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John had thought it’d be more difficult, getting someone to leave a party with him, especially considering this someone happens to be a bloke on the rugby team that he’s had his eye on for half a term.


His forearm presses into brick, buttressing his body away from the body beneath him; it feels a touch dangerous, a bit risky, and he realizes that he enjoys this, the delicious anticipation of wanting and being on the verge of having something that he —until quite recently—thought he may never work up the courage to have .

Grit flakes from the crumbling wall, down into the boy’s hair, and the two of them laugh, his, deeper and much fuller than John’s own. There’s no mistaking it for anything other than the laugh of a man, and it thrills John. Music from inside seeps out through partially-opened windows, jittering their body with pop synth, vibrating them closer together.


“Can you,” the boy starts, and John reaches up a quick hand, tousling the blond hair, dislodging the offensive particles. “Thanks,” he says with a bashful smile and glances down at his trainers. “I just…


“Hmm?” John hums, finally reaching up to cup the side of the boy’s neck. He's a touch buzzed, but of sound mind, and he's been watching Jeremy for awhile now, watching him run and tackle and sweat. “We don’t have to-”


“I know, I know,” Jeremy hurries to correct, his fingers reaching out to settle against John’s bicep. “I just, like you. John. Like, like you, and I don’t-”


John smiles warmly, his thumb slipping just beneath the collar of the boy’s shirt, waits until he’s sure that no more words are coming to voice his reply. “I like you too, Jeremy. So, that’s good,” and they laugh again, tension draining from both bodies as John steps in, bracketing Jeremy’s knees with his own. 


“I’ve never,” Jeremy begins and then bites his lip and it looks so darling and incongruous with how Jeremy carries himself, all brute strength and corded muscle; but then, two thumbs move to hook into the belt loops of John’s worn jeans. They’re snug together, the two of them. John feels a surge of something, something unlike he’s ever felt, crest and break within him. He feels so good right now. 


His words are barely more than a sussurus of breath, “Me either, I’ve never. Want to though. Very much.”


“Okay,” Jeremy says, nods, and then shakily kisses him.


Jeremy kisses John, against a brick wall outside of a first year party. It feels wild just as it feels trite, his first kiss with a man; it doesn’t feel any different at all from any of the other kisses he’s had, not physically. But inside of him, his blood sings and rushes, his pulse leaps to life and his head swims.


It’s overwhelmingly, fantastically good. The way Jeremy slips his tongue against John’s, the tiny, breathy hums they’re both making, the sound of denim brushing roughly against brick. He’s thrilled and light-headed and thinks that maybe this is all just fine, kissing Jeremy-from-rugby outside of a party in Farringdon. 


Jeremy tucks his cool fingers into the waistband of John’s jeans and it’s fine. It’s all fine.


It's fucking brilliant.


There’s no time for relationships. Really, there isn’t. 


He’s taking an overload of courses, and is required to work eight hours a week in the Dean’s Office if he wants to keep his scholarship, so when he feels lonely or pent up or wants to get off, he goes to the pub.


John knows he’s not the world’s most handsome man; he’s a bit plain, and doesn’t really have time for fashion, but he likes to talk to people, and people like to talk to him. It’s usually quite easy: buy a girl or a gent a pint, ask them to play darts, pepper the conversation with casual innuendo and once accepted, move on to light touching.


He’s careful, of course. He usually knows how to spot someone who would be interested, and he steers well clear of anyone too intoxicated to make a well-informed decision; he doesn’t need the drama. 


John takes a stool at the corner of the bar, his vantage point making it easy to assess the other people out looking for a good time. Nursing a lager, he watches as groups form, as people come and go, until he sees a nice-looking girl with purple hair by the dart board. She’s got a lovely smile, and he can hear her crisp laugh carry right across the bar. 


He’s halfway off of the stool when a man sidles up to the woman, throws an arm around her waist and drops a kiss on her cheek.


Sighing, John sits back down. It’s rarely that easy, after all, but the night is young.


