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It was three weeks from the time John noticed wanting to kiss Sherlock to the time John actually did kiss Sherlock.

This was uncommon -- John wasn't given to dithering -- but there were several factors that made it even more complex than, say, asking out the person who had just hired him, which he had done without a second thought. Flatmate. Maniac. Bait for every criminal in London. Utterly lacking in social skills.

In the intervening three weeks, between the time John looked at Sherlock resting long fingers on his lips and thought, "Hm ... yes, I think so," to the time he made up his mind:

- Sherlock placed a large pile of miscellaneous hardware -- screws, nuts, inexplicable twists of wire -- on the floor of the living room, dumped a glass of water on them, and never looked at them again.

- A jittery young man brought in to identify the source of a piece of litter (indistinguishable, in John's eyes, from every other piece of litter on Baker Street) told John, "You should be flattered. Sherlock doesn't listen to no one, does he." As John had never noticed Sherlock listening to him, either, he didn't quite know what to make of this.

- And, most dramatic of all, a madman strapped John with explosives.

Sherlock began looking at him oddly after that last. Possibly he'd found that first moment of mistaken identity even more confusing than John himself had done. Possibly he was just annoyed at John for not being invulnerable to damage by insane men with heavy explosives.

At any rate, that was the point when John decided that things were as strange as they were going to get, as annoying as they were going to get, and as dangerous as they were going to get, so he might as well go ahead and do what he wanted, because he was unlikely to make life any worse.



Sherlock, upon being kissed on the couch in front of the evening news, went completely still, not even breathing. When John sat back to look, Sherlock's eyes went suddenly from squeezed shut to open wide. "Why?"

"Because I wanted to." John's arm was still around Sherlock's shoulder, and Sherlock had made no move to shrug it off. He looked like a man doing complicated equations in his head. So: no odder than John had expected. "All right?"

Sherlock gave him the usual look of scornful impatience. "Again."


Naturally Sherlock didn't kiss like ordinary people.

First, he went back to being perfectly still, parting his lips or tilting his head in response to John's promptings but otherwise not moving a muscle. If he hadn't said "Again" -- if he hadn't had a deathgrip on John's shirt at the shoulder -- John would have felt as though he was molesting the unconscious.

He was probably categorizing everything John did in some sort of mental database. Kissing, taxonomy of.

Then, apparently hitting a point where he'd absorbed enough information, he sprang into motion, pressing John against the back of the couch. One long hand came up to tilt John's chin and then stayed, cupping the side of his face, smelling faintly of latex. Some of the things he did felt amazing, and some felt as though he was conducting a mouth inventory by feel, and from moment to moment something would distract him and it would be as if he'd put his mouth on autopilot, licking repetitively at the same spot over and over until whatever had gained possession of his mind passed. You certainly never forgot who you were kissing with Sherlock.

So things didn't build in the usual way, which was probably for the best. Flatmates didn't have the constraints that kept things moving along orderly and not too fast. Still, it was quite enough for John to be getting a warm feeling and thinking ahead, until his hand, which had been on the back of Sherlock's hair, slipped down under the collar of his ridiculously posh shirt.

The skin there was very warm and very smooth. Sherlock's hair tickled the back of John's hand, and the muscles in his neck shifted -- all in a split second -- and he took a sudden fast breath and leapt to his feet.

"Cervical vertebrae -- but the angle of entry -- oh, hell, it wasn't the first gun at all -- don't wait up, John," he added, already halfway down the stairs.

From Sherlock Holmes, that was almost a tender goodnight kiss.


Next evening, there was gravel. A great deal of gravel, sorted into all their teacups, and Sherlock photographing it and examining it through his magnifier and making notes -- all relatively normal for Sherlock. Except not, because there was more silence than scribbling, and any time John looked up from attempting with mixed success to drink tea out of the creamer, he caught Sherlock just looking away.

After an hour or so, Sherlock poured the cups of gravel, one by one, out the window, ignoring a shout from below and leaving the cups lined up on the sill. He gathered his notes with a self-conscious flourish. "Well," he said overloudly, "I believe I'll watch the news." And he went and sat -- upright! -- on the couch, leaving half of it empty.

Not smiling at the obviousness of it, with effort, John left the creamer and went to sit beside him.

Sherlock's arm immediately came around him, and Sherlock's head bent to his. They hadn't even turned the television on. In the silence, John could hear Sherlock sigh when their mouths met.

