Actions

Work Header

Words Unspoken

Chapter Text

Come home if convenient. - SH

Come home if not convenient. - SH

Emergency at Baker Street. Come immediately. - SH

John held in a sigh as he read Sherlock's texts. Home. Yes Baker Street would always be home. After all home was where the heart was. And there was the rub of the problem, his heart was in Baker Street but his fiancée was sitting by his side. John loved Mary, but not in the way she deserved, not in the way she needed. Theirs was a comfortable love, settled and warm but it wasn't deep, not on John's part. He hadn't just settled for Mary, deep down he knew they could have a future together but that was before Sherlock had answered his graveside plea. Dont. Be. Dead.

Your attendance is required immediately. - SH

"John? What's the matter?" Mary's soft voice broke his reverie, her book now forgotten on her lap and her eyes focussed on his face, concern obvious.

"I'm sorry Love, 'his nibs' needs me at ho.... Baker Street." John quickly corrected himself. He swept a nervous glance at Mary, she seemed oblivious to his slip, a small smile playing on her lips - he presumed from the use of her pet name for Sherlock.

"That's ok, I'm sure he's just getting nervous about the wedding again. Go and make sure he's coping." Mary angled her face to accept the brief kiss that John swept across her cheekbone, his thoughts already in Baker Street.

John tried to ignore the frantic beat his heart now played as he typed out a text to Sherlock.

What's the 'emergency' Sherlock? I know you're not hurt or ill, as even you would have thought to send me that information first. - JW

What do you mean 'even you'? Are you trying to insinuate something? -SH

Sherlock, you know full well what I mean! I'm not trying to insinuate anything! - JW

Your bloody big brain can be remarkably stupid sometimes, that's all. - JW

John knew he was playing with fire by teasing Sherlock, after all he had an uncanny knack at taking offence at the most mundane things, but any contact with Sherlock was, at least, contact.

It took him longer to catch the attention of a cab driver than if he'd been with Sherlock, but he'd found through trial and error that his full Captain Watson stance got the required attention soon enough. Sherlock's response finally came through just as John was giving the street address.

And that's the best you can manage is it? Really John I despair of you sometimes. Surely my blogger can come up with something more original than 'bloody big brain'! - SH

ETA John? - SH

John? You are coming aren't you John? - SH

John, this really is an emergency! An emergency for you! - SH

John? Are you avoiding my texts? - SH

Bloody hell Sherlock! I'm fine! I'm almost there! Give a bloke time to answer one text before sending others through! - JW

Idiot - JW

Wait? What? What emergency? How is there an emergency for me? - JW

Sherlock? - JW

Answer me you bloody lanky twit! - JW

Not so much fun waiting, is it John? - SH

Personal insults John? How mundane! -SH

After what seemed like an eternity the cab pulled up at 221B Baker Street. Glancing up whilst paying the driver John was able to see Sherlock clearly outlined at the window, his violin poised for playing. He had an overwhelming urge to wave and smile but was able to turn it into a curt nod and barely raised hand. He knew,of course, that Sherlock would have seen the aborted wave and would be looking very smug at John's sentimentality.

John quickly unlocked the front door and bounded up the stairs. Entering the flat his gaze was immediately drawn towards the window. Sherlock still stood framed by the window, his back to the room, his face turned in profile. The mid afternoon sun streamed all around him and highlighted the dust motes in its shafts, John was momentarily awed by the beauty of the scene and the ethereal grace of his friend. He was struck anew by how coming to Baker Street was like coming home, coming back to his heart.

He stood in the doorway and waited for Sherlock to speak, as he knew his entrance hadn't been missed, his heart was pounding and he knew his face was flushed. Both reactions could be put down to him running up the stairs and he was relieved to know that Sherlock would be unlikely to deduce the reason behind John's heightened emotions - sentiment. The very thing that Sherlock abhorred.

"Aaah John!" Sherlock finally turned from the window with a swish of his silk dressing gown. "You came."

"Of course Sherlock. You said there was an emergency, about me. Of course I came." He stepped further into the room, immediately feeling more relaxed than he had in days.

John's gaze followed him as Sherlock drifted over to his chair, gently placing his violin in its rest. Sherlock's hands seemed to linger over the strings longer than usual, his long fingers caressing the smooth wooden body. A wistful smile graced John's features as he wondered, not for the first time, at the ridiculousness of being jealous of a violin. To be loved like that, to be held as if you were precious, to be caressed by those long fingers and their gentle strength, to be played so exquisitely that your voice soared to the heavens in response. Composing his face again he realised that maybe it wasn't such a ridiculous jealousy after all.

He was standing with his hands behind his back when Sherlock turned around, those strangely luminous eyes swept quickly over John's form and face. Quickly taking in all the relevant details.

"John, we have a case! The case of the blogging bridegroom!" John saw the mischievous twinkle in Sherlock's eye and fought hard to keep his composure.

"Sherlock, what the hell are you talking about? The blogging bloody bridegroom! What sort of nonsense is that?" John's voice was stern but he had a suspicion where this conversation was going, Sherlock was going to mention the arrangements for his stag night!

"You, John. You are the nonsense! I intend to teach you to dance!" Sherlock held up one imperious hand, silencing any protest John may have made immediately. "Yes, I know you think you can dance, but simply bouncing on the balls of one's feet whilst vaguely flapping one's arms does not count as dancing!" Sherlock waved his arms enthusiastically around in the air to emphasise the style of dancing he meant.

Even John was stunned by how wrong his stag night guess had been!

Chapter Text

Sherlock's look once again swept over John's form, his focus this time lingering longer on John's face. His insightful eyes quickly flicking from feature to feature;

Ate a large lunch, less likely to grumble.
Travelled by cab (observed from window) yet to realise he has overpaid for journey.
Cheeks flushed, pulse in neck throbbing. From run upstairs and shock of suggestion.
Bags beneath eyes, worried about wedding?
Sadness lingering in eyes, concern over Harry?
Lower lip redder and plumper than usual. Chewed upon. Nervous?

Sherlock took John's continued silence in his stride. He had expected John's refusal and was taking the slack jaw and sudden nervous twitching to be such. He had been researching the importance of dancing in relationships for weeks and was eager to share his knowledge with John. He knew that he did not have many more moments left with John and had determined to make each moment memorable. Teaching John to dance had seemed like the perfect idea, it would give John a head start in his married life and allow Sherlock to gain an element of physical closeness he knew he could never otherwise have.

"John, I really don't understand why you are so shocked! Dancing has always been vital in building and maintaining relationships in both the human and animal kingdom. I want you and Mary to have a happy, sexually satisfying relationship....."

"Sherlock! Just stop now! I really don't think that's any of your business!" John finally rediscovered his voice to interrupt his friend mid flow. He was not surprised to see Sherlock studying him, his face angled to the side, hands in their habitual 'thinking' pose. John fought against the strong desire to turn his face away, instead making an effort to school his face to show as little of his inner turmoil as possible.

"John? Why are you embarrassed? I know you and Mary usually have a perfectly adequate sex life. I'm suspecting it's the stress of the wedding that has altered the length and frequency of your sexual encounters with Mary now. After all you have a basic sense of rhythm and a huge amount of stamina. This is not a reflection of your sexual prowess, just your dancing skills. The fact that it will improve your skills in the bedroom, or wherever you have sex, is merely a side effect!" Sherlock continued to study his friend's face, confused by the racing expressions there. Embarrassment, confusion, anger and, was that guilt?

"I..." John stuttered to a halt, his fist clenching at his side. "How the hell do you even know any of that Sherlock?" Sherlock opened his mouth to explain just as John raised one finger to silence him. "No, actually I'd really not know. My sex life is personal Sherlock. Personal. Not for your deductions. Not for you to mull over in your bloody mind palace. Not for you to talk about. Do you understand, Sherlock? I have to have something that is mine, private just to me. Do you think you can do that for me Sherlock?"

Sherlock nodded mutely. Of course he would do that for John. He would do anything for John. Always.

Since returning to John after two long years away he had come to realise how important John was to him. How he only felt whole when John was close; John's heart and his mind finally making one whole, living, breathing being.

"I'm sorry John. I won't mention your sex life again unless you ask it of me." Sherlock fixed his gaze on the ground. Sherlock knew John would never ask, he also knew he could never stop thinking of it. As much as it pained him to think of John making love with Mary he couldn't seem to keep the images away, they came to taunt him when he tried to rest.

Sometimes, if he were very lucky, he could wrestle those images so that it was him entwined in John's arms, being caressed and stroked, his name being gasped out as John came. But it wasn't those images that got him through the lonely nights and days, it was the more mundane imaginings that got him through. Imaginings that were so close to the reality of when John had lived at Baker Street that they easily took on a solidity and Sherlock was hard pressed to tell where reality began and fantasy ended. Simple things like sharing a cup of tea, flicking through the newspapers, scanning the television channels for some crap tv to laugh over or shout at - all the time tucked against John's side, or holding his hand in his own. Stealing kisses as they passed each other. Things he had often wished to do but decided against, sentiment was a weakness that he had not allowed - at least not until he was facing losing John forever. Not until a madman had threatened to kill all those he cared about. Then his heart had shattered when he realised the true depth of his feelings for John, ironically it was that realisation that had kept them apart for two long years. He had done everything, endured everything in his efforts to keep the people he cared about safe, but always it was John he thought of, John he vowed to tell how he felt on his return. And John who had moved on.

When Sherlock looked again at John it was to see his own face and form being studied, an odd look on John's face. Sherlock barely had a moment to register the look before it was gone, all expression wiped clean from John's usually mobile face.

"John? I believe you would benefit from learning to dance, after all, it is a traditional part of the after wedding ceremony, but, if you prefer, I will find someone else to teach you." Sherlock bit his lower lip in an unusual show of indecision, his usually eloquent hands stilled and silent.

"No!" Sherlock rocked slightly on his heels at the vehemence of John's exclamation. "No." John uttered again, this time more calmly. "I'd like you to teach me, not a stranger. But, can we.... can we not talk to anyone else about this Sherlock? Keep it just between us, for now?"

"Of course John. Just between us. Although at a later point you may want to let Mary know, stop her worrying about your performance after the wedding."

"Sherlock!" John snapped out in warning.

"No, John!" Sherlock's face coloured with the realisation of how his words had sounded. "Your dancing performance! I meant your dancing performance!"

"Ah, well, in that case Sherlock I'll see you tomorrow. I am certain you have plenty planned."

John turned and began to leave the room, his body tense and purposeful.

"John, I think you should know something."

John turned and faced Sherlock, for once meeting his eyes.

"I love to dance. In fact I adore it! And I'm actually very good at it!"

John's face broke into a wide grin and Sherlock's heart lifted in response. "Of course you bloody are Sherlock! I'd expect nothing less of you, tomorrow you can show your skills off. Goodbye Sherlock."

"Goodbye John. I look forward to tomorrow."

Chapter Text

Modern or classical? - SH

I think a mixture of both might be advisable. - SH

Allows for a wider range of techniques to be employed. - SH

Sherlock, I'm at work, this can wait. - JW

Hang on a minute, modern or classical what? What techniques? Sherlock what are you waffling on about now? - JW

Dancing John! Dear God is your brain really that pedestrian? It's only been twelve hours! - SH

I do not waffle John. - SH

No, my brain is really not that 'pedestrian'. I'm working Sherlock, I have other things to be doing. - JW

What other things? Your wedding is only a few months away, this should be at the top of your priority list! - SH

Sherlock, I will be with you in three hours. Until then I'm enforcing radio silence. - JW

Radio silence! How very dull. - SH

And predictable. The good doctor didn't succeed in making me stop, so now it's time for the Captain to take over. - SH

Really John, you should see someone about these alter egos you have. - SH

I think the height difference could be a problem. - SH

God. I'm so bored!! - SH

John? John? JOHN!! I'M BORED JOHN! - SH

Where did you put your gun? - SH

Sherlock! Do not, I repeat do not use the gun! Poor Mrs Hudson will never forgive us..... Forgive you! - JW

You really do realise that shouting via text doesn't actually work don't you? - JW

And yet here you are. - SH

You are such a childish prat sometimes Sherlock. - JW

And yet you are the one doing the insulting John. - SH

Idiot. - JW

What is this rubbish about height difference? Mary and I are similar in height. - JW

Yes. Short. I know. I meant you and me. It could make some of the timing awkward. - SH

Lanky twit. - JW

I'll be there in twenty minutes Sherlock. Do not make me regret this. - JW.

John spent the next five minutes bustling about his office, making sure everything was neat and tidy for the next working day. Moments later he was in the staff bathroom inspecting his appearance in the dull mirror. Hands clenched over the edge of the sink John fought off a sudden bout of nausea, a thin layer of sweat prickling his forehead. Shaking his head he forced himself to face his own reflection, as if somehow he could stare down the anxiety he felt inside.

"Don't be such a prat John Watson, it's just dancing. You can handle this." His reflection grimaced at him, a mockery of a smile. "So I really am going mad, bloody talking to myself now." With a curt nod John submerged his hands into the cool water, raising them to his lowered head he thoroughly soaked his face, trying to wash away all trace of nausea, nerves and ..... was that excitement? His heart was pounding as he returned his gaze to the mirror, cheeks flushed, eyes dilated. John knew it was wrong to be wanting this physical contact with Sherlock so much. At all really, but dear God he needed to be close to him. Sherlock was usually so protective of being touched and John had respected that. Had never allowed his body to come in contact with Sherlock's unless it had been for a case or whilst tending Sherlock's many injuries. But then it had been in a professional manner, now it was going to be personal ..... intimate and his whole body yearned for Sherlock. If learning to dance was his only chance to steal that intimacy then that is what he would do. He fought back against the nausea that he knew was brought on by his guilt over Mary. He tried to reason that he wasn't actually cheating on her - not physically, but he knew he couldn't lie to himself that he wasn't cheating on her emotionally.

John? Where are you? You said twenty minutes, it's been forty. - SH

I've selected suitable music. Something appropriate to being in love. - SH

John glanced at his phone as it beeped again in his hand. What did Sherlock even know about being in love? Had he ever actually been in love? Experienced that gut wrenching fear when the person they love is hurt or suffering? Felt that surge of adrenalin that came from running at their side? The crippling heartbreaking numbness of losing them forever? The heartache of having them back from the dead, only to never actually admit your feelings? To have them in your life every day but not have them to yourself? Of course not. It was only John who had experienced such useless emotions. Sentiment. He snorted as his face pulled again into the mockery of a smile.

Sorry, Sherlock. Missed the bus, just walking along Baker Street. - JW

John quickly typed out another text.

Sherlock? Have you ever been in love? Have you ever allowed sentiment into your head? Into your heart? Have you ever allowed me into it? - JW

Pausing mid step he stared at what he had typed. Idiot, bloody useless, lovesick idiot! Biting his lower lip to stop the tears he could feel prickling the back of his eyes he quickly deleted the message.

Glancing up he realised that he had reached 221B, taking a steadying breath he used his own key to unlock the door.

"John dear, is that you?" A warm, motherly voice called from along the hall.

"Yes Mrs Hudson, it's me. I'm just here to to to um....." John stuttered to a halt, unable to come up with a suitable lie and suddenly desperate to not let Mrs Hudson know what he and Sherlock would be doing.

"It's alright Mrs Hudson. John is here to help on a very important case, top secret. In fact it would be best if you could ensure no one disturbed us for the next couple of hours. Come along John." Sherlock's rich baritone drifted down the stairs.

"I'll be right there Sherlock. Sorry Mrs Hudson, duty calls." John gently squeezed his former landlady's shoulder, giving a crooked grin when she reached over unexpectedly to caress his face gently.

"I've missed you dear. We both have. So lovely to have you home." With that she turned and walked quickly back to her apartment, giving John a quick wave as she went.

"John? Come along, the sooner we get started the better you'll be. Time is of the essence."

"Yes, right, coming." Wetting his lips with a quick swipe of the tongue, John mentally girded himself for the challenge awaiting him - dancing with Sherlock whilst maintaining a cool demeanour and hopefully not treading on Sherlock's toes in the process. John took the stairs two at a time, bounding through the door, quickly spinning on the spot to lock it behind him.

"Good thinking John."

John looked up to see Sherlock smiling at him from across the room. A genuine, warm smile, a smile John suddenly realised he had never seen Sherlock bestow on anyone else. His heart beat a tattoo in response, his face melting into an answering grin.

Chapter Text

The moment that John was inside the flat Sherlock had felt some of his anxiety melt away. He had been so nervous waiting for John to arrive. Worried that John would change his mind, worried that John would see the deeper reason behind the dance lessons and refuse. Sherlock truly wanted to be of help to John, he was taking his Best Man duties very seriously after all, but he was honest enough with himself. Now. Finally. To admit that the greater part of his eagerness was to have an excuse to spend some precious hours with John. Hours not spent looking at corpses or running across rooftops, the Work was important, of course it was. But John, John was vital.

The sound of the lock sliding into place on the flat door had released a smile from Sherlock. A smile he could feel reaching his eyes, stretching his lips and filling his heart. A smile he knew he had never had before he met John and that he only used for John. His heart's smile. Sherlock had been unable to stop the smile that now covered his face and truthfully he had stopped trying to hide it. The first time he had smiled like that he had shocked himself, he had worked for so many years to keep his 'softer' emotions at bay and then John, his John, had appeared in the doorway of St Barts and slowly, almost without him realising it, Sherlock's previously locked away emotions had started to surface. Now, nearly half a decade later, it was still only John who received that smile.

Sherlock met John's eyes as he stood just inside 221B. Home. Their home. John's eyes were sparkling with barely contained excitement, their dark blue depths intensified. Sherlock slowly forced himself to study the rest of John, committing each detail to memory. John's smile was as true and natural as his own, the pure joy shown in every line of his expressive face. John always seemed so much younger when he allowed his happiness or excitement to show. Sherlock was now fighting to keep his breathing controlled as he catalogued all the details before him. As always John fascinated him.

Stance wide and relaxed. Happy to be here. To be with me?
One hand still resting on the lock. Ensuring the possibility of a quick exit? No. Just stillness, preparing for what is to come.
No tremble in hand. Ready to face whatever 'battle' is coming his way.
Trousers, not jeans. Straight from work.
Shirt and tie, no jumper.
Physique shown to advantage.
Muscles still firm and defined.

Sherlock's mouth formed a small 'O' in surprise at the last two deductions. He had always been aware of John's physique and fitness but now he seemed fully conscious of the effects of them on him, the upcoming intimacy of dancing heightening each sense. His breath hitched as his eyes travelled across John's broad shoulders, a barely perceptible tightness in the left, down onto a chest that was still heaving from the quick race upstairs - must check John's fitness level, taking an inordinate amount of time for breathing to recover - the fit of John's shirt emphasising each breath. Tailored trousers only served to focus Sherlock's attention more on the natural strength of the man before him. Firm, strong hips and waist, deceptively flat stomach - why do you hide this away under jumpers John? You have a beautiful, amazing, powerful body. - Muscular legs, capable of running long distances without faltering. Sherlock's mind raced at the physique in front of him. Images of John naked and breathless suddenly flooded his brain. John's strong legs and arms bracing his weight as he thrust into Sherlock, alternated with those of John flat on his back, arms held above his head, legs wrapped about Sherlock as Sherlock pounded into him. Both men sweating and lost in each other, the desire palpable, words unneeded as they allowed their bodies to speak more eloquently than either could ever manage. Sherlock felt the need flame into his stomach and took a sudden step back from John. Tearing his eyes away from John he fixed his focus on the fireplace. He needed to distance himself, needed to clear the fog of desire away so he could think clearly. Act rationally, not do anything to damage his friendship with John. John. His John. Sherlock slowly ran his hands over his face before running them through his hair, the everyday motions helping to ground him.

Finally Sherlock was able to return his gaze to John. John was still standing just inside the doorway but now his hand was extended out towards Sherlock. Reaching for him but not making contact, just as it had done when Sherlock had stood on the roof at Bart's. The day when Sherlock realised that the only way to keep the man he loved alive was by leaving him.

"Sherlock?" John's voice was gentle, his face now devoid of its smile, concern instead etched in its place. "What's the matter? You seem like you drifted off to your mind palace and then....."

John faltered over the words and Sherlock knew that this was too much for John. John did not like to put his deeper emotions on display, would not talk about them if they inadvertently showed. In that way they were indeed similar. Sherlock had originally chosen not to show any 'soft' emotions, such as love and concern, and John refused to talk about any emotions. Together both men had been starting to lower their defences and show a more balanced persona. But that had been before The Fall. Sherlock remained more open even now, his determination to show John how much a better person he could be, fighting with his natural instinct to put up his defensive walls again. John, however, had closed down again. His defensive wall was thicker and stronger than previously. Only now, after many months of being back and cases forcing them together, had John allowed part of that wall to come down.

"Memories. Memories and regrets John." Sherlock's voice was steadier than he had expected it to be and he silently congratulated himself on his control and acting.

"Ok...." Concern coloured John's voice, making it deeper, rougher. His brows were drawn together, a deep line etching his skin. "Remember, if you need to talk, I'm here for you. Always." John's face suddenly flushed at the intimacy of his words. Sherlock tilted his head as John hastily added. "As is Mrs Hudson, Molly and Greg. Mycroft too if you get really desperate!" The last part was spoken with a shaky laugh, John's attempt to lighten the suddenly heavy atmosphere.

"Greg?" Sherlock raised one eyebrow, working at keeping his tone light. Of course he knew who Greg was but he knew that it delighted John to think he didn't know the first name of the man he had spent almost a decade working with. "And I would have to be truly desperate to need Mycroft." Although said lightly both men knew that not so long ago there had been a time when Sherlock had been that desperate.

"Greg! Greg Lestrade you idiot! He's a good bloke Sherlock, learn his name!" John had decided to let the Mycroft comment pass, working instead to keep the mood light by resorting to affectionate name calling.

"John. Do you really think it's wise to be calling the man who is about to teach you to dance an idiot? A dance, in fact, that you will be doing in front of all your nearest and dearest?" Despite the serious words Sherlock forced his voice to be light-hearted and carefree.

"Probably not." John's voice matched Sherlock's in its lightness, a sheepish grin now pulling at his lips. Sherlock watched as John rubbed at the back of his own neck, a nervous habit that belied the light words. "But then you've always told me I'm an idiot so why should I change a habit of a lifetime?"

"Why indeed John." Once again Sherlock allowed himself to smile. The smile he reserved only for John. Taking a calming breath, he held out his open hand to John. "And so, to dance."

Chapter Text

John was stepping towards Sherlock's offered hand before he consciously realised what he was doing. Coming to an abrupt halt, his breath catching in his throat, he was suddenly very much aware that he would be invading Sherlock's personal space. Sherlock had no qualms about invading his. So often and with such ease that John occasionally allowed himself to believe that Sherlock was attracted to him, enjoying the fantasy before remembering that The Work always came first. Sherlock showed no reticence about demonstrating acts of affection towards Mrs Hudson, but was more hesitant with Greg or Molly. When it came to acting out physical affection for potential suspects Sherlock was a master, adjusting the idea of personal space as necessary. Despite this careful act John knew that Sherlock did not welcome the invasion of his own space, muscles tightening almost imperceptibly, eyes narrowing quickly, his distaste clear. John had vivid memories of when The Woman had leaned in and kissed Sherlock on the cheek. John had looked for the usual reactions from Sherlock but there had been none to see, even now that knowledge pained him. Sherlock had not locked down instead he had rattled off his deduction at super speed. Sherlock had obviously been inspired by The Woman, but had looked directly to John upon solving it and had actively asked for The Woman not to praise him, seeking only John's approval. That had been some comfort at least.

Shaking his head John physically tried to clear the memory away. He knew he needed to be level headed for his dance lessons, needed every ounce of self control he could muster. Remaining still, John catalogued his own reactions to the upcoming event. His breath was uneven, almost laboured; surely his heart was beating loudly enough for Sherlock to hear? His arms were now straight at his sides, almost pinned in place, left hand tightly clenched. Forcing himself to take a calming breath, he closed his eyes and concentrated on easing the tension from his muscles. He tilted his head from one side to the other before moistening his lips and slowly opening his eyes. Jesus Christ! Sherlock was studying him with an intensity that made his pulse spike, the reaction almost painful. Those mesmerising eyes totally focussed on John, bright blue with a starburst of central green, detailing every feature. Picking him apart until John felt naked and vulnerable. The soldier in John took over, unconsciously forcing him to stand taller, make his shoulders broader, to meet Sherlock's gaze squarely with his own. No backing down, no surrender. Sherlock's hand had remained held out but John noted a faint tremble before Sherlock slowly lowered it. Maintaining eye contact Sherlock slowly inclined his head to the side before allowing his upper body to strain towards John. Dear God! The sight of the long column of Sherlock's neck exposed was almost enough to send John into free-fall, he could feel his heart hammering in his chest, the air being sucked into suddenly too small lungs. Sherlock's gaze fell to John's still-moist lips, his own lips parting in response. John unconsciously licked his lower lip again and was startled to hear Sherlock's breath hitch whilst taking an involuntarily step closer, all the time his gaze never leaving John's face.

The intensity of the situation was almost too much for John's iron self control. He could feel the heat coming off Sherlock in waves, each breath he took was permeated with Sherlock. He was wrapped in Sherlock's essence, each particle of his being flooded and entwined with him. He was captured, beyond hope of rescue, and God help him, he wanted no rescue. John wanted Sherlock. All of Sherlock. The intellect that could tear people down or build them up. The softly curling hair that added to Sherlock's unique beauty, the sharp eyes, the bloody cheekbones, the perfectly shaped lips. Oh fuck, how much he wanted those lips. All of his carefully hidden desires flooded to the surface, he no longer cared if Sherlock would see them. All rational thought had gone, only want remained. And oh how he wanted! He wanted to close the gap between them, to pull Sherlock's lips to his own, to feel their strength and tenderness interwoven with his own, all words momentarily stilled. Wanted to rub his thumb along the jawline, to feel the fine stubble under his finger tips, to run them down that long neck, feeling the vibrations of escaping moans. Wanted to ease Sherlock's lips open with his own, to entwine their tongues, to see the flush rise on Sherlock's cheeks as his body responded. Wanted to carry out his own investigations. Wanted to discover what Sherlock felt like in those hidden places, what he felt like when they were pressed together skin on skin, length against length. What he smelled like when his skin was covered in a fine sheen of moist desire and John's lips were tracing lines of worshipful prayer over it. Wanted to run his tongue over long limbs, savouring tastes and textures. Wanted to know what he sounded like when John's gentle explorations caused Sherlock's control to melt, to moan and gasp aloud. Fuck. He wanted to see Sherlock come undone, to lose himself in the moment, to arch his back, to throw his head back, to clench his hands against John's skin as John stroked him to completion. He wanted Sherlock to know what he did to him, how being with Sherlock made him completely whole. Wanted him to know how walking into Bart's all those years ago had completely altered his life, saved him. Both men stood frozen in time, eyes locked on the other, lost in their own worlds, neither daring to close the final few feet between them. Through his haze John was able see that Sherlock's face was flushed, pupils blown wide, breath coming in short gasps. Could feel the searching look on Sherlock's face as his eyes darted from feature to feature, his expression a complicated mix of confusion, guilt and lust.

A sudden rapping at the door made both men start, causing a brief, but violent profanity to escape John's lips. The moment was gone, perhaps lost forever and the realisation tore through John as effectively as any bullet could, shredding his emotions, leaving each nerve and sinew battered and bloody. Realising he was leaning towards Sherlock, John took a step back, blinking rapidly as he tried to clear the lingering images of a confused, wanting Sherlock from his mind. Offering an awkward grin in Sherlock's direction before glancing down at his feet he cleared his throat as he steeled himself for an awkward conversation, but one that needed to happen. He needed to know if what he had seen on Sherlock's face had been true, if Sherlock did indeed have feelings for him or whether, once again, he had just misread the situation.

"Sher...." The words were swallowed in the echo of another bout of sharp raps at the door. "Shit."

"Sherlock. I know you are in there. Stop being ridiculous and open this door." A bored, cold voice seeped into the room, instantly putting John on edge. Sherlock emitted a sound of extreme displeasure, a deep, feral noise from deep within his chest, more dangerous than any siren John had heard. Sherlock stalked to the door, unlocking it in a quick, sharp movement before wrenching it open.

"Mycroft." Sherlock stepped back from the door, allowing his brother access to the flat. "I told you previously that your presence is unnecessary here. Whatever more you have to say I'm not interested." Sherlock's face was once again devoid of any softer emotions, blue eyes almost supernaturally pale and icy, his features harsh.

"Clearly." Mycroft's cold gaze swept across the room, lingering on John. John instinctively rearranged his body into 'at ease' stance. Feet shoulder width apart, hands grasped behind his back, a sturdy posture that clearly said, 'Don't fuck with me Mycroft.' He fixed a look of barely polite interest on his face and steadily met Mycroft's gaze. Mycroft merely raised one imperious brow before turning back to his brother. "Sherlock, as you are avoiding all attempts at communication with me you leave me no choice but to come here. Believe me, I am no happier than you at my being here. The case I discussed with you last week is still requiring your attention. England needs you."

A choked snort from John once again drew Mycroft's gaze. "And what does the good Doctor have to offer on this matter, hmmmm? Do enlighten me." Mycroft's impression of a smile was now firmly pinned to his face. John decided that he looked rather like a shark trying to charm its prey. Lesser men may have backed down in the light of that stare but John merely bristled with cold bitterness.

"England?" Snorted John, anger making his voice deeper, colder. "England needs him? What about bloody Scotland, Wales and Ireland? Not to mention all the associated countries and islands our monarchy is supposedly responsible for. Hmmm?" John was now fighting to stay calm, where did bloody Mycroft get off? Trying to guilt Sherlock into doing something he didn't want to. "Or can they just wait their turn? Sit tight and get their arses blown off until bloody Mycroft bloody Holmes decides it's their turn? " The anger continued to churn in his stomach, the taste bitter in his mouth.

"Apologies. It was just a turn of phrase John, I assure you." Mycroft allowed his cold eyes to linger a moment longer on John, taking in the strong stance and closed face, before slowly turning back to face Sherlock, leaning slightly on his ever present umbrella. John resisted the very childish urge of kicking the umbrella away just to watch Mycroft fall.

"No." Sherlock's response was curt, crisp and totally unarguable, cutting through any argument that Mycroft had been about to give.

"I'm sorry. I don't believe I heard you correctly brother. For a moment I thought you said no." Mycroft's stance remained fixed but John saw the slight whitening of knuckles around the umbrella, a tell that Sherlock would have noted.

"No. My answer is no. I've already told you I'm not taking on any new work until after John's wedding. John is my main priority now." Sherlock's voice was cold but John couldn't help the warm feeling he had from hearing Sherlock say that he was a priority. A private smile hovered briefly on his lips as once again Mycroft looked in his direction.

"Sherlock, I hope you understand what you are getting into here." As Mycroft's gaze was turned back to Sherlock, John was convinced he saw a glimpse of concern on the usually unreadable face.

"Of course I do. I'm not a child anymore Mycroft. Please leave. John and I have wedding plans to sort. Your presence is neither needed nor wanted." Sherlock crossed to the door, opening it and pointing his brother through it.

Mycroft walked to the threshold before looking at both his brother and John, his face slightly confused as he swept his look from one man to the other. Then with a brief twirl of his umbrella he turned and walked down the stairs. Only when John heard the front door click did he look towards Sherlock. Sherlock was looking down, his thumb resting on his lower lip whilst one finger drifted along the line of his upper lip.