Three-quarters of an hour later and he’s finishing his second pint when he sees a man peel away from the group he’s with, and make his way through the crowd to the bar. He leans in, forearms against the lip, and John surreptitiously gives him a surreptitious look over.  “Two Camdens, please,” he asks in a crisp, deep voice, and then turns his attention to John. 


He’s puzzling something out, his brow furrowed, when he finally lands upon it. “Kings?” the man asks genially and John’s brows peak.


“Uh yeah, medicine,” John responds as he quickly assesses the person before him. Middle eastern, thick, glorious hair, a tight arse and an easy smile. He’s one of the most handsome people John has been in the presence of, but he doesn’t let that get the best of him.


“Thought I’d seen you on campus, small world, eh? I’m sociology.”


“Well hello, Sociology,” John jests, and after an eye roll, the man corrects himself.


God, his smile is incandescent, and the way it makes his eyes light makes John go a bit weak in the knees. “Sorry, no, Faheem, studying sociology.”


John finishes the rest of his pint. “Well, it’s good to meet you sociologist Faheem. I’m John.”


He holds out a hand which Faheem takes; their gaze never falters from the other’s and Faheem’s hand stays in his many, many moments too long for it to be just polite. 


There’s a silent invitation in the way John’s lip curls, and Faheem responds with a shy smile of his own, and a shrug. “You uh, planning on having another or…”


“Depends,” John drawls, leaning his hip against the bar. “On whether you are.”


Faheem shrugs again. “Could do with somewhere… a bit more quiet?” John nods at him. “Right, let me drop these with my mates and then…”


They leave together a few minutes later, John’s hand at the small of Faheem’s back. They’re about to make a right, towards the main road, when John hears someone walk up on the pavement behind them, too close.

He skin prickles.


When he turns, he’s faced with a broad chest, and upon taking a step back, gives him a once over. “Help you?” John asks, squaring his shoulders and puffing up; he may not be large, but he knows how to fight.


The man squints down at John, and it’s then when he picks up the waft of whiskey clinging to the bulky figure. “Ey, that shit ain’t welcome here,” he says, slurring only the “welcome.”


“What shit?” John asks, even as Faheem wraps a hand around his bicep and gives a tug and a half-hearted, “C’mon, let’s go.”


“That gay shit,” the man growls back and John takes a moment to roll his shoulderblades down his back. “Ain’t welcome in ‘ere.”


John’s about to make a smart remark when the man raises a hand and slaps him, hard, across the face. That’s all it takes for John to launch himself at him, knuckles making contact with the man’s windpipe even as he managed to land a solid punch to the side of John’s head.


His ears ring and his vision wobbles, but he redoubles his effort, manages to shove himself away just as the man throws out a violent kick. That sends him off-kilter, allowing John a moment to align his fist to hit the center of the man’s face. 


When he hears the crack of bone beneath his fist, the suddening, sickening realization that he’s hurt someone transforms almost immediately into a vindictive pride. The man roars, reaches up and makes to swing at John’s head.


John feints right, and ends with his knee forcing into the man’s gut. 


The man hits the pavement, clutching at his midsection, but his eyes are still ablaze. Blood, coppery and thick, fills John’s mouth, and he spits, a crimson globule landing right to the left of the fallen man’s head.  


“Fucking poof,” the man grinds out, and the word lands like a slap, harder and deeper and more real than the man’s hand had felt against his skin. 


“Yeah,” John says, sniffing, swiping at the spot of blood beneath his nose. “Maybe learn to fight before you talk shit, next time.” John rights his clothes and moves away from the group of pub patrons who’d spilled out of the bar to gawk. “Fucking arsehole,” he tosses over his shoulder.


When he glances towards where he’d left Faheem, there is only a woman smoking a cigarette, looking on with disinterest.


It’s not the fact that Major James Sholto is touching him, it’s that it lingers. A good-natured slap to the back isn’t uncommon around the barracks, but this time, the Major’s palm stays, his thumb sweeping down and then back up, two times, before he pulls away.