Sherlock's engagement in the process was a little more consistent than it had been the night before. Almost at once he had a hand on the back of John's neck, under his collar, clearly sending the message that last night's sudden departure hadn't been an attempt to set a boundary. Given that permission, John upped the ante with a thumb around the outer edge of Sherlock's ear.

"Were you," Sherlock said, and kissed him again, "experiencing any particular urgency as to the progress of this --" he waved his hand between them -- "process?"

John pushed his hand into Sherlock's hair. "I never hurry. I take things as they come."

"Good," Sherlock murmured against his cheek. "Not that I've any hesitation about taking you to bed, but I've never done this before."

That seemed so improbable that John had to pull back and look at him. Sherlock shook his head, as usual impatient at John's failure to read his mind: "No, no, of course I've had sex, but I've never done this."

"What, snogging on the couch? -- no, I suppose you haven't." Sherlock's mouth had gone proud. It softened when John touched it with a fingertip, and Sherlock licked the pads of his fingers. "Pity we didn't know each other at school."

One corner of Sherlock's mouth indented. "We might've done it in the boathouse."

"Your school had a -- of course it had a boathouse."

Sherlock took John's hand and licked curiously at his palm. "Only a small one."

John smiled. "Wonder how we'd have made out. Your large wardrobe and small boathouse, my football kit and stupid haircut --"

Sherlock kissed him hard once. "I'd like to have seen that."

"Nipping off behind the hedge for a quick one. It would have been sweaty-handed bliss," John said dreamily, "at least until," and then he almost literally choked on the words.


"Nothing." He sucked Sherlock's earlobe into his mouth, and Sherlock briefly allowed the distraction, but the sweet relaxation was gone. The kissing unwound, and Sherlock pulled John close and rested his chin on top of John's head and sighed, and then he got his phone and was engrossed in moments, close enough to touch and yet not there at all.

Clearly John had been dismissed. After a bit, he got up and went to bed.

He wished he'd never begun the thought, but he certainly couldn't wish he'd finished it: At least until we grew up, and got serious, and everything went to hell.



Love was not John's department.

Harry had epic romances -- giddy beginnings, screaming fights and tearful reunions, plans, betrayals. Weddings and divorces, for god's sake.

John liked dating, and he didn't like fighting. He didn't cheat or get cheated on. He didn't go on his knees begging anyone to take him back. He didn't throw anyone's clothes out the window. He didn't pine over anyone who'd said no.

The one time he'd made an exception, it had convinced him of the wisdom of the rule.

They'd had a nice little flat above a bakery together -- the smell of vanilla still turned his stomach. They'd fought and made up, compromised, stayed together through shouting matches that would ordinarily have sent John away with a smile on his face and his bag in his hand. When he'd enlisted, they'd been talking of marriage.

She hadn't left him while he was in Afghanistan, but she hadn't been able to stick the rehab, the nightmares, the cane. He'd a suspicion she'd looked at his pain-weathered face and seen the future, and she'd wanted none of it.

Or perhaps she'd found someone else.

He'd never discussed this with Sherlock. For all he knew, Sherlock had already figured out why John hadn't had anyplace to come home to.



There was a blancmange unimaginatively spiked with cyanide. There was an afternoon spent in Harvey Nichols trying to keep them from being tossed out long enough for Sherlock to photograph the soles of all the shoes. There was a growing suspicion in John's mind that Sherlock was doing something dreadful with the milk, as there never seemed to be any and it was impossible to imagine that he drank it.

And at last there was Sherlock turning off his Bunsen burner and saying tentatively, "We might try lying down."

"Try?" John grinned at him. "So this is an experiment?"

Sherlock made a face; perhaps he didn't consider the comparison very flattering to his experiments. "Which answer will make you say yes?"

"I really don't mind," John said, absurdly touched by Sherlock almost saying out loud that he wanted John to say yes. "But wash your hands first," he added, reminded by the sound of Sherlock stripping off his gloves, and Sherlock went grumbling off to the sink.

"There are a number of things I haven't tried," he said over his shoulder, "and if you're amenable --"

"Amenable. That's me. My middle name," John said, and started up the stairs.

Sherlock's bed was unmade but not visibly contaminated; John toed off his trainers and lay down. Sherlock, already stripped down to pajamas and dressing gown, had the advantage of him.

