Hydrogen, Helium, Sherlock begins as he hears the thunk-thunk-thunk of John's trainers on the stairs. Lithium, Berylium, Boron, he continues as the door to the flat swings open.
Focus, he thinks, and that's not part of the table, but it is essential. Just get through this.
John enters, gasping from his run, not in a way that indicates respiratory ailment, but in a way that suggests vigorous physical activity.
Prolonged vigorous physical activity. Scandium, Sherlock persists, up to the Transition Metals by now, his brain ticking along quietly behind his sudden and acute fixation: John is stretching: calves, hamstrings, torso, upper back, shoulders --
"Alright, there?" John asks, light, relaxed from his run, riding the endorphin high, and Sherlock takes a moment to add this version of John to his growing collection of Forbidden Johns: Sleeping John, Drugged John, Dancing John, Drunk John, Married John.
And now this: High on Endorphins John. Full to the Brim with Reward Neurotransmitter Chemicals John.
Rhodium. Fuck. No. Radon. Rhodium is number 45, already did it, Radon is next in line, Noble gas, number 86 and --
John is drinking water now, throat working in strong clenches as he swallows a full glass down in one, continuous drink. No small sips for that fastidious mouth, those lips wet now, that tongue sneaking out like some trespasser to swipe at the lingering drops of --
Francium, Sherlock all but clenches his jaw with effort. Discovered in France in 1939, least electronegative alongside caesium. Sherlock takes a breath, more in control, and mentally adds: Previously known as eka-caesium and actinium K. John sniffs an armpit, makes a face. Rare, impractical as diagnostic aid for -- for -- oh god.
Sherlock crosses his legs against his body's genius contribution to this debacle, but perhaps it's too late. John is pausing half-way to the bathroom, a question forming in his eyes, running vest half-way off, almost translucent with his sweat, but that doesn't matter, because Sherlock can't look away from John's -- John's everything.
Torso, he thinks, but his mouth blurts out: "Hassium."
John freezes. "Pardon?"
"I -- nothing, John." He winces as his traitor mouth tries to explain: "Hassium. Element. Periodic table. Working through it."
"Oh." John considers, arms slowly shucking off the rest of the vest, and John's skin glows with perspiration, his muscles a series of elegant lines, defining without becoming vulgar or showy. "So what comes next?"
Sherlock goes to answer and --
And can't. Nothing steps forward to fill the awkward space in his mouth, where the answer should sit. His body's second brilliant contribution to the situation shows up a moment later:
Sherlock blushes, and oh god, this hasn't happened in ages, certainly not outside the dark safety of his bed of a rare night, when he'd perhaps been more lax in regards to his wandering thoughts.
How he regrets that now, as every lurid detail rushes back in exactly the same way the answer to John's question doesn't.
"Sherlock -- oh -- oh." John is suddenly closer, and Sherlock's eyes are somehow closed, but there can be little doubt as to what John has just observed. Meager though his powers of deduction are, there can be little mistaking Sherlock's response.
"Just -- just ignore it until it goes away," Sherlock grits out. "That's what I plan on doing."
"Sherlock -- "
"Just go. We don't have to -- "
Lips against his startle him into silence.
"Jo--?" The word, the question, John's name bisected by John's tongue, stealing out and in, trespassing, and Sherlock would ask why, would demand answers, but his lips part, and a mortifying little sound emerges instead.
It's alright though, because a moment later John whimpers, too, and then the doctor's steady hands are in Sherlock's hair, and it's an invasion of touch and smell and taste, and Sherlock finds his arms have lifted, are full of John's bare back, latissimus dorsi and scapulae, a supple layer of sweat-slicked skin between him and John's cardiovascular system, which is so kindly bringing John's blood closer to the surface, where it kisses Sherlock's skin with heat much as John's mouth kisses him with something even more fiery in nature.
Sherlock doesn't realize they've broken apart until he gasps in air, lungs playing catch up, heart racing, and oh god, his own blood's been on the shift as well: his arousal is by now more than evident. There's no coming back from this, no mantra of elements or arcane chants to distract until the issue resolves itself.
"John -- you --"
"--Have been waiting for this for a long time?" John rushes in to finish Sherlock's sentence for him.
"A long time, Sherlock," John reiterates firmly, punctuates it with a brush of lips.