They’re friends, and they’re at war, and John doesn’t question it much, for the simple fact that it’s hard to come by warm, genuine human contact in the midst of an international conflict. 


It happens twice, with a casual brush of John’s hand in between, before he’s invited back to Sholto’s tent. A night of cards with the lads is just what he needs to shake up the strange monotony of his life at present. Five other men, a handle of whiskey with a name none of them can pronounce, and some crisps someone had received in the post and it’s as close to a party as they can manage.


John loses, repeatedly, and horribly, and by the end of it, he’s out of all of the biscuits Harry had sent him in the post. The scene breaks up around eleven, and John is the last one in the tent, shuffling all the cards back together into a neat deck and placing it on the table. 


They’re buzzed, the bottle nearly empty; James pours out a finger and then recaps the bottle, handing it to John. There’s been something humming between them all night, and when John moves to take the bottle, John runs the pads of his fingers over the Major’s fingernails.


It feels like danger, and want, and it makes his stomach flip.


John watches as James sucks in a little sip of a breath and holds it for a moment before slowly allowing it back out. But then he steps away, drops his gaze, and John stands, taking that as his cue to leave.


“You’re not married Watson,” James suddenly mentions. A statement of fact, not a question. 


John has just slipped his fatigue jacket on for the walk back to his tent, and he stops short. “No, sir?”


“Most of the men here are,” he says, and it doesn’t sound conversational. It sounds sad. His fingers hover above the deck of cards for a brief moment before he picks them up, smoothing the top card over and then under, cycling through.


John watches the fluid movement and then shakes his arms into his coat, and shrugs. “Guess that’s just how it is.”


“Hmmm,” Sholto hums and shuffles the cards in his hand. “That’s… how it is.”


“You’re not married either, sir,” John says, emboldened. Another statement of fact.


He takes the rickety seat across the small, square table from his commanding officer. There’s the low hum from the generator, the bap-bap-bap of gunshots far, far across the sand, and the ever-present murmuring of the men in their tents, chatting. But if feels so intensely sheltered in this tent, as though they’re all alone in the middle of a desert. 


“Not much time,” James murmurs, his case focused solely on the cards that he runs back and forth, hand to hand. “And,” he sighs, “Suppose it’s hard to come by prospects, out in the country.”


“Is that your way of saying you’re not into country girls?” John tries with a laugh.


There’s a long pause during which Sholto places the cards atop the table, taking the time to line them up so they all sit perfectly, one atop the other. John is worried he’s somehow overstepped, in his attempt at sussing out information.


But Sholto finally responds with, “Not country girls, no. Watson, I-”


“It’s alright,” John hears himself, but he sounds miles and miles away. He’s too focused on the way Sholto’s hands jitter against the table, the strong line of his jaw where it’s clenched. “It’s six of one, for me,” John says gently, “So… it’s alright.”


James’s gaze meets his and John feels it, the moment swings up and over the precipice. He can’t quite slow his breath as the Major says to him, “I very much want to kiss you Watson, and I’m afraid that if you don’t leave my tent, right now, I may work up the courage to actually do it.”


James’s jaw is set in a hard line, and his eyes don’t waver from John’s own. 


So when John leans back in the chair, and places his hands in his lap, he sees the exact moment that Major James Sholto understands that John wants this, just as much as he does.


It’s so incredibly easy to make Sarah come.


It’s not necessarily what endears her to him, but it certainly helps. A few minutes of petting, a brief detour for a snog and then tongue to clitoris and she lights up like a Christmas tree. 


They have sex as frequently as he imagines two working people with bonkers schedules can be having sex and it's quite nice. It's nothing too crazy but it's not vanilla either, and he's finding himself quite content with it all.


She's adventurous in ways he hadn't expected. She likes food in bed, and watching videos together, but she hates role playing and dirty talk, preferring to let bodies speak for themselves. 