They tried a kiss, bumped knees, shifted positions. Sherlock squirmed his arm out from under him. John had never seen anything like it. There were far too many knees and elbows in the bed. Sherlock made an impatient huff.

"You could try turning your back to me."

Sherlock tilted his head; clearly one of those things he hadn't tried, spooning. He turned over in a great dramatic flop, and John shuffled closer, but Sherlock wasn't relaxing at all. "No? All right, how about the other way?"

He turned over, and Sherlock tucked up behind him and said, "Oh."

John smiled. "Like that one, do you?"

Sherlock fitted them even closer, knees slotting in behind John's, and John settled back into his embrace. Sherlock wrapped one arm around John and took John's wrist between thumb and forefinger. "I like this. Do you know, I can feel you relax all over. Useless for interrogations, I suppose. Pity. I can feel you laughing." He stroked John's wrist with his fingertips. John was catching some of Sherlock's sense of wonder, because that felt amazing. "No, don't tense up again, why would you --"

"It's good." John's voice was husky.

"Oh." Sherlock ran his fingers down into John's palm and then up the inside of his arm, pushing up his sleeve. "Where can I touch you?"

Couldn't forget who he was dealing with here. John cleared his throat. "Eyes are right out. Front teeth are all right, but back ones'd be a bit odd --"

"John." Sherlock's voice had dropped into a low rumble, amused and chiding at the same time.

John leaned back into him a bit more. "Anywhere, Sherlock. Anywhere you like."

Sherlock put a hand on John's knee, finding the lower curve of his patella through the thick denim. He probably knew how to take the joint apart from the outside. Normally his hands were icy, but now John could feel their warmth right through his jeans.

Sherlock drew his hand slowly up John's outer thigh, over his hip and up his ribs, over his shoulder, and down his arm to enclose his hand again. John hadn't even known it was possible in this position to trace such a long path without touching anything sexually loaded. No way that wasn't intentional.

"I did say anywhere," he said, hushed.

"Don't like to make any promises I've no immediate intention of keeping."

John tried to remember the last time he'd had sex this unrushed. Sixth form, maybe. No, earlier. "Have you only slept with fifteen-year-olds?"

"Sixteen," Sherlock said, and as an afterthought, "Just the one."

"Christ." Just the one sixteen-year-old? Just the one, period? John discarded both questions for a safer one: "How old were you?"

Sherlock's fingers made a distracting circle on the inside of his elbow. "I don't remember."

"Please tell me you're lying to me because you were shockingly young and not because this was year before last."

Sherlock made a hming noise that definitely wasn't an answer, and kissed the back of John's neck. John sighed into the touch, and Sherlock put his hand on John's hip and moved his mouth around to the side of John's neck.

"Nothing promised," John said. "This is sexy. I like it."

"Frustrating," Sherlock said. "Don't think I can't tell." His lips buzzed behind John's ear.

"Sexy frustrating. You've never drawn it out on purpose? Just to make it better?" He rolled onto his back a little, just enough that he could see Sherlock's face.

Sherlock hesitated -- John could feel him consider the option of not answering -- before he offered: "I had a two-hour wank once."

"Christ." John swallowed. "On purpose?"

"Research." This made John laugh a little, because of course, but Sherlock lifted his chin: "You never know when it might be necessary to be able to catalog the effects."


"And I wanted to see if I could."

"Two hours continually?"

"Well -- as continually as I could manage without invalidating the results."

John looked closely at him. Was he blushing? No, not visibly. "Was it -- I can't imagine it was much fun." Though the mental image was quite inspiring. "Did you learn anything useful?"

"Things got surprisingly messy, especially after the forty-five-minute mark. After two hours, climax isn't so much a pleasure as a relief. Not an experiment I was ever moved to repeat, at any rate."

"Suppose not." Sherlock's hand had come to rest on John's stomach; John raised his hand to intertwine their fingers, but the gesture seemed inappropriately romantic, especially after a conversation like that. He patted Sherlock's hand instead. "Think you might want to repeat this one?"

There was a brief, expressionless silence, and then Sherlock said, "Perhaps."

Where had all this stiffness come from? Whatever the explanation, the boneless embrace was gone, and after a breath or two, Sherlock sat up, muttering about automobile horns. He squeezed John's shoulder in passing.

