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How to Cope with Turbulence

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John hates thunderstorms.

At least they’re still serving drinks, he thinks, trying to amuse himself when yet another flash of lightning streaks across the bit of purply-black night sky he can see through his window and the following violent bang makes his ears ring.

He’s on his way back to London from a medical convention in Berlin, and they’ve apparently managed to fly right into the worst kind of weather that has befallen Dutch airspace in the last three months. Or ever. They’re almost over The Hague now, he assumes, but he can’t be bothered to check the in-flight journal for details. He’s tired and wants to go home, or, which would be even better, to Baker Street to see Sherlock and get his mind off a boring weekend spent with boring people in boring lectures that are now part of his boring life.

The plane has been wobbling for a while now, and the seat belt signs have been glowing for the past half hour, but John’s feeling alright – as long as the flight attendants are still on their feet, everything is okay.

Until it suddenly isn’t.

The four low dings chiming through the cabin sound so innocent, but their effect is substantial. The crew hurries off behind their little curtain to take their seats and don their seat belts, and even if John’s deduction skills leave a lot to be desired, he can make out the barely-concealed unrest in their eyes.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Due to the less-than-perfect weather conditions, we’re experiencing some rough air at the moment,” the Captain’s voice comes through the speakers. “Please remain in your seats and keep your seat belts fastened at all times. I apologise for the inconvenience.”

Four dings,” a man two rows in front of him says in a sort of stage-whisper. “That’s bad.”

John rolls his eyes and wonders how bad it really is, but then he gets distracted by the abrupt lurch the plane performs. The whispering man curses. John feels his heart stumble behind his ribs. He doesn’t even know in which direction they’re tumbling right now – up? Down? To the side? The ham and cheese sandwich he’s had for dinner attempts an unceremonious reappearance, but he manages to keep it down. Everything around him is vibrating.

“Oh dear,” he grumbles and swallows against the nausea thickening in his throat.

“Okay, I’m sorry.” It’s the Captain again. “But this proves to be slightly more turbulent than expected.”

John asks himself how unexpected a storm like this can be – aren’t they supposed to check the weather forecast before authorising a flight?

“Oh God, we’re going to crash,” a woman’s voice that John can’t localise says. “Can you text the kids, Steve?”

Murmured conversations break out all around him, and in the midst of the snippets he can make out (“No, please…” – “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.” – “Dear God, please help us.” - “We won’t crash on a sodding short-distance flight, mate!”) John looks around himself to find the passenger next to him, a woman, probably in her fifties, with black hair and a pale complexion, staring at him out of ample eyes.

“Hey,” he says, trying to sound calmer than he feels. “Are you alright?”

She raises her eyebrows.

“Are you?” she replies.

He ponders over that for a second, but then heavy rain – or is it hail? – begins to pelt against the hull of the plane and its windows, and the roar that this causes shudders through him and makes his blood run cold.

“No,” he admits.

She’s breathing quickly, apparently fighting to keep herself together.

“Me neither,” she says.

“Bitte bleibt ruhig,” a man sitting somewhere behind them says in a would-be confident tone, and John’s limited German tells him that he must be the leader of the student group he saw entering the plane before he himself got on. Maybe he’s a teacher, and they’re a class of English learners on their way to London to have a great time in the capital.

“Stürzen wir ab?” a young girl asks in return, and even though he has no idea what that means, the tears in her voice make John feel terrible.

They’re just teenagers, he thinks. Fuck.

“Please remain calm,” the Captain says, his disembodied voice crackling through the stale cabin air, which is slowly getting colder and colder and feels weirdly damp in John’s lungs. That’s probably all the sweating and panting everybody’s doing by now.

Are we going to die?

He can’t watch the storm raging outside; it’s making him too nervous. His neighbour seems to have withdrawn into her own head to meditate, her hands clasped in her lap, so he gazes at his own legs and tries to think of something nice. The cup of tea he’s going to have when he gets home--- no, first to Sherlock’s. Definitely to Sherlock’s, he thinks. Just for an hour, and then he’ll go home. An hour or two, listening to Sherlock talking about a new case or the idiots at the Yard.

Sherlock.

He misses him more than he can say, more than he could ever admit to Mary, to Sherlock, to himself.

His eyes fall onto the napkin still lying on his knee. It’s a little crumpled and there’s a bit of sandwich sauce staining one corner, but it’s basically clean. It’s white, and much too stiff to wipe your mouth with comfortably.

But you could write on it.

The plane slows down and then jumps forwards again; John feels forces he doesn’t understand pull at his body, throwing him around, his seat belt cutting into his lower abdomen.

You could write a message.

He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his pen. He’s a full-time doctor now. He always carries a pen. Great.

Sherlock. The idea of never seeing him again is too absurd, too horrible to handle.

I think I’m going to die.

He should have told him.

Sherlock.

  

Sherlock, he scribbles.

I love you.

I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.

He hesitates, but then decides to go all out. When – if – Sherlock reads this, he’ll be gone, so… why the hell not?

It’s always been you.

Only you.

John

 

The plane lurches again, and John’s stomach churns.

“Fuck,” he mutters, folds the napkin twice and stuffs it into the inside pocket of his leather jacket before zipping it up all the way to his chin.

It’s uncomfortable, but maybe that way his words won’t go up in flames with the rest of him. Or are they going to crash over the sea?

What’s worse?

A massive roll of thunder makes the whole cabin judder, and all the lights begin to flicker. John’s neighbour moans as if in pain. He turns in his seat and squints through the erratic half-light, trying to make out her shape.

“John,” he says and fumbles for her hand. Her fingers are icy cold. “What’s your name?”

“Lily,” she gasps.

He squeezes her hand in his and feels her return it.

“Okay?” he asks.

“Yes,” she replies shakily.

“It’s going to be alright, Lily,” he tells her, not believing a single word coming out of his own mouth. “They’ll get it under control.”

A baby starts to cry a few rows behind them, and with a jolt of guilt John remembers the unborn child in Mary’s – his wife’s – womb. He or she will never know their father. Will Sherlock take care of them?

Sherlock.

It all comes back to him.

John knows he should be more worried about what will become of Mary and the baby. The thought that he’ll never meet his son or daughter does torment him, of course it does, and he’s sad that Mary will have to mourn him, but the most present image in his mind is still Sherlock.

His flatmate.

His best friend.

His saviour.

The one he'd die for.

The one he loves, and not in the platonic way he's been trying to talk himself into.

It's so much more.

The ugly monster of regret uncoils inside his guts and wraps its poisonous tendrils around his heart, and he wishes he was a braver man. He wishes he hadn’t been so scared of going for what he really wanted all along, for what he realised he needed after two years of not knowing, hurting, grieving had almost killed him. He wishes he had at least tried.

“Fuck,” he repeats.

The flickering has stopped and the emergency lights have come on. Considering the circumstances, John is astonished to find that the passengers around him are behaving in an extraordinarily calm manner. The baby’s still crying, but most of the other people are relatively quiet. Some of them are hugging each other, talking in low voices. Some seem to be praying. Others are staring right ahead of themselves, their fingers digging into the armrests of their seats.

Very British, John thinks and feels a hysterical fit of laughter bubbling up inside himself. He swallows it down. He knows that feeling from the battlefield. Sometimes your body just decides to make you giggle even though you really shouldn’t. Classic displacement activity. Seldom helpful, whether whilst attending funerals, or trying to survive a war, or sitting on a plane that’s going to crash.

“Who’s Sherlock?” Lily asks, completely out of the blue, and leans against his arm as the plane shakes its way through another thick wall of rain and milky clouds. She hasn’t let go of his hand, and John doesn’t want her to. 

He turns his head towards her and laughs then, after all.

“He’s the best chance I’ve ever had on being happy,” he answers, surprised that he doesn’t sound bitter.

Lily smiles a crooked smile, and he notices how incredibly green her eyes are.

“Did you take it?” she wants to know.

John returns the smile, albeit much more sadly.

“No,” he replies and turns their hands around so that she can see his wedding ring.

She hums.

“Maybe you should do something about that,” she then says.

He shrugs.

“My wife’s pregnant,” he says.

They look at each other for a moment, completely motionless. Then Lily huffs out a short, sympathetic laugh.

“Fuck,” she says with gusto, and then they fall into another air pocket, and she repeats it, more loudly this time. “Fuck!

There’s no use pretending anymore. John pulls her close and they hold on to each other, trembling with now very obvious fear.

“Yeah, fuck,” John mumbles into her hair and closes his eyes. “It was nice meeting you, Lily.”

She presses her face against his shoulder.

“You too, John.”

With a collective phloomp!, the oxygen masks fall out of their compartments in the ceiling.

---

They hold each other for what feels like hours, but later John will recapitulate that it can’t have been much more than ten or fifteen minutes.

The freakish way the noises and the voices and the shaking and the roaring of the rain suddenly just

 

---stop---

 

takes John by surprise.

He looks up slowly, loosening his grip on Lily’s back.

“What the hell,” he whispers.

Lily raises her head as well, and he can see that her cheeks are wet and her eyes have turned puffy and red.

“What?” she whispers back.

He licks his lips and gestures vaguely with his chin, not fully ready to let her go yet.