"What about Mary?" Sherlock asks, and his eyes close, because he can understand suddenly what it is to see someone stop feeling, stop caring for you, and he finds he doesn't want to see that John.
"Sherlock, Mary -- that whole business -- that was ages ago. Why would you think --?"
Sherlock opens his eyes, takes in John's confused expression even as he notes the state of John's lips, pupils, breathing, pulse. The right indicators, but --
"Jennifer Wilson," he says. "Rachel," he explains -- and poorly, if John's deepening confusion is anything to go by. With a grimace (because titles, honestly) he adds: "A Study in Pink."
He watches John realize, remember, recall. He expects John to see sense, the pull away, perhaps grow angry, at himself and collaterally at Sherlock.
What Sherlock isn't expecting is the next kiss to land, soft and sweet, and oh god it should be horrible, saccharin and sentimental, but instead it soothes the nervous flutter in Sherlock's throat and sternum and --
"It's hard to explain, Sherlock, but it's -- that's very different. That -- that has nothing to do with us."
"Well, obviously, this case doesn't involve that one directly, but --"
"I know what you're getting at, and you're going to have to trust me that this situation is entirely different." His eyes are slate and cobalt and ocean and they are on Sherlock's as John says very firmly: "If I had to scratch a name into the floorboards right now, it damn-well wouldn't be 'Mary.'"
Sherlock doesn't know what his face does just then, because unlike just about every other moment of his life, he is not in control of his expressions right then.
Whatever it is, whatever it does, he sees John's face collapse into an almost aching tenderness before pulling into a sort of determination -- and then Sherlock cannot catalogue further, because John is kissing him, and kissing him, and kissing him, and saying between kisses: "Oh Sherlock, I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I should have -- I should have told you, a thousand times before, please say you know, please say --"
"Say what?" Sherlock gasps out, feeling not just close to but well past overcome.
"That you know I love you." John pulls back, and Sherlock's stunned silence must be its own answer, because then John's mouth is against his again. "I thought you knew. I thought it was obvious."
"You -- you said I was your best friend." Sherlock pulls back, trying to get a grip on his bewilderment. "I thought -- it was enough. It was." For so long, it had to be.
"And now?" John asks.
Sherlock thinks for the barest moment before he lets his hands tighten where they grasp beneath John's shoulder blades, and then he's tipping sideways and twisting, and John is on top of him, and he's always liked lying on this couch, but now he thinks the experience will be forevermore incomplete without John's weight settled on top of him.
John's squirming, sweaty weight, and -- oh, better add aroused to that list, because --
"Oh!" Sherlock can't seem to keep his breath from becoming sounds as John grinds down against him, dressing gown and pajamas a flimsy defense against the assault on his sensory system. "John --" he moans, writhes, and how embarrassing, or at least it would be if John weren't above him losing control of his face and body and vocal chords as well.
It doesn't take much after that, although time seems to stretch oddly, and that'll be down to the precursor hormones flooding his veins and permeating the blood-brain barrier, and that's interesting, it's never been this intense, and obviously masturbation doesn't trigger such a grand chemical pay-off, so perhaps --
John reaches a hand down, insinuates it past Sherlock's clothes, and then he's wrapping, gripping, stroking --
Sherlock comes, but it feels as if he's leaving: sound recedes, colour washes away, and all that's left is touch and its buzzing pleasure, a pulsing heat and pressure, the steady clench of pelvic floor muscles, and he's distantly aware that John has stilled against him, caught in his own pleasure, and next time Sherlock wants to see, wants to watch unaffected, wants to add John Coming to his (no longer forbidden?) collection.
Afterwards, they gasp against one another, and John keeps kissing him, even though orgasm has been achieved, and that's -- that's not how this goes -- is it? -- but Sherlock likes it, drinks it in, and says nothing because maybe he can keep this just a bit longer. This.
John is saying something.
"I meant it. I mean it," John mumbles, but his voice grows clearer and he says: "I love you. Have done. For a long time already."
Sherlock buries his face against John's neck, and they're both sweaty now, and Sherlock wonders if John is going to tuck this version of him away somewhere. "Don't leave," he whispers when John shifts as if to stand. "Not yet."
John stills, hugs Sherlock close, and the tightness should make it difficult to breathe, but instead Sherlock feels as if he's breathing freely for the first time in a long time.