It's a surprisingly springy Thursday, and they've having a late dinner around the corner from her flat. They've nearly finished off the basket of bread when she says, "I've uh, I've been thinking," and she pushes her hair behind her ear in a manner that John has come to find quite charming.


"Oh?" he wipes his hands on the napkin in his lap and leans in; the intonation of her voice is intriguing. She so rarely sounds like that.


"I know we're not... you know," and at that she flushes, "...too crazy or anything, but."


"Oh, I do like a but!" he growls.


She gives him a small little smile, but he can tell that her hands are shaking and that she needs to work up to whatever she's about to ask, so he calms, waits.


"If maybe I got a dildo..."


John can feel his brows ready to fly for the ceiling for this surprising twist, but he catches himself at the last moment, breathes, and waits some more. "Right, okay..."


"And uhm," Sarah laughs at herself, loudly, and glances quickly around the restaurant before leaning, nearly full-body, over the table. "And I use it on you."


"You mean like a strap on," John hears himself say from eons away. Sarah Sawyer has managed to surprise him greatly over a glass of remarkably terrible wine.


Sarah states out another laugh and glances around again. "Uhm, yeah. Yes, that exactly."


John's eyes narrow and he look at her, really looks. Her eyes are bright, nearly glittering, and she's biting her lip, pink high in her cheeks. God, he has to wonder how long she's been thinking of this, why she chose tonight to bring it up. But he's half-hard in his jeans and can't really think, aside from to say-


"I'm game if you are," and she huffs out a little laugh, lets her face drop into her hands for a moment and then appears from behind them, grinning.


"Right, good. I'll just... order what's needed, shall I?"


John grins, "Ooh, yes please. I do love a surprise."


The box is open on her kitchen table two weeks later. 


The dildo isn't flesh colored, which John is really thrilled by. Instead, it's a deep, glittery emerald, and he finds himself wondering what he'd look like with it inside of him. It's not lengthy, perhaps just a big larger than his own cock, but it's thick, and it's going to take some doing.


When Sarah walks out of the loo, it's to John contemplating the silicone in his hand. "You done this before?" He asks, eyes still on the plastic.


Sarah, freshly-scrubbed, steps towards him, lacy robe flowing behind her. "Mm, no, not on someone else."


"But on yourself?"


"Yes, a few times," she concedes, rounding him, and weaving her arms around his waist. After a moment, the jut of her chin rests gently on his shoulder. "I'll go slow, I know how to..."


"I trust you," he hears himself say from a distance, so far away, because every bid of blood in his body has made its way to his cock. "Yeah, I am... I trust you."


But when they get right down to it, when she's inside of him, he's loud and needy, he bucks and keens and begs for more and harder. He can feel her falter, towards the end, when he presses his face into the mattress in order to be more sufficiently fucked.


John drools, he bites the duvet, he barks and he comes with a single stroke of her uncoordinated hand. She doesn’t want to talk about it, afterwards, and heads to the shower by herself.

“That was good,” he says later, hand on her bare stomach. 


It’s a moment before she shifts, turns onto her side with her back to him. “Uh, yeah. You seemed to… really like it.”

They break up two weeks later. 




It's going on three in the morning by the time they make it back to their room, and John is parched. He pulls a seven pound bottle of water from the mini bar and guzzles it, reaches in to grab another and tosses it to Mary.


She smiles thankfully and does the same, the water dripping over her chin, onto her décolletage and between her breasts. "Jesus," she says a little breathlessly, kicking her shoes to the far end of the room. "Never going to forget that day."


"Videographer is probably pretty pissed they have to edit that into some semblance of..."


"Sanity?" Mary supplies, going back for a few more gulps.


John laughs around the plastic rim and then drains the water, tossing the empty into the bin. "Join me for a shower?" He asks, somehow already halfway out of his pants; he must be delirious, he doesn't even remember taking off the cumberbund.


