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Balancing Act

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This time the murderer is chasing them. Which is never quite as fun.

They scramble through an abandoned building and up to the roof, hoping to find a fire escape. But the building is old and the roof is rickety, and John’s foot goes right through a rotted board and a giant hole opens up, and John starts to slip. Sherlock’s fast, but not quite fast enough, and he spins around and grabs John by one wrist just in time to stop him plummeting through the hole. The boards under Sherlock creak precariously as John’s weight pulls Sherlock over, knocking him off his feet and nearly into the hole as well.

Sherlock throws out his other hand, and John grabs it. The boards creak again, and Sherlock immediately slides forward toward the edge of the hole.

“Pull,” John urges, although Sherlock doesn’t need urging – he’s already straining to pull John back up with all of his strength.

Of course, this isn’t the first time they’ve been in this sort of predicament. Sherlock has pulled John back from the brink of death several times, and vice versa. But this time is more difficult. Sherlock can’t seem to get enough leverage; he seems too light to properly counterbalance. They hear footsteps at the far end of the roof, and Sherlock at last gives a massive heave. John’s foot hits some sort of supporting beam and he pushes off, and Sherlock drags him out of the hole at last, both of them gasping for breath. They scramble to their feet and manage to make it to the fire escape just as shots echo behind them.

“Drop your weapon,” a familiar voice shouts.

“Lestrade made it,” Sherlock gasps, as they stumble down the fire escape. John is too winded to answer.

~ ~ ~ ~

Despite the moment of terror, it’s an easy victory after that, and all is mostly forgotten over curry back at the flat. Well, mostly.

“More chicken?” Sherlock holds out a carton to John after scooping some onto his own plate.

Something has been nagging at John’s mind. He glances down at himself. “Nah, I shouldn’t.”

Sherlock raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

John sighs and puts a hand on his middle, giving it a soft thump. “Best cut back, don’t you think?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sherlock says around a mouthful of curry.

“We used to balance out,” John says ruefully. “We’ve always weighed nearly the same. Tonight I dragged you down.” His eyes search Sherlock’s lean form, mostly hidden in a dressing gown. “You’ve gotten thinner. And I haven’t.”

Sherlock rolls his eyes. “It’s not important.”

“It is if I’m slowing us down.”

“You’ve only put on half a stone.”

John’s eyes widen. “Since when? Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Since Christmas.” Sherlock gives him an annoyed look. “I thought the fit of your trousers made it fairly obvious.”

John shifts in his chair, his hand going to his waistband instinctively. It’s pinching, as usual. But he’d somehow put it out of his mind.

“Bit tight, hmm?” Sherlock’s mouth twitches in a smile.

“Shut up.”

“Don’t worry, John. Your frame is built for it.”

John raises his eyebrows. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re meant to carry some extra weight.” Sherlock’s cheeks actually turn pink. “It suits you. Not like me.”

“You were part of the problem tonight,” John says. “You’ve dropped weight. You’ve gotten sick three times this winter, because you’re cold all the bloody time. No insulation.”

Sherlock sighs. “I’m fine.”

“We’ll see about that.” John heaves himself to his feet and frowns down at his waistline, which, now that he looks at it, is approaching a definite belly. “I’m going to get the scale.”

“I told you, half a stone.”

“Not for me, idiot. For you.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“A full stone, Sherlock. We’re a full stone off.”

Sherlock, in shirtsleeves and bare feet, scowls at the scale, which is displaying a decidedly low number for someone just over six feet. “I don’t see why this is a problem.”

John folds his arms over his traitorous stomach. “It was bad enough when we weighed the same, considering you’re six inches taller. Now you’re a full stone lighter than I am? Nope. No, something’s got to change. Doctor’s orders.”

“Oh, really.”

“Yes. I’m going to find a pair of trainers that fits. And we’re going to feed you up a bit. No arguments.”

“John –”

“I don’t care if you’ve got a bloody case on.”

“No, not that.” Sherlock’s mouth quirks, and he reaches out to prod John’s middle. “Don’t lose too much.”

John swats at Sherlock’s hand, but his cheeks flush. “Christ. You’re impossible, you know that?”

Sherlock grins.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

True to his word, John takes up jogging, and starts up some of his basic training exercises from his army days. He’s dismayed to find he’s woefully out of shape. He finds Sherlock’s eyes on him whenever he gets back to the flat, sweaty and winded.