"Sherlock I don't mind you know." Sherlock's head snapped up at the sound of John's softly spoken words, his eyes narrowing in confusion. " I don't mind if you want to work some cases during the run up to the wedding, could be fun actually."

Sherlock continued to study John before removing his hand from his lips and walking towards John, halting only a footstep away from him. John raised his chin to maintain eye contact but he could feel his eyes drifting down to Sherlock's lips and then lower onto his collar bone, before meeting their steel gaze again. Sherlock inclined his head, his eyes still not leaving John's.

"No John. You are my work now. Do you understand?" John couldn't help but feel he was missing something vital but for the life of him he had no clue what. Instead he gave a slow nod, keeping his eyes fixed on Sherlock. Suddenly Sherlock seemed to snap out of the seriousness, jumping gracefully back and bringing his hands together as he spun away from John laughing.

Chapter Text

Sherlock's heart suddenly felt so light that he couldn't resist continuing his little twirling dance. Despite knowing that John didn't really understand what he had been trying to imply, the fact remained that John had listened carefully, had made an effort, had clearly known it was something more than the obviously stated words and he had stayed. He had not rushed off, using Mycroft's interruption as an excuse to race back to Mary. He had stayed here with Sherlock, chosen Sherlock over Mary. Sherlock savoured the memory of the emotional vibes that had been emanating from John before Mycroft's arrival. Those vibes were so much more than friendship, even if John's brain were unwilling to admit the attraction, his body had eagerly been putting out signals of attraction. Sherlock's own body had responded, the heat flooding again in memory of the unspoken attraction. For now Sherlock chose not to think about John's upcoming marriage, instead separating his emotions out, parcelling out those of guilt and betrayal to his friendship and burying them deep within his mind palace. This afternoon he would savour the sensation of John dancing with him. If he could not fully pretend that the reason he was dancing with John was purely because that's what they both wanted, then he would pretend that, once again, it was some foolish date that John was preparing for. Another meaningless woman that John would later not even remember the name of. John always came back to 221B. Back home. Back to him. Back to where he belonged.

Sherlock gradually became aware of the sound of John giggling, the sound was like a caress, familiar, reassuring and totally intoxicating. Before meeting John, Sherlock would have felt a mixture of mortification and confusion at being laughed at, but his enforced time away from John had compelled him to rethink his sense of self. With it had come the realisation that before John he had been a desperately lonely man, in complete denial of his emotions, in a constant battle to keep them locked away as unnecessary and damaging. He had wrapped himself up in layers of coldness and distance to keep himself from being hurt or ridiculed, but John had gradually unwrapped him. Made him see that his idea of self had been unnecessary and idiotic and, with John at least, he allowed more of his true self to show. Now he knew that the warm giggling he could hear was a sign of trust, familiarity and affection - almost everything he could ever wish for from John. He felt his own laugh rumbling in his chest before it mingled with John's, deep baritone and light giggling, their combined sounds beautiful and comforting.

"Right John I think we've procrastinated enough, don't you? Time for the lesson to begin!" Sherlock managed to huff out between bouts of laughter, his eyes purely focused on John.

Grabbing a remote from the mantelpiece he pressed a selection of buttons and suddenly the flat was flooded by the sound of classical music.

"Emperor Waltz, also known as the Kaiser-Walzer. Composed by Johann Strauss II in 1889. It seemed an appropriate choice for you John as it has a slight military feel to it. Indeed, it starts with a quiet march before breaking into sweeping waltz. Now, take my hand."

John's deep blue eyes were sparkling with humour and Sherlock was fascinated to see how he had started to sway to the waltz, his body unconsciously moving to the rhythm. This boded well for the dancing, Sherlock quickly shut down the thought that connected good dancing skills with sexual expertise, deciding to revisit that particular image when he was alone.

"Sherlock, I'm not going to hold your bloody hand!" Despite the serious words, John was still smiling, his mobile features soft and relaxed.

"At some point you are going to have to. Stop being so juvenile about it. You've done it before." Sherlock kept his voice light and teasing too, unconsciously mirroring John.

He was surprised to see a faint bloom of colour on John's cheeks. It was either indicative of embarrassment or arousal. Embarrassed about having prolonged physical contact? Aroused by the possibility? As much as Sherlock wanted to linger on that possibility he knew he had to cocentrate on the lesson. Closing his eyes he willed the thought away, locking it with the idea of a sexually experienced, rhythmic John. Sherlock decided he was going to live in the moment and damn well enjoy it! And he was going to use everything in his considerable armoury to make sure John did too!

"Technically right Sherlock." John rubbed at the back of his neck, before running his hand over his face, trying to keep the fond smile away. " But as I remember it, we were bloody handcuffed together and running away from the cops! It was either hold your hand or have my arm pulled out of its socket! Really not my idea of fun!" Pausing again, Sherlock could see that John was remembering the after events; events that led up to Sherlock standing on the roof of St. Bart's, the events that led to his 'death'. He watched as John straightened his shoulders and could pinpoint the exact moment that John made the decision not to dwell in the past. "And you, you bastard, had held a gun to my head in front of half of bloody Scotland Yard! I could plead I was in shock. Didn't know what I was doing."

A half smile pulled at Sherlock's full lips, softening his features. He had always been happiest when actively involved in something, either physically or mentally. Having John running at his side, his muscular hand clasped in his own larger hand had been exhilarating and was an image to which he kept returning during his years away.

"You could, but we both know that you thrive on adventure, as do I. Why put off the inevitable John?" A thrill of excitement ran through his body at his words, lingering in his chest momentarily.

Sherlock kept perfectly still, his hand held out in front of him, as John walked purposefully towards him. Sherlock drank in the image of him, compact and muscular but seemingly soft and vulnerable. What an enigma John Watson was. The moment that John put his hand in his, Sherlock felt a soft sigh escape his lips and quickly turned it into a small, inconsequential 'mmmm'. His body relaxed, making him realise how tense he had become waiting for John. John quirked an eyebrow but otherwise allowed his body to remain still, his hand resting lightly in Sherlock's. For a long moment the two men adjusted to the new contact between them, Sherlock savouring the feel of John's hand in his own, smaller than his but no less capable, able to kill or heal. A hand that was willingly placed in his own and willingly left.

"Erm, Sherlock? When did you clear the room?" John's brow creased in confusion, looking around fully for the first time since entering the flat. He noted that the chairs had been pushed to the edges of the room, as had the low coffee table and his own little side table. The floor was remarkably clear of papers and books and a sizeable area was left devoid of any trip hazards.

Sherlock followed John's glance around the room. Had John really been so lost in the preceding events that he was only now noticing?

"As usual John you see, but you do not observe." A chuckle warming his voice, taking the edge off of the all too common insult.

Taking John's hand in a firmer grip, Sherlock tugged on his arm, unsettling his balance and pulling him into a swift turn so that he was fully facing Sherlock. Sherlock's body flooded with warmth at John's proximity and he closed his eyes momentarily, only coping with the flood of new sensations and information by temporarily removing one of his senses. When he re-opened them it was to see John looking up with him, wonder obvious on his face. The wonky half smile Sherlock loved so much clear to see. Smiling down at John he fought the urge to stroke his free hand down John's cheek. He knew he was at serious risk of overstepping the already blurred boundaries he and John had in their unique friendship.

Slowly he lifted his other hand before joining it with John's free hand, his eyes darting over John's features, seeing nothing but trust there. Taking a steadying breath Sherlock fought to appear more calm than he felt. Having John this close to him was a lot more challenging than he had thought.

"You are going to take the position of the dominant one John." Sherlock felt a rush of colour to his cheeks at the implication of his words, relieved only when he heard John's small chuckle. "The dominant one in the dance, John. Puerile." He couldn't resist giving John a soft smile before once again taking on the tone he adopted when explaining his findings. "I will dance the role of the follower."

"Sherlock, I don't know the dance. How am I supposed to bloody lead?" Exasperation clear in John's voice.

"I'm going to lead from the position of being your following party. Obviously." Sherlock rolled his eyes at John. "Until you learn the steps I am going to explain it to you and manipulate your body through the necessary movements. I would have thought that would have been self explanatory."

"Not to me Sherlock. Get explaining then. I feel a bit of a twit standing here holding your hands." Despite his words there was no discomfort on John's face, his stance still relaxed, the only tell against the apparent calm was a slight tremor through his arms.

Sherlock adjusted his hold on John, letting go of John's right hand but keeping a firm hold on his left.

"This should be a good stance for you John as it's largely left side dominant. Now raise our joined hands so that they are level with your shoulders." Sherlock savoured the sensation of John's firm grip on his hand, closing his eyes to focus on keeping his breathing even. Opening them he was able to see a questioning look on John's face. "Good, that's good John." He was rewarded with a glowing smile for his encouraging words and resolved to praise John at every opportunity just to see that look again.

"Right, now I need you to put your right hand on the edge of my shoulder blade." Sherlock started in surprise when he felt John's hand at his waist, the warmth clear through his shirt, the thin material no barrier at all. Sherlock bit his lower lip to keep the sigh locked in that threatened to erupt as he felt John's hand slide slowly up his back. It was more glorious than he had ever imagined to feel that hand move gently over his body. His reverie was broken with a sharp gasp from John, his hand suddenly released and dropped.

"John! What's the matter? What happened?" Searching John's face he was horrified to see pain etched on there. What had happened? What was John reacting to?

"Fuck, Sherlock! What the hell happened to your back?" John's eyes briefly met Sherlock's before shifting back to his body. Stepping forward he reached for Sherlock again, attempting to turn him for further investigation.

Ah. Sherlock knew what John's questing hands had found. Stepping away from him, Sherlock held up his hand in a signal for John to stop.

"Scars. From my time away. We are not discussing this now John, but we will, if ..... if you feel you need to know." Other than the one small break Sherlock's voice remained firm, brooking no argument. Sherlock watched as John struggled internally how far he was going to push his need for information, his need to check on Sherlock's well being, finally recognising the moment that John temporarily resigned himself.

"Ok Sherlock. For now I won't push, but you WILL tell me. Just tell me if I ....... " His words broke off and once again pain washed over his face.

"It's ok John. You won't hurt me. I'm indestructible remember?" Sherlock tried to break the tense mood but he longed to just pull John into his arms, to comfort him in the way he wished he could have when he had heard John's broken plea at his graveside.

Clearing his throat he called them both back to the here and now.

"Again John. Hold my right hand in your left. Excellent. Now put your right hand on my back, just cupping my shoulder blade. Perfect, John, perfect."

Sherlock looked down at John, smiling when he saw John's furrowed brow, his friend deep in concentration.

"I'm going to put my hand on you now."

Gently Sherlock placed his hand on John's right shoulder. Two points of contact. That was all it took for Sherlock to feel more grounded, more whole than he had in a long while. Two simple points. Fighting to keep his voice even he continued with the rest of the explanation.

"Raise your elbows until they are at shoulder height. Yours John, not mine. No chicken impressions needed." His breath caught in his throat as he felt the low chuckle John gave travelling through his finger tips. The gentle tingle continued throughout his body, raising a gentle blush onto his cheeks.

"Good." His words barely more than a breathy whisper. "Very good John. I took the precaution of putting the song on the disc multiple times, that way we can just practice the moves without worrying about the music."

Sherlock took a long look at John, allowing his gaze to travel slowly over him, starting from the ground up.

"Feet together John." Sherlock could never understand why people thought John chunky or slow, looking at him now all he could see was a compact, trim body, very much in the prime of life, literally fighting fit. It must be all that infernal knitwear!

"Loosen your knees a little John, excellent." Raising his gaze he could see that the rest of John's body was perfectly positioned, back straight, body upright, his military background lending itself perfectly to this new situation. Looking John straight in the eye Sherlock uttered a final "Perfect" before adjusting his own position. He towered over John but could tell that John was far from intimidated by the height difference, his stance strong and powerful, Sherlock's tall and graceful. The perfect partnership.

Chapter Text

"Listen to the music John. Earlier your body was unconsciously responding to it. Let the music wash over you, enter every pore. Immerse yourself in it. Don't over think it, just let it happen."

John slowly looked up from where he had been busily studying his feet, working hard on getting the position and stance right.

"Sher...." Surprise evident on his face, his mouth dry at hearing the softly spoken words, John cleared his throat nervously before speaking, this time his voice sounded firmer. "That sounded almost .... romantic Sherlock."

"Nonsense. You are the one in the habit of romanticising things, as is evident from that inane blog you insist on keeping." Sherlock removed his hand from John's shoulder, waving it around disdainfully. "Ever the romantic."

John felt the loss of Sherlock's hand on his shoulder keenly but before he could come up with a way of getting Sherlock to put it back his attention was drawn elsewhere. Sherlock was tugging at his shirt, evidently trying to get it to sit more comfortably, whilst continuing to lecture John on the impracticality of romance. John heard very little. Sherlock's lecture on romanticism had receded into white noise; it was a delicious experience of sensing the rich resonance of his voice without hearing the words. John's attention was now captivated by the line of buttons on Sherlock's shirt. As usual they were waging a battle to slip free of their enslavers. They had fought bravely, forcing the buttonholes to stretch and give. John knew it was only a matter of time before the buttons were victorious, finally escaping their oppressors and allowing the shirt to open; the battle won. John was completely on the side of the buttons and eagerly wished for that day to happen whilst he was there. A small giggle escaped him before he was able to hastily stifle it, he really didn't want to be explaining to Sherlock that he was objectifying shirt fastenings as soldiers, their continued quest for freedom or dominance as a battlefield! Maybe he was a romantic after all, just one with a rather unique take on the world!

John almost sighed in relief when he felt Sherlock's hand return to his shoulder. He was intensely aware of Sherlock's proximity, how he could feel Sherlock's body heat merging with his own, how his breathing was slowing to match the steady breathing of Sherlock. Closing his eyes John savoured the sensation of his hand held within Sherlock's larger one, Sherlock's long fingers gently, but firmly closed around John's hand, John's thumb idly tracing small circles on Sherlock's skin. He could feel the muscles on Sherlock's back, gently moving under the fingers of his right hand. Resisting the temptation to sweep his hand over Sherlock's back John allowed himself to live in the moment.

A minute part of John's brain was telling him that he should be feeling self conscious, that he shouldn't be feeling so comfortable standing so intimately with Sherlock. That he should leave and go home to Mary, that this situation wasn't fair on anyone. It was the same part of his brain that had made him attack Sherlock on his return, when all he had wanted to do was welcome him back with open arms. The same part that had made him pursue his proposal to Mary, even though he had been unsure. The part that had kept him distant from Sherlock, emotionally and physically, for months. It was also the part he totally ignored when out on cases, the bit that said 'don't go in there, it's dangerous' as John launched himself full pelt into a burning building after Sherlock. It was this minute part of his brain that John was steadfastly ignoring again now, instead of listening to the larger, much more vocal part that was telling him how much he belonged there. Belonged in 221B, belonged in this room, belonged with Sherlock. How right being held by Sherlock felt and how exhilarated he felt just from the proximity of him.

"Tell me if this puts any strain on your shoulder. I know you cope admirably but this is an unusual position for you to maintain."

John was momentarily stunned by the consideration being shown to him, shock making his words harsh.

"Since when are you concerned about my shoulder?"

Before John had a chance to explain his quick words all reasonable thought left him as he felt Sherlock give his shoulder a hesitant, gentle squeeze. Glancing up, John was surprised to see a softness in Sherlock's face, a warmth gracing the usually sharp features.

"I always have been John. I need you in full working order. What use would you be otherwise?"

A slow smile spreading over John's face, he knew he looked like the idiot Sherlock always accused him of being, but quite honestly he no longer cared. Clearing his throat, overly aware that this was the chosen method of emotional avoidance, John sought for a way to change the conversation - ah yes, dancing.

"Teach me then Sherlock."

"Feet together. Forward with your left foot." Sherlock's voice had reverted to its usual precise tones, his eyes fixed on John, taking in his form and posture.

"Right foot diagonally forward. Now left foot to right. Good, good. Don't worry about the music pace yet."

John felt a little bubble of pleasure and pride in his chest. The music was beautiful; he was dancing with his best friend and earning the rarest of things - compliments!

"Right foot back. Diagonally back with left. Keep them a shoulder width apart. Right foot over to left. You've returned to the starting position."

John looked around in amazement, they were precisely where they'd started but he knew they had moved, had felt the muscles in Sherlock's upper body tensing and relaxing as they stepped, had seen Sherlock's feet moving in tandem with his own.

"Those are the basic steps. Keep most of your weight on your toes. Again."

John allowed himself to be moved through the steps, feeling his body gently guided as he automatically responded to the instructions. Their timing was still not matching the music but he could now visualise how it would work, his mind drifting as he enjoyed the sensation of being held close to Sherlock.

"Pay attention John."

The quick rebuke brought a flush to his cheeks before he quickly concentrated on the steps again. Suddenly Sherlock stopped. Lifting his head, John gave his friend a curious glance. He could feel Sherlock tensing and relaxing his hands, he was evidently nervous about something.

"I'm going to suggest we try something a bit unusual." Sherlock's deep voice continued, a slight note of hesitation making the words less clipped than usual. "My father taught me how to dance using this method and I really think it will help us to match the pace of the waltz. We will have to alter our arm position somewhat though."

"Of course Sherlock. Whatever you think is best." John tried to keep his voice calm, but he could hear the warmth in it. His thoughts in brief turmoil as to whether he wanted Sherlock to notice, and question, his agitation or not.

"Step on my feet John." The words were spoken so rapidly John was convinced he must have misheard.

"What?"

"You heard me John. Please don't make me repeat myself." The usual iciness was back in Sherlock's voice.

John's barely recovered cheeks flushed again at the suggestion and he immediately chastised himself for his juvenile reaction. He was sure he could see a light blush on his friend's usually pale cheeks; this suggestion was obviously causing him some discomfort and John felt a wash of sentiment when he realised that Sherlock was willing to try anything if it helped John learn to dance, even at the expense of his own comfort.

"People are definitely going to talk now."

"And you think they don't already? Let them, why should we care? Step on John."

Sherlock took his hands away from John but held his arms out as if inviting John for a hug. Taking a deep breath and wondering when his life had become quite so surreal he stepped closer before putting one foot on each of Sherlock's, all the time trying to think 'light' thoughts in the hope that it would stop him squashing Sherlock's feet. Momentarily losing his balance he was shocked to feel two strong arms wrap firmly around his body, pulling him flush against Sherlock. "Put your arms around me John, it will help you keep your balance." Sherlock's voice sounded deeper, rougher to John's racing mind. He thought that he heard a hitch in Sherlock's breathing when he wrapped his own arms around him but dismissed the idea quickly. It was probably not a good idea to let his imagination run away from him whilst he was pressed so close to Sherlock. He could feel the material of Sherlock's shirt against his palms and allowed himself to savour the coolness, desperately pulling his attention away from what other parts of Sherlock he was pressed intimately against.

"Left forward, right diagonally, together, right back, left diagonally, together."

John could feel the words as Sherlock said them, the deep vibrations passing from Sherlock's chest into his own, the words themselves breathed against his hair. Closing his eyes he rested his cheek against Sherlock's shoulder, damn what anyone had to say, it felt too nice to be this close. Sherlock's grip tightened slightly against him, presumably to steady him as the steps began to speed up. John allowed himself to drift with Sherlock, instinctively moving his body to the now whispered instructions, although they were still only tracing the steps in a box pattern he could feel all the muscles of Sherlock's body as he moved them both through the steps. Each contraction and release sending a strange mixture of pleasure and relaxation through him. He knew they looked ridiculous, two grown men bunched up together like this, but he was finding the whole experience breathtakingly sensual. John allowed himself to be lost in the experience, letting the music wash over him as he breathed in Sherlock - warm, masculine, with a slight hint of chemicals - uniquely Sherlock. He didn't realise his contented sigh had been heard until Sherlock suddenly froze, his arms slowly releasing John.

"Erm. I think you've got the fundamentals now John. It's getting late."

John's heart sank into his stomach as he stepped from Sherlock's feet, forcing his arms back to his sides only to fold them into a protective stance across his body moments later.

"Yeah, probably. Thanks Sherlock. That was good. You're...." amazing, outstanding, beautiful..... "A really good teacher, much more patient than I probably deserve." John was mumbling in the direction of his feet, not wanting to look up in case Sherlock saw the sadness on his face.

"It's been....... good. Interesting. More tomorrow?" Sherlock sounded unusually hesitant. The strangeness made John look up.

"Tomorrow? Yeah, that would be good. I'll try and come earlier."

John's words were softly spoken but the impact on Sherlock was huge, a sudden smile making him look younger and strangely vulnerable. John felt like he was staring into the deepest black hole in the cosmos as he met Sherlock's gaze. The myriad colours in his eyes made John feel as if he were witnessing some sort of sentient supernova, all the knowledge of the universe contained within, all that knowledge and intensity currently focused on him. He knew that at that moment he was irretrievably lost. He had never been so happy.

Chapter Text

Sherlock flopped down into his chair, his thoughts a dizzying blur that threatened to overwhelm him. He needed to catalogue them, analyse the sensations and reactions going on within his body and on his skin, store them away in his mind palace for future reference. Closing his eyes and steepling his fingers in front of his mouth he allowed himself to drift amongst the various rooms.

Sherlock had spent so many years telling everyone he was a high functioning sociopath that he had almost come to believe it himself. He had created the label many years prior when life was just too overwhelming for him to cope. He had locked his emotions down, buried them deep. Convincing himself that Mycroft had been right, that caring was not an advantage, he had physically and mentally stepped away from everyone and everything, his only release being through chasing the brief high of drugs later followed by the high caused by solving crimes. Now those locked-down emotions were escaping, threatening to overwhelm him, rushing from him with the force of a tsunami. The catalyst?

John Hamish Watson.

From the moment John had limped into his life Sherlock knew that a leak had sprung in his defence wall; he had tried valiantly to plug it up again. He had tried all of the techniques that had proven successful at keeping people distant in the past. Disinterest had not worked - John had stayed. Rudeness had not worked - John had stayed. Blocking him from the Work had achieved nothing - John had stayed. Interfering in John's relationships had not worked - John had stayed. One thing had worked though - his staged death. Upon his return Sherlock had witnessed John's reaction to him and had thought that he had finally shored up the leak in his defence wall against his emotions. It had hurt him bitterly; he had been prepared to knock the last of that wall down for John. To wrap John up in his love for him, to never leave him again, to give John cause to keep staying. Sherlock's intellect was overwhelming but it paled in comparison to the intensity of his emotions when they were allowed free reign. Unsurprisingly John had been terrified upon first seeing Sherlock, convinced that he had actually lost his mind, that his hallucinations had finally taken firm control. Sherlock had read it all so easily on the broken man who stood in front him, his own fear and overwhelming emotions causing him to act irrationally, to say idiotic things. Sherlock tensed in his chair as the image of his betrayal in John's eyes burned its path across his mind palace. John had stumbled as he stood, the anger and fear had been evident and Sherlock had automatically reached to help, only stopping when he saw that John's iron will had re-asserted itself.

Sherlock pressed his steepled hands firmly against his lips, forcing his way through the first memories of his return, through the moments when he thought he had lost John forever. He allowed himself a few moments to linger on the moment that John had finally returned. John was cut, bruised, slightly burned and confused as to why he had once again been put in danger. But the old John was back, gone was the John that had lost his identity, hiding inside the clothes of a much older man, hiding his handsome, boyish smile under a moustache. Returned was the clean shaven doctor with the military bearing, the spark of adventure evident in his deep blue eyes. After that they had returned to working cases together when John's work schedule allowed, their interaction still a little stilted but each man clearly pleased to have their best friend back. Best friend. The words brought a half smile to Sherlock's face even when he was deep in his mind palace. He had never allowed himself to be anyone's friend before and now he was the best friend of the bravest, kindest and wisest man he knew. The knowledge warmed him inside and out, the sudden reminder of sensation bringing his mind firmly back to dancing with John. Dancing with John had been even more amazing than he thought it would. His fingertips still tingled from the warmth of John's skin. Inhaling deeply he thought he could smell a trace of John on his fingertips. A rich musk, slightly spicy and earthy. With the remembrance of the scent Sherlock recalled, how when they were pressed together, he had been able to rest his face against John's hair. The strands tickling his cheeks had nearly caused him to stop breathing. Only the wish to keep breathing John in, to keep filling his body with John in the only way he could had kept him focussed on repeating the instructions. Even then he hadn't been able to trust his voice, sure that the whispered words had given away how he was feeling. When John had pressed his face against his shoulder Sherlock had been unable to stop himself from pulling him in closer. Having his arms full of John had been far more pleasurable than he had ever allowed himself to imagine. Hearing John's contented sigh had been almost enough to break the last remaining thread of self control he possessed. His body had started to respond to the closeness, the very maleness of John. John's sigh had made him realise the very real danger of them remaining so intimately entangled; his burgeoning arousal would soon have become obvious to John, causing both men embarrassment. Sherlock's embarrassment for allowing his body to betray his emotions, John would have been embarrassed for Sherlock and also for being the cause of it. Of course Sherlock could have explained it away, natural bodily reaction caused by repeated pleasurable friction - could have happened with any dancing partner - but he knew he would not have been able to lie to John. He knew that would have given John a reason to finally stay away, knew that that final absence, chosen, not enforced, would be the thing that would break his heart utterly, knew that he would no longer even be able to act in a rational way and the thought terrified him.

John would be leaving him soon enough. For Mary. Soon his arms would be full of Mary, his contented sighs breathed into Mary's hair, his firm lips brushing over Mary's. A sudden sob ripped Sherlock from his mind palace, springing from his chair he looked around for the source of the sobbing and was startled to find he was alone but the weeping sound continued. Touching his fingers to his cheek he was horrified to find it wet, the realisation of just who was crying causing him to crumple to the floor. Curling his long body into the foetal position Sherlock was suddenly overwrought by warring emotions. The depth of them overwhelming him, the last brick in his defensive wall had fallen and now he was drowning. His body trembling through the sobbing, his hands knotted in his hair, uncaring of the dirt now being ground into his usually immaculate clothing. His usually preternaturally alert senses missed the soft footsteps on the stairs.

His body stiffened automatically as a soft, gentle, warm hand was placed on his cheek. Slowly small scents reached his nose, automatically informing him of who had found him. Talc - rose scented, flour - self raising, chocolate chips - milk, fairy liquid - lemon. Mrs Hudson. Quickly he pulled himself into a standing position, turning his body away from her sympathetic gaze, horrified at himself for letting his emotions rule him so completely, mortified at being discovered. He busied himself pulling his shirt back into some order, hoping that his icy demeanour would make Mrs Hudson leave. She didn't, her light footsteps indicating she was walking closer to him, her slippers - new, present from a grateful neighbour - making barely any noise. When would he learn not to be surprised by the compassion of the people he cared about?

"Go away Mrs. Hudson!" Sherlock tried to make his voice cold, clipped but he knew he would not be able to fool this astute lady. She saw far more than most and when it came to Sherlock her patience knew no bounds. He knew she saw him as a wayward son and he loved her dearly for it. Yes, loved. That realisation had finally hit him during his time away. That had been the reason why he had fiercely protected her against Mycroft's barbed comments, why he had thrown a man from a window (multiple times) and why he had been so proud to introduce John to her.

"Oh Sherlock." Mrs Hudson's voice was choked, her sympathy evident as she placed her small hand on his arm. Sherlock fought against the urge to melt into the touch, to let another human share his burden. Standing straighter and pulling his arm from her gentle grip, he huffed out a sigh of extreme boredom, his acting skills momentarily surprising even himself. "Sherlock Holmes, stop that this instant!" The sudden resolve in her voice forcing him to respond.

"Stop what, Mrs Hudson? You can plainly see I am not doing anything. Or has senility finally caught up with you?" He hated himself for his hurtful words, but he was fighting to regain his balance, his integrity, his distance.

"Putting up those stupid walls again. You don't need to protect us from you Sherlock, we know who really are and we love you. Don't you dare lock yourself away again! I lost you once; I'm too old to go through that nonsense again young man!" The iron in her words convincing Sherlock of their sincerity.

Sherlock felt her place her hand on the nape of his neck, the caress motherly, the subsequent words softly spoken. "You have to tell him. He deserves to know."

"Know what, Mrs Hudson?" His voice still had its icy, clipped edge. The muscles in his body locked in position, his fingers gripping on the chair edge, turning white. He knew he would not be able to keep the facade up for much longer.

"He deserves to know how you feel about him." Sherlock did not need to ask who she meant. His shoulders slumped as the last pretence at indifference left his body.

"He doesn't want me Mrs Hudson." Sherlock finally turned to her, his face a ruin of emotion. He could feel the tears streaking his cheeks, eyes bright, knew he must appear the image of a broken man. "He doesn't. Want. Me." The words were forced out between clenched teeth. On the utterance of them Sherlock felt the last of his self control break and he fell, shaking, to the floor.

Sherlock heard Mrs Hudson's dress rustle as she lowered herself carefully to the floor, his senses now in overdrive. He felt her thin arms wrap round his shoulders as she pulled him in to her, providing her emotional strength to support him. He found he was no longer able to keep the sobs inside and he allowed himself to be cuddled for the first time since his childhood. He could feel his body trembling as the tears flowed down his cheeks. He was grateful for the soothing, shushing noises that Mrs Hudson made as she stroked her fingers through his hair, gently rocking them both, allowing him to cry himself to calmness.

"Oh Sherlock, sweetheart, you are such an innocent in so many things. He NEEDS you. Need is so much more important than want. You might want a new riding crop but you need to breathe. He needs you, even more than he needs to breathe."

Sherlock raised his face from where it had been buried against her shoulder, his quick silver eyes meeting hers. He could feel a small ray of hope blooming deep in his chest, knew the wonder was clear on his face. Knew that all his emotions were laid bare for this wonderful woman to see.

"He. Needs. Me?" Each word fought to come out, as if being spoken aloud would make them untrue.

"Of course." Mrs Hudson's reply was simple and to the point.

"But, but.... Mary? What about Mary? He loves her, they're getting married." Sherlock's eyes still did not leave Mrs Hudson's face, darting round each feature trying to determine the truth of her words. The confusion in his voice was clear. If John needed him, wanted him, why was he marrying Mary?

"Sherlock. When you..." Mrs Hudson's voice broke. "When you..... jumped, two people died that day. You....... and John. It may have been your body broken on the ground but his very essence died in that moment."

"But it wasn't me!" Sherlock vehemently interrupted, grabbing Mrs Hudson by her thin shoulders and moving to kneel in front of her. The pain in his chest threatened to make him lose control again.

"Yes dear, we know that now don't we." Mrs Hudson patted his cheek gently; sympathy and understanding clear on her kind face. "But we didn't know that then. Your plan worked too well; John believed he'd seen you dead. And he died there with you, on that pavement. The man who came back here was not the man who had left earlier that day. It destroyed him Sherlock. He'd suffered alone for over a year, trying to live again, but he was a shell of a man. An empty shell. And Mary? Mary came along just at the right moment I think, just when it was all becoming too much to cope with." Mrs Hudson paused and Sherlock knew she was making sure he understood the significance of what she was saying. John had struggled to live without him, had almost given up on living until Mary had found him. "I didn't know about her until just before you came back. But she put him back together a little, she understood what he went through. I suspect she knows how he feels about you actually."

