering from the relapse he’d experienced during… um, during the Culverton Smith case. Maybe… maybe I was so wrapped up in supervising him, my subconscious just… lost the bandwidth.”

Dr. Richards sits in silence for a long beat before she brings up her next question. “And you still see her?”

John takes a deep breath, then nods. “Not often. Just sometimes. When I’m… um, alone in the flat, usually. Or if Sherlock and I have a fight and I walk out, sometimes she talks me ‘round to going back home.”

Dr. Richards nods.

John gives an unsteady laugh. “You think I’m crazy.”

“No. But I’d really wish you’d told me this sooner, John. We’ve been working together for a while now, and I thought we’d made a lot of progress and really opened up. But when you tell me that you’re hiding things like this from me, it makes me worried that we haven’t come as far as I’d hoped.”

“But… but I mean, it’s not a problem. I know she’s not real. And… and I see her less and less as time goes on.”

“What about Sherlock?”

John shifts uncomfortably in his chair. “What about him?”

“When you thought he was dead, did you see him, too?”

John feels as though all the air has been sucked out of the room.

Because his mourning over Mary-- her love, her loss, all of it-- he’s come to terms with that. He understands the stages of grief and that there will be ups and downs. But he’s on a steady path of progress, direct and sure, and he’s confident that he’s moving in the right direction.

But Sherlock’s death? The mention of that is a knife in a still-open wound, twisting the infected flesh around an agonizing, inflamed hole, gaping and raw.

He gasps at the brilliant pain of it.

“John? Did you see Sherlock when you thought he was dead?”

The tremors have moved from John’s hands to his arms. He shivers and twitches and struggles to steady his voice. “Yes. Sometimes.”

Dr. Richards leans forward. “As often as you saw Mary?”

John tics and looks away. “Sometimes.” He can’t look her in the eye right now.

“But then what happened?”

“But then he came back from the dead and now everything is fine.” The words as so obviously a blatant lie, they taste bitter on John’s tongue.

Dr. Richards narrows her eyes. “John. Everything is not fine. Sherlock died, you lost him, you grieved for him, and that made an impact on you. Just because he’s come back doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean--”

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY?” Somehow, the ice-cold terror throbbing in his heart has been replaced by a blazing anger, and before he knows it, he’s on his feet, shouting down at Dr. Richards sitting placidly in her chair.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY, HMM? That I hallucinated seeing my dead lover every day for months after he passed? That I drank myself half to death to try and make the visions stop? That I wanted to shoot myself in the fucking head just to get him to leave me alone, hmmm?” John’s breaths are coming in loud, terrifying inhalations through his nose, and he feels like he’s about to pass out. “And then I somehow get past it, finally move on, and then there he fucking is, in the goddamn flesh, acting as if it were all some elaborate joke? WELL IT WASN’T FUCKING FUNNY, WAS IT? And I hated him, I fucking hated him, I hated him so much it made me sick, but somehow, I loved him more than I hated him, and the next thing I knew Mary was dead and I went right back to fucking him and I was so happy again but sometimes I would see him walking next to me on the street or lying beside me in bed and I couldn’t tell if he was real. I COULDN’T FUCKING TELL IF HE WAS REAL. Because I’d spent SO LONG convincing myself he wasn’t, that for him to be there would be an act so cruel, I could never forgive it. But he is there, isn’t he? He’s there, and he’s raising my child, and he has no fucking clue that sometimes my fucked-up brain doesn’t work right and it convinces me he’s a ghost and that I’ve lost my FUCKING mind. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT ME TO SAY?”

Dr. Richards gives him a long, appraising look. Despite the rage coursing through his veins, the fact that she looks completely unimpacted by all of this is somehow bewilderingly reassuring. When she speaks, her words are soft and measured. “When was the last time you thought he wasn’t real?”

John swallows and blinks. “Four… four weeks ago. I took Rosie with me to visit my mum, and I woke up in the middle of the night and I’d forgotten to charge my phone and I couldn’t… I couldn’t remember if he was dead or not. I had to… I had to wake Harry and ask her.”

Dr. Richards slowly rises to her feet.

John blinks furiously back at the tears welling up in his eyes. “I had… I had to wake...I had to wake Harry to see if he was alive…”

And then John is sobbing, in deep, wracking breaths that spasm their way up his back and clog his throat in a thick, sickening sort of way that makes him dizzy with the oppressive enormity of it.

“John? Would it be alright if I touched you?”

John manages a feeble nod, and Dr. Richards steps forward and embraces him.

For a long time, he just cries.

Chapter Text

The next few days are… unpleasant, to put it mildly. John had arrived home after his appointment feeling wrung-out and drained. He’d been short with Sherlock, snapped at Rosie, and gone to bed early complaining of a headache. He’d slept for 12 hours straight, a consuming, dreamless slumber that left him feeling exhausted rather than refreshed. By the time he left for the surgery the next morning, he somehow felt more depressed than he had the day before.

He has a list of Action Items that he and Dr. Richards had worked on together. She’d graciously extended his appointment, no questions asked, so they’d had time to strategise a bit before John had to leave for home.

He needs to:
Come up with a plan to honour Mary on her birthday. Dr. Richards had left that one very open-ended: he could do something as simple as visiting Mary’s grave, or as abstract as taking Rosie to the park. He could eat dinner by himself at the wine bar where they’d had their first date, or he could bake a red velvet cake and share it with Sherlock. It was entirely up to him.
Make a list of family events with Sherlock and Rosie that he’s looking forward to in the next three months.
Talk to Sherlock.

He can’t bring himself to do any of them. He knows he should, of course he does; objectively, he’s sure doing any of those three things would make him feel better. But the task of starting somewhere seems so daunting that he instead avoids it altogether and shuts down completely.

He still goes through the motions of his day, but it’s like being on autopilot. He’ll be vaguely aware that he’s engaging Sherlock in conversation, or putting Rosie through her bedtime routine, but it all feels hazy and surreal.

He feels tired. He sleeps a lot.

The day of Mary’s birthday is the worst. He wakes up missing her fiercely, so much it’s a struggle to get out of bed. He’s not on call at the surgery and Sherlock has to leave for the lab, so he knows Sherlock is counting on him to take care of Rosie. Even so, he finds he doesn’t have the energy to do much besides get her breakfast in her, then plop her down in front of the television while he sits and stares into space.

He’s fairly certain this is not what Dr. Richards had in mind when she recommended he find a way to honour Mary.

So after an hour or two of staring into space, he gets Rosie dressed and takes her to the park and then stares into space some more while she toddles around and pokes at the dirt with sticks and giggles with the other children there. He finally remembers she hasn’t had lunch yet, so he takes her home and gets her some food, then stares into space some more while she naps.

The rest of the afternoon is a strange blur, and by the time he hears Sherlock’s heavy footsteps on the staircase, he’s fairly certain he’s never been more relieved that someone is here to relieve him of his parenting duties.

Besides, the day isn’t over yet; if he pulls himself together now, he can still turn this thing around.

“And there’s my sweet Rose!” Sherlock strides through the door and grins down at Rosie, who is playing on her blanket surrounded by stuffed animals.

“Sock!”

“Hello, my girl!” In two paces, Sherlock is swooping her up, swinging her around as she squeals and giggles. Finally, he perches her on his hip and turns to where John is sitting placidly on the couch. “John?” His face is full of trepidation, and John feels sincerely remorseful for how morose he’s been the past few days.

He plasters what he’s fairly certain is a criminally unconvincing smile onto his face, and gets to his feet. “Hi, love. Good day at the lab?” He stoops down to start picking up Rosie’s toys and returning them to the basket in the corner.

“Um, yes, it was… fine. How… how are you?” Sherlock sounds so nervous it almost makes John laugh. He was so out of his depth with emotions, John almost pities him.

“I’m okay. Can you get Rosie her dinner? I’m going to go to the Tesco to pick up the ingredients for a cake. I’ll get us kebabs or something on the way home.”

Sherlock looks considerably cheered by the fact that John has plans for the evening that do not involve sitting motionless on the sofa staring at nothing. “Oh! Of course.”

“Cheers.” With that, John grabs his jacket, and walks out the door.

He doesn’t go straight to the Tesco. In fact, he’s not entirely sure where he’s going; he’d initially had every intention of taking Dr. Richards’ suggestion and making a cake for him and Sherlock to share, but he realises he didn’t pick out a recipe, and the task feels somehow insurmountable. So instead he just walks around Regent’s Park for a while, until it’s dark and getting cold.

He finally turns back to the flat, and it’s not until he’s ascending the staircase that he realises he didn’t pick up dinner like he’d said he would. Oh, well.

He walks into the sitting room and stops dead in his tracks. Because Sherlock is kneeling there, two belts in hand. He doesn’t say anything; the look in his eyes is enough.

He’s asking to be dominated.

It occurs to John for the first time that he wasn’t the only one who’d be feeling Mary’s loss today. Sherlock was her friend, too. Sherlock had befriended her and cared for her and loved her in his own way. Hell, he’d killed Magnussen in cold blood to make sure that Mary and John could stay together.

And in the end, she’d given her life for his.

John swallows thickly.

This… this wasn’t a good idea. At all. They were both emotionally vulnerable, raw and aching--the exact opposite of the circumstances in which a power exchange should occur. But suddenly, the idea of dominating Sherlock, of making him crawl and beg and scream and cry, is so consuming that John almost can’t breathe for the want of it. He wants to fucking tear Sherlock apart.

He strides purposefully into the room to stand before Sherlock, staring down at him imposingly. Sherlock blinks up at him, demure and soft, before holding the belts up towards John, imploring him to take them.

John does, the leather firm and intoxicating in his hands. “Where’s Rosie?”

“Mrs. Hudson.”

“Good. Level?”

“Three.”

“Good. Take off your clothes. Put them on the chair. I’ll watch.”

Sherlock rises a bit unsteadily, the colour blooming in his cheeks. John observes dispassionately as he disrobes, until he’s standing fully nude with nothing but John’s dog tags hanging around his neck.

As he strips, John smiles a bit to himself; Sherlock was so thoughtful to do this; he’d clearly seen John struggling, and had planned a session to make him feel better. He really was very considerate.

“Kneel.” Sherlock drops fast, and John strides up to him and reaches forward, wrenching his mouth open with his fingers before stuffing the first of the leather belts inside. He secures it quickly behind Sherlock’s head, and Sherlock moans against his gag. His cock is flushed and erect between his legs, and John smirks down at him, delighting in his reaction to rough use.

“Lovely.” John palms himself through his trousers, and feels himself rise to full hardness as he tugs the end of the belt behind Sherlock’s head upwards, pulling Sherlock into a forced upright position on his knees. Sherlock moans, and his cock gives an eager twitch.

“You going to be good for me tonight, sweetheart?” Sherlock gives a frantic little nod as best he can against the pressure of his gag. “Good. Arms behind your back, grab your elbows.” Sherlock complies without hesitation, and John steps to kneel behind him and coil the other belt around his forearms, binding them together. He pulls the belt tight and secures it in place, then pauses to determine his next move.

He’s hard and incredibly horny, and he reflects on the fact that he and Sherlock haven’t been intimate in over two weeks. In that case, probably best to take the edge off now.

He puts one hand on Sherlock’s shoulder and and grabs the belt binding his forearms with the other, and pushes him forward until he sprawls out face-down on the sitting room carpet. Then John shuffles forward on his knees to insert himself between Sherlock’s legs, and unzips his trousers to pull out his throbbing cock.

Beneath him, Sherlock lets out a nervous whimper. John simply grins and spits into his hand before slicking himself up.

He could be proper about this, he supposes. He could get up and fetch the emergency stash of lube they keep hidden in the sofa cushions. He could prep Sherlock, fingering him open until he was pliant and ready. But he’s not really in the mood to wait.

And after all, wasn’t Sherlock always the one begging him to make it rough? Being taken unprepared was always high on Sherlock’s list of kinks, and tonight, John’s feeling very benevolent. Benevolent enough to oblige.

Without hesitation, he pries Sherlock’s cheek aside with one hand, and uses his other to guide the head of his cock into Sherlock’s furled hole. Then he plants both hands beside Sherlock’s head and drives inside.

And Christ, that’s tight. John supposes he shouldn’t be surprised; he’s usually fastidious about prepping Sherlock, so taking him without proper lube is a shocking sensation indeed. Even so, he’s slightly taken aback at just how clenched Sherlock’s passage feels against the intrusion.

Beneath him, Sherlock is wriggling and shifting around where he’s impaled, and John sighs wearily. He places his hand forcefully on the back of Sherlock’s neck.

“Hold still.” Sherlock obeys. John begins to thrust.

Their coupling is a frantic, punishing thing. Sherlock’s eyes are clenched shut and he’s making obscene whimpering sounds as John reams him into the floor, but John doesn’t allow himself to be distracted. He simply works on pistoning his hips at just the right angle to penetrate Sherlock’s prone form as deeply as he can, chasing his own gratification.

John doesn’t last long. Before he knows it, he’s emptying himself in sharp, demanding pulses, flooding Sherlock’s passage in hot waves. Beneath him, Sherlock wails against his gag as he’s filled, his legs flexing helplessly where they’re splayed at his sides.

Finally, John finishes. He pulls out his cock and inspects it: no sign of blood. Relief washes over him, steady and sure. This was fine, then. They were doing fine.

John zips himself back into his trousers and gets to his feet. Sherlock is still face-down on the floor. He’s shaking rather violently.

“Get up.” John reaches down and grabs the belt at the back of his head and the belt wrapped around his forearms and hauls him back to his knees. Sherlock moans.

“Bedroom. Now. Crawl.” Sherlock blinks up at him, a confused expression on his face. “I’m aware you can’t use your hands, sweetheart, so you’ll just have to use your knees. Let’s go.” With that, he gives the end of the belt a tug and moves towards the bedroom.

Sherlock follows as quickly as he can, his breath coming in ragged gasps. This can’t possibly be comfortable for his knees, but John finds he doesn’t much care. Not only that, but one glance down reveals that Sherlock’s cock is rock-hard and throbbing between his legs; he’s getting off on this, then. So no worries.

They finally reach the bedroom. “Stand.” Sherlock scrambles unsteadily to his feet, and John hastily unfastens the belt from around his arms before removing the belt gagging him as well. He wants something different, now. Not only that, but the gag was preventing Sherlock from being loud, and John’s in the mood to hear him scream.

“Get on the bed, face up, arms above your head.” John reaches into the drawer to procure the handcuffs as Sherlock obeys his command without hesitation. With brusque efficiency, he clips the cuffs around one wrist, threads them through the slats of the headboard, then affixes them to the other wrist and gives them a light tug. “Good. Stay.”

With that, he turns on his heel and makes his way towards the closet. He grabs the lockbox off the top shelf and opens it up, withdrawing his gun.

He checks to be sure it’s unloaded. It is.

Satisfied, he turns and makes his way back to Sherlock’s bedside, and Sherlock’s eyes visibly widen as he registers the presence of the gun.

“Alright, sweetheart, I’d like to play with you a bit now. How does that sound?”

Sherlock swallows dryly. “Good, Captain.”

John grins at the title. Sherlock has picked up on what John’s in the mood for, then… Christ, he’s so clever. So clever and brilliant and perfect. It makes John very happy.

“Excellent. I’m going to edge you while you suck my gun. You’re not to come until I give you permission. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Good.” And with that, John spits unceremoniously into his right hand and wraps it around Sherlock’s turgid cock. With his left, he guides the muzzle of the gun into Sherlock’s open, eager mouth.

He jerks Sherlock in sharp, fast strokes, the kind that usually send him over the edge in seconds. But he’s being very good tonight, and seems to be devoting his full attention to fellating John’s gun with enthusiastic aplomb. He licks and suckles at the barrel, moaning obscenely, his legs spreading wantonly as John works over his pulsing member.

“Oh, that’s lovely, sweetheart. So good, you’re so good for me…”

John lets him carry on for a bit, until he sees the telltale quiver across Sherlock’s abdomen that indicates he’s about to come. John immediately withdraws his hand from Sherlock’s cock, and Sherlock pulls away from the gun, gasping and swearing as the sensation of the denied release washes over him.

“Nnnnngh, fuck! FUCK! Captain! Ohhhh…” His member twitches helplessly, seeking the friction that had all too recently enveloped it, and John smiles down at the glorious spectacle.

“That was perfect. Let’s go again.” And so John edges Sherlock over and over again, the heady power high of having him so completely at his mercy drowning out any thoughts of grief or sorrow. Whatever those emotions were, they’re nothing compared to the perfection of this.

He doesn’t notice Sherlock is crying until he’s guiding the gun back between his lips for the seventh-- or was it eighth?-- time. Concern furrows John’s brow; he had been edging him for quite a while now; perhaps it was time for some release. He supposes they could both use a break.

“Alright, that’s enough. Go ahead. Come.” And with that, he begins to ruthlessly strip Sherlock’s cock in fast, demanding strokes.

The words have barely passed John’s lips before Sherlock is coming, arching off the bed and wailing like a banshee as his cock expels endless white streaks up the length of his abdomen. John works him diligently through it, and by the time he’s collapsing bonelessly back into the mattress, John is feeling rather satisfied himself.

Normally now would be the time he’d give them a pause; he’d leave Sherlock tied up and debauched to recover while John waited for his own refractory period to be over.
But tonight, John’s delighted to note that he’s already hard again. Odd, considering his normal turnaround time was about an hour… perhaps he’d been edging Sherlock longer than he thought? No matter. He could take his pleasure now.

He tosses the gun onto the pillow and climbs onto the bed, pressing Sherlock’s legs apart as he fumbles with his own flies. He pulls out his cock and gives it a few resolute tugs, then runs his fingers around Sherlock’s inflamed hole.

“John? Lube… please.” John looks up to see Sherlock staring up at him, a look of trepidation in his eyes. He looks almost concerned.

“Oh. Yeah, sure, I can…” John leans forward to fumble through the nightstand drawer, procuring the lube and squeezing a generous dose onto his cock before slicking himself up. He reaches down with his wet fingers and presses them into Sherlock’s hole. Sherlock quivers and moans.

“That alright? You ready for me?”

Sherlock swallows. “Yes, John.”

“Good.” John shuffles forward and plunges inside the tight, wet heat.

He fucks Sherlock brutally, and Sherlock strains against the cuffs and moans and screams so gorgeously, John is completely lost in it. He looks beautiful like this, all tied up and wanton and at John’s mercy. It’s the most perfect thing John has ever seen.

John’s getting close, but his eyes flit over to where he’d tossed the gun aside. And oh, that would be a lovely picture, wouldn’t it? Grinning to himself, he picks it up, flicks off the safety, and presses it resolutely under Sherlock’s chin.

Sherlock makes a strange, garbled choking sound and arches his back in that glorious way that sets John’s nerves alight. John can feel his release building; he’s close, he’s so close, he’s nearly there… he stares down at the place where the metal is pressing into the tender flesh at Sherlock’s throat. Close, so close…

“Pull the trigger.” Sherlock’s voice is a desperate growl.

John’s hips still and he blinks furiously, his brain skittering and veering dangerously. He looks up to meet Sherlock’s eyes. “What did you say?”

Sherlock’s eyes are set and certain. “Pull. The. Trigger.”

Blood. So much blood. Brain matter splattered on the pavement. Grey, it was strangely grey, brain matter, offset by the deep maroon of the blood and the porcelain white of the skull fragments mixed in. But the blood! There was so much of it, too much, too much for anyone to have survived. And people… so many people, flocking from everywhere, hands and arms and grim, shocked faces, surrounding the body lying crumpled on the sidewalk outside Bart's. But it wasn’t a body, was it? No, because it was Sherlock, and Sherlock was John’s… he was John’s… He’s my friend. He’s my friend. He’s my friend.

The next thing John knows, he’s emptying his guts into the toilet bowl, the retches wracking their way through is body in consuming, all-encompassing waves. He can’t breathe and his eyes are swimming and his chest is heaving in a strange convulsing pattern that doesn’t seem normal at all. There’s no air, not enough air, and he’s trying so hard to breathe but he can’t around the vomit expelling itself violently from his body.

He’s fairly certain he’s going to die. He grips the edges of the toilet bowl desperately as he heaves again and shudders through another round.

And then, somehow, a voice beside him.

“John! John, can I… can I touch you?”

He somehow manages to nod, and then there are hands, warm and strong and steady, rubbing his back and shoulders and up his neck.

He focuses on that sensation, on that touch. Firm and reassuring, gentle but demanding. Hands. Hands to fall back into. Hands.

When he finally blinks his eyes open, he’s sprawled back against the edge of the bathtub, his legs splayed out in front of him. He feels like his feet are a million miles away, and the overhead light is altogether too bright.

He can breathe again.

Slowly, he turns his head to the side.

And sitting beside him is Sherlock. He’s clutching John’s hand resolutely, and the look on his face is one of unwavering concern.

John lets his head drop back against the tub. He twists Sherlock’s hand in his own until he can press his fingers to the pulse at Sherlock’s wrist. Then he closes his eyes, and counts.