As if reading his mind, Mary supplies, "You can barely stand up, darling!" And she's at his side, carding fingers carefully through his hair. "Right, can we talk about how you triaged your ex-commanding officer in a room! At an inn! On our wedding night?" 


"Can we talk about how..." And John flashes on Sherlock's face, on Sherlock tripping over the words. "We're going to be parents?"


Mary grins and it's almost a shy thing. "Yeah. Bonkers. We are bonkers." Her fingers scratch at the nape of his neck and some of the tension that had coiled between his eyes slithers away. "We're going to be fine," she soothes, before amending, "we're going to be great."


There is no world in which John believes that he's ready for this. For any of it. "Dunno about that."


"You solved a murder, had a suspect arrested--poor Greg, by the way--and managed to have a pretty fantastic wedding celebration on the same night. Smart, strong, and really quite good at multitasking. That's all babies are, right? Bit of multitasking?"


John laughs, because it is bonkers, but it somehow feels strangely wrong. The adrenaline fades, there's a greasy sort of guilt left in its wake. Sherlock's face, he can't stop seeing it. "Never boring with John Watson," he says, and can feel the beginnings of a cluster headache forming. He can't believe he even thinks it, but he might be getting too old for all of this. 


"Never," Mary whispers, and dots a kiss on his cheek. This is nice, domestic in a way that John wasn't sure he'd ever have, and he loves her. Her quirkiness and her zeal, her sense of humor. And yet there's still something not quite right; he’s not sure how to define it and can’t place a finger on what it is, but he’s unsettled in a bone-deep way.


But Mary smiles at him so brightly, and with so much hope, that the niggling little pinpricks of doubt are banished for the time being, and he smiles back. This can work; they can make this work. He, and Mary, and a baby.


Still not snapped of his reverie entirely, Mary grabs at his hand. "Come now, into the shower with the both of us and we'll see if I can help you get it up so we can have quick, boring missionary sex, if only because it's our wedding night."


He's surprised for a moment, that he hadn't actually thought about having sex all day. Sex with his wife, on their wedding night, and he wonders if he's alone in that, or if it's natural to forget something so culturally perfunctory. 


She takes off ahead of him, gesturing to the zip of her dress. "And because, apparently I'll be too big to have sex soon enough!"


"You, always with the dirty talk," he mentions, and manages to work her out of her dress.


It's possibly the most unimaginative sex he's had in his entire life, but she's fine with it, and they end up sleeping until past two in the afternoon. 




It’s too late to be anything but early morning, and John feels the fatigue through his bones, his blood. There’s a haziness to the sitting room and John believes it’s more his own sandpaper gaze that’s setting the atmosphere; he can’t sleep.


Rosie had gone out like a light around seven, and she'll be up in three hours and John cannot even fathom sleep. 


Fidgety toes curl inside of thick wool socks, threads catching on a rough patch in the wood between the carpet and the sofa. His fingers, melded together as though in prayer, are sandwiched between his thighs. Itchy and damp, his skin feels as though it’s hanging differently, wrong. These fingers, whorls and ridges pressing into one another, they threaten to betray him entirely.


Because he doesn’t just want, hasn’t just wanted for quite some time now. Years. The shocking, startling, devastating realization that it wasn’t just sexual attraction, but something much more.


He thinks about how close he’d come earlier to something that would have tipped the both of them into something sticky and incomprehensible. Just after dinner, Sherlock, rising from the bench before his microscope, doing something as simple, a-thousand-times-before easy as working the aching cricks from his neck. 


And John had focused, instantaneously, on the patch of skin that Sherlock had wrapped his own palm around. John found himself parched, full of scratchy static, focused entirely on wanting to grab and bite, lave, kiss, love . Sherlock’s arms had interlaced and he’d tipped forward, stretching his back, arse encased in soft flannel pajama material, stretched tight as he’d moved.


Sherlock had disappeared into his bedroom, and John had gulped at too-hot tea, fingers curling around the edge of the counter as he hung his head and relearned how to breathe. The force of needing to touch Sherlock, to have Sherlock know through John’s actions that John loves him was so overwhelming that John truly couldn’t move with the force of it. 