“I… I think we’re through,” he says lowly. “It’s over.”

They’re flying steadily now, leaving the wall of thunderclouds behind them, and everybody jumps when the Captain speaks again.

“That was a bit of a scare,” he says and laughs. “Sorry! I hope everybody’s doing fine. The cabin crew will be with you again shortly. Please do not hesitate to tell our lovely flight attendants if you need assistance – or maybe a nice strong drink. I know I could use one now!” He laughs again. “We’ll be arriving in London at about 8:40 local time. Enjoy the rest of the flight.”

“Are you fucking kidding me,” John says and finally lets go of Lily, who straightens up and loosens a crick in her neck, looking at him incredulously.

He’s never cheered for a pilot before, and he’s sure Lily hasn’t either. But when the people around them start to clap and whoop, they both join in, and in his exhilaration at being alive, John somehow forgets about the napkin in his pocket.

He buys Lily a whisky and has one himself, and they clink glasses that are actually plastic and laugh about the ensuing dissatisfying clack, and then she kisses him on the cheek.

“Thanks,” she says and grins. “Not sure I would’ve stayed sane without you here.”

He smiles at her.

“Ditto,” he answers. “Your hugging skills are superb.”

She scoffs and bumps her fist against his shoulder.

“Listen, before the adrenaline wears off, I have to say one more thing. I have no one, John. No one. I’m alone. And I wish I had someone I could write a napkin message for – I really do. I know it’s all messed up, what with your pregnant wife and all, but please don’t let it go to waste. At least tell him.”

She speaks so fast that John barely has time to react, but he doesn’t know what to say anyway. Without his brain consciously telling it to, his hand moves up and over the place where the folded napkin sticks inside his pocket, separated from his skin by several layers of clothing.

Sherlock.

All of a sudden, he can’t breathe. He grabs the zipper of his jacket and pulls it down hastily, almost aggressively.

Lily’s face twists into an expression of both pity and guilt.

“I’m sorry. Maybe I’ve overstepped a line there. Never mind my rambling.”

John inhales a quivering breath, and then another one.

“It’s okay,” he finally says. “It’s not your fault. I’m an idiot.”

She presses her lips together and then takes another sip of her drink. John looks out of the window even though there’s nothing to see out there.

It’s all just dark.

They don’t talk for the rest of the flight.

---

John throws the napkin onto his seat before making his way to the exit, willing himself to erase this moment of weakness from his memory, but halfway down the docking gate he changes his mind and hurries back, dodging confused and slightly annoyed fellow passengers walking in the opposite direction.

"So sorry!" he apologises when he almost bumps into an elderly couple, speaking over his shoulder, and for a moment he catches Lily's eyes.

She's come to a halt and is watching him, but when she notices him looking, she nods and then turns to walk away.

He takes a deep breath and squeezes past some German students and back inside the cabin.

"Excuse me!" he tells the surprised flight attendant standing next to the door. "I've left something on my seat!"

---

Mary is already in bed when John gets home, and he tiptoes through the flat making himself a cup of tea - trying not to wake her, he tells himself, but deep down inside he knows that it's just because he doesn't want to talk right now.

He puts the napkin into the small wooden box that holds all the things he simultaneously wants to remember and forget: his dog tags, some faded photographs of his parents and Harry, and the cue cards Sherlock used for his wedding speech and then left behind when he stole away without saying goodbye.

Mary keeps the envelope with their song with their other wedding gifts and cards, and somehow John hasn't been able to bring himself to look at the sheets filled with beautiful notes, written down in Sherlock's graceful handwriting, ever since the night they were performed for the first and only time. 

When he eventually joins Mary in their bed, she mumbles sleepily and rolls over and nestles up against his side.

"Hey," he hears her whisper through the darkness. "Did you have a good flight?"

He puts his arm around her and closes his eyes.

"Yes," he answers. "Go back to sleep."

She does, almost immediately. John doesn't sleep all night.

---

Monday.

John goes to work.

It's dull. He's tired.

He keeps thinking of Sherlock.

He's glad that Mary's been transferred to gynecology for the duration of her pregnancy - she's safe from catching God-knows-what in the ER, and, which is especially important to him right now, he doesn't have to deal with her and his guilty conscience at home and at work. She's going out with her girlfriends tonight ("I'll be out when you get home - you don't have to wait up!"), and that means that he'll get one more whole day to try and get rid of that unbearable feeling of missing out.

They have a doctor's appointment tomorrow. Another ultrasound, new pictures of their child, maybe finding out about the gender.

He should be looking forward to that.

He really isn't.

---

It's a girl.

Mary is delighted, and John hugs her and strokes her belly and smiles, and he is happy, and amazed when he looks at the printouts showing his daughter's tiny body and her tiny, perfect face.

He's a father. That's just what he is now.

It should be enough.

Why the hell isn't it?

After dinner, Mary tries to instigate sex, but he manages to turn it into some cuddling on the couch. He tells her he's tired, that the convention cost him his weekend and he's feeling it by now, and she accepts it.

He still can't sleep.

Sherlock's eyes follow him when he closes his own. They're so beautiful. They're the most beautiful thing in the world.

He thinks he could probably get an erection thinking about those eyes, and briefly debates going to the bathroom and try, but then doesn't. He's scared that the release he's hoping for will only make it worse.

---

Wednesday.

It's his third day without sleep, and it's slowly driving him insane. He makes it through his working day on auto-pilot - luckily, there haven't been any difficult cases this week, or he would have been in trouble. 

He can't concentrate.

He hasn't visited Sherlock yet. If he did, he might never want to go back. 

And then what?

In the evening, Mary asks him if he's okay.

He says he isn't.

She makes him sit down at the kitchen table with her and puts her hand on his arm and asks him what's wrong, and he's so exhausted that he starts to cry.

She leans back in her chair and rubs his shoulder, her other hand resting on her bulging middle.

He looks at her face, and he sees that she knows.

---

"Tell me who it is," she says when he has calmed down and blown his nose. She's stopped touching him. "Is it someone from work?"

He stares at a scratch in the table top.

There'd still be time to lie. He could still turn it all around.

"It's Sherlock," he says.

She frowns at him.

"What about him?"

She still doesn't understand.

He jumps up from his chair and starts to pace the kitchen, his hands balling into fists.

"I love him, Mary. I'm in love with him. I want him. I'm sorry!"

He can't look at her.

She doesn't say anything for a while.

"Why now?" she then asks. 

He turns towards her then and shakes his head.

"I--- I think I've been feeling like that for a long time, Mary. Before we met, even. I just wasn't brave enough to admit it. I'm so sorry."

She snorts.

"What do you want me to say, John? That it's alright? That we'll figure it out? I'm fucking pregnant with your child!"

He holds her gaze.

"I know. You're right. I'm an arsehole. I--- I'm a coward, I'm selfish, and I'm destroying your life. But I never meant for this to happen. Please believe me."

She scoffs.

"So--- what now? Are you moving back in with him? For how long have you been going behind my back, hm? Have you let him fuck you yet? I bet he'd love that - his little lapdog going down on his hands and knees for him."

She spits the last part, her expression filled with rage and condescension. It's not like her to speak like this, but John doesn't blame her for reacting the way she does. He deserves it for what he's doing to her.

"I haven't told him yet," he says calmly. "I wanted--- no. To be honest, I didn't plan any of this, Mary. I thought I could just get over it, get on with my - our - life. But I can't. I--- I think about him all the time. I regret so many things, Mary, most of all hurting you by being in denial all this time. I can't go on like that. I have no idea how he'll react when I tell him.  But I'd always want you to know first, before I do anything else. You deserve better than a husband who lies to you. You're not my plan B."

"What if he rejects you?"

She sounds defiant, and he can tell she hopes he will. He understands.

"Then I'll be alone. And I'll have myself to blame."

She stares at him, her chin held high. There are tears in her eyes, but she doesn't let them fall.

"I'd let you come back, John," she says, her voice shaky, but determined. "If you find that it's a stupid, one-sided crush based on hero-worship and you getting cold feet because of the baby, I'll let you come back and forget that this ever happened."

John smiles sadly. She can't mean that. She's worth so much more than that.

"No, Mary. I meant it - you do deserve better. It would be a lie, and we both know it. I'll always be this girl's father, and I want to support you in raising her. If you need help, I'll always be there. I want to be a part of her life, and I really hope you'll let me. But I can't live with you and play a role, and force you to play along. I just can't."

She looks down at her bump and flexes her jaw.

"You know, I almost wish you had an affair with him. I wish you'd cheated on me. I could hate you more, then. Now it just... hurts."

"Mary---"

"Shut up, John. Just--- leave. I don't want to look at you right now."

He nods and licks his lips.

"I'll go and pack a bag. I'll get the rest of my stuff on Saturday."

She just shrugs.

"Whatever."

---

John finds a hotel a few streets away from Baker Street and gets a room for three nights.

He calls in sick for the rest of the week.

He doesn't have a plan.

He puts the wooden box on the bedside table and lies down in the bed that has seen better days, and he sleeps.

He sleeps all through the night.