He counts Sherlock’s pulse for 826 beats.

He finally feels like he might survive.

Using every ounce of strength he can muster, he lifts his head and opens his eyes. He licks his lips and swallows. His mouth is dry and tastes like vomit. He shudders.

Beside him, Sherlock shifts onto his knees, then bends to peer into John’s eyes.

“John?”

“Hey there.”

Sherlock’s lip quirks. “Hi. Are you… um, back?”

John gives a half-hearted nod, and struggles to pull himself into a sitting position. The bathroom spins dangerously, and he sways. Sherlock puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“Stay here, John, let me get you some water.” He pads off, and John stares at the bathroom tile and focuses very intently on not throwing up again. Sherlock returns a moment later and hands John a glass, and he drains the contents without thinking.

“Cheers.”

“Can you stand?” Sherlock peers down at him, his brow furrowed in worry. “I think… I think we should get you in bed.”

“Um, yeah. Yeah, I can…” Sherlock extends his hand and John takes it, allowing himself to be helped to his feet.

“Good. Come on, then.” Sherlock loops John’s arm over his shoulders and resolutely guides him back to the bedroom.

They make it as far as the bed, and Sherlock tips John sideways to sit on the edge of it. Then he scrambles off to do something, and John observes uncomprehendingly as Sherlock bustles around collecting the gun and the cuffs and the belts and the tube of lube, tossing the lot of it in the closet and slamming the door before hurrying back to John’s bedside.

Oh fuck. They’d been in the middle of a damn session, hadn’t they? And Christ, John was supposed to be taking care of Sherlock, coddling him, guiding him towards their mutual ecstasy, and instead he’s sitting here, lame and infirm, while Sherlock fusses over him like a worried hen.

Fuck.

But he can’t dwell on that now. Sherlock stoops to pull off John’s shoes and socks, then has him lie back to remove his trousers before maneuvering him onto the pillows and pulling up the duvet.

“Alright, John. I need to go to the bathroom and clean up. Are you alright for now?”

John blinks up at him from his position on the bed, and registers Sherlock’s state for the first time.

His hair is a tangled mess, and his torso is streaked with come. His thighs are slick with lube and the evidence of John’s release, and his wrists are red from the bite of the handcuffs. He looks like a fucking disaster zone.

“I… um, yeah, I’ll be… I’ll be fine. You…” John trails off.

“What?” Sherlock looks down at him, concern etched in the lines across his face.

“How the hell did you get out of the handcuffs?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Please, John, I’m a damn professional. If I can’t get off a pair of cheap handcuffs, then what the hell am I doing in the crime-fighting business?”

John musters a watery smile. “Fair point.”

Sherlock cracks a smile as well, and in that moment, John feels himself relax.

Things are still fucked up -- completely, utterly fucked up-- but they’re going to be alright.

They’ve got this.

He takes a deep breath and settles into the pillows. “You should go shower. I’ll call for you if I need anything. And then we can… just sleep this off. Things will be better in the morning.”

Sherlock nods. “Yes. Better in the morning.”

And with that, he disappears into the bathroom.

John listens disconnectedly to the sound of the water turning on, then turning off again. A few moments later, Sherlock is climbing into bed, wrapping his limbs around John and squeezing him tight.

It’s a pressure hold, wrapping John in firm compression like a comforting cocoon. John melts into the sensation, and lets go. Oblivion awaits.

Chapter Text

Sherlock wakes early.

He shifts and blinks away the last tendrils of sleep from his brain before sitting up to check the time.

He winces. He’s sore.

And then he remembers.

Guilt washes over him like a rising tide. He never should have proposed that session last night, ever. It had been obvious that John was in a bad headspace. A power exchange had been a ridiculous solution, absurd.

At the time, though, it had seemed altogether quite reasonable; after all, in the past Sherlock had experimented with proposing sessions to make John feel better when he was stressed or agitated, and it had worked out splendidly. But Sherlock now realises that on those past occasions, John had been suffering from symptoms of his PTSD. Not grief.

Seems they were different animals, apparently.

But there was nothing for it, now. Lesson learned. They’d just have to move on from here.

He notes John is still sleeping soundly beside him. His face looks open and relaxed, and the sight of it makes something contract rather painfully in Sherlock’s chest. John had been acting so strangely these past few days, so distant. Sherlock had only wanted to help. Only wanted to make John feel better.

...And to be honest, he’d wanted to make himself feel better, too. While he knows John suffered tremendously in the wake of Mary’s passing, Sherlock himself had not been unimpacted. After all, Mary had been his friend. He’d sworn to protect her, to keep her and John safe, and somehow…

No, no, what’s done is done. It is what it is.

Mary had died so that Sherlock could live. She had died knowing that he would be there for Rosie and John. And so help him, he would not let her down.

He rises resolutely from bed and dresses, then makes his way downstairs to fetch Rosie from Mrs. H.

By the time John wanders out from the bedroom, it’s well past 9.

“Morning, John.” Sherlock throws John an affectionate wink over his shoulder from where he’s standing at the stove, working over a large pan of scrambled eggs (and if he’s honest, priding himself on the fact that he remembered to butter the pan AND add salt and pepper. John would be very proud of him).

“Adda!” Rosie squeals from her high chair at the table, and John’s face lights up.

“Morning, my loves! Now, what are you working on over here, sweet girl?” John pulls up a chair at the table, and Rosie beams at him. Sherlock smiles and turns back to the eggs; seems John was feeling much better, then.

“She’s making us some new artwork for the fridge. I tried to get her started on that ‘Planets of the Solar System’ colouring book, but she refuses to stay inside the lines.”

John raises his eyebrows and gives Sherlock an amused smirk. “What’s that? A member of this family completely disregarding the sanctity of the solar system? I wonder where she gets it from.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes good-naturedly and grabs two plates from the cupboard. He shovels some eggs onto both and plucks the toast from the toaster (he’d only slightly burnt it this time around; hopefully John would eat it just to humour him), then grabs two forks and deposits the lot of it on the kitchen table.

He moves to pull out a chair, but stops. John is giving him a look. Sherlock knows that look well; it’s his, I know you’re a mad scientist and can’t be bothered with mundane activities like cooking, but you’re about to bollocks something up royally look. Sherlock furrows his brow, mentally replays the last 30 seconds, then lifts his finger with a resounding “Ah!” He turns around and flicks off the burner on the stove. When he turns back to sit down, John is looking very, very pleased with him. Sherlock internally preens.

He and John tuck in, and Sherlock notes with satisfaction that John is actually eating and smiling and acting, frankly, normal. They both pick up crayons and join Rosie in her colouring while they eat, Rosie babbling excitedly as they exchange pointed glances over the table, marveling at how quickly her vocabulary is expanding. It’s astounding, really, and Sherlock finds himself completely caught up in the perfection of this moment, just their happy little family having a lovely lazy morning.

The day passes more or less uneventfully, for once. They take Rosie out to the Science Museum, which they’d been meaning to do for ages but never had the time. She’s still too young for most of the exhibits, but Sherlock finds himself rather delighted by an interactive art programme targeted towards teaching children about the Fibonacci numbers, and he’s nearly certain Rosie’s on the cusp of a real breakthrough on that front (John just smiles dotingly at him before concurring wholeheartedly).

They get ice cream for lunch despite the chilly weather (and yes, at that point Sherlock’s caught on to the fact that John is definitely in an indulgent mood today), then return to the flat in time for Rosie’s nap. John blogs and answers his emails. Sherlock composes. Rosie awakens. John reads her books while Sherlock finishes his composition. Sherlock does a puzzle with her while John does the shopping. They double-team the cooking while Rosie toddles about the kitchen, interrupting them every 39 seconds (on average). They eat dinner at the table. John puts Rosie to bed.

The day is, in a word, effortless. Effortless.

John trudges down the stairs from the nursery and looks pleasantly surprised to find Sherlock waiting for him with a fresh mug of tea. He takes it with a smile that makes Sherlock’s heart feel light and fluttery, and they retire to their chairs in front of the fireplace. John pops in a few logs and lights the kindling, and moments later, they’re enveloped in the warm glow.

John sits down in his chair, and clears his throat.

Sherlock braces himself.

“So. Um, last night.” John’s tone is artificially light.

“Yes.” Sherlock gazes resolutely into the flames. He doesn’t feel capable of meeting John’s eye.

“I’m… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Wasn’t your fault.”

“But it was, really. I was… I was in a bad place, and I agreed to a session anyway, and that was… well, I mean, that’s a huge misstep. Huge. It was… really bad.”

Sherlock shrugs a bit dismissively and takes a sip of tea. “It’s alright. I misinterpreted the situation as well. I thought perhaps because sessions tend to make you feel better when you’re feeling anxious or wound up, the same thing would apply when you were feeling depressed. That was a miscalculation on my part. It won’t happen again.”

“Right.” John lapses into a thoughtful silence.

Sherlock takes a moment to formulate his next thought. “Maybe next time we should--”

John interrupts him before he can finish his sentence. “Next time?”

“Well, yes. I mean, obviously we won’t try having a session again until you’re certain you’re feeling better, but I just meant--”

“What are you talking about? Sherlock, we’re not… we can’t do that again.”

Sherlock’s eyes leave the fire for the first time to meet John’s. He’s incredibly confused. “Can’t do… what again?”

John swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing resolutely. “We can’t… we can’t do that anymore. Have sessions. Unwind. Whatever you want to call it. It’s not healthy. It’s not safe.”

Sherlock is fairly certain he’s missing something. “But… I mean, last night was an extreme exception, John. Up until now, everything’s been fine--”

“That’s not the point, Sherlock. The point is, we can’t pretend like last night didn’t happen. It did. It was reckless and dangerous, and we need to stop.”

No. No, John can’t mean that. Sherlock scrambles to quantify the situation. “Of course. Of course, the gunplay is too much. You’re absolutely right, John. We’ll just dial it back, remove it from our repertoire. Easy enough.”

“No, Sherlock. You’re not listening to me. We can’t… we can’t keep having power exchanges. It… I thought it was good for us, but it’s not, it’s dangerous and it’s damaging and considering our past, it’s incredibly arrogant of us to have thought we could successfully--”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Sherlock is trying to be patient, honestly he is, but John’s being a complete idiot. He’s clearly talking out of his arse.

“Last night! Christ, Sherlock, you were there! The situation was completely out of control!”

“You got triggered and had a panic attack. You’re a veteran with PTSD and it was your dead wife’s birthday. We clearly misread a few signals, but John, that’s all! We stopped, you recovered, we went to sleep, life went on! Nobody died! We’re fine!”

“Jesus CHRIST!” Before Sherlock can comprehend what’s happening, John’s stood up and thrown his mug directly into the fireplace. It shatters on impact, and the fire hisses and smokes where the tea spatters across the logs. “I fucking penetrated you without preparation, Sherlock!”

Sherlock glares up at him beligerently. “Just like I’m always asking you to?”

“NOT THE POINT! You could have been injured, you could have--”

“But I wasn’t.”

“I gagged you without reviewing our safety protocols! I bound your arms without checking your blood flow! I lost track of time while I was edging you! I didn’t check your circulation in the cuffs! Jesus, I was going to have intercourse with you a SECOND time without proper preparation or lubrication--”

“And I stopped you.”

John glares mutinously down at him. “But you shouldn’t need to.”

Sherlock rises to his feet as well, throwing his shoulders back and glaring down at John with just as much vehemence as John is projecting at him. “John, do you remember a few months ago, we were having a session and I asked you for water?”

John just narrows his eyes.

“Well, you stopped, and you got me water, and as you were feeding it to me, you told me how proud you were of me for asking for the water, because that meant that you could trust me to communicate with you, and that I trusted you to take care of me. Do you remember that?”

John glares up at him mutely.

“Last night was the same fucking thing. But instead of water, I needed lube. Big deal.”

John throws up his hands in exasperation. “It IS a big deal! FUCK, Sherlock, I’m pretty sure you can objectively see the difference between being deprived of water and being deprived of lube. In one scenario, you end up mildly dehydrated. In the other, you end up hospitalised with anal fissures. NOT. THE. SAME.”

“BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER! For fuck’s sake, John! Where do you think my head’s at when we’re unwinding, hmm? Do you think I go braindead? Do you think I’m incapable of thinking, or speaking up for myself? I’m not. I’m there, I’m present, I’m just enjoying the fucking ride instead of trying to elbow my way into the driver’s seat! When you’re dominating me, I’m still fully cognisant. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know what feels good and what doesn’t. I’m capable of consent. I don’t just turn into some inanimate sex doll that you need to coddle!”

“But I’m supposed to TAKE CARE OF YOU when I’m dominating you! That’s my… that’s my fucking JOB, that’s what a good Dom DOES!”

“You’re wrong. You are so, SO wrong. Is that what you think, when you’re dominating me? That I’m helpless and weak and you’re the big, strong man who has to take care of me in my compromised state? Because Jesus, John, I thought we were in this together.”

John pinches the bridge of his nose. “No, that’s not… that’s not what I meant. I know… I know you’re capable of consent when you’re under, and I know that you communicate with me about what you want. I just…”

“You just what?”

“I just want to make you feel good.”

“And you do! I mean, Christ, John, I thought last night was going pretty swimmingly up until you threw up everywhere. You got off, I got off, we were both riding the high--”

“EXACTLY! We were doing EVERYTHING wrong, EVERYTHING you’re supposed to avoid, and NEITHER of us stopped it! We just let ourselves get carried away! No one said stop, until my body did it for me!”

“But it’s--”

“No.” John’s face has suddenly gone cold, and his voice is low and brittle.

Sherlock freezes. “...No?”

“I said no. I’m withdrawing my consent. I don’t want to have power exchanges with you anymore. Take it or leave it, Sherlock. I’m done.”

Sherlock feels like he’s been doused with ice water. Everything feels surreal, and the enormity of what John is saying is suffocating in its magnitude.

He couldn’t possibly mean… it was over. No. He couldn’t mean that.

Sherlock opens his mouth and wills his tongue to form words. “You… you don’t… want this anymore?”

John steps forward and cups Sherlock’s cheek tenderly in his hand. Despite himself, Sherlock closes his eyes and leans into the caresse, desperate for some sort of reassurance. “Sherlock, I still want you. I will always want you. I want our home. I want our family. I’m still saying yes to all of that, with you. But I’m saying no to the power exchanges. Can you accept that?”

Sherlock tries to imagine their life without unwinding. He thinks back to all those years ago, before the Fall… but even then, before they gave this thing a name and slapped a label on it and John started doing a bunch of research on what was safe, sane, and consensual, there had always been an undertone to their sex that was outside the boundaries of normal vanilla fare. After all, they were two bloody adrenaline junkies who got off on solving murders for fun; what the hell were they supposed to do, make love missionary-style beneath the covers every Saturday night like clockwork?

But… but it would have to do, wouldn’t it? Because if John is saying no, and Sherlock won’t comply, then that would be the end of it all, wouldn’t it? And Sherlock couldn’t lose John just because he was some sort of twisted sex addict. He could do the vanilla thing. He could. After all, he’d gone thirty plus years of his life with no sex at all! How bad could it be to tone it down a bit?

“Yes, John. I can accept that.” Sherlock’s eyelids flutter open and John beams up at him, then leans in and captures his lips in a passionate kiss.

And they make out, just like that, for what feels like ages; gentle and demure and sweet.

Finally, John pulls away, looking flushed and a bit breathless. “Alright. I’m going to go to bed. I still feel knackered from last night. I’ve… I’ve made another appointment with Dr. Richards on Monday, and I’m sure I’ll feel better after that.”

Sherlock smiles complacently. “Alright, John.”

“Alright, love.” He gives Sherlock’s lips one last chaste peck. “Goodnight.”

Sherlock doesn’t sleep.

Chapter Text

It’s really not that bad.

Honestly, it isn’t.

In fact, for the most part, Sherlock doesn’t detect much of a change at all. And he supposes that shouldn’t surprise him; it wasn’t like he and John had been having sessions all the time. They generally saved the power exchanges for special occasions, like after the conclusion of a particularly intense case, or nights when Rosie was staying with Mrs. H or Molly or Sherlock’s parents-- which wasn’t more than once every few weeks.

So when push came to shove, there honestly wasn’t any discernible difference in their day-to-day lives. If anything, John seemed very intent on making Sherlock feel secure in the state of their relationship, meaning they’d been having quite a lot more sex than usual (granted, most of it was furtive hand jobs or blow jobs when Rosie was asleep, or quick rounds of intercrural sex in the shower before John left for work, but the few times they do have penetrative intercourse, it’s as pleasurable as it’s always been), so Sherlock can’t really find cause to complain. Not only that, but the depression John had been experiencing around Mary’s birthday seems to have retreated back into dormancy, so for the time being, everything felt… well, just fine.

And John seems happy. He plans lots of family activities with Sherlock and Rosie, he assists Sherlock on two separate cases (both Threes, so his help wasn’t exactly required, but Sherlock willingly indulges him), he plays rugby with his veterans league, and he goes out for pints with Lestrade. He seems… well, just fine.

And Sherlock is fine, too. He is. Business is good (though he could use a nice grisly murder, the last few private cases he’s taken on have been quite lucrative, leaving him more resources to begin a few ambitious experiments he’d been putting off), he attends John’s rugby matches with Rosie in tow (and spends most of the time summarily ignoring the match and socialising with Jenny), he’d gone out and had a drink with Aaron to catch up (was it possible he was making another new friend? Implausible, and yet…), and John is affectionate, loving, and kind.

It’s all Sherlock could ask for, really.

So he’s fine.

It’s four weeks later when Dimmock texts him with a case. Only a single body, sadly, but in a windowless storage unit locked from the inside, which brightened the prospects considerably, and Sherlock is only too keen to take it on.

It’s quick, as murder cases go; a mere four days, but they’re four electric, invigorating days filled with inspired brainwork and slightly less-inspired legwork. John joins him on the case, and it’s just as rousing as ever, the two of them working in perfect tandem towards an elegant conclusion.

And elegant it is: The victim had been dosed with cathinone by the perpetrator, then, in his predictable state of paranoia, locked himself into his windowless storage unit with a handgun, with which he’d accidentally shot himself whilst fighting off hallucinated assailants. As it turned out, the perp’s goal was not, in fact, to kill the victim, but to discredit his behaviour and render him ineligible for a promotion for which they were both vying-- with rather tragic collateral consequences.

Delightfully, the perp proves to be rather elusive and provides a bit of a chase, so John and Sherlock get a chance to stretch their legs a bit in the alleys of Peckham before finally catching up with him. It’s an exhilarating, dazzling conclusion to the case, and Sherlock can feel the satisfying rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins as he and John wrap up their statements with Dimmock’s team before hailing a cab for home. They clamber into the back of the taxi and lapse into silence.

Sherlock feels like he’s about to vibrate out of his own skin. He’s still riding the high of the chase, his brain whirring a thousand miles a minute, his hands shaky and his left leg twitching. He’s a bit strung out from a few days without proper food or rest, and as such, he’s feeling the full effect of the adrenaline dump in his bloodstream.

Beside him, John doesn’t appear to be faring much better. He’s sitting up unnaturally straight, and eyeing Sherlock with a rather appraising gleam in his eye. Sherlock shivers as he imagines what John’s about to do to him the second they get home--

But no, no, wait, that’s not… that’s not what’s going to happen, is it? Because John put an end to all that. There’s no release awaiting him at the end of this taxi ride, only a triumphant return to the mundanity of their everyday lives. That was it. That was all.

Sherlock’s leg twitches more.

John reaches out and puts his hand on it, and gives Sherlock a reassuring smile.

Sherlock relaxes. Alright. Alright, then, that was… a good sign? Maybe John’s changed his mind, now that the moment is upon them. Maybe there’s still something salvageable in all of this, after all…

They arrive at the flat, and John pays the fare. They make their way upstairs, and hang up their coats. Sherlock turns to face John expectantly; he has no idea what to do.

John clears his throat. The flat feels unnaturally quiet. John coughs a little, and shuffles his feet.

Sherlock waits.

Finally, John speaks. “So. Um, I was… I was thinking about making a sandwich. Would you like one?” The words sound foreign and stilted.

Sherlock pauses to consider. Would he like a sandwich? No, he’d like to be bent over and fucked until his brain shuts off, but he supposes that’s not really what’s on offer here. So would he like a sandwich? He doesn’t know.

He’d like to sleep, but his hard drive hasn’t gotten the message yet and is still operating at warp speed. He’s got a vial of ash from the scene of the murder in his suit pocket, and he’d like to analyse and categorise it immediately. He’d like to take a shower. He’d like to take a few hours to do some intensive brainwork to categorise all the new intel he’d amalgamated about cathinone ingestion. He’d like to text the two members of his Homeless Network who’d provided their assistance to notify them that their rewards would be taped to the underside of the park bench in the usual place tomorrow afternoon. He’d like to change into his pajamas. He’d like to check with Dimmock to see when the transcript of the perp’s confession would be accessible in the database. He’d like to play his violin. He’d like to spend some time with John.