It had just gone eleven. John went to bed, because starting anything new at that hour was absurd, but it was a long time before he slept.



After that, the daytime world unexpectedly got very exciting. John winged a fleeing serial rapist in the calf, providing a trail of blood for both tracking and DNA testing. This got him a long, level, considering look from Sherlock. He was insanely flattered whenever he earned that look, even though it probably translated to You have no more brains than a house sparrow, so how did the likes of you come up with that?

Then John waited in the rain in the Arboretum for about seven hours, in and out of greenhouses, before being pushed through a cold frame, resulting in a condition that was medically short of both concussion and hypothermia, but not by much. The rare orchid was restored to the university before it inspired any more murders, with a sharp lecture from Sherlock about appropriate security, and John piled every blanket he owned on the bed and slept for most of a day. Vaguely he was aware of Sherlock looking through the doorway at him sometimes. Luckily he didn't demand that John wake up, come downstairs, and hand him his computer; John quite liked him, for the most part, and would have been disappointed to have to toss him out a window.

About the time John was starting to think of getting up and seeing if there was any food, or simply taking it as read that there wasn't and calling for some, Sherlock materialized in the doorway, said, "Right, that's long enough," handed him a slice of bread, and climbed into the rumpled bed with him.

"Traditionally flowers are the thing, or maybe a bottle of wine." Sherlock's feet were freezing, but just the same it was arousing to have him slide into John's bed as if it were his own. A tendril of worry unfolded from that thought.

"You haven't eaten in nineteen hours, and you haven't cleaned your teeth in about seventeen." Sherlock made a shooing gesture, and John took a bite of the bread. Stale. Naturally.

"Never eaten bread in bed before," he said.

Sherlock brushed a crumb off his chin. "Surely you knew living with me would expand your horizons."

The instant he swallowed the last bite, Sherlock was kissing him, maneuvering them into his favorite position, curled at John's back. Sherlock was fully covered with his usual pajama and robe combination, but John had gone to bed in only bottoms, and he gasped at the feeling of Sherlock's clothes without that extra layer between them -- just Sherlock's clothes, that washed-thin T-shirt --

The tendril of worry began to spread. He ignored it. He took things as they came, and he'd have to be a fool to refuse this.

Sherlock laid an ear against John's bare back (soft hair and warm skin making him shiver) and listened for a moment, then spent a long time examining John's fingers by feel. It was arousing and unnerving and strangely comfortable at the same time. So, a normal day with Sherlock, then.

Sherlock's mobile chimed, and John felt him fish it out of the pocket of his robe, text something at lightning speed, and put it back again. "Case?" he said, half in hope and half in dread.

"Lestrade overlooking the obvious again. The sun couldn't have been in her eyes at that time of day in December, even if we'd had any sun in December. Therefore, the lawyer and not her clerk." He touched John's throat, his temple. "I thought you'd got a fever."

"Wasn't my easiest day ever," John said, "but no harm done. Though I can't imagine being willing to kill someone for a plant, however rare."

"Not rare; unique." Sherlock's voice was different, hushed. He touched his tongue delicately to the precise center of the nape of John's neck. John sighed. "I saw the flower. If I were of a criminal bent, I might have done it, for that."

He put his fingertips against the scar that roped over John's collarbone, and John couldn't help tensing. Sherlock hauled himself up and hooked his chin over John's shoulder and made that hm sound again. He didn't ask whether it hurt (it didn't) or whether John wanted him to stop (he did); he just traced the thread of scar tissue back to its origin in John's shoulder, and lifted his hand.

John sighed, relief loosening his muscles.

The next place Sherlock's fingers touched down was John's nipple.

He'd been in the middle of an exhale. The second half of it came out in a huff. Sherlock made that sound again. His fingers tapped and pressed and slid.

He lifted his hand. John took a breath, and he put it back on the scar.

Scar; nipple. Scar; nipple. After three sequences, Sherlock's voice rumbled petulantly in his ear: "I imagine you're going to tell me there's a difference between tense and sexy tense, but they both feel exactly the same to me."

He wasn't touching anything, so John could talk. "No, they don't, or you wouldn't know whether the nipple thing was making me uncomfortable."

Sherlock hm'd again. In this context, it was a grudging admission that someone other than Sherlock Holmes had made a valid point. He brushed his fingers over John's throat and down the middle of his chest. "This should be less disputed territory."