---

On Thursday morning, John opens the door to 221B with his old keys (Sherlock never asked him to return them), but when he’s climbed the stairs and finds himself in front of the flat, he can’t bring himself to just enter.

He knocks.

There’s a bit of a commotion right behind the door, and then Sherlock opens it with his usual careless flourish.

“John!” he exclaims and smiles broadly. “What a pleasant surprise. Come in! Lestrade was just about to leave.”

John glances over his friend’s shoulder and sees Greg, who’s standing in the middle of the living-room, looking forlorn. He can see that Sherlock wants to get rid of him and feels sorry for the other man.

“Sherlock, we could really use your help here,” Greg says, exasperation palpable in his tone.

Sherlock purses his lips and shakes his head.

“Dull. The husband did it. Even Anderson could tell you that. You don’t need me for this, and my time’s too precious to be wasted. Sorry!”

John cringes at Greg in what he hopes he’ll understand as sympathy. Then he feels Sherlock’s eyes settle on him and pierce him with one of his uncanny deducing looks. It’s like being x-rayed, and John meets Sherlock’s gaze and just lets it happen.

Sherlock’s eyes narrow for the fraction of a second, and John knows that he’s seen that something is off.

“Can you at least come and take a look at the couple’s house? Look for some evidence we can use in court?” Greg asks pleadingly.

“Not now. Maybe later,” Sherlock mutters, his gaze never leaving John, who’s beginning to feel like one of the specimens his friend loves to scrutinise under the microscope.

Greg sighs.

“Please!”

Not,” Sherlock says pointedly, his tongue clicking on the t-sound. “Now,” he continues, much more softly. “I need to talk to John. I’ll drop by later.”

The detective inspector nods, apparently finally accepting his fate.

“Alright then. Thanks, Sherlock. John.”

He tips an imaginary hat and leaves before John can say anything in reply.

Sherlock goes and closes the door behind him and then turns to face John again.

“Tea?” he asks.

---

“So. What’s wrong?”

Sherlock folds his hands in his lap and leans back in his armchair. Two steaming mugs of tea are sitting on the coffee table, filling the room with the rich, zesty aroma of Lady Grey – John’s favourite. He knows Sherlock likes other blends better, so the fact that he’s made it for him makes him feel a weird, hopeful kind of warm inside.

“You know, I’d almost forgotten how strange it is to always skip the small talk,” he jokes and sends Sherlock a lopsided smile.

“You’re not here for the small talk,” Sherlock replies. “Something’s happened. Why not get to the point right away?”

John takes a deep breath.

“Yeah,” he sighs. “Why not?” He looks at the familiar pattern of the wallpaper and at the cold fireplace, and then back at Sherlock’s face, because he needs to gauge his reaction, if there’ll be one. “I left Mary yesterday.”

Sherlock’s almond eyes widen at that – not much, but it’s there. His lips open in a soundless expression of surprise.

John doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he puts them on the armrests of his chair and runs them back and forth over the threadbare fabric, tracing the faded, barely-recognisable pattern with his fingertips.

“Yeah,” he says. “I left my wife. And the little girl in her womb.”

Sherlock doesn’t answer for a while. John waits.

After studying him for several minutes, Sherlock finally asks: “Would you like to move back into your old room?”

What?

John isn’t sure what kind of reaction he’s expected, but this isn’t it. A Why?, maybe, or an I’m sorry, John, but not this.      

“I--- I don’t know, Sherlock. No, thanks, I think. I’m staying at a hotel at the moment.”

“Alright.” Sherlock shrugs. “But it would be fine with me. And convenient for you.”

“Sherlock--- Don’t you want to know why I did it?” John blurts out, aware that he’s not dealing with this in the most ideal way, but unable to stop himself.

Sherlock shrugs again.

“I’ve been told my approach to personal conversations is often perceived as too straight-forward. When we sat down together, I wasn’t expecting your news to be… of this sort. I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable. But of course I want to know why. How could I not? Do you want to talk about it?”

John laughs. This is Sherlock, he realises, and he’s really, really making an effort right now.

“Thank you,” he says and shakes his head. “Sorry. I’m not laughing at you. It’s just--- Thanks for trying to spare my feelings. And yes, I do. Want to talk about it, I mean.”

Sherlock inclines his head, signalling him that he’s listening. John braces himself. This moment will be his second crossroads in two days.

“On Friday and Saturday I had to attend a medical convention in Berlin,” he starts. “I flew back here on Sunday, and the flight was the most horrible experience I’ve ever had. It was absolutely frightening, Sherlock. We flew right into a thunderstorm, and for a while we all thought we were going to die. I think even the crew thought so. Everything was shaking, and we kept on falling into air pockets, and then the lights went out… I don’t know – I was just so scared. I thought--- Well, I didn’t want to leave without telling the most important people in my life goodbye, telling them how much--- I---”

He breaks off. Inside his chest, his guilty conscience (you’re pathetic – your wife and kid should be your first priority) and his fear of Sherlock’s reaction to what comes next (I love you I love you I love you) are battling for dominance.

Sherlock is looking at him with a focused, intense gaze that takes his breath away. His pulse is racing.

He doesn’t know how to explain what he did, so he gets up, pulls the napkin out of his breast pocket, and hands it to Sherlock. Then he takes a few steps away from his friend to stand next to the window and look down onto the street. He can’t bear watching this.

He hears Sherlock unfold the napkin with a faint, rustling sound. Then there’s silence.

Silence.

Silence.

Oh God, I fucked it up, he thinks. Why did I do this? Oh God.  

Sherlock’s armchair creaks, telling him that his friend has just risen from it. Soft, slippered footsteps make their way over to him, and then there’s body heat, right behind his back, and in the window’s reflection he can make out the tall shape of the most important person in his life.

“Do you remember the day you asked me to be your best man?” Sherlock asks in a voice John has never heard him use before.

He nods.

“Yes,” he says.

Sherlock exhales against the back of his head and neck, making him shiver in response.

“This is like that, but more, John. More than I can comprehend. I’m sorry.”

John shuts his eyes. Everything inside of him is dying, but Sherlock’s not the one he blames. He blames himself, and himself alone. Too slow. Too scared. Too stupid.

“It’s okay,” he lies, trying to keep his tone steady. “I’ll get over it. Don’t worry.”

That’s when Sherlock closes the distance between them and wraps his arms around him from behind, and John’s eyes snap open again, his knees buckle, and he has to lean back and into the solid body pressed against his back to keep his balance. He’s surrounded by warmth, and the sweet scent of bergamot shampoo, and Sherlock.

“No,” Sherlock mumbles desperately. “That’s--- not what I meant.”

John doesn’t understand, but he puts his hands on Sherlock’s arms where they are crossing in front of his own chest and just holds on to him. Sherlock sighs. His mouth is right next to John’s ear.

“I don’t know what to do,” he breathes into it. “I--- I want to say the same, but I can’t. I--- I’m not--- I can’t, John. I don’t know how.”

John doesn’t dare to hope, not yet, but if Sherlock can’t talk, there’s only one way to find out what this all means. He’s gone and crossed the line today, so he’s got nothing to lose.

He turns around in Sherlock’s embrace, happy that the other man doesn’t seem to want to let go of him, and looks up into those incredible, incredible eyes.

“Sherlock,” he whispers.

Sherlock swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously. There’s a little mole right next to it, and John wants to kiss it. He lets his gaze roam over the rest of his long neck, over his earlobes, which are peeking out from under his dark hair, over his strong, expressive brows. His skin is like marble. His mouth looks soft.

“It’s you,” John adds and gets on his toes to press his lips against Sherlock’s in a long, tender kiss, his eyes sliding shut out of their own accord.

Sherlock huffs and tightens his grip on John, his whole body trembling. When he opens his mouth, John uses the opportunity to nip at his full bottom lip, and when the other man doesn’t pull away at that, he lets his tongue sneak out to dip against it. Sherlock’s breathing accelerates. Blindly, John slides his palms along his friend’s arms and shoulders and then up the sides of his neck until he can bury his fingers in his wild, unruly curls.

“Is this alright?” he murmurs against Sherlock’s lips and opens his eyes again.

Sherlock’s lids are fluttering, his long lashes throwing unsteady shadows onto his cheeks.

“Yes,” he rasps. “It’s good. Very--- very good.”

John smiles and runs the pads of his thumbs along Sherlock’s cheekbones. He’s always wanted to do that, ever since that first dinner at Angelo’s. Candlelight makes them stand out even more, but this, this is good too. Dreary London morning sun and speckles of dust floating through his field of vision, and Sherlock in his arms, still shaking from the impact of John’s mouth on his.

“Would you like some more?” he asks, although he already knows the answer, but it delights him so to hear Sherlock speak.

“Yes… absolutely,” Sherlock replies throatily, and John immediately pulls lightly at the smooth strands of hair between his fingers and meets him in another kiss, which turns out slightly more heated than the last.

This time, there are tongues involved, or John’s tongue, to be more precise, at least at first. Sherlock seems to find it difficult to catch on, and John’s heart skips a beat when he realises that this might very well be Sherlock’s first experience of this kind.