“Enjoy watching me suffer, do you?” he remarks one morning, mopping up the sweat on his brow with the edge of his t-shirt. He can feel Sherlock watching him, and he has a moment of self-consciousness about the pudge around his middle, now on display.

“You’ve lost a pound,” Sherlock says.

John sighs. “Only a pound? It’s been a week and a half.”

“Lung capacity’s improved already, though.”

“Sod that.” John heads toward the shower; Sherlock’s still watching him. “It’s all the food I’m cooking for you. That you’re not eating, I might add.”

“Not hungry.”

“We’ll see about that. I’m making carbonara later.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Maybe the carbonara’s particularly good, or maybe he finally realises that John’s not going to give up, but Sherlock finally gives in. He eats a plateful of pasta that night, and twenty minutes later, wanders into the kitchen and takes a heaping second serving. John’s eyes go wide.

“Thought you said you weren’t hungry.”

“This is… good,” Sherlock admits.

John smiles at him, pleased. “Once you start eating, your appetite’s going to improve, you know. You might feel a bit better in general.”

“I feel fine,” Sherlock says, but sits back down on the sofa and takes a big bite of pasta. Soon enough, the second plate is clean. Sherlock sets it down on the coffee table and leans back on the sofa, his usually concave stomach ever so slightly rounded. He puts a hand on it absently.

John feels a jolt of arousal shoot through him, hot and fast. His ears burn. Something about the sight of Sherlock like this… he finds Sherlock attractive in general, but somehow, the visible sign of Sherlock’s indulgence sends electric signals through his nerves. He looks down quickly and pretends to study his book. “I’ll make that again if you like it,” he says.

“Mmm. All right,” Sherlock says sleepily, as John tries to calm his racing pulse.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Amazingly, Sherlock keeps eating, more and more compliant with whatever John wants to feed him. Breakfast becomes a regular meal. Then, lunch. Supper always includes dessert – Sherlock has, John is thrilled to discover, a wicked sweet tooth. John keeps jogging, and he’s getting more fit, but the pounds just don’t want to come off. Maybe it’s his middle-aged metabolism, but more likely, it’s because Sherlock eats even more when John eats with him. This is likely Sherlock’s sneaky plan to sabotage John’s efforts, but if Sherlock’s eating, John figures that takes priority. After all, John can lose the weight eventually, but he may never get Sherlock to eat again. Best take advantage of the current situation.

After another few weeks, the scale comes out again.

“You’ve gained a pound,” Sherlock says, before John even steps on it.

He’s right. “This is all your fault,” John grumbles.

“You’ve converted some fat to muscle. Muscle weighs more.”

“Hmm, well, clearly, I haven’t converted all of it,” John says, patting his belly.

He looks up. Sherlock is blushing again. “Clearly not,” Sherlock says, but his voice is more fond than teasing.

“Oh, sod off. Your turn.”

They switch places. “I’ve gained six,” Sherlock says. “Satisfied?”

John grins at him. “Closing the gap,” he says proudly. “That’s excellent, Sherlock.” He takes a moment to study him: Sherlock’s cheeks are still pink with a healthy flush. His eyes look brighter, too. “You’re looking really good,” he says shyly.

Sherlock rolls his eyes, but actually looks pleased. “Are we done with this nonsense yet?” he says. “I’m nearly back to our usual weight.”

Our usual weight. John finds this endearing. “I’d like to get a few more pounds on you,” he says. “Insurance. You’ll start losing them as soon as we stop, I’m sure.”

Sherlock sighs, but raises an eyebrow in the direction of the kitchen. “What’s for dinner?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Now that,” Sherlock says, pushing back from the table, “was delicious.”

They’re at Angelo’s, which has become a more regular stop on the rotation of late. Against his better judgment, John has stuffed himself silly on a plate of lasagna and a basket of rolls. To John’s great delight, however, Sherlock has done the same, and they’ve drunk a bottle of wine between them. Sherlock shifts in his seat, adjusting his waistband, and John notes with surprise that Sherlock’s shirt buttons are looking more strained than usual, especially around his middle.

“I’ve got to get out of this suit,” Sherlock says testily. “I might burst out of it. All your fault.”

John feels that warm jolt of arousal again, and thinks about how much he’d like to be the one to get Sherlock out of it. “Don’t forget we have ice cream at home,” he teases, hoping Sherlock won’t notice his flushed face.