"Does..." Sherlock broke off, gnawing at his lower lip. Torn between wanting to know and wanting to stay in denial. "Does John love her?"

Mrs Hudson tenderly wiped a tear from Sherlock's cheek. "I'm not going to start lying to you now. Yes dear, I think he does..." Her words were interrupted by a choked sound that Sherlock had been unable to restrain. "... I think he does, but, and this is the vital bit here, it's not the same as the love he feels for you. And Mary knows it."

"So what do I do?" Sherlock's voice broke. "I could risk everything and lose him, or I could stay quiet and at least have his friendship."

"There's a saying 'If you love something, set it free... If it comes back, it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was.... ' You've already set him free and he keeps coming back. Now it's Mary's turn."

Chapter Text

John spent the first part of his morning rearranging his appointments, using his influence with the other doctors to take them over or simply moving them to another date. This meant that he now had the next week off and only needed to work the rest of the morning.

He had explained the change to Mary the previous night, saying that he was working on a top secret case and that he would be unable to commit definitely to work at the surgery and felt it best that he just cleared the whole week. He had mentioned that he might not be coming home until very late, if at all on some nights. Mary had looked disappointed but said that she understood; he had felt bad lying to her but reasoned with himself that it was almost the truth. He was working a case - The Blogging Bridegroom - it was almost top secret, he had sworn Sherlock to secrecy and he was not going to tell anyone, not yet anyway. He had tried to ease his guilty conscience by rationalising that, in the end the dance practice would make things better for Mary; he wouldn't look such an idiot when they danced and she would have no reason to be embarrassed by him.

At the thought of the wedding John had gone cold. He loved Mary, she was easy to be around and made him laugh, but the relationship seemed to be dull and lifeless compared to his time spent with Sherlock. When Mary had cuddled into him in bed he had initially returned her soft kisses but had then frozen as things had become more heated, Mary obviously wanted to take things to a more sexual level. He had extricated himself from her arms, saying he was tired after a long day of working with Sherlock, had kissed her briefly on the cheek before rolling over onto his side and faking a few deep yawns. He had felt her confusion washing over him and was grateful when she had given him a small hug before whispering good night and letting him sleep. His mind had been racing when he eventually did fall asleep, remembrances of being held against Sherlock flooding his mind. His dreams too, had been full of Sherlock. Sometimes serious ones where they were working cases, where they were reliant on each other totally. The two of them against the rest of the world. Other times the dreams had been silly, where he and Sherlock were dressed in top hats and evening suits dancing their way through a starlight sky. In all of the dreams he had known that something was different between them, that something had changed. He and Sherlock had been more than flat mates, more than best friends - they had been lovers. He had awoken feeling satisfied and fulfilled only to feel his heart plummet at the realisation that it had all been only a dream.

He knew he needed to address his feelings towards Mary and the wedding, and soon. Barely acknowledged feelings for Sherlock had been gradually re-emerging since his return, growing stronger with each passing day. The moment that John had allowed himself to linger on the thought of being able to dance with Sherlock, to have him close, had been the moment that the true depth of his feelings had been acknowledged. He loved Sherlock, seemingly had done almost from the moment they had met. He knew he had always been drawn to him, trusted him beyond any other. Loving him only seemed like a natural progression. He had always believed Sherlock to be uninterested in love of any kind but he was sure he had seen signs of attraction in Sherlock the previous day. Sherlock's willingness to put himself out of his comfort zone for him, to make him happy. The way he had held him securely in his arms when they danced, the flush on Sherlock's cheeks, the gentle breaths on his hair. Sherlock could easily have kept the dance lesson impersonal, kept his emotional and physical distance, but he hadn't. He had drawn John close to him and had answered questions or offered to give information fully at a later date. John knew that he had to find out what was happening with Sherlock, knew that Sherlock was his keystone and always would be.

John spent the remainder of the morning seeing the few patients he hadn't been able to rearrange. In the time between patients he had put on his earphones and listened to the Emperor Waltz, swaying along to the music or, in the longer breaks, tracing the steps that Sherlock had shown him, closing his eyes and pretending to hold Sherlock in his arms again. During these times he imagined they were dancing in the correct position but standing much closer together, the dance more intimate. He could almost feel Sherlock's warm breath over his skin as their bodies rose and fell as they moved across the floor, mirroring each other perfectly, the music flowing over them. The anticipation of dancing with Sherlock again had caused his heart rate to accelerate and the first signs of arousal to appear. John knew he had never wanted someone so much before, he physically ached for Sherlock, every fibre of his being yearned for him. As strong as the physical attraction was, the emotional attraction was more, Sherlock made John want to be more than he had previously been. He made John think quicker, see deeper, move faster and he loved the person he was when he was with Sherlock. He knew he was a better man because of Sherlock. He admired him, his quick wit and outstanding intelligence, the way he said what he was thinking, seeing no need for a 'bullshit' filter. He thought everyone should be more like Sherlock. Not that he'd tell Sherlock that. He knew that he could also be an arrogant prick and he had no intention of making him more so.

The taxi journey to Baker Street had seemed agonisingly slow and John had fidgeted all the way, earning many a concerned glance from the cabbie. Now that he stood outside 221B he felt strangely relieved, the thought of seeing Sherlock again calming him. Raising his face towards the open window he half expected to hear the sounds of the violin drifting down to him but it was eerily quiet. No violin sounds, no mad detective chatting away to himself or Mrs Hudson singing as she dusted around the piles of papers. John smiled at a memory of Sherlock chastising her for her cleaning and then complaining a week later about the dust collecting everywhere. John decided that Sherlock must either be out or in his Mind Palace. Deciding to wait for him to 'return' John quietly unlocked the door, carefully closing it behind him, not wanting to disturb Sherlock if he was actually deep in thought. Mounting the stairs John avoided the creaky ones, he knew he was ridiculous being this careful, after all he doubted even a bomb blast would shift Sherlock from his Mind Palace.

As usual the door to their rooms was slightly open and John was surprised to see Sherlock standing by the fireplace. His body was turned away from the door, pale hand resting on the mantelpiece, face angled downward and away from the mirror, only his cheekbones highlighted by the early afternoon light. Leaning against the doorframe and loosely crossing his arms John allowed his gaze to linger on Sherlock's body, his eyes starting at the floor, admiring the large, elegant feet, currently encased in expensive shoes. He took the time to appreciate the lean form, the way that the tailored suit hid the deceptively strong body underneath, disguising the true strength of the man before him, the cut of the trousers exaggerating Sherlock's long, athletic legs but doing nothing to hide the delicious curve of his arse. John gripped his own arms more firmly as he imagined kneading his fingers into the rounded flesh, of drawing out gasps of intense pleasure from Sherlock. He knew that whatever Sherlock did, he did totally, throwing himself fully into it; he knew instinctively that Sherlock would be the same with sex. The thought of Sherlock, intent on giving and receiving sexual pleasure, was so powerfully erotic that John felt his body harden in response, his arousal starting to tent his trousers. Continuing to let his eyes travel over Sherlock's body, John admired his trim stomach, no excess flesh marring the smooth lines of the deep plum shirt. John knew from treating Sherlock's wounds that he was deceptively well muscled, and the shirt material was doing nothing to disguise the strength of Sherlock's shoulders, the silk pulled taut across them. A brief frown clouded John's face as he struggled to keep his thoughts away from the scars that he now knew lay hidden beneath the thin material, a discussion for another time. His gaze leisurely travelled along the pale, long neck, his tongue sweeping slowly over his lower lip as he imagined pressing his lips to the fine skin there, seeking out the pulse point with his tongue. His fingers tightened again against his arm as he was possessed with the sudden impulse to run his fingers through the dark curls nestling against Sherlock's nape. Almost as if sensing John's presence Sherlock turned, his face finally coming into full light.

"Christ Sherlock, you look bloody dreadful! What happened? What's wrong?" John's heart plummeted to his stomach, all signs of arousal suddenly banished from his mind and body, hands now locked at his side, furiously clenching and releasing. His eyes scanned the room as he marched towards Sherlock, looking for whatever had caused such a look of devastation to be so apparent on Sherlock's face.

Sherlock took a step back, distancing himself from John's approach and John was aware that he was avoiding meeting his eye. Waving a dismissive hand, Sherlock shrugged.

"Nothing happened. I just didn't sleep."

His voice was bored, emotionless, worryingly flat. Sherlock turned away again. John knew that Sherlock was trying to end the conversation and he was having none of it. It was more than a night of missed sleep that caused Sherlock to look that way; he had looked well when he had left yesterday. Now his face was drawn and wan, his cheekbones even more pronounced than usual, his lips pale and pinched, the lower one sore from constant biting. John had not been able to see his eyes but he was willing to bet that they would be empty and glazed. Shit. What had Sherlock done? Taken? What had caused Sherlock to collapse so completely in on himself in the course of just one night? Taking a decisive step forward John grabbed Sherlock by his arm and pulled him round to face him. Anger was simmering under his skin, making his grip harder than it needed to be. He knew it would cause bruises on Sherlock's bicep but he couldn't make himself stop. He needed to get Sherlock to face him, to show some emotion.

"Look at me Sherlock! Damn it, I've seen you when you've gone without sleep before. This is more than that. Let me examine you."

John's voice shook with barely contained emotion, fear and anger fighting for equal domination. He could feel the light covering of perspiration on his skin, the way his shirt now clung to his body, his elevated heart rate, knew that he was grinding his jaw, could hear the order in his voice. For a moment he thought Sherlock would continue to ignore him and was shocked when Sherlock relaxed under his grip. John studied Sherlock's face, resisting pushing the dark curls from Sherlock's forehead. Now was not the time for sentiment.

"Don't be ridiculous John. I am fine. I have managed on much less sleep than this."

John opened his mouth to argue but snapped it shut again when Sherlock put a trembling finger over his lips, closing his eyes John relished the sensation of it against his lips, the sensitive skin tingling at the touch.

"But, only an idiot argues with his doctor." Sherlock's voice was somehow deeper, warmer, the intimacy of it sending a tremor of longing through John. He exhaled shakily against Sherlock's finger before slowly opening his eyes. He expected to be greeted by empty eyes, perhaps an amused smirk. What he actually saw took his breath away, more effectively than a direct hit to the solar plexus. Sherlock's eyes were bright and clear. Blue, green and gold blazing out, meeting John's gaze and holding it. Those eyes held so many raging emotions that John was unable to read them all but he could see that the dominant one was happiness, its presence making Sherlock's eyes almost incandescent. John had no idea what had brought Sherlock such sudden happiness but he hoped to see that joy more often. Sherlock's tired face was transformed and to John's befuddled mind he looked almost angelic, but the most sinfully handsome one he had ever seen. Slowly Sherlock began to lower his finger and John fought the urge to bring it back to his mouth, to kiss the tip before taking it into his mouth, laving it with his tongue and gently sucking.

He was barely aware of Sherlock working his fingers free from his arm and leading them to the sofa, realising only that his fingers had been entwined with Sherlock's when their absence chilled his hand. The cold leather of the sofa through his work trousers startled John back to the immediate situation. Looking intently now at Sherlock, he was relieved that Sherlock's eyes were still clear. John allowed himself a rueful half smile as he realised that the doctor in him had obviously remained alert whilst the rest of him melted into a puddle of sentimental, over-sexed goo. Cautiously he pressed his fingers along the lines of Sherlock's neck - no inflamed glands, no tenderness being expressed. Moving closer he looked deeply into Sherlock's eyes, looking for broken capillaries, discolouration, non reaction in the pupils. No - clear, alert, tracking every movement he made and studying him intently. He pressed the back of his hand against Sherlock's forehead and then the nape of his neck, fighting on both occasions against the temptation to run his fingers through gently curling hair - warm, but within normal boundaries.

"You're early. You altered your working hours." John felt the tilt of Sherlock's head as he spoke, the statement turning into more of a question.

"Er, yeah." John could feel the heat in his cheeks; of course Sherlock would know his work schedule. "I thought, maybe, we should spend the time practising. Damn glad I came early now! Bloody idiot, letting yourself get into this state!" John knew the gruffness of his words was doing very little to disguise the tenderness he felt for the man sitting in front of him.

Slowly he pressed his fingers against Sherlock's wrist, counting silently in his head as he continued to visually assess him. His pulse was unusually elevated but not worryingly so. All the time he was examining Sherlock, he was aware of being studied in turn, those bright eyes flicking over his face, taking in each detail, each blemish.

"Satisfied?" Sherlock's voice was little more than a low rumble.

"Hmmm. What were you doing? Working on a case?" John tried to keep his voice non judgemental, but it hurt that Sherlock might be working on something without him, especially after stating he was not taking any cases until after the ..... No, John refused to even think about that particular event.

"In a way." Sherlock squeezed his lips together, briefly bringing a blush of pink back. "It's an old case John. I just....... I was given a new way of thinking about it yesterday. I spent the night re-examining the evidence."

John could feel the rush of relief flood over him, its touch like the frost kissed lips of a lover, fresh and revitalising. "Any closer to a resolution? Can I help at all?"

Sherlock's lips twitched before he answered and John was sure he was swallowing a smile. "You already have John. I am a lot closer to a resolution now, but, as much as it pains me to say it, patience is the key here. Only time will truly tell."

"Good. Glad I could be your 'conductor of light' or whatever." Standing, John stretched before pointing an imperious finger at Sherlock. "Right. You are having some toast and tea before we start anything. And no bloody arguments."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Doctor." Sherlock drawled as John walked away. He could hear the laughter in Sherlock's voice, knowing he only acquiesced because it suited him. John really couldn't find it in him to be bothered; Sherlock was healthy, if tired. Something had lit a spark of happiness inside him, giving him a deep glow and John was now bustling about just like the old days before he had moved away.

Presently, the sound of the violin drifted into the kitchen, the notes caressing his ear with the tenderness and skill of an old love. As the sounds wrapped him in their sensuous embrace John vowed to talk to Mary about their upcoming wedding. Whatever it was, or could be, between him and Sherlock John needed to be in 221B for it to happen. He needed to be home.

Chapter Text

Sherlock allowed the sounds of domesticity to wash over him as he played. Kettle boiling, cups clinking, fridge opening and closing. Never before had such simple noises evoked such a reaction; he could feel the happiness coming off him in waves. He knew that the music he was creating was telling the story of his happiness for all the world to hear. Allowing his eyes to linger a moment more on John, admiring the efficiency of the movements, he noticed how the tension had now left John's body. Closing his eyes he allowed the memory of the last thirty minutes to play again in his mind. He had been bone weary when John had unexpectedly arrived, utterly exhausted from the emotional breakdown of the previous evening. It had drained him completely and then he had spent the whole night examining every interaction with John. Every look, every gesture, every word unspoken. When dawn had finally arrived Sherlock had been no clearer on how John felt towards him; strong friendship - definitely, but anything more? It had been hard to tell, they had both been too good at throwing up barriers. There had been lingering looks, possible moments of jealousy but Sherlock had reasoned them all away - fascination, attraction to danger and a protective instinct. But now? Now Sherlock knew that there was something more there. When John had reacted with anger at his earlier lack of response - his cool disinterest - Sherlock had known there was something more than a deep friendship. He had studied him, watched him, seen the signs there. More than just anger.....

Sighing, Sherlock remembered the feel of his skin against John's lips; he had felt John's breath ghosting shakily over his fingertip and it had shaken him to the core. If just John's breath caressing his fingertip affected him so powerfully then John touching him with any romantic intent would make him dissolve; his atoms would become one with the universe, forever entwined with John's. That moment of simple intimacy had been enough for Sherlock to finally see what had always been in front him. Always. John was attracted to him, cared for him, wanted him. Loved him? He had then acted on instinct, taking John's strong hand in his own, guiding them both to the sofa, amazed at the effect he was having on John. How had he never seen it before? During John's examination of him he had studied John, the flush on his cheeks, the erratic beat of the pulse in his neck, had felt the twitch of John's fingers as they had lingered near his curls. He had seen the embarrassment when he had queried the change in John's work schedule, had felt the flood of joy when he realised that it had been so that they could spend more time together.

Frowning, Sherlock could now only see two stumbling blocks in the way of an actual physical relationship with John. Mary, obviously, and the fact that he and John were absolutely useless at talking about their feelings. Now he needed to be patient, to allow John to make his own decisions about where this was going, give him time to make the break from Mary - he'd seen the moment John had made that decision - and to come home to Baker Street. Home to him.

"That's beautiful Sherlock. What is it?" Opening his eyes Sherlock saw John sitting back in his own chair, a mug of tea by his side, another on the table next to Sherlock. Beside his mug sat a plate of toast, cut on the diagonal. John had cut it just how he liked it, the thoughtfulness of it making him smile as he sat, facing John.

"Nothing." Sherlock had just played, allowing his thoughts to emerge via the violin. "I was just playing how I felt. What I was feeling." Placing the violin carefully beside him and steepling his hands in front of his mouth, he wondered what John could have heard in his musical musings.

"Amazing."

The simple praise from John made Sherlock's heart lift, John's face was open, the admiration clear. Watching as John's face then took on a distant look, apparently thinking of what else to say, Sherlock took his time to admire the handsome man before him. Strong but somehow soft. Always the contradiction. The fighter and the healer. John's eyes were fascinating to him, always had been. A dark blue, as eternal as the midnight sky and as deep as the ocean, Sherlock knew he could lose himself in their depths; happily drowning in the man he hoped would become his. His John. Although John's hair was now more grey than blonde it suited him well. Somehow bringing an admiring eye's attention to a defined and determined jaw, a wonderfully rounded nose and a pair of firm, sensuously mobile lips. Sherlock knew that John was getting more attractive with each passing day. He knew, logically, that some of this perception was as a result of his attraction to him, but also that John really was, what was the saying? Oh yes, growing old deliciously .... Or something along those lines.

"It was like listening to something pure and hopeful, yet somehow sensuous and full of longing. It made me want to listen forever." John's words were softly spoken, private, meant only for them. The quietness pullled Sherlock from his musings far more effectively than any shout.

He was unable to hold John's gaze for long, the sheer wistfulness of it making him want to reach out and cup John's face in his hands, to tilt it up to his own and to finally taste that secret smile that hovered so frequently on John's lips. Lowering his eyes he instead turned his attention to the waiting tea and toast. Sitting with John quietly had always been one of Sherlock's simplest, but greatest pleasures. Normally the mere presence of someone else was enough to make him edgy but John soothed his jangling nerves, made sense of the racing thoughts, brought his mind as close to peaceful as he had ever known it.

Sherlock nibbled at his toast, occasionally glancing across at John who was now absorbed reading one of the many cold case files littering the flat. Knowing that he needed to eat and drink Sherlock kept chewing and sipping, finally surprising himself when all the toast and tea were gone.

"John. I've done as the doctor ordered."

John's head jerked up at Sherlock's statement. His surprise was almost comical; wide eyes, raised brows and dropped jaw. Chuckling, Sherlock waved his hand expansively around the room.

"I haven't hidden it anywhere. I did eat. You were right, I needed to eat."

"Bloody hell Sherlock, I should have recorded that! Kept it to play back every time you're an annoying dick!" The laughter in John's voice keeping the jibe light hearted. "Right. Sit still for ten minutes. Let the food digest."

"Ugh! Boring John!" But Sherlock sat still. Or at least as still as he was capable of. Fingers beating out a tune on the arms of his chair, feet keeping the rhythm until finally, finally, the ten minutes had elapsed. Suddenly launching himself to his feet and grabbing the remote for the CD player, Sherlock pressed the play button, pulling John to his feet.

"I guess it's time to dance then?" Sherlock could hear the breathlessness behind the calm words, see the flash of fire in John's eyes, the heat now flooding his cheeks. Yes. John had been eagerly anticipating this too. Perhaps as much as he was.

"Position John." Fighting to keep his voice even as John placed his hands correctly, one in his own hand, one on his back, Sherlock moved his own into position. The moment his hand made contact with John's shoulder the mad whirring in his mind slowed, changing gears to a lower, more bearable pace.

Drawing John slightly closer to him Sherlock took a deep, cleansing breath. "Let's see what you remember."

Slowly, they began to move to the music, Sherlock all the while watching John's slightly lowered face, watching his lips move. Chanting. John was chanting the movements to himself. Together. Left. Right diagonally. Left to right. Right back. Left diagonally. Right to left. Suddenly Sherlock realised that John was actually taking the lead in the dance, moving them both through the moves, the realisation sending a sudden, intense spike of desire through him. Desperately searching for a way to break through the sudden confusion he spoke, the words breaking John's concentration, making him falter.

"You've been practising!"

"Damn! Yes, I, er, thought I'd best try it out. Don't want you showing me up do we?" John grinned up at Sherlock, the delight in his eyes contagious.

"You've done very well! I didn't want .... Didn't expect you to get it so quickly." Sherlock knew the words came out too quickly, hoping their speed would have covered his initial word choice. Of course he didn't want John learning too quickly, he needed John to realise he was meant to be with him, not Mary. Only him.

"Right then! The game is on! Time to pick the pace up!" Speaking briskly Sherlock started to move them more quickly, matching the pace of the music now, his muscles singing and the busyness in his brain slowing again, now not much more than a gentle hum.

Realising that John was matching the pace beautifully Sherlock allowed him to lead once more.

"Head up John. Eye contact." Sherlock knows his voice is soft, over sentimental. It matches how he is feeling perfectly.

"What? Damn!" A sudden weight on Sherlock's foot makes him wince but for once he chooses to stay silent, the decision puzzling even himself. Holding John's gaze they once again move through the steps. He can see John getting more and more frustrated as he steps on Sherlock's feet again. Once, twice, three times more. The dark blue eyes become clouded, the cheeks sucked in as John grows crosser, making more mistakes in his anxiety.

"Ugh! I'm a bloody heffalump!" Stopping suddenly, John drops his hands from Sherlock, clenching them at his sides in annoyance, disappointment clear in his voice.

"Don't be ridiculous John, you are not a purple cartoon elephant!" Sherlock can feel the smile pulling at the side of his mouth, the sudden image of John as an adorable character from a book racing across his mind.

"Yes, I am! I keep trea.... Hang on a minute, you got that reference?" The look of utter amazement on John's face should have been insulting but instead Sherlock found himself thinking how loveable John looked at that moment.

"Of course, John. Some things are timeless."

"But how.... ? Actually no. That explains a lot. 'Round and round the bloody garden.' Makes sense now."

"Mumbling, John!" Sherlock knew that he was now smiling John's special smile, could feel the lightness in his heart that came with it. John had remembered a chance comment of his, made years ago, kept it. Cherished it?

"The fact still remains I'm treading on your toes more often than not. I'm no good at this." John's voice was flat, sad, his whole body language one of defeat. Acting quickly Sherlock pulled John back into position, forcing him to move in time to the music again.

"Nonsense John. You're just over thinking it." Sherlock noticed that John was now moving automatically, his focus on Sherlock's face as they talked.

"Over thinking? Well that's a first; usually you're calling me an idiot." Once again surprise showed on John's face, Sherlock mused that today seemed to be a day full of surprises for both of them.

"Well you are. But currently you are over thinking this, which is idiotic. Talk to me John." Sherlock felt John falter in his steps, confusion evident on his handsome features.

"What?"

"Talk to me. You're still concentrating too hard."

"Well of course I am! I'm trying not to step on your feet!" John's face was now showing a look of complete bewilderment. Sherlock always thought of it as John's 'Can Sherlock really be that dense?' look.

"Just talk to me. Tell me something. Ask me something. Stop thinking. Feel." Sherlock purposefully made his voice clipped, knowing that John would instinctively respond to it.

"What about? Mycroft?"

"God, no! Another topic."

"Nope. How did Mycroft get into here." John's attention was now fully on Sherlock, his body moving completely in time to the music.

"Obvious. Key."

"He has a key? Why? And why didn't you ask for it back?"

"Power play John. Do keep up. Pointless, he has loads. Anything else?" Sherlock purposefully kept his answers short, forcing John to expand them in his head, to make sense of them. To ask more to fill in the details.

"Power play? Wish he'd go play with the power!"

"Very droll John." Allowing his gaze to linger on John he could see that John was totally relaxed. Momentarily taking control of the dance, he manoeuvred them through a quarter turn before allowing John to take back control.

"Wow! That was brilliant, Sherlock. Show me that again." Sherlock could see the flush of excitement on John's face as he temporarily lead again. 1 ...... 2 ....... 3 ..... Quarter turn. 1 ...... 2 ....... 3 ..... Quarter turn. 1 ...... 2 ....... 3 ..... Quarter turn.

Suddenly it was Sherlock's turn to be amazed. John took control of the dance once more, effortlessly moving them around the floor of the flat. Opening his mouth to say something, anything, he found he couldn't. Blinking rapidly to clear his confusion he realised that the noise in his mind was not much more than background noise, like an itch on the edge of his consciousness - needing a scratch later but nothing to concern him now.

Meeting John's gaze as they moved, he savoured the sensation of their bodies moving in time, their rhythmic rising and falling, the strong hands on his skin, the protective arms holding him in their embrace.

John suddenly smiles and the world shifts. For the first time ever, Sherlock is aware that his mind is silent.

Quiet.

Delightfully empty.

Chapter Text

John's head whirls with thoughts and emotions even as his body moves through the waltz. The steps are now second nature to him, his muscles automatically moving them both through the simple routine. His mind is full of Sherlock. The heat of his body, the way the simple flexing of Sherlock's shoulder muscles under his hand feels, the firm grip of their clasped hands. The distinctive scent of Sherlock is saturating each of John's breaths and he knows it is as close to heaven as he is likely to get; wrapped up in Sherlock, cocooned in his essence. Smiling up at Sherlock, John is awed anew at his friend's ethereal beauty. Pale skin gracing features that would make Michelangelo weep with pleasure, full lips slightly parted, high, perfectly angled cheekbones and eyes sparkling with emotions that mirror John's own. Joy. Happiness ....... Completeness.

John knew that what should be making him feel so happy was the fact he was dancing, and taking the lead at that! But his heart was too full of Sherlock for that; what was filling his heart to the point of bursting was the fact that he held Sherlock in his arms. Sherlock's face was soft, the features more relaxed than John could recall seeing them, his gaze fixed on John. Not studying him as an experiment, just looking at him as if seeing him fully for the first time.

The happiness was flooding through John like bubbles in champagne. Impulsively, he slid his right hand down to Sherlock's waist and his left arm around his shoulders before swiftly lowering him into a full dip. John's chuckle died on his lips when he realised how the change in position had changed their dynamic, his face mere centimetres from Sherlock's. Gazing down onto Sherlock's face, John could see the half formed laugh on Sherlock's lips. For a moment they were both frozen in time, Sherlock's breath coming in quick huffs against the skin of John's cheek. John, hyper aware of his own heart pounding in his chest, was sure he could sense a matching frenzied beat where his chest was now pressed against Sherlock's. John could not pull his gaze away from the man cradled against him. Sherlock's eyes were wide with surprise at the unexpected dip but utterly trusting. He could feel the strange thrum, the drawn out static of something electric in the air, that he often shared with Sherlock, finally knowing it for what it was - mutual sexual attraction. The shock of the recognition made him gasp and fumble his hold on Sherlock and within seconds John found himself tangled on the floor with Sherlock, legs and arms entwined, one of Sherlock's hands still locked into John's shirt where he had grabbed instinctively whilst falling. Colour flamed on the cheeks of both men and John could feel the heat pooling between his legs, his attraction about to make itself far too obvious to the man crushed beneath him. Tugging himself away quickly, John huffed out a laugh, trying to break the tension. To his relief Sherlock joined in with the laughter, the shocked look leaving his eyes. The awkwardness turning to genuine mirth as John sat on the floor, trying to catch his breath through his giggles, Sherlock's deep chuckles matching his own.

"Well that didn't exactly go to plan." John finally managed to gasp out, wiping the tears from his eyes.

"Good to know you hadn't actually planned to dump me on my backside, John. The original name for the Emperor Waltz was Hand in Hand, not Arse on Floor!" Sherlock dropped his head back to the floor, his chest still shaking with the last of his laughter. "I think we may need to practice that dip!"

"I'm going to make tea, I'm parched after that dancing. Fancy one?"

"No. I'll have a coffee." John glanced to where Sherlock was lying, meeting a calm blue gaze. "Please."

"Sure. Sounds good to me too, actually. A caffeine kick, just what the doctor ordered." John inferred Sherlock's unspoken words of thanks, smiling as he saw Sherlock close his eyes. John knew that Sherlock must need to sleep but also knew that he needed to keep him awake as long as possible so that he stood a hope of sleeping that night.

John halted in his walk to the kitchen when he thought he heard his name being softly spoken. Turning, he saw that Sherlock had already fallen into a light doze, his eyelashes fanning over skin, pale semi circles of smudged sootiness beneath his eyes evidencing his exhaustion. John's gaze travelled over the long expanse of his friend, still stunned that he was back in his life, living, breathing, occasionally eating and sleeping. Sherlock looked somehow younger, more fragile whilst sleeping and John felt his chest tighten at the surge of protectiveness he felt for this man.

Dragging his gaze away, he walked into the kitchen. Scanning the room, he was amazed at how neat it was. Mrs. Hudson obviously came by regularly, looking after Sherlock in her own indomitable way. Switching the kettle on John automatically reached for mugs and the instant coffee, only briefly registering that everything was back in the same places as before Sherlock's absence. Pouring the hot water over the coffee he checked the fridge for milk and was not entirely surprised to find none. Rooting around in the back of a cupboard he found a dusty bottle of whiskey. Quickly he added a generous portion to both mugs before adding copious amounts of sugar to Sherlock's.

Carrying the steaming mugs back to the living room he was relieved to see Sherlock still dozing. Setting the mugs down carefully on the coffee table he lowered himself to the floor, deciding to give Sherlock another ten minutes' rest time whilst the coffee cooled. Tucking a cushion gently under Sherlock's head and grabbing a random book, he fully intended to pass the time reading but instead found himself studying the man before him, noting each eyelid flutter and breath. John was only aware of how much time had lapsed when his leg started to ache. Altering his position, he grabbed his coffee and took a sip. Cold. Just how long had he been sitting there lost in contemplation? Pulling himself upright and grabbing the other coffee John returned to the kitchen. Glancing at the clock he saw that he had been sitting by Sherlock for well over an hour. No wonder his leg had protested! Deciding to be lazy he shoved the coffees into the microwave. (Blessedly free of any evidence of experiments!) Whilst waiting for the coffee to heat through, his gaze once again fell on the sleeping Sherlock. Shafts of sunlight now danced over his sleep tousled curls, a deep auburn warmth becoming evident in the dark hair. John couldn't help but think how much his hair was like Sherlock's true personality: dark and untouchable at first sight but upon deeper study, warm and utterly enticing. The sudden beeping of the microwave startled him from his thoughts and called his attention away from Sherlock.

"John?" Sherlock's voice was deep, still wrapped in the last caress of sleep, but there was a panicked urgency there that had John scurrying into view.

"I'm here Sherlock. Just waiting on the coffee." For a moment John saw the look of puzzlement on Sherlock's face before it was swiftly replaced with one of his crooked smiles. Relieved that nothing serious seemed to be amiss, John got the coffees from the microwave before sitting himself back down on the floor beside Sherlock.

"Here you go."

"There's no milk."

"Great deduction that, Sherlock. You should be a detective or something." Laughing at his own joke, John sipped at his drink, savouring the smooth warmth of the whiskey.