But would he like a sandwich?

He blinks rapidly as he struggles to formulate a response. He doesn’t think he really wants a sandwich. But he does want to spend some time with John, and John will be eating a sandwich, so maybe if Sherlock has one too, that will make him feel good.

Decision conclusive. “Yes, please.”

John gives him an amused little smile. “Um, okay. Alright. I’ll just… get to it, then.” John turns and makes his way into the kitchen. Sherlock feels a bit lost standing aimlessly in the sitting room. He decides to follow John instead.

John goes about setting out the ingredients for sandwiches. Sherlock stands next to the kitchen table awkwardly, staring blankly at the floor.

“You alright, Sherlock?”

Sherlock startles a bit. “Oh! Yes, um, I… I brought this vial of ash home from the crime scene. Was going to begin my analysis on it. If I start now, I should have the results in an hour.”

John gives him an encouraging smile. “That sounds good.” He returns his attention to the sandwiches.

Sherlock is at a bit of a loss. He’d rather thought John would forbid him from doing more work right now, demand he relax and unwind from the case and get some food in him before he took on something new. But it seems John doesn’t really care.

So Sherlock pulls out a few clean petri dishes and his rack of reactants and four new pipettes and puts the lot of it on the kitchen table (right where they’d be eating-- perhaps John will tell him to move it?) and gets to work.

Five minutes later, John delicately slides a plate over to his side of the table, careful to avoid the active ingredients Sherlock’s working with. He doesn’t ask him to move them, and Sherlock can feel a pang of disappointment twist in his gut.

John pulls out a chair and sits down, and wordlessly tucks into his sandwich.

Sherlock sets the timer on his ash experiment, then pulls his plate in front of him. He’s not hungry, but he picks up the sandwich and takes a bite. It tastes dry.

“Mmm, bollocks, forgot the water.” John springs up and turns to grab two glasses from the drying rack. “You should have so--” He stops himself mid-sentence. “I mean, would you like some water?”

Sherlock considers it. He doesn’t know if he’d like some water, and he doesn’t particularly care. The sandwich tastes dry, but he’s fairly certain that water won’t help; the cause was almost certainly a deficit of mustard. Even so, he’s pretty sure agreeing to water will please John, so that seems like the path of least resistance.

“Okay.”

John smiles, and fills up two glasses. He places one next to Sherlock. “Here you go, swee-- um, Sherlock. Here you go, Sherlock.”

John’s not calling him ‘sweetheart.’ It makes Sherlock feel uncomfortable.

John settles back into his chair and takes a drink of water, then looks over at Sherlock, nervously anticipating his next move. It would be funny if it weren’t so goddamn tragic.

Sherlock eats his sandwich and drinks his glass of water in silence.

John finishes his sandwich, too, then picks up their plates and puts them in the sink. He turns slowly back to Sherlock.

“So, um, I was thinking… I know we’re both tired, but I’m still pretty wound up. Do you maybe want to… join me in the bedroom for a bit?” He looks so anxious Sherlock almost laughs, but he doesn’t.

Sherlock doesn’t have to think too hard about this one. YES, he would very much like to join John in the bedroom. He and John could have sex, and that would turn off Sherlock’s brain for a bit, and then maybe he’d be ready to sleep. Everything would be okay.

“Yes, I think I’d like that very much.” He gives John his most wolfish grin, which John readily returns, and then extends his hand to lead Sherlock to the bedroom.

It’s a weird time to be in the bedroom. It’s a little after 2 in the afternoon, and the sunlight feels strange and muted, but at the same time, too bright. John turns to face Sherlock and gives him a nervous little smile, then steps forward to kiss him tenderly.

They kiss for a while, just standing there, and it’s very nice. Then John reaches up and helps Sherlock shrug off his suit jacket, and Sherlock pulls John’s jumper off. Then John undoes Sherlock’s shirt buttons and tosses it aside. Sherlock helps John remove his vest. They kiss some more. The room feels very, very quiet.

John pulls away. He looks flushed and a bit breathless. Sherlock still feels a little strange, but he’s definitely getting aroused, so he supposes everything’s on track.

“So what are you… in the mood for?” John’s eyes are bright and eager.

“Um, could we… have intercourse?” Sherlock’s pretty sure nothing else is going to get his brain to turn off; it’s still whirring and rattling away, and even as he’s awaiting John’s answer, he can feel his Mind Palace diligently working on assigning numerical values to the chemical compounds in cathinone. It’s quite distracting.

John grins amusedly. “Sure. Let’s get these trousers off, hmm?”

And there, that’s more like it. John fumbles with Sherlock’s flies as he kisses him aggressively, backing him up until his knees buckle as they hit the edge of the bed. Sherlock finds himself suddenly, delightfully horizontal, moaning appreciatively as John licks his way down his neck while somehow simultaneously divesting him of his trousers and pants.

Then John steps away and strips too, and he’s gorgeous and flushed and hard, and Sherlock lets out a desperate whimper as John gazes down at him appraisingly, his cock throbbing in sympathy.

John clambers onto the bed and they kiss some more and sort of rub up against one another a bit. It feels nice, Sherlock supposes, but his damn brain is still chugging away at the categorisation of the chemical components of cathinone, and he’s having a hard time keeping his focus on John.

Luckily, John doesn’t seem to notice. He just grabs the lube out of the nightstand and starts fingering Sherlock open as they make out some more. Sherlock does his best to enjoy the sensation, and he barely registers it when his brain finishes categorising the chemical components and diligently moves on to updating the street maps of Peckham. There were two new laundromats that had opened up next door to one another and across the street from a third, and Sherlock was fairly certain that there wasn’t that pressing of a need for coin wash on a single block, meaning that chances are the new businesses were--

“Mmmm, yeah, I think you’re ready. Feeling good?”

Sherlock blinks his eyes open to find John gazing down at him in anticipation. Sherlock vaguely registers he seems to have three fingers in his arse.

“Oh! Um, yes, yes, I’m ready. That’s fine.”

“Lovely. How do you… how do you want to do this?”

Sherlock takes a quick assessment of his transport. He’s aroused; that’s certainly a good sign. He feels a bit overheated and a little breathless, and the place inside him where John’s delicately fingering his prostate is making his cock jump in response, so that seems like a reasonable lead to follow.

“Um… hands and knees? Can I just--” He shifts awkwardly, and John pulls his fingers out and backs up to allow Sherlock to flip over facing the headboard. He lowers himself onto his forearms and lets his head sag down to meet them.

“Mmmm, beautiful.” John’s voice sounds cheerful and encouraging. He feels the blunt head of John’s rigid cock prodding against his entrance, and whimpers softly in anticipation. Finally, John’s hands appear on his hips, steadying him, and then John drives home.

And oh, that’s good. Marvelous, really. Sherlock throws his head back and lets out a satisfied moan, and John leans forward to drape himself across Sherlock’s back, peppering his neck and shoulders with soft, open-mouthed kisses. Sherlock leans into the sensation, rolling his hips in just such a way that makes John’s lips pause and his thick cock throb where it’s seated within him. It’s delicious.

Eventually, John rights himself a bit, returning his hands to Sherlock’s hips and beginning to move in and out in a steady rhythm. Sherlock spreads his legs to allow him deeper access and rocks himself back and forth to meet John thrust for thrust, and John lets out an appreciative shout.

They establish a good pace, and John’s cock is hitting Sherlock’s prostate in that particular way that makes his toes curl. His hands feel nice and warm on Sherlock’s hips. Sherlock wishes John would hold him just a bit tighter, tight enough that maybe he’d bruise a little bit. Or perhaps John could lean forward and grip him by the shoulders, giving John better leverage to piston into him, locking Sherlock in place while he took his pleasure. Or better yet, John could lean all the way forward and wrap his arm around Sherlock’s throat, and squeeze and squeeze until Sherlock’s vision dimmed and his body clenched up, making John’s thrusts painful and invasive, making Sherlock grunt and cry and struggle and---

“Oh, that feels so good, Sherlock. You feel so good. Are you feeling good?”

Sherlock clears his throat self-consciously. He’s blushing, for some weird reason (as if John could somehow telepathically sense what he was fantasising about), but luckily he’s face-down on the bed, so John won’t notice. “Yes. Good, John. That feels good.”

“Good.” John lapses into silence, the only sound the obscene slap of skin on skin.

It feels like an awkward silence, if Sherlock’s completely honest with himself. But why? This makes no sense. He and John have had penetrative intercourse since John issued his ultimatum on unwinding, and it hadn’t been weird at all. So why was this particular encounter feeling so strange?

Because it’s after a case, Sherlock’s brain helpfully supplies. After a case, you’re supposed to Unwind. You’re supposed to submit to John, and he’s supposed to dominate you, until you reach equilibrium again.

Sherlock attempts to shake the unhelpful thoughts out of his head. John’s rhythm falters. “Um, you alright?”

Sherlock scrambles to respond. “Oh! Yes, yes, I’m fine, just, um, keep going. Can you… angle down a bit? And maybe a little faster?”

“Sure, yeah, of course… like… like this?” John complies helpfully.

It feels good. Sherlock moans and arches his back a little. John moans in return.

They carry on.

But within a minute, Sherlock’s brain has scampered off-track again. He’s thinking back to the crime scene now, to the trajectory of the blood spatter, which had initially led them to rule out suicide. It was unusual, really, the way the victim had managed to strike himself in the chest with the bullet. It reminds Sherlock of a case he had once back in 2005, only that time it had been a real estate mogul with--

“Ohhhh! OH, fuck, yeah, Sherlock! Nnngh, right there, just like that! Oh! Oh!” John’s thrusts become urgent and sharp, and Sherlock is snapped from his revery by the sensation of John mounting him even more demandingly. He sucks in a breath and angles his hips to allow John to chase his pleasure.

“Oh! Oh, fuck, yeah! Yeah! Sherlock! Sherlock! That’s--- fuck, ohhhh!”

And then Sherlock feels John release in strong, rhythmic pulses, spreading warmth deep into Sherlock’s channel. It’s a nice feeling, and Sherlock sighs contentedly as John rides out his orgasm with a series of satisfied moans.

Finally, John seems to have had his fill. He plants a wet kiss between Sherlock’s shoulder blades before pulling out, then taps his hip, indicating he wants him to turn over. Sherlock complies thoughtlessly, and John clambers up to kiss him enthusiastically on lips.

“Christ, Sherlock, that was perfect. Want to make you feel good. Just lie back now, yeah?”

Finally, a command! Sherlock collapses into the pillows instantaneously with a relieved, “Yes, John.”

John pauses, his arousal flickering to give way to concern. Then he plasters a nice, placating smile back on his face (fake) and gazes down at Sherlock’s reclined form. “Would you like a blow job, or something else?”

False choice. Sherlock would VERY much like it if John would use his vibrator on him right now, wring a series of orgasms out of him that would be painful and consuming and render him utterly incoherent, but that’s not on the table. It’ll be a blow job or a hand job, or no release at all. It takes all of Sherlock’s willpower not to sigh in disappointment.

“Blow job, please.”

John grins, his smile back to being sincere. He seems honestly chuffed that Sherlock is making choices for himself. It’s very tedious.

“You got it.”

And with that, John dips his head and gets to work.

And oh, John is very, very good at this. He devotes himself wholeheartedly to the task at hand, working Sherlock over from his slit to the base of his balls and back again, using his lips and his tongue and just a bit more saliva than strictly necessary, which Sherlock has always been fond of. He uses his hand to stimulate whatever part of Sherlock’s shaft he can’t take into his mouth, and the sensations are wholly unobjectionable.

But dammit, they’re no match for the buggering, pestering annoyance of Sherlock’s brain. Before long, Sherlock is back to focusing on the blood spatter pattern, attempting to recall where else besides the 2005 case he’d seen that specific projection from a chest wound. Surely it had been relatively recently, but he can’t quite recall… He opens up another filing cabinet in his Mind Palace and shuffles through it.

“Ah!” 2009. Brixton. Mob hit disguised as gang violence.

“Mmm…” From between Sherlock’s legs, John lets out a sultry moan. It would seem he’d mistaken Sherlock’s exclamation for one of pleasure, which, considering the current circumstances, was forgivable.

Fucking hell. Sherlock attempts to devote his attention single-mindedly to the stimulation his cock is receiving. He just needed to focus, and then he could come, and then he could get back to thinking about the case…

Oh, shit. His ash. He’d left it in the reactants sitting in the kitchen. He hazards a quick glance at the clock; it had only been 51 minutes. Good. Not too long, then. He could just wrap this up, then get back to it…

John pauses in his ministrations and gives Sherlock a concerned look. “You alright?”

“Yes, John, just… my ash.” He decides honesty is the best policy.

John’s face lights up. “Oh! You want me to finger you?”

It takes Sherlock a moment to connect the dots: John thought he’d said arse. Fuck. Well, nothing for it, then, he’d hate to disappoint him.

“Uh… yes! Yes, please.” Sherlock settles back into the pillows, and John sticks two slick fingers back inside him to massage his prostate before lowering his lips back to Sherlock’s cock.

From there, it’s over quite quickly. Something about being up against a clock helps the situation exponentially, and within a few minutes, Sherlock feels the familiar tightness in his lower abdomen as his balls pull up in preparation for release.

He gives a gasped warning and threads his fingers through John’s hair, but John just sucks him down his throat resolutely in response. Sherlock comes.

It feels nice.

John pulls off and collapses into bed beside him, practically glowing with contentment as he wipes his lips. Sherlock hazards another glance at the clock.

He’s got three minutes to spare.

He rolls out of bed and fetches his dressing gown, then pads to the bathroom to give himself a quick wash with the flannel.

“Um, Sherlock?” John’s voice sounds full of trepidation.

“Yes?”

“Are you… are you coming back?”

Sherlock tosses the soiled flannel into the hamper and pops his head back into the bedroom. John is sprawled out on the bed, clearly ready for a nap. “Maybe in a bit. The results of my ash experiment will be ready imminently. It shouldn’t be left to marinate in the reactants too long, or it’ll ruin the results.”

John blinks up at him, an unreadable expression on his face. “Oh. Um, okay. I was just going to take a nap. You should… I mean, are you planning on sleeping soon? I don’t think you’ve gotten more than a few hours over the past couple of days.”

Sherlock shrugs. “I’d imagine so. I just… the results of the ash, John. They can’t wait.”

John purses his lips. He wants to say something.

Say it.

Say it, goddamn it! Order me to lie down, order me to get some sleep, tie me up, blindfold me, make the world go quiet again, please, John, fuck, please…

“Okay. If it’s urgent.” John gives him a reassuring smile.

Sherlock turns on his heel, and walks away.

He gives in, eventually. Sometime a few hours later (he’s not sure how many, he gets lost in his experiment and then decides to run a few follow-up tests, then decides while he’s at it he may as well start that PCR of alley cat saliva from Belgravia he’d been meaning to get a jump on), his transport finally catches up with his brain. One moment he’s perched at his station in the kitchen, the next he’s staggering into the bedroom, nearly blind with fatigue, before collapsing into bed, where a dreamless slumber awaits.

Chapter Text

John doesn’t mention it.

When Sherlock emerges from his 14-Hour-Post-Case-Sleep-Of-The-Dead (as John’s coined it), John doesn’t say anything about the mess in the kitchen or the fact Sherlock hasn’t showered yet or even inquire as to whether he’s feeling himself again. He just smiles and ruffles Sherlock’s greasy hair and asks him if he’d mind feeding Rosie her breakfast while John pops out to run some errands.

Sherlock obliges.

Then John comes home and Sherlock finally takes a shower (that’s a real low point: he actually pulls out the sandalwood soap that John uses to clean him after sessions and just stands there smelling it pathetically for a good five minutes before hastily putting it back on the shelf and reaching for his usual green tea body wash), and when he emerges from his shower he records the results of his alley cat DNA analysis while John takes Rosie out for tea with John’s mother.

All in all, it should be a normal day.

But it’s not.

Sherlock feels strange and off-kilter. His minimal conversations with John feel stilted, and his mind is scattered.

John, for his part, seems fine.

Sherlock wants to be fine, too.

But by the time evening rolls around, Sherlock can conclusively say that he is not fine. Not only is he not fine, but he’d had the entire afternoon to himself in the flat to stew and sulk and think about just how patently unfair John was being.

After all, just who the hell did John think he was? That he could just unilaterally put a stop to something that was so profoundly mutual that it felt entirely natural in its manifestation?

Well, sod that. John Watson was the boss of a lot of things, but he was not the boss of this. This was Sherlock’s as much as it was John’s, and Sherlock is not going to let John get away with it that easily.

John arrives back home with Rosie looking a bit weary (he usually does after interacting with his mother; she’s a subtle but stern homophobe, and Sherlock knows it takes a lot out of John to be in her presence for any extended period of time), but he’s also brought ingredients for spring pea risotto, which he knows is Sherlock’s favourite.

Interesting. Perhaps he’s feeling a bit guilty, then. That could play into Sherlock’s hands quite nicely.

So Sherlock volunteers to feed Rosie her dinner, read her some books, then get her ready for bed and put her down. She’s in a shockingly complacent mood today, and the whole process takes Sherlock under 90 minutes-- he calculates he still has at least 20 before the risotto is done.

Perfect.

“Sherlock! Dinner’s ready!”

“Mmm. Looks delicious.”

John looks up from where he’s ladeling heaping spoonfuls onto their plates, and freezes.

“...Sherlock? What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m having dinner with you.” Sherlock pulls out a chair and sits down at the table.

“...Well, yes, but where are your clothes?”

“I’ve decided not to wear any.”

John shifts his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot, clearly assessing the situation. His eyes are resting resolutely on his dog tags, which still hang brazenly around Sherlock’s neck.

Finally, John swallows. “Alright. That’s fine.” He finishes serving them and puts the pan back on the stove, then takes his seat. He’s avoiding eye contact.

Sherlock sits stock still, his hands folded in his lap. John picks up his fork and takes a bite. He chews and swallows. He takes another bite, then a drink of water.

Then he stops. “Are you… planning on joining me?”

“If you say so.”

John cocks his head and gives Sherlock a guarded look. “Aren’t you hungry?”

“Yes, John. Very.” Sherlock replies in his most seductive voice.

John furrows his brow. “So… eat.”

“Yes, John.” The words spill from Sherlock’s lips like a prayer, and he leans forward and picks up his fork. His cock is already beginning to swell; finally, finally, John is taking control, he’s--

He’s on his feet. John’s on his feet, and his face is an odd shade of red, and he seems to be shaking with fury.

What the hell?

“What the HELL, Sherlock!”

Sherlock cocks his head innocently. “What?”

“You can’t just-- you can’t just-- we’re not fucking doing this!”

“Doing what, exactly? Having dinner?”

“THIS! Me fully-clothed, ordering you around. You naked, following my instructions. WE. ARE. NOT. DOING. THIS.”

“WHY NOT?” Sherlock can feel the indignation clawing up the back of his throat, threatening to choke him.

“DID YOU NOT FUCKING HEAR ME WHEN I SAID I WAS DONE? DID I NOT MAKE MYSELF FUCKING CLEAR?” John’s eyes are like daggers, sharp and unforgiving.

Sherlock suddenly feels very cold, then hot all over again. Before he knows it, he’s on his feet and he’s yelling, too. “BUT THIS IS WHAT I WANT! THIS IS WHAT I NEED!”

“WELL, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU, IS IT? WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER, OR NOT AT ALL! AND I’M TAPPING OUT, SHERLOCK! I’M DONE! NOW PUT ON SOME FUCKING CLOTHES AND COME BACK HERE AND EAT DINNER LIKE A NORMAL PERSON! AND THAT’S NOT A COMMAND, THAT’S A FUCKING REQUEST!”

Sherlock is shaking. He’s shaking hard, and he can’t stop. “LIKE A NORMAL PERSON? IS THAT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT? YOU WANT ME TO BE NORMAL NOW, JOHN? YOU’RE DONE WITH THE FREAK, NOW YOU WANT TO TRADE THAT IN FOR THE NORMAL MODEL?”

John looks momentarily taken aback. “Sherlock, that’s not what I said--”

“BUT THAT’S WHAT YOU MEANT!” Sherlock can feel tears welling up in his eyes, and before he can regain control, they’re spilling over. “YOU’RE DONE WITH ME! YOU’RE DONE WITH THE BONDAGE AND THE CRAWLING AND THE FEEDING AND THE LOT OF IT! YOU JUST WANT A NICE, NORMAL PARTNER TO HAVE NICE, NORMAL SEX WITH, YOU’RE THROUGH PLAYING AROUND WITH THE FREAK!”

“Sherlock, I don’t--”

“DON’T LIE TO ME! DON’T LIE!” Sherlock’s voice feels unnaturally high in his own ears. He’s being hysterical, he knows that, but somehow the word ’normal’ crossing John’s lips has triggered his deepest, most primal fear, and he’s spinning dangerously out of control.