“Mmm. No, we don’t,” Sherlock says, winking, and nudges John’s foot with his own.

John feels like he might incinerate. He wants to kiss Sherlock that badly. He nudges him back. “Hungry, were you?”

“I needed to make room for a specimen in the freezer,” Sherlock says.

“I see,” John says, and they grin at each other.

The taxi ride home is charged with a happy sort of tension. Halfway back to the flat, Sherlock leans back and undoes the button on his trousers. His stomach, small but rounded, relaxes outward. “Thank God,” he sighs.

John’s heart stutters. He’s a little tipsy, so he reaches out before he can really stop himself and pats Sherlock’s belly. It’s solid and warm, adorably curved, and a little more substantial than John had imagined. “Quite an improvement,” John says, and then turns beet red, not sure how Sherlock will interpret that statement. He takes his hand away quickly.

Sherlock looks back at him with a slow half-smile, and then the cab stops.

“221 Baker Street,” the cabbie says.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

They stumble heavily up the stairs, and then flop onto the sofa after hanging up their coats.

“Want another drink?” John says. He’s not sure if he needs one, but somehow he feels like some liquid courage would calm his nerves.

“Dunno if I need one.” Sherlock shifts on the sofa, his trousers still partly undone. “What I really need is some ice cream.”

“Now that’s your own fault,” John says, realising his own trousers have become uncomfortably tight. For several reasons.

Sherlock rests a hand on the side of his stomach. “I’d meant to stop this,” he grumbles, “but it turns out I quite like the food.”

John chuckles. “Did you delete your sense of taste, before?”

“Something like that." Sherlock turns to look at him. "I’ve liked… this. Eating together. It’s nice.”

John smiles. “I believe it’s why restaurants were invented.”

They look at each other, and then John finds himself leaning in just as Sherlock does. The kiss is soft at first, and then gloriously hot. When they break apart, Sherlock is wide-eyed and breathing hard. “I’ve been wanting to do that for ages,” he says.

John feels like he might explode, both from happiness and from food. “God, me too.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Five pounds in a week,” John grumbles, stepping off the scale. “In the wrong direction.”

He doesn’t frown for long. Sherlock’s arms wind around his middle, giving him a squeeze.

“You’re in good shape,” Sherlock rumbles in his ear. “I should know.”

John chuckles, then twists to kiss Sherlock’s cheek. “Your turn.”

The scale flashes a surprising number. "Caught up with you,“ Sherlock says, grinning.

"That you did,” John says, grinning back. “At last.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

… several months later…

John is putting the finishing touches on Sherlock’s favourite carbonara when Sherlock wanders into the kitchen. “Ready yet?” Sherlock says, peering over John’s shoulder at the bubbling pot of pasta.

“Nearly,” John says, as Sherlock brushes up against him: broad chest, long legs, and recently, the beginnings of a perfect little tum. Well, John thinks it’s perfect, anyway.

John gives it a final stir and leans into Sherlock’s embrace as long arms snake around him. “Hang on,” he chuckles. “Be patient.”

“Impossible,” Sherlock says into his ear. John turns, surrendering to Sherlock’s kiss. His hands roam over Sherlock’s chest and the slight swell of his middle. He pulls back and pats Sherlock’s stomach, quirking a smile. “You’re getting a bit of a belly, you know.”

Sherlock leans in to kiss the side of John’s neck. “Got a ways to go before I match yours,” he purrs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Two weeks and quite a bit of carbonara later, Sherlock steps off the scale, and John gives a low whistle. “Four more pounds this week. You’re over a stone more than me now, love."

Sherlock glances at John and grins. His smile has dimples John hasn’t noticed before. He steps off the scale clad in shirtsleeves and new trousers, which are already looking a bit tight. For a while his gain hadn’t been obvious, since he’d been so underweight, but these days Sherlock is looking almost… chubby.

"You do know what that means,” Sherlock says. “We’ve got to balance out.”

John feels his stomach twist. He’s loved this, watching Sherlock fill out, but he figures it has to be over sometime. He sighs. “Sherlock, you really don’t need to lose it –”

“Oh no, I don’t plan to,” Sherlock says, grinning. He prods John’s belly. “Time to feed you up a bit.”

John has to admit it’s an excellent plan.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~