"Sarcasm John? Rather beneath your usual efforts." Raising the mug to his nose, Sherlock delicately sniffed the coffee before taking a small sip. "Irish coffee. With Mycroft's expensive whiskey. Much better than milk."

John allowed himself to watch Sherlock drinking, his eyes drawn to the way Sherlock's throat moved on each swallow. Sherlock's small groan of enjoyment made John blush furiously, too many of his fantasies flooding his mind at the sound.

"More John?"

"I'm sorry, what?" John struggled to work out what Sherlock could be asking about. More coffee? More dancing? More sensuous groaning? Oh god, yes!

"Do you want more coffee John? Another drink and then we will move on to another song." John watched as Sherlock stood, taking John's mug from his unresisting hand before taking the CD remote control and selecting a new song. "This song reminds me of an ancient legend, usually attributed to the Greeks. Sentimental idiocy, of course, but fascinating none the less."

Intrigued John let the words of the song wash over him. What song could have inspired Sherlock to find some old sentimental legend 'fascinating' ?

'The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath.
Right from the start,
I knew that I'd found the home for my heart....'

John's breath caught in his throat, did Sherlock know that is how John felt the moment he saw him in the lab at Bart's?

'How to be brave?
How can I love when I'm afraid to fall?......

I will be brave,
I will not let anything take away,
What's standing in front of me.
Every breath,
Every hour has come to this.

One step closer. '

Jesus Christ. John knew that this song applied to him utterly. How to be brave? He knew he needed to be brave enough, needed to take that one step closer, so that he would not lose Sherlock again.

"It's this part coming up that really makes me think, touches something deep inside of me, John." Sherlock's deep voice dragged John from his introspection to find him holding a fresh cup of coffee in his direction. Standing and accepting the cup John was suddenly grateful of his firm grip when Sherlock began to sing softly along with the song, his voice deep and warm, eyes closed, a light dusting of colour on his cheeks. John watched, utterly bewitched, letting the words permeate his skin.

'I have died everyday waiting for you.
Darling don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years.
I'll love you for a thousand more.

And all along I believed I would find you.
Time has brought your heart to me.
I have loved you for a thousand years.
I'll love you for a thousand more.

One step closer.'

"Amazing." John could not have held the praise in even if his life had depended upon it. Sherlock, lost in singing, was the most spellbinding thing he had ever seen. At some point John had placed his mug down, its existence forgotten. "I didn't know that you could sing Sherlock." The unasked 'why now' hanging in the air.

"Thank you." John was surprised to see how shy Sherlock looked, his bright eyes veiled beneath lowered eyelashes, his full lower lip wet from being worried at. "I haven't sung in front of anyone since I was a child. It just seemed ..... appropriate ..... now." Suddenly, Sherlock's eyes flashed up, his face decisive, almost predatory. He impatiently grabbed John's biceps.

Before John was able to put voice to any possible protest, he found himself being pulled against Sherlock, words stuttering to a halt in his throat. His body was pressed entirely against Sherlock's now, the quick rise and fall of Sherlock's chest echoing the pounding of John's own pulse. Long moments passed. John could feel the heat in Sherlock's gaze as his face and reactions were analysed, darkening eyes that John knew must be able to see his own attraction, the growing want shown there.

"Dance with me." Sherlock's voice was barely more than a deep growl, the throbbing vibration of it passing straight into John's body, pooling at his groin.

Nodding his acceptance, John found himself pulled even tighter against Sherlock's body as they moved through the simple steps of the waltz, his mind barely registering the moves and turns, too busy with the intimate proximity of Sherlock. John could feel the strength of Sherlock's arm now wrapped tightly around his waist, keeping them flush together, its firm pressure unrelenting. Long fingers clenched into his shirt, the heat from Sherlock's skin burning into John, leaving its mark indelibly in John's mind. He could feel the flexing of long, lean thigh muscles as he was manoeuvred through the steps, each rhythmic sensation sending another jolt of pure pleasure through his body. He was aware of his burgeoning arousal pressed firmly against Sherlock's thigh. He was becoming light headed, reckless, but still he could not pull himself away, instead wrapping his arm tighter around Sherlock, using his splayed hand to pull them impossibly closer together. A broken gasp escaped his lips when he saw Sherlock's eyes widen in surprise, their improbable colour a bright narrow ring around dilated pupils. A small shift of Sherlock's hips made him fully aware of Sherlock's own arousal, his erection pressed hotly against John's stomach. Licking his lips, John raised his chin, gaze never leaving Sherlock's face, noticing the full lips tremble slightly in anticipation, the delicate eyelids fluttering shut as Sherlock slowly, slowly lowered his face towards John's.

Chapter Text

Fuck.

What the hell had happened? How had it all gone so wrong?

Sherlock's mind was awash with self recrimination. He shouldn't have put John in that situation. He should have waited until John was completely free, unattached.

Sherlock was curled up on his chair, long arms tightly clasped around his bent legs, bare feet digging into the soft leather, his gaze directed at the fire but his focus elsewhere, thinking of the moment hours ago - or was it days? It was all such a blurred haze now - when he had been so close to having everything he had ever wanted. Everything. His arms felt empty, his body hollow, his heart shattered. For what seemed like the millionth time, Sherlock forced himself to relive his earlier encounter with John.

Vividly, he recalled John sweeping him into a low dip, how it had felt so right to be there, John's strong arm underneath him, a look of adoration on his handsome face, how he had felt the laughter welling up in him despite the shock of the sudden movement. Then he had met John's gaze, had seen the intensity of John's desire, had felt his own body responding, his breath coming in gasps, heart pounding. He had felt the frisson between them, more powerfully than he had ever felt it before. Then he had seen shock race across John's features, heard the surprised gasp and then felt himself falling as he was dropped. He had instinctively reached out to break his fall, grabbing onto John's shirt and pulling him down too. For a delicious, breath stopping moment he had been crushed beneath John's weight, hyper aware of every element of him, the heaving breaths, the heat of his groin pressing into his legs, his lips scant centimetres from his own. Sherlock remembered how suddenly the moment had been broken as John had wrenched himself away, embarrassment and arousal warring on his face. He had seen poor John struggling to lighten the moment and had joined in with the awkward laughter, surprised when it had become genuine. He loved these moments with John, the way that something so awkward or stressful could be transformed into a moment of joy. The enigma that was John Watson would never be boring.

Sherlock adjusted his position slightly in his chair, aware of music playing softly in the background - some trite song about sentiment and the glory of love, he was sure. Shutting it from his mind, Sherlock returned to his musings. John had done his usual thing and retreated to the known security of tea making, only changing his mind at the request of coffee from Sherlock. Then Sherlock's body had betrayed him; he had fallen asleep and wasted precious time with John. "Damn." The soft utterance unheard in the chaotic room. How could he have given in to sleep? He did remember feeling warm, strangely comfortable lying on the floor and aware of John's reassuring presence. His eyes had drifted shut as he heard John move to the kitchen, the familiar footsteps almost a lullaby. His dreams now seemed muddled but on the whole he could remember a feeling of deep contentment and John. John always there, sometimes featuring heavily in his dreams, sometimes just a sense, but there - just within reach. Until the last dream. The warm presence had gone, he felt cold and alone, frightened. He had been startled awake by the beeping of the microwave and in his sleep-induced confusion, had panicked when he hadn't seen John, calling out automatically, no thought involved in forming the much loved name.

Seeing John emerge from the kitchen had been ludicrously reassuring and he had been unable to keep the silly smile from his face. John had given him his coffee - microwaved after going cold - just how long had he slept? - and then sat on the floor next him, ignoring his chair. The Irish coffee had been a pleasant surprise. Of course John would know how to make it perfectly for Sherlock, sweet and heavily dosed with whiskey. They had both made short work of their drinks; Sherlock remembered how intently John had been studying him whilst he drank, how that observation had made his skin heat, how desperately he had wanted John back in his arms. He had offered to make another drink, surprising John with the uncharacteristic act. He had then put a new song on to play. 'A Thousand Years.' When he had stumbled across the song it had awoken a half remembered impression of a legend. He had meant to tell John all about it but the look of surprise on John's face at Sherlock's sentimentality had stolen the words from his mind; instead he had busied himself with the coffee. He had meant to tell John that the legend said that one of the gods had been unhappy with the contentment of man and had split them into two parts, and that from then on mankind had been searching for their other half, their soul mate. When they found that person, that was when they became whole once more. He had loved John for a thousand years, would love him for a thousand more; his heart had indeed found its home. John was his other half, his soul mate, a part of him he hadn't even known was missing.

Sherlock had then let the moment lead him, singing along to the song, singing to John, for John. He had felt John watching him, the intensity of it bringing the warmth of attraction to his skin. John's breathed 'amazing' had given him such a feeling of well-being that he hadn't been able to meet John's eye at first but upon glancing up had been hit with such a surge of arousal that he had been unable to control himself as he grabbed for John. He had pulled John flush with his own body, had felt the heat surging between them and heard John's breath stutter in shock and desire. He had seen the way that John's eyes had darkened, John's need reflecting his own. He had needed to feel John's body moving against his and had practically demanded John danced with him, deliberately overwhelming John with his voice and body. He had held him against him, unrelenting, his hand knotted in John's shirt to stop his hands from wandering further over John's body. He could feel John's erection pressing into his thigh, the sensation making him giddy with desire, his fantasies of having John pressed against him had not prepared him in the least for the reality of the moment. The consciousness of John's sexual need for him had threatened to undo him. He had panted to try and regain control only to have that control wrenched from him as John had pulled them even closer together. Even now he could clearly feel the sensation of John's splayed hand across the small of his back. Somehow that possessive hand had seemed more erotic than even being able to feel John's erection against his thigh. Unable to stop himself, he had shifted his hips so that his own erection had pressed into John, the much needed friction had been exquisite and he had barely stifled a groan. Then John had raised his face to his, his eyes leaving nothing to the imagination, he had known what he wanted. Sherlock had reacted instinctively, closing his eyes and lowering his face in anticipation. His heart had been pounding, his temperature spiking, all normal deductions seeming to be on mute. He had felt John's breath on his face, so sweet and enticing, his lips so close. He had inhaled deeply trying to capture the scent of John....

Claire-de-la-Lune.

Wincing, Sherlock lowered his head onto his knees. When would he ever learn to keep his mouth closed?

Mixed in with the scent of John had been the scent of Claire-de-la-Lune. He had been forcibly reminded of Mary and had staggered back, holding John away from himself. He had seen the rush of emotions on John's face; desire, hunger, confusion and hurt. All he had been able to do was mouth the word 'Mary' and John had realised, stepped away and dropped his hands from Sherlock's body as if they were on fire. John's following words were seared into his mind, needing to be deleted but never would be, Sherlock would never delete anything about John.

"Oh shit, Sherlock! Oh God, I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have tried that, delete it. It was wrong of me to put you in that situation."

John's rushed words had hurt Sherlock to the core, his heart starting to shatter. He had lied to John, saying that it wasn't important, not to worry, that he understood, that of course he would delete it - and all the time his soul had cried out silently in pain.

"Look I really should go, it's getting late. I need to talk to Mary. I.... I .. Oh God." Sherlock had been at a loss what to say, his eloquent tongue once again failing him when it was faced with an emotional John.
"I'll call you later Sherlock, we need to talk." John had hesitated momentarily before putting his hand softly against Sherlock's cheek then grabbing his coat. Then he was gone and Sherlock had been left stunned by the sudden change in events.

Sherlock's phone now sat on the arm of his chair, its continuing silence deafening. He had heard nothing from John. No calls. No texts. No emails. Nothing. Once again, Sherlock picked the phone up, rapidly flicking from screen to screen, pale eyes studying for any updates. For the fifth time in thirty minutes, Sherlock turned his phone off, allowing it to shut down completely, before powering it back up. Still nothing. Finally he checked the wifi connection, all as it should be. John had not contacted him as he had promised. Logical conclusion - Sherlock had frightened him away with his need, with his lack of self control. With his sentiment.

Quickly, Sherlock typed out a message.

I'm sorry John. Forgive me. Please come home. SH

Sherlock stared at the flashing cursor for several long minutes before swiping it into the saved/not sent box. Sentiment had played him as its fool once; he would not let it do it again. Straightening his back and hardening his heart, Sherlock Holmes began to rebuild his walls.

Chapter Text

John's memories of the last few days were a blur, one bright technicolour image merging into the next, their vividness causing him actual mental and physical pain. John wondered again how the hell his life had spiralled so drastically out of control in just five short days.

Five days ago, he had realised the true intensity of Sherlock's feeling for him, had been held in Sherlock's embrace, had had that slim body pressed intimately against his own..... Now he was standing on the threshold of a white hospital room, listening to the soulless beep of machinery and wishing he was lucky enough to be feeling numb. Anything would be better than the empty, hollow, echoing pain in his chest where his heart used to be.

John walked over to the hospital bed, once again checking on the pale form that lay there. He assessed the machines monitoring vital signs, noting that blood pressure was good, pulse even, oxygen saturation within the norm. Stroking the slim white hand gently, John lowered his weary body onto the uncomfortable hospital chair, his arms resting on his legs, hands hanging limply as his shoulders folded in. His whole body finally gave in to the strain, head falling briefly to his chest before John battled to regain his control. Jerking his head violently back up, John squared his shoulders before pinching the bridge of his nose firmly, forcing the threatening tears to stay unshed. He knew if he allowed the tears to fall now he would fall apart - he had to suppress the horror of Sherlock's leap from St Barts, the grief of the following two years and then the turmoil of his feelings since Sherlock's return. All these emotions would escape in his tears and they would tear him apart, rip him limb from limb and leave him a bloody pulp in the corner, an enigma worthy of the investigation of one Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. The thought of Sherlock forced a desperate sob from him, the sound loud and out of place in the dour room. John knew that Sherlock would not be investigating his rather fanciful death by sentiment. Sherlock would not be doing anything with, or for, John again. Pulling out his phone, John looked again at the text he received five days ago.

Goodbye John - SH

This time John was unable to fight the tears off, his defences crumbling as raw grief tore through him.

Chapter Text

Three days earlier - Baker Street

Sherlock took a final glance around the rooms at 221B, the leaden weight in his stomach somehow making his usually graceful movements heavy. He knew outwardly he looked in control, composed even, his demeanour icy. Only Mycroft or John knew him well enough to know that it was all just an act, that inside he was disintegrating, his carefully built walls refusing to stay intact.

At the thought of John, Sherlock felt a wave a sickness engulf him. Two days. Two whole days since he had heard from John. Two long days since he had felt John's heart beating in time to his, felt John's breath against his skin, held a responsive John in his arms. He had composed numerous texts and emails since, never sending any except a short text saying simply 'Goodbye'. John had said he would call him. He hadn't. Sherlock had waited hours for the call to come, finally admitting to himself that it never would and making the painful decision to leave John and Mary in peace. Sherlock had called Mycroft, asked him if he still needed his help and had then awaited his brother's arrival, for once grateful for Mycroft's seemingly emotionless approach to life.

After packing his essentials, Sherlock returned to the fireplace and picked up an empty CD case, narrowing his eyes at his own writing scrawled across the front. 'Words Unspoken.' He knew now that those words between himself and John would remain forever unspoken. John had obviously come to his senses about their almost-kiss, had realised that embarking on anything with Sherlock would be a mistake, had understood how lucky he was to have Mary and had chosen Mary instead of him. Wearily, Sherlock let his eyes close, admitting to himself this is how it should be. John should be with Mary, not with some self diagnosed sociopath who solved crimes as an alternative to getting high. John was a good man and he deserved a good life; he had a better chance than average with Mary. She was kind, funny, caring, astute, and had not been threatened by the reappearance of Sherlock and how that could affect her relationship with John.

"Sherlock! Are you done here? Or do you wish to dither your time away a while longer?"

The cold voice pulled Sherlock from his dark thoughts, suddenly surprising him that Mycroft had arrived unheard. Sherlock turned to face his brother, pale eyes blazing and was gratified to see the taller man looking momentarily disconcerted. Mycroft focused his attention on the handle of his umbrella, swinging the length of it gently, before gazing up at Sherlock through lowered lashes.

"You've still not heard anything from John, I take it?" Sherlock was surprised how soft his brother's voice had become - caring; his icy front momentarily thawed, their eyes met briefly before Mycroft focused again on his umbrella handle.

"No, nothing. I suspect he is busy with Mary. Maybe she has him finally planning the wedding with her?" Sherlock could hear the bitterness in his voice as he spoke about the upcoming event.

"Sherlock, as much as I abhor sentiment, I think you should contact him." Sherlock turned his cold eyes on his brother, his glance taking in the too rigid posture, carefully feigned indifference and lack of eye contact.

"What do you know, Mycroft?" Sherlock could feel the way the words wrenched at his throat, coming out as a low growl, his sudden fear sounding like anger. Had something happened to John?

"Sherlock, it really isn't my job to keep tabs on your friends ....." Sherlock could hear the sneer in his brother's voice, contempt almost dripping from the word, 'friends'.

"What. Do. You. Know?" Each word was carefully enunciated, Sherlock's fist clenching rhythmically.

"My contacts tell me that Doctor Watson was seen accompanying Mary Morstan in an ambulance during the early hours of yesterday morning."

"Mary? What's happened? Mycroft, why the hell did you keep this from me? Were you so desperate for my help that you felt the need to conceal this information? "

Relief and despair fought for dominance in Sherlock's mind. Maybe John hadn't deliberately ignored him? Maybe Mary needed John more at that moment? That still didn't explain why Sherlock had not heard anything directly from John but he felt the tiny Phoenix of hope start to rise from the ashes of his shattered dreams.

"Sherlock. I know how much John means to you, and, I'm afraid there's no easy way to say this, but Mary was taken into hospital with suspected complications relating to pregnancy. John and Mary are expecting a child." For once Mycroft's words were softly spoken, compassion evident and that sincerity, more than anything, is what crushed the last of Sherlock's hopes; stamped out the last spark of life in his Phoenix.

Sherlock's tall frame suddenly collapsed, falling into his chair as effectively as if the puppet master had cut his strings. Leaning his face into his hands Sherlock took several deep breaths, trying to calm the churning inside, holding back the bile that now flooded his mouth and throat. His breathing was laboured and for a long moment he felt as if he were back in his torturers hands with no hope of escape. John, his John, was lost to him. He was too noble a man to abandon a child, a child he was having with a woman he cared for, loved even.

"Are you absolutely sure Mycroft?" Sherlock's voice sounded lost and distant, even to his own ears. He had no doubt that he looked every inch the broken man. He risked a glance up at his brother, meeting his gaze, noting the slow shrug.

"Nothing is written in stone Sherlock, the intel is only as good as the people gathering it."

"But we both know your people are the very best, Mycroft."

"Quite." Sherlock noted how Mycroft once again looked away, the unaccustomed compliment making both brothers uncomfortable. "Call him."

"No. He has a real child on the way, now; he will hardly want me around to look after too." Sherlock saw his brother open his mouth to protest. "No. I'm more determined than ever to do this bloody job now, I'll be back for the wedding but then I'll leave him in peace utterly; give him the opportunity to be a family man."

"Very well, little brother. I'll leave you to gather the last of your things together." With one last twirl of his umbrella Mycroft walked down the stairs to the waiting car.

Realising he still had the CD cover on his lap, Sherlock stuffed it firmly down the side of his chair, scraping his hand on a sharp corner in the process. He slowly lifted himself out of the chair, his heart heavy with disappointment and shattered dreams, his eyes blurred with unshed tears. Blindly he stumbled forward until his legs brushed against the soft fabric of John's chair. Running one long-fingered hand over the material, Sherlock heaved a sigh, his heartache apparent. He closed his eyes and allowed himself a brief moment to imagine John back in his chair, the firelight from the grate reflecting in his light hair, warming the golden tones of his skin, his fathomless, dark blue eyes meeting and holding his own gaze for a fraction too long before his mobile features quirk into an amused smile. Reaching into his jacket pocket, Sherlock withdrew his phone, quickly swiping through screens before typing a simple message. Leaving his phone on the table by John's chair, Sherlock put on his coat and scarf, glanced once more around the flat he called home and then began to descend the stairs.

Reaching the foot of the stairs, Sherlock took a steadying breath and walked towards Mrs Hudson's flat door.

"Mrs Hudson, I'm off now. Please don't dust or touch any experiments!" Sherlock's harsh words were softened by the smile gracing his features.

"Not your housekeeper dear." Mrs Hudson reached up one small hand to cup Sherlock's cheek. "Is John going with you this time?"

"No. He has other things to focus his attention on now." Sherlock briefly let his hand rest over Mrs Hudson's frail one before lowering it and bending to give her a brief kiss on the cheek. "I'll be home soon."

Sherlock found his hand gripped in a deceptively firm hold, his eyes now studying Mrs Hudson's earnest face. "You need to tell him, Sherlock."

"No. It's too late for that now." Sherlock gave Mrs Hudson one final squeeze before turning abruptly and marching from the flat, his coat giving one final dramatic billow before the front door closed behind him.

Chapter Text

Mary was home. After two long weeks of uncomfortable hospital beds, she was finally home. Glancing across at John, she couldn't help but notice how worn out he looked. The lines on his face, often so soft were now etched deep, almost a permanent frown. He seemed to have physically aged a decade in just two, short weeks. She knew that part of this was from John worrying about her, but that the majority of it was caused by Sherlock's sudden absence. John had told her that Sherlock had vanished, that he wasn't answering his calls or texts. Even Mrs. Hudson didn't know where he was; only that he was coming back in time for the wedding. Mary had overheard John on the phone to Mycroft; she had heard the clipped politeness in John's voice, the increased forcefulness in his demands for information, had seen him clenching his fist and jaw when those demands were obviously denied. She didn't know what had happened between Sherlock and John but she knew it was hurting him deeply, that it was slowly breaking him. It hurt to know that she couldn't be the one to fix him this time.

She wasn't a fool. She had realised that when she first met John, he was in deep mourning. She had initially presumed that it was for a wife or family member and had been surprised to find it had only been a friend, a flatmate; one that had died almost eighteen months earlier....

Wincing at the thought of how wrong she had been, and the sudden exhaustion that swept over her, she allowed herself to be led to the comfortable sofa, letting John fuss over her with his soft hands and sad face.

Only a friend... It hadn't taken her long to realise that John had thought of his flatmate as very much more than 'only a friend' and it had hurt her deeply to see how hard John had been taking his death. John would never really talk much about what had happened. Too stoic, too bloody British, but gradually she had discovered that they had lived together for about a year and a half; John moving in to the flat in less than two days. She had known John well enough by then to know he had trust issues and had been shocked at how quickly he had obviously trusted this Sherlock Holmes. Eventually, John had confided in her that Sherlock had committed suicide, had thrown himself off the top of Bart's Hospital and that John had been a witness to it all, had heard Sherlock's last words. She had cried for him then, her own tender heart aching for his loss and for his unspoken regrets. For him, a doctor, an ex-army doctor at that, to lose someone so close to him and to have been able to do nothing, must have been horrendous. For that person to have been someone he cared for so deeply, loved even, must have been earth shattering. No wonder he had been an empty shell of a man when they had met. Gradually, she had helped to fill that shell with new feelings, new emotions, new memories; and although deep down, she knew it was not enough to make John whole again - she had hoped it would be enough to make him happy.

"Are you ok Mary? Can I get you a drink? Nice cup of tea maybe?"

John's gentle voice broke through her reverie. Tilting her face up to look at him she saw again the tired, sad man she had grown to care for deeply, so deeply that she knew she had to be the one to make this change. She had to make a clean break in their relationship; she knew his heart was elsewhere. She had known, if she were honest with herself, the moment that John had finally accepted Sherlock was alive, not just another figment of his imagination. Not just a fleeting spectre that would melt away the moment his hands made contact. She had realised long before John that the reason he kept attacking Sherlock was simply to ensure he was actually there, a form of skin-on-skin contact, not an ethereal being sent to haunt his waking hours in addition to plaguing his sleeping ones.

"That would be lovely... Then I think we need to talk." She could hear the pause in her statement but she knew that it was the right thing to do. She was home, she was well on her way to being fully recovered and John had been growing more and more absent by the day. Oh yes, his body was physically there, but his mind, his soul even, was wherever Sherlock was. Those two were linked by a deeper, more profound bond than anything she had ever experienced and she was loath to stand in its way. John had looked ever so slightly guilty at her words but, stoic as ever, had left her to her idling and gone to make them both a cup of tea. So typically John.

Mary let her mind wander back to the time that Sherlock had so dramatically reappeared in John's life. She had known that John was going to propose that night at the restaurant. He had been unusually fidgety; never a man of many words at the best of times, he had stumbled over the few words he had spoken. With the benefit of hindsight she could see it was because a part of him was still longing for Sherlock, would never be ready to completely leave that part behind him. At the time she had thought he was being adorably nervous. She remembered the tall waiter arriving at precisely the wrong moment - comic timing almost - sharing a smile with John before he had glanced up and really looked at the waiter. The next few minutes had been a flurry of words and bodies, ending with John pinning Sherlock to the floor, anger and betrayal flooding from the very core of him. What had followed had been a very long evening of frustrated tempers, misspoken words and two idiots of epic proportions refusing to say what actually needed to be said. Smiling wryly, she wondered if all men were the same, or if it were just these two who were so deeply in denial of their feelings that they'd need a torch, a map and a ball of string to find their way out! A giggle escaped her as she realised that they'd probably need a bloody GPS too!

She had been struck by Sherlock's appearance. She had seen photos of him of course, but seeing him with that ridiculous drawn-on moustache and noticing the way he was looking at John, it had been hard to reconcile them as the same person. Yes, the hair was the same mass of carefully controlled waves and curls, the lips were the same distinctive shape, the cheekbones were the same degree of chiselled. But the eyes, the eyes were different. The same extraordinary colour was apparent, but gone was the studied distance, the cold indifference. As Sherlock gazed at John, all she could see were deep pools of regret, compassion, nervousness and fear. John had been too angry to notice anything, but any fool would have been able to notice the way that Sherlock held his body. No longer the brash, all knowing detective; more obvious now was the man who was just as much of an empty shell as John had been. Later, much later, after all the fight had finally left John she had been able to chat to Sherlock and had been surprised at just how much she had liked him. Yes, he was occasionally abrupt, a little rude, but he wasn't trying to flatter her with lies. He was honest and she had appreciated that and it was blindingly obvious how much he cared for John, how much he had missed him.

The rattle of a cup being placed down drew Mary's attention back to the present and a pensive John. Patting the sofa next to her, she shuffled up a bit, allowing John to sit with her but not feel pressurised by her presence. Taking one of his hands, she brought it up to her lips and gently caressed the back of it, lowering it slightly as she looked steadily at him. The story of his life was etched on his face; all the years of laughter, pain and sadness, clear to see for those who could read it.

"How is it I can see you, but he can't?" The words had escaped Mary before she realised, the sadness in her voice not for herself.

"Pardon? Who can't?" John's ever-furrowed brow seemed to crinkle even more, his worry at Mary's strange comment apparent.

Laughing lightly, Mary lowered their joined hands to her lap. "I'm not delirious John, don't worry. I meant I can read how you feel for Sherlock but it seems he can't. How strange."

"He's useless at reading my emotions, yeah, but he knows he's my best friend. Well he does now. Can't believe he didn't know that." Mary could see the distant look in John's eyes, the fondness that was apparent whenever he thought of Sherlock. She knew that she was doing the right thing. No matter how hard it felt in the short term, she knew that what she was about to say would change everyone's lives forever.

"John, you know I love you and it's because I love you that I'm saying this. You're a good man John, and you deserve to be with the person that you love." Mary's gaze was unwavering but non-judgemental. She saw John swallow, saw the guilt quickly sweep across his face, only to be replaced with confusion. "And who loves you, the way that he loves you."

Mary felt John tense, saw his eyes go blank as he threw up all his emotional barriers, heard the denial in his voice. "He loves me? Mary I don't understand what you mean. I think you're overtired." John tried to stand, to remove himself from the situation. Mary continued to hold his hand, determined to anchor him, to provide a safe harbour in the storm of emotions he constantly tried to keep at bay.

"I am not overtired John. I'm not still ill; it was appendicitis; it was treated. You're a doctor, you know exactly how well I am. You need to stop hiding from the truth John. You know who I mean. I love you, I honestly do, but not like he loves you, not like Sherlock." Mary kept her words even, calm, her grip on his hand firm. She felt as if a huge weight were being lifted from her shoulders. She should have done this weeks ago, months even, the moment that she had seen how much these two had needed each other, loved each other, almost on the first night of Sherlock's return.

John was shaking his head vehemently, cheeks sucked in, jaw set. Mary stilled his movement with a firm hand on his cheek. "Don't be the idiot he calls you John. Admit it to yourself. Admit it to him. He loves you, you love him. It really is that simple."

John finally met Mary's gaze, his eyes no longer flat, the hope in them causing their deep blue depths to sparkle, the kiss of sunshine on the sea after the storm.

"But what about you? I do love you Mary but......"

"I know John." Once again, Mary met John's gaze, no judgement in her eyes, just sadness. Not for herself but for the love that she had almost ruined. "He needs you John. Not just for the, I have to say slightly crazy work, but for himself. It's like you're his other half, John; you complete him and he completes you. He loves you with every fibre of his being. I care too much about both of you to stand in the way. I'm letting you go John.... and I'm good with that."

"Mary...... Oh god Mary, I'm so sorry. I do love you, so very, very much, but ....." John's eyes were bright now, filled with hope.

"You belong with Sherlock. You belong together. You deserve each other.. " Mary felt her face relax into a grin. "And actually John, I deserve to find a love like that too."

"Of course you do Mary. Of course you do. And they will be damn lucky to have you."

Mary gently pulled John into a hug. "I think you should go back to Baker Street John. I know he's not there now, but you need to be there when he finally comes home. Let it be you he comes home to." Releasing him, Mary patted his arm, smiling brightly. "Now, if I had just a bit more strength I would be kicking your arse out of that door!"

Chapter Text

Sitting once again in his comfy armchair in the living room of the only place he had ever thought of as home, John allowed his mind to drift. Less than two months ago he had been an engaged man, with a wedding on the horizon and his Best Man returned from the dead. Then his body and mind had been thrown into turmoil the moment he had agreed to let Sherlock teach him to dance. Those stolen moments of intimacy had made John acknowledge just how much he needed Sherlock, wanted Sherlock. Then there had been the moment where he was sure they were going to kiss, the mere memory of it enough to make John's breath hitch and arousal to spike in his chest. The moment had been so full of heat and promise and he had known that Sherlock had felt it too, all their deepest desires for once in harmony. No thoughts had been in his mind then, just his body being drawn to Sherlock's, his lips tingling with the promise lingering in the air. Then Sherlock had abruptly stopped; the single word 'Mary' enough to shock John back to the reality of the situation. He had fled, running to Mary. His intention had been to tell her everything, to make a clean break, to return to Sherlock permanently if he would have him. Instead it had been the start of a nightmare journey. Mary had almost died and he had thought he had lost Sherlock, too. Mary had been in and out of surgery for the first few days, the time passing in flashes of bright white.

When he had finally been able to leave Mary's side and organise his thoughts through the fog of guilt and fear, he had seen Sherlock's message. His immediate thought had been that Sherlock had done something irreversible, something he couldn't come back from, that this time he really had lost him. He had tried to call Sherlock but it had gone straight through to voice mail; several frantic texts later, he was still none the wiser. Finally he had called Mycroft, swallowing his pride for the sake of Sherlock's well-being. Mycroft had reassured John that Sherlock was alive, but currently working out of the country on a case for him. He had been unforthcoming with any further details and John had been left with the disquieting feeling that he had seriously pissed off the British Government.