“Sherlock--”

“Adda! Sock? Addaaa!” Rosie’s voice echoes down the stairwell, and they both freeze.

There’s a beat.

“Sock! Sock? Adda?”

“Fuck.” John closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. “I have to go get her. Stay right here, we’ll… I’ll be right back down, we’ll sort this out.” He turns and disappears up the stairs.

Sherlock stands naked and shivering in the harsh fluorescent light of the kitchen. He’s never felt so exposed and vulnerable in his entire life.

Fuck this.

Fuck all of this.

When John comes back down the stairs a half hour later, Sherlock is fully dressed and just pulling on his coat.

John stops in his tracks. “Where are you going?”

“Out.”

There’s a lengthy pause as John takes in the entirety of the scene. “You’re… bringing a bag to go out?”

“I’m going to stay with a friend for a bit.”

“Who?”

“Does it matter? I’ll be in the city, I’ll have my mobile on me. Yes, I’ll still pick up Rosie from daycare tomorrow, I know you’re busy, I’ll bring her back here and drop her with Mrs. Hudson. And yes, I can still watch her Friday morning until Molly takes over at noon.”

John looks shellshocked. “Um, okay? Sherlock, I--”

“Good.” With that, Sherlock pulls on his gloves, grabs his bag, and walks out the door.

Chapter Text

INCOMING TEXT FROM: Jenny Thorne
<22 April 17:06> missed you at the match today
<17:06> everything ok?

SH
<17:10> John and I have had a row.

JT
<17:11> bad?

SH
<17:12> I walked out.
<17:12> I’m kipping on a friend’s sofa.
<17:13> We haven’t spoken in 4 days.

JT
<17:13> well shit
<17:18> dannys taking the boys to his mums for dinner
<17:18> want to grab coffee?
<17:18> something stronger?

SH
<17:19> Coffee would be fine.

JT
<17:22> usual place? 8?

SH
<17:23> Looking forward to our recklessly mundane gossip session.

JT
<17:23> looking forward to our recklessly late caffeine intake

SH
<17:24> See you soon.

Sherlock posts up in their usual booth and distracts himself people-watching. Moments later, Jenny bustles through the door of the cafe, looking rather different from her usual self without the giant diaper bag and two small children in tow. She scans the scene and meets Sherlock’s eyes, and breaks into her wry smile. Sherlock can’t help but return it.

“Hey, you.” Her voice is clear and bright and somehow soothing. He stands to greet her, and she wraps him in a comforting hug. Sherlock’s not normally one for physical contact, but Jenny has become an exception; She feels impossibly tiny but relentlessly tough wrapped in his arms.

She pulls away, her brow furrowing as she makes to sit, removing her signature knit cap. “Christ, you look like shit.”

“Mmm. Cheers.”

“Not sleeping?”

“Not as such, no.”

“Well, then I suppose we’ve nothing to lose by ingesting caffeine at this hour. I’m working on a new painting back home, but the kids have been such a distraction, the only time I can really focus is at night.”

Sherlock bites his lip. “Sorry for… pulling you away…”

She grabs his hand reassuringly. “No, please, stop right there. I need to get out of the house and have a little adult socialisation. Trust me, this is just the thing I need. I’ll get the first round. Usual?”

Sherlock nods, and Jenny returns from the counter a few minutes later with their cappuccinos, which she places deliberately on the table. She watches with a slightly bemused expression as Sherlock places three sugar cubes in his and stirs it. Then they raise their glasses in a toast, and both take a sip.

The cups clink back into their saucers. Sherlock stares at his, running his fingers around the smooth rim. He has no idea where to start.

“So.” Jenny gives him a warm smile. “Want to tell me what happened?”

Sherlock clears his throat, and redirects his hands to pick up a napkin from the dispenser. He begins to shred it into tiny pieces. It’s… soothing somehow.

“So, um. A few. A few weeks ago, John…” He trails off. He doesn’t know how to form the words, he doesn’t have the vocabulary to do this, he can’t, he can’t…

Jenny takes his hand in hers and gives it a squeeze. The gesture is unexpected, and Sherlock can feel his face soften in response. He squeezes back. He could do this. This was Jenny. If anyone would understand, it would be her.

He takes a breath, and lets the words come. “So a few weeks ago, John was triggered and had an episode while we were… um, being intimate.” He doesn’t know much about the proper social mores for discussing sex, but he has learned enough lately to know that he needn’t go into the details about exactly what they were doing, just that they were in the midst of something sexual. John had once told him about the polite vocabulary to use for it: intimate. Being intimate.

“Are you alright?” The question takes Sherlock completely by surprise, and his reaction is clearly evident on his face. Jenny holds his hand a bit tighter, her wide eyes laced with concern. “That must have been really scary for you.”

Now that he thinks about it… yes, it had been scary. It just hadn’t occurred to him until this moment to think about how he’d felt at the time; all his attention had been focused on John. But it had indeed been frightening, one minute coasting on waves of endorphins and lost in ecstasy, the next fumbling to escape the cuffs while the sounds of John violently hyperventilating echoed from the adjoining bathroom.

“It was… it was, um, unpleasant, but I’m alright. We’re both alright. He… he got sick for a bit, but then we got his breathing back to normal and got him into bed. He felt better the next morning.”

Jenny nods, her face full of compassion. Sherlock forgets sometimes that she knows first-hand what it’s like to live with a veteran suffering from PTSD; it’s reassuring in a way he doesn’t quite know how to quantify.

“So… so the next day, he felt a lot better, and everything was fine. I figured we’d just… move on.”

Jenny tilts her head inquisitively. “...But?”

Sherlock pulls his hand away and picks up the napkin again to resume shredding it. He’s not quite sure how to say this next part delicately.

“But… it seems that John now associates certain… um, activities with… um, with being dangerous. Or… or being in a bad headspace. So he said he didn’t… didn’t want to do those activities anymore.”

Jenny takes a slow sip of her coffee before nodding. “So… you’ve not had sex at all for the past few weeks?”

Sherlock shakes his head. “No, no that’s not it, we’ve been having sex. We’ve been having lots of sex, actually, more than usual, but…” Now that he’s saying it out loud, putting it in these terms, it feels so blazingly selfish, what he’s complaining about. It seems so trivial, compared to what other couples with similar problems have gone through, but it had felt like such a big deal at the time, and it’s all so fucking confusing--

“Hey.” Jenny’s voice snaps him out of his revery, and he meets her eyes. “It’s alright. Whatever it is, you can tell me. No judgements here, okay?”

Sherlock nods, and resolutely soldiers on, trying to be as diplomatic as possible. “It’s, um… It’s that John and I engage in a variety of activities when we’re intimate. Sometimes we do things one way, sometimes we do things another way. But now, John only wants to… wants to do them one way. But I still sometimes want to… do them the other way. In the past, we’ve always mixed things up, but he’s told me now he doesn’t want to do that anymore, and only do things one certain way, and I’m not sure I… I’m not sure I can do that. Not… not do things the other way anymore.”

He swallows hard and tatters the napkin into infinitesimally smaller pieces. The words had come out of him in a jumbled rush, and he finds he’s blushing rather furiously.

He objectively realises that what Jenny probably assumes he’s talking about is something considerably less intense than what it is; She’s probably thinking it’s to do with topping and bottoming or something else relatively tame, but he doesn’t feel compelled to elaborate. He just shreds his napkin, and waits.

Finally, Jenny speaks. “So have you told him how you feel? That you want to keep… doing things both ways?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“Hard no. Non-negotiable.”

There’s a beat.

“Would you leave him over it?”

“What?” Sherlock’s so taken aback by the question that he actually looks up from the hamster nest of shredded paper he’s been compiling and looks her square in the eye.

“If he stands by what he’s said. That he’s not willing to compromise on this, and he only wants to do things one way from now on. Would you leave him over it?”

Leave him? Leave John, leave Rosie, leave their family, their home, their life, everything they’ve fought for, everything they’ve achieved? Would he leave it all? For this?

And for what, exactly? So that Sherlock didn’t have to feel scattered after cases? So that he didn’t just shut down and collapse into bed after running himself ragged for days on end? While it was true, unwinding had helped him feel more at peace than he ever had in the past, perhaps he could find a way to carry on without it.

Sherlock swallows hard, and is startled to feel that his eyes are brimming with tears.

“No. No, I wouldn’t leave him. It would be… it would be hard to give up, I guess. But it’s not worth… it’s not worth everything else.”

Jenny grins at him. “So that’s your foundation.”

Sherlock cocks an eyebrow. “What?”

“Your foundation. You and John are not going to split up your family over this. You’re going to stay together. So no matter how hard it is to work things out, even if you don’t get exactly what you want and have to compromise, that truth is your foundation. Whatever comes next, you can build on that. Because your foundation is solid.”

Sherlock finds himself reluctantly smiling in return. He and John would stay together. Whatever else happened… it could be a work in progress.

He takes a sip of his cappuccino. It tastes considerably sweeter.

Jenny clears her throat. “So… do you know what triggered John’s episode?”

“It was his dead wife’s birthday.”

“Oh.” Jenny looks a bit taken aback, and Sherlock realises he maybe should have put that a bit more tactfully. Oh, well, nothing for it now. Jenny shifts a bit and takes a sip of her coffee, but seems content to continue. “The… the circumstances of her passing were violent, weren’t they?”

“Yes. She was shot in front of us.”

Jenny blinks. “You were there as well?”

“Yes.”

Jenny takes another drink. “Is John in trauma counseling?”

Sherlock fidgets a bit. He doesn’t talk to anyone else about John’s therapy except Jenny, and he hasn’t really divulged many details to her. “He’s in therapy, but it’s mainly for anxiety and, um, sexual orientation issues.” He feels ashamed to say it somehow, as though being a man with a sexually-confused male partner was somehow an indication of his own shortcomings.

Jenny breezes right past that point. “And you?”

“I don’t do therapy.”

Jenny gives him a rather condescending glare. “And why’s that?”

Sherlock shrugs. “I. Well, you know I have a history of addiction.” Jenny nods. “I spent years in therapy, and it… it doesn’t work for me. Because of the way I am, because of the way my skill set works, I can’t take therapists seriously. Honestly, I’m sitting across from some elitist wanker with a PhD in psychology who’s never done more than try a hit of weed in Uni one time and probably didn’t even inhale, and he’s explaining to me how I’m supposed to stop craving cocaine and shooting up heroin? Fucking hell.”

Jenny laughs at that, she actually laughs, and despite himself, Sherlock laughs too, and they giggle for a few minutes before the tone turns serious again.

“Look, Sherlock, I understand what you’re saying about the therapy. But have you and John ever considered trying trauma counseling? Within the veterans network, there are counselors - not licensed therapists, mind you, but counselors - who’ve gone through trauma themselves. They know exactly what you’re going through, because they’ve been there, and they’re open about it. You can talk to them, really talk to them, and they can help you figure out some of these… well, stickier points, as it were.”

Sherlock bites his lip. “That’s… a thought.”

Jenny quirks an eyebrow at him. “Oh, is it now? Local genius certifies that I’ve had an actual thought?”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “Alright, alright, that’s a good idea. There. Happy?”

“Nearly.” Jenny picks up her cup and drains the rest of her coffee. “One more of these and a piece of lemon cake and I reckon we’ll be square. You’re buying.”

Sherlock gives her a lopsided grin, and rises to his feet.

Chapter Text

INCOMING TEXT FROM: Greg Lestrade
<24 April 14:22> Is Sherlock around today?
<14:22> He’s not answering my texts.

JW
<14:32> Not sure.

GL
<14:33> Not to put too fine a point on it, but doesn’t he live with you?

JW
<14:33> Not his keeper.

GL
<14:34> Sorry I asked.

JW
<16:41> Sorry about before, I was being an arse.
<16:41> the thing is, we had a row, and Sherlock left a few days ago to stay with a friend
<16:42> We haven’t spoken since

GL
<16:43> He left?

JW
<16:48> Yeah

GL
<16:49> Has he
<16:50> done that before?

JW
<16:52> Omitting the obvious example of the time he threw himself off a building in front of me and then went on the lam for two years, no, this is new

 

GL
<16:59> well shit
<16:59> Drinks?

JW
<17:04> Oh god yes

Mercifully, Mrs. Hudson had already volunteered to take Rosie that night, to give John some time to get the flat organised and do the shopping.

To be honest, until a few days ago John hadn’t realised how much of the childcare responsibilities Sherlock had been taking on lately, but without him around, John and Rosie’s life had suddenly exploded into undeniable chaos. There were mountains of laundry piled up, stacks of dishes to be washed, the fridge and cupboards were barren, and try as he might, John just couldn’t get on top of it all; without Sherlock around to care for Rosie while John took care of the housework, Rosie’s non-stop demands for attention made it virtually impossible for John to keep up.

He missed Sherlock on an emotional level, too, of course - coming home to a flat without him was like a punch to the stomach every damn day.

But on a practical level: Turns out, Sherlock was the glue holding their entire household together.

Well.

Who would have thought.

Either way, John justifies a quick stop by the pub as being absolutely crucial to his own mental health; he could pop into the Tesco for groceries on the way home and get the laundry started while he did the dishes. A pint or two with Greg wouldn’t really set him back.

He finds Greg holed up in their usual booth, and to John’s delight, Greg’s already procured the first round. He takes the offered glass in hand and they toast, then lapse into a rather weighty silence.

Greg’s the first to speak. “So.”

John clears his throat. “So.”

“What’s… um, what’s the deal with you and Sherlock?”

John puts his pint down and rubs his eyes. He’s so tired they feel grainy and raw; he hadn’t exactly been sleeping the past few nights.

Finally, he shrugs. “It’s… I mean, it’s nothing.”

Greg rolls his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, drop the stiff upper lip act. Not doing anyone any favours here.”

John shoots Greg a wan smile before redirecting his attention to the coaster on the table. He picks it up and begins to tear it into tiny pieces. “I dunno. This is… it’s weird to talk about!”

“John, you’ve listened to me bitch and moan about my ex-wife on so many occasions I’ve lost count. Let’s just say I owe you one. Or two, or twenty, if we’re being frank.”

John bites his lip. “I know, but this is…”

“You? And Sherlock? Jesus, John, let me spell it out for you: I’m very much aware that the two of you are shagging. I’ve known it for a long time, and the fact that we’ve literally never discussed anything about your relationship until now is, quite frankly, ludicrous. I don’t know if you think I’m homophobic or if you think it would weird me out to hear you talk about him being your actual partner, but neither is true; I know you and Sherlock, I care about you both as friends, and whatever you get up to in the bedroom is your own damn business. That said, I also know that Sherlock is a complete and total nutter, and despite the fact that you clearly have the patience of a saint for putting up with him for this long, I imagine on occasion you’d like someone to talk to about it with. So here I am.” Greg makes a vague, dramatic gesture towards himself, and John can’t help but grin.

“Noted. That’s… eh, very kind of you to say. Primarily the part about Sherlock being a nutter, but… the rest of it, too.”

They both laugh, and John stops shredding the coaster long enough to take another drink of beer, then he finally settles back in the booth.

“So, last week we had a… well, a… an argument. About… well, it was about something personal that we don’t need to go into, but I realised afterwards a big part of it is that… that I don’t think I ever got over his death.”

Greg puts his pint down on the table and leans forward, his face suddenly solemn. He gives a slow nod.

John swallows and wills himself to continue. “Did you… did he ever tell you… why he did it?”

Greg looks a bit baffled. “Well, he had to go after Moriarty’s network, didn’t he? And make sure no one was tailing him?”

John shifts. He feels like he’s treading on thin ice, here; a part of him feels like this isn’t his story to tell, but the other part of him needs to get this off his chest. The burden of it has become too unbearable for him to carry on his own.

“The day that Sherlock jumped, Moriarty had three snipers. One on me. One on Mrs. Hudson. And one on you…”

And John tells Greg, as simply and unemotionally as he can, the true stakes the day that Sherlock fell. He tries to be matter-of-fact about it, but Greg’s face goes pale even in the dim barlight, and his knuckles whiten around his pint glass. When John finally finishes, Greg sits in silence for a few beats before he opens his mouth.

“So he… to save… to save us?”

John nods.

“Jesus.” Greg collapses back into the booth, shaking his head.

“So… so I think that once I found out… the real reason why he… why he left, I felt that I owed it to him to forgive and forget, no questions asked. He saved my life, he saved both of our lives. It would be selfish of me to hold that against him, wouldn’t it?”

Greg drains the second half of his pint. “Christ. I mean… no, I guess you can’t hold it against him, no.”

John nods. “Exactly. So I told myself I wouldn’t. But… but his death fucked me up, Greg. For two years, I was really, really fucked up. I know you weren’t around for most of it-- no, stop, I don’t blame you, don’t apologise-- but until Mary, I was in a really bad place. And I think I’m now realising that that doesn’t just… go away.”

Greg blinks twice, then opens his mouth resolutely. “We need shots.” Greg disappears from the booth, and John stares down at his hands. He hopes he hasn’t just scared Greg away, but hell, what did he have to lose at this point?

Luckily, moments later Greg reappears with two shots and a fresh pint for himself. They down the shots as Greg settles back into the booth, and John can feel the liquid courage bolstering his resolve.

“So I… I want him to come back. I want us to work through it. But he says he doesn’t do therapy, and short of that, I’m at a loss.”

Greg gives John an exasperated look. “Sod him.”

“Sod him?”

“Sod him! Who goes through shit that traumatic and announces he doesn’t need therapy? He needs to be in therapy, you need to be in therapy, Christ, the pair of you are so goddamn tragic I’m shocked no one’s optioned your story for a screenplay. Get help. Now.”

John is slightly taken aback at just how blunt Greg is being.

“But--”

“No. Look, my wife and I went to therapy for years. It’s important.”

John scowls. “Your EX-wife.” He’s honestly a bit offended at Greg’s blase attitude.

Greg rolls his eyes. “Yeah, she’s my ex, and part of the reason I finally had the guts to get out is because of what we worked on in therapy!”

“So you want me and Sherlock to go to therapy so that we’ll break up?”

“Jesus, John, I want you and Sherlock to go to therapy because you’re both royally messed up, no offense, and as fantastic as I am at giving relationship advice and as much as I’m sure Aaron’s helping Sherlock work through this, I don’t think we’re exactly qualified to--”

“Aaron?” John narrows in on the name with laser focus. “What’s Aaron got to do with this?”

Greg looks completely lost. “Sherlock’s staying with Aaron, I thought you knew that? Aaron casually mentioned to me earlier this week he had a friend staying with him, and when you told me Sherlock wasn’t at your place, I put two and two together. Where the hell did you think he was, if not with you or me?”

“Molly’s, maybe?”

“You assumed Sherlock was seeking refuge with Molly in a one bedroom flat with six cats?”

“Fuck, I don’t know! I just didn’t think he was with fucking AARON!”

Greg looks puzzled. “I mean, they’re friends, aren’t they? They got on like gangbusters on the few cases they worked together. What’s the problem?”

John internally seethes, but he quickly realises that it seems Aaron hadn’t come out to anyone at the Yard yet. So of course Greg was confused; from his perspective, Aaron was just a heterosexual male coworker that Sherlock had found himself getting on with-- Greg had no idea that Aaron was gay, and had tried to pick Sherlock up a few months back (before he knew that Sherlock and John were together).

Externally, John plasters a placating expression on his face. “No problem, really, I just… it’s weird not knowing where he is, is all.”

Greg gives a sympathetic nod. “Join the club. Good news is, unlike when my wife would walk out for days at a time, Sherlock’s probably not banging out his problems with the first bloke he can sink his claws into.”

That we know of, John’s brain unhelpfully interjects, before providing a dismally graphic slideshow of Sherlock and Aaron in a variety of compromising positions. He still can’t believe Sherlock was shacking up with bloody Aaron; surely he knew that John would blow a gasket if he got wind of that.

John takes a deep breath and tries to focus. “Either way. I was hoping if I gave him a few days to cool off, he’d come back and we could talk things through.”

Greg cocks his head appraisingly. “You want him to come home?”

John nods. “Yeah. Of course.”

“So go get him.”

“But--”

“No, no ‘buts.’ You can waste a lifetime on ‘buts.’ Go get him.”

John drains his pint. “Fine. Tomorrow morning I’ll--”

“Jesus, Watson. NOW.”

John startles a bit. “But--”

“Nope. Not listening. Walk out that door, hail a cab, and go get your man. I’ll text you Aaron’s address.”

John chews the inside of his cheek, and his stomach constricts in nervous anticipation. “But what if he doesn’t want to see me?”

“He probably thinks you don’t want to see him. And round and round you’ll go, and frankly, none of us have got time for that shit. Besides, the whole reason I texted you is because I need to call him in on a case, and the two of you are rather useless on your own, truth be told.”

“Cheers, Greg.”

“Just telling it like it is. And this is why I am such an invaluable friend. Now GO.”

John hesitates just a second longer. Then he shakes his head, grins, and bolts for the door.

Chapter Text

INCOMING TEXT FROM: Sherlock Holmes
<24 April 19:31> Where are you?