Sherlock was a whirlwind in carefully-chosen silk and cotton marching towards the door, “Don’t wait up,” the ‘p’ popping in the early evening quiet before Sherlock had disappeared down the steps. 


God, he's been sitting here for hours, running the brief moments through his mind again and again, wondering what had changed. Wondering when the docile, tempered want had roared bright and hungry once again, as it had in the early days of their partnership. It’s want, it’s sexual desire, but John has never felt this, this miasma of everything.


John feels all flayed open and stitched too tightly, an amalgamation of want, regret, confusion. He certainly doesn’t want to be caught out here, gone four in the morning, but he doesn’t quite know what to do. Everything feels entirely wrong, every movement he considers making seems somehow off. It’s as though there’s something hovering on the edge of his periphery, kinetic energy that knows how it needs to be spent, unable to communicate its intent to John’s brain. 


This is something that he doesn't know how to have, this unceasing, painful love he carries for Sherlock Holmes. 


And he turns it over in his head, again and again, until there’s the sound of the downstairs door opening, and Sherlock climbing measuredly up the stairs. And this is it, John realizes, the moment he needs to decide whether he can endure any more of this agony. 


He’s windblown and burned, the pink high on his cheeks but carrying in his shoulders a look of accomplishment. When he turns towards the sofa, his eyes shine; the edge of a knife, John thinks.  


“John,” vague surprise registering over his features. “It’s half-four,” Sherlock mentions quietly, concerned, as he unwinds the scarf from around his neck. 


Even as he’s about to speak, John realizes that his voice can’t be trusted. Tongue thick, pressed to the roof of his mouth, he manages a nod, wills himself not to turn to Sherlock. It’s a cliche for a reason, John muses, he’d see every goddamned thing in my head if he saw my face


"Couldn't sleep," his voice is rough and sounds unrecognizable to his own ears. 


Sherlock peels off his coat and rounds the table, takes a seat at the other end of the sofa. "Ah, Rosie?"


"No. Out since... seven? She’ll be up in a bit." And he hangs his head, his forehead falling into the cup of his hands. "God."


There is silence beside him for a beat before he hears Sherlock shift, the sofa creaking ever so slightly beneath him. "Do you want to talk about it?"


And perhaps it's because it's half-four and he is bordering on delirious, or because it's just all too much to try and fit back into the furthest recesses of his mind, This is too much to carry any longer.


It’s too much.

John lifts his head and meets Sherlock's gaze and it’s a long, leaden moment of them staring at one another.


Sherlock’s mouth hovers on a word before he closes his mouth, slowly. “Oh,” he manages, very quietly. 


The center of John’s chest feels like there’s a great pressure building there, about to turn molten, about to dissolve his very being. There’s no snatching this back, there’s no denying any bit of this; John isn’t strong enough, now, to pull the veil. He’s tired, he’s parched, and he can’t stand it any longer. 


There’s static flurrying madly in his throat, and the sweat that’s beaded to life on his palms is cold. After everything they’ve been through, John doesn’t quite know how to place this fear. He trusts Sherlock with every last part of him, with his daughter , but he can’t trust him with this?


“I,” John breathes, feels the need to explain exactly what he’s feeling, for fear it will be misinterpreted. 


Sherlock swipes the pads over his thumbs over ring and middle finger, worrying his hands in a distractedly, un-Sherlock manner and takes a deep breath; John watches Sherlock’s entire body catch a shiver. “Oh,” comes again, this time on the edge of a rasp.


A floodgate bursts, his chest expanding, his lungs taking, gulping in air before words rush, unsnagged, out of him. “I just. I just love you, alright? I… for awhile, you know, I thought it was just… want. Thought it was… sex, something easy, something… normal… but...” It comes loose from his throat, so simple. He trusts in that Sherlock will understand him. Realization that he no longer has to try and disguise any of it soothes through him like a balm.