Finally, Mary had been the one to raise the subject of Sherlock and tell John to return home. In the quiet of 221B John was able to admit that she was a far stronger person than he; he hadn't deserved her. Doubt suddenly clouded his brow - why would he be any more deserving of Sherlock? The man had put his life on the line for his friends, for John in particular, never truly knowing if he would survive. John had felt the evidence with his own hands that Sherlock had not returned physically unscathed and he knew from his own time facing possible death on a daily basis that Sherlock wouldn't have returned mentally unscarred, either. If that bastard Moriarty hadn't already blown his own brains out, John would be more than happy to do it for him, but only after inflicting serious pain on him for every hurt he had ever caused Sherlock.

Raising himself from the chair, John walked over to the window, allowing his hand to trail the soft leather of Sherlock's chair as he passed. Looking out onto Baker Street he took pleasure in savouring the autumn evening. It was unusually quiet outside, the blustery wind and threat of rain driving everyone indoors early. He leaned one arm against the window pane and watched as the leaves chased each other down the street. A riot of red, gold and amber tumbling down the dusk-kissed street - the perfect evening for a wood fire, a good book and warm drink. Resting a moment longer against the window, John reflected that the only thing needed to make this evening perfect would be Sherlock. Sitting in his chair deducing the world; standing playing his violin, the light from the window emphasising his sensuous grace; staring transfixed at his crime wall. Hell, John would be happy even if Sherlock were throwing an enormous tantrum, his ennui finally driving him to distraction, throwing himself onto the sofa for a sulk, so long as he could have him home.

John knew that he would stand by Sherlock's side whatever, forever, as his friend, as his work partner, or more if he were ever given the opportunity. Sherlock had been the centre of his universe from the day they had met; it was no wonder he had felt lost and alone during the two years Sherlock was gone. He had lost the reason for his orbit and had been left drifting, lost and alone in the dark. Now he felt as if he were gradually being drawn back on track, back to his idea of normal. He had not been given any details but he had a feeling deep in his bones that Sherlock was on his way home; soon the empty leather chair would have a long-legged detective sitting in it once more. John's only concern was whether he would punch Sherlock or kiss him. Both ideas seemed equally desirable.

After his recent discovery, John was not worried that Sherlock did not care for him, more that Sherlock didn't know how much John loved him. Crossing back to his chair, John picked up the CD case that was on the arm, bouncing it gently on the back of his right hand, a soft smile gracing his features. Walking to the kitchen, John went through the motions of making tea, only putting the case down when absolutely necessary. Otherwise it was being constantly twiddled, twisted and tapped, his fingertips tracing the handwriting there; Sherlock's elegant sprawl spelling out the simple expression, 'Words Unspoken'.

Tea in hand, John moved back to his own worn armchair, snuggling himself into it before twisting slightly to stare into the dancing flames. John had found his prize about a week after moving back into Baker Street. One evening in a moment of deep despair, John had curled up on Sherlock's chair. He had hoped that being ensconced in the iconic armchair, he would feel closer to Sherlock. Instead the scent of Sherlock and leather had increased John's level of melancholy. He had fidgeted in an effort to cocoon himself further into the scent but had ended up stabbing himself in the thigh with something sharp. Very gingerly, having no clue what he might find discarded down the side of Sherlock's chair, John had pushed his hand down, his fingers closing around the edge of a hard case and he had slowly eased it out. A simple CD case was clasped between his fingertips, Sherlock's writing clear upon it. He had opened it, only to find it was empty and John still remembered the feeling of deep disappointment swooping through his stomach. Returning his thoughts to the present, John pressed play on the CD remote, flooding the darkening room with the warm sounds of the violin. Laughing at his recollection of how long it had taken him to realise that the missing CD was already in the player, John allowed the music to wash over him.

On the first play through, John had recognised quite a few of the songs and had been surprised that Sherlock had been familiar enough with them to include them on a CD. The first two were the ones that they had danced to and even now the memory of holding Sherlock in his arms was enough to get his heart racing. He had listened to the songs in mild awe at the range Sherlock had chosen; all had the same underlying sentiment - love. Strangely, listening to the music had made John feel closer to Sherlock than he had achieved by sitting in Sherlock's chair, inhaling his scent. As the songs had continued to play John had realised that they were not a selection of songs for John to learn to dance to for his wedding, but an unconscious message from Sherlock to John. The lyrics expressed the feelings that Sherlock would never willingly admit to, they were the words that remained so desperately unspoken between them both.

Sipping his tea, John listened intently to the music once more, his heart full of the love he felt for Sherlock and, he hoped, Sherlock still felt for him. With each new song, John allowed scenarios to play before his eyes; some remembered, some he hoped to create.

'And with this love song to you
It's not a momentary phase.
You are my life, I don't deserve you
But you love me just the same.
And as the mirror says we're older
I will not look the other way.
You are my life, my love, my only
And that's the one thing that won't change.'

As always, John imagined an older Sherlock smiling at him from his chair, his hair threaded through with grey, the pattern of his curls highlighted. His face gently ageing; the lines on his skin only adding character to a still-handsome face, the laughter lines around his eyes deepening as he raises his face for a loving kiss.

Other songs had been more melancholy, the words alerting John to how much he would have been missed and how empty and alone Sherlock would have felt without him.

'How can I not love you?
What do I tell my heart?
When do I not want you here in my arms?
How does one waltz away from all of the memories?
How do I not miss you when you are gone?
How can I not love you when you are gone?'

John swore to himself that when he finally held Sherlock in his arms he would leave him in no doubt as to how he felt. Gradually, the CD made the transition to the next song; a song that still had the power to bring a lump to John's throat and have tears prickle the back of his eyes. It was only too easy to imagine a heart broken Sherlock alone in a crowd at the wedding reception, his eyes reflecting the sadness within, a half smile hitched on his face whenever John met his gaze.

'If time is all I have
I'll waste it all on you

Each day I'll turn it back
It's what the broken hearted do.
I'm tired of talking to an empty space
Of silences keeping me awake.

When you marry
And you look around
I'll be somewhere in that crowd
Torn up, that it isn't me.

When you're older
The memories fade.
But I know I'll still feel the same
For as long as I live.'

Smiling sadly into his tea, John knew that he had every right to tease Sherlock for being more of the romantic than he ever was, but he knew he never would. Sherlock had lowered his defences enough to 'voice' his feelings in a manner that he knew was safe, hoping that John would recognise what he was trying to say, whether he acknowledged it on a conscious level or not.

Chapter Text

Sherlock took a moment to savour the crisp autumn air, enjoying the sensation of being back in England. A sudden gust of wind tugged at his curls and tried to pull his bag from his shoulders, the tails of his coat whipping against his legs. Wrapping his scarf tighter against his neck, Sherlock closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation of the wind caressing his skin, twining itself into his hair, fluttering throughout his clothes like an eager lover. He listened to the sound of the leaves dancing down the street, before opening his eyes to enjoy the beauty of the season. Rich golds, reds and ambers swirled around his feet, almost as if encouraging him to join in their dance. With a heavy heart, Sherlock knew the only person he would wish to hold in a lovers embrace, to dance the timeless dance with, was John. Breathing deep, he raised his face to look at the window of 221B. He could see a flicker of firelight in the otherwise unlit room; frowning he wondered who could be there. Mycroft had assured him that no one knew he was coming home so it was unlikely that Mrs Hudson had lit the fire in response to an expected arrival. It was entirely possible that she kept the rooms heated against the current cold spell but, again, unlikely she would do it with an open fire.

Slowly, Sherlock approached 221. He inserted his keys with care, trying not to alert whoever might be in his flat. Closing the door behind him, Sherlock cursed the loud click. No sound came from Mrs Hudson's flat - obviously out. Music was drifting down from 221B and he was able to recognise the strains of a song that he had chosen for John. Anger flooded through him at the thought of a stranger playing something so deeply personal, more anger than at the idea of a stranger being in his home. All thoughts of stealth were forgotten as he pounded up the stairs, missing several steps but still alert enough to notice the abrupt silence from his flat.

Throwing the door open, Sherlock suddenly stilled, his bag falling from his shoulder, the light from the hallway silhouetting his frame.

"John." The name escaped on a gasp, he couldn't believe the evidence of his own eyes. Why would John be at Baker Street? Automatically, he removed his scarf and coat, hanging them on the hooks, his eyes never leaving John, drinking him in; he could see him clenching and releasing his left fist, flicking out the fingers in obvious growing frustration. Eyes on John, he watched as John walked towards him, his face now locked in that dangerous half smile that Sherlock knew meant righteous anger was simmering just beneath the surface. John Watson was a smouldering ball of fury and not a man to be taken lightly.

"Hello John." Sherlock forcibly tried to keep his words light, his temptation to back away from a slowly but deliberately approaching John, violently stamped down.

"Hello John? Hello John? You vanished into thin air for two months and that's all you can think of to say? Hello bloody John!" Sherlock could see anger and betrayal clear on John's face and barely had a moment to register the fist moving towards his face before it made contact with his cheekbone. The shock and impact of the punch felled Sherlock. Realising the wisdom of the matter, he stayed low on the ground and bit back the first remarks that came to him, one hand held up in front of him, his palm facing outwards.

"Where the bloody hell have you been Sherlock? Hmmm?" John's voice was dangerously calm; the words steady, only the throat clearing alerted Sherlock to the fact that John Watson was furious.

"On a case for Mycroft, as you very well know." Sherlock's words were deliberately clipped, a trace of his old arrogance apparent, knowing that he needed to keep the wall up against the emotions that were rising, ready to flood out. He kept his eyes fixed on John's overly tensed body, the only movement being the rise and fall of his heaving chest. John's fists were still clenched at his sides, ready to spring into action again at one wrong word from Sherlock; his chin was jutting out in determined stubbornness. The whole of his body language demanding an explanation from Sherlock.

"You left Sherlock. You left again and I had no clue where you were, if you were safe; if you were even bloody alive! You left again without....." John's voice trailed off, but the unspoken 'without me' was apparent to Sherlock. "How could you do that Sherlock? Hmm? How could you do that to me again?"

"I did it because it was necessary, John. I left you where you needed to be, with Mary." Sherlock took a steadying breath before continuing. "I believe congratulations are in order?" Sherlock could feel his heart break a little more even as he tried to smile for John.

"Congratulations? What for? What the bloody hell are you talking about?" John's brows were furrowed in confusion. Quickly tracking his eyes all over John, Sherlock could tell that John was genuinely confused and more than slightly concerned. "Did you hit your head on the floor?"

"My head is fine, although I'm concerned about yours." Slowly, Sherlock shifted to standing, wincing at the tenderness where his backside had hit the wooden floor. "The baby, John. Congratulations on you and Mary conceiving a baby. I know that you hadn't really planned on a family, but I know you will both make excellent parents. After all you've done a brilliant job raising me." His smile was sincere, but he wondered what else John had read on his face as John shifted his focus onto the wall, just to the side of Sherlock's head and unconsciously pinched at the bridge of his nose, the lines on his face appearing suddenly deeper. Sherlock felt his smile slip and the ice grip around his heart tightened a little more.

Sherlock watched as John exhaled slowly, surprised when he saw a fleeting smile touch John's lips before his face was carefully schooled into indifference. "Baby? There is no baby Sherlock. Mary's not pregnant. Never has been, to my knowledge. Where on earth did you get that idea from?" John finally lifted his eyes to meet Sherlock's gaze, and Sherlock barely had time to suppress the relief he was sure would be showing on his face.

"Mycroft." Sherlock's jaw was clenched shut and the name came out as barely more than a growl.

"Mycroft? What on earth has Mycroft to do with all this?" John's face was scrunched up in confusion.

"Mycroft said .." Sherlock stuttered to a halt, licking his lips nervously before continuing. "He told me before I left that you and Mary were expecting a child. The information was straight from his people and we both know how good they are." Sherlock could hear the cracks in his voice as vague tendrils of hope weaved their way through his usually icy demeanour, gradually knocking bricks out of his carefully constructed wall. If there was no baby, maybe John would come home? Almost before the thought had been formed, Sherlock knew that it was not going to happen. John had gone home to Mary, had made the choice to stay with Mary.

"Mycroft was wrong. Mary was rushed to hospital almost two months ago with complications from a ruptured appendix. There was a brief discussion amongst the ambulance crew, and again on arrival at the hospital, of an ectopic pregnancy, but I knew that was unlikely because, well......" Sherlock felt his eyes widen with astonishment when he saw John's face flood with colour.

"You've not had sex with Mary for a while, not since..." He spoke automatically, pausing only to study John again, noting the sucked in cheeks and averted eyes. "...... And before then you were always careful to use protection." Sherlock for once avoided stating the obvious, that John had not had sex with Mary since Sherlock's return from the dead, but was internally reeling at the revelation. What had caused John, a physically loving man, to stop having sex with the woman he was engaged to? Sherlock distractedly pressed his fingers over his cheekbone, wincing at the sudden stab of pain: tender, swelling already apparent, skin broken and bleeding.

"I'm sorry Sherlock, I shouldn't have hit you." Sherlock could see that John's cheeks were still flushed from the implications of his deductions but that all of the anger had now gone. "Sit down and I'll take care of it for you."

"You're lying, John." Sherlock allowed a brief smirk to appear before the throbbing in his cheek intensified too much for him to maintain it.

"Only about being sorry I hit you." A wicked glee lit John's face and Sherlock breathed a sigh of relief, realising that some of their prior level of comfort with each other was returning. God, he had missed John. He had missed the witty banter, the dry humour and the moments of clarity that he gained from having John with him. But most of all he had just missed the quiet moments with John, the moments where their lives were obviously intertwined.

Sherlock lowered himself onto a kitchen chair, shifting uncomfortably at the tenderness of his backside, thinking wryly that it was unlikely to be only the cheek on his face that was bruised. He watched John carefully as he walked down the corridor to the bathroom and couldn't help but admire John's compact and efficient form. Despite being out of the army for several years John still moved with military control, his posture radiating confidence and command. Sherlock found himself wondering once again how so many people misjudged John time and time again, writing him off as non-threatening and slow, an illusion that John was happy to maintain unless the need arose for him to be otherwise. Sherlock allowed himself the pleasure of watching John move back along the corridor, the movement of his strong thigh muscles evident even under the thick denim of his jeans. He felt heat travel to his cheeks when he saw that John had seen him staring, but was immediately reassured when he saw a small smile play over John's lips as an answering blush became apparent. Once John had placed the first aid kit on the kitchen table Sherlock took the opportunity to study John more closely, hoping that John would be too distracted to notice the deep level of scrutiny he was under. Steepling his hands in front of his face Sherlock studied John, there was something different about him, but he couldn't put his finger on what it could be. His thoughts scattered the moment John gently touched his chin with his right hand.

"This might sting a bit." John leaned in close as he applied the antiseptic wash to Sherlock's face. Sherlock felt his eyes narrow with the shock of the sting and he bit the inside of his lip lightly to stop him protesting out loud. He didn't want John to feel any worse than he already was for hitting him; he wanted John to stay close by, to feel his fingertips warm against his skin. He could feel himself drifting into dangerous territory, and in an effort to distract himself, he tried to study John's face in a detached manner. Even after years away from the desert, John's skin had a healthy golden glow to it, the deep hue making his eyelashes even more noticeable as they glistened slightly in the harsh kitchen light. He could see the evidence of disrupted nights' sleep in the bags under John's eyes and almost lost himself in the depths of those dark blue irises. John's eyes now sparkled with happiness, matching the secret smile that played over John's lips. Sherlock let his gaze drift to John's mouth, helpless now as he realised there was no way he could ever be detached when it came to John Watson. He could feel John's breath caressing his cheek, could see a glimpse of John's tongue peeking out between slightly parted lips. He felt himself leaning towards John's mouth, lost in the thought of trying to steal the kiss he thought he could see hovering there. The sight of John's tongue swiping quickly on his lower lip made him gasp aloud; the glimpse of pink had sent a powerful jolt of arousal to Sherlock's groin and he felt his face flood with colour, both from embarrassment and pleasure.

"Sorry. Did that hurt? I'm almost done." Sherlock felt John's strong fingers carefully tape butterfly stitches over his cut cheek and found himself leaning into the warmth of John's hand, moving quickly away when John nervously cleared his throat. Damn his treacherous body!

"Are these absolutely necessary John?" Sherlock knew his words were sharp, a feeble attempt to disguise his embarrassment.

"Yes, they are Sherlock." John quickly slapped Sherlock's questing hand away from the stitches. "It will heal more quickly if you leave it alone. I'll check how it's doing again in the morning, so until then, leave it alone!"

"You know I'll just take them off as soon as you leave." Sherlock's heart sank at the thought of morning, knowing that John would need to leave soon, to go home to Mary.

"It's lucky I'm not going anywhere then isn't it?" Sherlock knew he must look positively idiotic at John's unexpected words, could feel the deep frown and parted lips but seemed to have no control over his own facial expressions. The smirk on John's face grew into a full smile upon seeing Sherlock's confusion. It seemed John was enjoying seeing this new confused Sherlock very much.

"Not going anywhere?" Sherlock's words were soft and hesitant, but the beginnings of a pout played around the edges of his full lips. Sherlock could feel his heart pound at the idea of John staying nearby. "Your punch wasn't hard enough to cause a break. I didn't hit my head when I fell, so there's definitely no concussion to worry about. I won't be 'running off' again anytime soon. So why are you staying?" He tilted his head as he tried to read John, his eyes suddenly narrowing. "I don't need a bloody babysitter John!"

"How about a flatmate, then? I've already spoken to Mrs Hudson and she was more than happy for me to move back in. I've moved the bulk of my stuff back in already...." John suddenly broke off in his happy chatter, a look of uneasiness crossing his handsome face, his brow creasing into a frown. "That's if ....." John nervously licked his lips and rocked slightly on his feet. "That's if it's alright with you Sherlock. It is alright, isn't it?"

Sherlock was sure that time had frozen; he knew it was a logical impossibility but it had happened before. It had happened when John had asked him to be his Best Man; the shock of that honour had been huge but not as much as the realisation that John had compared his feelings for Sherlock to his feelings for Mary. Once again Sherlock was fighting to find the right response and once again John was left waiting for an answer.

Chapter Text

Sherlock was silent so long, blinking rapidly, that John was forcibly reminded of the time he'd asked him to be Best Man. Realising that Sherlock needed time to process the new information, John stood quietly and waited. Unfortunately, the lengthening amount of time made John's stomach clench with anxiety. Perhaps he shouldn't have just moved in? Perhaps he should have waited to ask Sherlock if he wanted this? Wanted John back every day in his life? Just as the knot of panic began to weave throughout the fabric of John's being, he noticed a flicker of movement from Sherlock. He watched as Sherlock's gaze travelled around the room, briefly resting on John's mug on the table, John's laptop open on the desk and the discrete pile of medical journals by John's chair, before finally settling on John himself. John held his hands tight behind his back, carefully keeping his face blank, trying not to pressurise Sherlock into a decision. All the while knowing that the rest of his life relied on this moment, on Sherlock deciding whether John could stay.

A small smile ghosted over Sherlock's features before turning into a full smile; John's special smile. "I'd like that John. I'd like that very much. But......" John watched as Sherlock's sudden smile faded; saw doubt and confusion cloud those impossible eyes. "But what about Mary?"

John let out the breath he hadn't even realised he'd been holding. Smiling in relief John realised that this was something he could do; it would be hard for him to open up to Sherlock, to let him in emotionally, but he would. If it meant he could be back by Sherlock's side he would talk for hours, days, months.... "I think this discussion calls for a nice fire and a strong drink. You go check on the fire whilst I tidy up out here and sort us out some drinks."

John watched as Sherlock moved to the fireplace, observing a slight tenderness in the way he walked. Ah, it seemed that Sherlock was sporting a bruised bum after being knocked to the floor. He knew he should feel more guilty for hitting out at Sherlock but the damn man had deserved it. Swanning off for months without a bloody word then walking back into his life with a blasé 'Hello John.' John sniggered; maybe he should offer to kiss it better? What had crossed his mind as a juvenile idea suddenly bloomed into a very visual possibility, taking John's breath away with its clarity. Sherlock spread on his bed, lying on his stomach, nude. John felt saliva pool in his mouth as colour flooded his cheeks, but still he couldn't block out the image of a naked Sherlock. Pale skin against dove grey sheets, head resting on crossed arms, turned to watch John crossing the room, eyes burning hot with desire, the delicious curve of his arse blatantly displayed. John knew he was in dangerous territory, fantasising openly about his flatmate, with said flatmate in the room, but God it felt good. He only hoped one day he would be able to act upon his fantasies.

John lounged against the door frame and took a moment to observe Sherlock as he refuelled the fire. John admired the long, lean (slightly bruised) form as Sherlock elegantly moved through the motions. John couldn't read people as Sherlock could but he knew Sherlock, and right now he could see that he wasn't as calm as he appeared. Sherlock was forcing himself to stay in place, even though his whole body was yearning to bolt out of the door. He could see the angle of Sherlock's jaw, the way his muscles stood out firm in his cheeks, teeth obviously clenched with the effort required to stop him acting on his instincts. He could almost see the questions rushing through Sherlock's mind, all centred around Mary. John could see a flush on Sherlock's skin and hoped it was caused by the idea of John being home rather than just the heat of the fire. Allowing himself to appreciate Sherlock's fire-lit beauty for a minute more, John thought once again what a lucky man he was. He had this unique man as a friend, a flatmate, and if this all went to plan, a lover - his other half, the person who completed him. Dragging his gaze away, John set about the tasks in hand, tidying the medical kit up and reaching for whiskey glasses in short order. He paused a moment when he picked up the whiskey bottle; it was the same one from the night they'd almost kissed. Hopefully it would bring better luck this time. After digging around in the freezer for a moment John found the tray of ice cubes - definitely ice - dropping them into the glasses before walking into the living room.

"Sherlock?" John purposely kept his voice gentle but he still managed to surprise the man; he really had been lost in his mind palace. John watched as Sherlock stacked a few more logs onto the fire, admiring the contrast of pale, long fingers against the dark wood. John held out the glass of whiskey to Sherlock as he rose to standing, resisting the temptation to wrap his fingers over Sherlock's as the glass was taken. His gaze briefly met with Sherlock's before he looked to the fire again. Seeing Sherlock so close after so long was an assault against John's self control. He wanted nothing more than to guide Sherlock's lips to his own, to move their bodies together, to finally, finally be what they should have been all along..... But he knew they needed to talk, too much remained unspoken between them and if any relationship of theirs was to be a success then talk they must, and a lot!

John watched peripherally as Sherlock gratefully lowered himself into his chair. From the sigh he made and the way his limbs began to relax, John had a feeling this was probably the first time Sherlock had allowed himself to relax in months, maybe even longer. It was apparent Sherlock was enjoying being home and John hoped that his own return to Baker Street was adding to that joy. John felt his own body ease, mirroring the relaxed posture of Sherlock, legs stretched out in front, head resting back on the chair, drink held loosely in his hand. John watched, mesmerised, as Sherlock sipped at his whiskey, his eyes sweeping down the long neck as Sherlock swallowed, flicking his gaze back up to see Sherlock's eyes half shut in pleasure and his lower lip briefly sucked in to savour the last drops. John's whole body responded to the sensuous image in front of him and he tightened his grip on the glass as desire pooled within him. He wanted to taste the whiskey on Sherlock's lips, inside his mouth; he wanted to follow the course of the whiskey with soft kisses down Sherlock's long neck, laving and nipping with his tongue and teeth. John sipped at his own whiskey, trying to replace his burning need for Sherlock with the burn of the alcohol. Once he felt calmer and more in control of his body John called Sherlock's attention back to him. Once the intense blue/green gaze was settled on him, John felt a rush of nerves. What if Sherlock was unaffected by his news? He realised that his posture was now more closed, more protective and saw Sherlock raise an eyebrow as he tried to work out what was about to be said, his own body now mirroring John's.

"So, Mary and I won't be needing you to be Best Man." John knew his words were rushed and poorly chosen but now that the moment had come, John's mind had gone blank, his mouth going into auto pilot and spouting out the essence of what needed to be said but lacking the tact that was needed.

John winced as he heard Sherlock gasp and was shocked at the pain he heard in Sherlock's voice, the normally deep baritone barely more than a panicked whisper. "You.... You don't want me to be your Best Man anymore? But, I've prepared a speech, I know I don't really understand sentiment but I tried, I tried for you, John."

"Christ! No Sherlock, it's not that at all!" John's eyes were wide as the full extent of the hurt he had unintentionally caused registered. Dragging his hands over his face John tried again. "Bloody hell we really are both crap at this talking stuff. I don't need you to be Best Man because I don't need a Best Man. There isn't going to be a wedding."

John forced himself to remain still as Sherlock studied him. He kept his eyes open and directed at Sherlock, knew that the only pain on his face was at the hurt he had caused Sherlock, not sadness due to a cancelled wedding. Silently, he willed Sherlock to read what was happening here, to know why he had called off the wedding but John knew that Sherlock had never really been able to read him. He had come close when they had been learning to dance but something had always held him back from that final step. That something had been Mary. Now that she was no longer in the picture, John hoped they would be able to take that final step into new territory. John saw Sherlock frown, heard the confusion in his voice as he spoke. "You've decided to wait. Understandable; it was rather a whirlwind romance after all. Although honestly, John, I don't know how you living apart from Mary will help."

John's eyes glittered with sudden mirth and he couldn't stop the affection he felt from colouring his voice. "You really are an idiot Sherlock." John raised a hand to stop the inevitable protest from him. "Yes, you are. Mary and I are not getting married, now or ever. She is a dear friend, but she is not my girlfriend, or my fiancée and she will never be my wife." John paused, his voice now serious, deeper, even to his own ears, gaze intent on Sherlock. "Do you understand Sherlock? I'm not getting married. I'm going to be here, with you."

John was disappointed but unsurprised by Sherlock's lack of verbal response. The only clue that he had even heard was the rapid downing of his whiskey and the quick flick of a wrist motioning John to do the same. John complied, his eyes never leaving Sherlock as he stood and refilled their tumblers.

John shifted in his chair so he could see Sherlock more clearly, amazed at how Sherlock's hand shook as he poured the amber liquid, the bottle chiming against the glass as a testament to the flood of emotions he seemed to be experiencing. John saw Sherlock take a steadying breath before passing John his glass back. John wanted to ask Sherlock if he was ok, to comfort him, but he knew it was too soon for that. Sherlock needed to be aware of his own emotions before John made him deal with his as well. Sherlock's eyes were now a brilliant blue-green in the firelight and a flush was apparent on his otherwise pale skin. Unsure now on how to proceed, John decided to change the subject to more seemingly neutral territory, wryly thinking that more drink would probably be needed for more meaningful conversations.

"What were you doing for Mycroft? I did ask but he informed me it was a 'need to know' scenario. Prick." John now sipped more slowly at his whiskey, watching as Sherlock moved back to his chair. His dark hair was a little longer to how he normally wore it, the curls at the nape of his neck brushing over the shirt collar, the fringe just dipping beneath his eyebrows. John could see that Sherlock appeared slimmer across the hips, his chest broader. The doctor in John could see it was from extra muscle tone rather than improper eating habits. He wondered for a moment who could have been reminding Sherlock to eat regularly whilst he was away, biting the inside of his lip at the unexpected wave of jealousy. His eyes travelled once again to Sherlock's face, reacquainting himself with the familiar angles and curves. His attention was captured by the quick swipe of Sherlock's tongue over his lower lip, the skin left glistening and moist. John's tongue flicked out to lick his own lip, a groan quickly stifled as once again his thoughts drifted to kissing Sherlock, his tongue licking along that full lower lip, tasting the unique flavour of Sherlock, chasing the flavour into his mouth, deepening the kiss further. John quickly dragged himself out of his fantasy when he saw Sherlock's gaze resting upon him, an unmistakable heat simmering in its depths. John downed his drink, trying not to read more into that look than there was. Glancing back at Sherlock he saw with some surprise that Sherlock had also finished his drink.

"God, we are going to regret this amount of drink in the morning!" Sherlock just shrugged and swirled the remaining ice around in his glass. Reaching across to the side table John grabbed the bottle of whiskey and topped his own glass up before noticing Sherlock leaning forward with his empty glass outstretched. John realised that he was feeling much too relaxed and lazy to keep stretching all night and decided to move the drinks closer. Standing, he determined that it was the perfect opportunity to create a more intimate setting with Sherlock and pushed his chair closer to the fire, conveniently moving it in closer proximity to his flatmate; he then moved the small table with the drinks. A slight bubble of laughter escaped when he saw that Sherlock had also moved his chair. God, he had missed this man so much.

Once both men were settled again, John stretched, his t shirt riding up a little before he tugged it back down, leaving his legs straightened out in front of him. He was rather surprised at how light headed he was feeling; Mycroft's whiskey was obviously more powerful than he realised. Sherlock stretched his own long legs out, tucking them next to John's before flopping back in his chair, the whiskey obviously beginning to work on him, too.

"So, what did you do for Mycroft?" John prompted gently.

"Mycroft had received Intel that Moriarty, or at least someone acting on his behalf, was setting up operations in Rome."

Chapter Text

"But Moriarty is dead. You said he blew his own brains out." John leaned forward in his chair, forearms resting on his thighs, the slight glimmer of firelight dancing in his glass. John was alert now, but not unduly worried. He trusted Sherlock.

"He is and he did. Moriarty is dead; there is no doubt in my mind about that." Sherlock was now mirroring John's position, the new proximity allowing him to catch the subtle smell of John's aftershave mingled with John's own distinctive smell. Sherlock marvelled at how, even at such a serious moment, John had such power over him; simultaneously making him feel safe and energised. Sherlock could see that John was already interested in how the story would unravel and realised, once again, how much he had missed having John to talk to. "Once I arrived in Rome it was obvious that it was just some delusional fanatic who admired the works of our enigmatic consulting criminal and wished to emulate him. Honestly John, it was child's play to identify him." Sherlock waved his glass around in a lazy circle, punctuating his disgust at such a simple case.

"So why were you gone two months, Sherlock? It sounds to me like this was a case you could easily solve. What was the complication?" John's utter faith in him still surprised Sherlock, even after all this time. That very faith was the foundation on which Sherlock had built his gradual re-emergence into the whirring confusion of emotions. He knew, implicitly, that John would be there to support him.

"Unfortunately, this would-be consulting criminal was the illegitimate son of a very senior, very public, personage in the Vatican City." Sherlock deliberately left the description vague but could see the moment that John realised he was obliquely referring to a member of the Holy See. Those moments of intuition were part of the enigma that was John Watson. He was obviously a very intelligent man, but for some reason he played it down, pretended to be the Everyman when he was anything but. Sherlock loved it, loved that enigma, loved John Watson. He knew he was a lucky man to have been allowed to see some of the truth of John Watson, the brains, the compassion and the raw power of a unique man.

"Ah. That would explain the need for Mycroft to be involved. I thought a lot of these 'senior' members chose to be celibate, or had he not?" John noticed that both their glasses were empty again. He quickly filled both, leaning even closer to Sherlock, enthralled by his story.