JW
<19:32> Vauxhall.

SH
<19:32> What are you doing in Vauxhall?

JW
<19:33> Making an arse of myself banging down Aaron’s door demanding to know your whereabouts.

SH
<19:34> How did that go over?

JW
<19:34> Really smashingly, thanks.
<19:35> Aaron seemed super thrilled to have unsolicited company.

SH
<19:36> Oh, please, don’t be dramatic. I’m sure he was nothing but accommodating.

JW
<19:38> He actually was, infuriatingly enough. Offered me a beer. Smug wanker.

SH
<19:38> Charming.

JW
<19:39> He IS charming, and I don’t care for it one bit.

SH
<19:40> Do calm down, John. Jealousy doesn’t suit you.

JW
<19:41> Last I checked, my jealousy suited you just fine.

John hits ‘send’ before he realises what he’d just said. Shit. He’s used to flirting with Sherlock like this, making vague insinuations about things they do when they’re unwinding, and the habit was hard to kick. He attempts to backpedal.

JW
<19:42> What I meant is
<19:42> shit
<19:42> just pretend I didn’t say that, okay?

SH
<19:43> Sure.

John’s hands feel clammy. He wipes them on his trouser leg and then resumes typing.

JW
<19:44> So since we’ve apparently ruled out Vauxhall, where are you?

SH
<19:45> At home with our daughter, keeping her occupied while I start a massive load of laundry and tackle some of the dishes in the sink
<19:46> Honestly, John, did you just decide to revert back to your bachelor lifestyle in my absence?

JW
<19:47> You’re doing laundry?

SH
<19:47> Rosie was out of clean pajamas.

JW
<19:48> Did you separate the clothes by colour?

SH
<19:48> Is that a thing?

JW
<19:48> Yes.

SH
<19:49> Oh.

JW
<19:52> Is that a no?

SH
<19:52> Not as such, no.

JW
<19:53> Okay. Did you by any chance wash them on cold?

SH
<19:53> I did.

JW
<19:54> Excellent! Should be fine, then.

SH
<19:55> Really? I did it correctly?

JW
<19:55> Close enough!

SH
<19:56> Mmm. Excellent. Either way, I won’t be making a habit of it.
<19:56> Laundry is very tedious.

JW
<19:56> Yes, I’m aware knowing the washing properties of cottons does not merit permanent status in the Palace.

SH
<19:57> As the name would suggest, the Palace is reserved for silks and satins.

JW
<19:57> Obviously.

SH
<19:57> Obviously.
<20:01> So where are you?

JW
<20:01> Knock knock

John opens the door to the flat, and feels a near-dizzying swell of relief.

Because there is Sherlock, posted up in front of the kitchen sink, elbows-deep in suds. Behind him, Rosie is perched at the table in her high chair, elbows-deep in Play-Doh. The mellow sounds of a jazz record playing on the turntable in the sitting room wafts over the domestic scene, and John feels suddenly, cripplingly happy.

“Adda!”

He shakes himself out of his stupor and strides into the room as casually as he can, all things considered. He plants a kiss in Rosie’s angelic curls, then hazards a glance in Sherlock’s direction. He’s not entirely sure Sherlock is ready to be affectionate yet, so he decides not to push his boundaries.

“Welcome home, you.”

“Mmm. Don’t be so sentimental, John, I was only away for a few days.”

“Yes, and as you can see, that was just long enough for the flat to spiral into total chaos.”

Sherlock lets out a chuckle, but he doesn’t turn around; he simply stacks another plate in the drying rack and cracks his neck. “Yes, that was my plan all along. Are you finally ready to admit I’m the secret to keeping this household running?”

John pulls up a chair at the table and sits down next to Rosie, who is resoundingly occupied rolling every colour of Play-Doh into a giant wad. “I think that’s giving you a bit too much credit. Though I WILL say that you seem to have some sort of placating effect on Rosie; the entire time you were away, she was a bloody nuisance; I couldn’t get two seconds to myself. And I come home and you’ve got her tamed like you’re some sort of magical toddler-whisperer.”

“Well, a less generous interpretation of those facts would simply be that she and I get on so well because we have similar maturity levels, but for now, I’ll take the compliment.”

John snorts good-naturedly and starts scooping up the Play-Doh to return to its container. “It’s past her bedtime. Want me to put her down?”

“Sure. I’m nearly done here.”

So John takes Rosie through her bedtime routine (resoundingly refusing to be hurt when she asks for Sherlock no fewer than six times during her bedtime story; John tries to do the character voices as well as Sherlock does, but something about Sherlock’s rumbling baritone seems to be the trump card when it comes to fairy tale narration) and then starts another load of laundry (he’s fairly certain that at this point he could do laundry for 6 days straight and not catch up) before returning to the kitchen. He finds Sherlock wiping his hands and returning the dish towel to its proper place. Sherlock looks up, and for the first time, their eyes meet.

John has no idea what to say.

“I’m glad you’re home.” It’s the only thing that feels right.

Sherlock gives him a tight smile. “Me, too.”

“Do you want… if you want, I could put the kettle on?”

Sherlock licks his lips and averts his eyes. “I was actually thinking… Mrs. H is in for the night, so perhaps we could ask her to keep the baby monitor on while we go for a walk.”

John cocks his head. “A walk?”

Sherlock shrugs. “It’s just… things became rather heated between us the other night, and I was thinking that’s probably… not good for Rosie to hear?”

It’s such an astute observation that John is momentarily floored; Sherlock has become so much better at understanding empathy in the past few months, and John is secretly awed at his progress. “Oh! Yeah, that’s… that’s a good call.” He’s a little apprehensive that Sherlock seems to think things have the potential to go sideways between them again tonight and devolve into another screaming match, but he tries to push that thought from his mind.

So they fetch their coats and pay a visit to an overly-indulgent Mrs. Hudson (she seems so chuffed that Sherlock is back, she’s practically clambering over herself to bustle upstairs before the request is even out of John’s mouth) and head out into the brisk evening air.

They walk a few blocks in silence. John feels entirely unsure of what to say; the enormity of what they’re up against feels insurmountable.

But he remembers one time Dr. Richards told him that the only way to scale a mountain is to take the first step.

He opts to begin with some harmless small talk.

“So how’s Aaron?” He keeps his tone light, conversationalist.

“He’s doing well. The new post suits him.”

John clears his throat. “Good, that’s good. Does he like Vauxhall?”

“Yes, quite a lot. I can see why. They do a very good brunch in that neighbourhood.”

John internally flinches. “You went to brunch?”

“Well, yes. It was Sunday and we needed to eat.” Sherlock’s tone is unmistakably terse.

“I wasn’t… that wasn’t an accusation. I’m sorry if it came off that way.”

Sherlock shrugs.

“What… um, did you do anything else fun?” He’s secretly desperate to know whether Aaron had tried to make good on John’s suggestion of having Sherlock take him out to a gay bar (John had been feeling benevolent at the time; it had been clear Aaron needed a friend and mentor, and John had offered up Sherlock-- with his invaluable deductive capabilities-- to serve as Aaron’s wingman during his first foray to a gay bar). John’s not quite certain how he’d feel about it if Sherlock confirms Aaron had made good on the offer, but for some reason, the answer feels pressing.

“Not really. Watched a few cryptography documentaries. Cooked. Went to the gym.”

John stops in his tracks. “You went to the gym?”

Sherlock throws an exasperated glance over his shoulder. “Yes. His gym offers several different classes. We did Muay Thai and yoga.”

John starts walking again, his pace quickening considerably. Something about the thought of Sherlock and Aaron doing yoga and having brunch makes him want to put his fist through a wall.

“So you went and got yourself a gay boyfriend?” John shouldn’t have said it, he knows that, but the words come out before he can stop himself.

“Just compensating for having a straight partner.” The words are sharp and cruel, but John can tell Sherlock means them. His eyes are cold and unflinching as he utters them, and John looks away.

John knows his sexuality is a sore spot for Sherlock. Though he’s fairly certain Sherlock objectively understands that John’s heterosexuality has no bearing on his attraction to Sherlock, John knows it’s not easy for Sherlock to be openly gay and in a relationship with a man who considers himself straight. They used to fight about it, but they haven’t in a long time.

Apparently tonight, they’re just picking every scab off of old wounds.

John focuses on his breathing and counts backward from 20.

“Okay. Um, that was a lousy start to this conversation. Can we try again?”

“Fine.” Sherlock stares straight ahead and maintains his steady pace.

Jesus, this was difficult. Worse than invading bloody Afghanistan. He jams his hands into his jacket pockets.

John swallows hard. “I need you to know that I didn’t put a stop to our sessions because I don’t like them.” Sherlock doesn’t respond. “I like them, Sherlock. A lot. Having sex with you that way has been a transcendent, completely transformative experience, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m minimising that, ever.”

“But now you’re done. You’ve had your fill of the weird stuff, and now you want to stop.”

“No. Fuck, Sherlock, that’s not it, and you know damn well that’s not it. In my ideal world, I’d be tying you up with your compression socks and fucking you over your walker at the nursing home home fifty years from now.”

That actually gets a snort from Sherlock. A warm ember glows inside of John; he’s making progress.

But he doesn’t let himself get sidetracked. He focuses on remembering the look on Sherlock’s face during their row in the kitchen last week, the way his lips had curled around the word freak, just how fucking hurt he’d been...

“The stuff we do when we’re unwinding… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love it as much as you do. If loving it makes you a freak, then I’m a freak too.”

Sherlock still doesn’t respond.

“So I didn’t put a stop to things because I stopped liking them. I put a stop to things because they were getting out of control.”

“They weren’t out of control, John, we made a mistake. Both of us. A minor miscalculation. We--”

“It wasn’t just that session, Sherlock.”

Now it’s Sherlock’s turn to stop. John slows his pace and turns to face him, looking him directly in the eye.

“It wasn’t just that session.” He says it with a confidence he’s only beginning to feel. It’s a burden he’s been carrying for so long, putting it out there feels like a weight has been lifted off of his shoulders.

Sherlock’s brow furrows. “But I thought you said… you liked it. You liked what we’d been doing.”

“I did. I do. But Sherlock, a few weeks before my panic attack, there was the whole… Danger Night thing.” Sherlock had woken up craving a fix, and John had taken control of the situation by subjecting him to a non-sexual bondage session. It had worked insomuch as Sherlock’s craving had been curbed, but the fact that none of it had been pre-negotiated was a huge red flag. “That night, we had a session where we did a bunch of new stuff we’d never done before, and we didn’t pre-negotiate any of it.”

“But it turned out fine.” He sounds more than a bit defiant.

“Yes, it did, but the ends don’t always justify the means. You’re a recovering addict, Sherlock. And you refuse professional help, and while I understand there are a lot of factors in your past that make you averse to that, I can’t be your therapist. I’m your partner. If I’m tying you up, I want it to be because it turns us both on, not to keep you from sticking a needle in your arm.”

“Fine. We won’t have a session on a Danger Night again. You can just pace about the flat and ruin my sock index and attempt to placate me with tea, like always.” He starts walking again and brushes past John a bit more brusquely than strictly necessary. John turns and catches up, trying to let the slight roll off of him.

“But looking back on it, Sherlock, looking back on all of it… there are things we’re not saying. Things we haven’t talked about. From even back before we first… when we first gave this thing a name and started laying out some rules. There’s an elephant in the room here, Sherlock, and we need to--”

He’s cut off by Sherlock abruptly thrusting a piece of paper under his nose. He grabs it and looks at it, puzzled: it’s a list of six names. He’s never heard of any of them before.

“What are these?”

“They’re the names of trauma counselors in the veterans network. You qualify to see them free of charge, and as your partner, if we fill out the proper paperwork, I’ll be eligible to join you.”

John blinks down at the paper. “But I thought you said… no therapy?”

“Jenny says they’re not therapists. They’re counselors. That means they have first-hand experience and are uniquely qualified to understand our situation.”

“You… talked to Jenny about this?”

“Don’t worry, I didn’t tell her about any of the weird sex stuff.”

John can feel the corners of his lips pulling up into a smile. “No, Sherlock, I wasn’t worried about that, I just… I’m glad you reached out to her. That… that makes me feel better, knowing you have someone like her to talk to.”

“Hmm.” Sherlock shrugs nonchalantly, but John detects a growing rosiness in his cheeks; he’s pleased that John’s pleased.

Seems they’re getting somewhere.

“So… you’d be willing to come with me to see one of these counselors, so we can finally… talk about the elephant in the room?”

“Yes. Now, there’s no way to screen volunteer counselors for whether they’re sex-positive using the website, but judging by the internet search histories of these six particular candidates, it seems they’d be open to counseling a same-sex couple, at the very least.”

John raises his eyebrows. “You hacked into their search histories? Sherlock, we talked about this…”

Sherlock shrugs smugly and starts walking again. “I didn’t want to waste our time seeing anyone who would dismiss us based on your military background and the fact that you have a male partner. You’ll thank me later, trust me, you should have seen the search history of a few of the ones I rejected.”

John rolls his eyes and trots after him. “Regardless, Sherlock. This is… this is good. Thank you.”

Sherlock gives him a shy smile. “You’re welcome. And maybe talking about Mary’s death will be good for me, too.”

John stops dead in his tracks, and it takes Sherlock a moment to notice that he’s left him behind. He does an about-face and strides back to stand before John, looking completely puzzled.

“What’s the matter, John?”

“Sherlock, this isn’t… this isn’t to talk about Mary’s death.”

“...it’s not?”

“No. It’s to talk about yours.”

Sherlock stares at him blankly.

John realises just how much he was assuming Sherlock had picked up on when he’d had the panic attack during their session. He realises now that Sherlock had no idea that what had triggered John was not anything to do with Mary’s passing, but a flashback to Sherlock’s corpse on the pavement outside Bart’s.

He takes a steadying breath, then reaches for Sherlock’s hand. Sherlock gives it willingly.

“I… I feel confident in my progress regarding Mary’s death, Sherlock. Grief isn’t linear, not by a long shot, but I’ve been working with Dr. Richards and my progress has been slow but steady. I still miss Mary-- Christ, of course I still miss her-- but I’m on the right path. I’ve been healing. I’ve come to terms with what’s happened.”

Sherlock gives a slow nod.

“But with you… Sherlock, we’ve never talked about what happened to me when I lost you. Once you came back and we got back together and you finally confided in me the real reason you’d left, I felt I couldn’t tell you how bad it had been for me, because you’d done it to save my life. I thought placing the burden of my unravelling on you would be grossly unfair.”

Sherlock bites his lip, but stays silent.

“But Sherlock, I think… I think we need to talk about it. I need to tell you what I went through while you were gone. And I think I need to hear more about what you went through, as well. Christ, I know a bit about Serbia and the cause of your scars, but that’s it! We just… we just pretend like it didn’t happen. And we can’t keep doing that anymore.”

Sherlock finally opens his mouth to speak. “Do you think… do you think that’s why you want to dominate me? To punish me for leaving you?” He seems horrified by the prospect.

John shakes his head vehemently. “No. No, absolutely not, don’t even think like that.” He gives Sherlock’s hand a firm squeeze. “After all, we liked doing these things before you Fell, too, remember? We just didn’t have a name for it back then.”

Sherlock gives him a coy smile and a little nod. He looks visibly relieved.

“So no, Sherlock, I don’t think my desire to dominate you has to do with resentment. I think I like dominating you because it’s sexy as hell to make you fall apart. I’ve loved dominating you since the first night we did it.”

“Eurovision?”

John grins. “Eurovision.” They both get momentarily wistful, lost in the memory; One night months before the Fall, they’d gotten drunk whilst eating pizza and watching Eurovision on the telly, and somewhere midway through the programme, Sherlock had gotten on his knees and demanded, in those exact words, that John fuck his face. John had willingly obliged, and it had been incredible.

Looking back, the encounter was tame compared to what they’ve become, but John can still feel his cheeks flush as he recalls the way Sherlock had whimpered and moaned when John tangled his hands in his hair and stuffed his cock brutally as far down his throat as he could, until Sherlock was gasping and choking around it.

John clears his throat, snapping back to reality. “So, um, I don’t think… I don’t think that’s the problem. But I think that I never got over your death. And honestly, I don’t think you did either. And I think that starting counseling together may help us have an open conversation about where we’re both coming from. And it’ll hopefully prevent what happened the night of my panic attack from happening again.”

“So that night, you weren’t… thinking about Mary?”

John shakes his head. “No. You. On the pavement.”

Sherlock purses his lips, but his expression remains open and receptive. “Alright. Alright, yes. We can… do this. With the counselor.”

John gives him a smile.

Sherlock returns it.

Without speaking, they turn and start making their way back towards the flat. John still holds Sherlock’s hand in his.

After a few blocks, Sherlock clears his throat.

“I have to… I have to ask. Does this mean, if we start therapy to work on things between us, that you’d… you’d be open to the power exchanges again?”

John mulls it over silently. A group of chattering tourists rushes by, oppressively close, their demeanor so at odds with what John’s feeling inside.

“...What if I say no?”

“Then we won’t.” Sherlock answers almost too quickly.

“But Sherlock… you seemed… you seemed really upset when I put a stop to things.”

“I was. And for me, it would be… extremely difficult, to come to terms with not having that dynamic in our relationship, I think. It’s become a large part of… well, of who I am, how I see myself.”

“Exactly, and that’s--”

“No, you don’t understand. I like unwinding with you, John. I like it a lot. The things you do to me, the places you take me, it’s fucking extraordinary, so far beyond what I thought my transport could be capable of. The corporeal pleasure I experience when you’re dominating me and the intimacy that comes from it has helped me feel more at peace with myself than I ever have before.”

“And yet you’d be willing to stop if I wanted to?”

“Yes. Because as much as I enjoy it, John, I don’t need it. After my last case, when we had vanilla sex instead of a power exchange, it was… difficult for me. It didn’t work. My brain was on hyperdrive, I couldn’t focus, and I had trouble coming down. But for years, before I’d met you or before we were intimate, after cases I’d simply come home and pass out in bed, and I’d wake up feeling re-set. Is that ideal? No, not in comparison to the pleasure I feel when we unwind after a case. But could I return to form, just come home and sleep it off post-case? Yes, I could. For the sake of our family. For us.”

He gives John a lopsided smile, and John squeezes his hand. “I appreciate that. I do. But, um, I think… I think maybe if we’re in therapy, and we’re working through our issues in other ways, I’d be open to… I’d be open to starting things back up again. Slowly, one step at a time, on a trial basis.”

“Really?” There’s a hopeful gleam in Sherlock’s eye that’s impossible to miss.

John nods. “I think… I think part of the reason I wanted to stop is because it felt like too much of the responsibility was on me for keeping our power exchanges on track emotionally as well as physically. I feel perfectly capable of reading up on the message boards to determine what’s physically safe and how to make sure neither of us is in danger. But I think the addition of making me the sole gatekeeper of the emotional aspect… it was too much. We both need to be responsible for making sure we’re in the right headspace before a session. I need to be confident you’re capable of making good choices, just the same as I am.”

“Alright. I’ll… do my best.”

“And I will, too.”

They’re standing on their stoop, hand-in-hand, grinning at one another like loons.

John can’t help it; he pulls Sherlock in for a kiss.

Sherlock melts into his arms.

They don’t have sex that night. But they do lie curled up in bed together, breathing one another in, remembering all the reasons that this was something worth fighting for.

Chapter Text

Sherlock turns sideways to look at himself in the wardrobe mirror. He’s tucked and un-tucked his shirt no fewer than six times, but something about it just looks wrong; the creases are falling in weird places so it’s puffing up awkwardly and it’s making him looking gawky and stupid.

He closes his eyes and runs his fingers through his hair, trying to get a grip on himself.

The shirt isn’t new. He’s worn it dozens of times in John’s presence. It’s a nice shirt, but not any different than any of the other ones he owns. It’s a light blue colour, discreet, unobjectionable. Simple.

But tonight, he wants to look perfect. And this bloody shirt is just going to bollocks everything up.

So he takes it off and stalks back to the closet to review his options. Purple Shirt Of Sex? No, too obvious. Crimson? No, too sultry and too formal for a casual dinner in. Grey? Too bland, too pedestrian, too safe.

Sod it.

He strips off his trousers and hurls them saltily into the back corner of the closet, then tugs on his navy silk pajama bottoms and a worn white t-shirt.

“Sherlock? You plan on joining me out here? Food’s getting cold.”

Sherlock stuffs his feet into his slippers and shuffles out into the kitchen in a huff.

John’s in the process of placing two steaming plates of spaghetti bolognese onto the table, where he’s already set out the silverware and two glasses of wine, as well as a candle, which is more than a little endearing. Regardless, Sherlock simply glares at the lot of it before pulling out his chair and flopping into it.

John sits down across from him. “Dare I ask what happened?”

“Shirt didn’t fit.”

John gives him an appraising glance, but doesn’t inquire further. “Well. Regardless, I still think you look stunning.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes, but he can’t help but blush. He hopes John doesn’t notice in the dim candlelight, but the way he smiles indulgently at Sherlock indicates otherwise.