He slows down a bit and licks along the inside of the other man’s upper lip, his own lips feeling the shape of that gorgeous Cupid’s bow, and he marvels at how nature surpassed itself when it created this extraordinary beauty. Then the tip of Sherlock’s tongue is there, nudging him, and he smiles into their connection and opens his mouth to give him more room to explore. Their tongues finally meet, rubbing against each other, and the touch causes sparks to sizzle down John’s spine. Warmth is pooling in his stomach and slowly trickling down to settle in his loins.

Mmhhh,” Sherlock hums, sounding oblivious to everything around him, his guard down, his whole being open and trusting and there for John to see.

John follows his friend’s lead, moving his mouth against Sherlock’s in an unhurried pace, letting him decide how fast or slow he wants to go.

Sherlock takes his time mapping out John’s mouth, his teeth, his tongue, the insides of his lips. It’s delicious, better than anything John has ever known before, and even as he gets lost in the other man’s gentle ministrations, he finds himself hoping that they’ll never lose this, this curiosity, this depth, this magic of their first real kiss.

Sherlock’s hands have slid down his spine and come to rest on the small of his back, and he’s pulling John against his body with almost urgent pressure. He’s bowed his head, too, so that John doesn’t have to stand on his toes anymore, and he’s all around him now, strong and a bit bony and so very present despite his inexperience.

It goes on forever.

When they part again, John has lost track of time, but he doesn’t care – he doesn’t have to be anywhere but here today, in fact he doesn’t have to do anything but be, period – if this kiss is anything to go by, Sherlock wants him, and the world outside could crumble and fall apart and it wouldn’t even matter to him, as long as he could be here with him, doing this.

“You--- you’ll have to show me, John…” Sherlock says, his voice sounding more like himself again – but still a younger version of himself. “I’ve never--- done this.”

“I know,” John answers. “Or well… I guessed it. But the way you kiss, Sherlock… I think you’re doing great on your own there.” He grins softly and runs his nails down Sherlock’s scalp until he reaches the nape of his neck. “You couldn’t get any more gorgeous,” he adds.

Sherlock blushes.

The translucent hue of pink rises from his cheeks and spreads up to tinge his ears and even his nose, and John’s heart melts. There’s no other word that could describe this soft, beautiful feeling blossoming in his chest any better.

“And there you are – proving me wrong as usual,” he says, and Sherlock smiles back at him at last.

“At the risk of breaking the mood, John… Would you like to talk a bit more? I’m not sure whether you were finished when--- this happened.”

John worries his lip between his teeth. He guesses that Sherlock is right – he’s sure he’ll feel better if he gets it all out in the open before they continue to do… whatever it is that they’re going to do.

“Yeah,” he replies. “Maybe we should talk a bit more.”

---

He tells Sherlock everything in the end – how the plane didn’t end up crashing after all, how Lily tried to get him to confess his feelings to him, how he thought he could never do that because of his responsibilities, how he threw away the napkin and then went back for it, how he decided to just suffer through it and try to forget, and how it didn’t let him sleep three nights in a row.

He tells him what Mary said when he told her he wanted to leave, and Sherlock looks away then, his jaw tense. John knows he feels guilty for hurting her.

“This is not your fault, Sherlock,” he hastens to clarify. “It’s mine. I should never have let it get this far. When you got back--- I should have stopped it all right then. I missed that moment, and now I have to live with the consequences. I’m aware of the fact that I’m selfish in leaving my family for you, and I have to live with that as well.”

Sherlock looks back at him and smiles bitterly.

“Whatever you have to live with, John, I’ll live with as well. I thought that much was obvious. And part of it is my fault. Who knows what would have happened if I had told you about my plans before---”

“You did what you thought was right, Sherlock,” John interrupts him.

He means it. Over time, ever since they started to grow closer again, his anger has been slowly evaporating, and he thinks he understands Sherlock a little better now. He was trying to protect him. He should never have attacked him the way he did when he came back. 

“Fine,” Sherlock retorts. “I could have behaved like less of a pretentious prick when I came back, then.”

John chuckles weakly.

“That’s something I won’t argue with.”

Sherlock shrugs.

“What about your child?”

John hesitates.

“Mary hates me right now, and I don’t blame her. But… I told her that I’ll be there for her if she wants me to – or if she needs someone and no one else is available. And I want to see my daughter. I want--- I won’t give up custody if I can help it, Sherlock. Is that alright with you?”

Sherlock stares at him with an expression of utter incomprehension.

“Why wouldn’t it be alright with me?”

John furrows his brow.

“Well… As you said, whatever I have to deal with, you’ll have to deal with as well, and… I just want to know if you want to be with a man who’s not… free.”

Sherlock smirks, but it looks kind.

“John, I should probably tell you… I can’t think of a scenario in which I wouldn’t want to be with you. You raising a child is really not the worst case I can come up with. And I don’t have to deal with it – I choose to.”

“That’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me,” John says and smirks back at him.

“I do hope so,” Sherlock replies lowly, and his eyes turn dark.

John shivers deep inside. He’s excited to explore this newly-revealed side of his friend. Sherlock may not be experienced when it comes to physical relationships, but there’s something fierce hiding inside of him that John wants to come out and show itself, and he wants to be the first and only one who’s allowed to see it.

He returns Sherlock’s stare and gets up, and the way Sherlock’s muscles tense up ever so slightly as he approaches him makes his heart beat faster.

“Are we done talking?” Sherlock wants to know, his long fingers wrapping themselves around the metal frame of his armchair in a gesture so sensual that John’s cock twitches at the sight.

He isn’t sure whether Sherlock’s doing it on purpose or not. He’s a virgin, yes, but he wouldn’t want to put it past him to know the exact theory of it all. The science of seduction, he thinks, and feels more blood rush southwards.

“We’re so done talking,” he answers and holds out his hand.

If they knew each other more intimately yet, he would just go and straddle Sherlock, sit on his lap and devour him right then and there, but he wants to take it slow. He has no idea how far the other man wants to go with him – today and in general.

Hell, he doesn’t even know how far he himself wants to go. He’s fooled around with the occasional army buddy, but he was never in love with any of them and it never went beyond giving each other a hand (or, very seldom, a mouth), so, technically speaking, he’s still somewhat of a virgin too.

“Come here,” he tells Sherlock, who reaches out to him and lets himself be pulled up from his sitting position and right into John’s arms.

John digs his fingers into his shoulder blades and smiles breathlessly.

“I’ve never wanted to kiss someone as badly as I want to kiss you right now,” he whispers, ending in a low growl when Sherlock wraps his arms around him in return and pushes their bodies against each other in the process.

Sherlock smells fantastic, warm and clean and slightly spicy, and he can’t wait any longer – he has to taste again. He angles his head and brushes the side of the taller man’s neck with his lips, and it seems like he’s found one of the good spots right on the first try, because Sherlock moans deeply and bares his throat, offering himself to John, who needs no second invitation, but gives a small groan of his own and attaches his mouth more firmly to the creamy skin on display to lick, suck, and even bite a little, the last of which provokes the most interesting reaction.

Hngh,” Sherlock utters and grips John’s buttocks to squeeze them, and when John uses his teeth again, he feels the other man’s cock harden against his stomach.

“Mmhhh, oh God,” he gasps. “You like it a little rough, hm?”

He tongue-kisses the hollow of Sherlock’s neck and then bites down on the tense tendon vanishing into the collar of his shirt. Sherlock moans again.

“I don’t--- know what I like yet,” he answers through clenched teeth while John moves to the other side of his neck to nip at the tender skin behind his ear. “It’s an--- ungh--- an experiment, John...”

“So far I’m loving the results,” John pants, his own cock now painfully erect and pulsing and begging for attention that he knows he won’t get standing up like this – their difference in height is just enough to make it impossible to stand comfortably and grind against each other at the same time.

He moves his hands to Sherlock’s head again – he wants to spend his life touching his hair, his face, the back of his neck.

“I want to lie down with you,” he whispers into Sherlock’s ear. “The couch, the bed… I don’t care. I want to touch you, feel you. I want to undress you.”

Sherlock shudders at that, and John nearly goes crazy with possessive pride. Lust is raging through his system, blinding him with its white heat, and he has to consciously rein himself in not to overwhelm his new lover with his enthusiasm. He wants to own him completely, more than he’s ever wanted to own anything else.

“I want to make love to you,” he adds huskily and pulls at Sherlock’s earlobe with his front teeth. “We’ll do it just the way you want… You make the rules, Sherlock… okay?”

“Yes,” Sherlock pants. “Yes, John. The--- the bed, then. Come.”

---

Sherlock’s bedroom smells just like him, and John feels intoxicated by the scent when Sherlock drags him through the door and then kicks it closed with his foot before embracing him again, his face nuzzling his hair.

“John,” Sherlock mumbles against his temple, and John pulls him down for a quick, wet kiss and simultaneously opens the first few buttons of his shirt, revealing more of that long neckline that just doesn’t want to end.

“Fuck, you’re so beautiful,” he grumbles and nips at his chin. “I want to look at you…”

Sherlock looks at him from under half-closed lids.   

“There are other parts of me that aren’t,” he says, his deep voice low and rough.

“What do you mean?” John asks absent-mindedly, too focused on the task at hand, and works his way down the button row of Sherlock’s navy-blue shirt, his fingers sliding along the expensive silk, and then he reaches the waistband of his trousers and has to pull the fabric out of it to open the garment all the way.