"This member had apparently chosen the celibate life, was a very vocal advocate in fact. But he had a wandering eye - and a wandering body to match, it would appear." A small smile flitted across Sherlock's face when he saw John grin at his little joke. Sherlock wasn't sure when making John happy had become so important to him, but every smile or giggle made his heart lift and an answering smile quirk the side of his mouth. Only the constant wonder that he was somehow the one able to make John react in that way stopped him from smiling like an idiot.

"Surely the Vatican has experience at keeping these things from becoming public knowledge without needing to involve you? This man can hardly be the first bastard born there."

"Quite, but usually said bastard isn't threatening to kill the Pope in numerous, inventive ways, and to actually have the access to be able to do it. I found I had to infiltrate the inner sanctum, earn the boy's trust and then turn him over to the relevant authorities. A story was then concocted to explain his absence; voluntary rehab I believe. I continued working within the Vatican for another week, ensuring all his little tricks and traps had been identified and dismantled. Of course, even with all that, I was finished there within a month." Sherlock felt no pride in recounting his exploits, just a hollowness as he recalled the time spent away from John. "I was given this personally by the Pope, as a thank you." Reaching carefully inside his jacket pocket he brought forth a small package wrapped in purple tissue paper. Carefully unwrapping it, he handed it across to John. It was a small ivory image, set against a pale blue background, surrounded by a beautiful ornate frame. "It's a Vatican Cameo!"

John glanced up and met Sherlock's delighted gaze for a moment before both men started giggling, their bodies shaking so much they were at risk of spilling their drinks. After a minute or so, John was able to study the cameo fully, cradling it gently in his hands. "It's very beautiful Sherlock, utterly unique, something to be treasured." Wrapping it back up, John passed it back to Sherlock, their fingers briefly touching in the exchange.

Nodding in agreement, Sherlock put the package back inside his jacket pocket. "It reminds me of you, John." Sherlock's voice was so quiet he was unsure that John had heard him until he risked glancing across at him. John's face was flushed, his happiness at being thought of, obvious.

Sherlock edged further forward in his chair, purposely positioning one of his long legs between John's shorter, sturdier ones. Although no contact was made, Sherlock could feel the warmth emanating from John, the sensation bringing a warm flush to his skin. Glancing up, Sherlock could see that his friend was deep in thought and his furrowed brow returned.

Sherlock watched as John absentmindedly swirled his drink around in its glass. John's focus was fixed on the firelight reflected in its depths. Carefully clearing his throat, John resumed the conversation. "So, why did you stay away so long Sherlock? Why didn't you come back to London? Back home?" He kept his eyes fixed firmly on his whiskey.

Sherlock studied John. He could read the doubt that was written clearly in his body language - John thought he knew the answer to why Sherlock had stayed away, he thought Sherlock hadn't wanted to come home, to come back to John. He couldn't have been further from the truth. Every day Sherlock had missed John, had longed to come home and every day it was harder to stay away, harder to give John the space he needed to have the chance at building a life with Mary - a life without him. Sherlock knew that an awkward conversation was on the horizon, a conversation that they needed to have, but years of keeping himself isolated had taken their toll and Sherlock could feel the coils of panic whipping and winding through his system.

"I ended up helping the Italian police. Honestly John they are even more useless than Scotland Yard." Sherlock tried to deflect the conversation but John was determined.

"Why, Sherlock?" John was now looking directly at him, dark blue eyes fixed on him, giving him no escape, his voice dangerously calm. Meeting his gaze, Sherlock realised he could not avoid answering anymore. Chewing on the inside of his lower lip Sherlock tried to gauge how much to say. If he said too much, John might leave again, but if he didn't say what needed to be said, he would be alone again anyway.

"Because I didn't want to get in the way, John. When I left, I believed you and Mary were starting off down a path I would not be needed on - parenthood. Because you and Mary needed time to adapt to the sudden idea of parenthood without me dragging you off, possibly putting your life in danger." Glancing away, Sherlock continued. "Because you should never be forced to choose between your best friend and your wife." Taking a deep breath he turned back to face John. He made a conscious effort to lower all his defences, to let his true emotions show. If he was going to lay himself open to John, then he would not do half a job. As with everything he did, Sherlock put his whole self into his decision. "Because I am a selfish man, John and I would have made you choose. I would have asked you to come on cases, knowing that you wouldn't refuse and I would get my own way whilst making it seem to everyone else that you had free choice. I would have made you spend every moment of every day with me and it still wouldn't have been enough."

The silence that fell was deafening. Sherlock knew that his chest was heaving, partly from the emotion he had just spent and partly from fear of the reception his words would have. He had said even more than he had known he felt. Until he had uttered the words, he had not admitted, even in the safety of his mind palace, how possessive he felt of John, how much he wanted to be part of him, to consume him. The want was palpable and it shocked him to his core; he had never before been such a sexual being and the strength of it was unnerving, foreign to him. He watched with wide eyes as John leaned slightly forward and rested his hand lightly on Sherlock's knee, steadily maintaining eye contact.

"God help me, Sherlock, I would have chosen you. I'll always choose you." John's voice was gruff; the deep emotion held in check, but the words clear, the honesty blinding.

Sherlock lowered his gaze to John's hand, amazed at how such a simple touch conveyed so much. He felt John's fingers twitch and realised he had been staring for so long that he had made John feel as if his touch was unwelcome. Tentatively, Sherlock lowered his own, slightly trembling, hand to rest over John's, threading his own long fingers into the gaps between John's strong ones. Sherlock's focus was fixed, amazed that for all their differences, gold against ivory, sun against snow, they fitted. He and John fitted together, like two puzzle pieces, like their two strong hands resting on his knee. Taking a steadying breath, Sherlock gently squeezed John's hand, glorying in the heat of it. Slowly he raised his eyes to meet John's steady gaze with his nervous one.

"I know. Don't you see? That's why I had to go." Sherlock's calm voice belied the tremors he was feeling. John was home, his hand was held safely within Sherlock's and finally, finally they were actually starting to talk. Albeit the words and actions could be swept aside, explained away as alcohol-induced or the relief of being home and safe, but Sherlock really hoped that this would be the start of a new stage of their relationship. He could feel the heat of John's hand, it's warmth suffusing his body as if in a caress. He wanted to let John's hand remain on his leg, to entwine his fingers further with John's, to rub his thumb over John's knuckles, to read his skin with his fingertips; to let the moment between them grow and lead them where it may. But his mind, his bloody noble mind, wouldn't let him have this small moment of happiness. Sighing deeply, Sherlock removed his hand and leaned back in his chair.

'What happened with Mary?"

John looked momentarily sad before slowly removing his hand from Sherlock's knee and leaning back in his own chair.

"I left here, after our...." The momentary pause and accompanying blush assured Sherlock that John was remembering the last time they had seen one other. John took a deep, cleansing breath before continuing with his story. "...... After our dance lesson. I had every intention of talking to Mary about the wedding. But when I got home, I found her collapsed on the floor. She had vomited, was sickly white with a temperature so high she was delirious. I had no clue how long she had been like that, just lying there." John turned pained eyes to Sherlock. "Later, much later, I discovered that she had been having severe stomach pain for quite some time but that it had become unbearable throughout the day. She hadn't wanted to call me because I had told her we were working on an important case."

John quickly swallowed the last of his drink, before filling both of their glasses again. Sherlock could see how guilty John still felt about not being there for Mary during her time of need, and shame shot through his body. He had kept John away. Is that why John and Mary were no longer together? Had Mary decided, as so many other girlfriends had done before, that she wasn't who John truly needed?

Licking his lips, John continued. "I examined her and, God Sherlock; she was in a really bad way. I called for an ambulance, but by the time it arrived she had totally lost consciousness. I felt so helpless." John stared into the depths of his glass. Sherlock reacted purely on instinct and put his hand over John's knee, gently rubbing his thumb against the denim of John's jeans. John met Sherlock's eyes and smiled briefly before continuing with his tale. "The ambulance came; they asked some brief questions whilst giving her an examination. Once they loaded her up, they called ahead to the hospital, saying that they suspected an ectopic pregnancy. That must have been when Mycroft's lot gathered their Intel. Damn shame no one double checked, I could really have done with my best friend there." Sherlock felt his stomach sink at John's words. "I wasn't able to try and contact you for ages, too much happening with Mary in and out of surgery, but I just kept hoping you'd turn up."

"I'm so sorry John." Sherlock's sense of guilt and shame deepened. He had been so wrapped up in his own sorrows, he had not tried to find out what was happening with John, leaving him alone when his support had been most needed.

John gave a slow shrug, his glass moving in lazy circles. "I know. Then after she was out of the first lot of surgery, it was just a blur of intensive care and more surgery. I nearly lost her. Finally, they were able to stabilise her and I was able to think straight for a few moments. That's when I checked my phone and saw that text from you. Christ, Sherlock, I thought you'd done something stupid." Sherlock saw the pain etched on John's face, some for Mary but most due to Sherlock's past actions. He could see the glimmer of tears threatening to spill, even as John studied his own face, searching for what, Sherlock didn't know. Slowly, John reached over to take Sherlock's hand, sliding his fingers up to Sherlock's wrist until he had two resting on Sherlock's pulse point. Sherlock knew John was seeking proof that he was living and breathing, wanted to feel the reassuring pound of life-blood beneath his fingertips. The touch was far from medical, the brush of John's skin against his sensitive wrist was enough to make Sherlock's pulse jump. "I thought I'd lost you again Sherlock." John's voice was little more than a broken whisper. "And I couldn't have lived through that. Not again."

Sherlock knew that the time had come to finally tell John how he felt, how every moment of every day was flooded with thoughts of him. Of them. Of how he wanted the rest of their lives to be spent together. He felt his lips part as he tried to say the words, but a lifetime of emotional avoidance stopped him. Once again, he steeled himself to try, only to be interrupted by John removing his hand. He watched as John ran both hands over his face before turning his focus to the fire. A sure sign of avoidance.

"God, I'm getting all maudlin. Time for bed I think. I don't think we've ever talked that much before .... But it was good, something we needed to do." John rose slowly from his chair, the fingers of his left hand moving restlessly. "Night, Sherlock. You will still be here tomorrow won't you?" Finally, John turned to look at Sherlock again, his face unsure.

"Of course John. I'm here to stay. Sleep well." Sherlock angled his face up to meet John's gaze and the softness he saw in his expression took his breath away. He kept his gaze fixed on John as he approached his chair; John's left hand no longer moving with restless emotion, rather it was now stretched out towards Sherlock's face. Sherlock felt his eyes drift closed as John's soft palm cupped his cheek, his thumb briefly passing over Sherlock's lower lip, causing him to shiver in pleasure at the tender caress. Sherlock felt John's breath ghost over his forehead, causing his hair to dance gently against his skin.

"I'm glad you're home, Sherlock." The softly spoken words were followed by the briefest of touches at his temple. John's lips. John's lips against his skin. John's lips against his skin in a kiss.........

It had taken Sherlock the merest of moments to catalogue the sensation against his skin, but even that proved to be too long; the kiss was over and Sherlock could sense the empty space next to him, the opportunity missed.

Chapter Text

John was wrenched from his blissful sleep by a loud thud and his name being shouted. Without a second thought, John tore off his bed sheets and ran towards the voice. Sherlock's voice. His name was being called out in a tone filled with such anguish and despair that John felt physically sick, bile flooding his throat. John's heart was pounding with fear; what could be causing Sherlock to cry out in such a way? He entered Sherlock's room still at a run, not slowing until he was at Sherlock's bedside, his eyes locked on the writhing bundle of flesh and sheets on the floor. The source of the thud was immediately apparent; Sherlock had fallen from his bed whilst locked in the throes of a nightmare. The anguished cries started again and John was able to discern his name intermingled with 'God, no!' and 'Please, not him!"

John did not know what horrors held Sherlock locked in their embrace but he hoped to God that they weren't caused by actual memories. Clamping down firmly on his own fear, John knelt beside Sherlock's thrashing body. He knew from his experiences of nightmares/PTSD episodes, call it what you will, that to be suddenly woken would cause extreme distress to the sufferer and put the other person at risk of injury. He had no fear for his own safety, knowing he could keep himself protected, but he did not want to add to Sherlock's obvious distress. John knew that in the past, Sherlock's violin playing had often pulled him out of the clinging grip of his own personal terrors and soothed him into a more peaceful sleep. John's own musical skills were laughably inadequate for the task, so instead he started to talk, keeping his voice calm and even.

"Sherlock? I'm not sure if you can hear me or not but I need you to listen. I need you to focus on my voice and find your way back to me. I'm waiting for you Sherlock, come back to me. You don't need to protect me anymore; you've done a good job Sherlock. You were brilliant and now it's over, you have amazed me again. Focus on my voice Sherlock, listen to my words. Leave all that behind you and come back to me, back home." John was unsure what had inspired his choice of words; he just knew they were the right words, words that needed to be said. Sherlock's thrashing and writhing had been gradually slowing as he spoke and now he was mostly still, only the occasional jerk or twitch of his muscles disturbing his still-sleeping form. A fine layer of sweat covered Sherlock's frame, causing the tangled sheet to cling more tightly to his lower body, his upper body totally bare of any clothing or bedding. His eyes were darting around behind his eyelids, his lips parting occasionally to stutter out John's name.

John reached over Sherlock and up to the bed to pull the remaining sheet down and loosely placed it over Sherlock's torso, knowing that the rapidly cooling sweat would soon cause Sherlock to shiver. John positioned himself closer to Sherlock, sitting with his legs parallel to Sherlock's body, close enough that he could share his body heat but not so close that Sherlock would feel threatened. John started to talk again, the words flowing from him as he watched Sherlock's face.

"When we first met, I was amazed by your intellect; the way seemingly random things linked in your mind and told the story of the crime. Your brilliance astounded me; it still does, to be honest. Your beauty dazzled me, still dazzles me, you are the only person I've ever thought of as truly beautiful. You were, are, incandescent, and I find myself attracted to you like a moth to a flame."

John realised that whilst he had been talking he had been gently running his fingers through Sherlock's hair, allowing the damp curls to twine and twist around his fingers. He stilled his hand, smiling when he felt Sherlock automatically nudge his head against John's hand, unconsciously seeking comfort in his touch. He ran his fingers through Sherlock's hair once more, savouring the moment as he began speaking again. This time his words were little more than a whisper, a confidence given in the dead of night.

"When we were dancing you told me about the legend of other halves, about how we were all once split in two and how finding that other person completes us, makes us whole. Well I've found that person. I found them years ago but I've been too afraid to say it out loud. I found them the moment I walked into that lab at St. Barts all those years ago and met you. I wish I'd told you sooner what you mean to me, Christ, I wish I could be sure you could hear me now."

Glancing at Sherlock's face, John was relieved to see that he appeared to be resting much more peacefully and he felt a sudden wave of exhaustion wash over him. Reluctant to leave Sherlock on his own, fearful of a repeat attack, he lay down close to him, stilling when Sherlock snuffled in his sleep. John heard his name escape Sherlock’s lips, its sound barely more than a sigh and saw Sherlock's hand stretching out, searching for contact in his sleep.

"I'm here Sherlock." John reached for Sherlock's questing hand, interlacing their fingers, the action natural to him. Bringing their joined hands to his lips, John bestowed a gentle kiss on each of Sherlock's fingers before lowering their hands to his chest. Closing his eyes, John allowed sleep to wash over him, a smile of contentment on his lips.

**************************************

"John. Wake up John." John rose from the depths of a deep sleep, confused as to why his body was shaking. A quick check made him realise he wasn't shaking through his own violition, rather that he was being shaken by Sherlock. A strangely gentle shake, but a shake none the less.

"Gerroff Sh'lck, sleeping." John's words were mumbled and slurred, exhaustion still trying to claim him as its victim.

"John, you need to get up off the floor, it's not good for your shoulder." Even through his sleepy haze, John could hear the concern in Sherlock's voice but it required too much effort to move.

"Don't care. Tired."

"Up you come, John." He was surprised to feel himself being bodily pulled up, Sherlock's firm hands wrapped around his biceps. Before he even had time to register what was happening, he was being positioned on a bed. Sighing as he felt the smooth softness of rich, cool cotton beneath his skin, John allowed his muscles to gradually relax into the mattress beneath him. Just as he was on the cusp of sleep, John's mind finally caught up with where his body was. He was currently in Sherlock's bed clad only in his boxer shorts. Sitting up suddenly, still more than half asleep, John made to leave when a warm hand made contact with his bare skin. The knowledge of whose hand it was resting on his skin stopped John from moving, his body betraying him, refusing to leave when it could have more of Sherlock so close to it.

"Don't be an idiot John. You're exhausted, lie down and go to sleep." Sherlock's voice was surprisingly gentle, although the order in his words was obvious.

" 'Kay." John allowed his body to relax once more, stretching out on the luxurious sheets before rolling onto his right side, instinctively facing Sherlock, his eyes drifting shut.

"John?" John made a small sound of acknowledgement. "Thank you........ for what you did earlier ...........it was..........good." Sherlock's voice was hesitant but John knew that the words were heartfelt.

Making a determined effort to answer, John pushed the tendrils of sleep temporarily away. "You're welcome Sherlock." Affection clear in his voice. John felt long fingers trail down his arm, their path indelibly marked on his skin, sighing in pleasure when his hand was cradled between Sherlock's much larger ones. Sherlock then mirrored John's earlier action of resting their joined hands against his chest. John drifted off to sleep with the sensation of Sherlock's heartbeat through his fingertips and his mind full of the sweet intimacy such a simple gesture created.

*********************************

John awoke hours later to the rich warmth of an autumn sun streaming through the window. A strong arm was draped over his side, the palm lying loose against his stomach, a steady breath caressing his bare shoulder. He watched as dust motes danced in and out of the rays, his heart feeling as light and carefree as the dancing dust appeared to be. Sighing, John savoured the feeling of being wrapped in Sherlock's embrace and hoped he wasn't just standing in for a pillow, somewhere soft for his lanky friend to rest his weary limbs.

"Stop thinking so loudly." Sherlock's voice was still edged with sleep but the laughter in his voice was obvious.

"Not going to happen Sherlock!" John allowed a chuckle to escape before becoming more serious. "Thanks for letting me stay here, for making me get off the floor." John realised that he should be feeling awkward, cocooned in bed with a sleepy Sherlock, sunlight flooding the room, but he wasn't; he felt like he was exactly where he was supposed to be. Gently, John trailed his fingers over Sherlock's forearm, following the lines of the lean muscles and prominent veins; such strength hidden beneath alabaster skin. His fingertips traced over scars, new and old, and he wondered about the stories behind them.

John snuggled further under the covers as Sherlock's arm tightened around his torso. There was a carefully maintained gap between their bodies that John longed to close but was unsure if Sherlock wanted him to.

"You saved me from my inner demons last night, it seemed that the least I could do was save you from a sore shoulder."

"Will you? ....... Could you?" John stopped again, licking his lips as he struggled to find the right words. "Do you want to talk about it? Your dream I mean. Was it to do with how you got the scars on your back?"

John felt Sherlock's arm tense against his stomach before relaxing as Sherlock exhaled, his breath tickling the back of John's neck.

"I don't actually want to talk about it; rather, I think I should talk about it. I think it's time I started moving forward with my life. Talking about it with you will help, I think. You are the only one I trust with this John, not even Mycroft knows all of it and he was there for some of it."

John felt Sherlock move closer, felt the waves of heat emanating from Sherlock's chest, their naked torsos almost touching. "The dreams relate to the time I spent dealing with Moriarty's web. Yes John, I said dreams. Last night was not my first; I've had them virtually every night since returning to London." As usual, Sherlock was able to answer John's unvoiced question. His voice was flat and emotionless; John presumed that it was part of Sherlock's coping strategy. "And yes, the scars are directly related to the time I spent away from you. As you know, I spent most of my time abroad; I worked alone, putting no one at risk but myself. It was hard work, unforgiving and lonely. So many times I nearly made contact with you, only to change my mind at the last minute. I couldn't risk your safety; you were the whole reason I was there, to keep you safe. Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade are important to me, of course they are. But you John? You are vital."

John heard the catch in Sherlock's voice as he uttered the last few words and he felt tears prickle at the back of his eyes, his heart bursting with warring emotions. Anger that he had been unable to be with Sherlock when he was needed the most. Pride that Sherlock was the type of man who cared so deeply that he put his own life on the line to protect the ones he loved. Finally, overwhelming joy at hearing he was vital to Sherlock. John slowly moved his body back, giving Sherlock plenty of time to realise his intentions and stop him if he wished to, settling when his body rested gently against Sherlock's, trying to convey comfort and support through simple contact. John felt Sherlock move his face closer to his shoulder, resting his forehead against his skin. John could feel the brush of lashes every time Sherlock blinked, the warm moistness of each breathy exhale caressing him. Calm once again, Sherlock continued talking, his hand now flat against John's chest, holding him tight against him.

"On the whole, I was successful at achieving what I set out to do, gaining only minor injuries and flesh wounds along the way - nothing of consequence, nothing requiring more than five or six stitches." John huffed out a laugh before he could stop himself. Only Sherlock would think that a cut requiring stitches was inconsequential. Once again, he couldn't help but be amazed by this brave, foolish man. Sherlock nuzzled his nose into John's shoulder, letting John know that he understood he wasn't being laughed at. When Sherlock resumed speaking, his voice was again cold and flat. Although his hand remained on John's chest, John could feel a slight tremor. "Unfortunately, my luck ran out just a few months before I returned to London. I was taken prisoner in Serbia: for some reason they thought I was a British spy. I survived on rations of weak gruel and stagnant water. They kept me sleep-deprived, awakening me whenever I slept for longer than thirty minutes, by throwing ice water over me. After three weeks, I was able to escape, but I didn't get far. I was too weak to outrun them."

John didn't try to hide the tears that now escaped him. He let them soak unashamedly into Sherlock's pillow, crying tears that both of them needed to shed. His heart bled for Sherlock; he wanted nothing more than to turn and engulf Sherlock in an embrace but he knew that Sherlock needed to talk, that it was part of his healing. "They dragged me back to my cell where they chained me up, leaving me half naked and I was arranged so that my arms were pulled out to the side. I was too weak to support my own weight and more often than not I dangled limply from the chains, unable to sit or lie down. I was left like that for days, no food or drink, just the occasional check from a guard to ensure I was still alive. Shortly after, the beatings started in earnest. Sometimes they would beat me with rope, conducting their own sadistic experiments into what would bite the deepest, draw the most blood, take the longest to heal. From time to time, infection would set in and in my delirium, I would call for you. The guards would grudgingly nurse me back to health - after all the game would be no fun on a corpse. They would taunt me with threats of what they would do to you if they got their hands on you. How they would beat you, cut you ...... rape you... force me to watch."

Sherlock's voice finally broke and tremors violently shook through his body as sobs tore from his throat. John managed to turn in Sherlock's firm grasp until he was eye-to-eye with him, resting his forehead against Sherlock's. John willed himself to breathe calmly. Slowly, he squeezed his left hand between them, placing his palm directly over Sherlock's pounding heart. Using his right hand, he caressed Sherlock's cheek, his thumb gently swiping the rapidly falling tears away. They lay there for several minutes, John breathing deeply and evenly and Sherlock slowly matching him.

"And that's what last night's dream was about? Them hurting me?"

"That's what all my nightmares are about. You getting hurt, or killed. Faceless people carrying out their vile threats as I watch, powerless to stop them. An unwilling voyeur in their sick game." John watched as Sherlock prepared himself mentally to complete his story, somehow knowing that its conclusion was near. "As time went by my jailers realised they would gain no more than the name 'John' from me and that it was a worthless piece of information without actually knowing my identity. A new jailer came and he decided that they had been too soft on me. He hit me with chains or used metal-studded leather whips. Luckily, I only had to endure this for a short time, a few days at most I think, before Mycroft appeared. He had used his connections to track me down, posing as some senior officer and he finally got me out of that hell hole. I was taken to a private facility where the worst of my injuries were tended. Less than a week later, I was back in London and speaking to you for the first time in two years."

"And instead of welcoming you back with open arms, I greeted you with clenched fists. Jesus, Sherlock, why didn't you say something? Put up a fight? You must have still had open wounds, deep bruising and yet you let me attack you!" John could feel the bile rising into his mouth and had to fight hard not to be sick, guilt and anger washing over him in equal measure.

Sherlock shrugged. His face was still wet from his tears but his whole posture was more relaxed, as if finally telling his story had cleansed him. "It was the least I could do. I'd been too convincing, you had truly believed I had died and my reappearance opened your old wounds. The fact they were wounds of the mind and soul doesn't mean they hurt any less than my physical ones."

"The men who hurt you, what happened to them?" John could feel the tense line of his jaw but fought to keep his body relaxed against Sherlock's.

"Mycroft dealt with them. Efficiently." Sherlock's words were enough for John to know that Sherlock's jailers were dead.

He was aware of how intimate he and Sherlock had become during their talk. Their bodies were still flush together and the merest of centimetres kept their faces apart. One of his legs had slipped between Sherlock's and was resting between his knees. Slowly, John moved his hand from the curve of Sherlock's neck, where it had been resting since wiping the tears away, to the nape. Gently he moved his fingers through Sherlock's hair until his hand was cupping the back of Sherlock's head. With the lightest of pressure, John moved Sherlock's head until they were once again resting forehead to forehead. John held Sherlock tight against him, never breaking eye contact. He felt Sherlock's free arm push under his body and press against his back, felt the arm tighten as Sherlock allowed himself to relax into the embrace. Finally, Sherlock closed his eyes and, tilting his head up, pressed a soft kiss at the point where his head had just been resting. Sherlock then buried his nose in John's hair, inhaling deeply.

John knew that this hug was more than a simple lovers' clinch. It was the deep, healing embrace of two people, each of whom had been damaged in life's journey, only to discover that their redemption was intrinsically entwined with the other.

Chapter Text

Sherlock awoke to mid-afternoon sun warming his uncovered feet and the distinct impression that his face was being tickled. Keeping his eyes closed, he inhaled deeply, breathing in the heady mix of warm musk, shampoo and spice that was uniquely John. He calculated that he must have slept for approximately twelve hours, a phenomenal amount, the vast majority of which, had been spent in close proximity to John. Slowly opening his eyes, Sherlock looked around his room; it still looked the same as it had when he'd left, but now it felt completely different. More welcoming, cosy; a place he would willingly spend hours in. He knew the difference had nothing to do with the room and everything to do with the man still wrapped in his arms. Tilting his head back slightly, Sherlock studied John's face. He looked much younger in his sleep, the lines softened, his jaw line relaxed. The signs of fatigue that he had noticed the previous day were already fading; it would seem that it hadn't only been Sherlock who had benefitted from the night-time company. Wriggling back in closer, Sherlock thrilled when John pulled him tighter against himself before burrowing his face into Sherlock's chest, warm contentment flooding his body.

In no rush to leave John's embrace, Sherlock let his mind drift back over the previous night's events. He could remember his own dark dreams; the repeated threat to John and his own helplessness. Then, woven into his dream he had heard John calling him, telling him to listen, to come back. Sherlock had instinctively done as he was instructed and had slowly, but surely, slipped into a deeper sleep. His subsequent dreams had consisted of whispered phrases in John's voice. Snatches of compliments now drifted back to him. "Your brilliance astounded me." "You are incandescent." And then, something about being John's 'other half'. Such pleasant dreams, which had been infused with the imagined sensation of John running his fingers through his hair.

Hours later, he had awoken, confused to find John with him, and for them both to have been asleep on the floor. He had quickly realised that he had had a nightmare and that John must have woken up and came to check on him. He had moved John onto the bed to save him pain, had fought down laughter at John's sleepy attempts at speech. He had been unable to stop himself from touching John, but had managed to limit himself to holding John's capable hands against his heart, knowing that his heart would always be John's to have.

Even in his sleep Sherlock had maintained a strict gap between them, unwilling to cross some unspoken line. John had asked about Sherlock's scars and he had told him. Thinking over the events of his imprisonment again, Sherlock waited for the panic and fear to take hold of him; there was some, but now it was in the background, fading into black and white rather than the technicolour monstrosity it had previously been. Earlier that morning, he had allowed himself to cry in John's embrace and as he cried he felt some of the burden he had been carrying, dissolve. John's supportive arms had held him as sobs had torn him apart. After, they had both fallen into an exhausted, entwined sleep and he had finally felt whole.

Sherlock was roused from his musings as he felt John begin to wake in his arms. He had seen John wake up before, but to see it from this angle was an experience he hoped to enjoy frequently.

"Morning." John's voice was still heavy with sleep but Sherlock was relieved to hear only happiness in it, no regret or embarrassment.

"Afternoon." Sherlock couldn't resist correcting him, and was rewarded with the sight of John's comically widened eyes.

"Seriously? Bloody hell we really did need that sleep!" John's voice was still light but he was shifting uncomfortably in Sherlock's embrace.

"What's wrong?" Sherlock couldn't help worrying that, now John was fully awake, he would feel ashamed of their current situation.

"Nothing's wrong. I just really need to pee but I'm loath to get out of bed." John's face flooded with colour at this admission but it was accompanied by a wry smile and giggle. Loosening his embrace, Sherlock allowed John to move, laughing alongside him. John paused on the edge of the bed, searching around for something else to slip on over his boxer shorts.

"Left side of the wardrobe John. Use one of my dressing gowns."

Sherlock was amazed at how happy he felt, seeing John wearing one of his dressing gowns, such a simple thing but it almost felt as if John were still in his arms.

"Ta. Think I'll grab a shower while I'm in there."

"Tea?"

"I'll make some when I'm done, really don't think the sound of running water right now is the best idea!" Mischief shone deep in John's eyes and Sherlock couldn't help but laugh at the image John presented in his overly large dressing gown.

"I meant, 'would you like some tea?' I was offering to make it. Honestly John, are you sure you've woken up properly? I have made tea before." Sherlock kept his voice playful whilst pretending to be exasperated.

"Yes, I remember! I'll take mine minus the eye, please." Sherlock watched as John slipped into the bathroom, his shoulders still shaking with silent laughter.

***********************

Sherlock's mind was racing by the time John had finished in the shower. He was more confused than ever as to what he may have heard whilst in the grip of his nightmare. It was only when he heard a hastily stifled laugh from the kitchen doorway that he realised his body had been on autopilot. In front of him were two plates of perfectly prepared food. Scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, baked beans and freshly buttered toast with accompanying mugs of piping hot tea. Frowning slightly, he gave an elaborate shrug.

"That just sort of ....... happened." Finally meeting John's eyes, Sherlock once again felt suffused with warmth. It was akin to being enveloped in a soft fleece blanket as a child, watching the first snow of winter whilst hugging his favourite toy. He knew he was safe, he was cared for - he was home.

"Bloody hell, will wonders never cease?" John barked out on a laugh. "You've slept and you've cooked. If you actually eat something, I may have to rethink all those alien abduction conspiracies." John's dark blue eyes sparkled with mirth before they both allowed their laughter to break free.

When the giggling had finally ceased, Sherlock was feeling rather pleased with himself. He had amazed John again, this time through the simple expedient of eating and tidying up afterwards.

*****************************
Sherlock stood under the warm spray of the shower, allowing the water to beat its gentle rhythm against his skin. John's voice was once again invading his thoughts, loving words, softly spoken. He knew that he had spoken with John during the long night and shared his fears. He could distinctly remember John admitting secrets of his own, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not visualise John as he shared them. The data was lacking. Had he dreamed the words? Imagined them? God knows, he had heard John's voice often enough when he had been away, and during the first lonely weeks of his return, but that voice had taunted him, ridiculed him. Last night's voice had been soft and gentle, had soothed and calmed him. He thought he could remember John talking about the legend of 'other halves' but he really must have imagined that, as he had never told John the legend. He had meant to, but then he had seen John looking at him with such awe, such need, that he had forgotten what he was going to say, had held John close, had felt John's arousal answering his own and he had been lost.