There are tears on his cheeks, he can feel their stickiness, but he can't seem to stop once he realizes he's crying. Unburdened but foolish, hoping to the heavens that he hasn't fucked it all up. 


Sherlock's hand finds the nape of his neck, and it's then that John realizes he's sidled up next to him, and he snugs closer, arm pulling John into his chest, his face in Sherlock's neck and there, he finds he can finally breathe. "I tried not to," he cries, but his throat is thick. "I tried, I tried , you're impossible ."


Sherlock's laugh echoes beneath John ear, and then, so succinctly and measured. "So are you."


John swallows. If Sherlock has said anything else, John might not have believed him, but this, now, as John unravels it in his heart, lets hope ring through his body, he knows this is Sherlock flayed, too.


“So are you,” Sherlock repeats in a ragged whisper.


"Christ, please, please tell me that means we can... stop all this. If it was just… but I can’t do this anymore Sherlock, I can’t."


Eyes soft, Sherlock helps John sit up, the pad of his right thumb skating across the stubble on John's cheek as he mops away tears. They’re both silent for a moment before Sherlock’s eyes sweep down, shielding his gaze, and John is left for a moment dangling precariously on the edge of sanity.


Sherlock sips in a little breath and says, so gently. "Come, sleep with me."


And time stops, the entire universe hangs suspended and then snaps back, brilliantly, into place. 


"Oh god," John sobs, relief flooding through him, sapping any adrenaline he might have felt at his admission, feeling his muscles go lax, his body sag. "Oh god. Alright."


Sherlock stands and grabs the baby monitor in one hand, and reaches out to John to take his other. John’s eyes meet his and Sherlock’s are sparkling with the tears clinging there. He worries his lip and takes a moment, straightens his spine and John waits, waits for him to speak. 


When he does, Sherlock is deliberate and certain, his words falling succinctly. "I've no opposition to... stopping all of this, if we can start something... better."


It sounds so incredibly simple, and coming from Sherlock, John hazards that perhaps it might be. Maybe it could be the beginning of something he's been waiting for his entire life. John slides his palm into Sherlock's and stands. After all of this, the mental backflips, the lengths he's gone to in order to hide all of this from Sherlock, he's relieved and entirely knackered. 


He's wobbly, and Sherlock guides him down the hallway, stands him by the bed in the lamplight and gently goes about undressing him. It's so careful and measured, John's nearly set off sobbing again; he'd missed entirely how much he'd been craving being cared for.


John swears he can feel as Sherlock’s thumb slides over the smooth expanse of a shirt button in order to push it through the hole. John’s jaw, clenched tightly for the onslaught of so many emotions, twitches. “Yes?” Sherlock asks, and John nods, fingers already shifting down, pressing another button through.


When he's through and John is only in his pants, Sherlock peels back the covers and urges John in. 


Soft cotton envelops him, and a moment later, after Sherlock has undressed, he slides in behind him, placing a deliberate but gentle hand on John's waist. 


"I've never," Sherlock whispers, his voice so close to John's ear that he can feel Sherlock's breath puffing over his skin, "in my life, wanted to start... with anyone other than you, John Watson. I need you to know that."


John bites at his bottom lip to stop from crying again, and settles himself fully into the willing body behind him. He feels it all, the banked want and sexual desire, but it feels different, more. There’s too much here, between them, for that to be the first thought on his mind. 


He thinks for a moment how the world seems to have shifted, how all of the people who’d come before this man seem like background noise, how years of fumbling and tripping through partners had led him to this, him, tear-stained and exhausted in the arms of someone he loves in a way that’s far too large to define.


His left hand wriggles out to cover Sherlock’s hand where it rests on his hip.


John squeezes.


Sherlock squeezes back. 

There’s nothing left to hide, nothing to keep inside, and for what he realizes is the first time in his entire life, he feels just feel fine, he feels right, exactly where he’s supposed to be.