The cuffs are the last obstacle, but when they’re open as well, Sherlock grips John’s wrists before he can push the shirt off his shoulders and down his arms.

“I got hurt when I was away, John. You’ll see traces of that today. They’re not beautiful.”

John’s arousal wanes a bit. He’s sure Sherlock can feel the blood pounding through his veins from how he’s holding on to his arms.

“What are you talking about? What happened, Sherlock? Why--- Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

Sherlock doesn’t let go of him, but loosens his grip a little and caresses the insides of John’s wrists with his thumbs.

“I didn’t want your pity, or your guilt.”

“Guilt?”

John is confused. Why would he feel guilty for something that happened to Sherlock while he was gone? Sherlock presses his lips together tightly and, with an abrupt movement that shows that he has to force himself to do it, lets go of John’s wrists. He swiftly turns around and shrugs off his shirt.

John hisses.

Sherlock’s back is covered in scars. They’re not very old – a year, tops. They’re still mostly red and gnarly and haven’t taken on the silvery hue of older ones yet. They tell a story of violent blows, deep wounds, unspeakable agony. He feels sick.

“What--- Who did that to you? I--- Did they--- Who, Sherlock?”

“People, John. Moriarty’s people. But don’t occupy your thoughts with them now – Mycroft took care of them.”

Sherlock sounds indifferent. John’s lust turns into rage so quickly that he doesn’t know how to handle it.

“Took care of them? I really hope you mean killed them - because if he didn’t, I will.”

Sherlock sighs, his shoulders lifting as he does so, and the scars move with them.

“Yes, that’s what I meant, John.”

John still doesn’t understand why he’s only telling him now. What would have been so bad about sharing this?

“I’m--- You should have told me. I’m your best friend.”

John.

He hears his own name, spoken so softly by the voice he loves so much, and suddenly John realises why Sherlock didn’t tell him. Why he couldn’t tell him.

“Oh God,” he mutters. “Oh God. I see. Oh Sherlock. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!

He’s panicking, tears pressing against the back of his throat, one of his hands flying to his mouth to keep them inside. Sherlock turns back around and hugs him then, holds him very tight, and there’s nothing sexual about it now; it’s just a friend comforting another.

“No,” Sherlock whispers. “That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. You don’t have to apologise.”

“I do!” John snaps, his voice muffled by his own hand and Sherlock’s shoulder. He doesn’t deserve to be held, but he can’t bring himself to break free. “I hurt you! Three fucking times, Sherlock! You were hurt when you came back, and I gave you more pain! I’m an arsehole!”

“Sshhh…” Sherlock says and kisses the top of his head. “No. No, John. You didn’t know, and you were very upset. I should never have assumed you’d just stop living until I came back. I behaved in a horribly self-absorbed way and I put you through too much. I deserved it. I don’t hold it against you.”

“I do! I hold it against myself!”

Self-loathing fills John, and it’s like he’s full of lead all of a sudden. He can’t imagine going back to what they did before now – there’s a chasm opening up between them, and he’s the reason for it, and he doesn’t know how to fix it. There’s no way. He can’t take it back.

“I knew you would,” Sherlock says calmly. “But please don’t. I want to have closure, John. Those two years – I don’t want them to haunt us.”

“How can you still want me?” John asks. “After what I did to you?”

Sherlock snorts in bitter amusement.

“How can you still want me? I hurt you too, John. And what I did to you was worse.”

John doesn’t know what to say to that, so he stays silent and puts his cheek against the warm skin of Sherlock’s chest and closes his eyes. Sherlock holds him and kisses his hair again and just lets him be. They stand there like that, in the middle of Sherlock’s untidy bedroom, for a minute or two.

Then Sherlock speaks again.

“Cocaine,” he says. “Oxycodone. Vicodin. Metamphetamine.”

John wants to raise his head, but Sherlock presses his chin against it and keeps him down that way.

“That’s what is hidden everywhere inside this room. In the living-room. The bathroom. That’s what I’ve been taking to try and forget you. To be able to… function. I’m sorry. I’m so ashamed. I can’t look at you right now.”

John’s heart sinks.

“Do you see now?” Sherlock continues. “Do you see what I am? I’m trouble. I make mistakes – so many mistakes, John. I ask of you not to feel guilty because of me. It would break me to know you did. Stop it right now. Please.”

His voice trembles, and John can hear his heart stutter. And suddenly he knows what to say, and what they need to get out of all of this alive. It’s so simple, really. It’s the only thing on his mind right now that might be enough to make it all right again.

“I love you, Sherlock,” he whispers. “I meant it when I said I forgave you, back in that train car. I know why you had to leave. I should have believed in you all along. I was just so--- so sad. Heartbroken. It nearly killed me to live without you. I--- I think I’ve loved you the whole time. So… it’s okay that you felt weak and succumbed to it. I did, too. I found Mary. She was supposed to make me forget. And now look at me. What a mess I am… But I love you. It’s all I know. I love you.”

Sherlock nods, his chin bumping softly against the top of John’s head, a stark contrast to the almost aggressive pressure from only moments ago.

“And I you. I regret never showing you what you mean to me.”

John scoffs at that and finally looks up and into his friend’s eyes.

“Look at your back. You almost got yourself killed for me, Sherlock. Please just forgive me. For everything.”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” Sherlock says and raises a hand to brush some stray strands of hair that have fallen into John’s forehead aside.

“Say it anyway,” John insists. “Please. I need to hear it just this once. I’m sorry.”

The corner of Sherlock’s mouth twitches upwards in a tender half-smile.

“I forgive you, John.”

They look at each other wordlessly after that, Sherlock half-naked and John still fully dressed, their arms wrapped around each other’s bodies, and John racks his brains for something to say to break the subtle tension still lingering in the air.

“I’d love for you to just kiss me now, John,” Sherlock says lowly. “Like… before. That was very enjoyable.”

John inhales a shaky breath.

“I don’t deserve you,” he mutters and puts his fingers around Sherlock’s head to get him to close the distance between their mouths.

They kiss slowly, carefully, but John doesn’t mourn the loss of the mindless desire that brought them here into this room - it will come back, now that all that had been left unsaid has been addressed. He breathes Sherlock’s air and holds on to his curls and sucks his bottom lip into his mouth to scrape it with his teeth. Sherlock groans. It’s barely audible, but it’s still one of the most beautiful sounds John has ever heard.

“Can I…?” he asks into Sherlock’s mouth and slips one of his hands between their bodies to play with the button of Sherlock’s trousers.

Sherlock hums in agreement and puts his own hands on John’s chest to unbutton his shirt, still kissing him, getting bolder now and using his tongue to pull at John’s in a way that makes his legs go weak.

It doesn’t take them long to open every offending button and zipper keeping them from feeling each other skin on skin, but when it comes to stepping out of their respective bottoms, John’s shoes are in the way. They giggle and finally break the kiss, and then John has to bend over in his pants to untie his shoelaces, which, to his dismay, doesn’t look graceful at all because he gets himself tangled up in the legs of his jeans while trying to remove them along with his shoes and socks, but when he comes back up, slightly red-faced, he finds Sherlock staring at him with so much plain love in his eyes that he has to collect himself for a moment.

“I--- I swear I can do that more smoothly. I’ll show you next time,” he tries to joke.

Sherlock shakes his head and grins affectionately.

“Your body language tells me you’re embarrassed, but I really don’t know what for. I’ve read that couples who laugh together in the bedroom have the healthiest sex life, so I think we’re good. Don’t you?”

John gapes at him. Sherlock pulls him closer and kisses him on the lips, turning serious again.

“Ah, that was definitely too straight-forward now. I’ll never learn. I’m sorry, John… I’m talking too much. I’m--- really scared of doing something wrong right now. I’ve thought about us being together like this… but reality is so different. I’m--- I have no idea how to proceed. I want it to be good for you.”

John can’t believe his ears. Sherlock – nervous? Scared? And admitting it?

“I--- Well, what about--- protection, for example?” Sherlock rambles on, sounding increasingly distressed. “Do we talk about that beforehand, or during? Or--- How--- How are we going to--- do it, John? Do we need anything to--- help with it? I’m not equipped for---”

John knows he needs to stop this before his friend’s brain short-circuits.  

“Sherlock,” he interrupts him and puts his palms on Sherlock’s sides to rub up and down soothingly, the heels of his hands brushing the waistband of his black boxers every so often. “There’s no reason to be scared. It’s an experiment, remember? We can do everything we want. We don’t have to do anything. And you’ll do nothing wrong. There can’t be anything wrong as long as I’m here with you. You’re perfect. This is perfect.”

Sherlock takes a deep breath.

“Okay,” he says, evidently trying to get himself under control.

Smiling reassuringly, John draws small circles over Sherlock’s sharp hipbones with his thumbs.

“If you’re worried about protection, let’s get that out of the way right now, alright? I’m clean. Do you know your status?”

Sherlock nods.

“Mycroft had me tested after--- well.” He gestures at his back. “I’m clean. And I--- I haven’t used needles in ages.”