John bent his head, looking at Sherlock's long fingers trailing randomly over his torso, and Sherlock rubbed his rough face against the back of John's neck. John swallowed hard. He could remember the thinking that had got him into this: an experiment for Sherlock, a bit of fun for him, light and easy because obviously there was no danger of Sherlock's falling in love with him.

Sherlock's thumb and forefinger bracketed the rise of John's pectoral muscle. He bestowed a lingering kiss where John's neck met his spine. In retrospect, it was clear that John had left something out of his calculations.

Damn it.

Sherlock kissed the side of his neck. "You've gone all tense again," he murmured in the soft, low voice he used for private conversations in public places. The intimacy, ersatz though it had to be, was incredible. John's throat hurt.

Damn it all to hell. It was too late to put a stop to it, wasn't it? He'd missed the place where he'd crossed the boundary. Call it off now, and he'd still be stuck with everything he'd sworn he was never going to go through again: the angry words, the sleepless nights, the constant inescapable longing. The humiliation of running like a cur at the heels of someone who was already giving what was available to be given, and was never going to be interested in giving you any more.

"And your heart is pounding," Sherlock said.

Damn it all to hell. John closed his eyes. "You're turning me on."

"No: you're angry again, and -- hm." Sherlock sounded aggrieved at first, and then puzzled. "Am I?"

Giving up all hope at last, John rolled and pinned him with a kiss.

Sherlock pulled in a noisy breath, and his whole body went lax. John licked messily at his mouth, and Sherlock hissed and pulled him down from his half-pressup to rest his whole weight on his body.

Sherlock was hard -- yes, John had wondered -- and the lift of his hips was enough to propel a breathless "God!" out of John's mouth. Sherlock threw his head back, eyes shut, face flushed, his whole otherworldly concentration focused on the rub of John's cock against his through two pairs of pajama bottoms. Helplessly John fell forward, licking and biting his long throat, finally freed from the constraints of worrying about tomorrow, pushing the loose shirt up with one hand and already under it with the other.

Sherlock's narrow chest, almost hairless, heaved under John's hand. One side was tangled in robe and sleeve, but the other nipple rose to his lips while Sherlock made a shocked noise above him -- the sensation was unfamiliar or John was moving faster than expected? John didn't care, honestly. He was doomed, anyway, and as long as he didn't hear a no, he was finally going to take what he wanted.

Sherlock's nipple was insistently peaked, not relaxing through long moments in the warmth of John's mouth. The skin over his ribs was hot and faintly freckled and not recently bathed. The tie of the bottoms was done up tightly, no doubt to make sure Sherlock's dramatic flops weren't marred by undignified clothing mishaps, but at last the knot gave way under John's fingers and he managed to haul everything as far down as it needed to go.

Sherlock's cock rose to meet him, and suddenly Sherlock's hand was tight in his hair, pulling his head up.

"John." Sherlock's voice was gravelly, broken, and it struck John how silent Sherlock had been so far. John looked up and found him up on one elbow, wide-eyed. "I didn't --"

"Please," John breathed, beyond caring what the rest of the sentence was.

Sherlock's head dropped back onto the pillow with an audible thunk, and his grip on John's hair loosened.

Sherlock's cock was like anyone else's, really, disarmingly ordinary for such an extraordinary person. He smelled amazing here, with a stronger concentration of his usual scent, less heavy on the formaldehyde, plus the intoxicating addition of sex-musk; John pressed his face at the base of Sherlock's cock, sucking air through his nose and mouth. Sherlock's hand tightened painfully on the back of his neck, nails scratching, and John rasped his two-days-unshaved face on the tender skin under his navel.

When he finally pulled the head of Sherlock's cock into his mouth, Sherlock's hand left his neck for points unknown. John wasn't even trying to please him. He was beyond that now, simply grabbing all the sensation he could find: the wrinkled skin against his lips, the salt-slick flavor on his tongue, the muffled sound of Sherlock's gasping breaths above him. Sherlock gave a full-body shudder, then froze suddenly, and, without even trying to warn him, came in his mouth.

John held back as long as he could bear it, then spat into his hand and made the few hasty tugs it took to send him into his own climax.