They tuck into their food. Normally John would try and make small talk when they were having a romantic Date Night, and usually Sherlock didn’t mind; small talk with John usually ended up feeling anything but small. But tonight, Sherlock’s fairly certain he couldn’t handle the false pretenses, and luckily it seems John’s on the same page. They simply eat, eyes locked in the flickering candlelight, the sound of one of Sherlock’s favourite jazz records wafting in from the turntable in the sitting room.

The air seems thick with heady anticipation.

Because tonight, they’re going to unwind.

This won’t be their first time having a power exchange since John agreed to take some tentative steps back into the practice. Their first time was six weeks ago. It had been… good.

Both of them clearly missed their sessions. But John had been adamant that they proceed with extreme caution, and Sherlock had agreed; as eager as he was to regain what they’d lost, he knew that doing too much too fast would be irreparably damaging to both of them.

But oh God, it was maddening. Because as cautious and fastidious and deliberate as John had always been about their power exchanges in the past, he’d now taken it to a completely new, near-compulsive level. He’d insisted that they plan the entire session out in advance, verbally consenting to every act they’d be partaking in, and mandated that they check in with each other during each transition to a new activity.

And Christ, it had been tedious. As much as Sherlock respected what John was trying to do, the fine line he was trying to walk, part of what Sherlock adored about their sessions was that John was gloriously, endlessly surprising when he was in his Dominant mode. To be quite honest, when they were unwinding was one of the rare instances in Sherlock’s life when he got to experience the sensation of surprise. As it turned out, being caught off-guard was a turn-on for him, and that turn-on was now notably absent from their activities.

It wasn’t that he hadn’t enjoyed their first session back. He had enjoyed it immensely.

He’d cooked dinner for John wearing only his black lace panties and high heels. John had sat in his chair pretending to read the paper, none-too-subtly palming himself through his trousers as he watched Sherlock work.

They’d eaten at the kitchen table, both of them sporting prominent erections, Sherlock only in his skivvies and John fully clothed. Sherlock had always adored the sensation of being naked in John’s presence while John remained dressed; it made him feel wanton and deviant and desired. They’d only managed a few bites of dinner each before retiring to the bedroom.

They’d had vanilla sex that night. That was what they agreed to. John had gotten Sherlock out of his panties and heels and then prepped him for nearly 20 minutes while Sherlock writhed and moaned, then John maneuvered himself between Sherlock’s legs and they’d had very pleasurable sex in the missionary position, exactly as they’d discussed. There was plenty of eye contact and murmured terms of endearment and Sherlock had managed to come untouched (which always delighted John). John had had a very good orgasm as well (Sherlock clocked the duration in John’s upper 20th percentile), and then afterwards they’d showered together. John didn’t wash Sherlock; he’d said he wasn’t quite ready for that yet. But they’d exchanged soft kisses and shy smiles and the bar of soap, then gone to bed together, just as they’d agreed to do.

The next day, they’d had a post-mortem about their session, just like Sherlock promised John they would.

John asked Sherlock if there was anything about their session that he’d change. Sherlock had wanted to rattle off a laundry list (Catch me off-guard. Tie me up. Make me beg. Fuck me harder. Choke me. Torture my nipples. Edge me until I cry. Come in me so many times it runs down my legs and makes me shiver and moan. Leave me filthy and shaking and sobbing for more. Dominate me until there is nothing left for me in this godforsaken world but you), but he knew damn well that would be Not Good.

So he told John maybe next time he’d like to leave his heels on while they have sex. John nodded and told him that seemed reasonable. He’d looked very, very pleased with the outcome.

Their meetings with the trauma counselor had been going fairly well, as far as Sherlock could tell. Not that it wasn’t a struggle-- attempting to properly identify and express his own emotions had always been challenging for him, and to try and understand John’s emotions on top of that felt like a Herculean task, but John was endlessly encouraging and endearingly patient as Sherlock fumbled his way through the process. Of course, there were times when Sherlock would become so frustrated he’d want to get up and walk out and never come back, but John always managed to talk him down.

Not only that, but their counselor, Anthony, was shockingly understanding about Sherlock’s somewhat limited emotional bandwidth where empathy was concerned, and had come up with a rather handy method of using flash cards as prompts to guide them through trickier conversations. Sherlock had been secretly delighted to note that not only did they help him identify his own emotions, but they seemed to help John put a dent in the socially-ingrained ‘stiff upper lip’ of masculine stoicism that he’d carried with him from his working-class upbringing through his Army days and beyond.

It wasn’t perfect; not by a long shot. But even Sherlock had to admit it was making tiny but tangible changes in their daily interactions, and John clearly felt the same; he’d proposed another session without any prompting from Sherlock, and Sherlock had quickly agreed.

They’d planned their next session three weeks later. They’d negotiated that session start to finish in advance just as they’d done for the first one (to Sherlock’s deep internal disappointment).

John had asked Sherlock to cross-dress again. Sherlock wasn’t quite sure why John seemed so comfortable with that element of their dynamics all of a sudden (in the past, he’d only cross-dressed for John on a few rare occasions, so the fact that John seemed suddenly fixated on it was rather puzzling indeed), but Sherlock hypothesises it’s because it’s something Sherlock enjoys that is more to do with his sexuality than with power dynamics specifically; wearing panties made Sherlock feel sexy, but they were certainly less overtly related to a power exchange than, say, gagging him with a belt or tying him up with jute rope.

So Sherlock did a bit of shopping and purchased a new pair of panties in a deep navy blue and he told John as soon as they arrived in the mail, and John made plans for Rosie to stay with Mrs. Hudson for the night.

Sherlock had changed into the panties and his heels while John popped out to pick up some food for dinner. Sherlock wasn’t hungry, but John ordered him to eat half of his pot-stickers, and Sherlock felt all warm and tingly inside and did exactly that. John also made him drink half a glass of water. Sherlock got so hard he could barely see straight.

Then they retired to the sitting room. Sherlock waited patiently on the sofa as John fetched the lockbox from the cabinet and took out all the pictures from their past sessions.

There weren’t a lot. Just a couple from the few times Sherlock had cross-dressed, and then a growing collection of Sherlock being subjected to Japanese Bondage treatments, which catered to his exhibitionist tendencies quite nicely. John had grabbed the full stack of photos and taken his place on the sofa next to Sherlock, unfastened his flies, and began to touch himself. Sherlock pulled his own cock out from its silken prison, and followed suit.

They looked at the pictures together, sighing and exchanging the occasional gentle kiss as they masturbated, reliving the ecstasy of their past encounters. Sherlock understood what John was doing; he was re-conditioning himself to be aroused by Sherlock in submissive positions, making sure they were both comfortable and unthreatened and still turned on by those acts. John hadn’t told Sherlock this outright when he’d proposed this as an activity for the session, but Sherlock was a scientist, after all; he knows behavioural conditioning when he sees it.

Finally, John had turned to him, his gaze heated and desperate. “Nnng. Think I’m close. Do you still want to--”

“Yes. Yes, alright.” Sherlock had shoved the coffee table out of the way and gotten to his knees between John’s splayed legs. He’d placed his hands gingerly on John’s thighs and given them a reassuring squeeze.

“Mmm. Oh, mm, yeah…” John’s hand sped up where he was gripping his turgid cock, and his eyes flickered between the pictures scattered next to him on the sofa and on Sherlock’s willing face where he knelt before him.

Sherlock swallowed. He wanted to say something, but they hadn’t negotiated whether he should speak during this part, but he decided to go with his instinct. “Oh, yes, John. John, please. Oh, John…”

“Nnngh! Ah! Ah!” John’s body curled upright and he stared down at the picture in his hand. It was an image of Sherlock bound provocatively in black jute rope, blindfolded, gagged, spread-legged and covered in two loads of John’s semen. The anal plug was visible between his spread cheeks, if you looked hard enough. Sherlock’s cock twitched at the memory.

“John. Please.” Sherlock’s hands tighten on John’s thighs. He could feel the muscles flexing as John’s body prepared for release.

“Oh! OH! Sherlock, Sherlock, I’m--” And with that, John lurched forward and came in hot streaks across Sherlock’s face.

Sherlock closed his eyes and allowed himself to sink into the perfection of the moment. It was the first time in a long time that he’d felt like he was actually submitting, and the sensation was so arousing it felt nearly crippling in its magnitude.

“Ohhhhhhhhh God.” John quivered through the aftershocks, aiming the last few pulses at Sherlock’s open mouth before tracing Sherlock’s plush lips with the moist tip of his cock.

Finally, John finished. Sherlock blinked his eyes open through wet lashes to peer up at him. He was red-faced and shaking, but he seemed alright.

Sherlock grinned up at him. John grinned back, then took a deep breath. “Alright, Sherlock?”

“Yes, John.”

“Do you still want the next part?”

“Yes, please.”

“Okay.” With that, John tossed the picture aside and wiped his hand on his trouser leg. Then he sat forward and reached down to run his fingers through the streaks of come lining Sherlock’s face and brought them to his lips as an offering.

Sherlock leaned forward, and sucked it delicately off.

“Oh, fuck, yes.” John grinned lecherously down at him, and Sherlock nibbled his fingers teasingly in response, batting his eyes as coyly as possible.

“Mmm, yeah, here, have this, oh yeah…” John scooped up more come and Sherlock diligently sucked his fingers clean. “Do you want to touch yourself? Go on, make yourself come for me.”

This is something they’d done years ago, back before the Fall, before they’d even give any of this a name. Their encounters following cases were always rough and frantic, and John coming on Sherlock’s face had been one of the most common activities they’d engaged in when they were hopped up from the adrenaline high. It had felt wildly deviant at the time.

God, they’d been so young. So innocent.

But Sherlock didn’t let himself reflect on that. He’d simply taken his own cock in hand and jerked himself frantically as John offered him another fingerful, which he willingly accepted.

He didn’t last long. He’d come in hot, consuming spurts, his transport unsure of whether to focus on the glorious release emitting from his cock, or on the intoxicating sensation of John’s fingers in his mouth. He’d let the release wash over him, steadying and sure.

He’d finished coming, and then John had kept him on his knees for a few more minutes while he finished feeding Sherlock the remainder of the come from his face. Then he’d smiled down at Sherlock like he’d hung the moon, and helped him to his feet.

They’d showered together again. Still no washing, but that was alright. Sherlock’s brain had felt floaty and serene-- not nearly to the level it did when they had a proper session, but as close as he’d been in ages. In was enough.

Their post-mortem for that session the next day had been awkward.

“So you didn’t like it?” John had stared at Sherlock with a furrowed brow, clearly completely thrown for a loop by Sherlock’s response.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it, John, it’s just…”

John raised his eyes expectantly.

“I don’t like knowing the plan!”

“But Sherlock, we’ve been over this, we need to pre-negotiate--”

It had taken all of Sherlock’s willpower not to fly off the rails; he was practically quivering with pent-up frustration. “I know. I know we need to pre-negotiate. But John, I don’t… I can’t… I don’t feel like I’m submitting properly when I can anticipate everything that’s about to happen. I spend every day of my damn life anticipating; what people will say based on their facial expressions, what people will do based on the evidence they’re wearing on their sleeve, what people will think based upon the patterns I’ve deduced. I need… I need…”

“To be surprised?”

Sherlock swallowed. “Well… yes.”

John had nodded pensively. “I. Alright. How about… how about we set some boundaries for our next session now, and then I’ll plan the rest.”

“Really?” It was more than Sherlock could have hoped for.

“Really. I… this is… it’s going well, Sherlock. I feel… good. Confident. So let’s set some boundaries.”

“Alright.” Sherlock had leaned forward and steepled his fingers.

“No bondage, no gagging, no breathplay, no gunplay.” John’s tone was firm.

Sherlock pursed his lips in disapproval.

“I’m not taking them off the table forever, Sherlock. But for our next session. Those are no’s for me.”

“Fine.”

John hesitated, then convinced himself to continue. “No… no crawling. Is that okay? That one is still a little out there for me sometimes.”

Sherlock had known that already. He nodded.

John cleared this throat. “How would you feel about rough intercourse?”

“God, yes.” Sherlock nearly stumbles over the words he’s so eager to consent. That was more than he’d dared hope for at this stage.

“Okay, good. I’m pretty sure I’m ready to start exploring that again, too. Um… I think we should limit it to one round of penetration for now, okay?”

“Okay.”

“And… what about you? Any limits for you?”

Sherlock bit his lip. “No… no edging.”

“No edging?”

Sherlock shook his head. He didn’t really want to explain why; the night John had been triggered during their session, he’d admittedly lost track of time while he was edging Sherlock. He’d carried on past the point it had been pleasurable and had started to make Sherlock feel nauseous and claustrophobic. Though he was confident John wouldn’t make the same mistake again, he’s a bit hesitant about taking up the practice. “Just… for now. It’ll probably be fine again in the future. But… I’d like to take a break from it.”

John nodded and gave him a warm, reassuring smile. “Okay. Thank you for… thank you for telling me that. It makes me feel more confident, knowing you’re setting boundaries for yourself, too.”

Sherlock had smiled back.

And that brought them here, to this night, eating John’s mediocre bolognese in their candlelit kitchen, the air around them buzzing with invisible electricity.

Sherlock only manages a few mouthfuls before he puts down his fork, and John follows suit; he’s clearly just as eager to get things started.

“Stand up.”

The tone in John’s voice is unmistakable; it’s his Captain voice. Sherlock hasn’t heard it in so long he nearly whimpers in relief.

But instead, he simply scrambles to his feet, awaiting orders.

“Strip. Fold your clothes and put them in your chair. I’ll watch.”

A full-body shiver wracks its way up his spine, and he can feel his brain going hazy and serene. “Yes, John.”

And with that, John picks up his fork and resumes eating his dinner, staring dispassionately at Sherlock as he strips off his clothes. The sensation of John’s eyes on him as he makes himself so vulnerable goes straight to Sherlock’s cock, and by the time he’s folding his pants and placing them on the top of the pile, he’s already almost completely hard. John’s dog tags feel intoxicatingly cool resting on his sternum.

John takes another bite of spaghetti and chews thoughtfully, then takes a sip of wine. Sherlock quivers as he stands before him, his naked body on display for John’s perusal.

John dabs his mouth with a napkin. “Alright. Go shower. You have seven minutes. Get yourself clean, but don’t prep yourself; I’ll be doing that part. Meet me in the sitting room when you’re done. There’s no need to put on clothes.”

Oh, God, yes. John making Sherlock take a seven-minute shower had been one of their most practiced rituals when they first started doing this. The return to form feels elating.

“Yes, John.” Sherlock turns and strides towards the bathroom, his mind going blissfully blank.

As he stands beneath the stream, forearm propped against the tile of the wall while his other hand cleans himself in preparation for John’s advances, he lets himself sink further into his submissive headspace. It feels as though at his most basic, cellular level, his entire body is transforming from his own transport to a vehicle for John’s pleasure. He simply needs to make his brain step aside, and let go.

Six minutes and 41 seconds later, he walks into the sitting room. John is sitting on the sofa, his expression unreadable. As Sherlock approaches, his eyes light up, and he moves to stand.

“Hello, gorgeous.”

“Hi, John.” Sherlock shivers a bit in anticipation, then casts his eyes downward in a sign of submission. God, this feels good.

John paces a slow, deliberate circle around Sherlock, inspecting his nude form. Sherlock preens beneath his gaze.

“You look lovely tonight.”

“Thank you, John.”

“I’d like you in your chair, now, but kneel on the seat facing the back. Yes, good, just like that. Put your forearms down, now, bend over for me, lovely. Mmm, that’s perfect.” John’s hands appear on Sherlock’s buttocks. They feel strong and warm as he begins to knead them, and Sherlock whimpers and arches his back a bit, presenting himself for whatever John desires.

“God, look at you. So beautiful. So perfect. You going to be good for me tonight, Sherlock?”

“Yes, John.”

John pulls his cheeks apart and moans, his thumbs brushing lightly against Sherlock’s exposed rim. “Mmmm. Excellent. I’d like you to hold very still, now. You can make noise, if you’d like, but otherwise, you need to stay put. Understood?”

“Yes, John.”

“Good.” And with that, John buries his face in that most intimate of places, and presses his tongue inside.

Sherlock howls. He grips the back of his chair as the sensation of John licking him there crashes over him like an avalanche. John moans in response, and the vibrations from his vocalisation increase the pleasure by twofold.

It takes Sherlock a few minutes to feel like he’s not about to burst into flames. He keeps his eyes squeezed shut as John works him over, terrified that if he looks down to where his own cock is hanging heavy and leaking between his legs, he won’t be able to hold back. John hasn’t given him permission to come, and while he hadn’t explicitly forbid it, Sherlock knows John likes to be in control of his pleasure in moments like this.

Finally, Sherlock manages to blink his eyes open, and he’s overwhelmed by the sight that greets him; their reflection is acutely visible in the window he’s currently facing, and from this vantage point, he can see exactly how wanton and exposed he looks, bent over his chair as John subjects him to this consuming pleasure. Sherlock rolls his hips, imploring John to penetrate him more deeply, and John takes the hint; he pulls away momentarily to wet both of his thumbs, then slips them side-by-side into Sherlock’s fluttering hole. Then he pulls them apart, and leans forward to thrust his tongue inside once more.

Sherlock wails and his knuckles whiten where they’re gripping the metal frame of the chair. He feels so open, so ready, he wants nothing more than to take anything and everything John will give him.

But John doesn’t rush. He flicks his tongue deep into Sherlock’s hole as he holds him open, then withdraws it to lap gently at his rim as Sherlock’s body adjusts to the stretch. It’s so consuming, Sherlock has to bite his tongue to keep himself from begging John to just get on with it already.

After approximately several centuries, John finally pulls back and stands upright. Sherlock can see him wipe his mouth on his sleeve through the reflection in the window, and his expression is so filled with satisfaction that it makes Sherlock feel as though he’s about to combust on the spot.

“Stay.” Sherlock watches John’s reflection as he turns and grabs the bottle of lube from where it’s sitting on the end table.

Jesus. Sherlock hadn’t even noticed it was there. He was well and truly under.

John slicks up three fingers, and presses them unceremoniously inside in one slick slide.

Sherlock throws his head back and wails, and John places his free hand reassuringly on the small of Sherlock’s back, gentling him. “Shhh, there we go, there we go, nice and easy now. Oh, feel how open you are for me? That’s so beautiful, so gorgeous. Oh, Christ, Sherlock, your arse… God, so perfect, so perfect, all for me, hmm?”

Sherlock manages to form words, but they feel clumsy on his tongue. “Yes, John. All yours.”

“Good.” He doesn’t have to watch John’s expression in the window to know there’s a smug smile on his face. John begins to press his fingers in and out, spreading them slightly on the outstroke, stretching Sherlock further. Sherlock closes his eyes; he’s starting to feel dizzy with the all-consuming want flooding his bloodstream.

Finally, John withdraws his fingers, and Sherlock sighs contentedly, anticipating the next sensation to be the blunt head of John’s cock breaching him.

But the next thing he feels is not that.

No, it’s not that at all.

It’s hard and inorganic and thicker than John by a few millimetres, and it’s textured and long and--

“Oh, FUCK!” He drops his forehead heavily to the back of the chair as the new plug penetrates him fully, coming to sit deep inside him, pressing ever so lightly against his prostate.

“Good?”

“Oh, Christ, John, yes. Good. Nnnngh. GOOD.”

John laughs and gives his arsecheek a playful swat, which makes the plug shift deliciously inside of him. “Good.”

The “new” plug isn’t really new. John had introduced it during a session a couple months back, and Sherlock had adored it. Unlike the old plug he’d had previously (which they had just used to keep John’s come inside Sherlock between rounds), this new plug was meant for stretch and stimulation; it was densely ribbed, pressed against his prostate, and, most delightfully, it vibrated. The orgasm it had given him had been utterly divine, and during the post-mortem for that session, Sherlock had enthusiastically asked John to use it again.

But they hadn’t had the chance.

Until now.

“Alright. That looks really lovely inside you, very nice.” John’s fingers trace the base of the plug lightly, and Sherlock shivers violently; John hadn’t turned on the vibrations yet, and the anticipation was overwhelming. “So I was thinking, I’d really like to relax a bit tonight, maybe watch a movie.”

“...What?” Sherlock feels suddenly, startlingly himself, and the bewilderment is evident in his voice. He immediately wishes he could take the word back; it hadn’t been very respectful.

“I’m going to watch a movie. You can join me. Go sit on the sofa. I’ve put a towel down for you; you’re very messy.”

“Yes, John.” Completely disorientated, Sherlock blearily clambers to his feet, gasping as the plug shifts inside him. He unsteadily makes his way over to the sofa, where he dazedly notes there is, in fact, a towel spread over the cushions. He gingerly sits down on it, wincing slightly, and moans as his hardened cock slaps against his abdomen.