John’s stomach clenches at the thought of the man he loves, lost in the haze of drugs, trying desperately to feel better, to feel less alone. He swears to himself that he’ll take care of him, help him heal. But he doesn’t want to think about that now. Now he needs to help Sherlock deal with what he knows is almost unbearable to his mind – not knowing what to do. He’s hesitant to put a label to it, but he strongly assumes that his friend is located somewhere on the autistic spectrum, so engaging in human interaction of this scale must be hard, nearly unbearable for him. He can tell Sherlock wants to experience everything he’s fantasised about, but he’s never been out of his depths to this extent before, at least not in his company. He wants to make him let go of his fears and just go with it.

“Okay. That’s great. So we don’t have to worry about anything there. We can just see where it leads us, Sherlock. And there are many things we can do without using anything to help it along. We can always try those things later. I know you find it to be an almost impossible notion, but… please stop thinking.”

Sherlock chuckles, and it sounds exasperated.

“Thank you. I know you’re right. But I don’t know how to explain what--- This just takes up so much brain space, John. I’m exhausting myself analysing it, and I don’t know how to stop.”

John decides that words will probably not be enough to get the other man to relax, so he just leans forwards and kisses him again. Then he glances down and smiles.

“I don’t have many rules when it comes to the bedroom, but those socks will have to come off. And then I’ll do my best to get that brilliant brain of yours to shut up for a while.”

Sherlock laughs.

Then he leans on John’s left shoulder, lifts his right foot, and removes his sock.

---

John watches Sherlock sit down on his bed and then get under the covers. His friend looks young and pure and somehow smaller, more delicate this way, naked except for his underwear, and he loves the contrast of his raven hair against the white pillows.

“Let’s dim the light in here a bit, okay?” he asks and walks over to the window to draw the curtains until only a narrow ray of sun is left, bathing the foot of the bed in its washed-out yellow glow.

The rest of the room is barely illuminated now, but he can still make out details. Everything looks softer like this, calmer. Sherlock smiles shyly.

“Come to me,” he says lowly and pulls back the duvet, making room for John to join him.

John does, and Sherlock lets out a long, nervous sigh.

“Lie down, Sherlock,” John tells him and waits until Sherlock’s head has come to rest on his pillow, turquoise irises glinting at him in a questioning, slightly apprehensive look.

John smiles at him and bends down for a kiss, leaning onto his elbow, coaxing Sherlock’s mouth open with gentle nudges of his tongue, and immediately he senses the other man sink a little further into the bed beneath him.

“That’s it,” he whispers and bites Sherlock’s bottom lip. “That’s it, love. Let go. I’ve got you.”

He slides his body against Sherlock’s side, chest to hip to toe, and cups his jaw in his free hand. Sherlock tilts his head into the kiss and puts the fingers of his left hand on John’s bicep. His right arm is trapped between their bodies, but he manages to run his knuckles along John’s thigh, and John shudders at the touch.

“You’re so sweet,” he breathes when they part for air. “I love kissing you.”

Sherlock is looking up at him, panting ever so slightly.

“I love--- all of this,” he answers and clears his throat. “Sorry. I’m lost for words.”

“You don’t have to say anything,” John says. “Though I should warn you… I tend to babble during sex. I’ll just talk for both of us, alright?”

They kiss again, and John thinks that Sherlock smiling against his lips is the best thing that has happened so far.

“Alright,” Sherlock mumbles and pulls John’s tongue into his mouth with remarkable skill.

Ngh,” John moans and opens his mouth wider to encourage this endeavour, and Sherlock dives in with vigour.

It’s so good. As far as kissing goes, Sherlock seems to be an extremely eager learner. John finds himself imagining what else this mouth can do, and his cock grows hard again so fast that it makes him feel a bit light-headed.

Hm!” Sherlock hums and inhales a sharp breath through his nose.

His hand leaves John’s arm and moves down to his arse, and before John knows what’s happening, he’s being drawn against Sherlock’s body with gentle force. His hardness presses against Sherlock’s hip through two layers of fabric, and he has to pull out of the kiss to catch his breath.

“Oh--- God,” he gasps. “Oh God, yes…”

Sherlock gazes at him and licks his lips, hooking his thumb under the waistband of John’s pants. It’s getting quite hot under these covers, John thinks, and then he stops thinking for a moment, because Sherlock is trying to pull his underwear down, being hindered by John’s body weight and the less-than-perfect angle.

“Wait,” John pants and lifts his lower body, helping Sherlock to undress him, and when his pants have finally come off and he’s toed them off the edge of the mattress, he turns towards the other man and puts his hand on his stomach. “Please,” he says, breathing fast. “May I?”

Sherlock just nods, and they repeat the process, and then it’s finally, finally only them, nothing in between anymore, and they roll onto their sides simultaneously and meet in a full-body embrace, their mouths smashing together in a hot, impatient kiss, their legs entangling, their loins grinding against each other. John has never been this close to another man before, and the sensation of their erections rubbing against each other gives him goose bumps.

“Oh God,” he repeats, rolling his hips. “God, you feel so good… Oh--- Sherlock…”

His lips slide over Sherlock’s jaw, his ear, down to his throat, and it’s messy and wet and wonderful. Sherlock tastes like honey and orange blossoms, and John remembers what their bathroom used to smell like whenever Sherlock had had a shower, exactly like that, and his body shakes with the realisation of how much he’s missed that.

“I missed you,” he sighs because he needs to let him know. “So much…”

Sherlock grips his hair and holds his head, keeping him from moving away from his neck, and John obliges willingly, licking him softly before delving in for a bruising kiss again. Sherlock moans. Loudly. John, insane with want, sucks at his jugular, and then gently nibbles at the skin trapped between his teeth.

“Oh,” Sherlock whimpers. “John.

He is letting go now, John can feel it, and it’s a stunning thing to witness. John can’t remember ever being this aroused before.

Grrmm…” he growls against his friend’s throbbing pulse point. “God, you make me lose my mind…”

Sherlock is beyond words, it seems, sobbing lowly and restlessly running his hands over the nape of John’s neck and his upper back.

“Let me see you,” John pants and moves down the other man’s body a little, licking his nipple on the way, then laving his navel with his tongue, his hand pushing at the duvet to shove it aside and off.

Mmhhh!”   

Sherlock’s writhing under his kisses, so sensitive, so divine in his surrender, and John knows that if he’s not careful, he’ll come from pleasuring his lover alone, untouched, like a teenager.

“You’re beautiful, love… God… so beautiful…” John whispers.

He is. John can’t take his eyes off him, even as his palm roams over his thighs, his hips, the swell of his arse. He’s seen his former flatmate naked before, of course – Sherlock was never shy about walking around the flat in the nude. But having him here, so close, and so aroused, is still something entirely different. His cock is resting on his stomach, very hard and already shining with moisture at the tip. It’s long and slender and slightly curved, pinkish in colour, and John can’t wait to touch it, get a taste of it. No one has ever touched him there, he thinks drunkenly, I’m the first.

“Beautiful,” he says again, almost as if to himself, and puts his hand between Sherlock’s legs.

Hahhh,” Sherlock breathes. “Johnnn…”

John bites his tongue to distract himself from his own need and gently cups Sherlock’s testicles in his palm, rolls them between his fingers, and sneaks a fingertip further down and back to brush his perineum.

“Oh!” Sherlock hiccups, and John looks up to find him staring at him out of eyes that are glazed over with lust. He grins and does it again, and Sherlock’s legs tremble in response. “That’s--- oh, John…”

“Yeah… that’s good, I know…” he rumbles. “Do you trust me, Sherlock...?”

Sherlock nods vigorously, his bottom lip drawn between his teeth, his fingers twisting in the sheet he’s lying on. John grins again.

“Okay,” he says, hearing his desire turning his voice deeper, rougher, and in Sherlock’s gaze he can see that it’s having an effect on him as well. “I’ll make you feel even better now…” He gets up on his knees. “And please… don’t hold back. You make such wonderful sounds… They turn me on so much…”

Sherlock nods again, letting his lip go and opening his mouth to suck in a long, shaky breath.

John smiles. Then he nudges Sherlock’s knee with his free hand, the other one still caressing the tender skin right behind his scrotum.

“Open your legs a little more,” he tells him.

Sherlock swallows audibly, and for a brief moment, the apprehension in his eyes is back. But he does as John says and spreads his legs so that John can move between them.

“If you ever feel like it’s getting too much… or if I do something you don’t like… just let me know, and I’ll stop. Just say the word, Sherlock,” John says, surprised when Sherlock suddenly reaches down to touch his cheek with his fingertips.

“I do trust you,” he says before letting his arm sink onto the mattress again.

John’s heart feels as if it wanted to jump out of his chest. He takes a deep breath to ground himself and then tries to focus on what he’s about to do to Sherlock, his lover and his best friend in the whole world, and apparently also the love of his life, because the way he’s feeling right now doesn’t leave room for any other explanation.

“Close your eyes,” he says lowly. “Feel…”

He doesn’t wait to see if Sherlock does close his eyes, but puts his left hand around the base of his cock, which feels like iron wrapped in silk and is burning his skin with its heat, and presses his right middle and index finger against his perineum a little harder now, moving them in tiny, rhythmic circles. Sherlock’s breathing becomes louder, more erratic, but he doesn’t make another sound. John bends down then and takes him into his mouth, only the tip at first, while simultaneously trailing his fingers further down until they rub against the soft, puckered opening hidden between Sherlock’s buttocks.