Silence settled. For a few breathless moments it was only silence, but then a chill crept into it. John's chemistry wanted to send him into boneless relaxation, but his mind knew the trouble he was in and kept his muscles on alert. There was no need to wonder whether Sherlock could figure out what had become of this experiment. All he'd have to do was take one look at John's face.

John slightly preferred a brisk "married to my work" brushoff over whatever would pass for gentleness in Sherlock Holmes, but either of those would be better than an accusation of unfairly presuming upon what was meant to be innocent experimentation. He raised his head to see what he'd get.

Sherlock was panting, an arm thrown over his face. As John looked up at him, he leapt from the bed, pulling up his bottoms and shaking his robe into order as he swept from the room. Moments later John heard the slamming of the outer door.

Well, that answered that question.



Sherlock was gone for eleven hours, and came home smelling strongly of charcoal and with something blue all over his hands and wrists. The first word John spoke ("Case?") was greeted with a sniff and a rolled eye. The second ("Tea?") got the same in verbal form: "Really, John, don't hover."

It was even worse than John had feared. If he sat, stood, spoke, was silent, everything got something between scorn and fury. "I suppose you're well aware that in a battle of wits you're not even a contender." "Still working on that crossword, John? Why not just stay with yesterday's?" "Chardonnay, John? Isn't your brain working quite slowly enough already? I suppose I could find someone to sell you some marijuana. Or hit you on the head with a blunt object, which of course has the advantage of being cheaper and slightly less illegal."

Sherlock's face when he said these things wasn't angry or scornful; it had a sort of nasty glee, a gleam of triumph, an invisible wink at an imaginary audience, like someone besting an animated opponent in a video boxing match. As though John didn't even exist except so that his defeat could provide entertainment.

To Mrs. Hudson he said, "I don't know how many sheep are cold today because of John's jumper, but their discomfort was horrifically wasted, don't you think?" in an inquiring tone that had Mrs. Hudson sending John a sympathetic look behind his back. Lestrade offered his own version of the same look when Sherlock said, "Do you see anything unusual about the right elbow?" and hardly gave John time to shake his head before saying, "Of course you don't; I've no idea why I still bother asking."

As John opened the door at 221B and Sherlock swept past him without a glance, it occurred to him that there was something rather odd about the insults. Sherlock was in no way pulling his punches, and yet the accusations John's mind flung at him were so poisonous that Sherlock's insults were almost painless by comparison.

The things he could have said! All day long John had been braced for it: Here's another one fallen in love with me; isn't that a laugh? And he'd said everything else; why would he stop short at that?

He puttered through his evening routine, still pondering. The insults weren't pro forma, nor were they gentle; Sherlock's anger was clearly deeply felt. They were simply off target.

How could that be? Sherlock Holmes could answer a question before John asked it. He could tell how clinic had been by the sound of John's footsteps and how many pints John had had by the hem of his jacket.

And yet -- if he wasn't waiting for the most humiliating time, and he wasn't holding back to protect John --

Then the only remaining possibility was that he didn't know.

How could he not know? John had rubbed his face all over Sherlock's none-too-clean body like a dog rolling in garbage. He'd been desperate. He'd knelt there smelling him, for god's sake. He'd been so keyed up from sucking him that he hadn't been able to hold out long enough for Sherlock to lay a hand on him.

And anyway, he was Sherlock. One look at John's face should have told the whole story.

One look at John's face --

John had a sudden vivid memory of Sherlock's voice going muffled, of Sherlock bursting into a flurry of movement as John raised his head. Of Sherlock standing by John's bed, tugging down his T-shirt and rewrapping his robe, the tendons in his neck visible as he turned his face pointedly away.

Jesus. The pen fell from John's hand with a clatter. He hadn't seen John's face. He'd been trying to hide his own.

Sherlock was on his back on the couch, staring fixedly at the ceiling. He'd probably have liked for John to think he was pondering deep things, but his arms were bare of patches, and he was worrying his lower lip with his fingers. Brooding, possibly; planning out his next attack. (John was certain that many of Sherlock's devastating comebacks were prepared in advance.) He hadn't looked over when John dropped the pen, which meant he'd been keeping a bit of an eye on John already.

But his mind was so full of his false conclusion that he didn't observe.

He didn't turn his head when John stood, but he was watching, just the same. John touched him before he spoke, sliding a hand up the inside of his arm and back down again to catch his hand. "Budge up," he said, as Sherlock pushed himself up on an elbow with an incredulous look. But he made room, and he didn't shake off John's hand.