Meanwhile, John is, in fact, queuing up a film on the telly. Sherlock watches in dismay as he selects one of the sci-fi space films of which he is so fond, then pushes his chair out of their line of vision before striding over and plopping down on the sofa beside him.

“Feeling alright, Sherlock?”

“Um… yes?” Sherlock is so confused he has no idea what to say.

“So here’s what’s going to happen.” John’s tone is light, conversational, and his eyes are fixed on the screen. “We’re going to watch this movie together. No touching yourself. You’re allowed to come whenever you want to, it’s of no concern to me. That said, I’m going to be very upset if you distract me too much while I’m trying to relax. Understood?”

Sherlock swallows thickly. “...Yes?”

“Good.” And with that, John wraps his arm around him and pulls Sherlock to lean heavily against him, delirious with arousal.

And oh. Oh, God.

This was something different.

Something new.

Something wonderful.

While it was true that Sherlock got off on their power imbalance in a myriad of ways when they were unwinding, one of his main weaknesses was being ignored by John. Something about being aroused and exposed and completely at John’s mercy while John remained unimpacted filled him with a kind of desperation that was completely intoxicating.

And so here, tonight, sitting beside a fully-clothed and apparently disinterested John while Sherlock was nude, his cock throbbing and his hole stretched past the point of comfort, it’s a beautiful kind of surrender that Sherlock can’t fully comprehend. He spreads his legs and lets his head fall against John’s shoulder, letting the feeling of John’s arm wrapped around his shoulders ground him, lest he float away entirely.

He’s not sure how much time passes before John shifts. It has to have been a long while, because when Sherlock sits up, his limbs feel stiff and unwieldy.

“How are you feeling?”

“Good, John.” The words feel thick in his throat, and Sherlock looks down to note that his cock is still flushed and throbbing demandingly in front of him; somehow being ignored by John seemed to turn him on more than having his undivided attention.

“Good. The movie’s almost halfway over. You’ve been very good so far.”

“Thank you, John.”

“Would you maybe like to lie down in my lap while I give you a little reward for being so good?”

“Yes, please, John.”

“Alright. First, spread your legs for me, yes, just like that.” John’s fingers reach between them and press lightly on the base of the plug. Sherlock’s eyes roll back, and he lifts his thighs towards his chest, spreading himself further. “Oh, beautiful, nice and open for me. Going to touch you here, now, just hold still.” And with that, John flicks a switch, and the plug’s vibrations spring to life.

“NNNNNGHAAA!” Sherlock’s head falls back and he grabs himself behind his thighs, opening himself even more. Something about the penetration and vibration make him want to offer himself as completely as possible.

“Oh, beautiful. That’s lovely. Does that feel good?”

“Gah! Gah! Nnnnngh, YES, John…” The sensation is overwhelming. Sherlock feels he may go off at any second.

“Good. Now, just lie down with your head in my lap and we’ll relax while you enjoy yourself, alright?”

“Nnnnnnngh, yes, John…” With quivering limbs, he manages to lower himself so that he’s face-up with his head resting in John’s lap. He first tries to stretch his legs out the length of the sofa, but that makes the vibrations too intense, so he keeps them spread and bends his knees before lowering his feet to the seat cushion.

The plug shifts, and presses against his prostate.

“Ah! Ah! Ah!”

“Oh, does that feel nice?” John seems unimpressed. He begins to card his fingers absently through Sherlock’s hair as he keeps his eyes plastered to the screen across the room.

“Ah! Ah!” Sherlock can’t help it; he pulls his thighs back to his chest once more, and the plug shifts to slide over his prostate yet again. “Ah! Ah!” He begins to rock, undulating his hips to stimulate himself from within, and his cock expels a thick stream of precome onto his abdomen.

“Oh, are you going to come?” John sounds politely surprised, as though he’s having a conversation at a dinner party.

“Ah! Yes! John!” Sherlock is desperate; he wants John to look at him, wants John to see him...

“Go ahead, then. I’ll watch.” And John nonchalantly turns to stare down at where Sherlock is falling completely, irrevocably apart. Their eyes meet.

Sherlock comes. His passage clenches down vice-tight on the vibrator as his cock pulses out his release in thick streaks. He coats himself from his abdomen to his collarbone, wailing helplessly as John observes.

“Mmm. Very nice.” He could have been describing his opinion on the weather! But John’s eyes just flick back to the television as Sherlock melts into a quivering puddle, sated and utterly spent.

John doesn’t turn the vibrator off.

It suddenly becomes blaringly obvious what he intends to do.

Sherlock closes his eyes, and moans.

John just cards his fingers through Sherlock’s hair, and watches the movie.

Sherlock’s not sure how much time passes, but it feels like mere minutes before his cock begins to twitch wetly against his abdomen once more. He shifts uncomfortably; the vibrations feel persistent and unrelenting, and he doesn’t feel ready for another release, but it seems his body has other plans.

Sherlock hisses, the overstimulation invasive in its intensity. It doesn’t feel bad, per se, just on the right side of overwhelming, and he squirms as he attempts to take some of the pressure off of his prostate.

John’s gaze flicks to him once more. “Hard again already? That’s rather greedy of you, hmm?”

“Gah. John.” Sherlock’s chest is beginning to rise and fall rapidly.

“You’re alright, now. Just let it happen.”

“Mmph!” Sherlock braces his legs against the arm at the far end of the sofa and begins to raise and lower his hips, increasing and decreasing the pressure of the vibrations in time with his undulations. “Gah. Gah. John. John.”

John glances down at him and gives him an infuriatingly condescending smile. “You’re doing just fine.”

“NNNGH!” Sherlock doesn’t want to be doing just fine, he wants to be pleasuring John, but all he’s currently succeeding in doing is getting himself filthy while John ignores him. “Ah! J-John!”

John issues a slight huff through his nose. “It’s alright, now. Just come for me. Do you want me to watch again?”

“Yes! Please, please just…”

“Alright. Go ahead. Go on, you’ve got this, just let go, let go now, let go--”

And Sherlock does. His eyes slam shut and his body bows up and contracts almost painfully as his cock shoots another load up his abdomen. He can feel it land in hot, obscene spatters, and despite his current state of delirium, he’s certain he hears John issue a little gasp as he watches.

When he comes to, John is stroking his hair and smiling down at him. Every nerve in Sherlock’s body feels raw and exposed, and he’s shaking from head to toe. The vibrations that continue to radiate through him are crippling in their intensity.

But then John speaks, and everything feels better. “Very nice. That was gorgeous. Getting yourself all messy for me, hmm?”

“Hnnngh. Yes, John.” Sherlock shifts and tries to alleviate some of the pressure from his passage, but the plug is relentless; there’s no escape.

“Beautiful. The movie’s almost over, now. You’re being very good.”

“Th-thank you, John.”

“Of course. Now just relax.”

Sherlock tries. He really does. But the overstimulation in his arse is entirely consuming, and despite himself, he finds himself wriggling and moaning as he seeks respite.

“Sherlock. I thought I made myself clear. You’re being very distracting.”

“Sorry, John.”

“Hold still. Let me help you. Just be good for me.” And with that, John licks his fingertips and reaches down to begin to pinch and toy with Sherlock’s left nipple.

Sherlock goes nearly out of his mind with ecstasy. After being so engrossed in the impact of the plug, having another part of his body subjected to stimulation feels gloriously distracting. He smiles and arches up into John’s touch, and John rewards him with a twist to the pebbled bud in his fingertips.

And they carry on like that, John stimulating Sherlock’s nipples whilst remaining entirely engrossed in the film, and Sherlock riding the waves of arousal coursing through his own body.

The third orgasm hits him out of nowhere. One moment he’s delighting in the way that John is plucking at his nipple with just the right amount of pressure from his blunt nails, the next, he’s grabbing John’s hand and holding it for dear life as his transport takes control and delivers his third release of the night.

The orgasm is sharp and nearly painful in its intensity, radiating from somewhere deep within his pelvis, just above his balls, in that place that’s unreachable without the aid of vibration. His cock twitches and spurts, but the pleasure extends long past when the last of his release has been expelled, and he grips John’s hand almost painfully as the pleasure wracks through him over and over again. By the time he finishes, he feels so sated it’s like being high.

John gives his hand a reassuring squeeze. “That was lovely. Really perfect. You look amazing. I think you’re almost ready for me, hmm?” He sounds so damn calm, it’s infuriating.

Sherlock can’t do anything more than whimper. He thinks perhaps he’d like to cry now, but something in the back of his dopamine-drunk brain reminds him that part of tonight’s goal is not scaring John, so he manages to get a grip on himself and simply give John a dopey, dazed nod in return.

“Good. The film’s nearly over. Be good, now.”

So despite the fact that Sherlock’s cock feels hot and raw from overuse, and despite the fact that the blasted vibrations are relentlessly clawing their way up his passage, making him feel unsteady and overstimulated, he settles. John strokes his hair, and stares at the screen.

After a while, Sherlock does the same.

Sherlock drifts.

Eventually, he feels John shifting beneath him. He blinks rapidly, and notes that the end credits are scrolling up the screen; apparently, the movie had concluded. Suddenly, Sherlock’s heart feels like it’s in his throat; he’s practically drowning in anticipation.

“Alright. Up you get.” John’s hands are gentle but firm, and he helps Sherlock pull himself into a sitting position.

Sherlock moans and sways. He’s so completely beyond spent; the plug feels unforgivably invasive in his arse, and the three loads of come he’s released trickle down his abdomen obscenely as John looks on, unperturbed. He feels so utterly defiled, he shudders under John’s appraising gaze.

But John simply guides him to his feet, then looks him earnestly in the eye.

“You were so good, Sherlock. I’m going to reward you now. Would you like that?”

“Yes, please John.”

“Good. I’d like to give you my come as your reward. You can have it on your face, in your mouth, or in your arse. Which would you like?”

Sherlock swallows. Was John really going to make him say it? “My… my arse.”

“Ask me nicely.” John’s Captain Voice is back, and while his expression is still fond, Sherlock knows he’s walking a thin line.

“Will you come in my arse, please, John?”

John presses his lips together and wracks his gaze down Sherlock’s shivering, exposed body. Sherlock moans.

“Fuck, please John, please. Please come inside me. Claim me. Make me yours.”

John sighs. “Well. Since you’ve asked so sweetly, I suppose I will.”

Sherlock beams.

“Go stand facing my chair. Perfect. Bend over and put your hands on the arms. Lovely. Hold still.” Sherlock gasps as John flicks off the plug and hastily removes it; he feels obscenely wet and open. “Oh, fuck, Sherlock, that’s gorgeous, you look amazing.” His fingers casually circle Sherlock’s fluttering rim. “Now I need you to hold still. Keep your hands where they are. Be good and let me have you.”

“Yes, please, John…” The words feel thick with desperation, and Sherlock has to fight not to choke on them.

But the next second, all of that disappears. Because John tangles one hand in the hair at the nape of Sherlock’s neck, puts the other on his hip with an iron grip, and then impales him in one forceful thrust.

“Ah! Gah!” Sherlock’s body clenches instinctively at the sudden intrusion, but John is merciless; he simply tightens his grip, locks Sherlock into place, then proceeds to ream him mercilessly.

Everything is perfect. Everything is glorious. Sherlock is vaguely aware that he’s screaming and moaning and begging, but he focuses as hard as he can on keeping his hands in place on the arms of John’s chair, just where John ordered them to be. He can feel that John is fucking him fiercely, he’s aware that the hot pain of overstimulation is radiating from that place deep within him that John is ruthlessly plundering, but it feels so good he simply leans into it, letting the pleasure overtake the pain, blinding him entirely.

John is shouting too, deep, guttural grunts and declarations of, ’Mine, Mine,’ and Sherlock is echoing him, ’Yours, Yours,’ and he arches his back to let John take him deeper, push him further, and John obliges, and it’s so intense that Sherlock is momentarily vaguely concerned he’s about to black out.

Suddenly, John is pulling out, pulling away from him, and Sherlock whimpers and turns to protest, but before he knows what’s happening, John is shoving him to the ground. He goes without a fight, knees buckling, splaying awkwardly onto his back on the sitting room carpet, disorientated and delirious with arousal.

And then John is on top of him, grabbing him by the ankles and yanking him bodily forward. Sherlock moans at the sensation of being so roughly manhandled, but John doesn’t even pause; he simply props Sherlock’s ankles up on his shoulders and stares down at him, fire and steel in his eyes. “Hands by your head. Don’t you fucking move.”

Sherlock’s hands seem to move into place before his brain can even process the command, and then John is forcing his cock back inside him, and Sherlock is crying out and arching, torn between his body’s desire to flee the invasive ministrations or surrender completely. He squirms helplessly as John expertly adjusts the angle of his penetration, sinking deeper inside, until he strikes that beautiful sweet spot that paralyses Sherlock completely.

Sherlock succumbs.

It’s a surrender so sweet it’s like floating and flying and falling all at once, and he can no longer process anything. It’s just this, this moment, John on top of him, John inside him, John all around him, taking control. He relinquishes everything he is, everything he has, everything he’s ever been, and submits it all to the man commandeering him.

On top of him, John takes the reigns with grace. He absorbs Sherlock’s surrender and assumes his position of dominance without missing a beat. He thrusts into Sherlock roughly, but with pointed, accurate strokes that keep Sherlock teetering beautifully on the brink of too much and not enough. He doesn’t hold down Sherlock’s hands; he makes Sherlock submit to him willingly and without hesitation. He’s forceful and stern, while still careful and calm. He’s perfection. This is perfection. This is the man Sherlock has chosen to surrender to. This is the man Sherlock chose.

He will never, ever regret that choice.

The world goes blurry. There’s nothing but this.

Sherlock’s not even quite sure if he’s aroused. But none of that matters. All that matters is the way that John is looking at him, like he’s the most precious thing in the universe. The world around them could dissolve into flames, and none of it would matter.

Just this.

Just this.

“FUCK! Oh, oh, Sherlock! Be good now, be good…” John sounds breathless, and Sherlock vaguely registers he must be getting close. He spreads his legs, desperate for his his reward.

“‘M good, now, John. ‘M good for you.” Sherlock’s words are slurred and his tongue feels clumsy.

“Oh, yeah, yeah, you’re so good for me, so good for me, take me now, take it, gonna… oh, fuck, gonna come inside you, claim you, fill up your gorgeous arse…”

“Mmm. John. Yes. Yes.” It’s more a wail than words.

“You want it? You want my come?”

“Yes, John. Please. Please. Please, come in me, please…” Sherlock can’t do anything more than beg. His voice sounds pitiful in his own ears, but it’s all so distant, he can’t bring himself to care.

John’s thrusts turn frantic and brutal. “Oh! Oh, yeah! Oh, Sherlock! Sherlock! Nnngh, Sherlock! Oh! OH, God, OH! OH! Oh, sweetheart!”

And THAT.

That word, that name, it lights up every single one of Sherlock’s nerve endings like ultraviolet radiation from a supernova. It consumes him, wholly and completely. That word, that name, John only uses it when he’s dominating Sherlock and Sherlock finally submits to him. It is everything they stand for when they’re together like this. It is everything.

Sweetheart. Sweetheart. Sweetheart.

Sherlock comes.

Actually, he’s not sure if that’s quite true. The sensation that overtakes his body doesn’t necessarily feel like an orgasm (at least, not any orgasm he’s ever had before), but he’s not sure how else to categorise it; it’s an apex of bliss, a peak of ecstasy, a singular sensation of being utterly devoured by corporeal pleasure, but he feels it on a cellular level, from his toenails to his eyelashes. It is rapture, it is euphoria, it is a release so complete that everything goes dark and light at once and he’s flying, he’s flying, and nothing can touch him here.

He soars.

When he opens his eyes, everything feels still and distinctly surreal. He struggles to quantify his surroundings.

He’s still on his back on the sitting room floor, blinking dazedly up at the mantle, which looks upside-down. He’s pretty sure his skull is staring back at him.

Is he breathing? He’s fairly certain he must have forgotten to breathe for awhile there, because suddenly, he gasps and his lungs inflate and they’re burning like he’s been underwater for a long, long time. His vision swims.

“Ohhh.” The sound is so faint and muffled Sherlock doesn’t really register it at first. But he eventually becomes aware that there’s a weight on him, and from there he notices the hot puffs of air against his neck, and he manages to connect the dots and conclude that John is still on top of him.

Upon further reflection, it seems John’s still inside him as well, thrusting lazily into Sherlock as he moans into his neck. The sensation is unobjectionable, and Sherlock relaxes, letting John have him as he pleases.

John continues to move on top of him for a while. Sherlock doesn’t mind. John’s clearly come already; Sherlock can feel the evidence of his release slickening his channel and leaking wetly from his hole, and John’s cock is slowly going soft, but John seems intent on savouring every last moment of their union, and Sherlock simply lies back and basks in the perfection of it.

Time stands still.

The next thing Sherlock notices is John shifting and pulling away. His grounding weight disappears and Sherlock whimpers at the loss, but the world is so blurry and surreal that he can’t even muster the strength to lift his head to see where John is going. He simply lies there, splayed and ravaged, breathing. It’s all he has the wherewithal to do.

John’s face appears in his field of vision. His eyes are warm and fond, and Sherlock smiles up at him. “Hi there, sweetheart.”

Hi, John. Sherlock wants to say it, but all that comes out is an odd little hiccupping whimper.

John doesn’t seem to mind. “I need to check you over, love, then we can go have a nice shower together and I’ll get you cleaned up. How would that be?”

Sherlock blinks dumbly up at him. John’s brows crease in concern, and Sherlock realises he’d best get his act together before John thinks something is wrong and panics. Unfortunately, his hard drive seems to have ejected its connection to his mouth, so he just nods dumbly and spreads his legs on instinct.

John’s face disappears, but Sherlock can still make out his voice, and a warm hand resting on his inner thigh. “I’m going to touch you now, okay?”

Sherlock nods again, and he can distantly feel the sensation of John’s fingers tracing his rim. He’s so oversensitive, the sensation is overwhelming. He winces.

“I know, I know love, almost done. Can I touch you inside?”

Sherlock swallows hard. He’d really rather not, but he knows that John insists on checking him over for tearing. He nods.

John’s fingers slip gently inside him, and Sherlock gasps and bites his lip as John prods the lining of his passage.

“Oh, sweetheart. You’re so open right now, so beautiful. I’m so proud of you, you were so good for me tonight.” Sherlock relaxes into John’s praise, and he can feel himself unclench in response.

John carries on for a few more moments (longer than was probably strictly necessary, Sherlock notes, but he knows how much John enjoys reveling in the evidence of his release inside Sherlock like this), and by the time he’s pulling away, Sherlock feels like he’s drifting again.

“Alright, love. Can you sit up?”

Could he sit up? Sherlock’s not sure. He feels so high he has no idea what his transport is capable of in this moment; his brain is offline entirely, and he’s not sure how to communicate any of that, so he gives a strange sort of shrug and whimpers again.

“Okay. Okay, we’ll just take it nice and slow, alright? You can’t stay here, sweetheart, we need to get you cleaned up.” John’s arms wrap around him and pull him into a sitting position. Sherlock sways and leans heavily into him. John presses a kiss into his hair.

The next thing Sherlock knows, he’s sitting on the floor of the bathtub, and John is washing his body with sandalwood soap. The scent is so comforting, so familiar, it conjures up the memories of all the past moments they’ve shared like this, basking in the afterglow of their exchange and coasting on the waves of endorphins.

Sherlock had thought he could never have this again.

But now they’re here, and everything’s alright, and John is taking care of him, and they’re not scared anymore. They don’t have to be scared anymore.

Sherlock knows he shouldn’t cry. He doesn’t want to scare John, after all, not when they’re just stepping back into this; he doesn’t want to overwhelm him or make him second-guess his decision to give this another chance. Before their session tonight, Sherlock had promised himself that he would not cry.

But before he can process it, the tears are coming in an overwhelming surge, and he’s sobbing, relief coursing through his veins as the sensation of John’s hands cleansing his skin soothes something deep beneath the surface of his epidermis. It’s a relief so thick it’s nearly palpable; the can taste it on his tongue, he can smell it mingling with the sandalwood, he can feel it in the cool weight of John’s dog tags resting against his sternum. It is affirmation, pure and simple.

“You alright, sweetheart?”

Sherlock wills himself to speak. He has to reassure John, let him know that he’s not hurt, that the tears are just another release.

But he can’t find the words. He just sobs.

Then John’s face appears again as he joins Sherlock on the floor of the tub. He’s drenched and his hair is sticking up at all sorts of odd angles and it takes Sherlock a moment to realise he’s crying, too.

“John. John.” Sherlock reaches out to grab his hands, and John takes them willingly. “Are you alright?” It’s the first time Sherlock’s felt capable of speaking, and the words feel strange and distant, but his concern over John is enough to spur him to action.

John nods quickly and gives him a watery smile. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine, Sherlock. I’m… I never understood what you meant about crying after a session before, about it being happy tears, a form of release, but now… now I understand.”

Sherlock blinks back at John through his own tears. “You’re happy?”