Nnnhhhhh!” Sherlock whines, his thighs twitching, and John pulls back and lets him slip from between his lips.

“No?” he asks breathlessly and glances up at him.

Sherlock groans and shakes his head, his eyes shut tightly, his hands clawing at his pillow by now.

N-no… don’t stop! Please…”

John moans at the sight of his usually so collected, so perfectly composed friend letting go like that and immediately returns to what he was doing before, going down deeper this time to run his tongue around the other man’s shaft, revelling in his sharp, slightly bitter taste. Sherlock cants his hips upwards, probably without meaning to, and John sucks harder at that and wishes they had some lube. He told Sherlock it didn’t matter, and it really doesn’t, but he never expected him to like this so much, and he wants to make it amazing for him.

“O-o-ohhhh!” Sherlock sobs out. “John!

Growling around his hardness, John removes his hand from its place between Sherlock’s legs to slip his fingers between his lips right next to Sherlock’s cock, provoking another full-body shudder to run through his friend’s muscles. He slicks the fingers up until they’re dripping with saliva and then puts them back between Sherlock’s cheeks, spreading the wetness there.

“Mmmhhhhh…” Sherlock purrs, deep within his chest, and his length begins to pulse inside John’s mouth.

Oh God, he’s about to come, John thinks wildly. I can’t wait to feel it, to see it. Oh God!

He knows it won’t be enough to go deep, but he wants to be inside the other man’s body so badly, so he works his tongue against the underside of Sherlock’s cock and finally pushes in with his middle finger. Sherlock’s entrance grips him tightly, but he can slide inside up to the first knuckle, and the lubrication is enough to be able to move in and out with slow, shallow thrusts.

Sherlock gasps for air and then goes completely still.

For a second, John is scared that he’s hurt him, but then he feels the cock he’s sucking on harden even further inside of him and realises it’s happening now. He keeps moving his finger and hums deeply, knowing from experience that this will make it even better for Sherlock, and readies himself for what’s to come.

Sherlock gasps again.

Then his whole body begins to shake and he cries out in what sounds like blissful agony. There are tears in his voice, and John regrets not being able to see his face. Next time, he tells himself. Next time I'll look at him.

“Johhhnnggghhh!” Sherlock sobs. “Ahhhhh!

John pulls back a little, just in time to give himself room to swallow the spurts of hot fluid flooding his mouth. Sherlock’s body is convulsing beneath him, which is an incredible feeling, and John savours every little detail of the moment: Sherlock’s moans, the way his skin breaks out in sweat all over as if on cue, his white-heat taste coating his tongue, his quivering opening holding his finger inside like a vice.

Sherlock’s hands come down then and he buries them in John’s hair, his hips still bucking weakly, and John licks him clean and carefully pulls his finger out of him to avoid overstimulation.

“John…” Sherlock pants. “John... Oh.

He’s definitely crying now, and John gives him one last, gentle swipe with his tongue and then pulls away to look up and see his face.

Sherlock looks completely wrecked and absolutely gorgeous at the same time. His hair is a mess, his face red-cheeked and wet with tears, and his lips look swollen from being bitten. His eyes have turned a shade John has never seen before, and John wonders if it’s real or just a trick of the light.

He smiles and licks his lips, moving his head into Sherlock’s touch.

“You’re the most amazing sight right now,” he says lowly. “I adore you.”

Sherlock utters a small laugh and pulls at John’s head.

“Please… come…” he sighs, apparently not ready to form complete sentences yet.

John grins and clambers over Sherlock’s long leg to lie down beside him again. The other man presses himself against his side immediately, not leaving an inch of air in between, and pushes his face into the crook of his neck.

“Thank you,” he whispers. “That was--- good…”

He trails off, his tears trickling onto John’s collarbone, and John turns his head and kisses his damp temple.

“Why are you crying, love? Can you tell me?” When Sherlock doesn’t answer right away, he adds: “I just want to know whether it’s good or bad crying. Please?”

Sherlock sniffs.

“I never thought--- I’d ever have this. I--- I knew if it wasn’t you, it would be no one. I despise the irrationality, but I can’t--- I can’t believe this is not a dream.”

His voice is muffled, and he sounds so small that John forgets that his own cock is still hard and very much demanding of some sort of release - and soon. He puts his arms around Sherlock and rocks him in his embrace, hip lips planting feather-light kisses on his head.

“It's not a dream. You’ll have this each and every day, Sherlock. Each and every night, if you want it. Please excuse me getting emotional, but I'm just so utterly, utterly in love with you… I don’t even have the words to tell you how much. I want to show you again and again.”

Sherlock raises his head.

“You--- swallowed,” he says, almost whispering, as if in awe.

John smiles.

“I did.”

Sherlock blinks at him, looking shy.

“You know you didn’t have to.”

His smile widening, John nods.

“I know," he says. "But I wanted something of yours inside of me. I--- I’ve never done it like that before. You’re the first person I’ve allowed to do it... and I loved it. You taste so good.”

Sherlock nods slowly, maybe processing that John has just revealed that he's had sex with other men before, and then lifts a finger and traces John's lips with it.

“Show me,” he demands, bringing his face closer to John's.

John, desire flaring up inside his guts again, playfully nips at the finger and then captures Sherlock’s lips with his own and kisses him deeply. The last traces of Sherlock’s come are still lingering on his palate, and he tries to guide the other man’s tongue there to get a taste of himself.

Sherlock shivers.

"Interesting…" he mumbles into the kiss, and John almost laughs.

Interesting. It figures. Before he can make an amused remark, there's a large hand being put on his chest, pushing him gently down onto the mattress.

"Lean back, John."

Sherlock's voice has stopped quavering and taken on a soft, husky timbre that makes John’s joints feel a bit wobbly even in the horizontal. He obeys and rolls onto his back, offering himself to the other man’s gaze. He looks at the ceiling, deliberately giving Sherlock this moment of being able to stare without hesitation. He can feel his curious eyes on him as they move up and down his body, lingering at his groin, and his pulse accelerates. Sherlock sits up and then manoeuvres himself between John’s spread legs, his narrow hips brushing the insides of John’s thighs.

“Look at me,” Sherlock says. “Please. I want to see your reactions.”

John swallows the chuckle threatening to escape his throat. He thinks it’s incredibly sweet that Sherlock’s inquiring nature doesn’t even quiet down in the most intimate of moments, but he doesn’t want his friend to feel mocked, so he just looks down at him and smiles.

“I’m all yours,” he whispers.

Sherlock doesn’t return the smile, but just fixes his eyes on John’s and then bends down to lick his left nipple. A jolt of pleasure shoots through John’s nerves.

Mh,” he hums. “Yes…”

Sherlock smirks and does it again, and then a third time. John has to fight to keep his eyes open.

Fuck,” he curses lowly.

His cock is on fire by now, pulsing almost painfully, but he’s determined to wait, to be patient. Sherlock needs this now, needs the time to get to know him, and he’ll let him set the pace.

“You’re beautiful, too,” Sherlock murmurs. “All of you.”

He caresses John’s scar, very tenderly, and then moves his mouth further down to mirror what John did to him earlier and lick around his navel. He’s so close to where John needs him now. So close.

“All of you,” Sherlock repeats and then uses his left index finger to stroke it up and down the underside of John’s cock – slowly, so slowly, from base to tip and back again.

John’s eyes snap shut and he presses his heels into the bed, his lower body straining to buck upwards, to get more contact, to finally get enough stimulation to come.

“God,” he presses out through clenched teeth. “Please…”

Sherlock mutters something under his breath, and John forces himself to open his lids again and look back down. Sherlock raises his right hand and, holding his gaze, puts his middle finger into his mouth to suck on it. John stares, mesmerised. When the finger reappears and pops out from between Sherlock’s rosy lips, it’s wet and shiny, and John thinks that he’s never seen anything so sexy in his life.

“John…” Sherlock whispers and puts his hand right between John’s buttocks, nudging his opening with his slick fingertip. “Do you like this…?”

John’s whole body jerks at the touch and the velvety tone of his friend’s voice and the knowledge that Sherlock is going to watch him come undone soon, so very soon. He doesn’t know what expects him, has never allowed anybody to do this to him in bed, but Sherlock can do anything to him, anything he wants. The sensation of his finger circling his entrance is exquisite, and he wants more, deeper, right now.

“Yes,” he sighs and feels himself drown in the other man’s intense stare. “More…”

Sherlock wets his lips with the tip of his tongue and looks down for a moment to watch his finger slip into John’s body, but then meets John’s eyes again.

“You’re so hot inside,” he tells John, and it sounds amazed. “So tight.”

Sherlock is inside him. John can’t speak. Can’t breathe. Can’t keep his eyes open any longer. He tries to, really tries, but the second Sherlock pulls his finger out a little and then pushes back in, at the same time increasing the pressure of his other finger on his cock, all his muscles contract and he arches his back, throwing his head against the pillow, baring his neck.