Sherlock felt his body responding again to the remembered heat between them and he let the moment take him over, his breath becoming shorter, shallower. His eyes fluttered shut as images of a needy, wanting John flooded his mind; images that now merged with the memories of holding a warm, almost naked John against his own equally naked body. Answering the needs of his body, Sherlock trailed his hand up the flat of his stomach and onto his chest, tracing over the areas where John had been pressed against him. Desire flowed through him, its power unrelenting, pooling in his groin, hardening his flesh. He ran his right hand over his neck, felt the frantic throb of his pulse against his fingertips, before running his fingers into his hair, wrapping them into his curls. He allowed his left hand to drift over his body, gasping as it brushed over his nipple, the heat of his body searing into his fingertips, burning him with his own desire. Swallowing deeply, his mind drifted further, imagining that it was John's hand trailing up his chest, his neck, over his full, lower lip. Allowing a groan to escape, Sherlock traced a trembling finger over his upper lip, knowing how fascinated John was with his mouth, hoping one day he would have the opportunity to explore that fascination. He could almost sense John's presence, watching him touch himself or touching him with worshipful hands. Achingly slowly, he trailed his left hand back down his neck, pressing more firmly over his collar bone, nails digging in slightly, leaving red trails over his chest and lower, onto his abdomen. He could feel his muscles flexing in anticipation, his penis now fully erect, throbbing and straining up. The water droplets of the shower sent sparks of sensation through his overly sensitised skin, rivulets of water washing over his slender hips before running down his legs. With ease, he visualised John's reaction to him; wide open, arousal-darkened eyes, drinking in the view of Sherlock at his most vulnerable, stuttered breaths escaping parted lips, hands caressing Sherlock's heated, eager flesh; arousal obvious, his erection sturdy, broad and proud, just like every other part of John.

Finally, Sherlock wrapped his hand around himself, his grip firm but gentle. Again, he allowed the fantasy to take over, imagining that it was John's hand on him, pleasuring him. Dropping his head back, Sherlock worked his hand, slowly at first, trying to savour the sensation, to keep 'John' with him. Too soon, Sherlock felt his orgasm curling through him, tightening his testicles, engorging him further. Speeding up his stroke, Sherlock added a twist of his wrist before ejaculating with a loud gasp. He allowed himself to cling to the image of a trembling, wanting John for a moment longer before letting the image rinse away with the evidence of his orgasm.

He took his time drying himself before running his fingers through his too-long hair; perhaps he could persuade John to trim it for him? Studying his face in the mirror, he was surprised how relaxed he looked, more than simply being post-orgasmic would account for. Confiding in John had lifted a huge weight from his shoulders and he realised he wasn't afraid to sleep anymore. He wasn't so naive as to think that his nightmares would suddenly cease but he knew John would be there for him, at least in the short term.

******************************

John tapped away at his keyboard, updating his blog and answering questions before finally composing an email to Mary. Sherlock frowned as he read over John's shoulder.

"Why would Mary be 'thrilled' to know I'm home? I don't understand how my return would affect her." Sherlock was surprised to see a faint blush creeping up the back of John's neck, before tinting the tips of his ears a delicate dusky pink. John licked his lip before biting the inside; Sherlock recognised this as a sure sign of nerves.

"Erm. Mary helped to put me straight on a few matters." John laughed self consciously at his choice of words, leaving Sherlock feeling more confused than ever.

"As much as I hate to admit it John, I still don't understand." Sherlock felt his stomach clench when John continued to look nervous, guilty, almost; refusing to meet his eye. What could John be hiding from him?

"When Mary came out of hospital we had a very frank conversation about where I needed to be. Well I say 'we' but mostly she talked and I listened."

"So she threw you out? That's why you're here? You had nowhere else to go?" Sherlock was crushed; he had thought John had returned to Baker Street of his own free will, not as a last resort.

"No! Well yes, but not in the way you're thinking." John pinched the bridge of his nose before continuing. "She could see I was conflicted. Torn between where I wanted to be and where I thought I should be." John glanced at Sherlock seeing the obvious confusion. "I wanted to be here with you, whenever it would be that you returned. I'd intended to move back in, call things off with Mary, that evening that we danced, when we almost...." John licked his lips before finishing his story. "But after she was hospitalised I just couldn't leave her to fend for herself. That's not the type of man I am."

"I know John. You're a doctor and a good man. Of course you stayed; I wouldn't expect anything less of you." Biting the inside of his lip Sherlock hesitated before speaking again. "But.. you really wanted to be here? With me?"

Finally, John looked up, meeting Sherlock's gaze. Sherlock felt his stomach flip, as if thousands of butterflies were struggling to escape.

"Yeah. Of course. Of course I did Sherlock. Did you honestly not realise that?"

Sherlock shook his head, too shocked for words.

"Jesus Sherlock, for a bloody genius you really do miss the obvious don't you?"

Sherlock felt the blush climbing his cheeks at the same time as he smiled. "So it would seem John. So it would seem."

************************

Early evening found John and Sherlock sitting on the floor by a roaring fire, sharing a Chinese take away.

"Who made sure you ate whilst you were working on that Vatican case? I know you usually won't eat whilst working, but you look well, like you've eaten regularly." As John spoke, he kept his gaze on his plate, instinctively giving Sherlock space to answer.

"In a strange way you did, John. I kept thinking of how disappointed you'd be if I didn't look after myself. So I tried to eat regularly and I started swimming and running too. The Vatican is astonishingly well equipped for the budding sportsman." Sherlock had been prodding a prawn wanton around his plate as he spoke, only glancing up as he finished speaking. "John, you've got some sauce on your lip." He gestured vaguely at John, distracted by the sticky liquid clinging to the side of John's mouth.

"Where?" John ineffectively swiped his tongue over his lips, missing the spot entirely. Sherlock let out an exasperated sigh.

"Here, let me do it. Really John, the amount of time you spend licking your lips I would have thought you'd have been able to get a small spot of sauce."

Leaning across their make-shift picnic, he gently wiped the spot away with his fingertip, stilling like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights when he realised the intimacy of his action. His breathing was uneven and his heart was pounding out a military march. All his senses were suddenly on overdrive. He could smell John's unique scent even over the cloying sweet spiciness of the Chinese, hear John's breath coming in short pants, feel the breath on his skin. He could see patches of heightened colour on John's cheeks, a darkening of his eyes. ... And he could feel, oh God, he could feel John's lip, soft but firm beneath his finger. Slowly, so slowly, he brushed his finger further along John's lip, savouring the stolen intimacy. He watched, transfixed as John caressed the tip of his finger with his tongue, gently at first, before swirling his tongue around the very end.

"Oh God!" Sherlock's words were barely a sigh, a whispered prayer to a silent room.

Slowly John sucked Sherlock's finger in further, all the while laving it with his tongue. Sherlock's head was spinning with the sheer intimacy of the moment. Desire cascaded over his body as he watched John tease his finger, allowing it to slip partially out of his mouth before gently drawing it back in. He saw John's eyes flutter closed as he felt the vibration of a moan against his finger. Both men thoroughly aroused by the implied act of fellatio.

"John." Sherlock's voice was deeper, even to his own ears, desire making John's simple name sound rich and exotic. He felt his eyes drift closed, the sensuous image before him overwhelming.

John allowed Sherlock's finger to slip entirely from his mouth, wrenching a moan from Sherlock; the loss of intimate warmth too much to cope with.

"Dance with me, Sherlock." John's voice was equally desire-laden, the hushed sound of it causing Sherlock's body to respond, blood redirecting, soft flesh filling, firming, heating. He opened his eyes to find John already standing, one hand held out to him. Without hesitation Sherlock linked his hand with John's, gracefully standing until he was mere inches from him. Sherlock watched as John moved and with his free hand pressed a button on the CD player before finally resting his hand at Sherlock's waist. He could feel John's heat burning into him even as he heard the first bars of the song. Arousal and confusion were fighting for dominance. This is not a song he knows. This is not a dance he knows. This is John's song and John's dance, and Sherlock must follow.

Sherlock heard John's voice as if from a distance, drawing his focus back, amazed to find his arms draped around John's shoulders and John's arms are around his waist. When did that happen? How could he have missed it? Part of him wants to ask John to let him go just so they can become entwined again, but the majority of him is lost in the moment, eyes fixed on the way John's fringe moves with each exhale.

"Sherlock, I find this sort of thing difficult, and I need you to listen, really listen. Can you do that for me? It seems that music has always been part of our lives and somehow you and I have always been dancing." Sherlock sighed as John pulled him closer. "Whether it's been the sound of your violin, the sound of the blood pumping through our veins or, more recently, the music we've been dancing to, it seemed appropriate that I used music to explain..... Well, just listen."

Sherlock allowed his eyes to close, held John more intimately in his arms and let the words of the song weave their way around him.

'I'll be your dream,
I'll be your wish, I'll be your fantasy.
I'll be your hope, I'll be your love,
Be everything that you need.
I'll love you more with every breath.
Truly, madly, deeply do.
I will be strong, I will be faithful,
'Cause I'm counting on
A new beginning,
A reason for living,
A deeper meaning, yeah.

Sherlock realised that he and John were barely moving now, just a gentle sway, wrapped in each other's arms. He knows that John is telling him, in what has become their own unique way; that he loves him; that he will always be there for him: a new beginning. The emotion is overwhelming him and he can find no words to return the sentiment. He sighs as he feels John's hand drift up from the small of his back, the route it takes marked out in exquisite temptation. Each soft caress of fingertips, each firm press of palm is driving Sherlock further and further along the path of pure abandonment. He wants to let go of his last reserves, he wants to finally, finally kiss John's lips, to lose himself in the promise of the moment. But he can't. The last step into utter surrender terrifies him. He knows he needs John to be the brave one, for John to take the lead in this most sensual of dances.

John's hand settles in the hair at the nape of his neck, knowledgeable fingers weaving amongst his curls, teasingly tugging, causing Sherlock to murmer in pleasure, surprising them both. Even in his daze, Sherlock can hear John's answering sigh as he pulls him ever closer. A chant of 'John, John, John.' sets up in Sherlock's mind as John's hand moves slowly forward until his thumb is rubbing along Sherlock's jaw. He is convinced that somehow even his stubble is programmed to respond to John. He has never been so aware of his own body before, how each cell seems to sing out for John. He is moments away from being overwhelmed when John's voice breaks through the haze.

"Sherlock? Look at me." John's voice is surprisingly calm despite being laced with need.

Sherlock feels his eyes opening through no conscious effort of his own. John is there, centring him, anchoring him.

"Sherlock? Do you trust me?" John is forcing Sherlock to maintain eye contact, his midnight blue eyes, fathomless.

Sherlock feels himself nod, but it almost feels as if he is watching all this happen to someone else. He can hardly believe what he can see on John's face. Love, devotion, passion and openness, nothing hidden. He feels himself growing light headed, John steadying him.

"Sherlock breathe." Sherlock finally takes a few calming breaths, relaxing against John, feels his mouth quirking into a small half smile.

"Breathing's boring." He feels his heart flip when a smile plays over John's lips.

"So it is. Answer my question, Sherlock; I need to hear the words. Do you trust me?" Sherlock briefly touches his forehead to John's, the simple touch grounding him again, completing him.

"Always."

Slowly, John guides his face down, even as he tilts his own face up. The gap between them is closing and it is all happening much too fast and simultaneously heartbreakingly slowly. All the while, Sherlock maintains eye contact with John, scared that if he looks away or blinks, the moment will be gone, eclipsed in a perfume-scented puff of smoke. But there is no perfume this time; nothing stands between them now. Now is finally their moment. Now is finally time for all those words unspoken to be expressed, for their lips and tongues to converse in a universal language.

John's lips touch against his and Sherlock allows his eyes to close, knowing that John will not vanish now. He is home, he is his. The last brick of Sherlock's wall dissolves and suddenly he is responding eagerly to John's kiss, the sheer want and need in him now undeniable, arms holding John impossibly closer, lips parting further to deepen the kiss. His hands move to John's neck and face, cupping, caressing, guiding, never wanting the moment to end.

Desire runs riot through his body and he trembles under its power. He can feel the moment John's tongue touches his lip, his whole body spasms in response. "Oh God." He has no idea if the wrecked voice is his or John's; they are both so lost in the moment. Holding John's face tighter, he runs his tongue along John's lips, before dipping inside, twining his tongue with John's, tasting the sweetness of their meal, the richness of the wine, but underneath it all, John. Only John. He is convinced he can taste John's strength, loyalty, love .... desire and he wants, oh God, how he wants.

Suddenly, the kiss breaks and they are resting again, forehead to forehead. Their gasps mingle in the air, dancing to their own song. John's face is intent, his gaze fixed upon Sherlock, eyes travelling from Sherlock's eyes to his lips before flicking back up, obviously yearning to explore again.

"Do you understand Sherlock? Do you have any idea what you mean to me?" John's voice is desperate now, desire blending with the urgent need for Sherlock to comprehend. That this is more than desire, this is more than friendship, more than sex. This is forever.

Tenderly, Sherlock covers John's face with butterfly kisses; on his brow, his nose, his cheeks.

"Yes. I understand. I finally understand." He allows himself a moment to kiss John's lips, keeps it chaste but full of promise. Looking straight into John's eyes, he lets the sincerity of what he is feeling colour his voice. "It's always you. John Watson, you keep me right. It's only ever been you."

Sherlock hears the sharp gasp of pleasure and surprise, notices how John's eyes fill with tears of joy and he kisses John again, turning the gasp into a moan. Slowly, he traces the outline of John's mouth with his tongue before gently deepening the kiss once again, one hand cupping John's cheek, the other firm at the nape of his neck. Their bodies now move together, dancing once more.

Chapter Text

The song has long since ended but John continues to hold Sherlock in his arms, their bodies gently swaying to the music of their heartbeats. Everything has finally come together for John, finally clicked into place. He knows that so many events in recent years have lead to this moment..... being shot and invalided out of the army, his chance encounter with Mike Stamford, the unlikely coincidence of finding a flatmate as people-wary as himself. The way that he felt alive again whilst working alongside his enigmatic flatmate. The exhilaration of the chases. The calmness of the quiet days. The way his heart had shattered alongside Sherlock's bones on that fateful day at Barts. And finally, his rage at himself and at Sherlock for two long years of unnecessary mourning. Two long years that gave him time to realise the true depth of his feelings for Sherlock. All these things made him the man he is today. A man who finally feels good enough for the beautiful, maddening, brilliant person he now holds in his arms.

John's not an idiot; he knows there will still be times when they drive each other to distraction, when he will need to leave for a while to clear his head, when Sherlock will need to throw himself into his experiments and composing to clear his. Times where they will argue and sulk and somehow that warms him to the core. The knowledge that they will essentially be the same people as before but now with the added levels of intimacy and sex, John really hopes sex, just makes him even more happy that they are at this turning point in their lives. This is what love is, accepting and cherishing the other as they are - faults and all. He fell in love with the eccentric madman, the genius mind and the limited brain-to-mouth filter and he wouldn't change any of it for the world. Further tightening his arms around Sherlock, John smiles at how their relationship sounds like a line from a teen movie - so the soldier with trust issues fell in love with the self-diagnosed sociopath. Not such an awful thing after all. In fact, it seems perfect.

Resting his face against Sherlock's shoulder, John's eyes drift closed. His earlier carnal desire is still there, banked - a burning ember needing only a breath of oxygen to set it aflame again. At the gentle press of lips against his hair, John tilts his face up, silently encouraging Sherlock to kiss him again. Light kisses fall like summer rain on his face and he breathes a sigh of complete contentment. The kisses slow, and then stop, as Sherlock rests his forehead against John's, his deep breaths caressing John's face.

"John? What is ...... this?"

Although Sherlock's body remains relaxed in John's arms, he hears the anxiety lacing Sherlock's whispered words. His heart clenches at the knowledge that Sherlock still seems so unsure. John gently tilts his head, positioning himself so that he can look directly into Sherlock's face. He is struck anew at the raw beauty he sees, the odd mix of innocence and wisdom, knowing that he will never tire of it. Eyes fathoms-deep study him intently, as if he were the greatest mystery in the world.

"This? This is what the beginning of forever feels like Sherlock." John knows he sounds like a romantic fool; for once he isn't embarrassed or ashamed. He pushes up on his toes, closing the height difference between them, pressing his lips against the plush lips before him, glorying in the way they feel as they meld against his, the kiss slow and loving.

"Forever? Is that what you want? Forever with me?" Sherlock's voice is hushed and hesitant, and John clearly sees Sherlock's insecurity as he searches John's face. It's then that John finally realises Sherlock has not been able to fully hide his emotions from him since his return. John had been so deep in denial that he hadn't seen it. Hadn't noticed the soft looks, the way that Sherlock had altered his usual way of life. He curses inwardly and decides then and there he will never let Sherlock doubt the depth of his love for him ever again.

John moves his hands until they're gently cradling Sherlock's face, thumbs smoothing along beloved cheekbones. Looking deeply into Sherlock's eyes, John speaks directly from his heart. "Yes, Sherlock. That's what I want. I know now it's what I've always wanted. I want forever with you. Forever and a day."

John feels a smile crinkle his lips as a small frown forms on the bridge of Sherlock's nose.

"John. You can't have forever and a day. The very nature of 'forever' means, well, precisely that. Always. Evermore. Until the end of time."

John huffs out a laugh at the return of Sherlock's wonderful logic. "I know, you idiot. It's supposed to be romantic. But if anyone can find a way to have forever and a day it will be you." He rubs his nose against Sherlock's, little Eskimo kisses that feel second nature to him. He watches as the colour deepens on Sherlock's cheeks, as Sherlock gently tugs his lower lip between his teeth. Feels the exhalation of warm breath against his own cheek as Sherlock breathes deeply in an attempt to calm his racing emotions.

"I want that too, John. With you. Forever." Sherlock's words are filled with wonder and love. John's heart melts at their softness and the openness of Sherlock's expression but he still can't resist teasing a little.

"And a day?"

"And a day, John. And a day." Sherlock's smile is genuine, warm and slightly crooked. His face is filled with laughter lines, simultaneously ageing him and making him look younger, more carefree.

John briefly ponders this contradiction, then accepts the fact that this is Sherlock, and Sherlock is nothing, if not unique. He returns the smile, lost in the sparkling depths of Sherlock's eyes, watching as they darken and his gaze becomes more heated. John allows a small sigh to escape him when he feels a warm, large hand on the nape of his neck, caressing the exposed skin above his collar as the other hand tilts his chin gently back. John is mesmerised as Sherlock's face edges closer, slowly, seductively. Sherlock stops only when there is the merest breath of room between them. John's lips tingle in anticipation, he only needs to move slightly to close the gap but he doesn't, instead he allows his eyes to slide closed and his lips to part. They stay breathing each other in for what feels like an eternity, each stuttered breath making their hearts pound faster, ratcheting the tension up further.

"Kiss me, John. God, I need you to kiss me." Sherlock's words are whispered and needy. His grip now firm on John's neck and this is all that is needed for the fire of desire to burn bright again.

A sudden surge of arousal wrenches a gasp from John as he presses his body tight against Sherlock's. Closing the final millimetres between them, John crushes his lips against Sherlock's, a moan catching in the back of his throat before he softens the kiss. He tilts his head, making the kiss deeper, their tongues entwining, dancing with each other. His left hand drifts to the nape of Sherlock's neck, his fingers wrapping in the softly curling hair, his right now flat against the small of Sherlock's back as he claims him.

The kiss grows more heated as it deepens. Sherlock is undeniably leading the kiss now, his body angled to encompass as much of John as possible. One hand cups John's jaw. The other trails a path restlessly from John's shoulder, down his arm, until he finally links their fingers together. His grip is strong but not painful, the pure strength and masculinity of it makes John moan into the kiss.

The kiss embodies everything that is Sherlock - passionate, heady, and unpredictable. One moment Sherlock is pressing his lips against John's, their movements matching perfectly. The next he caresses John's lips with the delicate touch of his tongue before delving inside, pulling muted moans from John. Another moment he places butterfly kisses on John's cheek, nipping gently along John's jawline.

John doesn't even try to keep up with Sherlock's unpredictability. Trembling, his breathing shallows as he allows himself to drown in the sensuality of the moment. A light flick of tongue over the pulse point in John's neck causes him to gasp, arching himself further into Sherlock. John closes his fist in Sherlock's hair as he feels the soft plushness of Sherlock's lips against his neck. Tilting his head to the side he wordlessly encourages Sherlock to continue his exploration. A sudden nip of teeth at the tender skin of his throat causes John's hips to thrust forward, his cock grinding against Sherlock's thigh. John hears a breathy moan from Sherlock before the sound is cut short as Sherlock seals his lips against John's neck and sucks. Sherlock's lips open momentarily, releasing the skin before delicately kissing and laving the area with his tongue. John hears a tiny sigh before Sherlock bathes the area with attention once more.

John feels desperate now. He had presumed Sherlock would be the one to be overwhelmed. But with each new suck, kiss, lave and sigh, John can feel how wrong he was. All of his cells are flooded with Sherlock; each new touch to his skin sends electric pulses straight to his cock. The last of his self control snaps and he pulls at Sherlock 's hair, wrenching him away from his neck. His hips pump frantically against Sherlock's thigh, seeking more friction. A pleasured gasp is pulled from Sherlock; John curses with desire when he sees his own desperation reflected in him. Sherlock's eyes are heavy-lidded, his lips red and swollen, and his colour high. His breath is coming in short gulps and gasps, interspersed with broken moans and calls to a deity he doesn't believe in. John's deep moan draws an answering whimper from Sherlock and his hands once again trail over John's shoulders and arms. John suddenly realises that part of Sherlock's utter focus on his neck had been Sherlock trying to ground himself, trying to retain some control over his own body and emotions. John doesn't want that, he wants Sherlock to be acting on impulse, for them each to lose themselves in the other. Swallowing and breathing deeply, John slows down his frantic thrusting and drifts his hands down Sherlock's back until they are resting on his deliciously rounded backside. John gently guides Sherlock's hips forward until his erection presses firmly against John's stomach. The sensation of heat and hardness floods through him and his moan joins Sherlock's. Squeezing and releasing the flesh beneath his hands, John silently encourages Sherlock to press against him. The feeling of Sherlock's muscles moving under his hands sends a shiver of pleasure down John's spine, such strength and virility under his control. John doesn't recall ever being this aroused before and he knows it's only through his own sheer bloody mindedness, his own determined stubbornness that he hasn't come in his underwear already. He - they - have waited too long for this to rush it all now.

Their bodies rock in tandem, a new dance that they instinctively know. Wrapping one hand firmly around the back of Sherlock's neck, John draws him into a deep kiss, before twining their fingers once more. It's an innocent gesture but the feeling of Sherlock's long, strong fingers wrapped around his makes John desperately yearn to feel them elsewhere; in his hair, on his skin, wrapped around him, deep inside him. Anywhere. Everywhere. The accompanying images pull out a long moan from deep within his chest, a primitive sound that causes both of their grips to tighten. Sherlock's eyes have flashed open, only a slim ring of bright colour remains around his pupil, all his intense focus now on John.

"Oh God, John." The words are exhaled on a breath, his face appears troubled and it's obvious Sherlock wants to say more, but the words are eluding him.

"What do you need, Sherlock?" John is surprised at how calm he sounds, his words only slightly broken and breathless, when inside he is breaking apart at the seams. Lust, love and desire seep out of his every pores .... all directed at the trembling, flushed and infinitely gorgeous man before him.

"What you did earlier with your tongue ...... to my finger. I want you to do that ......... " Sherlock stumbles for the words. John watches in awe as colour floods Sherlock's cheeks. Deciding that actions speak louder than words, Sherlock guides their joined hands to press against his prominent erection before whispering, " ....... here."

The memory of the way he had teased Sherlock's finger tip earlier floods through John, the power of the sense memory makes his mouth fill with saliva. John has to swallow before he is able to speak.

"Oh God, yes." It's new territory for John, but he is not daunted. The idea of taking Sherlock into his mouth, tasting his muskiness, is incredibly arousing. Only the realisation that it is mostly likely a first for both of them, that stops John from dropping to his knees. Licking his lips, John's stomach flips as he sees the answering heat in Sherlock's eyes. "In your room though, yeah?"

No time is wasted on a verbal response; a laugh is startled out of John as he finds himself being tugged towards Sherlock's room. John laughs more as they barrel through the bedroom door; he's thrilled that even with the new development in their relationship they are still essentially the same, the madman and his blogger. Sherlock laughs briefly with John before pushing him firmly against the closed bedroom door. John moans as Sherlock presses his long body against his, all earlier shyness gone. Sherlock steps back slightly, smirking at the plaintive groan from John, before waving a hand around the dimly lit room.

"Welcome to our bedroom, John. Now, I believe we have some experimenting to do." Sherlock raises one eyebrow at John, his expression cheeky and expectant.

"Hmmmmm. Our bedroom?" John quirks his head to one side, pretending to think the proposition over, relenting only when he sees the cheeky look on Sherlock's face begin to falter. "Brilliant idea, Sherlock. I think for this experiment we should be naked. No clothes in the way to invalidate the results. Although I'm sure repeat experiments will have their merits!"

"I didn't think you cared much for experiments, John." The laughter in Sherlock's voice is evident as he moves to undo John's shirt.

"Oh, I think this is precisely the type of experiment I will enjoy, I won't even complain about the mess." He giggles at the blush on Sherlock's cheeks, giggling more when he realises he is blushing too. The giggles stop abruptly as cool fingers brush over his nipple, the intimacy of the moment is heady. John originally had every intention of undressing Sherlock too, but he finds he is too lost in sensation to co-ordinate the fine motor movements required.

Each new touch to his skin causes John to shiver, each gentle caress from strong fingers increasing his pleasure. He sighs as Sherlock pushes the shirt from his shoulders, tracing the material's journey with his hands as it tracks down his arms. John shudders as Sherlock gracefully drops to his knees and breathes the word 'beautiful' against his abdomen. Open mouthed kisses are greeted with gentle moans and sighs, even as his hands drift to Sherlock's hair. John has no intention of guiding the kisses and gentle licks, he just wants to complete the circuit; Sherlock touching John, John touching Sherlock. He tenses and then sighs as Sherlock's soft lips brush over his nipple, the gentle nip of teeth causing John to tighten his grip briefly. His hands remain firmly in Sherlock's hair as Sherlock caresses, nips and sucks, swapping from one nipple to the other, the time spent on each erratic, leaving John deliciously unable to anticipate Sherlock's next move.

"God. You taste divine, John. So much more than I ever imagined; no fantasy ever came close to this." Sherlock's words are spoken directly onto John's skin, warm breath over damp skin raising goosebumps, causing John to tremble further.

"You..... fantasised .... about me?" John runs his tongue over dry lips, his breath escaping in broken gasps. He knows it's an inane question, but the idea that Everyday John Watson is the stuff of Sherlock's fantasies is overwhelming.

"Oh, yes." Sherlock's voice is oddly calm, his words interspersed with his continued administrations.

"Quite often, in fact." A soft kiss to John's pectoral muscle.

"I'd imagine pushing you flat on your back." Rising from his knees Sherlock licks a long, lingering stripe up John's neck.

"Running my tongue all over you." A sucking kiss delivered to the dip below John's ear.

"Tasting you." Sherlock is again on his knees, a soft kiss gifted to John's navel. The image of Sherlock on his knees is reminiscent of too many of John's fantasies. He closes his eyes, not wanting to mix fantasy with reality, this is real and he wants the memories to be perfect.

"Teasing you." A lick through the line of hair leading from John's belly button to the top of his trousers.

"Everywhere." Sherlock flicks John's button open before slowly drawing the zip down.

"Lingering on the more erogenous areas." Sherlock takes a deep breath, his nose pressed deep into the thin material of John's boxers. "Breathing you in." John grasps onto Sherlock's shoulders and wills his knees not to give out.

"Oh Christ, Sherlock." John's body is flooding with heat, his heart pounding, the telltale tingle in his balls of an approaching climax. John clenches his jaw to help maintain his control. His cock twitches as Sherlock exhales against him, John groans, gripping harder on Sherlock's shoulders. The idea of marking Sherlock's marble skin is hugely appealing to John and he allows himself to glory in the fantasy before feeling Sherlock's fingers flex on his hips. John forces his eyes open, looking down at Sherlock, he can read the indecision clear in Sherlock's whole posture.

"John. I want to feel your mouth around me, your tongue caressing me." Their mixed groans fill the air. "But I need to feel you, to breathe you in. To have the taste of you on my tongue." Sherlock clenches John hard, causing John's pulse to spike. "Please, John. Let me do that."

Sherlock's uplifted face is guileless; he truly wants this. John can't refuse Sherlock anything when his face is so open, so honest; that it is a sexual favour being requested makes John's mouth flood with saliva. Sherlock's moist breath seeps through the thin material of John's boxer shorts, heating both his cock and his desire.

"You can do anything, absolutely anything, you want, Sherlock. I trust you." John's breath is erratic, his voice clouded with desire, but he needs Sherlock to know he trusts him in all areas. With his body, with his love, with his life.

Sherlock holds John's gaze, nodding, before slowly moving his face back into John's crotch, inhaling deeply. John moans and tries to still his hips when Sherlock's fingers hook into the waist of his boxers, easing both jeans and boxers down, inch by teasing inch. John's gaze is on Sherlock's face, pleasure blatantly apparent there. It becomes a positive feedback loop, the more desire displayed on Sherlock's face, the more aroused John becomes. Both men moan when John's cock is finally laid bare. John at the sensation of Sherlock's heat so close to his naked skin and Sherlock at the sight of John finally revealed. A bead of pre-ejaculate graces the head of John's cock, before slowly rolling down, causing John to twitch. He bites on his lower lip to hold in a moan as Sherlock's eyes widen briefly at the sight, before unconsciously licking his full lips. Each inch of skin that is revealed is gifted with either a kiss or soft lick. Only John's cock remains completely untouched. Sherlock helps John to balance, removing the tangled garments from each leg, finally leaving John utterly naked. Slowly, Sherlock leans back on his heels, allowing his gaze to drift over John's body. John swallows hard. Although he is the naked one, it is Sherlock who is uncovered, his needs and desires laid exposed to see. John studies the man before him. Sherlock's skin glistens with a soft sheen of sweat, cheeks and lips are flushed with colour. His curls cling to the side of his face, accentuating his unique looks. John has never seen him looking so beautiful.

"Oh, John." Sherlock whispers, his words reverential. John stands proudly as Sherlock studies his body, refusing to hide away from the scrutinising gaze. He knows he is nothing special, a little under tall, a little soft around the middle, skin a little weathered, but the way that Sherlock is looking at him makes him feel exceptional. A smile lights Sherlock's face as he focuses on John's penis. "You've been keeping secrets from me."

"Secrets? Why would I try to do that, Sherlock? You deduce anything I might try to hide." John trails his fingertips along Sherlock's cheekbone, before letting them drift along his jaw, enjoying the sensation of fine stubble under his fingertips.