Doing this -- snogging on the couch with Sherlock in his shirtsleeves -- had involved a fair amount of strategy. John had been carefully censoring what he did: nothing too romantic, nothing too demanding. He threw all that away, now. He might still be wrong; he might still be out on the doorstep in the morning. But he was done holding back. He pushed Sherlock against the couch (eyes closed, deep furrow between his eyebrows) and cupped his face in both hands. Sherlock shuddered, and his mouth pursed in an unhappy line. John kissed it very slowly. He slid his hand around to the back of Sherlock's head and used the other to skim over the delicate bones of Sherlock's face, and kissed him, slow and deep.

He opened Sherlock's shirt and spread it wide. When he laid his face on Sherlock's chest, he could feel the tension in Sherlock's muscles, the movement suppressed. He wrapped one arm around Sherlock's narrow torso and placed careful kisses down the line of his chest.

When Sherlock's hand came to rest lightly on his head, he sighed down into Sherlock's skin, and, sure now that this was permitted, knelt up to pull his own jumper and shirt off over his head. Sherlock's face was flushed, turned away into the back of the couch, eyes shut. But he wasn't saying no. He helped John get the rest of his clothes off without opening his eyes. He shivered, almost flinching, at the sound of John's zip, but when John lay back down on top of him, he lifted both his mouth and his hips in welcome.

When John's full weight came down on top of him, Sherlock hissed through clenched teeth, and the muscles around his eyes and mouth tightened further. He looked the way he looked when he turned down anesthesia and sat still for stitches through sheer force of will -- not exactly encouraging. John slid up his body, sending a shudder of pleasure through his own limbs as his cock slotted up beside Sherlock's, and touched Sherlock's face with his fingertips.

Sherlock flinched. His eyes were so tightly shut now that the skin on the bridge of his nose was wrinkled. John rocked his cock softly into Sherlock's and kissed Sherlock's left eye.

Sherlock's fingers dug into John's lower back, pulling them more tightly together, against John's rhythm. "You're -- you're mocking me."

John's heart gave a painful kick in his chest. He kissed Sherlock's other eye, the crest of his unrealistic cheekbone, his temple. "Doesn't seem the sort of thing I'd do, really."

Sherlock's legs parted and John's knees came down between them. With the extra leverage, he could slide their cocks together with a bit more finesse. In the face of the sensation, it was hard to keep his eyes open. Sherlock's own were still tightly closed. "That's what -- what I had thought," he murmured. "But the alternative is -- even more out of character."

John cupped Sherlock's hot face in his hand -- infuriating, beautiful, protecting himself even now when he was leaking a wet spot onto John's belly. There was no mistaking this warm swell of mingled want, affection, and exasperation. He was surprised he'd fooled himself this long, and amazed that he'd fooled Sherlock at all. "Sure of that, are you?"

He felt the split-second of stillness. Shock: no one who had ever met Sherlock Holmes asked him if he was sure of anything. Pure pique was enough to make him open his eyes.

John, with difficulty, didn't look away this time. Someone in this relationship had to stop being a coward.

Sherlock looked at John as if he were mud or hemoglobin or a single heel print in an alleyway. His hips stilled their movement, and something complicated happened to the shape of his mouth.

Then: "John," he said, an agonized groan, and his eyes fell shut, and he heaved his hips upward, clearly seconds away from coming.

"Oh, god," John muttered, but Sherlock was still speaking, one arm like an iron bar across his lower back, the other hand pulling him closer: "Yes, John, yes, yes, only -- only if you -- if you can --"

"Of course," John said, "of course, never wanted to be safe anyhow," and his own climax rocked him, shook him, took him apart and remade him.

Reality came back slowly. The room smelled of sex, and John had banged his ankle painfully on the frame of the couch, and ... ah, the hell with it. John found the skin that was closest to his mouth -- collarbone, felt like -- and laid a soft, lingering kiss on it. "Right," he said, "so I'm not even going to pretend I'm not completely mad for you. It's just something you're going to have to adjust to."

He wasn't expecting rejection, but a sarcastic comeback would have been within parameters. But when he raised his head, Sherlock was blushing. He met John's eyes with obvious difficulty. "I -- all right," he said, and tilted his mouth up with a hopeful expression.

It was something like a first kiss.