“Oh God! Oh--- God, yes! Unnghh!

He hears himself cry out and grunt with pleasure and feels mildly ashamed, but he can’t help it, so he stops caring and just lets the feelings wash over him. Sherlock is moaning now, too, moving his hand in a steady rhythm that is somehow exactly right, and replaces the teasing finger on John’s cock with his whole hand to stroke him in a loose grip that makes up the perfect counterpoint to the gentle thrusts of his other hand.

“Fu-uck! OH!” John shouts. “Yes, please!

He swore himself he wouldn’t beg, would allow Sherlock to have his way with him, but he can’t wait anymore. It’s too good, and he’s too close.

“Please, Sher---lock… Please…” he rambles, his eyes squeezed shut, his head lolling from side to side. “More…”

Sherlock inhales loudly.

“Tell me what you need,” he says in a deep, breathy voice. “Tell me, John…”

John groans. He knows what he needs, but he’s not sure if Sherlock will understand.

Speak,” he sobs out.

Sherlock is silent for a moment.

Then several things happen all at once. Sherlock speeds up the pace of his strokes and thrusts, causing flashes of red light to dance in and out of the blackness behind John’s lids. Something wet drips into his crack, and he realises that Sherlock has just spat on him (oh God!), and then his finger goes away and returns again immediately, slicker, to go back inside, deeper this time. Much deeper.

Sher---” John gasps, and then the words die in his throat, because Sherlock has found his prostate, and it’s like an explosion of heat deep inside his core.

"Come, John," Sherlock growls. "Now. I want to watch."

John comes.

He’s never tumbled over the edge this hard and sudden before – it’s a bit like fainting, he thinks, surprised, when it hits him and sweeps him away.

Then his brain shuts itself off.

---

When John comes back to his senses, Sherlock is by his side again, wiping his stomach with a tissue, a loving look in his eyes.

"Hey," John rasps and stretches languidly. He's still a little out of breath, and his heart is still beating fast. Aftershocks of pleasure ripple through him now and again, and his fingers and toes are tingling. "Hmmm..."

Sherlock smiles and drops the crumpled tissue on the floor before cuddling up to John's side and running his fingers through his hair.

"Hello, John," he answers lightly. "That was absolutely beautiful. I've never seen anything like this before."

John looks at him and grins softly.

"Thanks... I blacked out a bit at the end. Sorry. That's never happened to me before."

"I take it as a compliment," Sherlock quips, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

They kiss. When John moves his leg to roll over and get closer to his lover, he notices that a hot, very obvious erection is in the way.

"Christ, Sherlock," he whispers. "Are you hard again?"

Sherlock bites his bottom lip and shrugs, a small grin tugging at his mouth.

"It was extremely arousing to watch you lose yourself. And you have to keep in mind that I've got a lot of catching up to do."

It takes a moment until John realises that Sherlock is making fun of himself, in bed, right after having sex for the very first time. Love fills his chest, presses against his ribs from the inside, and he cups the other man's cheek in his hand and draws him in for another kiss.

"I'll gladly take care of that for you if you give me a moment to catch my breath," he tells him.

Sherlock leans his forehead against John's and rubs their noses together.

"How about a bath? I have to go to the Yard later and should probably try to get presentable again beforehand... Why don't we combine a necessary act with a pleasurable one?"

John chuckles.

"You mean getting a little dirty before getting clean?"

"Yes," Sherlock replies, lowering his voice to a sultry drawl. "And who knows... I might find a way to get you to rejoin the proceedings after a brief refractory period... I haven't tasted you yet, after all..."

He pulls back a bit and looks at John with his moonlight eyes, his dark lashes accentuating their captivating, unusual shape.

"If you keep looking at me like this, we might not even make it to the bathroom," John answers lowly.

Sherlock blinks slowly and then smiles a seductive smile, and John can't believe how fast he's made the transition from blushing virgin to ardent lover. It's always all or nothing with Sherlock, he thinks.

"I see your brain has adjusted to our new situation," he says as drily as he can. 

Sherlock turns off the bedroom eyes then and huffs out a full-belly laugh.

"While I'm away, John... Can you go to the shop and get some---"

"Milk?" John interrupts jokingly, remembering old times.

Sherlock ponders over this.

"I was going to say lubricant, but if you want another cup of tea afterwards, we'll need some milk as well."

---

They have a bath together, and Sherlock washes John and then tells him to kneel in front of him. He takes him into his mouth and experiments, and then he makes him turn around and puts his face where no one has ever kissed John before. He tells him that he tastes like heaven, and just when John thinks that he can't take anything more he grips his hips and moves him around again and lets him finish in his mouth, and he swallows all of it and moans with delight as he does so. John laughs and cries at the same time and tells him that if they had lube, he'd want Sherlock to fuck him right now. He has to settle for a handjob instead, but this time he can watch Sherlock's face when he reaches his peak, and it's out-of-this-world gorgeous.

They almost fall asleep afterwards, snuggled up against each other and nearly fully submerged in the warm water, and John has never been more in love.

Later, Sherlock takes a cab to the Yard and John goes and gets his overnight bag and checks out of his hotel, and then he goes to the shop and buys lube and milk, and smiles at the cashier when she grins at him.

Today, he chooses to be happy. He doesn't know what the future might bring, but he knows that it's not going to be easy. Who knows what his daughter will think of the choice he's made. Who knows if Mary will force him to fight for the right to even see the child. Who knows whether he and Sherlock will work. He pushes all these thoughts, all the guilt and fear and regret, to the back of his mind. He walks back to Baker Street with a spring in his step. He wants to shout it from the rooftops - he's in love with the most fascinating human being on the planet, and this strange, wonderful, beautiful man loves him back.

He gets some Vietnamese takeaway on his way home (home), to put in the fridge and eat later, after they've done all the things John's been thinking of ever since their lips touched for the first time.

The sky looks dark, even though it's only late afternoon. Bad weather's on the way.

When he enters the flat, Sherlock is already there. He tries to hide something behind his back when John steps over the threshold, but it's crackling in his hands, and after a second in which John can see him go through the pros and cons of letting him in on whatever it is that he's doing, he rolls his eyes and sighs.

"You're allowed to mock me for the sentiment," he says, not meeting John's gaze.

John puts down his bags, steps towards him, and holds out his hand, and Sherlock stares at his own feet and hands him a transparent evidence bag like the ones he sometimes takes to crime scenes. Inside, John can see the napkin with his message, carefully smoothed out.

"I'd like to preserve this. I've already built a new room in my mind palace to store everything connected to---" He gestures back and forth between the two of them. "But sometimes it's nice to have the physical memory as well. I was just going to put it away when you came in."

John shakes his head in amused disbelief.

"Look at me, love," he says softly, intentionally using the term of endearment to get his point across.

Sherlock looks up and swallows. John puts the napkin down on Sherlock's desk and then takes the other man's head in his hands.

"If you think this makes me want to mock you, you're very, very wrong. It makes me want to kiss you, hold you, take you to bed and make love to you until you scream my name in the throes of passion. That's what it makes me want to do, Sherlock. So... You're brilliant in almost every respect, but you've got a lot to learn when it comes to..." 

He trails off and uses his right hand to imitate Sherlock's gesture from before. 

Sherlock smiles a little.

"You're the only one I'd be happy to learn from, John," he replies silkily. "I'm a quick learner, too."

John licks his lips, carding his fingers through the downy hair at the back of Sherlock's neck.

"I have to put some things in the fridge before they go off," he says lowly. "Do you have time for your first lesson then?"

He feels a bit silly saying this - he's quite a bit older than Sherlock, yes, but he doesn't have a teacher/student kink. Sherlock's eyes, however, tell him that he's done something right, and the way the other man's chest and abdomen begin to move against his body in time with his quickening breath leaves no doubt as to the kinks Sherlock very obviously has.

"Yes," Sherlock whispers. "But be careful when you open the fridge. Don't look at the top shelf."

John grins. 

"If you could see yourself, you'd know that nothing you're keeping in that fridge could get me out of the mood right now."

Sherlock moves his head from side to side doubtfully, but then laughs.

"I'm glad you're here again, John," he says and bends down to kiss him on the lips. Then, more seriously, he adds: "I'll never let you leave again. That's a lesson I've already learned."

John's body wonders how to deal with this confusing mixture of arousal and emotion coursing through its system at that, but gives up immediately when Sherlock goes in for a second, deeper kiss.

"Fridge, bedroom," John hears himself mumble into his lover's mouth. "Now."

They manage to put away the milk and the food while being joined at the lips, and John doesn't even glance at the top shelf. 

When he stumbles down the hall and into the bedroom, lube in hand and Sherlock's mouth busy devouring his ear, a first faint roll of thunder shudders through the air. Raindrops are pattering against the half-open window, a cool gust of wind in their wake that makes the curtains billow and flap.

"A storm's coming," Sherlock breathes against his neck.

John shivers.

How fitting.

They leave the window open while they make love, and Sherlock does scream his name into the white noise of the pouring rain, his enraptured face illuminated by lightning, and John swallows his moans and shouts and holds his shaking body tight.

Thinking about it now, John finds that he likes thunderstorms after all.