"This, John." Sherlock's long fingers brush lightly over John's hip, before tracing the line between his abdomen and thigh. John trembles as Sherlock's touch slides closer to his balls. "I'd visualised what you would look like naked, but this is what you kept a secret from me. The fact that you would stand before me, proud in your nakedness. All your softness ....." A gentle hand cups John's testicles and long fingers stroke the soft skin behind. "....... and hardness." A long swipe of wet, warm tongue up John's erection causes him to gasp and thrust his hips forward. "On display. No shame, just for me. Oh, God, John." Sherlock slips his mouth around the tip of John's cock, pulling a low moan from him.

John can feel Sherlock's tongue as it teases him before Sherlock lets him slip slowly back out. Sherlock rests his head against the muscular curve of John's thigh, his breath coming in soft pants against John's skin. " I could never have deduced this about you John, I am honoured that you allowed me to see it."

John wants to say something deep and meaningful in reply but his body is almost in complete control, his mind merely along for the ride. After a few false starts John manages to croak out 'anytime' before sliding his fingers into Sherlock's damp, softly curling hair. Twisting his hips slightly, John rests his cock against Sherlock's cheek. It's an unsubtle hint, but he desperately needs to feel Sherlock's mouth around him again. John is certain he has never been this turned on before just from the prospect of a blow job and a few dirty words, but he knows it's not the sexual act or words that have reduced him to a quivering mess, it's who the act is with. He knows he never wants to be with anyone else. Sherlock is his Everything, his Evermore. This moment is so much more than sex. This is making love. This is a sacred vow. It is an eternal promise.

A sigh of relief escapes John's lips as Sherlock takes him back into his mouth. Hot wetness surrounds him and John allows his head to fall back against the door. His eyes slide shut and he surrenders himself to the sensation, the gentle twirl of Sherlock's tongue, the loving caress of soft lips. The slick glide and suck as Sherlock takes him deeper before slowly pulling back, tension and pleasure causing John to tremble and quake. Sherlock, ever the observant one, wraps one arm around John's thighs, bracing him against the tremors. With his free hand Sherlock gently caresses John's testicles, massaging them, as his tongue works the length of John's shaft.

John gently thrusts into Sherlock's mouth, his movements encouraged by Sherlock's deep moans and increasing suction. As he feels his orgasm building, he tightens his grip in Sherlock's hair, groaning as Sherlock takes him deeper. Part of him wants to fight his rapidly approaching climax and prolong the pleasure. Part of him wants to surrender and spill himself into Sherlock's welcoming mouth. Sherlock's grip shifts on John's legs, long fingers trail up the inside of John's thigh. John holds his breath when the questing digits drift between his cheeks. A gentle press over his entrance wrenches a gasping moan from John and he pulls at Sherlock's hair; the resulting moan of pleasure around his cock is all John needs and he spills hotly into Sherlock's mouth, crying out Sherlock's name. John's hips still rock slowly as Sherlock continues to gently suck and lick him, chasing every last taste of him. Finally finding enough willpower, John draws himself out of Sherlock's mouth before collapsing on the floor, his chest heaving as he fights to recover his breath. John's stomach flips as Sherlock slowly licks his lips, chasing John's taste and suddenly he wants to taste himself in Sherlock's mouth, to experience proof of his climax.

"Come here, gorgeous." John's voice is rough and dry from his rapid breathing and he chuckles when Sherlock's eyes widen at the sound. Sherlock crawls up the length of John's naked body and into his outstretched arms. John shivers at the brush of Sherlock's clothed body on his hypersensitive skin, tightening his embrace. He runs his fingers through Sherlock's curls and waits for his breath to return to somewhat normal. His heart beat is erratic, but John is too aware of Sherlock's aroused body pressed against his naked one for it to calm.

Raising himself up on his elbows, Sherlock gazes down at John's flushed face. "You were magnificent, John. I'm sure this is one experiment you will be happy to repeat." Sherlock's voice is gravelly, his breath musky as it gusts across John's face.

"Damn right." John smiles broadly before guiding Sherlock's face down for a deep kiss. Moaning at the lingering taste of himself in Sherlock's mouth, John pulls Sherlock closer, his fingers once again finding their way into the soft hair. Sherlock rocks against John, his erection hard against John's thigh, longing apparent in Sherlock's kisses. Moving his hands to Sherlock's shoulders, John quickly flips them, startling a gasp from Sherlock. Pressing himself against the length of Sherlock, John savours the heat that bleeds through Sherlock's expensive clothing onto his bare skin. "Your turn. But let's take this somewhere more comfortable. Your bed, yeah?"

Lifting his weight off Sherlock, John holds his hand out, pulling Sherlock up and into a deep embrace. He gently walks Sherlock backwards until his legs bump into the edge of their bed. John holds them there and deepens the kiss, chasing Sherlock's tongue with his own. Lowering his hands to rest on the curve of Sherlock's arse, John marvels anew that he is now allowed to touch this wonderful man. It may have been several years in coming but John is determined they will savour every moment from here on in. Sherlock grows restless in John's arms, the desperate cant of Sherlock's hips against his own now very apparent, the broken gasps against his neck where Sherlock has buried his face raising goosebumps on his skin.

"Sherlock, love, I need you to move onto the bed for me. Just lie in the middle and I'll take care of you. I know you're impatient, Jesus, I've no idea how you've lasted this long, but just trust me. Ok?" John breathes his words into Sherlock's damp curls. "Whatever you want, whatever you need, it's yours. I'm yours." John presses a soft kiss into Sherlock's hair before slowly removing himself from the embrace. He watches as Sherlock slides back across the bed, his movements graceful and sensuous even at the height of his arousal; the flushed cheeks, dishevelled curls and parted lips only adding to his beauty. As he moves to the centre of the bed his eyes never leave John's and John can feel the tension between them. The tension that is always there; tension heightened during post-case adrenalin rushes and quiet moments spent too close to each other, but now amplified tenfold. John can almost feel the air crackling between them as he watches Sherlock's fingers drift to his buttons, fixed on undoing them.

"No." Sherlock quirks an eyebrow at John's sudden command but lowers his hands accordingly, resting them lightly on the duvet. "I want to undress you." John crawls slowly onto the bed and over Sherlock's body, keeping his weight off him. He knows he is nowhere near as attractive as Sherlock, but the way Sherlock is gazing at him makes him feel sexy and desirable. John lowers his face slightly, gracing the plush lips with light kisses before moving his attention onto the long column of Sherlock's neck. The skin is soft beneath John's lips, the stubble making his skin tingle. He glides his lips back up to Sherlock's jaw, gently nipping at the rounded edge. Each caress draws a moan from Sherlock and he grasps for John, gripping his neck and waist, anchoring him. John can feel the rapid rise and fall of Sherlock's chest, the heat of his skin, the moist kiss of sweat in his hair and John can't believe that he wrought this effect on Sherlock, that he has finally broken through all the carefully constructed barriers and has been allowed access to the man inside. He nips gently at Sherlock's earlobe before fluttering a light kiss on Sherlock's lips.

"Shall I tell you what I'm going to do to you, Sherlock?" His words are whispered directly onto Sherlock's quivering lips and he feels rather than sees Sherlock's almost imperceptible nod. Sherlock's grip tightens and John is in awe of his self control. With a wicked smile John relishes the thought of how thoroughly he is going to wreck Sherlock.

"I'm going to slowly strip you naked, and as I strip you I'm going to explore every inch of skin I see. Then I'm going to flip you onto your stomach and do the same to the back of you. Do you understand, Love?" The intimacy of John's words cause Sherlock to tremble further and he pulls his lower lip between his teeth in an effort to control himself. John traces Sherlock's upper lip with his tongue, lapping at the lower one until Sherlock releases it. John delves his tongue into Sherlock's willing mouth, caressing every part with the tip of his tongue before gently sucking Sherlock's tongue into his own mouth, encouraging him to explore. Their tongues wrap together and John chases the taste and texture of Sherlock. His body rocks against Sherlock's erection trapped between them and Sherlock breaks the kiss to gasp John's name before John captures his mouth once more. John can feel Sherlock's hips trying to thrust up against his weight, Sherlock's fingernails digging into John's naked skin, eliciting a string of shivers from them both. Slowly John pulls away from the kiss, gently biting at Sherlock's lower lip before easing the sting with a light kiss.

John eases himself further up Sherlock's body until his lips brush against Sherlock's hairline, peppering small kisses along the fine frown lines. John gradually moves down, giving a lingering kiss to the indent at the bridge of Sherlock's nose.

"I love this part here. The way it scrunches up when you're confused, deep in thought or thoroughly pissed off." John presses another kiss to the frown. "And it would also appear it's there when you are turned on. Hmmmmm, I'll definitely get distracted watching you frown from now on."

John moves his focus to kiss along one cheekbone before drifting across to the other. "You've long known how I feel about your cheekbones; they manage to give you a regal air even when you're only wrapped in a bloody sheet. And sexy, so fucking sexy." John presses his body firmly against Sherlock's once more, loving the sensation of Sherlock's erection pressing into his stomach.

He sprinkles kisses over the stubble on Sherlock's cheeks, the gap between his nose and upper lip and then back along his jaw and chin. John's next words are spoken against Sherlock's jaw, his lips brushing lightly over Sherlock's stubble. "The feel of your stubble against my skin is the most amazing sensation, makes it tingle and burn."

John lifts himself up on his hands slightly to drop a sweet kiss to the end of Sherlock's nose. "You have the most adorable nose. I love seeing the sweep of it in profile, curved, just like those luscious lips of yours. Do you know how many times I've dreamed about your mouth Sherlock? Hmmm?" John allows his gaze to linger on Sherlock's mouth, groaning when Sherlock deliberately pulls his lower lip into his mouth before letting it slide back out, now glistening wet. "The way it peaks and curves, such a sensual mouth; soft and inviting to look at and a wonder to kiss. I never thought I'd be able to do that, never thought you'd let me." John drifts a light kiss onto the lips before him, nuzzling soft kisses to either side of Sherlock's mouth. He runs his tongue first over the top lip, then over the lower, moving slightly away whenever Sherlock tries to deepen the kiss.

John presses open-mouthed kisses along Sherlock's jaw before leaving butterfly kisses over the curve of his ear, drawing the lobe into his mouth, sucking slightly before tracking more kisses across Sherlock's face. Moving down, John kisses Sherlock's neck before resting his mouth over Sherlock's pulse point. John can feel the rapid fluttering beneath his lips, he sucks tenderly on the skin, wanting to leave a mark but deciding to leave several lower where Sherlock can easily cover them. John sweeps his tongue all over the long, pale column of Sherlock's neck, paying extra attention to the delicious curve of his Adam's apple. Slowly he moves down until he can dip his tongue into Sherlock's suprasternal notch, tasting the delicate tang of salt, before slowly undoing the first button of Sherlock's shirt.

"This area here I've spent too many hours thinking about. The way it deepens when you laugh, or pant, or when you whip that bloody scarf off. Jesus Christ Sherlock, watching you take that damn thing off is like being at a private strip show, so much beautiful, bare skin suddenly on show." John pants into Sherlock's neck, savouring the sensation of Sherlock rocking up into him, the edge of desperation is still apparent, but Sherlock is maintaining control - just.

"Was this part of your plan, John?" Sherlock drags in a deep breath and clutches John tightly. "Talk me to an early death?" Sherlock's growled words are accompanied by the scratch of his fingernails up John's back.

"Early death?" John raises himself up to look at Sherlock's face, trying to deduce what Sherlock is talking about.

"Yes, John. Death by sexual frustration. Are you always this much of loquacious tease?" Sherlock's words are gasped out, his eyes heavy with desire.

"You do know you can't actually die of sexual frustration don't you, Sherlock?" John chuckles, happy that they are still able to tease each other.

"More words, John? Just get on and do it!" Sherlock is now writhing beneath John, clutching at him frantically, trying to drag John down onto him.

"Oh I will, Sherlock, just in my own sweet time." John locks his arms, keeping his upper body away from Sherlock's, grinding his hips down, dragging a long moan out of Sherlock.

"No more words, just touch." Sherlock places trembling fingers against John's lips and closes his eyes. "Please."

Taking pity on him, John slides down Sherlock's body, flicking the buttons open as he goes. Peppering small kisses against the flushed skin slowly being revealed, finally only a few buttons remain fastened and John rests his face against the smooth shirt material. Turning his head John places a soft and reverent kiss over one of the straining buttons.

"Well done, buttons. You have fought bravely and now the battle is almost won. I salute you." The words are whispered against the damp skin of Sherlock's heaving abdomen. Glancing up he doesn't think Sherlock has heard his secret tribute; he seems to be lost in a world of sensation. Sherlock's arm is thrown up covering his eyes, his lips parted. Sherlock's colour is high and the fine sheen of sweat is causing his thin shirt to accentuate the lean contours of his muscles. John's mouth waters at the sight stretched out beneath him. He has always known Sherlock is a gorgeous man, but seeing him in full sensual abandonment makes John's heart ache at his true beauty. Slowly he shifts his body so that he is lightly straddling Sherlock's thighs; the movement presses his weight briefly against Sherlock's straining erection, eliciting a gasp that is quickly cut off when Sherlock bites against his lower lip. John's eyes remain fixed on Sherlock's face as he quickly slips the last few buttons free of their shackles.

John slowly slides his hands over Sherlock's stomach and chest, pushing the shirt aside. He can feel each dip and rise of muscle as he goes. He knows from patching Sherlock up that he is more muscular than the narrow cut of his suits would suggest; feeling the truth of it beneath his hands in this situation sends bolts of pleasure from his fingertips through his body, settling in his groin. Upon reaching Sherlock's shoulders John slides his hands under the material of Sherlock's shirt, gently easing it from them, cupping the strong curves as he does. Sherlock is straining up in an effort to press his bare chest against John's as it hovers tantalisingly close to his own. John quickly takes advantage of the situation and pulls the shirt out from beneath Sherlock, sweeping the thin material to the floor. John presses Sherlock back onto the bed, laying his body against him. The skin on skin contact is everything he ever fantasised about and so much more; Sherlock is hot and vibrant beneath him, not the cold, unfeeling machine he sometimes pretends to be. John can feel the way Sherlock is trembling and quaking beneath him and realises it would be cruel to continue his teasing exploration. John gives a low rumbling moan when large hands clutch at his backside, pressing their hips together. John's cock twitches in interest and Sherlock whimpers at the sensation.

"Is this what you want, Love?" John rubs his burgeoning erection over Sherlock's. "Or do you want to be in my mouth?" John breathes the words against the curve of Sherlock's chin, nipping his jawline when Sherlock's hands suddenly clench, the grip almost painful, before easing off.

"M..m..mouth." Warm breath stutters against John's forehead moments before Sherlock pushes down on John's shoulders.

"Pushy bugger." John chuckles as he allows himself to be pushed down. Contrary until the last moment, John refuses to go quickly, smoothing kisses over every inch of skin he passes, lingering to suck and lave at Sherlock's nipples. Sherlock arches into the sensation, grabbing the back of John's head, encouraging him to continue in his ministrations. John nips the small nub between his teeth before sealing his lips around it and sucking, gradually increasing the pressure. He closes his eyes in bliss when Sherlock groans and tugs lightly on his hair. John lingers before sliding across to the other side. He can hear Sherlock gasping for air above him; feel his body writhing in pleasure.

John inches slowly lower, his hands pinning Sherlock's hips to the bed in an attempt to prevent Sherlock from bucking him off. He dips his tongue into the hollow of Sherlock's belly button before nuzzling down through the line of dark hair leading to Sherlock's trouser waistband, licking along the soft skin at the very edge. John carefully releases Sherlock's hips, grinning as he clenches his fists in an effort to control his wriggling. Slowly, John eases the button free, before releasing the catch and sliding the zip open. Sherlock's moan travels through his fingertips, the sound is erotic in the extreme and John rests his nose against the wet spot marking the front of Sherlock's boxers. John inhales deeply and his senses are flooded by the scent of Sherlock's arousal, the warm muskiness rich in the air. Carefully, John draws both Sherlock's boxers and trousers down, lifting the material to free Sherlock's penis.

Their joined gasps fill the air; Sherlock's, one of relief swiftly turning to one of pleasure as he feels John's warm breath ghosting across his sensitive skin.

"Fuck, Sherlock." John's voice is reverent despite the coarseness of his words. Unable to draw the moment out any longer, John swiftly draws the tangled garments from Sherlock's legs before kneeling up, allowing his eyes to sweep slowly over the naked form before him. "So beautiful, you are so beautiful."

Sherlock's eyes meet John's and he feels his breath hitch, the lust is now muted and those eyes are overflowing with trust and love. John can't believe that he is allowed to see Sherlock so naked, not just physically but emotionally. He swallows against the sudden lump in his throat, so many words and emotions wanting to spill over his parted lips but all he can do is slowly lower himself and tenderly kiss Sherlock's lips. He knows he's never been a man of many words but he's going to try his damnedest to let Sherlock know how he feels.

Chapter Text

Sherlock is overwhelmed in the very best of ways. Every atom, every molecule, is surrounded and soaked in John. He can feel John's sweat cooling on his skin; feel his soft silver-grey hair under his fingertips, John's breath against the hot skin of his penis. Sherlock's mouth is still rich with the taste of John's release. John has teased him and teased him, both mentally and physically and Sherlock feels close to bursting apart. John's gentle nuzzles against his clothed genitalia had been nearly enough to send Sherlock crashing into the abyss of pleasure, only his determination to feel John's mouth against him had prevented that journey.

John has once more kissed his way down Sherlock's body and his mouth now hovers above Sherlock's achingly erect penis. Each breath across his sensitive skin is causing Sherlock to twitch and he is almost sobbing in his need for John.

"John. No more teasing. Please." Sherlock is begging and he is too far gone in his passion to be embarrassed or ashamed.

"I'm not ...." John licks his lips, before taking a steadying breath. "I'm not teasing, Sherlock. You are just so beautiful and so much more than I deserve, I can't believe I'm finally allowed to see you like this. To have you like this."

Before Sherlock is able to calm his brain enough to answer, John takes him deep into his mouth, and the only things he can articulate are a collection of meaningless sounds. His usually over active mind is only registering, 'wet, warm, pleasure, John,' on constant loop.

Sherlock only becomes aware that he has twisted his hands deep into the sheets when John reaches up and gently untangles them. His penis slides from John's mouth and he whines at the loss.

"Guide me, Sherlock." John's words are breathed against the delicate skin of his inner thigh even as his hands are placed in John's hair. For a moment Sherlock panics, this is utterly new to him, he has never allowed - never wanted - anyone this close to him before. Only when John caresses him once again does his mind still once more. With each long, strong stroke of tongue on his penis Sherlock holds John's hair a little firmer. When John takes the head of him in again, circling his tongue gently under Sherlock's foreskin, Sherlock tugs a little on the hair in his grasp. The ensuing vibration from John's deep, pleasured moan encourages Sherlock to grip more firmly onto John's short hair and guide him so that more of his penis is encased in the hot warmth of John's mouth. John moans again and Sherlock cannot stop himself from thrusting his hips up. John's grip on his hips alters, then increases. To Sherlock's wonder it is not to hold him still, rather the altered grip allows John to gently encourage Sherlock in his thrusts. Tentatively Sherlock thrusts again, and is rewarded by another pleasured moan and deep suck of his penis. The idea that John is gaining as much pleasure from this as he is is astounding to Sherlock. He remembers vividly how it felt to have John in his mouth, hard and throbbing, how torn he was about wanting to keep John in his mouth for ages and wanting to taste him as he flooded him with his release. How each moan, gasp and pulse from John had only pushed his own pleasure closer to the edge.

John's head is now moving in a steady rhythm, only the smallest amount of guidance is given from Sherlock. On each new suck or tongue roll Sherlock thrusts deeper in until soon he is canting his hips at a frantic pace. All too soon he feels the tell tale tingle of orgasm and his shaft thickens. Gripping firmly onto John's head, he thrusts twice more before spilling into John's mouth, his body curled up and over John. With a gasp, Sherlock flops back onto the bed, his penis sliding from John's attentive mouth. Sherlock's mind is still reeling from the whole experience when something wet and warm splashes onto his stomach. Opening his eyes he can see John kneeling up, his left hand working his cock, John's eyes are fixed on Sherlock and his mouth partially opens as he loses himself in his second orgasm of the night. The sight is sublimely erotic and Sherlock groans before pulling a thoroughly spent John onto him, heedless of the cooling ejaculate between them. Both men lie breathing quick and deep for long minutes before Sherlock breaks the comfortable silence.

"John. That was magnificent. You were magnificent." Sherlock can hear the love soaking his words but even now he can't bring himself to say it, even now he is afraid that he may wake them from this spell with his misspoken words.

"Yeah?" John tilts his chin up, a mixture of pride and anxiety on his handsome face. "I wanted to do so much more; to kiss you everywhere, to taste you everywhere. But there will be plenty of time for that, won't there, Sherlock?"

Sherlock cannot bear the anxiety on John's face and tugs him into a deep embrace, attempting to kiss all of John's doubts away. Sherlock knows his feelings for John will never alter. He loves him. Always has. Always will.

Laughing, John gently extracts himself from Sherlock's embrace. "I'll take that as a yes, shall I? Sliding from the bed, John heads towards the bathroom. "I'll just get us something to clean up with and then we'll snuggle."

"Snuggle!" Sherlock tries, and fails, to keep the longing out of his voice.

John's eyes are soft and warm when they meet Sherlock's gaze. "Yes. Snuggle, Sherlock Holmes. Trust me, you'll love it."

Sherlock chuckles as he watches his naked lover walk into the bathroom. Hearing the water run he allows himself to think over the events of the past few days. He thought he had lost John, only to return home to find John waiting for him. A John that had reacted instinctively - Sherlock wriggles slightly, and yes, his bum cheek and face are still slightly tender - but calmed when he realised why Sherlock had left. Sherlock thinks again of the harmless finger-swipe to remove sauce from John's mouth and sighs in pleasure at how such an innocent gesture has led to him lying sated, happy and naked on his bed with John's ejaculate cooling on his skin.

John returns from the bathroom and kneels next to Sherlock, his weight causing the mattress to dip and Sherlock to tilt slightly towards him. Carefully, reverently, John cleans Sherlock's stomach and chest before throwing the cloth in the rough direction of the wash basket. Pulling the sheets over their cooling skins, leaving their chests bare, John snuggles into Sherlock. His head rests on Sherlock's shoulder, an arm and leg trailing over Sherlock's body. Slowly Sherlock wraps his arms around John's strong torso, pulling him closer. Both men sigh in contentment and John trails his fingers in random patterns over Sherlock's chest and flat stomach. Tilting his head down, Sherlock kisses John's ruffled hair.

"John?"
"Hmmm." John's answer is soft and relaxed, but not yet sleepy.
"Why did you congratulate my buttons?" It had taken a while for the words to soak through Sherlock's hormone-drenched brain but now he wonders what John might have meant by them.
"Oh, you heard that, did you?" The smile is apparent in John's voice; his body remains lax and comfortable on Sherlock's. "I congratulated them because they won the war against the buttonholes. They finally came undone." John presses a brief kiss to the soft skin of Sherlock's chest before continuing to speak. "The very first time we danced together I imagined that your buttons were in a constant war, trying to escape the confines of the buttonholes and I wished I could be there when they won."
"John. You are an idiot." Sherlock once again feels the warmth of love flooding over him. John is indeed an idiot - but it's just possible he is Sherlock's idiot only. "You realise the battle wasn't entirely fair, don't you? You did help them in their bid for freedom."
"So I did." Sherlock sighs as John kisses his shoulder. "And I will again."
"Good. That's very ....." Sherlock gasps as John's idly trailing fingers brush lightly against his sensitive penis.
"Close your eyes, Sherlock. Concentrate on the patterns my fingers make." John's words are whispered directly onto the skin of Sherlock's neck, the brush of John's lips enough to make Sherlock groan and shiver in delight.

Sherlock closes his eyes and focuses on the patterns John's fingers are tracing on his naked chest. Gradually, the patterns start to form letters. I. L. O. V .... With a gasp Sherlock's eyes fly open and he flips John over onto his back, pinning his hands above his head, his own body straddling John's hips. John's eyes are wide in surprise but he is not struggling. Sherlock studies John's face intently, trying to find out what John might have meant with his letter tracing.

"Sherlock! What are you doing?" John's eyes are gradually darkening, the thrill of the new position flooding through him. Emboldened, John tilts his hips up until his penis rubs against Sherlock's. Both men groan at the sensation. Tightening his grip on John's wrists, Sherlock pushes them deeper into the pillow, allowing his weight to rest more on John. John bucks up suddenly, words spilling from his mouth. "Christ, Sherlock! Kiss me. Fuck me. Do whatever you want to me."

"Jesus, John." Sherlock is unable to hold himself back, his original line of thought disrupted as he surges forward. He kisses John fiercely, his own body trembling violently. "No!" Sherlock's voice is harsh and strained, his voice contorted with his warring emotions, his eyes filling with tears that he will not allow to fall. "You can't write things like that! You just can't! You mustn't! You can't mean them....... How could you? ....... I couldn't .....if you didn't...... You can't." Sherlock's words finally stutter to a halt. If John loved him, his world would be complete. But how could a man like John, love a man like Sherlock?

"I can mean them. I do mean them. I will always mean them. Always." At John's softly spoken, but heartfelt, words, Sherlock loosens his grip slightly on John's wrists, allowing John to raise himself up until they are resting cheek to cheek. "Always, Sherlock." The words are uttered directly into Sherlock's ear.

"I..... I need you to say it." Sherlock's words are so softly spoken he is unsure whether John will have heard them.

John pulls himself from Sherlock's slack grip and leans back until he is facing Sherlock, placing himself directly in Sherlock's line of sight. John's navy blue eyes hold no guile and his face is open. John's left hand is caressing Sherlock's cheek, his right resting on Sherlock's lower back, encouraging him to stay close.

"William Sherlock Scott Holmes." Sherlock's eyes widen at the use of his given name. How could John know? Mycroft! Bloody Mycroft! Sherlock silently vows to murder Mycroft the next time he sees him before returning his full attention back to John. John's words are gentle, but each one carves a special place in Sherlock's heart. "Sherlock. My Sherlock. I love you. I think I have always loved you. I will always love you. You are mine and I am yours. Never doubt that." Sherlock melts into the offered kiss. "I. Love. You." Each word is punctuated with a kiss.

Sherlock leans back to study John's face. The truth of his words is evident. "You do. You love me!" Sherlock can no longer hold his tears back, but now they are tears of joy. He is aware that he is sobbing and smiling, all of his fears have finally been chased away. Sherlock allows John to pull his face closer, lets him kiss along the salty tracks of his tears, all the time revelling in John's love and devotion. Laughter bubbles up from deep inside him, vibrating against John's skin.

"Does that make you happy, love?" The endearment slips from John's lips like air, caressing Sherlock's skin before making its way to his heart, to be forever cherished.

"Idiot." The usual insult is now rich with love and devotion. "And.... John... There's something I should say. I've meant to say it, always, and I never have........ " Sherlock takes a deep, calming breath, amazed that he finally has the opportunity to open his heart. Their eyes are now locked on each other - dark navy blue and ever changing eyes of gold, ice blue and green - their own night sky. Their emotions openly showing, never ending and as eternal as space. ".......John. I love you."

 

***********************************

Six glorious months pass by and John and Sherlock only grow closer. There are arguments, crazy experiments, angry violin playing and calming walks in the park. There are also bouts of make-up sex, angry sex, creative sex, mind blowingly good sex - and to Sherlock's secret delight - snuggling, lots and lots of snuggling. Sherlock and John have never been happier. Cases continue to roll in and John continues to blog proudly about his partner.

People have reacted mostly positively to the change in their relationship. Mrs Hudson had wept and then run off to make a celebratory dinner that they insisted she shared with them. Stamford and Lestrade had reacted in similar ways, both uttering words along the lines of 'About bloody time.' Mike Stamford had grinned hugely, bright eyes sparkling merrily when Sherlock and John had thanked him for introducing them. Sherlock had expected disdain from Donovan and Anderson but they were both surprisingly mellow, clearly still feeling guilty about their involvement in besmirching Sherlock's name. Mycroft had merely given a pained smile before shaking John's hand and raising an eyebrow in Sherlock's direction. The press had run wild with the story for a week until the newest political scandal had knocked John and Sherlock's blossoming romance from the front page.

A rare quiet afternoon finds John sitting in a cafe, listening to his iPod, awaiting Sherlock. His face lights up when he sees the familiar lanky figure entering the shop. Even after all this time John feels a surge of love whenever he sees Sherlock. Watching Sherlock collect his drink, John smiles at the next song that plays on his iPod, it almost seems like fate. John offers an ear bud to Sherlock when he comes over. Sherlock listens to the music intently, studying John deeply. The song ends and Sherlock continues to study John, it lasts for so long that John begins to fidget in his chair. Finally Sherlock looks directly in John's eyes, his face melts into the smile that is only ever for John, his lips part and one word is uttered. That one word makes John's heart burst with joy.

"Yes."

***********************

"Mrs Hudson? Could you come up here?" Sherlock's deep voice drifts down the stairs and Mrs Hudson sighs. As much as she loves her wayward 'son' she really doesn't fancy walking all the way up stairs merely to make him some tea.

"He means please, Mrs Hudson." John's softer voice joins Sherlock's request. Mrs Hudson cannot help the smile that crosses her features; John has his own sharp edges but when he and Sherlock are together they bring out the best in each other.

Slowly she walks up the stairs, wondering what her boys have been up to now. Whatever it is, she is sure it will make her chuckle. Walking into the living room she stops in shock, the furniture is all pushed back and the floor is surprisingly clear.

"What are you boys up to now? If you've broken anything, it's coming out of your rent." Her hand flutters up to her throat as John leads her over to the sofa.

"We haven't broken anything, Mrs Hudson. We just wanted to share something with you." John's voice is calm but Mrs Hudson can see that both he and Sherlock are flushed with secret excitement.

A haunting waltz comes from the CD player and she recognises it as the composition Sherlock has been working on. It is beautiful and heart warming. She puts her hands up to her face when Sherlock and John reach for each other, slowly beginning to dance. Their movements are completely in time, their bodies perfectly in sync. They glide around the floor as Mrs Hudson watches in awe; she had always known they were well matched, but it is only now that she realises quite how perfect they are for each other.

After a few minutes, John reaches out for her and draws her into the dance, swapping her between himself and Sherlock. For a moment she feels years younger, her hip no longer aching and her body moving gracefully to the music. She is laughing and clapping her hands when the song comes to an end, the final notes poignant but promising of more.

"Oh boys, that was beautiful!" She lowers herself to the sofa again, smoothing her skirt over her legs. "But what was it for?"

"It's a private celebration, Mrs Hudson." Sherlock's rich baritone is laced with happiness, his eyes a sparkling bright blue, their gaze flicking between her and John.

"Sherlock and I are getting married and we wanted you to be the first to know." John reaches for Sherlock's hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

Mrs Hudson flicks her gaze between her boys, tears of happiness streaming down her kind face. After a few false starts she finally manages to talk. "Who proposed to whom?"

"Sherlock deduced it from a song I was listening to." John's voice is soft, the awe he always feels about Sherlock's deductions even more clear than usual.

"Deduced it! That's not very romantic."

"I thought it was rather amazing actually." John turns to kiss Sherlock and Mrs Hudson proudly looks on. After years of waiting she is finally going to have married ones of her own!