“Yes, sweetheart. These are happy tears. I’m so, so happy.”

Sherlock feels his lips curl up in a smile. “Me, too, John. Me, too.”

They hold each other until the water turns cold.

Chapter Text

The next morning, John wakes in peace.

There’s no other way to describe it.

Reality filters in through the veneer of sleep in a soft, slow press. Everything is warm and quiet, but it’s the smell that registers first; the musky, heady scent that is so indescribably, unquantifiably Sherlock that John would know it anywhere. He remembers it from long ago, after the Fall, those sad, aching days when he’d wrap himself in Sherlock’s dressing gown and lie in his bed and miss him so much that the world cracked and crumbled leaving behind nothing but grey.

They’d had a difficult conversation with their counselor earlier that week. They’d been working to identify the emotions tangled up in the reality of Sherlock’s Fall itself-- they hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the aftermath. Anthony had asked Sherlock to explain how he’d thought John would react to his death.

Sherlock had pursed his lips for a few seconds, and John had held his breath; was it possible that Sherlock hadn’t even considered how John would feel at all? That seemed somehow unforgivably cruel.

But then Sherlock furrowed his brow, and spoke. “I thought you’d be… sad. But then after you were sad, you’d be alright. And at least you’d be alive. I’d calculated it; that was the best possible outcome. It was mercy.”

John had had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from saying something cruel himself. How could Sherlock have been so clueless?

Anthony had nodded diplomatically before turning to John. “John? You seem reluctant to accept Sherlock’s interpretation of the situation.”

John had turned and stared Sherlock straight in the eye. “So you decided to keep me alive. Suffering, but alive, so you wouldn’t have to deal with my death as you would if our positions had been reversed. You thought I’d just feel sad. Is that how you’d have felt if you’d lost me?”

Sherlock had blinked at him, and then without forethought or agenda, simply replied, “I didn’t think you loved me the way that I loved you.”

John had been shattered.

The remainder of their appointment had been difficult to get through; John wanted nothing more than to take Sherlock home that instant and bring him to bed and wrap him up in his arms and hold him and murmur professions of love to him over and over and over again until somehow, Sherlock could bring himself to believe them. That, or somehow invent a time machine so that he could go back to those fateful days before the Fall, slap both himself AND Sherlock, and tell them to stop being such sodding, emotionally constipated idiots.

Instead, Anthony had patiently waited until John collected himself (considering his military background, John was eternally grateful that Anthony seemingly had no aversion to tears; he treated them as though they were completely normal and acceptable, a stance that John was just starting to embrace. Sherlock, for his part, was at least learning not to ask, “Have I said something wrong?” every time John broke down). Then Anthony gave Sherlock and John some homework (focusing on verbalising intimacy), and told them he’d see them next week.

The past few days had been… good. They’d resumed their normal routine, but both taken steps to verbalise their intimacy when the opportunity presented itself.

And then last night.

Christ, it had been perfect.

All of it.

John recalls the deep grey of the mornings when Sherlock was dead. But not this morning. No, this morning there is his smell, soothing and sure, and accompanying it is his body, whole and firm and strong, wrapped in John’s arms and moving in the rhythmic undulations of breath, alive and pure, turning everything brilliant and golden.

John doesn’t open his eyes. He presses his face forward into the nape of Sherlock’s neck, nuzzling the familiar nest of curls that gathers there, and his lips seek out the familiar shape of the vertebrae that rise beneath porcelain-smooth skin. He kisses his way down each one in turn until he veers off track to lap his way up to Sherlock’s ear. He nuzzles the tender spot just at the base of his jawline, then suddenly his lips are met with lips, and there’s a hand wrapping around the back of his neck, pulling him firmly down, deepening the kiss with a mutual sigh.

The moment melts and swims and swirls in a dizzying mix of lips and tongue, and it stretches out smooth and slow and infinite.

At long last, John pulls back reluctantly, blinking his eyes open for the first time that morning. Unsurprisingly, they’re met by Sherlock’s jade-green ones peering up at him, pristine and intent.

John grins. “Morning.”

Sherlock licks his lips, which are already moist and swollen from their advances. “Morning, John.” And without further ado, Sherlock shifts his hips back to press his buttocks firmly against John’s rapidly-swelling erection. John notes they’re both still fully nude.

John cocks his eyebrow.

Sherlock winks.

John leans down, and snogs him senseless.

They move for a while like that, John holding Sherlock tightly as he spoons him, marveling in the way their bodies fit together so perfectly, like two parts of a whole. It’s blissful, simple perfection.

Before long, Sherlock bends his top leg and plants his foot on the bed, parting his cheeks, and John’s cock slips eagerly between them, the tip catching lightly on Sherlock’s rim. John gasps in anticipation, and Sherlock lets out a rumbling moan.

“Mmm. How are you feeling, Sherlock? Too sore, or do you want to go again?” John’s dying to sink into the tight, slick heat that he’s currently only teasing the entrance to, but he knows between the vibrating plug and the rather rough intercourse they’d had last night, Sherlock might be a bit tender.

“Go ahead, John. I’m fine.”

John has the presence of mind to swoop in for another kiss before rolling away to fumble for the lube (so as to maintain the facade of not being too eager, but it’s a lost cause; he can hear Sherlock chuckling as he frantically rummages through the drawer of the nightstand).

Lube successfully procured, he squeezes a dollop onto two fingers and reaches down to gingerly prod at Sherlock’s hole. Sherlock hisses.

“Sorry, sorry.” John pulls back immediately. “Too sore? We can--”

“No, no, it’s just cold, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop.” John remains validated in his conclusion that Sherlock is the only person on earth who could sound inconvenienced whilst begging to be sodomised.

“Oh, right, sorry…” John shuffles the sheets about a bit as he re-orients himself, then brings his hand back into place and presses his fingers inside.

“Ohhhhhh, fuck, yes!” Sherlock’s head tips back and he reaches around behind himself to grab his own cheek and pull it open, imploring John to sink in further.

John grins down at him devilishly and begins to drag his fingers in and out in a steady rhythm. Sherlock is still shockingly loose from their activities the night before; John reckons he won’t need much prep at all. “Mmm, you like that, hmm?” He angles his fingers to brush against Sherlock’s prostate.

“Ahhhh, yes! Oh, John, John, yes…” Sherlock’s eyes are already glazing over, and he casts a rather desperate look over his shoulder in an attempt to gauge John’s next move.

John simply leans forward and kisses him again as he begins to scissor his fingers ever so slightly. Sherlock quivers and moans hotly into his mouth.

“You’re already so open, I think you can take me again now. You feel good?”

Sherlock nods blearily.

John withdraws his fingers and pours a bit more lube into his hand. As he does so, he notes his fingers are streaked with come; evidence of his release from last night that was still inside Sherlock.

“Oh, Jesus.”

Sherlock twists around slightly to try and see what John’s looking at. “What? What’s wrong?”

John swallows hard. “Nothing, just… you still have my come in you from last night.”

Sherlock raises his eyebrows. “Well, yes, that… makes sense. Scientifically.”

“I know, it’s just… Christ, Sherlock, you know what that does to me.”

“Of course I know what that does to you, John, and I’m lying here wet and open and practically gagging for it, yet for some reason I can’t deduce, I don’t currently have your cock inside me. Which is completely unacceptable. So if you’d be so kind?”

John rolls his eyes and delivers a lighthearted slap to Sherlock’s arse before resuming slicking up his own cock. “You’re awfully cheeky for someone who’s rather at my mercy at the moment.”

“Oh, please, I’m not at your mercy.”

“No? You have someone else hidden about the flat ready to roger you at the snap of your fingers?”

“Yorick.”

John pauses. “...Yorick?”

“Yes. That’s what I’ve named my vibrating plug.”

“You’ve… named your vibrating plug?”

“It seemed only polite. I have a feeling we’ll be getting very well acquainted.”

John shakes his head and starts to maneuver into position before pausing again. “Wait. Wait a second. Isn’t your SKULL named Yorick?”

“Two parts of a whole, obviously”

“What the bloody, buggering--”

It’s only then that John notices Sherlock has completely dissolved into helpless giggles, his shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter, tears gathering at the creases in the corners of his eyes.

“Oh my GOD, Sherlock, I thought you were being serious!”

“Please, John, you think I’d fantasise about my SKULL servicing me sexually?”

“Honestly, Sherlock, you’re a mad berk and I’ve no idea what’s going on in that twisted head of yours half the time, so don’t blame me for taking you at your word!”

Sherlock falls victim to another round of giggles, but this time, John can’t help but join him. It’s a few minutes before the tone turns serious again, and John’s able to focus on the business at hand.

“Alright, you nutter. How do you want me?” He grins down indulgently at Sherlock.

Sherlock is still lying on his side facing away from John, and he makes no move to change positions. He simply pulls the thigh of his top leg up towards his chest and wraps his hand behind his knee, opening himself fully.

“Mmm, alright then.” John curls up behind him, then reaches down to steady his cock and guide himself gently inside.

The both moan. Sherlock feels unimaginably wet and open, and John’s head swims at the heady sensation enveloping his cock. He hasn’t felt Sherlock this relaxed in ages.

“Oh, Christ, you feel amazing.” John wraps his arm around Sherlock’s chest and pulls him close, and Sherlock issues a contented sigh. John withdraws his cock ever so slightly, then presses eagerly back in.

He repeats the motion, and before too long, he’s rocking into Sherlock at a steady pace. Sherlock sighs and rolls his back, angling his pelvis to allow John a better angle of penetration, and John sinks willingly deeper inside. As they move, John places his palm flat on Sherlock’s chest, and feels his heart beat.

There’s no rush to this today. They simply move, and breathe, and feel, and John buries his nose back into the nape of Sherlock’s neck and loses himself in the blinding perfection of it.

He could have carried on like that forever, but his cock has other plans; after a spell, he can feel his balls tightening as his body urges him towards release, and John reluctantly blinks his eyes open and props himself up onto his elbow so he can glance down at Sherlock’s face as he moves inside him.

“Feeling good, love?” John’s fingers drift over to Sherlock’s right nipple, which he begins to pluck and twist.

“Nnngh. Yes, John.” Sherlock’s response is half-muffled by where he’s nuzzled into the pillow, but one glance down at his cock reveals he’s feeling just fine; His prick is fully engorged and dripping precome, nearly purple it’s so flushed with arousal.

Seeing Sherlock’s cock in this state while he’s being fucked is so unimaginably erotic to John, he sometimes can’t comprehend it. While John doesn’t necessarily mind anal stimulation on himself, per se, he’d discovered over time that he, like many men, was unable to maintain a full erection while being penetrated. It wasn’t that being penetrated didn’t feel good to John; it did, sometimes, on the rare occasion that he was in the mood for it. But for John, anal play was relegated to foreplay leading up to the main event, never the source of his release.

But Sherlock? Christ, Sherlock took to anal penetration like he was made for it. Not only did he maintain a raging erection throughout the process, but sometimes, he could even come completely untouched from anal stimulation alone. The knowledge that John could do that to Sherlock by putting his cock inside him was a power trip the likes of which John had never experienced before, and here in this moment, he’s reminded of how amazing it feels to see the physical manifestation of the pleasure he’s providing Sherlock on display for him.

“You close?” John brings his fingertips to his lips to wet them before bringing them down to meet Sherlock’s right nipple, which he proceeds to flick and pinch.

Sherlock arches into the sensation against his chest, his eyes going wide. “Y-yes. Close.”

“Think you can come without your hands this morning? Or do you want to touch yourself for me?”

Sherlock gulps down a deep breath of air. “I can… I can come for you without hands.”

John grins devilishly. “Mmm, yes, alright.” He adjust the angle of his thrusts to where he knows he striking Sherlock’s prostate directly.

Sherlock shouts and his eyes roll back, and he tightens his grip on his own leg and pulls himself open even wider. John takes the hint and increases the force behind his thrusts, sinking frantically into the tight, wet heat surrounding him.

“Ohhhhh, yes, yes! Mmmm, feel so good, love, you feel so good…”

“Yes! John, yes, yes! There! Oh! Ah! There, theretherethere!” Sherlock’s words come out in high, breathy gasps, and John devotes himself single-mindedly to maintaining his angle against Sherlock’s prostate. John reluctantly relinquishes his grip on Sherlock’s nipple and grabs his hip, holding Sherlock resolutely in place. Then he takes a deep breath, and rails Sherlock for all he’s worth.

And it’s gorgeous. Sherlock’s entire body pulls taught as a bowstring, and John’s eyes fly down to where Sherlock’s erection is twitching helplessly in front of him. It wouldn’t take much more--

And then, without further warning, the first pulse of come pumps out onto the sheets. Sherlock’s cock hardens impossibly further as he ejaculates, elongating and visibly throbbing as spurt after spurt of semen empties from his turgid length.

Sherlock is wailing and moaning as he comes, his eyes scrunched shut and his whole body vibrating with the consuming effort. John locks his arm resolutely around Sherlock’s waist and continues to plunder him, milking every last drop from his wilting prick before he tapers his efforts.

Finally, Sherlock goes limp and pliant in John’s arms, and he turns his head blearily to gaze up at him.

“Mmmph. That was ‘mazing.” Sherlock seems totally dazed, John notes with a sense of satisfaction. He leans down to press their lips together, then pulls back and smiles down at him indulgently.

“Glad to hear it. You still doing alright? If you don’t want to keep going, I can pull out and come on you--”

“No, no, ‘sokay, you can finish in me.” Sherlock shifts a bit to adjust the angle of his hips, to a position that John knows is less pleasurable for Sherlock, but causes his channel to clamp around John’s cock in a rather intoxicating way that Sherlock knows John adores.

John gasps and moans, then reaches up to hold Sherlock’s top leg behind the knee, where previously Sherlock had been holding himself open. Sherlock gratefully relinquishes his grip on his own leg, and melts into the mattress as John takes over.

John begins to thrust in earnest, pulling Sherlock’s leg up and open, granting himself unfettered access to the tight, hot hole enveloping him. Sherlock cries out, a wanton, debauched sound, and John can’t help but grin before lowering his lips to suck a mark right at the base of Sherlock’s trapezius.

And this, Christ, this was something else, wasn’t it? The feeling of Sherlock’s body, warm and pliant and so damn alive, moving and straining beneath his hands as John chases his pleasure. John can feel the rush of blood pumping through his own veins, he can feel his heartbeat echoed in Sherlock’s, the breath he’s exhaling against Sherlock’s salt-slick skin frantic and consuming. He moans and fucks into Sherlock harder, and Sherlock audibly gasps, his whole body shuddering in response.

John can feel his release on the horizon. It’s distant, but there, drawing ever closer as he hurls towards its inevitable arrival. He grunts and grips Sherlock’s leg even harder, pistoning into him, and Sherlock whimpers, but it’s still not quite enough…

In one fluid motion, John rolls them both over, until Sherlock is pressed face-down on the mattress, legs splayed, and John settles once more between them, sliding his cock back inside as Sherlock throws his head back with a shout.

“OH! John, yes!” Sherlock’s hands grab the sheets and twist, his shoulders flexing as John begins to ride him, pinning him helplessly to the mattress with the force of his thrusts.

“Oh, oh, Sherlock, fuck, fuck!” John grabs Sherlock by one shoulder to hold him in place, then falls forward to grip the headboard with his other hand, giving himself maximum leverage. His thrusts increase in intensity, and he looks down to where his rock-hard cock is disappearing over and over again between Sherlock’s bouncing cheeks.

“John! OH, John!” Sherlock is wailing now, and John notes with a distant satisfaction that Sherlock’s toes are curling, feet flexing, fingers white at the knuckles as he holds onto the sheets for all he’s worth.

“GOD, Sherlock, yes!” John pulls out entirely and takes a brief glance at Sherlock’s dilated hole before slamming back in, and Sherlock howls and writhes. John grinds his cock in deep, forceful circles, moaning as he closes his eyes, recalling the source of all that slick wetness surrounding him was his own semen from the night before, still inside Sherlock hours later, marking him, claiming him....

“Ohhhhhhhhh!” Sherlock buries his face in the pillow as John resumes thrusting, his strokes fast and ruthlessly demanding.

“Oh! Oh! Sherlock! FUCK! FUCK! Gonna-- gonna-- OHHH!” And with that, John comes, in a strong, steady stream, the initial wave so overwhelming that John collapses onto Sherlock entirely and rides out the rest of his pleasure in a series of erratic twitches as beneath him, Sherlock gasps and sighs as the sensation of being filled overcomes him.

Minutes pass.

Eventually, John blinks his eyes open.

Everything is golden.

Everything is beautiful.

The bedroom is ablaze with the morning sun, the mundane objects of their domestic dwelling haloed in an aura of shimmering brilliance. Everything feels as though it’s a dream.

But it’s not.

It’s not a dream.

Because they are here, and they are real, and nothing, nothing, will ever change that again.

John turns his head slowly from where his cheek was resting, sweat-slicked, on Sherlock’s back. He plants a kiss on Sherlock’s shoulderblade, and beneath him, Sherlock flexes his body and lets out a contented little hum.

“Good morning, love.”

Sherlock giggles. “Morning, John.”

Reluctantly, John raises himself onto his forearms, pulling a face as he does so; they’re both sweaty, and the air feels unnaturally cool against his chest and abdomen. He lowers his forehead to rest against Sherlock’s back. “Jesus. We’re filthy. We need to shower again.”

Sherlock turns his head to the side and lets out an exasperated sigh. “Very good point, John, extremely good point. Why don’t you just pull out and I’ll pop right into the bathroom and get cleaned up, no time to dally, no time to waste--”

John chuckles into the warm heat of Sherlock’s skin. “Oh, no you don’t. You know damn well I’ll need to take a look at you.”

Sherlock bites his lip coquettishly as he blinks back over his shoulder. “Well, if you feel you must, Doctor Watson.”

“I’m afraid I must, Mr. Holmes. For medical reasons.”

“Of course,” Sherlock replies with faux solemnity. “For medical reasons.”

John manages to struggle onto his hands and push himself back onto his knees, then slowly withdraws his softening member from inside Sherlock.

“Oh.” John grabs both of Sherlock’s cheeks and spreads them wide, gazing at the place in between them.

“Good?” Sherlock asks conversationally, propping himself up onto his forearms and peering back at John.

“I… Jesus, yeah, Sherlock, I think… I think that plug stretched you out really nicely last night, and you look… fuck, you’re really messy this morning.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” John feels dizzy and more than a little breathless staring down at where there’s a distinct trail of semen leaking from Sherlock’s open hole. “Can I touch you?”

“Mmmm hmm.” Sherlock simply sounds a bit amused as he drops his head onto his forearms.

John reaches out with two fingers and runs them around Sherlock’s moistened rim. Sherlock doesn’t flinch, so John presses them inside and begins to move them in and out, staring in rapt fixation at the come that coats them.

“You know, John, that’s just two loads. Imagine if you used that plug on me during one of our longer sessions, imagine how messy I’d get then…”

“Jesus CHRIST, Sherlock, stop talking, or this is going to get out of hand very quickly.” As much as John would like to go for another round, he knows Mrs. Hudson will be bringing Rosie back upstairs before too long, and he’d rather not be interrupted mid-coitus. Reluctantly, he withdraws his fingers before lowering his lips to kiss each of Sherlock’s pert cheeks in turn. “Alright, you. Let’s go get cleaned up.”

An hour later, they’re gathered in the sitting room, Rosie perched on John’s hip as he waltzes with her to a tune Sherlock is playing on his violin. She’s clapping and giggling, and even Sherlock is smiling (he normally viewed violin-playing as Very Serious Business, so this is yet another indication that his self-professed sociopathic heart is no match for Rosie’s charms), when all of a sudden, Rosie grows solemn, staring at a point somewhere over John’s left shoulder.

“Dat.” She points her pudgy finger in the direction of the mantle.

“Hm?” John turns around, confused, trying to figure out what she’s gesturing towards.

“Dat.” John walks her over, and she points resolutely at the collection of photographs there.

Namely, of the one of him, Mary, Sherlock, and Rosie on the day of her christening.

John swallows hard. “That’s your family, Rose. See? Dada.”

Rosie blinks. “Adda?”

“Mmmhmm. And Mama.” John points.

Rosie purses her lips. “Sock.”

John chuckles. “Yes, and there’s Sherlock.”

“Ser-rock.”

The music stops.

A grin spreads across John’s face. “Sher-lock.”

“Ser-rock.”

“Did she just get the second syllable?” Sherlock sounds rather surprised.

“I daresay she did. Who’s that, Rose?”

“Ser-rock!” Rosie declares triumphantly, and a moment later, Sherlock is swooping her from John’s arms and spinning her around.

“That’s right, my girl! Sher-lock!” Sherlock is grinning so hard he looks like his face might break.

“Ser-rock! Ser-rock!” Rosie beams as Sherlock twirls her around.

John looks down at the picture in his hand. Mary. Rosie. Sherlock. The people he loves most in this world.

He places it back on the mantle, and joins in the celebration.